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4E Where was 4e headed before it was canned?

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
So, originally classes were BOTH broad starting points AND narrow pre-defined concepts. You got to choose one or the other, and then it was expected the character would change and evolve with 'lived experience' (which was generally a much more significant thing in early play).
But honestly in 4e my lived experience I describe with some of my feats or powers I select as such. But in the original zone no such expression was available aside from casters getting spells and fighters gaining magic items.
And while they definitely were not player controlled = as a DM I was asking players what kind of magic items and spells they wanted for their characters all the way back in 1e.

4e was interesting in the sense that its dense grid of options meant that lived experience could be subsumed within the system. That is you could simply use the build rules to basically reflect the things that happened to your character or that he accomplished. In some sense it is a complete realization of this early scheme.

Notice, when I designed my own game I took this to the logical extreme. There is a dense 4e like set of options, but you literally always acquire them through narrative play, there is no advancement as a separate concept where you pick things. ALL of your character is acquired through acquisition of stuff/experience/revelation. It is the whole essence of the class concept, welded with treasure/experience/items into a seamless and highly directed whole.
Having "Grand Masters" to train heros be part of the story is rather a fun idea like how Cu Cuhlaine gained his feats and such.

RuneQuest had a system of advancement where your skills advanced based on things happening entirely on camera. But I am not sure everything must be "on camera" is valuable.

It really turns up the DM gating of what you can have even more than typical.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
3e-style MCing is an elegant solution to the thorny problem of class straightjacketing, but to really work well, each level of each class must be balanced with every other level of every other class. That is, if you treat class-levels as building blocks, you better make 'em cubes. Which, when D&D has rarely managed to even roughly balance any two classes in any one edition, is a really, really tall order. Bottom line: 3e style MCing works great, but the only class design it actually works great /with/ is the 3e fighter.
In 5e multiclassing has some trap like elements ... for instance basically giving up power options like multi-attacks from the fighter for lower level options from another class.

In 4e multiclassing badly means the classes had highly divergent base attributes. otherwise it pretty much works.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
A/E/D/U and the general way powers work (and feats too really), plus the very spelled out structure of keywords and how things can build off that, is 4e's great strength here. Lets be clear, I am all in favor of the way 4e does it in the sense that it WORKS. It is just putting a large burden on a lot of casual players to engage with that. Excepting, partially, things like the Slayer there's no getting around working on your build.
I've run for a lot of casual players at Encounters and for a while, AL. There's /nothing/ about 4e AEDU & Keywords that's off-putting to the casual player, they provide a structure that is simple and easy to work with for them, they only concern themselves with the keywords they encounter on their character, and level-up was always a breeze, because the explanation of what you got that level was simple (oh, hey, it's 7th level, everyone pick an encounter power), you pick your encounter power from a small list, that's "engaging with your build."

Heck, I would argue that the simplified e-classes actually made it HARDER in the long run (sure, creating a level 1 Slayer is easy, but just try to make an EFFECTIVE level 15 Slayer, not so easy...).
TBH, the point of the lobotomized martial classes in HotFK/L was never to make them easier for new players, it was to make them acceptable to old players.


I wasn't really trying to engage with any discussion of the 'simple fighters, complex wizards' thing. I would argue that every PC in 4e was 'complex' in that sense, from a build standpoint, and requiring attention at every decision point to insure you got what you wanted.
Not really, no. Every class had meaningful choices at chargen/level-up, and in play, but /nothing/ like the complexity and criticality that faces casters in 3.5 or 5e or even the classic game, no even the build-criticality faced by an elegant (but deep) 3.0 fighter.
But they were relatively simple choices, from a small number of alternatives. As you leveled up, you prettymuch got one new choice at each level, then a whole level to get used to when & how to best use it. It was easily digestible in small bites, from 1st level on, that way. And, if you did regret a choice, you could retrain one each level, too. Ideal for new players. But, for a 30-level build, yeah, a lot of work and consternation for relatively little reward.

OTOH 5e wizard is in my sense 'simple', you ARE a wizard, and you're gonna be pretty effective as such. I certainly concede that there ARE more choices involved in casters, and probably more ways to not make your caster be 'up to snuff' than with 5e non-casters. Still, both are more 'direct' in their build strategies than 4e.
Don't buy it. 4e classes were quite focused and direct. Once you chose Greatweapon vs Protector for instance, your choice of Fighter powers out of the PH was often blindingly simple. Tide of Iron was /right there/, calling out to the Protector, and not an option for the greatsworder, for the most obvious instance. You wouldn't go far wrong playing a tiefling wizard and picking a lot of fire spells. It was never rocket science, the level of 'system mastery' needed to make an OK-to-cool character was minimal and readily acquired - the amount of CharOp style mastery to eke out a meaningful advantage over the obvious choices was profound. Simplicity & depth, in a game just being judged by how good a game it is, pretty positive - in a game being judged on how much like the version of D&D one started with, disastrous.

I mean, you really need to know that in 4e there are going to be certain 'anti-suck' feats (could be weapon expertise for a fighter, implement expertise for a wizard) for instance.
Some of us outright banned those feats because they were unnecessary. (and, yeah, feats /were/ screwed up very rapidly in 4e, but class designs weren't screwed up until Essentials).
This kind of awareness is simply not required in 5e, not even from a wizard. You might be less effective in some sense if you pick the wrong spells, but even that is mitigated a lot by the slot system.
There's no question that neo-Vancian is super-versatile and casting carefree in the in-game sense. But, really, all that means is that the gain from identifying the best spells is huge.

In 4e multiclassing badly means the classes had highly divergent base attributes. otherwise it pretty much works.
For instance, Wizard McFighter is bad in that sense: STR is of no use to a Wizard, INTZ of no value to a Fighter. But, I played an effective enough wizard that way, because, really it was a wasted feat 4 pts of STR that, in point buy, would've paid for only one or two of a stat I should have been prioritizing, instead.

You could go nuts with a 30 level optimized build, or feel your way through a level at a time, the gap between would be nothing like in 3e.

4e did invite you to customize and think about your character choices, but just at a small bite per level. It wasn't lock in and hold on, you didn't need to plan in advance. It was neither extreme, not 1e straightjacket, nor 3e obligatory optimization.
 
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Parmandur

Adventurer
But you can see how it seems to 4e fans that the ONE THING IN 4E that is really clearly a new element, at least an element spelled out in a new and interesting way, and that was hugely popular, MM absolutely refused to recreate in 5e, adamantly. It comes across as a slap in the face, almost a deliberate calculated act of negation. There really is no solid justification for it at all. People can rationalize and come up with 'reasons' for it and 'game design considerations', but it will never feel like anything other than a thinly-veiled attempt to obliterate what came before.
I played a Warlord in 4E, but was it really all that popular?
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
For instance, Wizard McFighter is bad in that sense: STR is of no use to a Wizard, INTZ of no value to a Fighter. But, I played an effective enough wizard that way, because, really it was a wasted feat 4 pts of STR that, in point buy, would've paid for only one or two of a stat I should have been prioritizing, instead.

You could go nuts with a 30 level optimized build, or feel your way through a level at a time, the gap between would be nothing like in 3e.

4e did invite you to customize and think about your character choices, but just at a small bite per level. It wasn't lock in and hold on, you didn't need to plan in advance. It was neither extreme, not 1e straightjacket, nor 3e obligatory optimization.
Which is why I object to Abduls characterization about "MUST"
"
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
In 5e multiclassing has some trap like elements ... for instance basically giving up power options like multi-attacks from the fighter for lower level options from another class.

In 4e multiclassing badly means the classes had highly divergent base attributes. otherwise it pretty much works.
In 5E, Multiclassing has a large neon sign saying "this is unbalanced, not strictly recommended and entirely optional": because it is a trap.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
In 5E, Multiclassing has a large neon sign saying "to his is unbalanced, not strictly recommended and entirely optional: because it is a trap.
Ughhh makes me sad to be honest they warned about hybrids too if I recall.
 
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Hussar

Legend
I played a Warlord in 4E, but was it really all that popular?
Well, it's kind like the gnome effect. Sure, gnomes have never been very popular as a PC race. That's just true. But, even if only 10% of played PC's are gnomes, that means that about 1/2 of the tables out there have a gnome PC. So, if you take gnomes out of the game, then you annoy half of the groups out there. Yes, I know that's very rough back of the envelop math, of course. But, you see the point.

Even if warlords made up 5% of the actually played PC's in 4e (I think it was higher according to polls, but, let's go with this very low number), that still means that a 1/4 of the groups (thereabouts) had a warlord in them. It really doesn't have to be very popular for it to be very visible.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Even if warlords made up 5% of the actually played PC's in 4e (I think it was higher according to polls, but, let's go with this very low number), that still means that a 1/4 of the groups (thereabouts) had a warlord in them.
I think the polls had it a higher number than Clerics for instance.
 
WTF is a Blood Hunter anyway? Was this a popular character concept that I had never noticed?
It's a monster-hunter class inspired by the movie The Last Witch Hunter and the Witcher series. They use blood magic to aid their attacks and have a lot of hp sacrifice abilities to fuel them. They are very grimdark, but fun if you're looking for a antihero class.
 

Hussar

Legend
I gotta admit that while I've pretty much given up on the idea that I'll get an official warlord in 5e, it does leave a rather sour taste. This is the one clearly 4e concept. Something you can really point to as an iconic element of the game, and it got tossed to the curb, in a rather puerile manner as well. For all the talk of the "big tent" of 5e, that's probably one of my biggest grinding gears.

And it makes it all the more irritating because it was only done to pacify edition warriors. There's no real mechanical reason to not have a warlord in the game. But, like "damage on a miss" or "HP as Meat", there's just no way that folks will let this particular bone go.
 

Mycroft

Explorer
I gotta admit that while I've pretty much given up on the idea that I'll get an official warlord in 5e, it does leave a rather sour taste. This is the one clearly 4e concept. Something you can really point to as an iconic element of the game, and it got tossed to the curb, in a rather puerile manner as well.
Maybe it was a mature, reasonable business decision, based on info, nothing wrong with that.

And no, the same dozen edition warriors on the WotC and Enworld sites of 2008+ (and some here now...) did not impact the sales of 4th Ed (that is grandiose to the point of hysterical absurdity).
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Essentials marked a violent change of direction for 4e, really, Essentials presaged some of what 5e aimed for: natural language, aesthetics like the Red Box, 'Player's Option' & 'Survival Guide' titles meant appeal to returning fans, a flood of errata 'to bring into line with the classic game' (followed by a near-moratorium on errata to actually fix balance issues), daily-less 'L' fighters & 'Thieves,' spell-accumulating 'Q' wizards, and casting rangers, in a doomed attempt to appease edition-war critics, etc... all too late (at only 2 years in), and too little (because of trying to maintain compatibility to 4e).
That included a planned Class Compendium that re-jiggered the PH classes to fit the Essentials aesthetic, which may be what you're thinking of, but it was scrapped as too-blatantly selling the same material twice (something Essentials was already doing pretty aggressively), and the modded classes-as-sub-classes released on-line (I think DDI, but could've been free).

Prior to the Essentials bootlegger reverse, 4e seemed to be to putting out additional PH, MM, DMG, & setting products each about annually, so, from that & the direction implied by the books we'd already gotten, we might have expected:
  • A DMG III could thus have been expected, and it would have been consistent with the DMGII's focus on Paragon levels if it had focused on Epic.
  • An even-later PH IV might presumably have added a full slate of 4 Elemental or Shadow source classes (presumably Shadow, since HoS preceded HotEC), like PHIII added 4 psionic classes and PHII 4 primal classes (the 'no gridfilling' assertion notwithstanding, they filled every grid but Martial). Also, judging on the Psionics trend, you might well have seen new advancement structures beyond AEDU, though still balanced with AEDU through resource parity, like Psionics (which substituted short-rest-recharge Power Points for Encounter Powers).
  • There'd likely have been a Shadow Power & an Elemental Power before Arcane/divine/psionic/primal got Power II's - and all that and perhaps more before seeing a Martial Power III.
  • 4e MMs did not follow themes, particularly, so a MMIV wouldn't likely have been anything like Threats to Nentir Vale nor the MV.
  • They also seemed to be working their way through the world axis, there were books for the Astral Sea & Elemental Chaos, already, we could probably have expected, similar 'secrets of' books for the Shadowfell and Feywild, expanding on material in the Manual of the Planes, and probably including what non-player-facing material was in HoS and HotFw.
  • 4e was also working its way through settings, we'd already seen FR, DarkSun, & Eberron - I can't recall any indication what classic setting might've been next, but probably not the development of "Nentir Vale" we saw with Essentials, the original direction was for the 'default' PoL generic setting to remain generic. Edit: Apparently Ravenloft was next on the docket, for 2011, had things not changed direction. After that? Who knows? Maybe Greyhawk? Spelljammer (the Astral Sea evoked a fair bit of that vibe already)?
  • Finally, The VTT was sorta working by the end, so presumably, development might've continued on that and, maybe, even finally completing the promised DDI tools, putting the CB on an app, etc.
OK ignoring the spiral we have put ourselves into. We have potential refinements on 4es multiclassing which already works, and late paragon and epic support of essentials classes to stick in that players handbook IV what else has been mentioned?
 
Essentials pretty much canned it as far as I am concerned. It abandoned the spirit of the game. The attitude was gone. They stopped producing new lore material. Nothing experimental like we see in DMG 2 and Dark Sun. If Essentials was the cure I would have preferred to see it die.
Perhaps a little late to this party, but I thought I'd share some thoughts about Essentials.

I think the Essentials presentation was terrible. Both in the player (Heroes of . . .) books and in the MV there was overwrought, overlong flavour text that added nothing to feats, sometimes seemed to contradict the in-block italicsed flavour text of powers, and in the case of monsters replaced the tight but engaging it's here to be used flavour of the MM with someone else's adjective-laden story that I had no interest in using. And don't get me started on the overlap between HotFK, HotFL, RC and DM's Kit.

The move to asymmetric resources is another thing I disliked. It undermined one of the biggest virtues of 4e - the lack of any inbuilt notion of an "adventuing day" as an inherent part of making intra-party balance work.

But some of the actual game elements were interesting - eg the possession power in HotFeywild (something-or-other of the Dark Dream, I think); some of the paths and destinies; and most of all the MV monsters, which are mostly tighter and more effective in design than their MM and MM2 analogues.

And the Essentials treatment of skill challenges also brought something new and useful to the table.
 
I'm a big Fate fan...and its a game that let's you (by default) play literally anything you can make up (subject to group approval, etc.).

<snip>

You don't have to pour over lists of classes or feats or anything (which are, by nature, guaranteed to miss something).
I've more than once posted in the past that 4e is a "free descriptor" game in spirit, but for commercial reasons is one in which the publisher sells you bundles of descriptions as a precondition for using them in your game.

(Of course that's a bit of an exaggeration, especially when it comes to combat in 4e.)

Not getting into the Warlord thing too deeply, but I think when 5e backed off of 4e's detailed tactical framework that it lost the ability to support a lot of what people are used to in the 4e warlord.
I tend to agree with this.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
I gotta admit that while I've pretty much given up on the idea that I'll get an official warlord in 5e, it does leave a rather sour taste. This is the one clearly 4e concept. Something you can really point to as an iconic element of the game, and it got tossed to the curb, in a rather puerile manner as well. For all the talk of the "big tent" of 5e, that's probably one of my biggest grinding gears.

And it makes it all the more irritating because it was only done to pacify edition warriors. There's no real mechanical reason to not have a warlord in the game. But, like "damage on a miss" or "HP as Meat", there's just no way that folks will let this particular bone go.
I'm sure a Warlord will show up at some point, we are still one early days for the edition yet.

Mearls put out an Alpha version of a Warlord Subclass for Fighter on his show, for instance, and it might grow into something down the line:

https://thinkdm.org/hfh/warlord-fighter/
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Ughhh makes me sad to be honest they warned about hybrids too if I recall.
I appreciate the honesty about the problems with the idea. Even a ludicrous multiclassed character will contribute in 5E, but it is one of the real potential traps, and while I regret that it is in the PHB at all (cut Multiclassing, cut Feats, and it would be an improvement: more room for useful material), it is good that it is well signed.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Do you really think WotC is going to release a Warlord for 5th Ed?

I mean, five years on, and the Artificer is still up in the air...
As a Subclass, yes.

As a Class, no, I'm not sure there is room for more than 14 base Classes in the game (Artificer & Psion/Mystic in addition to the original 12). The Artificer isn't really up in the air, it's coming this year: Crawford said in a D&D Beyond video that the survey results for the latest round were very good, and well over the threshold for publication.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I've more than once posted in the past that 4e is a "free descriptor" game in spirit, but for commercial reasons is one in which the publisher sells you bundles of descriptions as a precondition for using them in your game.

(Of course that's a bit of an exaggeration, especially when it comes to combat in 4e.)
I don't think you're entirely wrong, either. The game Strike! is a pared-down 4e, with a lot of similar mechanics. However, the setting/character you choose has to fit within the combat zeitgeist or it stops making a lot of sense (at least, if you use the tactical stuff.) When 4e's PHB2 came out I looked at the various abilities for the classes with the same role...It made me wonder why they didn't just publish a list of abilities for each role and then let the players flavor as needed/desired. (Of course, the obvious answer is "To sell you more books.") I never got PHB3, but I understand it underlined the point even more, if you were looking at that way.
 

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