What’s Good About 4th Edition?

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of 4th ed Dungeons and Dragons.

But there are many, many of you out there who are. So here’s your chance: leave me a comment about why I should try 4th ed. What do you like about it? What incites you passion for it? Is it the party roles, the new races available as “core races”? Let me know. What in your mind makes this game so good. Try to convince me.

Leave me a comment about all that’s good with 4th ed. As an extra incentive, I’ll make it a contest. I’ll throw the names of everyone who leaves a comment in support of 4th ed, into a hat and choose one name at random. The winner will receive a set of 10 piece Hybrid Tanslucent Red Dice from RPGShop.com. The deadline for this contest is Sunday, 23 August 2009. I’lll draw the name of the winner on Monday, 24 August 2009.

23 responses to “What’s Good About 4th Edition?

  1. Because I can create an encounter in less than 10 minutes without needing an algebra refresher course to do it. :)
    .-= newbiedm´s last blog ..The First Annual Obligatory Post-Gencon Wrapup Post =-.

  2. I find the game to be a slightly more streamlined and, in many ways, balanced version of D&D. Not only do players get to feel a bit more powerful in some way every time they level (Rather than “You leveled! Here’s a +1 to attack” vs “You leveled! Here’s several more spells you can whip around the battlefield.”), but it feels like players have more options available to them during a battle. Which as we all know is a huge part of D&D. (Not that there’s no room for Role Playing, far from it. There are those who say there is no room for RPing in 4e but I always felt you didn’t need rules to tell you how to RP). Anywho, I always use the example of the 3.5 fighter vs 4e fighter. with 3e fighter it’s typically ‘I swing’ or ‘I miss’ where as the 4e figther would be ‘I swing and possibly do something cool’ or ‘I miss and, depending on the technique I’m using, maybe do something cool or not.’ Of course, many folks compare 4e to an MMO and, in some ways, I can see the similarities. But who’s to say MMOs got it wrong?
    .-= GeekBob´s last blog ..Ameryka: A Start =-.

  3. Top three reasons I like 4ed:

    #1. As a DM, it is both significantly fast and fun to design encounters and adventures. (Ridiculously faster when compared to 3ed.) Whipping up NPC stats and making new monsters becomes very addicting. I’ve had more fun planning adventures in this edition than any other.

    #2. Skill challenges, when done correctly, are some of the best mechanically-aided role playing I’ve ever witnessed. (I almost feel like this entry is cheating, though, because the idea that drives skill challenges can basically be used for any system that some form of skill resolution.)

    #3. Combat (and in relation the monsters, classes, powers, and basically 90% of the rest of the system) has been put together while being extremely mindful of players and their interaction with the mechanics. By this I mean that each player is presented with interesting and meaningful choices in combat that stem from the way the mechanical elements interact. Every character plays an important role in combat, and the players have to cooperate closely with each other to survive. (More so than any previous edition.)

    Don’t let the talk of “4ed is a board game” or “you can’t role play with 4ed” sway you. Of course, if the idea of power cards, miniatures, or tactical tabletop combat turns you off, then this game isn’t for you (and no amount of praise or kind words will make it otherwise.)

    Also: Don’t worry about putting my name in that hat. I spread the gaming love for free. :)
    .-= DeadGod´s last blog ..Dark Sun: A Short Opinion from a Guy Who Never Heard of the Setting until a Few Months Ago =-.

  4. I like that spellcasters are not GODS, everybody ALWAYS has something to do and pcs don´t look like christmas trees.
    .-= cesar/kimble´s last blog ..4e x 3e x Ad&d x D&D =-.

  5. I like the style of the new books. Clear layout and nice typo and illustrations. The 3.5 were ugly and from bad design.

    The game mechanics are more focused on action, almost everything is focused on the combat. Old school magic is almost impossible except for the rituals which fill the gap for magic in DnD4 quite good.

    I like the new races and classes and the action system. Encounters seems to be smoother and even Arcane characters have something to do in combat.

    I like 3.5 but I like 4 as well. The quality of the books make it easy to buy and to read them and finally to play them.


    .-= Reto Kiefer´s last blog ..OpenOffice.org NextGen UI =-.

  6. My initial decision to move to 4e was simply that I’ve played every edition of the game when it was THE edition of the game. What made me a fan though, right from the start was the way the game seemed to bridge 3e to the older editions, while doing some new and interesting stuff itself (like the whole power framework).

    Day 1, when I got the books, the first thing I did was convert an old favorite 1e character to 4e. This character was one I could never do satisfactorily in 3e – a dwarf fighter/wizard, who was also a master brewer. In 1e, you handwaved the brewer thing or took a single NWP and never had to think about it again, just RP it. In 3e, you had to justify something like that with numbers. You couldn’t be a master brewer without the craft or profession skill and a fighter just doesn’t have the skill points. Also, and more central, one thing, despite the thousands of combinations, that 3e never did well was the fighter-wizard, which was an iconic combination from the days when races were classes.

    When I wrote him up in 4e, everything just clicked. From 1st level he was both a fighter and a wizard (with an arcane encounter power and skill); the brewer thing could be handled as character details. The suite of wizard powers allowed me to build him exactly like I played him back in the day – tough, mean, liked to get in there and tangle with axe and spell (plenty of close burst and blast powers all around); add a wizard utility later like dimension door or expeditious retreat and he had the ability to get around the battlefield or more like him, find his way right into the fray. I called expeditious retreat, unfettered charge and used it to get to the BBEG rather than get away from anything. When the Character Builder came out, I statted him up every 5 levels up to 25 and it still just what I wanted at every level. As he leveled, a bit over a third of his powers were wizard powers, so he was very much multiclassed. What impressed me the most is just that it worked. Nothing about the initial choices are optimized. Dwarf is not the best race for a wizard, fighter and wizard share no synergy in stat or gear needs, but it all worked and he was a viable character, even if a +1 or so behind a focused caster or martial type in his hitting ability.

    That was what made me a fan, along with some nice touches on the DMs side of the screen. Prep time exploded in 3e and I would spend hours working up monster stats and the like. 4e prep is like old school prep or Savage Worlds prep (minimal and ultimately optional). It’s an easy game to wing it, and to wing it in such a way that you maintain balance while doing it. You have, on pg 42 of the DMG, a chart that lets you set the level appropriate DC and damage expression for any crazy thing the PCs want to try ever. Skill challenges were the icing on the cake. I love skill challenges, my players love them, a perfect blend of RP with an encounter based frame for skill based encounters, as opposed to single rolls.

  7. Alright, here’s my 2 coppers:
    4E is a new step in a franchise that, while very different from its predecessors, does open the door up for players who were originally not into D&D. I’m not talking touchy-feely newbies who need their hands held, I’m talking people who simply didn’t like the previous games systems but have still played the countless other games out there (WoD, RIFTS, Shadowrun etc…)

    Why like it? Well, despite its streamlined mechanics and very new player friendly design approach, it has accumulated a lot of content for itself. And it’s very self contained: When they introduce a new class in a book, all you need is the guidelines in that book along with the core rules. So it’s not going to be a case of Supplement Y requires Supplement X in order to get the most out of it.

    It’s a system that has both served well for showing newcomers the ropes while allowing veteran players plenty of elbow room to be creative. The skill challenges haven’t hampered our game play or replace role playing/player skill, they’ve just provided a solution when we hit brick walls or wanted a simple resolution to keep things moving.

    If you’re set in 3.X or earlier, really, then in the end it’s a matter of preference. In my case, where my gaming group of a decade were never big D&D fans to begin with, this has become the edition that they really got into and it’s opened up their play styles.
    .-= Rev. Lazaro´s last blog ..I’m not quite dead yet! I feel fine! =-.

  8. The two main things about 4e that have me in love with it are combat and preptime.

    I realize that the new system focusing on roles and powers is hit or miss for a lot of people. However I love the fact that everyone has fancy tricks to use. Melee characters aren’t limited to simply going “and I swing my sword” again and again, and while spellcasters have lost some versatility, they’re no longer worthless once they run out of their spells for the day.

    On the reverse side of the screen, prep time as a DM has been streamlined severely for me. The system seems just built from the ground up to be friendly to the DM. It results in monsters being managed a bit differently from players, but makes it far simpler in the long run through it. It’s now a piece of cake to pick out encounters appropriate to your players or tweak existing ones to better match. I definitely appreciate that!
    .-= Michael Pruitt´s last blog ..neoookami: Of course the Internet for this side of the UNC system would go down today… of course.. =-.

  9. Agreeing with Thasmodius a bit here. The thing that really turned me on to 4e was the GM prep. I can just thumb though the monster manual, making encounters on the fly. No real math or anything. Just grab enough XP for appropriate level and go…want to make it a little harder? Drop a few more enemies in there or use one of the other “versions”.

    I’m also really into the reduced skill set. It allows the players and the DM much more flexibility. As the DM, I can ask “What are you doing and what skill are you going to roll on?” On the fly, I can add bonuses or penalties for roleplaying, appropriateness to the situation, etc. Nice and simple.

    I still like and play 3.5…and Call of Cthulhu….and Dark Heresy….and whatever else someone throws in front of me to try out….

  10. My friends and I started playing D&D with 3.5 edition…and dropped off. Combat rules and skills took a while too long to learn. We’ve started playing 4th edition and things are going a lot smoother. I don’t think things have been simplified too much, but healing surges for all characters make it easier for the party to stay alive. The new powers are descriptive and add to the flavor of battle. Not saying players can’t think of great play on their own, but it certainly helped new players get enthusiastic about the game.

  11. I’ve played and DM’ed 4E, and my experiences with both have been excellent. Many people are critical of 4E, stating that the mechanics of it are too combat focused, leading to less roleplay and more “roll”play. I don’t deny this, the mechanics of 4E are very much combat focused.

    But it does it so VERY well. The rules are simplified, but with a many variations in powers and abilities. Not only is it easy to play in combat, it’s easy to prepare for it. By assignment roles to players and to monsters, you can easily plan for an encounter with a mere thirty minutes with the MM. Gone are the old days of incomprehensible caculations of Challenge Levels, where the addition of any class level to a monster would throw things off completely. Now, with encounters measured by experience budgets, you can easily determine how difficult a fight will be with minimal prepration stress.

    Playing combat is fun too. Many of the classes, in older editions, are reduced to “I walk up, I hit them” as their sole action during each of their turns in combat. Or “I walk up, I heal my friend”. Each class is often reduced to doing the same thing over and over. With the new array of powers, a character can do different things. A dragonborn fighter can walk up and just hit people, of course. But he can also breath a cone of fire upon their enemies first, then drop into a stance that allows him to damage any opponent that sits adjacent to him, and then action point to do a devistating blow against the toughest looking opponent. Every starting character has a bag of no less than 4 tricks up their sleeves, and their powers get more plentiful as they advance. In combat, this makes for much more potential variety, and it rejuveniates excitement when a character levels, unlike in older editions where all a non-caster class has to look forward to at each level is an improved base attack bonus.

  12. I wrote my first blog post on this very subject and while I don’t want to start a flame war and I’m not going to impose my likes on anyone else I do want to talk about what works for me.

    So in no particular order this is what I love about 4e.

    1. Skill challenges – What a cool mechanic for tackling non combat challenges. I love these and throw 5 or 6 into every adventure from simple to really complex. When they really work they are seemless and challenging. I love sitting down and coming up with them – I think it pushes DMs particularly, but players as well, to ensure everybody is involved and that the challenge is well rounded.

    2. Conditions – Adds spice to combat although they can be tricky to keep track of – I use Alea Tools http://www.aleatools.com – which makes things much easier. So much more interesting and tactically important to have attacks do more than just damage.

    3. Forced movement and shifting – Icing on the cake. Push, pull, slide your enemies, gang up on them and then shift away. For anyone who gets a kick out of outthinking their enemy these are just perfect.

    4. Character Builder – Need a PC in 5 mins? No problem! Want an NPC warlock, 5th level – 2 minutes. Need everything added up correctly and power cards to keep track of what you have used and speed up play – just press print.

    5. D&D Insider – Living in the UK getting hold of Dungeon or Dragon used to be a bit hit or miss and expensive. I now get both, plus a bunch of other things, regularly and for about half the price.

    6. Class roles – every class has a role, players understand their responsibilities in and out of combat. The best parties are built as teams, where weaknesses are identified and compensated for. No class is significantly weaker than another and no PC is ever stuck with nothing to do, no action to take or no contribution to make.

    7. Powers – A-will, encounter, daily, utility, monster, magic item – hundreds if not thousands each subtely different.

    8. Combat – Encounters are simple to plan, with monsters, traps and hazards easily assembled to provide just the right challenge for the PCs.

    9. Simplification – I like complication in my games but I want to be in charge of that complication, hidden traitors, sub plots, false leads – complications that add to the game. I don’t want to spend hours worrying about NPC design and rules.

    10. Page 42 of the DMG – Rules for everything not covered in the rules.

    All in all I have found the game to be easier to run and more exciting as a player than any of the other excellent versions of the game I’ve played dating all the way back to the early 1980’s. More near TPK’s, more excitement, greater challenge and fewer constraints all combined with simpler prep for DM’s.
    .-= Ardent´s last blog ..Nuanced Skill Checks in Skill Challenges =-.

  13. The most important thing it’s done is gotten more people into tabletop RPGs – me and my group, for example. I’m not going to lie, it is dumbed down IN SOME WAYS from 3.5, but that’s not all a bad thing – 3.5 scared me when I first saw it, and although it scares me less so now, 4e is still much less scary.

    And really, there’s not that much you can do in 3.5 that you can’t do in 4th. Alright, it doesn’t work out PERFECTLY, but with a few tweaks, you really can do a lot of stuff. ESPECIALLY ROLEPLAYING, and that doesn’t even require tweaks!

    But again, the most important thing – it got more people into tabletop gaming. Isn’t that what this hobby really needs?
    .-= Aaron´s last blog ..Battle of the Pre Apps: Tweed and Twee =-.

  14. Like Thasmodius mentioned, I embraced the new edition (4th) because I have traditionally played the latest version of the game, because that was the supported version. However, there are a couple of really important features for me that make me enjoy the game.

    The first feature is the fact that every character has powers. No one is in a “I’ve shot all my spells, so now I’ll just poke at it with my dagger” situation. Spell casters can continue to fire arcane bolts of energy even as a basic attack. This appealed to me as a role-playing feature. In addition, you didn’t really lose the utility spells casters used to use, as those were now rituals (a perfectly acceptable substitute for me).

    The second and most important attraction for me, was the ease in which I could design campaigns and know they were balanced for the characters I was building for. Additionally, the powers of the monsters are much easier to adjudicate. You know exactly which powers can be used when, and there’s no guess work. For me, this speeds up combat considerably.

    Those reasons combined with the other things in the game that really didn’t change or were only slightly modified, make the 4th edition an attractive game for me to play. I urge you to give it a fair shake, and see what you think.
    .-= Dead Orcs´s last blog ..Character Considerations: Ian Talmadge =-.

  15. When I brought the 4e rulebooks home for the first time, I decided to apply the same test I apply to all new role-playing systems. I pick a hero from fantasy books or classic literature (I have a degree in Classics) and see if I can build him with the system. More importantly, I see if he feels like a HERO.

    D&D for me has always been a game about heroic fantasy, so it’s important that the characters feel like actual heroes. I hadn’t read the 4e Players Handbook yet, and picked Hector, from the Illiad. It took me about an hour to put together a tower-shield and spear carrying fighter, who specialized in knockbacks and pushing enemies – classic Greek warrior.

    Better yet, he felt like a real hero. Smashing enemies around with his shield and hammering them away from his allies. Looking forward, I saw a bunch of extra feats and powers that would make him even better at what he did. Quick multiclass feat, and I have the warrior-general of the Trojan war!

    Of course, I’m the DM IRL. What really got me about 4e is the prep. I put together a sandbox campaign for our online group in about 5 hours, including about 10 encounters, maps, treasure, quests – the whole nine yards. Heroic characters, good customization and easy prep. What’s not to love? Oh, and I don’t need an advanced certification in monster templating and leveling, or a master’s degree in character optimization to play the game.
    .-= wickedmurph´s last blog ..Incorporating High Level NPC’s =-.

  16. Well, normally I wouldn’t convince you to give 4e a shot, what I find awesome in the game may not sync up with your standards of awesomenicity.

    BUT!! Those dice do look neat.

    Interesting tactical combat, power cards, and a condensed abstract skill list are on the top of my list. I’m not a fan of the fluff but it’s mostly generic anyways so easily ignored. Mostly I use the mechanics and come up with my own fluff. Power cards when printed through the character generator (another plus!) are handy for customizing power names and easy to make notes on. Tactical combat has a learning curve but with a group that’s good at making quick decisions it’s very vivid mentally and dynamic tactically. The skill list although smaller is easy to improvise with. All the above means that we hardly ever open any rulebooks during game play which makes it faster for our group anyways.

    That’s about it!
    .-= kaeosdad´s last blog ..34 Step Sandbox: Getting Started =-.

    • Hi all — Thanks so much for all of your submissions so far. This is exactly the kind of dialogue I was hoping for. Thank you all for keeping it polite and respectful. I must say, some of your arguments are convincing….

  17. I’m not entering into the contest, but my quick answer is thus:
    It’s a very focused design that works on making a fun game that focuses on the core of what I and my group has always viewed as essential to D&D. It’s not for everyone, especially those who viewed D&D as more of a generic system previously, but it works great for us for telling classic D&D stories.
    .-= Dave T. Game´s last blog ..YouTube Tuesday: Elite Gamemaster Edition =-.

  18. I have two things I really like about 4E. You’ll notice these are totally from the DM perspective, since GenCon Thursday is thus far my only change to play a 4E game.

    First, encounters are much easier to put together than in previous editions. You have a fairly good gauge of how challenging an encounter is. That also means you can modify encounters on the fly more easily.

    Encounters are also much easier to run. From minons to solos, you have a well put together stat block that you can quickly see what the NPCs can do. Add in the emphasis on adding interesting options via terrain, traps, and hazards and its easy to empower both your monsters and your player/PCs.

  19. Another nod to the “quick prep time” for me. One of the reasons I love the Cyclopedia D&D version of the game so much is that it’s so easy to design an adventure — and also easy to improvise one on the fly. The GM has not only the power, but the tools to make using that power appropriately easier.

    The same goes for 4e. The new method of building an encounter isn’t entirely perfect, but it usually gets quite close to the mark — only a handful of monsters are “underrated.” XP budget is much simpler and clearer than CR. Monster statblocks are shorter and clearer. NPCs are just easier to play. Icing: the power system, with its movement and other conditions, incentivizes designing interesting battlegrounds.

    On top of all that, the 4e Dungeon Master’s Guide is the best version of the AD&D DMG ever printed. It contains a ton of advice for new GMs, whereas older editions’ DMGs mainly contained rules and magic items. This makes it easier for new GMs to get started. It does mean the book is somewhat irrelevant to experienced GMs, but on the whole I think it’s a huge positive.

    4e also has a strong emphasis on the PCs acting as a team. It encourages teamwork by making teamwork the most optimal course, in general — and this is also very GM-friendly. For instance, rarely will a party desire to split up when they’re “in the field.”

    From a player perspective, I enjoy the power system. Never cared for Vancian casting, and I like that non-casters can be as effective as casters in 4e. No character class is ever useless at a given level of play. No one-shot wonder mages at level 1, and the fighter and paladin are not fools for progressing beyond level 5. Everyone has cool tricks, everyone always has a choice of a couple of fun things to do. And the DMG gives a single page of rules that can handle anything else they might like to do.

    4e looks kind of awkward on paper, but it plays a lot better than it reads.
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..Gencon in Review =-.

  20. I like the focus on everyone having cool things to do during combat, since much of D&D tends to be combat making sure that everyone can be involved and have fun should be a priority. The healing rules are improved overall.

    The skill challenge system is a good idea to open up the game, even if it does not always seem to work as well in practice as theory.
    .-= Sean Holland´s last blog ..The Scion of Spring at Nevermet Press =-.

  21. Try Pathfinder…

    • @RedToaster Thanks for taking the time to comment. I actually just got the Pathfinder core books very recently and am in the process of reading through them. So far, I’m pleased with what I’m seeing.

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