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    Default A friend's 4e review

    On another forum I go to, one of the posters recently DM'd 4e for the first time. I thought it was interesting enough to post here, just to fan the flames contribute further to the ongoing dialog.

    Having just run my first D&D 4E game, my initial assessment is yours.
    Posted by Ravil


    Although I've run D&D 3E for...Jesus, seven years now, this was really my first time as DM since I moved to Ontario a couple of years ago, and I was trying the game out with two friends who had never played any D&D at all. So all of this is from the perspective of how newbies will encounter this whorehopping 4E system.

    First thought is that this isn't dumbed-down D&D. Some parts of the system are more streamlined, and certainly the spellcasting classes have had their complexity in part bashed out at the kneecaps. On the other hand, all of the basic "Powers" for every class are now of roughly the same complexity. In my experience with 3E you could always start novices out in the game with just, say, a Fighter whose special powers just involved being able to hit stuff really hard, thus easing them into the game with a character that was extremely straightforward. Now all of the classes have a variety of complex tactical options that require quite a bit of management and keeping track of stuff. So while the most complicated and hardest-to-play classes (the spellcasters, hands-down) have been simplified, all of the others have actually had their complexity increased.

    The 4E Rogue, for example, is way more complicated than the 3E, at least at 1st Level. 3E Rogue had, what, Sneak Attack, its skills, and a few passive abilities. Reasonably straightforward. The 4E Rogue's various "Powers" are all actively-employed tactical options, even at 1st Level, that confused the hell out of one of my players (though we got it sorted out into Plain English). The stuff requires more management.

    And since it is now structured so that all of the classes advance in the same way (the only difference being which Power "trees" they select from, really, and a few other minor class features), all of the classes have almost exactly the same degree of complexity. Which can be pretty high for those just starting out.

    Some people might think this good, some might think it bad. I know Friendly:) was heaping vitriol upon it for being dumbed-down, and I'm not sure I entirely agree on that count.

    Wizards of the Coast has finally abandoned all pretexts to the contrary and has blatantly structured 4E around miniatures tactical wargaming. Inevitably, perhaps. A friend of mine works at a gaming store back in Calgary and regularly complains that the various miniatures games fly off the shelves, whereas RPG sales in general have been eroding over the last few years (probably why 4E hit us so fast in the first place).

    I don't really begrudge them this, but the game feels a little different now; there seems to be more focus on the tactical combat. I remember having a conversation with DarkLight years ago when he was saying pretty much the exact same thing about 3E: that compared to the old AD&D, the Monster Manual, for example, devoted lots of space to combat statistics and tactics but very little to monster ecology or any of the "fluff." This trend has been exacerbated with 4E. The new Monster Manual contains less fluff than a shorn sheep; maybe a sentence of flavour text now, and then a big block of stats.

    The new stats are pretty useful and, I found, handy. If you're running them in a game. If you're trying to, oh, say, build a character, on the other hand, then they're a big old pile of **** waffles. I don't know who designed the official new Character Sheet, but it's laid out in an almost offensively useless way, at least for beginners. My (admittedly total newbie) players were so confused that I ended up just typing up all of their special attacks on a separate sheet for them to reference handily. The Character Sheet was even making my head spin a little, since they don't seem to have provided sufficient room to write down things like your attacks, Power-enhanced or regular.

    Maybe it will become increasingly intuitive as we play more, but first impression was that I wanted to club the Character Sheet designer in the face with a sack filled with smashed porcelain shards.

    But the monsters/NPC statblocks worked well in combat, and, as I said, I found them to be useful.

    The monsters are now structured differently than the player classes, I think, and while I may have missed something in the Dungeon Master's Guide about this, it no longer seems to be as easy to, say, give PC classes to monsters as it was in 3E. 3E's system had a very unified feel to it; though ludicrously complicated sometimes, monsters and PCs worked more or less the same way and were basically interchangeable if you wanted to do some extremely nerdy legwork. I don't think that's the case any more. The PC classes now seem to be structured in an entirely different way from how monsters are structured.

    What I think that comes down to is that they've backed away from the core idea of the game being "realistic" or providing an infinite plethora of options, and have instead tried to make it more "fun" and more helpful to run. I think this is probably typified by the inclusion of the Minion, which is a type of monster that has all the normal stats of a monster of its level, but has precisely 1 hit point, so it always goes down in one hit. Totally unrealistic, but extremely useful in times when you want to, say, create the "Stormtrooper" effect where the PCs cut their way through a horde of baddies, but where the baddies can still hurt them. I have already found this to be profoundly useful and have been wondering why I (or anyone else) didn't think of this for 3E. Very cinematic. Probably because the attitude of 3E seems to have been based more upon establishing and creating a unified, "realistic" world.

    Now the focus is on creating fun encounters, and the game mechanics have been tweaked for this. The inclusion of at-will, encounter, and daily Powers for each class means that spellcasters aren't completely useless once they've used their big spells for the day. 1st Level characters are no longer a complete joke; they've got more hit points and many more options for things they can do. These are, in my opinion, good things.

    Of course, in some instances I think that trying for "fun" has been taken too far, in one case in particular. I really dislike the idea of Healing Surges (which allows your character to partially heal themselves x number of times per day). I know why they put it in, and my players liked it. But not only does it kind of destroy the central usefulness of the Cleric class (whose abilities are now largely reduced to helping others help themselves), it also abandons the suspension of disbelief completely. I know that I probably sound like a hypocrite for praising the idea of Minions while ****ting all over Healing Surges, both of which were designed to make the game feel more like a cinematic adventure, but there you have it, I'm a hypocrite. There's just no reason for characters to be able to heal themselves, especially since this can be done up to and including death's doorstep. Your character can be bloodied, hacked apart limb from limb, and then spend three or four of the day's Healing Surges and be back to new. At least a Cleric's healing powers in previous D&D games were supposed to be, you know, magical. At least they were pretending there was a reason your character was coming back from the brink of death. There's no pretense to that with Healing Surges. You just heal yourself by really wanting to feel better. It dragged my suspension of disbelief into a dark alley and raped it to death for the simple reason that there is no reason attached to why this is happening.

    Ultimately I'm in this for the roleplaying rather than the combat; I like telling a good story. If a game system helps me along in this, then I welcome it with open arms. When it starts getting in my way, I start getting irritated. I have mixed feelings about D&D 4E because it seems to have begun disregarding the telling of a story in favour of providing a fun tactical wargaming experience. I think that the combat aspects of the game have been improved from 3E, and that the rules are slicker and shinier. I'll probably keep playing with it now that I've started, since it does correct many of the annoying things about 3E that I disliked (although I have a strong feeling that you have to have played and been pissed off at certain 3E mechanics to fully appreciate 4E's strenghts -- my players didn't really notice any of this, but then they had nothing to compare it to). And maybe I'm just a literary *** who is expecting something out of Dungeons & Dragons that I simply shouldn't be. Maybe hack-and-slash, swords-and-sorcery dungeon crawling is what this game is all about. To be honest, I've never gamed with people who played it that way, but it's possible that I'm in a minority.

    Anyway, to wrap up, it's probably as good a game for dungeon-crawling fun as you're going to find. The new emphasis makes it better for this than 3E, I believe. Whether or not these tactical mechanics seriously impede or disrupt the telling of a story, I'm not entirely certain yet. I suspect, though, that if you actually want to do any storytelling with this system it will be despite the 4E mechanics, rather than in concert with them.

    On a related note, since the forum in question is "threaded" (as opposed to "flat" like this one is) and the posts are almost all simple NT posts, it wouldn't be that big a deal to stick the resulting thread in spoiler tags if you guys want.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    The Clerics are actually quite useful. They get the following out of surges:
    1. The same character can surge multiple times in combat
    2. Spending the surges is done by the Cleric as a minor rather than the Surging PC as a standard.
    3. Clerics generally DOUBLE the amount healed by a Surge.
    4. Oh, and Clerics can then use their Standard action to beat up opponents on top of the healing.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Good review. He's made an effort to be fair, and all his comments, good and bad, are pretty accurate.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by wodan46 View Post
    1. The same character can surge multiple times in combat.
    I suspect the reviewer might have missed the part about only being able to heal once per encounter (unless other stuff is used such as a Cleric's Healing Word). Or possibly it's the out of combat healing the reviewer objects to.

    I think the reviewer makes a good point about 4e requiring a lot more suspension of disbelief than previous editions of the game. While I'm ok with 4e on the whole, that's my biggest issue with it too.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by greenknight View Post
    I suspect the reviewer might have missed the part about only being able to heal once per encounter (unless other stuff is used such as a Cleric's Healing Word).
    That was actually part of the resulting discussion on the original forum. The OP wound up somewhat less irritated on that front, but still none too happy about the unrestricted out-of-combat usage.
    Last edited by Artanis; 2008-07-04 at 09:34 PM.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by Artanis View Post
    That was actually part of the resulting discussion on the original forum. The OP wound up somewhat less irritated on that front, but still none too happy about the unrestricted out-of-combat usage.
    Since 3rd edition parties never used the requisite healing spells between battles? There's more healing than dragging along a 3e cleric at low levels, I suppose, but there's more hit points to be healed, and most folks picked up wands of Cure Light at the first opportunity anyway.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    True, but the objection is to the ability to "heal" any damage, no matter how major, in about 20 minutes out of combat.

    The trick is, of course, that "major" damage isn't really major in 4E. Bloodied is a single, moderate-minor injury, and you really don't take injury until 0'ish hp.

    At least, that's the way to think about it for healing surges to make sense. Otherwise, there is indeed some ing.

    The other issue is, that even in the negatives, a character can still get up and back to full health in an hour or so, with a bit of care. And he'll be perfectly fine, no injury.

    It's like injuries in 4E are totally transient, and unreal.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbitrarity View Post
    It's like injuries in 4E are totally transient, and unreal.

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    Neo: "Tank, I need a healing program, 75% damage."
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    Neo: "Not yet."

    That's actually the best way to think of it I've seen on these forums so far. :P

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    a Fighter whose special powers just involved being able to hit stuff really hard
    Wait, 3.5 fighters had special powers?

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by Project_Mayhem View Post
    Wait, 3.5 fighters had special powers?
    They could take feats. 3.5 fighters had a range of hitting power, ranging from large stick to 4 speed blender.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    I'm confused that he calls Minions "totally unrealistic". How many times does he think a person can "realistically" have a sword stuck through them without suffering any ill effects?

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan_Hemmens View Post
    I'm confused that he calls Minions "totally unrealistic". How many times does he think a person can "realistically" have a sword stuck through them without suffering any ill effects?
    Well, both PCs and monsters do it preety often. Also, I thought that in 4ed HPs are purely abstract? Minions would be realistic if everyone died from one or two hits, but of course then they wouldn't be minions then.
    Last edited by Morty; 2008-07-05 at 09:51 AM.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by M0rt View Post
    Well, both PCs and monsters do it preety often. Also, I thought that in 4ed HPs are purely abstract? Minions would be realistic if everyone died from one or two hits, but of course then they wouldn't be minions then.
    Still confused. How does the way the rest of the game rules operate make minions any more or less realistic?

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan_Hemmens View Post
    Still confused. How does the way the rest of the game rules operate make minions any more or less realistic?
    Because if one bandit -who by definition isn't as speshul as PCs- can take two blows to the head and still happily try to gut the adventurers while the other one dies when a wimpy wizard hits him with a dagger, something's wrong from the realism and common sense perspective.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by M0rt View Post
    Because if one bandit -who by definition isn't as speshul as PCs- can take two blows to the head and still happily try to gut the adventurers while the other one dies when a wimpy wizard hits him with a dagger, something's wrong from the realism and common sense perspective.
    Again, I've got to ask "in what world is it unrealistic for somebody to die from being stabbed with a dagger?"

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan_Hemmens View Post
    Again, I've got to ask "in what world is it unrealistic for somebody to die from being stabbed with a dagger?"
    In a world where other people somehow don't die after being hit with an axe.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    To be honest though, if the wizard is hitting someone with a dagger in 4th, you're probably doing something wrong anyways. And besides, you could always just think of it as "The fighter/rogue/ranger/ect just taught him how to fight a bit better in combat, so he won't get stabbed in the face when someone gets toe-to-toe with him"

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by M0rt View Post
    In a world where other people somehow don't die after being not quite hit with an axe.
    Does this solve some problems? HP = dodging + luck + divine grace + cool points.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by Siosilvar View Post
    Does this solve some problems? HP = dodging + luck + divine grace + cool points.
    Then explain to me why your generic human guardsman, goblin warrior or kobold dragonshield have got roughly as much HP as a PC can have? They aren't as cool and special as they are, after all. The obvious answer is, HPs are abstract. But then, why do the minions suddenly drop after one hit?
    Last edited by Morty; 2008-07-05 at 11:14 AM.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Generic anything thats not a Minion has Luck, and lots of it. An minion does not. It may be action-movie ish, but it corresponds well with D&D novels, and not necessarily recent ones either. Or other fanatsy novels.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by M0rt View Post
    Then explain to me why your generic human guardsman, goblin warrior or kobold dragonshield have got roughly as much HP as a PC can have? They aren't as cool and special as they are, after all. The obvious answer is, HPs are abstract. But then, why do the minions suddenly drop after one hit?
    Because minions are supposed to die. They're redshirts. They're supposed to die, and die easy. Just like minions do in movies.

    No, it's not realistic. Personally, I don't care.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence
    Generic anything thats not a Minion has Luck, and lots of it. An minion does not. It may be action-movie ish, but it corresponds well with D&D novels, and not necessarily recent ones either. Or other fanatsy novels.
    Could be, could be. But it's not realistic, which is what the discussion is about.

    Quote Originally Posted by CarpeGuitarrem View Post
    Because minions are supposed to die. They're redshirts. They're supposed to die, and die easy. Just like minions do in movies.

    No, it's not realistic. Personally, I don't care.
    So you agree with me, as the entire argument from the start was about minions being realistic or not. And I personally think minions are one of 4ed's worst features, but that's not the point here.
    Last edited by Morty; 2008-07-05 at 11:36 AM.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    the notion of people being capable of surviving massive damage just by being mor "experienced" is rather less realistic. Hit Dice, Xp, levels have always been something of an abstraction.

    4th ed is one of the first editions to do "high level" monsters that go down in one hit, so as to ensure that you can both have an army of monsters for the PCs to hack through, and at the same time, give the members of that army a credible chance of hitting.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    the notion of people being capable of surviving massive damage just by being mor "experienced" is rather less realistic. Hit Dice, Xp, levels have always been something of an abstraction.
    Right, and adding monsters who for some reason always go down in one hit while other monsters don't makes it even less realistic.

    4th ed is one of the first editions to do "high level" monsters that go down in one hit, so as to ensure that you can both have an army of monsters for the PCs to hack through, and at the same time, give the members of that army a credible chance of hitting.
    Which might be benefical for gameplay -although in my opinion it's silly- but is certainly even more unrealistic than a game without minions would be.
    Last edited by Morty; 2008-07-05 at 11:50 AM.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    in what way is the combination of ridiculously tough, and normal, monsters more unrealistic than all ridiculously tough? At least with the combination, you can explain the tough ones as bodyguards, top-of-the-line warriors, near-elite types.

    The weak ones dying to one hit represents that the heroes are just that good. when we watch a movie, with our heroes battlling through a horde without trouble, then coming across decidedly more formidable opposition, that doesn't break suspension of disbelief, we simply say "these guys are really tough"

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    in what way is the combination of ridiculously tough, and normal, monsters more unrealistic than all ridiculously tough? At least with the combination, you can explain the tough ones as bodyguards, top-of-the-line warriors, near-elite types.
    Because the monsters who have about as much HP as PCs aren't necesarily "ridiculously tough". Many of them are simply soldiers like hobgoblins, orcs, etc.

    The weak ones dying to one hit represents that the heroes are just that good. when we watch a movie, with our heroes battlling through a horde without trouble, then coming across decidedly more formidable opposition, that doesn't break suspension of disbelief, we simply say "these guys are really tough"
    Doesn't it? When I see heroes fighting through legions of mooks it breaks my suspension of disbelief on a frequent basis.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Or, to sum up: D&D combat is not realistic, will never be realistic, the minions are the first element that is: the notion that some guys will be out of action in one hit. HP it at least partly luck, plot armour. etc. when a guy with lots of HP gets hit, he is getting bruised, battered, like a hero does. When a minion gets hit, his skull is crushed, artery opened, etc. We see action hero survive explosions with scorching, but his comrade dead, because thats what makes sense in an action movie.

    Or a comic, or a novel, or other media.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    Or, to sum up: D&D combat is not realistic, will never be realistic, the minions are the first element that is: the notion that some guys will be out of action in one hit. HP it at least partly luck, plot armour. etc. when a guy with lots of HP gets hit, he is getting bruised, battered, like a hero does. When a minion gets hit, his skull is crushed, artery opened, etc. We see action hero survive explosions with scorching, but his comrade dead, because thats what makes sense in an action movie.

    Or a comic, or a novel, or other media.
    Except it's not only the heroes who get two-digit number of HP. Your generic goblin warrior or human guard does so as well. Which is good: I'd hate D&D to look entirely like action movies.
    Last edited by Morty; 2008-07-05 at 12:16 PM.
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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    you can use goblin or human minions for large scale situations, and non-minions whenever the situation demands that the monsters not go down easily.

    Somebody once suggested "Schrodingers Minion" that the DM choose whether target is minion or normal depending on the needs of the story. That might be taking things a bit too far. Like "Rogue sneaks up on unalert guard and stabs him" with two possibilities in hthe hands of the DM.

    Guard keels over.
    Guard yells with pain and other guards come running.

    This should not be overdone since it might be a bit railroad-ish.

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    Default Re: A friend's 4e review

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    you can use goblin or human minions for large scale situations, and non-minions whenever the situation demands that the monsters not go down easily.

    Somebody once suggested "Schrodingers Minion" that the DM choose whether target is minion or normal depending on the needs of the story. That might be taking things a bit too far. Like "Rogue sneaks up on unalert guard and stabs him" with two possibilities in hthe hands of the DM.

    Guard keels over.
    Guard yells with pain and other guards come running.

    This should not be overdone since it might be a bit railroad-ish.
    That's pretty much all about DM's tastes.
    I'll pretty much never use Minions as Guards, because that isn't their role, their role is to be, specifically, cannon fodder.

    Of course there are always excemptions, mine being a lvl 10 party sneaking into a kobold camp, that would call for Minions all the way (A minion should be used to improve the gaming experience, not to be a nuisance/easy source of Xps), I (as a DM) don't want to get bogged down for 10 minutes in an encounter that would be totally marginal to the plot.
    that's the place where my signature should go.

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