Reading an edition wars argument recently, I discovered that a lot of third edition players had misconceptions about D&D fourth edition, or had tried to play but found the rules differences a little much to take in all at once. It hit me that Wizards never wrote an update booklet to help third edition players convert to the new game. To help, I’ve written a short summary of the changes new to D&D fourth edition, for players currently familiar with third edition.
- Most rolls now add one-half the character’s level. This includes attack rolls, skill checks and ability checks. This prevents powerful high-level characters from having a puny +1 to a skill.
- Fort, Reflex and Will are now called Defenses, and work like AC: they have a base of 10, and the enemy rolls his attack versus your flat number.
- Saving throws refer to a different mechanic: at the end of each round you roll with a 50% chance to end an ongoing effect, such as being poisoned or on fire.
- Players have “healing surges”, a sort of resource that renews each day and can be expended to restore hit points. A misconception is that this allows characters to freely heal themselves in combat. Rather, healing still requires a cleric or similar, and healing surges are limits on how much healing a character can receive in a day. Some 1/day or 1/encounter abilities allow a character to spend a healing surge on their own. Clerics can heal at-will out of combat, to the limit of each character’s remaining healing surges.
- Most races have +2 to two ability scores. This contrasts with third edition where most races had +2 to one and -2 to another.
- Level adjustment is gone. Monster races can be played, but at a reduced power level equivalent to a player character race.
- Tiefling and dragonborn are playable races. Gnome and half-orc are gone from the Player’s Handbook but are re-introduced in an expansion.
- Classes are divided into four roles, being defensive, offensive, area offensive and healer. A similar division existed in third edition (warrior, rogue, wizard and cleric), but it’s more pronounced.
- Multiclassing is limited. A feat lets you take a class ability of another class, but you can’t take levels in separate classes. This may be remedied in a further expansion.
- All classes have numerous combat abilities, or “powers”. “Powers” is a general term for a wizard’s spells, a fighter’s combat techniques (like Cleave), and so on.
- Warlord and warlock are core classes. Barbarian, bard, monk, druid, sorcerer and specialist wizard are missing, but are or will be re-introduced in future class books.
- There are 17 skills, where 3.5 had 36 skills plus 10 knowledge categories. Skills are fewer, but more useful: for example, Perception covers spotting, listening and searching, while Thievery covers all lockpicking/trap-disabling/pickpocketing attempts.
- Most rolls add one-half character level, as mentioned.
- Skill training works differently. Rather than spend points, players pick a number of skills to train in at character creation. Trained skills receive a +5 bonus. Although this bonus does not increase, it is in addition to the usual ability score modifier and one-half character level bonus.
- Characters receive feats more often. A 20th level character will have 12 feats.
- Magic item creation no longer requires feats. Instead, it requires only a Ritual (see Magic, below), which works like a spell in third edition.
- Weapons and armour no longer have multiple properties. You can still find a Holy Avenger, but not a +3 keen icy burst greataxe.
- Scrolls and wands of combat spells generally don’t exist. However, non-combat spells appear in scroll form as rituals (see Magic, below). The old wand of cure light wounds for between-combat healing is no longer necessary.
- Items sell for less. Mundane junk is unsaleable, and most magic items sell for only one-fifth their buy price. This discourages hoarding junk to sell. Your DM is encouraged to make your desired treasure easier to find in treasure, perhaps as part of a quest.
- Players can take three actions: a standard, a move, and a minor. A minor action is something like drawing a weapon or sustaining a spell by concentration.
- Multiple iterative attacks are gone. Instead, fighter types gain powers which grant extra opportunity attacks, deal hefty bonus damage or cripple an opponent.
- Critical hits work differently. You no longer need to roll to confirm a critical hit, but instead of rolling double damage you simply deal maximum damage. Wizards can get critical hits with their spells.
- Almost all attacks are either at-will, 1/encounter, or 1/day. Cleave, Magic Missile and a basic melee attack are all at-will, Cause Fear an encounter power, and Fireball a daily. Most attacks take a standard action.
- Action Points let you take an extra standard action in a round. Action Points reset to one when you sleep to regain daily powers and hit points, and you gain one more for every two encounters you go without sleeping.
- Tactical movement is more important. Certain abilities of enemies or allies force movement, and certain terrain hinders movement. A lack of full-round actions and move-equivalent actions encourages movement.
- Miniatures are strongly recommended. The game rules assume you use a combat grid, even if it’s just coins and dice on graph paper.
- Diagonal movement no longer costs more squares. In other words, if my speed is six squares (30ft. in old measurement) I can move six diagonally the same as I would horizontally or vertically. The same goes for weapon ranges.
- Wizards now roll to attack with spells, against rather than a fixed DC against the opponent’s Fort, Reflex or Will roll.
- Spell preparation is essentially gone, as mentioned. However, wizards can still know more daily spells than they can cast per day, and choose their daily selection from this.
- Non-combat spells are now called Rituals. A common misconception is that fourth edition only includes combat spells. This is because non-combat spells for all classes are hidden away in the back of the Player’s Handbook. Rituals are spells which typically take longer than one round to cast, including Discern Lies, Knock, and Drawmij’s Instant Summons.
- Area effects have only two types. A burst is an area centered on a point, while a blast is a square area. Area effects can be “close”, meaning adjacent to the caster: a close burst is centered on the caster, while a close blast has at least one square adjacent to the caster (such as a breath weapon).
- The game standardly runs to level 30. This contrasts with AD&D 1st edition through D&D third edition, where twenty levels was the default limit and epic levels were introduced in expansions.
- Higher currency changes slightly. Platinum pieces are now worth 100 gold rather than 10, and a new 10,000gp denomination called the Astral Diamond (AD) is introduced.
- There are only five alignments: Lawful Good, Good, Unaligned, Evil and Chaotic Evil. Almost no spells or classes rely on alignment, however, so retaining the old alignment system shouldn’t cause problems.
- There are several minor changes, too many to list here. They include weapon damage changes, armour proficiency changes, pleasant minor tweaks, a simpler grappling system, and a somewhat different implied setting with a different standard deities list.
I’m sure that should help clear up a few misconceptions among the 3e crowd. Imho, 99% of the changes wrought in 4e are for the better - it’s an excellent system.
Yup; it also matches my experience from the two playtest games. I’m not sure about “excellent system”, though. :)
Great write up. We just got started and do have a few 3x players at the table. I will share your article with them. Thanks for writing it up.
@greywulf I agree it is an excellent system.
Just a few minor points. Because you make your save on 10+ on a d20, you have a *55%* chance of making your saving throw, not 50%. It might be clearer to just say “If you roll a 10 or better on d20…” in case you give the impression that saves are rolled on percentile dice.
Also, characters *can* heal themselves without a cleric or other healing magic effect, using their Second Wind, but only once during combat.
And finally, you might also want to mention the major new game mechanic - the skill challenge as a formalized encounter type.
Perhaps from the DM perpective this changes are great, since they simply and streamline the game workflow. However, from the roleplaying and character individuality standpoint, IMO, 4e simply is a suboptimal system. Additionally, it would seem they “pumped the numbers just to make it so. For instance, why would a level 30 full raging, berserking barbarian care about diplomacy skills? The skill point system of 3.X, IMO, if FAR superior than flat, given numbers of 4e.
Most of the comments against 4e (admittedly, mostly from players) are precisely what most DMs find enticing. I think Wizards went a little too lopsided towards the DM/game flow side of the RPG pendulum. Perhaps in future editions of 4.X there will be a better balance between the full customization and individuality of 3.X and the easiness of 4e.
Excuse my terrible grammar and spelling mishaps in the above post :)
Thanks for the write-up!
I’m a 3E player, and it’s true that I had yet to see the systems’ differences outlined so succinctly. However, the only thing I seem to have misunderstood was the healing surges, but even then not by much. Even so, I think I still don’t like them… or the 4E system as a whole for that matter.
I realize 4E does have its strengths over 3.5, but I guess you guys can just lump me into that diehard 1% :P
Very cool write up; I’m probably going to perma link to this somewhere so I can show any friends who ask about the differences between the editions.
Just wanted to say that this is an incredibly useful write-up. I regularly play in both a 3E and 4E game, and I have found that there are misconceptions going both ways (we have a couple of players in the 4E game who haven’t played since 2E, and their views of 3E are a bit odd).
Of course, this probably won’t change the minds of anyone who has strong opinions on their favorite edition, but that is fine.
Personally, I feel 3E is a fun, mature game. However, I am kind of glad they put an end to that line, since we were starting to get to the point where Wizards was putting out books like “The Savannah Handbook”. I feel there are plenty of books to play 3E with, as well as plenty of homebrew support and products like Pazio’s Pathfinder.
On the other hand 4E is still young, and it can be a bit rocky at times. I personally enjoy playing it a lot, even though it has a different feel than 3E.
Great write-up. I would like to add that many of the changes require second or third thoughts to really be understood. I can’t count the number of times reading the 4e PHB that I said, “That’s the stupidest damned thing I have ever heard in my life,” and some time later it occurred to me that the change was actually a really good idea.
The new skill system hit me that way at first. I enjoyed buying skills with points, and making that decision at every level. But with broader skills, it works much better this way. And needing only to take a feat to be fully trained in another skill means that customizing your character’s options skill-wise is even easier than before.
Just to note: A wand can contain any encounter power usable by any class that can use wands. You can get a wand of Witchfire, or a wand containing a bard power or a wizard power etc.
Saving throws are a -base- 55% chance, and can be modified by race, power bonuses, etc.
With the exception of monk, every class you listed as gone is already released in PH2. Monk will be released fuly in PH3, and is in playtest form for subscribers to D&DInsider already. There’s also some pretty new class ideas.
Defining a controller as area offensive is doing a disservice to the control effects and can lead to problems if that aspect is neglected.
I woudn’t technically even call the monster races at a significantly reduced power level; the only thing they don’t really have is extensive feat support. While a lot of racial feats are really excellent, there are enough available not tied to race that one could still potentially make a very viable PC of any race that has been given PC stats.
Except maybe bullywugs, because monsters don’t have access to their healing surges in combat most of the time so their racial ability is useless.
One suggestion w/r/t: “A burst is an area centered on a point, while a blast is a square area. Area effects can be “close”, meaning adjacent to the caster: a close burst is centered on the caster, while a close blast has at least one square adjacent to the caster (such as a breath weapon).”
The phrasing might leave the incorrect impression that the difference between bursts and blasts is shape, which isn’t the case. Rather, bursts are measured out centrally from an origin square (which might or might not be the caster’s square), while blasts are measured from a vertex square that must be adjacent to the creature using the blast attack.
Thus, a “blast 3” and a “burst 1” are the same size and shape; both mark out a 3x3 square. The distinction between burst and blast lies in the relative positioning of the edges of that square to the origin point of the effect. 3.5e players making the transition can think of bursts as similar to 3.5e radius effects and blasts as similar to 3.5e cone effects.
@Toord: With regard to the skill system, you might turn it around a bit. Why would a 30th level barbarian be worse at anything, skill-wise, than a 1st-level whatever? That’s frequent in 3e but almost impossible in 4e. The 3e skill system assumes that a character must make a special effort to get better at various tasks. The 4e system assumes that characters naturally get better at everything—some things more than others—over time. And the 4e skill system incorporates “retraining,” by which you can allow one skill to “atrophy” (lose your training bonus) in order to get better in a different skill (gain a training bonus there). 3.5e didn’t have that flexibility, at least not as a core rule. Whether you agree that these are good design decisions or not, I do think the logic of 4e skill mechanics cohere within the bounds of the system.
I stumbled upon this blog searching for some 4e clarification on a few points. I’m glad I have. I used to play 3e and the move to 4e took some adjusting. This succinct list really made a few things easier to understand. Thanks a bunch.
My comment…. 4E is no longer the D&D I know.
From 1E to 2E, it was easy to understand the conversion. Still we had elf, dwarf, gnome, fighter, thief, cleric and wizard. Wizard has to read a spell book everyday in order to memorize spells.
From 2E to 3E, a great leap, still I was able to pick up easily. Still we had elf, dwarf, gnome, fighter rogue (thief), cleric and wizard. A few races and classes missed in 2E were re-appeared, likes monk and half-orc. I like to see them again. Wizard still need to read the spellbook, though a new spell caster who is not required to memorize spell introduced. But it is not wizard. A player needs to play very smart in choosing their spells. Only experience wizard can contribute to the party or even survive in the adventures.
For 4E, I am sad that the power system changes everything. The other unbelievable change is that they cancel the alignment. For more, there is no longer high elf in the D&D. I wonder why WotC have this changes….
No one seems to be saying the biggest difference in the other 3 editions to 4th. Focus on Roles rather than background, story, or role playing. Gone are the days of reading all the wonderful source books, or invetive and wonderful suggestions, world building, monster descriptions, or flavour of most any kind. Instead you get endless Role explination and almost completely dry “plug n drop” numbers for all the usuall fun and creative parts of the Role Playing Game. 4th edition has some things going for it, but never have I bought a D&D book and been bored by it. 4 unlike 1-3 is about boardgaming, not role playing. There is no personality, it could just as easily be a pamphlet on game mechanics. The Soul is gone.
Don’t think you’ll ever come back to read this, but I’ll still say my peace.
I’ve been absolutely thrilled with the new lore in 4e. Even with it still being so young, there’s a wealth of lore to discover and invent.
The rulebooks should only ever provide the basics for getting the game moving. The rest is up to either the particular campaign setting or the DM. 4e has plenty of hidden lore to uncover if you look for it, and at the same time gives the DM room to expand or rewrite as needed.
I say you go read the DMG at the very least before spewing BS about the lack of world building. Check the MM and the new Draconomicon before spewing BS about monster descriptions. Everything is there, albeit in a streamlined fashion.
The ‘soul’ isn’t gone. The world is a different one. Several things have changed in flavor but the essence is still there. The game has evolved and expanded. It is by no means the same game it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago nor should it be. The fact that it keeps improving and adapting shows how very much alive this game still is.
I have played D&D through all its editions since 1981. My last campaign was beyond superb, and it only stopped after 6 years because the players moved away from each other. We survived the 3.0 to 3.5 conversion just fine. But this new edition is so completely different that I do not see older players trying to re-learn all the rules ONCE AGAIN. (Plus buying all new books- and we all know that’s why we get new eds, not because the game’s so much improved!) I spent three hours in my bookstore reading over the 4th ed core books this weekend- I wasn’t impressed. Maybe some experienced 4th ed players could show me (in a game) what makes 4th so much better than 3.5- but from where I stand now, my opinion is: if you wanna play a MMORPG, get online and play one!
Wow way to take 3.x, an amazing system, and dumb it down for the masses. It’s not even hard to learn in the first place and it’s great just the way it is. All this other stuff is garbage >.> I will never touch 4.x and I’d hope you other DnD players would do the same.
Well, to all the negative ‘old time’ players… I have been playing for 30 years, have given 4e a try and really enjoy the game system. I have gone out and purchased those books that I felt I wanted (as a player and DM) all over again and learned a new system.
The new system is simpler in the basic game mechanics, but I find that allows the players to have a more tactical fight…. gone are the days of the highly trained fighter madly swinging his sword like a sharpened crowbar. Now all classes have different (read Flavor! Role-Playing! etc.) options each time it is their turn. Does this lean more towards using miniatures on a tabletop?? Yes, but then my group used mini’s 100% since 3rd edition came out.. so no radical change.
Is the skill system simpler? Yes. Is it better? Some. There are some things that were simplified to the point that it rather sucks (example: Perception used to find traps.. not Thievery… so my Rogue in a weekly game lets the super perceptive Cleric look for traps before I go disarm them).
All editions have ups and downs. Overall, having played a weekly ongoing campaign.. having played and DM’d Living Forgotten Realms adventures for totally new and experienced players… I find that I enjoy this edition more, and it is something that is enjoyed by anyone that I have personally gamed with.
I remember raging like many of the above posters when 3e came out… until I actually gave the game system an honest try.
Each to their own :) You don’t want to try 4e, your loss… enjoy whatever version you play… and let those more adventurous try a new system and see if it has the merit to make a change.
Happy Gaming all!
3rd and 4th killed DnD as a pen and paper and is now just an MMO port to a tabletop…
Play 2nd if you want DnD, play anything else if your server is down on WoW =/
Having played ADnD, 3rd, and 4th, editions as well as WoW, none of the above are close to an MMO. And frankly, I had a much easier time creating a unique character in 4th ed because I didn’t have to worry about niggling with stats to make sure that what character I wanted to play would be able to contribute to the group. In response to above people complaining about the lack of roleplay, customization and lore: Isn’t that the players or DMs fault? The rules aren’t going to roleplay for you, or customize your character, and relying solely on the core books for lore in your world is a bit sad.
I want to thank you for your details regarding the drivel known as 4th ed AD&D. When it first came out, I saw the books at my neighborhood gaming shop and I also perused the new books, looking for what actual upgrades were done to a game I had been playing since 1982… it took about 15 minutes to say to myself “what kind of crack were these idiots smoking the day they wrote this crap?”.
Honestly, I’m sure my fairly brief looking over of the new version was at least somewhat incomplete, but now, after reading your fine article I can honestly say the following…
I would rather play solitaire with a deck of cards than play 4th ed… while wearing handcuffs…
They have gutted a working system for “simplicity”… well, guess what? When D&D, and later AD&D was being played in the beginning, you didn’t HAVE to dumb down the rules… because the vast majority of the player base were the smart ones… the jocks, and heads had their games, and we had ours. Now you come along, and dumb it down for the masses that shouldn’t be doing much more than levelling their WoW toon…
Sorry for the rant, but it just royally pisses me off when a company feels the need to dumb down a product because the majority of their customer base IS that damn dumb…
im, really glad i read this article, it changed some of my preconceptions about this new system and actually made me want to try it. Thanks
Thank you for clearing this up. While I had heard a lot about 4e that sounded terrible, this simply confirmed it. Everybody calling it “DnD for Morons” seems about accurate. No customization, dumbed down rolls and modifiers, a tiny amount of playable classes, no multiclassing.
I’ll stick to 3.5, thanks.
Joel: I should point out that additional material has been released since the Player’s Handbook. There are now 22 classes and 35 playable races, including all 11 of 3E’s core classes, all 7 of its core races, and 13 playable races from the 3.5 Monster Manual.
A multiclassing system has been created, as well as further customization opportunities. There are now four fighter specialties, including two-weapon fighter, and two to four fields of specialization for most classes.
I play 4th for the only one reason and it’s the same one that I “upgraded” from 1st to 2nd, 3rd/3.5 and that is to play the Game. I am a diehard 3rd ed. player but I have had to “upgrade” to continue playing. The game is what you make it and I will have fun playing anything with a group of good friends. So if you players are able go play don’t beat up the game system. The game does not play like the other editions it plays more like Savage World by Pinnacle which is made to be fast, fun and furious but it plays well non the less.
I hear there are people who refuse to move from 1st ed to 2nd, fron 2nd to 3rd, or from 3rd to 3.5. I have been told this as justification for why people don’t like 4th Ed.
I am a new D&D player, only having managed to find a group this year. I started off playing 4th ed, having a try at 3.5 about 6 months later.
However, I now prefer 3.5, and refuse to touch 4th. This fact says something about the ‘quality’ that the latest material contains
I really enjoyed the write up and I am sorry to see the comments taking what now seems usual “3E rules, 4E drools” (or vice versa) that happens now with many edition wars.
D&D is still in there just like with every other edition and comes down to to each his own….Me? Well I’ve been playing since ‘79 and enjoy 1E (with a dash 2E thrown in) and 4E.
What ruined 3E for me? Well my insistance that 1E/2E was the pinnacle and that 3E’s system was adding things that should never have been added…complex rules for RP-ing actions is one. But I do admit that I played quite a bit of 3E due to me wanting to play (that and DMing for RPGA). Well now I am on 4E and having plenty of fun.
Still D&D to me.
@S Kerrin: I started playing 2E, and when I moved on to 3E (and later 3.5E) I really didn’t like it, I found it more difficult to pick up and unnecessarily complicated. Does that say something about the quality of the material contained? 4th ed simplifies it (doesn’t “dumb it down” any more than 2E was dumbed down) and makes it so you can use skills in any situation at the DM’s discretion (i.e. roleplay it!) and in fact recommends using different skills for differently handled roleplays. What makes people point and shout wolf/mmorpg, I think, is that there’s also more focusing on the rule of cool in combat - all classes are now no longer “I hit with my basic attack, I do damage” but “I shift to flank the monster and sneak attack with combat advantage, and use my Rampant Charge encounter power to charge the dragon” (and low level wizards are now no longer “I cast my two magic missiles, I’ll wait til we have an extended rest, too). The roleplay, in my view, will always have to come from a concerted effort of the DM to make a roleplayable setting and you to make a character with a backstory (and in fact the guides help you making backgrounds, suggestion you pick an area, an occupation etc and even offering you skill boosts/training based on that, as well as a whole list depending on your race (a gnome? maybe you’ve never been to the feywild, or maybe you’re an escaped fomorian captive…). Even the stating system, where races get +2 to two rather than +2 to one and -2 to another actually encourages non-mmoish character genning, since you can now have a still pretty optimal character without their base stat being useful (half-orc wizards are now viable).
4th edition is a tactical board wargame with no flavour. The classes are all the same, just a selection of powers that move you or others around a grid. All the fun and excitement and the extreme customisation of 3.5 is gone.
They also tried to take us back to the 1st ed style dungeon crawls by vandlaising faerun and creating their points of light setting. Bleh.
Sorry the whole edition is insipid and flavourless, and is not D&D.
We are now playing Pathfinder from Paizo, which IS D&D, even if it cant use the name, in addition to adding things from Monte Cook’s arcana evolved and iron heroes, both of which are also recognisably D&D. 4th ed is tabletop WoW or something.
Looking at Play by Post forums, 3.5 dominates over 4th even now by a factor of 5:1. I sincerely hope wizards will fail and the license go to a more useful company. Or maybe just scrap 4th and bring out 5th in a more traditional way.
I began playing back in ‘77 with 1st ED. Continued through High School and College with 2nd ED and AD&D. Then moved away, got married, had kids, and nearly forgot all about D&D.
We got back into it about 4 years ago when we started having “reunions” with our old gaming group. We also started a group here at home and decided to jump into 3.5. After a short learning period, we decided that we loved the changes as they seemed to make the game simpler and gave more room for the roleplaying aspect. We spent a year and a fair amount of money putting together a collection of books, maps, and minatures with which to play …
… just in time to have WotC step up and announce a BRAND NEW system - 4th ED.
So, just chunk all your 3.5 books (as well as your stat cards for the mini’s since they won’t work with the new system) and go out and buy all NEW stuff (so that WotC can get wealthier) …
I don’t think so.
I was very skeptical of 4th edition and didn’t really touch it till a few weeks ago. However, I like the balance that 4tg edition brings to the table. For instance as a lvl 1 wizard, in 3rd edition you shot off 3 spells then had to run away crying or shoot a crossbow (badly) from the back. The addition of at will encounter and daily powers allows for wizards etc to actually contribute to the party even at lower levels. And as far as roleplaying is concerned I hear a lot of people talk smack on 4e but I personally don’t feel as that the books should create the stories and depth for you. Dnd has always been to me just a set of mechanics to flesh out a world of your on creation and characters as unique as the players themselves. Could they expand more on roleplay? Probably. But dms and players should be upping their game and doing this on their own.
Also, 3rd edition is now more awesome with all the open source info, so there’s no real reason to quit playing 3e unless you want to. I’ll always love 3e and my group will probably continue playing 3e campaigns in addition to our 4e. Acting like there is no choice in the matter is silly. There is more than enough 3e materials out there to make just about anything. And remember the books are guidelines, not rules. They can’t tell you how to run your group
Ps. Pathfinder is awesome if u wanna stick with 3e
I read all the comments. I will say this: If your 4e game has “no flavor,” it’s because you and your DM have “no creativity.” 4e simply makes dungeon crawling more fun, with tactical movement features and at-will powers. As with any version of DnD…it all comes down to the DM and the players. Creative players can invent all kinds of things to do, and the DM rolls with it…for example, your warlock might use a feat and encounter power to Intimidate a bloodied orc into dropping his weapons and surrendering, and make a 2nd intimidate check to get the orc to swear allegiance to him. If the DM rolls with it (and your dice roll with you), now your warlock has an orc lackey that follows him into battle and does his bidding. It’s like…roleplay and flavor!
The best thing about 4e in my experience is how easy it is to get new players into it. We’ve got 3 novices in my group, and they’re taking right to it. Somehow, I don’t think the woman playing the wizard would be having much fun if she could only cast Magic Missile 3 times before running in terror. The at-will power/exploit idea was brilliant.
I’m been playing 3.5 and Dming for alittle while, My first tabletop experience was actually Two World tabletop book that came with the special edition of the xbox game< the similairies between that simple, one tiny book is strikeing, I hate the idea of 4e, it hurts to to look at it,That said i am goin to grit my teeth and try it..
Well, the 27 feb, 10, was my 1st actual encounter w/ 4e. Personally, I like it. It’s more like a RL videogame. As far as those complaining ‘4e lacks -‘, think of this- You can ALWAYS take 3e stuff, & tweak its ideas, into 4e. & those that play the whitewolf system, will adjust easier too, cuz, again, imo, 4e is simular in nature (skill use, etc).
Rangers - only good a ranged attacks now… sorry that was never what a “Ranger” meant, period. To be a Ranger, one “ranged” across the open wilderness. Like a gillie, or games warden, but not tied to a laird or lord. A ranger is a “mountain man” a trapper, a hunter, who can handle both blade and bow, because living in the wild means that sometimes things will get the drop on you and you better be able to take it down in close combat.
Limits to “powers” - for game “balance” it plays too much with my “suspension of disbelief” as having taken various self-defense classes in real life - I know that just because I failed to perform a maneuver once on an opponent, does not mean I will never get the opportunity again, in the same fight or even the same day. This is a defect that carried over from 3.x and carried over into 4th.
This is not to say that everything is bad… I like the elimination of “metamagic” feats… those were just totally stupid, but then again I think there is once again a problem with magic… While getting rid of the “Vancian System” is fine and an admirable endeavor it suffers once again from the artificial limitations used in the “powers” in general. Something that hampers the “suspension of disbelief.”
Use of miniatures - well having been introduced to the use of minis in my days 2nd Edition and Ravenloft, I like minis. What I do not like is the overblown chess-like game that it seems to have become. If I wanted to play Chess with a d20, those rules were out YEARS ago, and are so much simpler to boot!
What many people seem to forget in design is that limits for “playability” are really artificial, because what the PCs can do, the NPCs can do too, and if need be the NPCs can do it better to boot!
I see myself potentially incorporating some elements of 4ed into my game or next game but to adopt the whole system? No. But I thank you John for the primer… something much needed.
DR, your comments show me you have either not read 4th Edition yet or do not understand it.
Ranger only for ranged combat? Which version are you reading. Rangers have a few specializations they can have… ranged combat is one. Dual melee weapon combat is another. Beast master is another where they have a creature sidekick (i.e. think of Drizzt), and a few more.
And from a 1st or 2nd edition player, I might slightly see the complaint about miniatures. Although most of us all used them back then too. (Otherwise how do you know ranged and area affects?) But for 3rd edition, the miniatures were absolutely necessary. You had attacks of opportunity, bull rushing, etc. that all required miniatures. 4th edition is no different from 3rd in this way.
I am admittedly of the other extreme though…I loved 1st and 2nd edition, played 3rd edition during the entire release, but hated it the entire time. 3rd edition just didn’t have any direction or consistency and didn’t know what it wanted to do (just the release of a 3.5 version shows that…this is not a computer program!) But 4th edition is light years ahead in improving the game over 3rd.
Haha, “hornet’s nest” might be a good description of what’s been stirred up here.
For what it’s worth, after playing 4e for two years now, I find it elegant and interesting to play, enough that it’s my system of choice. I loved my 3.5 druid dearly, but my 4e characters are just as fun to roleplay (of course, since you can roleplay with any system), and I find the system overall cleaner.
I have played 3.5 for years now and i have played several campains with 4.0 and while 4.0 isnt bad I rather enjoyed the greater possibilitys to custimize characters in 3.5 but 4.0 will probably release more options in time. Guess i’ll have to wait and stick with 3.5 for now.
sorry for the spelling and grammer errors in the above, im a science nerd not an english teacher.
Yes, when i first heard that they made a 4.0 version I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I have spent so much time, effort, and money on 3.5, that relearning the game just didn’t appease to me at all. But i’ve realized that what makes the game fun isn’t the system it’s the story, it’s the friends. It doesn’t matter what version you play, the whole point reason to play is finding a reason to get togather with friends, and play. I now play both versions.
Nice write, thanks. Ive read the rulebooks but couldnt grab all the changes this nice. Will be linked to some places ^^
I agree, very nice write up and very helpful. I have played off and on from when I was 12 and am in my 40s now. I always loved playing but didn’t care to much for DMing. With this latest version I can see the appeal of all the streamlining to the DM. However all I can see is the total neutering of the character. All individuality has been stripped down to a point that it might as well just be a board game. Why anyone would want to play a wizard now is beyond me. The lack of choices for spells makes it impossible in my opinion to make one wizard any different from another, other than sex, hair color, and things of that nature. Take first lev. For example you have attack spells, Utility spells, Daily spells, and encounter spells. Each having only 4-5 spells in their respective heading. How boring is that? No matter how many wizards I would make they all would cast pretty much the same bloody spells each time.
Hmmm… it seems that no one really has picked up what has happened here.
4th edition is NOT an update to 3 or 3.5 Ad&d, it is an update for D&D, the original.
Why everyone has missed this subtle clue? Simple ppl assume because something is new it automatically applies to the newest latest system.
Okay… so with this new system why is the healing so unbalanced?
With the powers and abilities now given to the creatures as well it is much tougher to survive now, unlike the other versions we simply cant just “heal” someone with it costing a surge or something.
So how do you create a character that can aid the party efficiently on the heal side?
D&D is becoming more and more like a video game all the time…
Gospel: blame Wizards. They’re the ones who thought it would look “cool” to name a version 3.5 as if it were a software update.
@Gospel_alien, Generally speaking, the leader role fulfills the healing role. Defenders are harder to hit, or have more hitpoints, but have more abilities that make them sticky and punish monsters for not paying attention to them, so they also take the lion’s share of the healing.
Surge value is calculated based on total hitpoints. So let’s say we have a beefy tank type that has 80 hp. his surge value is a quarter of that, at 20 hps. A leader uses a power that makes him spend a surge (for 20) and usually gets to roll a d6 or more based on the level of the healer and tack that on.
2nd Edition pwns!
As was the case with 3 and 3.5… 4th seems to take even more role-playing aspects out of the game, replacing them with rules.. and making it much easier to do everything.
Want to make an artifact! Sure… we’ll make it easy for you! Yep… that’s what happens when Hasbro takes over, merges pencil and paper RPGs with video games, and the current attitude of the younger generation… they want all the perks without having to work for them. Reminds me of the current attitude of most HeroClix players.
And the combat system? Does it really need to be that complicated?
I’ll stick to my TSR 2nd Edition. Real RPGs for Real Gamers! D20 is for mental midgets who can count.
I have been playing 3rd Ed since 2000, and I have recently started playing 4th. Shame on all the people who say that the role-playing has been sucked out, the whole idea of role-playing is to be the character. Whenever I have played or run a game, the skills I associated with roleplaying (Diplomacy, Intimidate etc.,) were never “rolled”, your ability to convince the DM decided how good the results were, and we use the same system in 4e. We are enjoying 4th immensely, and the lethality of even low-level encounters makes each combat success something special
Lets See Iv Been DM for 3e and 3.5 for the past 11 years now. I use both of those systems becuase i think there is one thing you are all forgetting and that is “Rule Zero” The books are guidelines and not the rules. ALways have been and always will be. if you dont like 4E that is fine change the way you want to play!
So I got the 4th Ed rulebook a couple months when it came out. I never got to far into it and thought it was kind of boring, so I just gave it to my roomate. One of the things that was jarring to me was the exclusion of the Bard, a class I had played on a whim in my last campaign and discovered that I LOVED it. I had always been a spellcaster in the past, but I soon found out that nothing equaled the sheer enjoyment of using your charisma, bluff, and diplomacy to manipulate your way around every NPC and enemy around. I wasn’t THAT much use in a fight, but I could sure as heck talk my way out of one.
I have since heard that the Bard has been reintroduced in another installment of the PHB (weird much?), but the party roles you have described seem to discourage this type of roleplaying. I’ve almost closed the book on my interest in 4E, but if my impression is misconstrued then I may reconsider.
Wow, for a system that supposedly simplifies things, 4E sure seems to add a lot of pointless cruft.
Thanks for the summary, it’s confirmed most of my worst fears about the changes and will keep me using 3.5 or earlier.
I think I’ll be sticking with 3.5, myself.
I guess my gripes lie in the that with the streamlining of combat, they took a bit of the bizarreness out of some of the more unorthodox choices and non-combat. I know we can say “it’s a game; we can customize the rules all we want,” but I feel like if I wanted to customize the 4ed system to my liking it would literally turn into 3.5ed
I really don’t like how much emphasis was put on damage spells. It feels like the wizard is now just an evoker (boring, in my opinion; damage spells all feel roughly the same to me).
Also, no multiclassing or prestige? :(
You really can’t homebrew either because of the weird way leveling is handled.
There’s a resource (Arcane Power) that allows you to make use of spells that do minimal damage (if at all), and also take note that the hit point system is a bit more abstract in 4E in the sense that “damage” is effectively how you describe it: be it the target wracking in pain, or losing in stamina/will to fight/capability to fight, or actually bleeding to death, the whole thing is how you fluff it.
A lot of the material has simply been reorganized and simplified so that you don’t have hundreds of variations of the same thing (e.g. Combat Advantage and the +2 to hit it grants, see how many versions of that are in 3rd Ed), and overall I’m liking the system not only because it’s more organized and DM-friendly, but also because of how much leeway the game grants in terms of role-playing.
And note that even those “more unorthodox choices and non-combat”? It’s still in the game, except instead of putting the rules about it in the Player’s Handbook, it’s now in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which is seemingly appropriate because it’s still the DM’s discretion as to what happens because of what you want to do.
There’s a lot more cinematics available in 4E because of the level of abstraction it has (balancing it with a defining set of rules that help minimize the chances of something too game-breaking from happening).
As for the Barbarian having too high a natural Diplomacy, aside from the experience he has from his travels, rumors of his accomplishments in life may help conversations sway his way.
Also, given how the whole thing is still within the purvey of the DM (because they empowered plot to control the game, and not super-detailing every NPC and mechanic in the system), he has every right to grant or even deny bonuses based on whatever background you chose or whatever situation you’re in… or scale up or down the difficulty as he sees fit, or even modify it so that there would be additional benefits or penalties with spectacular successes or failures.
In any case, it’s not like 4E just popped ideas out of nowhere and killed off everything that made D&D, D&D. Action points came from Eberron, non-AC defenses are pre-4E saving throws modified so that the player does the rolls instead of the DM, various hit point mechanics were revamped and adjusted (and seriously, we need to remove the 4-HP Wizard and tone him down at higher levels so that you didn’t need a bachelor’s degree in character building to play the game), and everything was adjusted so that you don’t need to be X multiclassed to Y and C and F with alignment Z to use item A for maximum output against B which just so happens to be the staple monster used in the DM’s game.
Alignment is now a guide, rather than a straightjacket, and I’m glad that’s out of the picture in terms of what items or powers you can take advantage of.
Speaking of which, while you can take advantage of multiclassing and hybriding and certain item and feat combinations to have a significant advantage, the whole system overall is much more difficult to break, even at high levels.
Multiclassing was introduced in PHB2, and Hybriding (dual-classing) was introduced in PHB3. Prestige classes are effectively Paragon Paths, which have been there since the original PHB, so I can’t see why you missed out on that.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve been playing D&D-based computer RPGs (all of which are pre-4E in terms of core ruleset), and 4E is the first D&D edition I’ve played on tabletop, and I’m loving pretty much every bit of it (give or take) :)
I personally like 4e, though I might be biased since I was never given the opportunity to play 3.5 despite literally spending years looking for a group to game with. I read those rule books hundreds of times, and I understood a lot, but there were aspects of it they I just could never get down. I’ve now spent a year or so in 4e and while I’d still say I’m a novice, considering I’ve never looked to closely at the rule books I’d say I’ve learned the system really well. It is simple enough that with just one or two books between the entire group you can do very well for yourself. And as many people said the books are expensive so that’s a good thing.
AS for powers I have two things to say. One is that limiting there use makes sense both from a mechanical and role-playing perspective, or at least I think it does. Mechanically it prevents people from “spamming” the same move over and over. MY sorcerer has a power that if it hits, turns him invisible to the enemy I hit, damages that enemy further when it attacks, and allows me to teleport short distances when that happens. If I had the choice I’d use that every single attack, it rocks, but then the game would get boring as I’d never be attacked by anything. From a role-playing perspective it makes sense as well. Such a casting would require an enormous amount of power, not something to be done to often. But throwing a bolt of power is minuscule in comparison. It even makes sense for fighters, despite an earlier comment about real-life martial arts fighting. Sure you can try a maneuver many times, but if you used it once your opponent, if they know what they are doing, won’t fall for it again. And maybe a more drastic move strains the muscle in the characters body and he knows it’s safer not to use it again until he can rest up a bit.
The other thing about powers is that in promoting them everyone focuses on the arcane classes. Which I agree they are a massive boon, but they also help out classes such as the fighter. Yes 3.5 had combat options such as bull rushes, grappling, tripping, disarming, ect. that a fighter could use, but without a book to refer to most people would fall back on the basics ie “I swing my sword. Next turn: I swing my sword again. Next turn: I swing my sword again.” You can add fluff to make it interesting, but really that was what it seems to boil down to. While wizards got to throwing a choking fog and shoot lighting from their hands. Now fighters have more dramatic options. there is a power that is basically stabbing an enemy and then throwing the blade from your weapon into another enemies eyes to blind them. How many fighters could blind if they’re only attack was… attacking? So I’d say not only wizards gained, but all classes now have more options, they cleric isn’t stuck throwing around cure light wounds while the fighter cleaves the enemy in two. And warriors don’t just sit there while wizards rain down fiery death from above. All the while doing it in a way that doesn’t require encyclopedic knowledge of the rules, which means you’re not thinking of the rulebooks, you’re focused on the game.
That’s my two-cents anyways. And if all else falls… just keep playing your game like always, no one will try and stop you
Correction: “Throwing the blood from your weapon into another enemies eyes”
Personally, I like the way that magic has changed in 4th. The ‘powers’ that all the classes get for combat are good specifically for combat, yet you can flesh out amazing results with the new rituals. Monster Summon X may no longer be available, but to cast a ritual for three straight days that binds an elemental to you for a year? Or the idea of a young, inexperienced magic user will *still* have a ritual book for things such as “know direction” or “unseen servant.”
If you have a spell from 3.5 that you like, and it’s not in 4th, make it a ritual or translate it into a combat power. My DM let me have a LOT of non-combat rituals from the 3.5 book, but with more “oomph” to them because they took 10 minutes to cast instead of 10 seconds. Having an Unseen Servant for an entire day w/o having to use a spell slot ROCKS. Having a 5th level ritual for Cantrip that works for a month gives me a HUGE role-playing tool to play with. And when my third level character tries to cast an eighth level ritual and fails miserably, which is something that CANNOT happen in 3.5, the results remind you of the tinker gnomes of Dragonlance.
As for 3.5 vs 4th, they are two distinct incarnations of a system that is based off of a common theme: swords and sorcery. Just ‘cause there are specific rules in place as a GUIDELINE for how to do things, is not to say that a CREATIVE person cannot come up with a way to do what they want within the guidelines that the DM will allow.
You run out of ideas when you run out of imagination, not when you run out of pages of a rulebook.
Why is it that everyone who talks about how the roleplaying aspect and customization is still in 4th ed. Keeps saying that you just have to go outside the rules specified by 4th ed. To do it or that they should be coming out with something soon in another expansion book. Its all already there in 3.5. Why wait for them to come out with something if its already defined in an earlier ed.?
As for the comment about in 4th ed being able to “shift to flank the monster and sneak attack with my combat advantage and use my rampant charge encounter power to charge the dragon” how is that any different from the 3.5 version of “I take my free 5 foot step to move into flanking position which gives me a plus 2 to hit, and I can now deal sneak attack damage with my attacks because Im flanking, since I took two-weapon fighting I can attack twice” ?
I’ve been playing 3.5 since 04 and I was extremely excited for 4th ed. Coming out. One of the guys I game with bought the book and I got to read through it and im glad I didn’t buy it, we later discovered pathfinder which is highly regarded as 3.75 and everyone in my group loves it. It keeps to the 3.5 rules but powers everything up, it streamlines the skills but still gives you the choice of which ones you want your character to be trained in. Feats come more often and spell casters get unlimited 0 lvl spells so they’re not out of spells after half a battle at first level. If you’re looking for a great medium between 3.5 and 4.0 check out pazio’s pathfinder. The books should be in your local game store but the info is also offered free on pazio’s website if you want to look into it first.
Sorry I didn’t mean for this post to become a push for pathfinder but I guess I was expecting 4th ed to be what pathfinder is
Can we look forward to someone writing a 5E article helping 4E players make the shift?
@John: Yes, it’s quite likely.
RE: the above comment: Is the skill system simpler? Yes. Is it better? Some. There are some things that were simplified to the point that it rather sucks (example: Perception used to find traps.. not Thievery… so my Rogue in a weekly game lets the super perceptive Cleric look for traps before I go disarm them).
This is BS; Thievery skills in 3.5 never found traps either; you have to search (int) or spot (wis) for them, primarily search, which is why you STILL use perception skill. Nothing has changed for this, you just obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. It always has been better to let everyone hunt for traps anyway, because even the most unintelligent barbarian can sometimes find things you as an intelligent thief or wizard can’t!
I am learning 4th edition with the Virtual Table at WOTC’s DDI site, and it’s ok, but of course strange and odd; I really keep finding myself reverting to 3.5 for skill checks and such and using what I know from that system to do something in 4th, wrong or not. I actually kind of hate the powers and like them at the same time. Yes it’s different, and it’s more board game-ish, but that’s not horrible as long as you keep the goodness of rp and world-building in and don’t just play a numbers game. It is however a lot to keep up with, with a million new powers. At least they are all simple and many of them similar, with slight variations.
And to whomever above said that 3rd and 4th dumbed it down from 2nd is retarded. 3.5 and now Pathfinder are the best systems EVER to play this game with. 3.5 makes EVERYTHING doable with crunchy goodness for DM’s and players. 2nd edition is a convoluted mess of madness which more often than not makes no sense or contradicts itself with rules that try to be intelligent and end up being plain stupid. If you don’t believe that, here’s you some THAC0 to go with your wine. 4.0 won’t last long, especially since they’re already making 5th edition. I can’t wait to see the next iteration, but I can’t see it or any other system knocking 3.5 off its high and mighty throne-ever.
While looking for various information on 4E I happened to find this small article. Now, the first time I ever played DnD was 3E and thats what I’ve been playing for about ten years now. The group of guys I play with think that 4E is the worst thing they have ever seen and refuse to even touch it.
However,I decided to be more open minded than my buddies, I gave 4E a chance, and was rather surprised. In my experience, the biggest difference between 4E and 3E is not the races, classes or roleplaying. It is simply the system they are set in.
3E is sometimes bogged down in far too many skills and the difference between a level 20+ character and a level 1 character is health, items, a few skills that they are highly proficient with and a bunch of feats that are typically rather useless because when combat comes around everyone except the wizard is worried about just clubbing the enemies with whatever weapon is handy. That being said, 3E still has its merits and me and my friends will continue to play that edition until our books fall apart.
4E is simpler in how skills work and a few RPing elements (aligntments mostly), but the combat is 100 times deeper, more complex, and more exciting that 3E ever will be.
In conclusion, I will continue to play both 3E and 4E most likely until I get to old to read the numbers on the dice. Each have their merits and I think people should stop being so damn closed minded about things. If you like a particular edition, then good. Keep playing it. But don’t whine and cry about other editions and how much you dislike them. No one is making you play them and its pretty easy to get pdf files of older edition handbooks, so you never have to stop playing the edition you like.
Also, you have to remember: WotC is a business, first and foremost. They have to make money. So, it necessarily follows that they need to come out with new products to make the aforementioned money.
Started playing d&d for abouth 15 years ago, and has gone through several revisions of the rules. Pretty much every transition has gone smooth, in most cases the rules have evolved to a better state with a few hiccups here and there. Sadly, for me, the 4 edition is mostly a piece of shit, not worthy of beeing published at all. Now this is just my personal oppinion and i understand many of you dont share it. That is fine, seeing we each focus on different aspect of the game, with various things beeing important/less important to us. But for me the 4 edition is simply way to “dumbed down” to use an often used term nowdays. And sadly its not just the technical rules alone, but things like “supernal: a language spoken by devils, angels and gods” i could come up with a couple of hundred examples after reading through 4-5 of the 4ed books but im not going to bother as it would make for a massive wall of text. My point is: what kind of 13 year olds do they have working on this? Each to hes own, for those of you who enjoy 4 edition i wish you a happy gaming session with lots of fun, but for me personally who prefer a more adult and logical system, the 4 editon is a piece of crap.
honestly i think that first edition is the best version, all of these newer editions seem to take away creativity. does everything have to be done by a calculation i love the simplicity of first edition and no one can change my thoughts on that
I like all editions…but the roleplaying arguement about 4th edition…rp never came from a system..or dice …it comes from the em and players …that said I play 4th I like it .
I started out playing 2e and loved it. I couldn’t find a group for a few years and picked up 4e and thought to give it a try. Pluses - the game relies a lot on cooperative gameplay. It does make it easy to bring a new player into the game as an effective character. Minuses - the game is too much powergaming for me. The cooperative buffs make even 1st level characters terrifying in the hands of experienced players and the dm couldn’t keep up. The group just switched to Pathfinder a few months back and I love the system … so long as we keep primarily to the core rulebook. The extra classes in the alternate sourcebooks are a bit overpowered. On the whole though, if you are looking for an upgrade from 3e Pathfinder is the way to go. If you like powergaming go 4e. Your choice.
I discovered that I had been playing with a system very close to 4th edition by accident. I started a new campaign using a combination of systems that borrowed heavily from Star Wars D20’s simplified attack, defense, and skill system, since all of my players were fairly new to D20. It required some reworking of spells, but other than that the transition has been fairly smooth- the only thing I haven’t used is the healing surges.
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