Fourth Edition Character Sheet: First Look

Wired has an exclusive preview of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition character sheet. This is perhaps the biggest piece of information we’ve had on the new edition to date. Let’s go over some of the details revealed:

Ability scores: Largely unchanged, there’s a new column for “ability modifier plus half level”. This is the new bonus for ability checks; initiative is essentially a Dexterity check.

Skills: The skill list has been consolidated to seventeen skills: Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Heal, History, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception, Religion, Stealth, Streetwise and Thievery. As in Star Wars Saga Edition, skill bonus is half your level plus ability score modifier, with +5 if you’re ‘trained’. All Strength, Dexterity and Constitution based skills suffer armour check penalties.

Combat: Gone are multiple iterative attacks and huge damage bonuses, with the sample 15th level character dealing a reasonable 1d8+8. The sample character at 15th level has a base attack bonus of +15, calculated as half level + Strength modifier + a “proficiency” modifier of +3. Movement is now officially measured in ‘squares’, and armour check penalty (luckily these are lower than in third edition) applies directly to movement rate.

Armour class and saving throws: Saving throws and AC are both calculated as 10 + half level + ability score; remember that in Fourth, the enemies roll against your saving throw value much like third edition’s spell resistance. Interestingly the character sheet suggests that saves now use the higher of two ability score modifiers; for example, either Strength or Constitution can apply to your Fortitude save. Class seems to apply less to saving throws, with our sample 15th level paladin applying only +1 to all saves from class.

Getting beaten up: As seen in previous suggestions, a character becomes ‘bloodied’ at half hit points, a status effect which we’ll see defined when more details are available. Players can also activate a “healing surge” to restore one-quarter of their hit points a certain number of times per day, presumably as a kind of “brief rest to regain stamina”. Other effects listed are a “second wind” ability useable once per encounter, and what seems to be a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for Bodak-style death effects - it’s not detailed if this is per-day, per-level or per-character.

Alignment: As previously announced, Fourth edition says goodbye to the magic square of nine alignments (ten, if we count the spoof alignment ‘Batman’). We now have a five-alignment track of Lawful Good, Good, Unaligned, Evil and Chaotic Evil. Interestingly, in another break from AD&D tradition, the sample paladin is listed simply as Good, not Lawful Good - in fact, her deity is the traditionally Chaotic Good deity Kord.

New features: Prestige classes are replaced with “paragon paths”, and epic prestige classes with “epic destinies”. There’s a very cool sounding “Astral Weapon” paragon path that paladins can take. Action points are core rules now. “Passive senses” give a flat “10 + modifier” number to Insight and Perception, presumably for when someone sneaks up on the character.

Comments (10)

Saragon (May 23rd, 2008)

Jonathan — the “3 strikes” bit is not for death effects, but for hit point deaths; this was released fairly early on as a preview rule by WotC. Here’s how it works.

The negative hit point range for dying characters is -10 or half your hit points, whichever (absolute) value is greater. (Thus a PC with 50 HP dies of HP damage at -25.) However, rather than losing 1 HP per turn until you die, a “dying” character must make a saving throw each round. On a success, nothing happens. However, when a character has failed three saves (not necessarily in a row), he dies, whether he’s at 0 HP or -100. (Anything that heals a PC, by the way, heals them from 0 HP — there’s no “dying tax” on healing powers.) These rules don’t apply to NPCs and monsters - they go down at 0 HP. Also note that 0 HP is “dying” for a PC; WotC has wisely gotten rid of the “disabled” special case. These saves notwithstanding, should the PC take further damage while dying that drops them below their negative HP limit, they’re dead regardless of saving throws.

Wizards has made it clear that there are NONE of the previous editions’ single-shot “save-or-die” effects like the Destruction spell, although from some monster previews it looks like there may be some two-stage save-or-die powers (i.e. a PC is weakened on the first hit, dies on the next hit.)

I should point out that I’m very much in favor of these rules. At high levels of play in 3.x, the -1 to -10 range is very small given the amounts of damage monsters and NPCs can do. Should someone drop to negative hit points but not die, however, there’s all the time in the world to heal them - the safest place a hurt fighter can be is on the ground with -1 HP, since it gives the cleric nine rounds to finish the fight and heal them up. This system provides more urgency to get someone back on their feet while scaling nicely with level.

Brendan (May 23rd, 2008)

Bloodied is simply a measure of your damage, it means nothing in and of itself but there are a great many powers and abilities that effect or are effected by either the user or target being bloodied. It’s actually a pretty nice little touch, we’ve been using it in the Iron Heroes game I’m in for a few months now and it’s nice to be able to determine if the enemy we’ve been fighting is Bloodied or not. It doesn’t give us any great detail but it does give us a strong ballpark estimate.

Jonathan Drain (May 23rd, 2008)

Saragon: Aha, I think you’re correct about the death saving throws. Well spotted.

Ben (May 23rd, 2008)

A lot of this info seems to have been out already in spoilers in such, among them.

_But_, it is cool to see an official character sheet!

Shinra (May 25th, 2008)

The alignment track change seems like a pretty ignorant change; Associating lawful with good and chaotic with evil is pretty stupid. Should I ever make the switch to 4e, this is definately a change I’m going to be ignoring outright. If alignment’s too complex a concept for your players maybe they should go back to counterstrike and abandon roleplaying to the adults.

Wil K (May 26th, 2008)

@Shinra: agreed. The elimination of a two-scaled alignment system is a bad idea (not that alignment is perfect, but this is worse).

The class additions to saves appear to also be based on SWSE (paladins have jedi bonuses frex).

That damage seems ridiculously low! I’m sure they’ll give melee special attacks or something.

Thomas Heffner (June 9th, 2008)

Before I state my insight into 4E, let me say that I have been a DM for 30 years and a Player for even longer. I have played and DMed just about everything considered an RPG. I went to my local store on Game Day to test play the 4E with the actual hope that I would be wrong about 4E and everything I feared it would be. Needless to say, I wasn’t. I can sum up 4E simply by saying that it is the biggest pile of crap I have ever seen in all the years I have been involved with RPG. WOC and 4E is the worse thing that has ever happened to D&D and we all would be better off if both vanished without a trace. They have taken a great game and have destroyed it, designing a pile of crap for those who can’t role-play, those without any creativity, imagination, or an understanding of what a fantasy game world is suppose to be. 4E is designed for the lazy DMs and players who don’t wish to take the time to create or participate in an unique experience of adventuring, but rather bring their video gaming to the table in the kitchen. D&D is a tabletop RPG not a bloody video game, it was and is for those who wish to use their imagination and enjoy a world far from that of our own where everyone doesn’t have to be equal but everyone is valuable, where variety is welcomed and role-playing is the chief foundation of the game not powers or levels. 4E is for children and lazy untalented idiots who can’t grasp the true concept of a RPG, leave D&D to the adults and the true role-players WOC cause you have ruined a great game.

Psychopomp (June 9th, 2008)

What’s that? You played a pre-generated adventure that last’s all of 30 minutes, and you think you have insight into the entire game?

4E is *still* a roleplaying game. Just because you played that crappy pre-gen, doesn’t mean everything sucks.

I love 4E. It’s fixed everything I hated about 3.5. (Read: They made combat not boring, and not everyone of a x class is 90% the same character.)
You have *much* more freedom of choice when it come’s to your character’s now.
Combat revolves around teamwork, not everyone pumping out as much damage as possible.
The only thing I *don’t* like is the silly Terminoligy changes.

In short, D&D game day, (As always) was a poor representation of a fine product.

And if liking it makes me a lazy untalented idiot who can’t grasp the trup concept of a RPG…

Well, the above poster can learn a small term called “Personal Prereference,” and bite my ass.

Ablefish (June 9th, 2008)

Wow… imagine being stuck in a playgroup with that sort of “open-minded” DM for 30 years. No thanks.

I’ve heard the video-game garbage regurgitated so many times and I still don’t understand the comparison. From what I can see, the biggest concepts that 4e borrowed from Wow is the idea of a balanced play experience regardless of Race/Class. That doesn’t mean that there are fewer options when creating a character (Trained VS Skill Ranks is very welcome imo), it means that EVERY character can contribute in every situation - combat or non-combat. I also like the balancing of magic items so no one character dominates combat, or a magical item replace all the skills and abilities of the party.

If the video-game comparison is coming from the tactical nature of combat, I don’t really see how that’s any different than 3.5 in terms of emphasis, besides the fact that they seem to have fixed every broken and annoying thing about 3.5 combat.

Cyric (June 11th, 2008)

Hey guys remember that this is a GAME. I am all for an impassioned opinion and I know we all have a love for the game, but there really is no reason to become so hostile. It saddens me personally to know that so many of us are reduced to name calling and sarcastic, destructive, verbal attacks over a disagreement of opinion. Personally from what I have seen so far I do not like 4rth edition. However that is a personal opinion which is based on the fact of several changes. I liked some of the things they got rid of. Some of the ideas in 4rth edition to simplify the system are good. What I do not like about the system I will change as a game master and start writing house rules. That takes time,effort and love of the game. I will agree that the rules are simplified and they do lean toward the mmorpg style of games. But you know what? THEY WORK. MMORPG’s are vastly popular and their systems work. The rules of any d&d game have always and always will be this: a guideline. The gamemaster makes the calls on the rules and the players have to agree to it. If the game master doesn’t like the rules he changes them and then consults his players. There is discussion. Hopefully it remains civil. On my table it wasn’t always civil over the years. People take criticism personally. Sometimes it seems like 4rth edition was their own creation and the criticism was of their baby. Of course on the other end most Gamers lack social refinement in which they can express their disagreement without insulting or angering their opposer. Good or bad here is 4rth edition. Some of us will like it as it is. Some will not. For those of us who do not like it get it anyway change the rules and then submit your changes to
wotc. Play it your way. Maybe others will like your way better than wotc. There are communities for this sort of thing too.

Good luck and peace,

I look forward to hacking everything to bits and breaking rules

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