My first proper 4E game - Our reaction.

I don't often write about my games, but part of my group got together for our first 4E and I was surprised by a few things, so I thought I'd share. It was interesting to contrast their reactions to mine, too.

Roles - I was rather appalled by these at first, but these non-MMORPG players immediately thought that they were a good idea. My brother, working from a vaguely narrativist/Storyteller perspective, even, thought they were a good thing for the game. He compared them to how Trail of Cthulhu suggests players should play characters as stereotypical as possible, for example.

Multiclassing - Munchkin and I appalled, everyone else seemed to think this was reasonable, if potentially a little dull. Whilst to me it looks like a shocking change, most of them have played single classes most of the time, and I think classes like Swordmage may actually interest them more than a conventional Fighter/Mage might have! Shocking to me.

Races - Zero interest in Dragonborn, Eladrin mocked, but pleased with changes/improvements to other races.

Classes & Powers - Some worry about Wizards no longer being what they were, but otherwise the whole new system went down very well (though the Ranger point-blanked refused to call his abilities "exploits" haha), the whole at-will, encounter, daily deal making sense (some commentary on how daily isn't daily, of course) almost immediately (needed some reminding that they REALLY could use at-wills at will).

Chargen - Really noticeably faster. I wonder if it will bog down with future books, of course, but we shall see. I suspect not. Liked this a lot as it was a point we often bogged down in for hours before.

Combat - Ran really fast and with no problems, faster than the test combats I'd run. As expected fights last longer in rounds but take a similar time in real time given an encounter of similar "difficulty". This seems to produce more fun, so kudos to WotC for that.

HPs - The amount of HP monsters had caused some consternation. I can see why WotC is keen for us to mix many monster types together, because there's definate potential for this to get old. Took them a while to realize just how many HPs they effectively had via healing surges, too.

Skill use - Faster and smoother than previous editions due to the reduced number of skills. One thing we noticed is that a lot of actions didn't seem to be covered by any skill, or like maybe they'd be best with a skill + the non-default attribute (throwing a lasso/noose on to an iron spike high on a wall for example - seemed like maybe a Dungeoneering + Dex roll - we did it as a Dex check).

Conditions & Saving Throws - Oh god so much better handled, so much less confusing. People were much more aware of these and it worked very well.

Squares and 1-move diagonals - So much for my dislike of them. Nobody seemed to have much of a problem with this apart from a vague muttering about how moving diagonally was "cheating" (in a positive way). I have to admit that this is part of why combat moved along faster than previous games where we worked in our heads or on paper, though I'm interested to see how it copes with some of the profoundly 3D stuff we did (none of that in this adventure).

Minis - Didn't like, but were fine the idea of moving on a grid, so I think the solution is to use counters, easy enough fix.

Minions - Whilst most of them have played games with "mooks" and loved them, this seemed a little disjointed and they seemed a little disappointed and wierded-out that some skeletons could have 45 hp and the other could have 1 (I described them as being quite distinct in appearance). We'll see how this goes in future games.

Alignments - Much eye-rolling about the "don't be evil" (not like they ever are!), but Unaligned much preferred to "Neutral" and it's variants. Resident Instigator complained that no-one ever lets him be Chaotic Evil, but I suspect he'd be happier with Evil or Unaligned anyway. Chaotic Evil is too demanding!

Play in general - Seems to play a lot less unlike previous editions than I thought, maybe even feels a bit more like 2E than 3E, which is good because that's where our most positive D&D memories are. Certainly with descriptions and so on, this adventure didn't feel like an exercise purely in tactical combat or anything similar to that. We're not finished yet, so I may update this, but overall, I have to say the reaction to 4E so far from my groups has been strongly positive.

It makes me glad that I picked up 4E before this GSL controversy, because I have to admit, had I read the GSL before 4E's release, I'm pretty sure I'd have waited a few months (at least) before picking it up, maybe even gone over to Paizo, and I don't know if that'd actually have been more fun.

The only real big worry for me about 4E remains the quantity and quality of pre-gen adventures. I've always made use of these (though the one I ran here was homebrew), and enjoyed Paizo's slightly edgy stuff particularly. I'll be very sad if we don't get stuff of similar quality (and slightly edgy feel, I have to say, we really dig that) for 4E, from whoever produces adventures for it (I know we won't get it from WotC - in the whole of 3E, I can't think of a single WotC adventure I liked - ignoring Dungeon).

Still, back on topic, surprised at how positive the reaction was, and we had a lot of fun. So, yay for 4E, I guess :)
 
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Wormwood

Adventurer
Ruin Explorer said:
Still, back on topic, surprised at how positive the reaction was, and we had a lot of fun. So, yay for 4E, I guess :)
Very cool report---thanks for posting it.

I admire you for approaching a new experience with an open mind. Cheers!
 
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AllisterH

Visitor
re: CoC

Weird question since it doesn't relate to 4E, but what version of CoC mentions the "play stereotypical characters". I don't remember this and I thought I had all versions of CoC.

re: 4E questions.

Did the players feel that the characters were different in combat (on paper, they seem similar, but I think this is one of those, "plays better than it looks" thing)

How "lethal" did you think combat was? Did the PCs feel they were in danger or hard-pressed?
 

Cadfan

Visitor
Ruin Explorer said:
Minis - Didn't like, but were fine the idea of moving on a grid, so I think the solution is to use counters, easy enough fix.
Same here. Counters are default, miniatures if I happen to already own them (I paint miniatures for fun).
Minions - Whilst most of them have played games with "mooks" and loved them, this seemed a little disjointed and they seemed a little disappointed and wierded-out that some skeletons could have 45 hp and the other could have 1 (I described them as being quite distinct in appearance). We'll see how this goes in future games.
They're also quite different in description, in artwork, and even have different names. The minion skeletons in the MM are rotting apart at the seams, while the dangerous skeletons have armor, decent weapons, and move fast.
Play in general - Seems to play a lot less unlike previous editions than I thought, maybe even feels a bit more like 2E than 3E, which is good because that's where our most positive D&D memories are. Certainly with descriptions and so on, this adventure didn't feel like an exercise purely in tactical combat or anything similar to that. We're not finished yet, so I may update this, but overall, I have to say the reaction to 4E so far from my groups has been strongly positive.
I've also found 4e to be an awful lot like earlier editions. In a weird sort of way, it feels more like 3e to me than 3e did- obviously this can't be the case, by definition, but there are a number of 3e classes that seem to be reaching for a 4e style experience, or which would be better expressed in a 4e style ruleset. And changes like alterations to the way monster stat blocks work mimic changes I made to my own campaign to ease the effort of customizing monsters.
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Sounds great!

On the adventure front, have you read Heathen in Dungons? It would probably be a fair indicator of how (at least early) 4e adventures will be from WotC. I have not had a chance to read it yet, so I have no idea if it will encourage or discourage. :)
 

Mort

Community Supporter
This seems to jive with the "reads bad, plays good" impression that has been fairly common on these boards. My own game (won't have another session until after July 11th grr...) played out remarkably similar to yours.
 
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Scribble

Visitor
Ruin Explorer said:
Play in general - Seems to play a lot less unlike previous editions than I thought, maybe even feels a bit more like 2E than 3E, which is good because that's where our most positive D&D memories are. Certainly with descriptions and so on, this adventure didn't feel like an exercise purely in tactical combat or anything similar to that. We're not finished yet, so I may update this, but overall, I have to say the reaction to 4E so far from my groups has been strongly positive.
Thats I think the thing I'm liking about 4e the most. It feels like they took the idea 3e started (that things should be handled in a fair balanced way) but used the older edition idea that game play should be fluid, and the DM should be able to easily "wing" it when needed...

They just gave me a great balanced system for winging it. :D
 

Asmor

Visitor
Ruin Explorer said:
Minions - Whilst most of them have played games with "mooks" and loved them, this seemed a little disjointed and they seemed a little disappointed and wierded-out that some skeletons could have 45 hp and the other could have 1 (I described them as being quite distinct in appearance). We'll see how this goes in future games.
It's important to remember that hit points are a measure of how much damage something can take. When fighting minions skeletons, they almost seem to jump in front of your blades, shattering on impact. Against regular ones, they dodge and weave, turning killing blows into glancing blows. Finally, when their luck/resolve/etc runs out (i.e. low on HP), a PC finally manages to strike them square and dispatch them.

It's hard to do (in my mind, the distinction is still purely academic and it hasn't yet taken on a gut feeling), but D&D just works a lot better if you rid yourself of the "dealing damage is literally dealing damage" mindset.
 

Mallus

Hero
Thanks for the report. Most of my group can't wait to dig into a 4e campaign, but that won't happen until the fall, so for right now have to make do with brainstorming up the (new) setting.
 

Crothian

Visitor
AllisterH said:
re: CoC

Weird question since it doesn't relate to 4E, but what version of CoC mentions the "play stereotypical characters". I don't remember this and I thought I had all versions of CoC.
Trail of Cthulhu not Call of Cthulhu :D
 
AllisterH said:
re: CoC

Weird question since it doesn't relate to 4E, but what version of CoC mentions the "play stereotypical characters". I don't remember this and I thought I had all versions of CoC.
Trail of Cthulhu isn't CoC, it's a different, rather more modern Cthulhu-based game (with a somewhat more limited license than CoC has, iirc).

More here: http://www.pelgranepress.com/trail/index.html

I think most CoC fans will be interested by it, though it wouldn't necessarily displace CoC. Solidly-written review here: http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/13/13714.phtml

AllisterH said:
re: 4E questions.

Did the players feel that the characters were different in combat (on paper, they seem similar, but I think this is one of those, "plays better than it looks" thing)

How "lethal" did you think combat was? Did the PCs feel they were in danger or hard-pressed?
Well, I was deliberately soft-pedalling the encounters in this adventure, so I'm not sure I got an entirely accurate picture here. I would say that they felt more threatened by creature abilities than in other editions (where low-level creature abilities are generally a joke), but I wouldn't say it was really horribly dangerous. The next lot of encounters I have for them step things up a notch, though, so we shall see. Generally I'd say combat felt less lethal than 3.5E, even when we had people in 3.5E having their Con score for starting HP. This is level 1, though.
 
Ruin Explorer said:
Races - Zero interest in Dragonborn, Eladrin mocked, but pleased with changes/improvements to other races.
Why would the Eladrin (aka the high elf) be mocked, considering he's been a staple part of the D&D elf's schizophrenia (am I tree-hugging hippie or a magic-loving wizard?)?

It seems odd to me that people act like the Eladrin is something entirely foreign and new, when it's just an old favorite with a new/tweaked name.

Minis - Didn't like, but were fine the idea of moving on a grid, so I think the solution is to use counters, easy enough fix.
As recommended, use counters. I'd suggest the Alea Tools Token Master pack for generating solid counters, as well as the markers they sell for tracking conditions and such.

Alignments - Much eye-rolling about the "don't be evil" (not like they ever are!), but Unaligned much preferred to "Neutral" and it's variants. Resident Instigator complained that no-one ever lets him be Chaotic Evil, but I suspect he'd be happier with Evil or Unaligned anyway. Chaotic Evil is too demanding!
Every edition of D&D I've read has basically said "Don't be evil."

Still, back on topic, surprised at how positive the reaction was, and we had a lot of fun. So, yay for 4E, I guess :)
Glad to see you approached it with an open mind. Even more glad to see that you're having fun, since that's the whole point.

Does this mean you'd like a glass of the Kool-Aid? :)
 
Mourn - Because Eladrins are fey and "glam". To the max. They're the whole "OMG I totally want to be a noble sidhe, like, fer sure!" (sidhe mispronounced "sid-he" inevitably). Like a fashion-goth just saw Labyrinth and had a life-changing experience. Some people like that sort of thing, that's cool, because D&D's races have generally been a fairly broad church. I mean, they've had halflings for years. And gnomes, and I think I've seen all of about three of them played, and none of them beyond level 5.

In our games, Grey Elves were a lot less "fey" than Wood or High (vanilla) Elves, very intellectual and very solid (I'm not sure what influenced us into this view). So when they're suddenly "OF THE FAE!!!!!" and stuff it's kind of funny. Like meeting an old friend you've not seen for a while and finding that he's wearing frilly shirts, painting his nails and has glitter mascara on. Hence mockery of these glam-rock Elves. I do think they add to the game rather than subtract for it (I'm not sure Halflings do, otoh, they're a bit personality-free, ymwv).

Also they (and I) didn't have much time for the idea of them having eyes that were solid globes of colour. That can go to hell together with whichever WotC designer has the sad obsession with the concept (which he felt he needed to inflict on Tieflings as well).

Semi-ironically, I'm pretty sure well see them getting played before we see any Halflings. I also suspect we'll see a Dragonborn before too long.

On counters, yeah, I really need to order the Alea stuff, it looks perfect for our needs.

As for "don't be evil", hey maybe they did, I don't recall. If they did, I guarantee there was eye-rolling every time :) I think 4E puts in a slightly more eye-rolling way than previous editions might have, too. Unaligned was a big hit, though, like I said.

I'll certainly drink the "basic 4E books are decent" kool-aid (I'd prefer ribena if you have it though, kool-aid scares me. It's like drinking sweets), time will tell if the "whole deal" improves things or makes them worse. I certainly prefer it to 3.XE, but I think that's been clear for a while, as I said in another thread, 4E is kind of what I expected 3E to be, so many years ago.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Ruin, glad to see the group had fun. I think a big part to the success of 4e, and of course all games, is going to be if the DM running it gives it a fair shot, too. Rules count, but a DM setting the tone positively, or at least neutrally, helps a game succeed or fail on its own merits.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
Ruin Explorer said:
Mourn - Because Eladrins are fey and "glam". To the max. They're the whole "OMG I totally want to be a noble sidhe, like, fer sure!" (sidhe mispronounced "sid-he" inevitably). Like a fashion-goth just saw Labyrinth and had a life-changing experience.
Weird. That's totally not how I interpreted them. Other than the "Fey Step", I've been wondering why they renamed the same-old, same-old elves and gave some jonny-come-lately the elf name.
 

webrunner

Visitor
Mercule said:
Weird. That's totally not how I interpreted them. Other than the "Fey Step", I've been wondering why they renamed the same-old, same-old elves and gave some jonny-come-lately the elf name.
I like to think of them this way:

Half-Elves
Elves
Double Elves aka Eladrin
 

Holy Bovine

Visitor
webrunner said:
I like to think of them this way:

Half-Elves
Elves
Double Elves aka Eladrin
4E - now with MORE ELVES :D

Glad to read abotu your experiences RE. I hope mine are as positive (will find out this Sunday!)
 

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