Upon Further Reflection of D&D 4.0

jedion357's picture
August 31, 2010 - 6:53am
Reached a decision two weeks back when the regular DM in my weekly D&D game (3.5ed) wrapped up a module- I wasn't having fun and 75% of that was the system- I just don't think 3.5 is fun- combats are: everyone line up and play whack-a-mole with your weapon- that is an over simplification but not by much.

So I told my group I was out and they could go on with the 3.5 game; they said, "no we'll try something else"

So it fell to me to dust off the 4.0 rules (I owned the first 3 books released) and bring a learning game for everyone to learn on. Now that I've dug into the books (and picked up a few more) heres what I think:

1. The game makes every effort to make it easy for a DM.

first off the monster manuel details typical tactics for each monster and it details suggested encounter groups at the end of the monster's listing and at the very end is a list of monsters by level. All tools to aid the GM and I highly approve.

The Dungeon Master's Guide and the DMG2 as well are chocked full of advice and tools to help the DM- a table with exp budgets for building encounters by level and party size- it aids in planning balance encounter but by taking the exp budget for 2 levels above the party's level the GM can plan a more challenging encounter.

Theres a list of treasure parcels by level: basically they chart out the treasure (gold and magic) that a party should earn for each level in a fashion that maintains a particular power curve- something I approve of as well.

Clearly outlined monster design rules- need to create a monster bang here's the rules. I needed a spider for 1st level PCs to fight and the ones in the monster manuel didn't really fit- no problem I now have a write up for a tunnel spider and future plans for doing a giant trap door spider (level 3 lurker). On top of that they provide design templates like mummy lord or lich and if you what to shake things up and throw a curve ball you can pick a monster like a gnoll and the mummy lord template and combine the 2 and you have a new creation that fits in with the whole theme of you've been running with the gnolls but now you have a boss monster who is a gnoll and a mummy lord that is going to challenge the PCs and be new and different. Clearly all of this aids in DM creativity.

There is a host of other things as well that I really like in the DMGs- skill challenges, adventure companions, and more.

2. Its a Players game, and a thinking person's game

There are 4 PC roles: Defender, leader, striker, and controller and a group works best when you have all 4 roles represented. Each role has its own unique contribution that pushes the party to victory and each one has its own thing that it can do. It has become a game of group tactics. where your decisions have impact and stuff goes better for you with good tactics (read good group tactics). Having come back to RPG from wargaming this strongly appeals to me.

3. Its a different game and yet its still D&D
The wizard is no longer this tag along that you hope lives long enough till he gets fire ball and can then nuke stuff for you. he starts out balance against all the other classes and the power curve seems to be maintained throughout the climb to level 30

The game is changed in a way that facilitates extend play and dungeon crawls if you like that sort of thing- you dont get the resource depletion because the spell casters have used all their spells. your encounter powers recharge for every encounter; though the big guns: daily powers only recharge after an extended rest. but even when you've blown your daily and encounter powers everyone still have at will powers that can continuously be used.

Some complaints I've heard:

A. its just Warcraft as a table top RPG- I usually hear this from someone who only has superficial knowledge of the rules. No it is not. However, it would have been foolish for Wizards to not pay attention to what the MMORPGs are doing since those things have been raiding the RPG market's customer base. Have they stollen ideas from MMORPGs yes but dont we all do that sort of thing? and is it a negative to steal a good idea?

B. The money issue and the plethora of #2 books: this is a complaint that could hold water to a certain degree. However I did feel that DMG and DMG2 were worth the money for the vallue they confered. However it occurs to me that no matter what your hobby is you're going to spend money- you're into guns? cost money- on going money with ammo even if you just buy the 1 gun decide that you wont buy any more after that. Golf- I have it on someone else's authority that if your really into golf that it can be $3000/year, cars & cycles are you good with just one? and isn't there some mod or up grade you want for that? comic books talk about a monthly cost- yikes (I use to collect), I dont care what your thing is it cost money some how or some way. If you went whole hog and dropped $300 buying up a bunch of books and materials it really isn't that much compared to other hobbies.

Ok maybe you're as tight as scrouge with your money: You can play with just the Player's handbook (has the rules for combat) and downloading the demo of the Character builder- it has all the races, classes, feats, powers and spells from the 3 player's handbooks & 2 setting books. (I whipped up 4 PCs in 20 minutes with the character builder). The character builder lets you save your PC then level him up latter (or delevel him if you want) and when you print out the character sheet you get a sheet with all of your powers on it including any powers from a magic item you're carrying- which is very handy in game as there is no need to look up a power in a book. For that matter you dont have to buy a book- just get the character builder demo and sit in on someone else's game and learn from them.

I've heard other complaints but they really stem from close minded stick in the mud individuals that just fear change. So far I've run one session with a skill challenge and a combat: total time 2 hours and that included easing our way into the rules.
I like it and recommend it.

If I had to complain against it:

You really need 4 players and a GM. it will be a really bad idea for a DM to try to run a PC and GM (I think its kind of a full time job for a player to do their thing in this game and for the GM to do his- its like drinking and driving- dont do it no matter how tempted you are- use an adventure companion to cover the missing role. the DMG gives advice on party composition when you only have 3, 2, or 1 players there are consequences for not having a particular player roll. This can be a problem if you dont have a group of 5 people. though it could be an opportunity for a DM to just get creative and adjust the adventure to fit smaller groups.

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Georgie's picture
August 31, 2010 - 8:09pm
Devil's Advocate (because I maxed out my ranks in that skill Innocent):

  1. Make's the DM brain dead and monsters are cookie cutter. Sure, the tips are handy for a beginner, but your group has experience. Your DM(s) should have been throwing change ups and curve balls, i.e. monsters that act atypical for a reason.
  2. So is Basic D&D, Advanced D&D, 3.5 D&D, Star Forntiers, Twilight 2000, etc. Even without those roles spelled out, a good adventure party naturally falls into them anyway. The same goes for tactics. Nothing makes a game more exciting then when you realize you blundered tactically and now need to get your butts out of the fire. Both of these points fall upon the DM whose responsibility it is to make the game enjoyable for the players regardless of the rule set.
  3. The wizard being a tag along is part of the fun and challenge of playing a low level wizard. The DM can make it more fun by adding challenges that play to the 'weaker' characters' skills instead of their combat ability.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.    * Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
September 2, 2010 - 12:42am

I never tried later versions...AD&D (what is it, first or second generation that the DMG & PH that has the efreeti covers?) was complicated enough to convince me into converting all my modules to the "streamlined" 1980 Moldvay B/X rules. Wink

And I still get a kick out of the B series games more than anything.

I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

adamm's picture
September 2, 2010 - 11:54am
My wife and I played in a weekly D&D game right up until our son was born.  It was 3.5 when we joined the group and the group started a new 4e campaign as soon as the books were available.

My wife and I both thought 3.5 was more fun.

In 4e it seems like they worked out all the numbers so everyone advances along a steady power level curve so the opportunity for players min-maxing is reduced dramatically.  They also made it so there aren't any bad powers or abilities, and they spelled out for you exactly how to build your character so it can fill it's intended role....to make a bad character you would have to purposely ignore the reccomendations in the book and really think long and hard about how to make the worst combination of abilities and powers.

Some people would consider those good things, but for me that takes half the fun away.

jedion257 wrote:
I just don't think 3.5 is fun- combats are: everyone line up and play whack-a-mole with your weapon- that is an over simplification but not by much.

I actually felt pretty much the opposite.  4e combat felt to me like playing Diablo where you would just click on the monsters.  I felt like in 3.5 we had to put a lot more thought into it.  Part of it might be that we had a very non-standard 3.5 party.  I think it was Cleric, Sorcerer, Swashbuckler, and Bard....maybe the fact that our party was weird made us work harder at it.

If I had the opportunity to play 4e again I would do it, but it would mostly be for the social time.  I would be a lot more eager to play 3.5.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
September 2, 2010 - 1:54pm

It's the Player vs the Character concept. IMO, 4e focuses on the Player (look what I can do, min/max) while early edition RPG's focused on the Player getting his Character through a situation. Take 4e traps, one roll and it's defeated, yes it might do a little damage but it's really just a speed bump, it won't kill you (although this is soon to change). 

jacobsar's picture
September 3, 2010 - 7:10pm

I respect that some are attracted to the 4E concept. I have heard some positive things. Many claim that 4E deals with rules lawyers and allows less obstructed game play. However, I do have a problem with some of the things done for its promotion.

In the begining it was just an agreement that 3rd party companies had to sign off on... in order to make supplements for 4E they had to turn off any open game license productions they had. Then they pulled licensing for all of the previous vertions being sold on RPGNow and Drive thru, even the ones people had already payed for.

They have the right to do this, of course. It was still an under handed way to put all the
cards in favor of 4E.

PathFinder is my game now. It smooths out many of the idiosyncracies of 3.5 but maintains the feel of D&D.

Reasonable men adapt to the world around them; unreasonable men make the world adapt to them. The world is changed by unreasonable men.
Edwin Louis Cole

drow's picture
September 3, 2010 - 9:24pm
the only license they pulled was the d20 system license, which allowed you to put the d20 system logo on your product. scrub that off, and its all good again. there's still plenty of d20/OGL stuff out there. including pathfinder. which does rock, i agree.

drow's picture
September 3, 2010 - 9:27pm
@w00t: uhm, removing traps has almost always been two rolls. one to find, one to remove. that's classic. and not all 4e traps are that simple, either. many are intended to be treated as one element in an encounter, and can be countered by several different means, not just the thievery skill.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
September 3, 2010 - 10:04pm
I've been trapped!