Fourth Edition News Recap

While fan-favourite D&D site ENWorld has been dutifully the news on fourth edition, I’ve had a reader request for some more news on the topic. Here’s the distilled edition of the big D&D 4e news from the past few months.

Right now, the news is that all three core books will receive a June 2008 launch. I believe that Dragon magazine writers are out of luck right now, since this pretty much saps any demand for 3e-based articles. Those of us who can’t wait will find the first 4e adventure H1: Keep on the Shadowfell released in April with quickstart rules, and we’re also seeing a D&D Miniatures Game starter set in April too. If you can’t wait that long, the D&D Experience convention in February (formerly Winter Fantasy) will have the first public preview of the game.

How will the game change? One factor of interest is that the game rules are simplifying down into more unified mechanics. That’s not the say the game is being dumbed-down, but rather that rules work the same way in similar situations. All attacks now use the same “attacker rolls a d20 and adds his bonuses” mechanic, including spells, breath weapons and traps, and all of these can critical or fumble. Epic levels from 21st to 30 are included by default, and (finally) traps aren’t limited to CR10. We’re also seeing a broad range of thematic changes, which ultimately I think will make the game more interesting - if you disagree, remember that D&D is always “DM’s choice” when it comes to the flavour.

Now for an important question: How will it hit your pocket? D&D 4e seems to place a larger emphasis on complex, professionally-written dungeons instead of homebrew monster-after-monster dungeons. This is good news for freelancers (who will be pleased at the writing opportunities this opens up) and players (who see a more interesting play experience), but it places a little more financial strain on the DM. Encounters with numerous monsters instead of one are the norm - this is good for gameplay, I’m certain, but if you use miniatures it means buying more of them. Ultimately I can tell you that while minis and prewritten adventures improve a combat-based D&D game, it’s going to be tricky for us Dungeon Masters who get stuck with the bill.

For those of us who can’t wait and need something new to play for the next five or six months, Iron Heroes and Star Wars Saga Edition feature many of the rules improvements that we’re going to see in 4th edition. Iron Heroes is a Conan-esque low-magic, high-action combat game, while Star Wars should need no introduction. Alternatively, if you’re running an extended D&D campaign, now’s a good time to push your game toward a conclusion. Whichever you do, have fun.

Comments (10)

ChattyDm (November 22nd, 2007)

Thanks for the service Jonathan. Concise and to the point.

I am a big fan of Iron Heroes and have played it for about a year.

I’m still looking forward to 4e.

unique_stephen (November 22nd, 2007)

We rolled up 1st level characters earlier this year and have started “The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde”. So we will be playing 3.5 for a while yet. Miniatures are a problem tho’
I don’t know what kind of critters we will be up against, my guess is the usual assortment of kobolds, (hob)goblins, orcs, skeletons, zombies, evil NPCs, animals and a few magic critters. We are 1st lvl after all. When they come in kits such as “Night Below”, “Unhallowed” and “War of the Dragon Queen” how do you go about buying 10 orcs, 10 goblins, etc and figures that match your characters? The selection is a bit limited.

Jay (November 22nd, 2007)

One suggestion I would make on the miniatures front is to start looking into Reapers new paointed mini’s. Only a few are out so far but I can say the detail is far creater than any mini that came out from Wizards so far. From what I am hearing more painted mini’s from Reaper will be out soon so watch for them if you need specific types.

Doug (November 22nd, 2007)

When I run crunchy games like D&D, I usually just ask players to help out with things like minis, maps and that kind of thing - usually people who have been playing D&D for a while will have some minis laying around somewhere. I almost never run published modules and scenarios, but if I did on a regular basis, it makes sense that the players would pitch in and split up the cost. Just treat them like drinks and pizza that are usually shared in most groups I’ve been in.

And thanks for the update, I’ve been busy and have fallen behind - I hadn’t heard that they were releasing all three core books at once.

Omar (November 22nd, 2007)

I don’t know how widespread this practice is, but I’ve found that the galleries that Wizards has on their site of all of their minis make handy fodder for DIY minis. You can copy the images, scale and copy and flip them into foldable standee templates using Paint or whatever, and print them onto cardstock. They’re obviously not as pretty or convincing as the plastic minis out of the box, but they’re a heck of a lot cheaper.

I’ve been using this method to supplement my collection of minis, and it usually works out pretty well. I certainly prefer it to “okay, I know this looks like a huge fiendish spider, but it’s actually a huge black dragon.”

Stripes (November 25th, 2007)

I bought the “digital counter collection” from White Wolf publishing. I forget where from, but looks like the same product.

It has had a counter for everything in the SRD, and a whole lot more. The more common monsters (like kobolds) have many different counters (some with spears, some with cross bows, one with a pistol). It is about $20, and I have been very happy with it. I started printing them on magnet stock as I was playing on a magnetic whiteboard. I’m not using the magnetic whiteboard anymore, so next time I do a batch I’ll likely use cheaper cardstock (but I think they definitely need more then just paper).

I supplement it with minis my players bring (mainly my wife’s, she has an extensive set of old war hammer minis)

On occasion I have gone “old school” and supplemented with candy corns and the like.

Jonathan Drain (November 25th, 2007)

@Omar: Probably the best method I’ve heard yet - a sort of “combined arms” approach to minis. Use miniatures where available, and cardboard standees where not. It avoids both the relative flatness of flat tokens and the “pretend the orc is a dragon” stand-in problem.

Mind if I steal it for a later post?

Zaratustra (November 25th, 2007)

Just use play-doh.

unique_stephen (November 27th, 2007)

Thanks for the ideas guys.

The Bohemian (February 10th, 2008)

Thanks for the overview, Jonathan. I am a bit reluctant to start with yet another edition of D&D but I probably will.

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