Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition – Part IV

So, it had been a while. I’ve been busy, but no more! On to the next chapters.

CHAPTER 6: FEATS

Well, first of all, there are a lot of feats. They come in three tiers, namely the Heroic, Paragon and Destiny tier, and can be chosen once you reach these tiers and meet some other prerequisites. Some are really strong (Like the Jack of All Trades feat discussed above), some are pretty lame (Two-Weapon Fighting adds a +1 damage bonus to damage rolls with your main weapon… Huh?). I really have to play test a lot of characters to see if all the feats are interesting to pick and some point, but I guess they play-tested the feats pretty well. The biggest pro of 4th edition is the number of feats you can choose. You’ll end up with 18 feats at level 30, which is way more then 7 at level 20.

On to the next chapter.

CHAPTER 7: EQUIPMENT

Hmmm… Well… I’ve got mixed feeling concerning this chapter. First of, the art is crap. Especially the drawings of the armor. Weapons are okay except that as always, they didn’t look at the real thing before they started drawing. But what to make of the equipment?

Let’s start with armor. The basics are good, I think, but what troubles me are the special versions of any armor. These can only be found with a minimal enhancement bonus already in place. To replace your leather armor, you’ll find, at some point in your career, the upgraded versions of feyleather and starleather. The only real difference is that their base armor bonus increases from +1 (for normal leather) to +2 and finally to +3. I don’t see why this is even cool. It would be cool if you had a leather armor that was made out of feyleather if the fey part gave you some cool benefit, not just an increase in armor class. It would have been better is you could have just gotten a Paragon feat that gave your plate armor an additional +3 armor bonus and an Epic feat that gives it a +6 bonus. Instead, you’ll be wandering around in a warplate (whatever that is) and finally a godplate (!). In 3rd edition, certain materials gave you some special benefit. Mithril armor lightened your armor and adamantine armor gave it more strength. Some armors even lowered your spell failure chance just because they were made of some special material. Starweave armor, starleather armor, darkhide armor, spiritmail armor, elderscale armor and godplate armor are just silly excuses to scale the game better rather then cool, uniquely flavored new kinds of armor.

As we come to weapons, the rules really start to hurt. If the rules could be offensive, that is. Weapon size is somewhat out. Yes, a halfling is restricted once more to all those weapons that are already of a smaller size. Which is, of course, stupid, because halflings will ecrtainly have their own smiths. The silliest text I could find can be found under the weapon properties part:

Small: This property describes a two-handed or a versatile weapon that a Small character can use in the same way a Medium character can. A halfling can use a shortbow, for example, even though halflings can’t normally use two-handed weapons.

This is followed, somewhat later on page 220, by the following text:

Weapons and Size
The weapon tables assume a Medium wielder, which includes almost all player characters. Characters and creatures that are smaller or larger than Medium have special rules.
Small characters use the same weapons that Medium creatures do. However a Small character (such as a halfling) can’t use a two-handed weapon. When a Small character uses a versatile weapon, he or she must wield it two-handed and doesn’t deal any extra damage for doing so.
Large, huge and Gargantuan creatures use weapons that are specially sized for them. Each size category larger than Medium increases the weapon’s damage die by one size.

And on.

Now, am I by now the only person who thinks that the halflings must be pretty retarded for not making their own weapons and fitting them to their size? Any other size category of creatures does is. Very, very weird and totally redundant. It’s one of those things that I’ll change for certain.

But, it gets even more stupid when we read a bit further:

Selling Equipment
You cannot sell mundane armor, weapons or adventuring gear unless your DM allows, in which case you receive one-fifth of an item’s market price. Art objects or fine goods that have a specific value, such as a dagger worth 100 gp, bring their full price.

Uhm… What? Shouldn’t that have read:

Selling Equipment
You can sell any item you hold unless your DM prohibits it. Selling an item wins you about 50 percent of the market price, but you can haggle to increase this amount. A very good and charismatic rogue might even sell his goods for more then they are really worth. Bad hagglers might even decrease the amount they might have gained for the item if they would have kept their mouths shut. Art objects or fine goods that have a specific value, such as a dagger worth 100 gp, might bring their full price, but small communities might not be able to afford such a treasure and no manner of haggling will increase what they want to give you for the item if they just don’t have the gold to buy it.

Yes, D&D is a game, but certainly some logic is still involved? If the one selling you the armor can ask for its full price, then so can you. A fifth of the price is something no sane person will agree on. But the one-fifth part of the market price is integrated with the whole D&D economy to such an extend, that this will be quite hard to change. House-ruling seems in order here.

Which brings us to adventuring gear. 38 lines of adventuring gear, including 2 for category description, 3 for ammo, 2 for whole packs and 4 for implements, leaves us with 27 cool things to buy… 27. Huh? Why? Where is my good old D&D store which I like to peruse whenever I get some new gold? Where are the pole and the signet ring? How much is a good pair of boots worth? Why? Please tell me why? A friend of mine could build his character quick enough and would then spend a couple of hours going through a list of items, like fishing hooks, an tweak till he got all the right stuff. No more, I guess, and for no apparent reason but to slim down the book. They could have copy-pasted the 3rd edition equipment or even the second edition, but no. It’s a pitty.

On to magic items. Magic items are now included in the PHB, which is pretty handy. Identifying them is out. It isn’t fun to identify items anyway. O? well, let’s give them that (grumble). Items are priced according to their level, which is kind of handy. Everything is scaled to fit 4th editions linear progression and everything looks the same in that respect. Wow. Cool. I guess? There are quite a lot of magic items in the book and a character can be given that unique feel by applying them. Yet, somehow, they lack flavor. I guess that this is so, because many items seem to add to the powers of the classes too much. These items have no real power of their own. But some items are pretty cool. I need to play test them more to form a better opinion.

The strangest thing that I find missing is character wealth by level. If you include all magical equipment in your PHB and all the other rules for characters up to 30th level, then why not include that table?

This is it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read. The final chapters will be appearing soon enough.

15 Responses to “Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition – Part IV”

  1. blake says:

    It’s all about balance and league play. That’s why it’s so very bland.

    You’re doing a good job with analyzing it. You’re way more upbeat than I was. I’ll be playing 3.5 till 5 comes out–when I play.

  2. admin says:

    I’m glad you like the critique. As you might have noticed, I’m not for balance at all. People who wield the weapon of balance in this way, forget that balance means something else than ‘us all being the same’.

    The same, for example, goes for equal rights in teh real world. Some people think that just because one guy can be a banker, we must all be able to become bankers. Which is rediculous, for some people simply lack that talent. That is not what equal rights are about and I really hear these kind of arguments when people talk about that subject. The world’s balance means, that there are people who are lawyers and people that build buildings. Each his own task.

    And so, a wizard is, in his own field, much more powerful than a fighter and can do vastly different things. And, except for apparantly Gandalf, they aren’t really good sword wielders, which is what fighters are for. I’m not for giving a certain value to different professions, as society does by over- or underpaying certain jobs. That is another matter entirely. I’m just accepting that different jobs (or classes) come with a vastly different type of expertise.

    Wow! Uhm… Well, real life sometimes has its influences on D&D thinking, apparently.

  3. giel says:

    How about the last few chapters?

  4. admin says:

    They’ll be appearing within two weeks. Sorry for the delay.

  5. Steve says:

    As a long term 3rd and 3.5 player I cannot disagree more strongly. When I first looked at 4E I was tainted by the ‘Its WOW on table top’…’its a computer game made into a RPG’…once I got over that bit I actually looked at it as a different game. Now I’ll agree that thing like selling items at a Fifth the price is daft but I do hope the DM’s out there can make up there own minds because I immediately ignored that bit and do what I’ve always done…determine whether the trader is a tight arse then set the price he’ll offer from there and let the haggling commence (start of the short encounter).
    As for the balance thing, I am sick of watching my campaigns and my players disolve as the powered mage owns encounters using overpowered spells and blows everything to bit whilst the fighter is scratching himself with his sword. Likewise the rogue can drop a 3rd ed Giant quicker than the fighter unless the fighter Max’s out with a Two handed weapon…..even then the rogue usually beats him to it ‘again!!!’
    The Cleric however once he’s cast a few select spells becomes literally a walking god in Melee and once again the rest of the party better get a good seat and watch.
    Lord of the rings would have been a very different film if in the Moria battle, the troll resists all attempt to kill him then some swarthy little man ducks to its flank and kills it with daggers!!! The imagery is terrible.
    The Limited armour options I do agree with, they should have left ‘FEY’ this and ‘GOD’ that out and put in standard armours like studded leathers etc.

    Magic items likewise there’s a ritual I’ve put back in called Identify which does identify the items if they have any nifty powers etc.

    This to me whilst a system with a few stumbling points got more long term potential than 3.5 ed and whilst I do agree the younger players do have a habit of treating more like an hours WOW game, I hope the older player will be roleplaying as they always have and now roleplaying their powers.

  6. admin says:

    Hello Steve!

    Well, with some of your objections to 3rd I can agree and I guess that 4th isn’t that bad… But it just isn’t D&D. That’s, I think, my main point. Unrealistic in a ‘logical’ sense, often oversimplified in a ‘game rules’ sense, toned down in a ‘story’ sense and ‘weird’ in a D&D sense.

    The discussion becomes a bit moot when we are in different paradigms concerning the balance thing. Now, logically, a wizard has a lot of enemies that he can’t defeat due to severe magical resistances on the opponent’s side and a rogue often can’t sneak. If the wizard is able to defeat everything single-handedly or if the rogue always kills the giant first, then there certainly is a problem. But, I would rather put this problem on SOME rules being broken, or not carefully handled, and a quite straight forward kind of opponents put forth by the DM on the road to level 20. No pun, but my players seldom face a simple battle and they have quite extravagant characters in all fields of expertise. yes, in some battles the rogue gets less action, but I will certainly grant him his part in the next one or in that amazingly crazy Tomb of Horrors 3.5 adaptation ;-)

    About the Troll in LotR, it is a different kind of troll within a whole different kind of universe. When considering the strengths of Aragorn versus, for example, a 3.5 edition ranger, it is obvious that level progression gets in the way with the Aragorn portrayed in the books or the movies. Be it a 5th or 20th level character, the D&D ranger is able to kill a rather larger number of opponents then Aragorn could. A 10th level D&D rogue is certainly able able to kill a D&D troll with a single thrust… But this is because it is a different kind of troll.

    I’m glad we can agree on the armour and the identify ritual is certainly appearing in my games too.

    And yes, I guess 4th edition is a great tactical game, but just not D&D and not really mine :D But I am o so glad that they finally included a rule for crawling ;-)

  7. giel says:

    Totally agree with the identify ritual… makes the wait worthwhile like back in the day with Diablo I. Also, I am glad that they in 4E they also put in a rule where you can at least try and guess the weak and strong points of an opponent using insight and perception. I kinda missed that in 3rd ( and second for that matter)

    I used to add a house rule that players in my campaign did not know exactly what they were fighting until they had defeated it, to prevent ooc tactics. With some spot checks they were entitled to visual information only. This was a successful way to counter experienced players in a relatively non-experienced way. Added to the excitement as well.

    I was so glad that they didn’t start with ‘mana’ in 4E D&D for casters. Of course I had to adjust to the disappearance of ‘spell slots’ and terms like ‘caster lvl’, but I think this way it can make a battle so much quicker, leaving more time for RP in a session.

  8. joiless says:

    All long, gesticulation-filled arguments to the contrary notwithstanding, all talk of this mysterious ‘balance’ thing that gamers are suddenly concerned with quite beside the point, and all “you just don’t like it because it’s new” static far far aside, my issue with D&D 4.0 boils down to one simple statement, and one you make quite clear: This is not what I know to be Dungeons & Dragons. I bet that if it didn’t say Dungeons & Dragons on the cover, I’d be more likely to simply disregard it as an interesting but rather dull new table top game. However, this bland, simplified, MMORPG/Magic the Gathering/tourney-obsessed-generation table top game is *not* Dungeons & Dragons. I don’t know what it is, exactly, other than something I am intensely disinterested in. Hostilely so, in fact. I revile you, evil spawn of Living Greyhawk. And I especially revile what you’ve done to the Forgotten Realms.

  9. admin says:

    Wow! That is one nice rant! I totally agree. I have started play-testing a while back now… Combat is great! But it isn’t D&D at all. I feel very limited in my options… While at the same time having quite a lot of them. A bit paradoxical, if you ask me. What really bothers me is the lack of abilities for everyday use. Sure, there are rituals, but I just want to alter myself with a single flick of the fingers, or create some water that way. Fighters indeed have many new options, but it all feels so… Forced.

    Anyway, the most difficult part is the monsters. I’ve been looking at them and well… They are just interchangeable. Pick a goblin and make it look like a human. Pick a dragon and make it look like a fire elemental. The statistics have nothing to do with a certain type of creature. I see no real human abilities in a human, no real elf abilities in an elf. Just forced combat maneuvers. Might be that I am a bit lost between editions, and well, it possibly makes creating monsters easier because you just pick a creature and give it another name, but it seems to me that that shouldn’t be what monster creating is about. I could go on and on, but well… It is just not that good.

    That being said, I have created my own cosmology and running my fourth edition game in that environment. The story will be great (hopefully), so lets see how the rules will do under good management.

    Thanks for your reply, joiless

  10. dolphinwesley says:

    I personally only have played 3.5, and I agree that the halflings and gnomes are completely underpowered in 4E. I had an awesome halfling fighter in 3.5, but now, after making a 4th Edition version of him, he stinks. The new edition just makes it practically impossible to do anything outside of the box without your character being completely useless. New and awesome races, but the selection of classes for your race stinks.

  11. Alfonse says:

    My friend likes to tell a story of some people visiting on business from Sweden. They went to the movies and she bought Swedish Fish. One of them commented that “We have these in Sweden, but we just call them, ‘Fish’.”

    Not sure why the rant against weapons/sizing. Rather than having a halfling long sword (a short sword) or a halfling short sword (dagger), a halfling two handed sword (long sword), or a halfling bow (short bow) they list one weapon and give rules that apply to small vs medium creature use.

    You can call it whatever you want. “Oooh, neat you just found a +2 halfling two-handed sword. It has a base damage of 1d8…”

  12. admin says:

    Because it implies that these races don’t have a society of their own that supports their own production of weapons. While everything above medium-size does. I know the word ‘logical’ is a strange word to use in a fantasy game, but this just seems unlogical to me. For example: What do they use for a dagger? Why don’t they have a smaller bow too? Do they cut their meat using both hands for the knife and ask a fellow small person to hold it steady while they slice it?

    And I’m guessing that, indeed, they are a bit more underpowered when compared to their 3.5 edition equivelants. I mean, there is quite a lot of difference between dealing 11D6 or 11D8 damage. Average damage differs 11 points. In 3.5, it was the modifier that made most of the difference and if you had a difference of 2 in an ability score, at scores around 30, that just made for a gap of 1 damage and maybe 1-3 damage on the die roll fow weapon size.

    I like your comment about fish though :D I just don’t think it applies here.

  13. Caedrel says:

    I think your point about wizards and rogues not being effective in some situations would be valid but for the introduction of additional rules that circumvented exactly those situations – so the orb spells which aren’t affected by spell resistance but require a ranged touch attack, spells that add +10 to your caster level check to bypass spell resistance, spells that lower a creature’s spell resistance, spells that mean your sneak attack applies to undead (grave strike) etc. The same sort of power boosts aren’t available to the fighter in particular. I’ve just started a 4e campaign and have noticed a prevalence of strikers in the party. Has your experience altered your earlier assessment at all?

  14. admin says:

    Well, we can certainly gimp our character in such a way that he, or she, can overcome certain drawbacks, like sneaking undead. But, in that case, you have invested in that specific field of expertise and maybe slacked a bit on other fields. Same goes for a mage. Still if the opponent is a barbarian with imp uncanny dodge and of somewhat higher levek, or you have some demon several levels higher with some spell resistance boosting ability, you are on the same level again. And most of the time, you will be able to use only one ability, or you are facing more than one opponent, etc. So, the point still stands: in some situations each class will be less effective.

    As for the striker part: I would rather describe it as a lack of the other roles. Healers seem to be lacking somehwat, for example, in the parties that I play in.

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