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5 Reasons Why I Prefer D&D 4E

posted Sunday, August 31st 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNone of the Above

Jürgen Hubert at ENWorld tells us why he prefers D&D 4E. This is especially interesting if you’re still sitting on the fence about switching over.

Let me add to that by giving you my top five:

  1. Excellent advice for Dungeon Masters. Every edition’s Dungeon Master’s Guide is worth reading, and 4E’s is no exception. It discusses player motivation, campaign style and feel, and ways to both prepare and improvise. Do not run another game of any D&D edition until you have read this book.
  2. Monsters are given archetypes. In retrospect, the 3E challenge rating system was too simple. It didn’t differentiate between monsters of varying defensive ability, even though this is something we’ve had in the class system since the beginning. It’s a lot easier in 4E to tell which monsters are physically weak ranged attackers (like wizards) and need protection from tougher monsters.
  3. Combat is faster and more interesting. In 3E, fighters got slow and boring at high level, rolling four to eight attacks per round. Now we have a Star Wars Saga Edition style one attack per round, but the effects of attacks and combat feats or powers are more significant.
  4. Balance issues have been resolved. Third ed left munchkins a lot of exploits, such as resting after every fight to regain spells and cherry-picking prestige classes. Fourth does away with those issues and helps to straighten out the balance.
  5. It’s easier to make new monsters. There are only fifteen first-level monsters, but creating new ones is incredibly easy. I didn’t realise how much more work 3E monsters involved until I went back and statted one up. I’m considering drawing up weekly new monsters for this blog; readers, drop a comment here and let me know if you’re interested.

Comments

  1. Buzzregog

    September 1st, 2008

    Really just 4 reasons why you prefer 4th ed. and 1 reason to buy the DM’s guide. :) But that is just me picking nits.

  2. Geek Gazette

    September 1st, 2008

    I agree with you whole heartedly. I am definitely a fan of how monsters are set up in 4e and I like the fast combat. As for the character unbalance, I honestly never had issues with that in 3e. Every class had ways to min/max a character and I tend to houserule enough to keep it fai. Then again for now I don’t have to in 4e. So it does help out there.
    I enjoy reading DM/GM guides no matter the system. I am always looking for a fresh perspective and tips to keep it fun for everyone, including myself. I will admit that while a lot of the 4e DMG is basically rehashed content I’ve read dozens of times, it was still a good solid book. Not necessarily useful for experienced DMs, but I feel it was better than the previous versions when it comes to newer DMs.

  3. Richard Moriarty

    September 1st, 2008

    Great article; that list is nearly identical to my own. I would totally dig it if you introduced new monsters every week. Creating and discovering new monsters is my favorite part of being a Dungeon Master.

  4. Doesn't Matter

    September 1st, 2008

    Over resting is a problem only on poorly designed encounters.

  5. ChattyDM

    September 1st, 2008

    I agree to point #5, I’m always looking for new monsters!

  6. Dan Voyce

    September 1st, 2008

    Sometimes its just a relief to know that there are people still on the fence – Edition War has few moderates on either side, in the circles I move in at least. Personally, I just can’t make my mind up (yet) and playstyle will probably be the deciding factor. That said I love the new DMG and ease of monster creation. As in all things, time will tel…

  7. Scott

    September 2nd, 2008

    First time I’ve ever heard anyone say the CR system was too simple… ^_- (Yeah, I know what you meant. But that monstrosity needed everything short of differential calculus if you tried to apply it beyond the simplest of enemy groups.)

    The 4e DMG is awesome. I’m planning on giving copies to a couple of newer GMs I know who don’t even run D&D. (Yet. Mwahahahaha.)

    Monster of the week would be cool.

  8. Prince_Herb

    September 2nd, 2008

    But these are also excellent reasons to move out of bloated 3e and into the rules-light old school D&D variants rather than take out a second mortage to buy up all those new 4e hardbacks. ^_~

  9. Xavi

    September 3rd, 2008

    Definite yes to “Monster of the Week” feature!

  10. Richard

    September 3rd, 2008

    1. Sounds pretty valid, but I’d rather just borrow a friend’s than pay a ridiculous surcharge for the useless glossy artwork and poor print job.

    2. This sounds like a good reason too, at least for those new to the game and thus unfamiliar with the monsters, but its inclusion in 4E seems more coincidental than integral to the system. You’re liking the window-dressing here, not the content. But… I worry that, the same as for PCs, defining a monster’s role will also result in a loss of imagination by spelling out what each monster is “supposed” to do.

    3. I always just used colored dice and rolled all my attacks and damage at once. And anyone who thinks a 3E fighter boring probably (IMHO) didn’t take the right feats or engage in much roleplaying.

    4. 4E hardly gets rid of the urge to rest after every fight, what with its daily-power element. In fact, every class is now essentially a 3E wizard, wanting to take a nap and recharge after every skirmish. As for other balance issues… well, every new edition has been created in part to rewrite the slate after the old one became unwieldy, loaded down with extra spells and powers and items and optional rule systems that can bog down gaming and offer exploits to metagamers. And each new edition, as time went on and new publications piled more straw on the camel’s back, has suffered the same fate as its predecessor. I don’t see 4E being any different. Give it time.

    5. I’ve likely not done nearly as much DMing as others here, but I never had a problem creating new monsters in 3E. Maybe I didn’t try anything too complex, or maybe I put less thought into balance and such than other people might, or maybe my mind is just wired the right way to understand the system they had in place for creating monsters at given CRs. I would be interested in seeing your work, though, especially if you get into Lovecraftian or other modes that would show what the ruleset is really capable of in your hands.

    *. My big fear for 4E, and this is based on experience, is that it will lead as I said to a loss of imagination. The basic mechanics of the game system are a direct attack on roleplaying, especially if one reduces complex situations to just a handful of dice rolls (“skill challenges”) — worse, rolls where the DM tells you what skills to use. I never liked being railroaded, and institutionalizing it doesn’t make me like railroading, it makes me dislike the institution. Sure, I may be allowed to come up with alternate solutions to the DM’s, but only if they generate the right number of dice rolls and the difficultly will magically increase on me if I try, even if my plan is more clever than the DM’s. No thanks.

    Add to that problem the overemphasis on combat. Monsters are explicitly stated as only being useful in terms of their short-term combat function. Players are implicitly reduced to mere combat units with the pruning away of huge numbers of skills and the elimination of the customization that feats gave us. Real-world distances are abandoned in favor of “squares.” The marketing emphasis on combat minis is just another bit of proof to add to the pile: 4E isn’t DnD; it’s a tactical wargame wearing DnD’s “new clothes.” It’s even less of an RPG than the blatant combat-fests (computer “RPGs”) that are its true antecedents.

  11. noisms

    September 5th, 2008

    They seem like arguments against 3e rather than reasons to like 4e. I’ll stick to 2nd, 1st and BECMI, thanks. ;)

  12. Dunwich

    September 20th, 2008

    Fourth edition is alright but it has the feel of a paper and dice MMORPG. The fighters got better but the wizards dont feel like wizards anymore. Theres things I like about it and things I dont but 3rd edition didn’t really get amazing until 3.5 came out anyway and 4E hasn’t even published all the classes and everything so I’ll give it time but it’s certainly not something I prefer over 3.5

  13. Alitari

    October 1st, 2008

    I haven’t played a game of 4th edition yet, but having years of RPGing under my belt, over a variety of systems, I don’t enjoy the feel of D&D 4th.

    1 – There are a lot of great manuals and books on how to be a great DM … they’ve been coming out with them for years now. 4th ED’s version is just as good as any of the rest, but it’s a tree in a forest.
    2 – Archetypes help starter DMs or DMs who have little time on their hands to think about how an encounter will work … they make balancing faster, but not necessarily easier. The old CR ratings I ignored, as they were often based off of poorly defined pre-conditions.
    3 – There is a lot more to the combat now, that I agree … more incentive to move around, more options to move around … but based off of the HP, damage, scaling, and things like ‘minion monsters’ it feels like the system took the best of 3rd, that stuff around 6-12 or so, and spread it out, thinly, from 1-30.
    4 – Balance is there, but there feels like a lack of interesting things that people can do. Some abilities are just upgrades of previous abilities, which allow you to move a bit further, do a bit more damage, or add a minor new function … not like the differences between Fireball and Meteor Swarm.
    5 – New monsters are easy to make, but the underlying system of HOW you make them is haphazard and not well explained … it feels a lot less ‘mechanistic’ than 3rd ED attempts at creating ‘types’.

    Overall it’s a step sideways, not really a step forward. 4th ED is a new game, and I wish they had treated it as such, instead of billing it as a ‘sequel’ to the previous versions, which I felt built on one another. I had hoped that 4th ED would smooth out the inconsistencies that had been created over the course of 3rd ED, streamline some areas of the rules while keeping the ‘under the hood’ mechanics clearly available. That they chose to gut the spell system on the altar of balance, was a sad choice … they could have easily made certain spells available to the non-spell casters, just repackaged … say take Shield and make it apply to one’s shield, have all the same functionality as the Shield Spell, just expressed in a physical fashion. Give the non-casters ‘spell like’ abilities, and clear out some of the mess (like the 4 attacks each at diminishing 5 … make the attacks meaningful).

    As it stands, as a DM, I wouldn’t use 4th ED … Basic and 3rd Edition work very nicely together, just add in a little more for non-casters to do, and you’re set.

  14. Grant

    October 17th, 2008

    Richard wrote September 3, 2008
    “*. My big fear for 4E, and this is based on experience, is that it will lead as I said to a loss of imagination. The basic mechanics of the game system are a direct attack on roleplaying, especially if one reduces complex situations to just a handful of dice rolls (â€?skill challengesâ€?) — worse, rolls where the DM tells you what skills to use. I never liked being railroaded, and institutionalizing it doesn’t make me like railroading, it makes me dislike the institution. Sure, I may be allowed to come up with alternate solutions to the DM’s, but only if they generate the right number of dice rolls and the difficultly will magically increase on me if I try, even if my plan is more clever than the DM’s. No thanks.”

    Times & Things change, and change is a good thing as long as the change is not for changes sake! I am a D&D and AD&D DM par excellance, I am talking about the D&D and AD&D published in the 70′s and 80′s. Those were the days, and for my friends still are, a time of imagination [running extremely wild].

    D&D4e is what it is, a miniatures based wargame, nothing else.

    WoTC is a merchandising company, and nothing else.

    If people want a miniatures based wargame there are plenty out there to turn to, rather than debase thhe one and only true RPG.

    Imagination died when v3.0 was released, AD&D 2nd ed was the slippery slope that D&D has turned into today.

    Find a copy of D&D basic or AD&D 1st ed [you can get copies at noble knight games on the web] and let your imagination run wild my friends. I tell thee that you will be changed.

    Now, get out there and slash & burn you way into infamy!

    GH

  15. "John Lee"

    November 4th, 2008

    Eh, I’m not so sold on point #3. I’ve never played it, so I can’t really be sure, but from what I’ve heard and seen it doesn’t seem that much more interesting than I’ve seen 3.5

  16. Matt

    August 16th, 2009

    I remember when 3rd edition came out and quite a few of the AD&D players would buy the books because it was new and all that was out were the core books. “Which was mostly just fighting.” Eventually, more books came out and the world began to develop.

    Others said that the books would be too expensive and such, but we bought them anyway. (My kids ate top ramen, mac & cheese, and hotdogs for a week, but it was worth it. *kidding*)

    Looking at 4e, it is a solid system. Yes, different from 3rd edition, but not worse by any means.

    1) One of the biggest arguments against 4e is that some believe it leads to less roleplay. Any GM who has told the 4e game can tell you this is quite the opposite. 4e has a system called “Quest XP” that when used by an experienced GM can lead to much more fulfilling roleplay than any other edition of D&D. It can even take on the feel of a White Wolf game because it allows a GM to tell several games without a single fight.

    2) It is a much more balanced system. As a GM 3e was a nightmare with larger groups, because players would try to min-max their characters and would be more powerful than the rest of the party. This made tuning encounters a nightmare. The 4e system makes gaming with more than 9 players a snap.

    3) Skills are tuned to where they should be. (For example, in 3e the rouge was strapped, because searching for traps, disabling traps, and pickpocketing were three different skills he had to spend points on. Now it is all in thievery.)

  17. Nick

    December 10th, 2009

    Personally I like one thing more than others about 4E.

    Hardcore 3E players who have previously told me they wouldn’t play anything else are eating their words.

    They ask me to play 4E with them, and I will agree, because now they have no excuse when I break out the 2E AD&D for my next game. *cackles madly*

  18. Jonathan Drain

    December 10th, 2009

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