Friday, June 18, 2010

D&D 4th Edition and why you should try it.

DISCLAIMER: I am not trying to say 4th edition is the greatest edition of all time (and I'm not trying to say that your edition is icky and has cooties) and I'm not trying to force my opinion on you. It is a well known fact that people get into a safe routine and rarely leave it. This is true for all things. People stick with what is familiar and safe even if they know all of the flaws that come with staying with that particular thing. To make matters worse, they aren't informed about the other options. I'm here to try to inform. Give it a chance, what do you have to lose? So put on your safety goggles. We're going in.

Uh oh! Things are about to get personal:
So for those of you who don't know me, I've been playing D&D since 2nd edition. When 3.5 was the standard, I switched over and before I knew it I was DMing. Throughout my adventures I've taught well over 30 people how to play D&D. After DMing for several years, I took an extended break. Gotta know when to breathe right? Then 4th edition came out and I admit I was skeptical. It was such a different experience and since I was so used to 3.5, it was like asking me to jump over a pool of lava. I was in my safe little corner. I knew the 3.5 system in and out. I poked at 4th with a stick for awhile and eventually I decided to jump that pit of lava. I have never gone back. I will say that personally, 4th edition is the best thing for me and I'll explain more about that later. I'm working on multiple campaigns as we speak and will be DMing soon for three different groups. Guess who's back?

So the entire point of this article is to get you to try D&D 4th edition so this is going to be rather extensive. Just to be clear, I'll be doing a few different types of articles here about 4th edition. So far, I know of three I'll be writing about:
1) Teaching people how to play.
2) Teaching people how to DM.
3) Playtests of different classes and races.

So what I'm writing about right now isn't going to go in depth about any of those topics. For those of you that are still playing 3.5 and have maybe tried 4th edition once or twice, you need to scroll down. For those of you that have never played D&D before in your life, this next section is for you. All for you! How nifty is that?

Haven't played a game of D&D? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Have you ever played any kind of video game in your life?
Have you ever used your imagination to play games?
Have you ever been curious about D&D?
Do you like swords and/or magic?
If you've answered yes to any of these then jump into a session. There's a thing called D&D Encounters where you can go play at a local store and jump in without any previous knowledge or products what so ever. If you're afraid to go alone then bring a friend. Go read up on it if you want to know more.

What makes D&D so great? I'm glad you asked, voice in my head.
Here are a few things that make D&D stand out among other games:

Team Oriented Gameplay - You fight together and die together. It's one of my favorite aspects. There just aren't enough team oriented games out there. Most games are competitive head to heads. Even Nintendo, well known for its multiplayer titles, mostly consists of games where you play against each other. Backstabbers will be punished!

You get to play as whoever you want - Want to play as a half dragon who wields a giant weapon and loves to get into drinking games at the local tavern? Want to be a bounty hunter trying to make a name for yourself? Want to be an explorer and find secrets never before seen? You can do any of that and more.

A different experience every time - Want to play a horror genre where you're trying to survive the zombie apocalypse? Want to solve the mystery of who killed the King of a city and why the townsfolk don't seem to want to acknowledge it? Want to play a hack and slash where you bust in to a Wizard's tower and start kicking ass and taking names? Want to just sit back and play some cards or start up a shop in a new village to get away from your criminal past? It's all here and more.

If this pile of words I'm collecting here isn't interesting you yet then it may never happen. You could probably stop right about now. D&D just might not be your thing. It isn't for everybody.

To my 3.5 brothers and sisters!
The top 50 reasons to make the switch:

Fixed - Many issues that 3.5 players hated are now fixed. Let's got over a bunch shall we?

1) Balance - Nothing is perfect but the balance of classes and races far exceeds that of 3.5. For those who didn't know, the best three classes of the game were Druid, Cleric, and Wizard. No other class could match them and as levels went higher, it continued to multiply. If you don't believe me then we'll have a little chat later but this is basically considered fact among the entire D&D community. The creators of 3.5 literally admitted that their game was based around "system rewards". System rewards literally means, if you understand the system, you are rewarded by it. Easy definition right? If you know that this class is better than this one or this feat or race is superior to another then you are rewarded and the rest are left out in the cold.

2) The second issue you had with balance was that certain classes were not only crappy but just not all that fun to play. The Fighter is a great example of this. The Fighter in 4th edition is wonderful and has depth to the class with variety of gameplay. The Fighter in 3.5 was literally: press A to attack, press A to attack. You had maybe two kinds of attacks and that was it. Rejoice melee lovers, you deserve much better than that.

3) Races always had a minus to a stat choice. This meant that your Half-Orc would suck as a mage because he didn't have the stats necessary. Races now get a +2 to two stats instead. So while some races might be a better choice, no one is penalized. To make it feel like Christmas, some races that don't get the pluses they deserve for a particular class might get racial feats for those classes to still make them good options. How cool is that?

4) Ever wanted to have more options than just slash or spell? Every class gets multiple powers. There are at-will, encounter, daily, and utility powers for all classes. It gets even better because there are class features, feats, and other things that now give more abilities and powers as well. Tons of goodies to play around with.

5) Ever wanted to DM but it was just too much work? 4th edition has made it a thousand times easier to DM. For starters, the DM's guide is actually useful. I literally rarely needed the DM's guide for 3.5 but in 4th edition, you NEED to read it and will be coming back plenty of times. 4th has made designing encounters so easy your Grandma could do it. No offense Grandma.

6) There are new classes. There are literally classes never seen before that play differently than anything you had in 3.5: The Avenger, Warlord, Swordmage, and Warden just to name a few. All are wonderful additions to the game.

7) Combat is more interesting. Ever analyzed a 3.5 encounter and realized how uninteresting it is? I realize the movies playing in your head are made of wow but look at the table. Your character is just standing there trading blows with the enemy (or standing really far away in the case of mages). 4th edition promotes movement. For example, an enemy might swipe at you and knock you back. You cast a spell to bind his arms and your friend charges into the beast to push him off the side of the bridge. He falls off as well but you drop and slide to grab his hand and save him while seeing the beast fall in the distance. There were no game mechanics for this previously. There is just as much imagination involved but now you can create even more interesting encounters with actual gameplay mechanics.

8) The game is fun from level 1 to level 30. 3.5 players know it but don't want to admit it. In 3.5 the early levels suck. You are weak and everything relies on rolling the dice a bit too much. Your actual stats aren't that important yet and when you get to the higher levels, you have the opposite problem. Now you are too powerful and everything relies on "save or die". Make a saving throw against that spell or it's over. This leads to my next point.

9) Save or die spells and situations are gone.

10) Wizards and other casters no longer have the issue of only having a few spells per day during the early levels. Remember all those times where you ran out of spells? Happens all the time you say? Never again my friend. Never again.

11) Wizards and other casters are no longer as fragile as a piece of paper.

12) Ever wanted a fight with a dragon that involved an actual game mechanic to try and talk things out? It exists.

13) Saving throws don't exist. Armor Class (AC), Fortitude, Reflex, and Will are now the four types of defenses your character has rather than AC being the only one. Another great thing is that each of them can be dictated by one of two stats instead of just one. For example, I can put my Dex or my Int into my Reflex score. Purely awesome.

14) Stats don't work the same way and this is a good thing. For example, back in 3.5, every melee user wanted Str and every caster wanted Int or Wis. This is no longer the case. Stats are now different for each class. Enjoy the variety.

15) There is some kick ass software out there to help out with just about anything. You no longer have to exist outside of the technological age like your characters are.

16) Everything is core. No more arguments about what is core material and what isn't. No more arguments about whether or not we should allow X class or Y race in Z game. It's all legit and balanced.

17) No more abuse. Remember spells like shrink item where you could just shrink a giant slab of metal into a tiny pocket size item and let it grow with a simple word? Remember how you could just throw it up in the air and then say the word and squash anything that would stand in your way or throw it in front of you to be a giant wall to protect you? Never had a player do that? Once people figure out how to abuse spells, it gets annoying for everyone else involved. Shrink item is just one example. Powers can no longer be abused.

18) Paladins throw your hands up in the air. You are no longer forced to be lawful good. In fact, everyone throw your hands up in the air. No more alignment restrictions. The entire alignment system is changed. No more arguments about alignment anymore.

19) Health. Everyone has some way to take a breather to get back some health. You no longer need a Cleric to do this. You know all those scenes in the movies where the hero is almost defeated but after getting his second wind, he rises to the occasion to save the day? That works now. Healing isn't limited to bed rests and healing spells.

20) Health part 2. Hit dice doesn't exist. You get to add your entire con score at first level, not just the mod, the entire thing. Then your class you picked gives you a bonus and every level afterward is dictated by your class. So a Fighter gets more HP than a Wizard. No longer do you have the Barbarian rolling a 1 for HP and the Wizard actually having more HP.

21) No class is going to be the same as another. You get to pick class features right from the start so every class has several options from level 1. For example, there are several different types of rogues.

22) Paragon Paths. They're kind of like Prestige classes except fair. In 3.5 you could get as many Prestige classes as you met the requirements for. The DM stepping in to force you to only pick one would just make things even worse. Now everyone gets a Paragon Path at level 11.

23) Healers can jump around all giddy (really, you have my permission) and you guys who never wanted to play one might take a second look. You no longer have to waste turns healing and not fighting unless you really want to. There are powers that heal and attack at the same time and just so much more.

24) More interesting monsters and enemies. Remember how monsters were only different and more powerful if they had different spells and just tacked a giant unnecessary list of them on there? Remember DMing and when you controlled that beastie, you had to pause for a moment and look over the list of spells you had for options to cast? No longer. Monsters have different techniques and there are several different categories they can fall under. There are even minions now. So you can have an army of minions rush in to take on your players that can be taken down pretty easy and make your players feel like heroes.

25) Less skills. Rogues in 3.5 have to pick hide, move silently, and other similar skills just to get the added benefits to be stealthy. Now you have a stealth skill. All the skills were combined together so that each is more important and there is less to keep track of.

26) Stats. You no longer have to roll for stats. You can still do that if you want to but why? Every group had to make arbitrary home rules about re-rolling 1's and other bullcrap just to make that system even slightly work. Now you have stat arrays and a really nice point buy system. Stat arrays are basically a set of stat scores that you give out to all players and they just plug them into the stats they want.

27) Movement. No longer does the game tell you 30 feet and you have to realize that each square is 5 feet unless you move diagonally and in case it's a Tuesday in the middle of July and the Sun is out. New players just didn't get that system and old players knew it was just dumb. Moving diagonally is the same as moving in the cardinal directions now. Oh and we don't say 15 feet to mean 3 squares anymore. We just say 3 squares. Why was this never thought of before?

28) Effects don't last random given amounts of time. You no longer have to figure out if it has been 3 minutes in-game. Each round being 6 seconds and knowing how many rounds have passed which isn't even considering how fast time flies outside of combat. Effect durations work now.

29) Rules are no longer needlessly complex. Anytime that someone wanted to grapple the troll, you would need to flip out the rule book and make sure you weren't doing it wrong. Now, once you figure it out the first time, you've got it.

30) Spells can no longer drain stats or levels. I don't know who to hug for this. It was the most annoying thing to mid-combat get drained and have to figure out your new modifiers, HP changes, and other annoying crap that would happen because of this.

31) Magic weapons that can be thrown return automatically. No longer do you have to save every penny for your rogue just to buy that fancy dagger and then be afraid to throw it at someone's face.

32) You can retrain feats at every level. Found out something just doesn't work? Switch it out. It's core now.

33) Tactics. The combat is much more varied, fun, and complex in a good way. There are all kinds of tactics to come up with in a fight and I wouldn't have it any other way.

34) No level adjustment. Drow and Minotaurs can fight alongside Halflings and Half-Orcs.

35) Critical hits are fixed. A 3.5 critical hit was basically just doubled. If you rolled a 1 that meant your "critical hit" was just a 2. In 4th it's changed to max damage.

36) Damage, HP, skills, and everything else scales with level. The math is just better this time around.

37) Grapple rules are no longer laughable.

38) No required classes for any team.

39) More settings. Anyone want to take a trip to the Astral Sea tomorrow?

40) D&D Encounters. The fact you can just show up at a game store with a friend and jump into a game is awesome.

41) It's easier for new players to get into.

42) You aren't having to houserule everything because the rules actually work from the start this time around.

43) Titans aren't just larger targets. They're a threat.

44) Everyone gets tons of feats. It's no longer a Fighter only thing.

45) Things are no longer color coded. A red dragon isn't always evil and some angels work for evil deities.

46) Classes do way more than one thing. No longer is the Barbarian a rage machine, Paladin being a smite machine, and Rogue being a sneak attack machine. More variety than your body has room for!

47) Rules for low to no magic settings, high magic, or even steam punk. There are even rules to do away with the need for magic items.

48) Bard is no longer a joke class. It's proven that the Bard was the weakest class in 3.5 and the new Bard is made of win.

49) DM's have concrete guidelines to do just about anything they could want in their campaigns.

50) Out of combat spells and abilities: Rituals, Martial Practices, and Alchemy.

Didn't think I would come up with 50 did you? Well I'm spent. Oh and before I forget.
Don't comment if you're just going to flame 4th Edition. If you have an issue with the system and are wondering if I know of something that can fix it, that's fine. I will gladly answer questions but don't start making random claims of why the game sucks. Go out and actually try 4th Edition. Pick it up. Experience it with people who know what they are doing if you can.

This is Kylak signing out.


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