Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition – Part II

Well, I’ve read through most of the Player’s Handbook and have started reading the Dungeon Master’s Guide. And, I must admit, I am quite pleased with what I’ve read so far. Skipping over the first two chapters, let me tell you about the other eight.

CHAPTER 3: CHARACTER RACES

Anyone who’s read the PHB of course knows what kind of races are described here. But, for quick reference, I’ll sum them up. The character races are Dragonborn, Dwarf, Eladrin, Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling, Human and Tiefling. All of these races might be quite cool to play, but the selection still upsets me somewhat. For example, they include the Tiefling, but exclude the Aasimar, its counterpart. They also exclude the Gnome and the Orc. Though there is no rule saying which races should be included or excluded, the exclusuion of the gnomes hurts me the most. Since AD&D, the gnome has become an iconic player race in the D&D game. With his tendency to specialise in illusions and an easy outlook on life, yet with great potential to become a thoughtful and brave hero, the Gnome is a race that is really fun to play. But instead of allowing the gnome to stay, they’ve added yet another elf and have allowed the half-elf, not even a real race, to remain. Why? I do not know. Might be that they’ve given the reason for this decision somewhere on the Wizards site, but I would certainly have made another decision. As for the Tiefling, they’ve always been fun to play. The new pictures and the descriptive text bind them somewhat to a singular appearance. Yet, whomever has read earlier products, namely the Planescape Campaign Setting, knows that the infernal heritage might manifest itself in quite different ways from one Tiefling to another. And again, instead of adding either Eladrin or Dragonborn, why not include its angels heritage counterpart, the Aasimar? Dragonborn. What to make of them? They’re also cool to play, and maybe they are the best addition to the character races. They are new and aren’t similar to the other character races. If I put aside my conservative thoughts, I might even allow them to integrate into one of my campaigns.

All in all, I like the way the races are portrayed, but I dislike the selection made for the new PHB. Rule-technically, they seem very satisfying. If it comes to power play, the Human still rules from its prominent throne that he gained in 3rd edition. The extra at-willpower it gains is very good. An extra feat does the trick every time. Since you can pick less skills then before and since this selection isn’t modified for high ability scores, the extra trained skill is very good too. Never mind the lack of a +2 to one additional ability scores for the other races. That is quite overcompensated by its other pros.

CHAPTER 4: CHARACTER CLASSES

I must admit, all martial classes have become very cool to play. Even the divine classes, though lacking some spells that should really be in there, are pretty cool to play. The wizard is lacking though. Even when we consider the possibilities that Rituals now offer, the small amount of possibilities marks a sharp contrast to any previous edition. I can’t get over this. It’s just undermining the very idea of what a wizard should be. Meaning as diverse as possible. The main problem I’m seeing here is, that Wizards seems to think that balancing the roles (controller, defender, leader and striker) means that you have to put them on a similar power level. That is just plain wrong. Dissimilar powers can’t be balanced in a sense that they would hurt each opponent to a certain degree at a certain level, without removing any flavour from the strength of certain abilities. A fireball is now a miserable thing to behold compared to what it was before. It just seems that the wizard is hitting everyone with a blade that has an area of effect. My idea of a fireball is, that you better jump away or have some protection, because in mere seconds, you’ll be incinerated! Now I get the feeling, that my fighter might run up to a wizard through three fireballs, because they aren’t really scary to him anyway. That just seems a bit off.

But, the martial classes have gotten a great boost. Wow! The sheer number of abilities suddenly available to a fighter or a ranger! Cool! I’m eager to translate my 14th level 2nd edition ranger into its 21st level 4th edition counterpart! The houserules of the DM which DMs the adventure of said ranger already included a lot of houserules that boosted the diversity of my ranger’s powers, but 4th edition really gives me even more cool stuff to consider. Thumbs up for those classes!

This is it for now. The other chapters will be up soon.

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