4e D&D, Opinions so far

Last month I finally got a chance to play 4e D&D for the first time. We converted our WotBS campaign over at 9th level.

Caveat: Lacking a Bard class, we took Saric’s (ENWorld) overblown and way too Uber Bard class and completely rewrote it. Still in the process, but we should have it competed in a month or so. We needed it, because I’m playing the Bard and am the core member of the group. (The only player to make every session, one of two original characters to this campaign.)

Preconceptions: I’ve been playing D&D for 30 years, since the original White Box set with the three booklets. When 3e came out, it completely reinvigorated my love of the game. I love the complexity and the solutions, the options and the whole damned game. I will always consider 3.5 to be my favorite version of D&D.

When 4e was announced, it completely took the wind out of my sails. I was literally depressed about the game and withdrew from boards and such for a good four months.

Judgment: I like it, with some caveats. We had a good session, my Bard was fun to play and could actually do a lot of things. I will play 4e going forward, and have some ideas for things I’d like to try out in other games.

What I don’t like:

Economics: They got silly enough in 3e. I get annoyed with the “1gp = $1” mentality and the absurd prices for magic in recent editions. I actually rewrote the pricing formulas to be flatter and more reasonable in 3e and used a Silver based economy. Don’t even get me started on the insane and unreasonable prices in the Stronghold Builder’s Guide, which priced non-adventures out of the entire building creation process.

In 4e, they’re off-the-charts ludicrous. A +6 magic item costs six thousand times what a +2 item costs. Entire kingdoms would have to be looted of everything of value and a buyer somehow found to create such items.

Magic Items: Some of the things they’ve done are really really cool, and I like the way they work now. But I miss the good old fashioned days of the CLW wand and the Potions of Love, Invisibility and so forth. I also don’t like how they took the names of really cool items from previous editions and attached them to really lame “That’s not what this item really is” items in 4e.

Healing: Not only can you heal several times your hit points per day, even without a Cleric (you can use as many ‘healing surges’ as you want between combat), but all wounds are completely healed anytime you do an extended rest (ie, sleep for the night). I don’t like this. It’s too computer gamey.

Lack of Fluff: With the previous edition three core books, you could pick them up and have at least the basic rules for making up entire kingdoms, running peasants and a basic economy. I don’t get that sense from 4e.

Monster Scalability and Flexibility; One of the complaints I’ve heard about 3e is that it’s too much work for a GM to design monsters, only to have them killed in 5 minutes at the table. But I actually liked the mechanics in 3e of being able to advance and customize monsters, and when I did so, I dropped all the crap that I figured would not be needed for a 20 minute encounter. (Ie, screw worrying about their skills and feats unless it affects combat). I also figured that following the charts and crap was just that…crap. If you’re customizing a monster, just make shit up and plug it in. Who cares if the advancement charts say that the monster’s to hit should be +22 and you had it down as +23?

Now I understand how the pre-set monsters of different levels can be very easy for GMs to pick up and plug in, I don’t see how it’s all that much different than the base monsters in 3e, and in fact, I await with baited breath the first complaints about how difficult it is to customize 4 monsters.

Character Development Time: I could put together a 3e character at the game table in a couple of minutes. It takes a lot longer to get the 4e stuff sorted out, though I do expect this will get shorter as I get more familiar with the game system.

Conclusion: When I looked at 4e for the first time, I said “This isn’t D&D”. I still feel that way, but I’ll qualify it. This isn’t MY D&D. I’ll play it, I’ll have fun with it, but I seriously doubt that I’ll ever run a game in it. I still prefer 3.5 and will play it if I get an opportunity. And if I ever run another game, it will be 3.5.

I feel like they streamlined out everything distinctive about the game.

D&D 4 is a fun board game.

D&D 3.5 is an infinite worldbuilding toolbox.

It took a couple playing sessions to really start to get the hang of it. Saving throws threw us off immensely. “That can’t be right - flat 55% chance no matter what?” It was nice that everyone can always be doing something. Many’s the time that the rogue sat around because he couldn’t sneak attack undead and couldn’t hit, but now there’s almost always something every character can do each round, and even the occasional failed hit causes damage.

Hit points are outrageous, though. That stretched out battles more than was fun a couple of times.

And dear God, do my players hate kobolds now.

One campaign I run is 4E, the other will forever remain 3.5, and that’s fine with me.

As a meat shield paladin, I completely and totally hate everything about D&D 4th. It’s basically impossible to be really distinctive, saving throw bonuses are impossible and resistance bonuses are basically useless if you’re fighting anything challenging at all (I was sitting at lv6, with a hammer and board platemail fighter, and enemies were hitting through my 26 AC easily 75% of the time had they been taking ten).

Paladins can heal all they want between combats but can’t heal themselves during until unreasonably high levels (hence the switch to fighter)–solo paladin is no longer a viable tank for a party with mages, rogues, and rangers.

There aren’t enough viable options for builds–with the lack of prestige classes, your only customizations are the rare feat that’s not absurdly better than all the rest and picking one slightly different flavor of asskickery from the three skills per level they give you.

One magic item use a day, no matter how many you collect, until level whatever–INCLUDING GODDAMN POTIONS. Weapons/armor with latent +X effects become supreme compared to cool utility items. Selling back items is always pennies on the Benjamin, so saving up and getting/keeping one really cool magic item is not really plausible.

It’s just too much vanilla–entirely too videogamey. Which, to be honest, isn’t fair to most of the video game RPGs I’ve played lately.

Impossible to play online, even using Gametable. After the kobolds massacred my players we said screw it, then went to a 3.5 spelljammer campaign. We’re having fun now!

I like it. It’s much more wargamey, which is cool, but it’s sufficiently different in flavor that it’s not a replacement for 3.5, but rather, something to run in parallel. The major gripe I have with it is that it doesn’t have nearly the customization 3.x has. On the other hand, they’ve only just started to come out with supplements for it, and the Player’s Guide to the Forgotten Realms has already introduced some new options that indicate good things for the future of the system.