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Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition – Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed my feelings over the changes WOTC felt it needed to change in 4th Edition. However, it’s far from the only issue I have with 4th Edition as a whole. In this post, I’ll talk about classes and issues associated with them in 4th Edition.

First, if you’re a gamer who hasn’t heard anything about 4th Edition, I hope your favorite classes aren’t Bard, Barbarian, Monk, Sorcerer or Druid…because they’re not there anymore. While the monk class is not the most fantasy based class out there and the Sorcerer was introduced in 3rd Edition, the other’s are staple Dungeons & Dragons. Barbarian made it’s return in 3rd Edition, sure, but it was a very popular class. Druids and Bards are two classes that I have always enjoyed seeing played well (and they can be played well), but apparently I’m alone in that assessment.

None of these classes were broken in my opinion, and each had great role play possibilities. It feels as if WOTC has tried to suck the role play possibilities out of the game at the same time they feel the need to “encourage” role play. Now, in all fairness, I must point out that there’s great role play possibilities in all the classes, including several of the new classes in the 4th Edition Player’s Handbook.

The class that got me excited in the build-up was the Warlord class. In the class description, reference is made to the character’s previous life commanding troops, and somehow he finds himself adventuring. This along gives a player something good to build on. However, the way the class is set up annoys me to no end. First, the best armor the character is proficient in is chainmail. Now, despite my pet peeve about the term chainmail (in history it was just called maille, chainmail and platemail came from a Victorian era misunderstanding), it’s just wrong. When in the hell have you ever seen the commander wearing lesser armor than the very best available? And the armor issue is minor. In my humble opinion, the Warlord is nothing more than a martial based bard (as opposed to arcane) with a dash of cleric thrown in for good measure.

Another new class is the Warlock. The character has made a pact with outside forces for tremendous power, and they are certainly bad ass. This is the only class in the entire book that gets me excited. The only way I’d play 4th Edition is if I got to play a warlock. If the DM nixed the idea, then I don’t play. It’s that simple. I can’t dog this class to much. I still haven’t checked out the 3.5 version of the class though, so that may change down the road.

The biggest problem I have is that each class has a “role” assigned to them. Defenders (fighters and paladins), Controllers (wizards), Leaders (clerics and warlords) and strikers (ranger, rogue and warlock). The problem is everything is slanted toward these classes performing these roles. Strikers are the ones who are supposed to deal massive damage to a single target. However, in 3.5 my fighters were often the “strikers” of the group if viewed in this context, and occasionally served as the actual leader. The term leader is misleading in 4th Edition however, since they are not necessarily in command, but instead give buffs and all kinds of spiffy things (much like a bard).

Where much of the “role” thing goes off-track for me is that players can often feel that a class can only fit that role, rather than letting the player be creative with it. In addition to that, the skills (as mentioned previously) are set up so characters are nothing more than a job description. It becomes difficult to tailor a character to fit a specific role. All rogues are, in essence, the same thing. The same is true of fighters, rangers, and wizards as well.

Another thing missing from 4th Edition is multiclassing. That’s right. For the first time in a long, long time, multiclassing is effectively gone. Instead, you can take feats that give you a couple of benefits from a second class, but not to truly multiclass. I keep hearing that multiclassing was “broken”, but frankly I never saw that. Yes, a high level multi-class is uber powerful. However, he’s not unbalancing. He had to earn those levels after all and frankly, but the time he’s a 20/20 Fighter/wizard, he’s still not necessarily more powerful as a 40th level fighter or a 40th level wizard IMHO. Of course, if he is, it’s because of the earlier sacrifices made to reach that level.

In all fairness to 4th Edition, the idea of dabbling in a second class without going wholesale multiclass is a good one. I’m thinking about implementing some of these ideas into my own campaigns. Imagine a fighter who has learned to cast magic missile, or the bard who has a favored enemy. It opens up some really interesting possibilities on many levels, and frankly this is one idea from 4th Edition that I like. It would have been far better, in my humble opinion, to add it to a modified 3.5 rule set than to revamp the whole system, but to each their own.

In truth, I’m not real happy about classes in 4th edition. Even with the awesomeness of the warlock, it’s just not enough to justify the exclusion of the druid, bard, barbarian, monk and sorcerer. Of course, they made the sorcerer redundant with the modifications to the wizard, so that one at least makes some sense. The others? I can’t justify nearly as easily.

Check in again next time for Part 3, which will deal with armor and weapons.

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July 15, 2008 - Posted by | RPG |

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