Sunday, June 08, 2008

4E Is Upon Us: First Impressions

I picked up my 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons books on Friday, and had just enough time to get through the combat section and a few other bits before Worldwide D&D Day.

It's a good thing, too.

Reading the adventure, D&D Day should have been at least a week after the launch of 4E. It didn't tell DM's how to figure initiative, for starters.

Some of the characters had abilities that referenced abilities that weren't explained well. The Dwarf fighter, for example, had an ability that allowed an ally to "shift" two spaces. Having read the PHB, I knew that shifting was movement that didn't provoke an Opportunity Attack (which are much clearer than they were in 3E). Had I not read the book, I'd never have known this.

The DM's minis pack was (for the second year in a row) short one mini (this year, it was an Animated Statue).

The Wizard had Skill Training (Stealth), but Stealth didn't appear anywhere else on the character sheet. It should have shown Stealth +7.

Here are a few impressions on the system itself, however (based ONLY on the Player's Handbook and a glance at the Monster Manual):

1) Magic Items have been drastically depowered. The majority of effects are character powers, now, rather than Feats or Spells. This means that players with a stingy GM will be almost as powerful as players with a generous DM. It's a good thing, IMHO.

2) Skills remind me quite strongly of 2E AD&D's Non-Weapon Proficiencies. All skills can be used untrained, and skill training gives you a flat +5 to that skill.

3) Multiclassing took a huge step backwards. As in, "There isn't any, anymore." There are "Multiclass Feats" that allow you to take one ability (and sometimes a skill) from another class, but that's it.

4) Hit Dice are gone. Every class gets a set number of HP (plus Con bonus) per level.

5) Base Attack Bonus is now the same for everyone. BAB is half of your level plus your attribute mod, plus your proficiency bonus. The advantage that fighters have in combat is largely due to the fact that they'll have higher combat-related attributes than non-fighters. Well, that and the class Powers.

6) Weapons no longer have non-Proficiency penalties. Instead, they have proficiency bonuses. Most are a +2, but a few are +3.

6) AC won't change much from low to high level. Since Base Attack Bonus goes up by 1 every two levels (excluding increases due to attribute improvement), it doesn't need to change much. Higher level monsters have more hit points and better powers (much like PC's) to compensate for the relative flatness of AC and BAB.

7) The new class powers system means that third party support will have to step up. Seriously. Each class will take a lot of work to balance against every other class. It also makes me unsure why they still have Feats - why not make them universal Powers with "Permanent" as their duration?

8) They still call it the d20 system, but it's a new logo. At its core, it's still the same as 3E - d20 + stat modifier + other modifiers. "Other Modifiers" includes half of your level, skill training, and situational modifiers as appropriate.

All in all, I make it three steps forward, two steps back. It's definately progress, and it looks like they did a good job of simplifying things for the DM. I may even break out my DM's hat for this one.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:13 AM

    I just flipped throug hit but I was impressed with the art and their willingness to break free from the usual races and add soem more diversity. Sucks that the Druid was gone, though...