D&D 4E What to do with 4th Edition

Retreater

Legend
After posting this and getting some positive responses, I don't think I would have trouble finding a group. I'm certainly not a publisher by any stretch of the imagination (I'm game master, Jim! Not a writer!). My concern is being able to provide a suitable (and keep in mind I have high standards for myself) venue to run a 4e game online. I want to accommodate players as much as possible while making things as easy on me while I'm running games. I don't mind putting in the extra work, but I need the tools to let me do it.

Hope that makes a little more sense.
So if I were going to run a 4e game on a VTT and want to use some automation tools, I'd probably go with Foundry. It has a 4e ruleset to handle the basic automation, but (from what I can tell) you'd need to add all the details as far as powers, monster stats, etc. But the core of the system is there. I think Roll20 can also do it to a point. Just depends on which UI you prefer, because neither is really built for it. Neither really has character creation options, but I think you could get together with the players on a board or Discord and figure that out.
I can see if I can find anything that FG was using back in the day. Might still be out there somewhere...
 

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kenada

Legend
Anyway, I don't know how OGLs actually work. I need to know what I can and can't do with it. Being vague and general with explanations doesn't help me understand it any better. I don't think we need a complete system in order to make a license operable and usable by others. We just need to standardize all the working parts and allow the innovators to innovate. Then we should see the NSEs and revised Essentials and whatever else emerge. Maybe.
IANAL, so this is my understanding as a hobbiest who is using OGL games as a base for his homebrew system with an eye towards wanting to release stuff publicly someday in the future. There are three parts of the OGL that are important when making a game based on another game:
  • Open game content. This lists whatever you’re allowed to use from a game. Just because a game is covered under the OGL doesn’t mean much is usable. For example, Pugmire includes the OGL but declares everything that it can product identity. The advanced fantasy rules for OSE are the same way. On the other hand, OSE classic and Pathfinder are both very permissive.
  • Product identity. This is a list of whatever you’re not allowed to use. This almost always includes proper nouns and other IP, but it also can include design, artwork, branding, and so on. Some games also include mechanics as product identity (as noted above).
  • Section 15 declarations. This is a list of all the sources you used for your game. I’ve read that this list is transitive, so you are supposed to include the declarations from all sources you use, but this is (was?) often gotten wrong.
For example, here are open game content and product identity declarations from the Old-School Essentials core rules. Pathfinder 2e is pretty similar, but it’s written in a bit more legalese.

DESIGNATION OF PRODUCT IDENTITY
All artwork, logos, and presentation are product identity. The names “Necrotic Gnome” and “Old-School Essentials” are product identity. All text in the following sections is product identity: Introduction.

DESIGNATION OF OPEN GAME CONTENT
All text and tables not declared as product identity are Open Game Content.

Here is the declaration from the Advanced Fantasy Player’s Tome. Note how lengthy the open game content section is in comparison because it doesn’t want to declare any of the AD&D conversion as open game content. I’m using OSE as a base for my homebrew system, so I have been sticking to the core rules as much as possible. For advanced fantasy stuff I do want, I need to find other sources (such as the 3e SRD or Pathfinder) or do the conversion work again myself.

DESIGNATION OF PRODUCT IDENTITY
All artwork, logos, and presentation are product identity. The names “Necrotic Gnome” and “Old-School Essentials” are product identity. All text and tables not declared as Open Game Content are product identity.

DESIGNATION OF OPEN GAME CONTENT
All text and tables in the following sections are Open Game Content: Advancement, Vehicles and Mounts, Cleric Spells, Magic-User Spells, Hired Help, Strongholds.

All text and tables in the following subsections of the Player Characters section are Open Game Content: Game Statistics, Creating a Character: Basic Method, Ability Scores, Alignment, Languages.

The table of Secondary Skills (p25) is Open Game Content.

All text and tables in the following subsections of the Character Classes section are Open Game Content: cleric, dwarf, elf, fighter, halfling, magic- user, thief.

All text and tables in the following subsections of the Equipment section are Open Game Content: Adventuring Gear, Weapons and Armour.

All text and tables in the following subsections of the Magic section are Open Game Content: Spells, Spell Books (excluding the Advanced Spell Book Rules section), Magical Research, Cleric Spell List, Magic-User Spell List.

All text and tables in the following subsections of the Adventuring section are Open Game Content: Party Organisation, Time, Weight, and Movement, Ability Checks, Saving Throws, Damage, Healing, and Death (excluding the Returning from Death section), Hazards and Challenges, Dungeon Adventuring, Wilderness Adventuring, Waterborne Adventuring, Encounters, Evasion and Pursuit, Combat, Other Combat Issues (excluding the Attacking with Two Weapons, Charging into Melee, Missile Attacks on Targets in Melee, Parrying, and Splash Weapons sections), Morale, Combat Tables.

Another, more important, thing is that WotC has never released any books under the OGL. The only OGL content they have released (as far as I’m aware) are the SRDs and updates to the SRDs. I’m a big fan of the d20srd site for referencing the SRDs because it’s nicely organized and loads very fast.
 

glass

(he, him)
Another, more important, thing is that WotC has never released any books under the OGL. The only OGL content they have released (as far as I’m aware) are the SRDs and updates to the SRDs. I’m a big fan of the d20srd site for referencing the SRDs because it’s nicely organized and loads very fast.
This is not quite true. IIRC, Unearthed Arcana had open content in the actual book, and so did Monster Manual II (although the latter was only a couple of monsters at the end, reprinted from 3rd party open-content sources).

_
glass.
 

kenada

Legend
This is not quite true. IIRC, Unearthed Arcana had open content in the actual book, and so did Monster Manual II (although the latter was only a couple of monsters at the end, reprinted from 3rd party open-content sources).
Ah, thanks for the clarification. I knew there was some other content beyond the original SRD, but I had assumed they released it separately or amended the SRD rather than actually include it in the book.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
To any who think Essentials is a desirable target, instead of O4e I soundly disagree. Essentials gave us martial characters fading as you reach paragon or earlier. Essentials to many of us was a betrayal of principles of class equity. A betrayal mirrored in 5e with fighters doing the same maneuvers at level 20 as they had at 3. If someone wants a retro essentials they might as well play 5e.
 
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Retreater

Legend
Wow. That's a lot of anger for a half edition reboot of the most unpopular, niche edition of the game which is in itself nearly 15 years old. And bringing an attitude that's not in the spirit at all of this thread.
I guess to paraphrase the Big Lebowski: If you don't like The Essentials, you can get your own cab.
 

glass

(he, him)
Ah, thanks for the clarification. I knew there was some other content beyond the original SRD, but I had assumed they released it separately or amended the SRD rather than actually include it in the book.
It mostly was: They added a bunch of stuff from the Epic Level Handbook, (Expanded) Psionics Handbook, and Deities and Demigod (and possibly a couple of others I am forgetting) to the SRDs but there was no open content in those actual books any more than there was in the core.

The general rule was as you stated it, there were just the one-and-a-bit exceptions I mentioned in my previous post.

_
glass.
 
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Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Wow. That's a lot of anger for a half edition reboot of the most unpopular, niche edition of the game which is in itself nearly 15 years old. And bringing an attitude that's not in the spirit at all of this thread.
To be honest, @Garthanos is actually making one of my points for me. The 4e fanbase itself is very fractured and divisive, moreso than any other edition. The rift was created by the Essentials philosophy of design being counter-intuitive to everything that 4e was originally intended to do. It was more of an apologetic backpedal to try and win back customers by appealing to more traditional ideas. But we all know how that went.

Having said that, if I were introducing 4e to players who've only ever played 5e, why wouldn't I use Essentials as a gateway introduction to the system? It certainly presents nicer to someone who hasn't been exposed to (or jaded by) another version of the game. Coming into it backwards allows for a bit more open-mindedness, I suspect.

Content aside, Essentials is a lot easier to introduce with a few, small, concise pocket books than a full-size library of hardbacks. Thirsty people don't need to drink from the firehose.
 
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Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
@kenada Thanks for the summary! That was really helpful.

One thing that sticks out to me, as it pertains to 4e, is the stipulation about presentation. If it means what I think it means, that undermines a lot of the 4e aesthetic.

One of the things that really appealed to me is the visual presentation of the game itself. Rather than plain paragraphs full of fluffy description, or shorthand notes for key stats, 4e gave us color-coded elements and easy-to-read stat blocks for every vital piece of the game. Being unable to adhere to that dress-code, so to speak, takes away from the authenticity and cohesion of that system. That probably explains why a lot of 3rd party products looked so bland.

So if we can't use the same statblock formats or color schemes, then either we lose it or come up with a completely format. I imagine that must include the attack symbols they used, which really throws a wrench into a lot of people's plans.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
So if I were going to run a 4e game on a VTT and want to use some automation tools, I'd probably go with Foundry. It has a 4e ruleset to handle the basic automation, but (from what I can tell) you'd need to add all the details as far as powers, monster stats, etc. But the core of the system is there.
So I went back and updated everything yesterday to give Foundry another look. The 4e ruleset is being developed slowly by one person (as far as I can tell), but it seems to be coming along now. Putting all the details by hand is going to be a choir, but nothing I can't handle.

Now here's the problem: Every time I started something with Foundry, the updates would screw something up. It's not just the software developers, it's the dozens of little modules you find to make things work better or easier that need to keep up and change with it. From what I've read in various places, there's a growing frustration with developers and content creators about needing to constantly update their stuff and making it compatible with a hundred other independent builders. Some are giving up, and I don't blame them. As much as I like the system in general, it's really really frustrating to put in any amount of work knowing that you're completely dependent on all these little things from other people who are feeling the same frustrations. I need something more stable. The good news is I'm only out $50 if I never use it again.

I think Roll20 can also do it to a point. Just depends on which UI you prefer, because neither is really built for it. Neither really has character creation options, but I think you could get together with the players on a board or Discord and figure that out.
Roll20 could work as a simple tabletop, which I am not opposed to. My experience with the site, however, wasn't stellar. There was a lot of issues with load times, connectivity, etc. Things ultimately not under my control. Things may have improved (and could be better with my new computer), but it's not my favorite option. I wouldn't pay the subscription again for the added features, so it would need to work as is. It might.

I can see if I can find anything that FG was using back in the day. Might still be out there somewhere...
I have Ultimate licenses for both versions: Classic (FG) and Unity (FGU). I bought Classic years ago when it first came out because I really wanted to use it. Unfortunately, I could never get my port-forwarding to work so I never got too far with it. That's not an issue with my new router, or with Unity version. So this has become an option again (and with the money already invested, it would be my most preferred).

So there is a 4e ruleset that comes with it. But as expected, it lacks any real details. Again, not a problem if I need to put it in myself as long as I have the means to do it.

Now here's one problem: They added this sidebar a few months ago for GFU, which is great. There are compartments for all the little pieces of your game. Love it! The one on the left is for 5e, and the one on the right for 4e. Notice what's missing?
FGsb-5e.pngFGsb-4e.png
Everything is the pretty much the same until you get to the character section where you have space for Feats and Powers. That's it. I can't create the spaces I need for my system. The 4e rules is not supported by the company. It was fan-created and ported over pretty much as is. I found posts buried months back on their forums about this specific issue from users. It doesn't seem likely that it will ever be addressed.

It isn't a deal-breaker, and maybe not a big deal in the larger scheme of things, but it's just one example of the many concessions that we as 4e fans are continually forced to make. I will do the work, if I am allowed to. I want to! But I need someone else to give me the tools to LET. ME. DO. IT! sigh

I'm going to see what I can do with FGU. Wrestle it into submission if I must...
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Just wondering if there are enough on ENWorld who have the stuff and no how to play that a virtual game or two could be done. Sounded like it might be appreciated by some.
Sorry, I saw someone answer part of your question but I never got around to this.

My favorite thing to do as a GM is to teach new people (new to the hobby, or new to the system) how to play. I did this in person with the Star Wars RPG for a couple years and had a blast. And I would certainly love to do the same with 4e again. I had hoped the pandemic would have calmed down in my area eventually, and was gearing up to do things in person again. Alas, that day still has not come for me. So I started thinking digital again.

The thing with doing it digitally (for me) is I like to have things prepared. Its much easier for people (in general) to be distracted online and lose focus, especially if they're waiting on someone else. I want to be able to spend the least amount of time doing upkeep and looking for stuff that takes away from play, both online and in-person.

That's how I am, and frankly why I have no problem calling myself "professional", even if I'm not being paid. I feel personally shamed if I can't/don't present myself as efficient, effective, and entertaining in my capacity as a GM to other people, especially strangers at a game table. Just another one of my debilitating quirks, I suppose. ;)

Personal stigmas aside, if I were to suggest running a 5e (or most other editions) game right now, I could (have) purchase as much content as I needed, and get things up and running in a short amount of time. 4th edition, though... the edition that was made (and often accused) for grids and vtts and online play...? Nah! Not that easy. Not easy at all. Especially when you got so little to work with and little to support to help out.

For the record, I'm not trying to be argumentative, or pessimistic, or whatever people want to say so they can dismiss me. I'm sharing my perspective so whoever reads my comments can (maybe) get a better sense of where I'm coming from. I don't want to be unhappy, or even complaining about things. But I'm not going to settle for anything that doesn't make me happy when I think it can (or could) be possible. I know I can be my own worst enemy at times, but I'm also my biggest (and often only) advocate.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
So I went back and updated everything yesterday to give Foundry another look. The 4e ruleset is being developed slowly by one person (as far as I can tell), but it seems to be coming along now. Putting all the details by hand is going to be a choir, but nothing I can't handle.
Are you a member of the 4e Discord Server there are others working on things besides the official release.
 


Undrave

Hero
Yeah, but I don't know that I want a "clone". I mean, they left the game pretty messed up. Why would I want to copy of that? No. I want to be able to clean it up and improve it. I want to be able to ditch what I don't like about it, including what I don't like about D&D. I don't even care if it's called D&D at that point. I just want a usable engine with mechanics that make the game work better. (Of course, I have ideas but it makes the old material useless, and that turns off a lot of people who may otherwise be interested. So I don't bother discussing it.)

I'm wondering if it would be possible to just create new simplified classes (the amount of sheer STUFF in classes was the big issue, IMO) and a new list of feats and rituals, but make the math line up so that we could just use any 4e monsters or adventure?
 

thullgrim

Explorer
I’ve run 4e on Roll20. It worked but wasn’t pleasant. I have the Foundry installation but haven’t looked at it in detail except to determine that it would probably meet most of my needs. Since I run all my online games in Foundry I’d rather use it, even lacking some functionality, than constantly be changing VTTs.
 

Undrave

Hero
I'm talking about classes specifically. You can argue about compatibility all you want. But a blueprint needs to set the tone, as well as the standards for everything moving forward. So is the fighter going to be the weapon master and all classes follow the same structure? Or should it be more like the knight and the slayer, which offers a simpler option for players without sacrificing its effectiveness compared to other classes? Or come up with something else?

On the one hand, I like the consistency and expansiveness of (sure let's call it) Core. And on the other, I like the completeness and minimalist approach of the Essentials line. I know I can mix them (and WotC was real adamant about that until they decided Essentials was the key), but I didn't like that. I prefer to keep things clean and not muddy the waters. I may be too rigid that way, but that's just another one of my issues.

What if we went with multiple simplified classes instead of big tent pole classes?

I’ve been kicking around this idea in my mind for a while where you have a bunch of simplified class that can fit on a few pages and only cover 10 level, then at level 10 you pick up a Paragon Path and at level 20 an Epic Destiny, each of them would thus be independent and you’d only have to worry about that one part of your progression? Some classes would have a few choices, while some you just give you a specific thing every level you can choose a thing.

Basically, so that, once you’ve picked your archetype, it’s easier to level up and you don’t need to look through a ton of books? And multiclassing can be done through swapping pieces or creating bespoke classes.

Other points of simplification I would do is make it so you can’t ever have more than 1 reaction power beyond the standard Opportunity Attack and I would replace Utilities by a standard list of Skill Powers that everybody picks from. Reaction would basically be like Utility in that they’re class dependent and you’d pick from a few options. You wouldn’t be able to rack up a bunch of them like in 4e Core.

Just random musing is all.

One of the things that really appealed to me is the visual presentation of the game itself. Rather than plain paragraphs full of fluffy description, or shorthand notes for key stats, 4e gave us color-coded elements and easy-to-read stat blocks for every vital piece of the game. Being unable to adhere to that dress-code, so to speak, takes away from the authenticity and cohesion of that system. That probably explains why a lot of 3rd party products looked so bland.

We could create a new design of easy-to-read blocks.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
What if we went with multiple simplified classes instead of big tent pole classes?
<snip>
We could create a new design of easy-to-read blocks.
There's a hundred things that could be streamlined or simplified in 4e. There was a lot of needless redundancy, like individual powers for different classes (or different levels of a class) that had virtually the same effects. There were also a lot of extra mechanics and resources to do specifically one thing, like milestones and Action Points. Healing surges were underutilised as a built-in resource management tool for players powers and abilities.

If I were redesigning the system, I would sell heroic tier as the base sytem and each tier after as an expansion. Most campaigns never get past level 10, so why sell the whole game to everyone that goes beyond that? Focus on the heroic tier for your entry level and casual players. That's nearly everyone. Then, for the long-term, dedicated crowd and advanced players, sell the next bundles for Paragon and Epic level play. Each one builds on the previous set.

One of these days I'm just gonna spill the beans on all the redesign ideas I've been working in my head for the last couple decades.
 

Undrave

Hero
There's a hundred things that could be streamlined or simplified in 4e. There was a lot of needless redundancy, like individual powers for different classes (or different levels of a class) that had virtually the same effects. There were also a lot of extra mechanics and resources to do specifically one thing, like milestones and Action Points. Healing surges were underutilised as a built-in resource management tool for players powers and abilities.
I wouldn't be above copy-pasting powers from one class to another, though I would just repeat them for ease of reference. Maybe have the class feature that triggers off of certain keywords being the big difference that would make a power attractive for different classes.

If I were redesigning the system, I would sell heroic tier as the base sytem and each tier after as an expansion. Most campaigns never get past level 10, so why sell the whole game to everyone that goes beyond that? Focus on the heroic tier for your entry level and casual players. That's nearly everyone. Then, for the long-term, dedicated crowd and advanced players, sell the next bundles for Paragon and Epic level play. Each one builds on the previous set.
Not a bad idea at all. After all, the DMG were practically built on this principle.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
The two big problems I've noticed.

1. Purists basically want a compatible clone of 4E. Even if legal that's 1000 odd pages some poor bastard has to write it. Even if you had 5 people that's about 200 pages each. For free. That's to many logistics wise.

2. To many chieftains not enough indians.

What I would do is a stripped down (level 1-5, 4-8 classes) foundation. Use an existing version of D&D or d20 and add in some sort of bounded accuracy.

If you build your foundation it's a starting point doesn't matter if it's missing a heap of stuff that can come later.

You could also look at Pathfinder or Star Wars Saga Edition for ideas.

I would also revamp and simplify the classes. Probably make the powers universal by source and the actual classes modify what you can do with them. Rangers and Tempest fighters could use the same powers the difference is via the class.

This is mostly to reduce feat and power bloat and get something playable done.

In my clone which was kind of advanced B/X using elements of 3E and 4E I actually used the 4E engine to power it but not a single 4E class, power source or anything like that. You could easily gut 5E or whatever of its skeliton and hang a 4E retro game in that (or B/X or whatever).

Try and produce something like Basic Fantasy a clone of B/X level 1-20 clocks in at 100 pages. Less is more espicially the amount of work one has to do. Being a purist is one thing but it won't write anything.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
There's a hundred things that could be streamlined or simplified in 4e. There was a lot of needless redundancy, like individual powers for different classes (or different levels of a class) that had virtually the same effects.
Just like with Pathfinder 2.

This catalog style of game design is the worst.
 

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