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Guest Column: D&D 4E Impressions

I’d like to introduce Jeff Rees to Dragonlaird Gaming as a guest columnist starting with some thoughts he had on D&D’s 4th Edition after the recent TPK…

I’ll have to say that wipe of the original 4e characters has been very educational. It also brings into focus some of the back and forth on the Edition Wars that I have read. I can see where some people will really love this edition, and some will really hate it.

The Love
I think in order to love this system, a couple of things have to occur:

  1. Players must embrace the Role, not the Class. In prior editions, a character class’s role may or may not have been sharply defined. Wizard comes to mind – you could make just about any role with a 3e wizard (striker – power spells, leader – haste and other buffs (more of a role for the cleric), controller – Web and Evards Tentacles, etc). That is mostly gone now. Each class was designed to support a role. There are a few red herrings that are legacies from prior editions(for example, Magic Missile is NOT a good 4e wizard spell – it is a striker attack and not a controlling attack).

    Since prior editions were fuzzy, not all roles were covered. There was some implied roles, but most people looked to do damage. We tended to have Barbarians, not fighters; Sorcerers (with a few controller spells), not wizards. Now, we could get away with some role mismatch due to #2 below.

  2. The DM needs to understand the PCs roles and the monster roles. 4e has made it easier to understand what a monster is supposed to do. You look at a pre 4e Ogre Magi and it was hard to really figure out what to DO with the monster. Some were obvious, some were not. 4e provides a nice tool to help DMs be more effective running monsters at a glance. But, a more effective DM means the PC party must be more effective. If not, the DM has to figure out how to challenge without just doing the same exploit of the party’s weakness.
  3. Everybody needs to enjoy a good fight. I think 4e ups the game a bit in this area. It is not this extreme, but its kinda like going from playing Checkers to playing Chess. If you are there just to push the pieces forward, it probably is no fun. But if you like more intricacies, there is a lot of options that the roles give you (anywhere from just killing stuff to driving the DM crazy). Note that you could get the same options out of prior editions, but those editions supported other types a play better (general was easier, optimization was more work, esp on a group level).

The Hate
Some things that can drive ya nuts

  1. Everybody wants to be a . You probably can do it, but being forced into running a role you do not like is no fun. The player stuck with a cleric before 3e was always in this situation.
  2. If you love a classic class over a role – this is a big complaint. It manifests in many ways, but basically they liked class X the way it was. For example, they loved the old MM/Web/Inv/Fireball Wiz just the way it it has always been. If you loved pre-4e spellcasting for Clerics and Wizards, it is a tough move. Also those that loved their “sub-optimal” builds will hate the pressure to make something more effective.
  3. “I just want to sit down and play.” I think a group can handle a few of these (others will get the PC up to speed). The powers make the play ok and players can help each other. But if your group is mostly there for casual gaming, 4e will not be fun.
  4. You like structure for non-combat skills. If you loved crafting/profession skills, the hand waving at these will not be a plus for you.

Just my thoughts.

Jeff Rees