Hello world!

“Hello world!” indeed. Well, I have an appreciation for the old standards, so I suppose I’ll leave the title alone.

My main motivation for starting a blog is the recent release of Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. I’ll be using it to record my impressions of the new ruleset and my experiences in my first trial campaign.

I’ll be writing about other things, too, I’m pretty sure. Short attention span, you know. But D&D was the prime mover, so to speak.

A bit of background: I’ve been playing D&D for quite a long time, though not as long as some. My long-running obsession with rpgs traces to the early 80s, when I got my first set of rules as a present. I’ve played first, second, third, and three-point-fifth editions, as well as dozens, probably hundreds, of non-D&D rpgs. (Definitely hundreds if I were to count the computer rpgs.) I’ve read (though not always played) everything from GURPS and HERO to Amber and Nobilis. So I’ve got some basis for comparison.

(I’ve also got more rulebooks than anyone sane probably should possess, but anyway.)

Having jumped editions a couple of times before, I’m going to try looking at this new one with an open mind. I haven’t fully read the new books yet; I’ve barely skimmed them. But one thing is already pretty clear: fourth edition aims to simplify things.

The basic mechanic is fairly familiar: roll a d20, add half your level plus bonuses, and try to beat a target score. Beyond that, though, 4e seems to depart from 3.5e in as many ways as 3e departed from 2e.

Gnomes and half-orcs are gone. In their place, we get eladrin, dragonborn, and tieflings. Barbarians, bards, druids, monks, and sorcerers are gone; warlocks and warlords are new. But these aren’t exactly radical changes. Similar ones have happened before.

No, the radical shift is the power scale. One thing that’s been fairly constant since first edition is that a beginning first-level character is pretty weak. There are ways of min-maxing, yes, and some character classes were stronger than others in any given edition, but on the whole, a first-level character was only a little better off than a typical commoner. And a typical commoner wasn’t very well off at all, being, somewhat infamously, in danger of being killed by a cat.

In fourth edition, a first-level character is quite a bit stronger, wielding a couple of at-will powers, along with per-encounter and per-day powers. He has more hit points than his earlier-edition counterparts, and if he gets hurt, he can use a healing surge to recover, giving him much more longevity. He’s probably the equal of a 4th- or 5th-level character under older editions — and he’s at the base of a 30-level power scale, not a 20-level-based one like in 3e and 3.5e. In 4e, levels 1-10 are called the “heroic” tier, and even first-level characters are, in fact, pretty darn heroic.

The obvious concern is that this greater starting power level will translate to greater power levels overall, leading to a more powergame-y feel. But, at least on a quick skim, I think this is a good change. First-level heroes are no longer so fragile as to die horribly (or require GM intervention) due to a single bad roll. That means players don’t have to be overly cautious with their characters — the valiant fighter can charge into the fray, if it suits him. The mage can do more than cast magic missile once or twice and then throw darts at the enemy. (In fact, magic missile is an at-will power now… but more on that in a later post.) And the cleric doesn’t have to burn all of his spells to heal (something 3e attempted to address with only partial success.)

I’m looking forward to delving into it a bit more.

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One Response to Hello world!

  1. […] Scott writes a good review of the 4e books, starting by reviewing the PHB chapter by chapter. PHB: Overview, Making Characters, Races, Classes, Skills and Feats, Equipment and Adventuring, Combat and […]

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