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4e Ain’t All Bad

I’m a holdout.  I still don’t play 4e and frankly I don’t see that changing in the near future.  The most read post on this blog is my review of 4th Edition.  However, not everything sucks about 4e.  There is some good there, and I figure it’s high time that a pro-3.5 guy like myself point some of them out.  Especially since I’ve mentioned plenty of the flaws I’ve seen in the system.  I try to be fair here, and why not give the new kid on the block (edition wise anyways) a chance to show his stuff.

First, there is one class that is the awesome for my in 4e, and it’s not my beloved fighter.  Nope…it’s the warlock.  There is nothing about this class I can’t stand with the possible exception of the paragon paths.  And besides, they look to be pretty minor so far as annoyance, so the 4e Warlock wins The Geek Emporium Award of Awesome just for being.  Why, you may ask?  Simple.  The class has a great blend of crunch and fluff.  It all but begs for a great backstory about how the pact was made, and I’m sure you all know how much I love back story!  And this says nothing of a decent skill selection with RAW, nor the fact that they can pretty much kill everything!

Another thing I like, which has been touched on previously, is that wizards never run out of spells.  Never.  They always have at-will powers to use, which are spells.  I like this so much, in fact, that I’m in the process of blatantly ripping it off for my 3.5 campaign that will me starting at some point in the future.  The downside of playing a spell caster has always been running out of spells at first level, and now that threat is completely and totally gone.  Finally!  Spell casters are cool again!

Next up, the dragonborn!  Seriously, I love this race.  I love it more in 4e than the 3.5 alternative.  Frankly, I want this race to be converted into 3.5 terms with the 4e fluff.  A race of honorable monsters, for lack of a better term, with a natural ability to inspire and lead?  What’s not to like?  So what if the female dragonborn have boobs or not (apparently a point of contention for many).  The race itself is seriously awesome as written.  Think 2e half dragons but cooler.

One thing a lot of pro-3.5 people have an issue with is rituals.  Basically, with the right skills and the ritual caster feat, anyone can perform acts which required a spell caster to do in earlier levels.  However, most of those rituals are utility spells, rather than combat spell, so why not?  It’s not a bad thing to have someone who can work a little magic to cast Knock, even if you don’t have a wizard in the party.  Frankly, I see this as one thing that actually works toward removing the idea that you need X members to form an effective party.

I’m sure there’s plenty more “good” in 4e than I’ve written about here, but I figured “What the hell…play nice for once” and talk about those things that popped into my head that I actually liked about the system.  Who knows…I may do this again with new stuff I discover 😉

September 2, 2008 - Posted by | RPG |


  1. I’ll confess that I’m a convert. Before getting my grubby mitts on the books and actually playing the thing, I was very against 4e – all the stuff I’d heard about it just didn’t appeal at all.

    Then, I played it.

    What I love about 4e could fill a blog – and probably will. Rituals are terrific, but there’s far too few of them in the PHB. That’s been fixed by a (rather good) Dragon article though, and the number of Powers increases with each month. Choice is good, but lots of choice is better 🙂

    Sure, it’s not perfect (I got Mutants & Masterminds for that), but it’s the best D&D to date. And that’s good enough for me.

    Comment by greywulf | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  2. One of the real complaints I have is the trickle of content coming in from WotC. I would probably like the system better if there were more options on powers from the get-go.

    At some point, however, I’ll get a chance to play it and see what I think then 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  3. Well, you never technically needed a wizard anyway, just someone with a few ranks in Use Magic Device and a steady cashflow.

    Just like I never believed every class needed the ability to heal itself. There are three or four core classes that can cast healing magic, and there are the omnipresent cure potions.

    I’m a firm believer in the class niche, and that not every party should be as good at every other party in any given circumstance though.

    Comment by Liambic | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  4. personally I find the idea of rituals really great… just that some are overpriced and take too long too cast.

    Comment by GuiguiBob80 | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  5. @Liambic: True. I was talking in reference to 4e rules, how it seems set up where you need all the roles filled. We’ve played plenty of campaigns without a healer or a rogue 😉

    @GuiguiBob: I agree completely. Luckily, that’s a simple house rule fix without having to revamp anything really. However, in reference to time, most rituals aren’t exactly things that need to be cast in a hurry, so time isn’t as much of a factor. Still, I see your point completely.

    Comment by Tom | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  6. While I disagree with you about 4e (I’m thoroughly enjoying it), I can’t resist a good challenge, and I’m still quite good with 3.5e mechanics.

    Dragonborn (3.5e conversion)
    +2 Str/-2 Dex
    Medium/30 feet
    Natural Armour: Tough scaly hides give a +2 natural armour bonus to AC.
    Natural Attack: Bite, 1d6
    – +2 to Intimidate and Knowledge (History).
    – Favoured Class: Fighter (possibly Paladin if you play with relaxed alignment restrictions or the UA Paladin variants, but the race shouldn’t be primarily LG)

    (Taken a lot from the Dragonlance Minotaur race. No breath weapon, as it’s a bit much for a 0 LA.)

    Comment by ve4grm | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  7. (Just to note, it’s fully possible to play 4e without a role filled. In my experience, it’s actually easier than in 3.X. In 3.X I’ve played without a healer/rogue/wizard/fighter as well. The hardest actually tended to be playing without a meat shield type, since enemy damage gets so crazy at high levels.)

    Comment by ve4grm | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  8. @ve4grm: Nice work! For what it’s worth, my opinions on the necessity of certain roles for 4e has come from comments from WotC staff. Personally, I like groups that have a weak point since it makes the group get creative 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. Oh, for sure. But remember that, in 3e and prior, there was always the “standard party” as well. If, a few years back, you had said your party consisted of a Fighter, Wizard, Barbarian, and Ranger, tons of people would have called you crazy for not having a Cleric (not Druid or Bard, specifically cleric) or Rogue. The bard (and Druid to a lesser extent) was often referred to as a good “fifth party member”, because he didn’t fill any of the standard party roles well.

    I never liked that mentality.

    In 4e, there still is the “standard party”. Except instead of Fighter/Thief/Mage/Cleric, it’s now Defender/Striker/Controller/Leader.

    And just like in prior editions, it’s a good idea to have these roles filled. But just like prior editions, this isn’t a necessity. Just a standard and a recommendation.

    Comment by ve4grm | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  10. True, but I never heard WotC staff make comments about how you needed X classes in the party. That’s something I’ve never been a fan of. Liambic and I have played together since 2nd edition off and on, and not once before have we ever felt obligated by Wizards, TSR, or anyone else to have any particular roles met.

    Frankly, the roles are something I can’t stand about 4e, but I don’t really want to get into what I dislike about 4e on this post. This one is supposed to be a positive post 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  11. Tom wrote:
    “…the roles are something I can’t stand about 4e…”

    Roles have always been there, they just haven’t been explicitly labeled in the PHB before.

    Haven’t you ever heard anyone ask, “So, who’s going to be the cleric?” or comment “We really should have somebody who can pick locks.”

    Anybody with experience knows about party balance and complimentary skills and since these things are so important, they deserve to be spelled out in black and white, if only for the new and inexperienced players.

    And ve4grm is right in that it’s probably *easier* to forsake the “roles” these days than it was before, despite the rather sketchy multi-classing rules. But that’s another topic.

    Comment by maestrod | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  12. @maestrod: I disagree about the necessity of ANY class in 3.5 and my experience (which is far from basic by most anyone’s estimation) is that party balance is a concept that isn’t actually necessary so long as the players are creative enough to find solutions without someone having X skills.

    However, as I’ve said before, this post was about what I LIKE about 4e, not what I dislike, so let’s please keep it there. This blog doesn’t need a 3.5 versus 4e war.

    Comment by Tom | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  13. […] You Play the Game Last night, I posted what was supposed to be a positive post about what I like about 4th edition.  However, it’s clear to me from one of the more recent comments that some folks don’t […]

    Pingback by How You Play the Game « The Geek Emporium | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  14. Not to continue the discussion unnecessarily, but everything you just said applies to 4e just as much as prior editions.

    Party balance is a concept that isn’t actually necessary so long as the players are creative enough to find solutions without someone having X skills. You are 100% right about this. But this doesn’t change just because the game puts the concept of party balance in writing.

    Comment by ve4grm | September 5, 2008 | Reply

  15. @ve4grm: That’s true. However, I see pitfalls for the hobby as a hole down the road because they have outlined it in the PHB. There are those who will swear it’s so because it’s in the book. I think we’ve all dealt with those guys. Granted, they could be minimal and not as big an issue as I foresee (and I hope they aren’t). But either way, there will have to be some serious changes before I consider going to 4e.

    Comment by Tom | September 5, 2008 | Reply

  16. As can probably be gathered from my post in the “Busting stereotypes” topic, one of my favourite things about 4E is the mostly divestment of “background” from requiring sacrifice of “combat resources”. The gnomish clock-maker referenced in those articles that I played in a 3.5 game didn’t actually have a rank in Craft(Clockwork) or Profession(Clock maker).

    Why is that? Well, after less than spectacular stat rolls (but far from crippling to allow for a re-roll) I really didn’t have as many skill points as I would have liked, so after picking up maximum ranks in Disable Device, Lockpicking, Sneak, Move Silently (all of which I would have felt I would have let the party down by NOT having) I then had to decide on whether to get some Profession and/or Craft or actually improve the chance of the character surviving with ranks in Tumble, Balance, Climb, and Swim (it was a nautical campaign and I was already on a negative STR modifier). I went for the latter as the likelihood of having to actually build a clock being called on as part of the adventure was fairly slim.

    Now, if making the character in 4E, I write on the character sheet in the background box “Trained as a clockmaker” and (assuming it doesn’t cause issues with the DM) that’s the truth. According to the DMG, if the rare occasion should come up where the characters need to build a clock, then my character either does so, or gets a nice bonus to any checks involved.

    Now, if only there was another DM other than myself in my group that would run 4E games… 🙂

    Comment by Craig | September 6, 2008 | Reply

  17. @Craig: Actually, if you were playing 3.5 with me or my group (speaking for Liambic who’s the actual DM), if you presented a background of a clockmaker for your gnome, I’d have given you ranks in Profession (clockmaker) or Craft (Clockmaker), whichever was more appropriate.

    The DM giving you a skill based on your background isn’t edition specific either, in all fairness 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 6, 2008 | Reply

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