Alright DnDers, I’m about to step into the world of 4E — now do not be alarmed! I am not leaving behind 3-3.50 editions of dnd, I’m simply stepping into both realms as I have recently been playing fourth edition. For anyone who has not tried fourth edition yet (if there are any of you) let me give a brief introduction.
4E is commonly referred to as an MMO, I’ve played it several times and my computer was rather unnecessary for the process. In 4E characters do not have “Spell’s per day” or “Basic Attacks” they have powers each split into four parts; Utility Powers, At Will Powers, Encounter Powers, and Daily Powers. Every character has these abilities and it’s not limited to one class or race, as well as they have the classes set into roles to help the parties; Striker, Defender, Controller, and Leader. They have it readily available to use miniatures a lot easier, as well as tile sets you can lay out and create your own map. Miniatures are now available in a plastic alternative, though you can still get the heavier and classic miniatures if you want. When you buy a set of miniatures from the official Dungeons and Dragons 4E sets they come with “Power Cards” which lays out the level, hps, ability scores, and their powers (each monster has it’s own special ability). The combat turn now utilizes it’s actions more efficiently. Standard action is anything like attacking, picking locks, using a skill etc. Minor actions are now more useful, as you have powers that are considered part of the ‘minor’ action slot, and of course the movement action as well. Now that I’ve mentioned a little bit about 4E for those of us who may not have played it yet, let’s get more into detail.
Third edition I’ve always thought a magic caster was hard to play since they can cast their four little spells then are almost useless or suicidal after that, the thing I like about fourth edition is the usage of “At will” abilities since it gives magic users something to do on a regular basis without having to run out of spell points — Since they are innately magical it only makes sense. Now it’s not like their most powerful abilities are at wills, those are usually either Daily powers (which obviously can only be used once a day) or Encounter powers which can be recovered after a short rest. Usually after a combat, the players takes a 5 minute break before continuing onward. For out-of-combat use of encounter powers, as long as you have 5 minutes of rest, you can use the encounter power again.
Fighters and melee classes also seem a bit more fun to play considering the fact that they too have special abilities such as “Sure Strike”, which allows you to target a single creature and it’s your Strength +2 VS AC, you give up the extra points of damage that your strength would usually do in order to get an extra plus 2 to hit, as opposed to say “Cleave” you hit one enemy and cleave into another, when you hit you do your regular damage and an enemy adjacent takes damage equal to your strength modifier. So being a fighter gives you a little more leeway and choices then it did in previous editions.
Milestones or action points is another thing that’s been added in, action points give your character an extra action; for example they can use an action point when in a pickle to get off a second attack or use a potion or something along those lines. Action points reset every time you rest but the DM can give you extra action points after you beat a boss or hit a “Milestone”, which are hit at the end of every second encounter, whether it be a skill challenge or combat encounter, and these are what give you extra action points.
They’ve also added in the ability to regularly heal yourself using healing surges, and upped your hit points. Hit points are calculated by your constitution SCORE plus a number depending on class, and an extra 5-8 a level depending on class. Half of your hit points causes you to be “Bloodied”, bloodied may do nothing, but it also can give you special attacks or bonuses depending on your skills, it may also give the enemy advantages or disadvantages depending on their skills, bloodied is a very versatile and interesting trait added into fourth edition. Half of your bloodied score is your healing surge value, you get a certain amount of healing surges a day and they can not be used during battle. Instead they have come up with “Second Wind”, which is an Encounter Power and it gives you the use of one healing surge and a bonus to your defenses until next turn. I know a lot of people who have complained about this saying it was stupid, well, if you were still playing third edition and you were given the ability to heal yourself for free could you really complain?
This brings us to Death, when you hit zero you drop and need to start making saving throws. You roll a D20 and if you get a 1-9 then you fail, if you fail three times you die or when you reach your bloodied value in the negative. If you roll a natural 20 then get ready! Since you are able to use a healing surge and it counts as if you were at zero hit points, so even if you had negative hit points you don’t have to heal those, simply start counting at zero and stand up!
Saving throws for anything are handled in a similar manner, you can be affected by poisons, sleeps, or ongoing damage during combat, a save usually ends these effects. Saves are commonly done after your turn and after you take the ongoing or whatever affect hits you, unless you have a special ability which sometimes lets you do it before. A save is simply a D20 and 1-9 you fail, 10 or above you succeed and end the negative effect.
As for AC the AC theory is almost the same, except that you add one half your level to your defenses and a few other things, which I really like. As a character levels he should get some sort of bonus, and half your level isn’t too Gody but it’s just enough to be something, Your reflex, willpower, and fortitude now work just like your AC with 10 + your ability modifier + ½ your level and whatever other misc. modifiers you might have.
Spot checks have been changed into “Passive Perception”, they also have “Passive Insight”, this makes sense because if you are not actively looking for something, how good is your character at noticing things? This takes away chance and makes it a bit more realistic, but you can still actively look for things as well and you get a check when you are doing so.
The skills are compacted, which I appreciate, it doesn’t take twenty years to fill out our skill points — despite the fact that I do enjoy some of the 3rd edition skill sets and I have a lot of fun with them, not having them doesn’t mean I can’t use them still, they are simply compacted. I’m not going to give up third edition mind you, but switching back and forth can be a fun change in things for awhile.
Another nice thing they added was Minions, minions are exactly like whatever monster you choose only they have one hit point, this is so you can throw hoards and hoards of monsters at your player characters and make things seem epic without slaughtering your group. This is also good for solo adventures when you have one regular monster and three more backing it up that are considered minions. Minions still hold the exact same AC, powers, abilities and stats as the monster chosen so they can still be quiet a handful.
The other day while playing my Changling Hybrid Rogue Swordmage (it sounds epic, and it really is just an experimental character that I threw together for fun) I really would have to say I enjoyed skill challenges, as it feels like 4E pushes for skill challenges a bit more, which is awesome. They have group skill challenges and just solo challenges in which give you experience, I’m not sure exactly how it works yet but I know you get so many tries and after so many fails/successes determines the outcome, it’s not simply one fail and it’s over, you get a few graces. From my experience it’s ‘don’t fail three times’.
What’s really going on in this article here is I encourage you whom have not tried it yet to try it, it’s not an MMO, and it can be played very similarly to the former editions with a few tweaks; I’m not saying convert over to it completely but it is a good game, and this is coming from a group of non believers (I was excited for 4E but my group wasn’t) so go, try it out! And for those of you who know 4E really well, I encourage you to comment and tell us your favorite parts of 4E and maybe correct some of my information in case I messed up. Being a new player, it’s fun to hear what other people have to say about fourth edition. And haters, you too! If you played and tested and bought all the books and hated it, tell us! Until then, happy gaming guys!