July 2008 Archives

D&D 4th E - Level Up Impressions

Have plowed through almost half of Keep on the Shadowfell in our group, and we went through the level-up process before this past week's session.  A few new thoughts about the new rules, which honestly none of us are really all that fond of at this point:

  • The deterministic nature of a lot of the system just bugs the hell out of us.  Gone are Reflex, Will, and Fortitude saving throws...gone are rolled Perception and Insight checks (at least in "passive" situations)...no more rolling for hit points on level-up...it's all based on specific scores.  I'll be honest, I liked the random factors that were in previous editions.  A lot of those are gone now.
  • In another move toward "roll-play" and away from "role-play", skills are no longer an effective method of customizing your character...each class gets 4 skills that they're "trained" in (giving them a +5 to their checks), and all other skills grow at +1 every two levels.  So, while some PCs can be better at skills than others, the benefit doesn't seem that great, and PCs focus less on skills.
  • Attacks of Opportunity are horribly overpowered in this edition.  I think they pretty much were in prior editions as well.  We're house-ruling the entire thing, so that you only draw an AoO when a creature leaves your threatened space, rather than entering it.  We'll try that out next session and see how it goes.
  • Wizards actually appears to have "bent" the rules with their pre-made characters for the Keep adventure - when translating them over to actual character sheets, using the rules in the PHB, there were several things that were completely dropped, ignored, or augmented for no apparent reason (such as the ability of Half-Elves to take any at-will power for any other class and use it as a Daily power).

It's still fun, and we're still trying to see what we like and what we don't...definitely do NOT like using a map and counters/miniatures.  Seems too much like a board game and not like a "true" role-playing game.  I'm also wondering how much of it is due to using the pre-made adventure, which is more of a dungeon crawl than my gaming group is usually used to.  Whether we can effectively build a "real" campaign within these rules is still up for debate right now.  There seem to be a lot of limitations imposed by the rules themselves...so there  may be some chnages needed as we move along.

D&D 4E - First Playthrough Impressions

I was lucky enough to pick up a free copy (actually, THREE copies) of the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure while attending a conference last week, so our first play session used the pre-created characters provided in the adventure, and we went through the first encounter session last night.  We had three players, so we were slightly undermanned (the encounter is really designed for five players), but managed to make it through relatively unscathed.  We had the Dragonborn Paladin, the Halfling Rogue, and the Dwarf Fighter in the party, and the first battle was an interesting one to say the least.

A few impressions before we started playing, between first cracking open the books and starting the adventure:

  • The entire ruleset has been revised to support miniatures natively, almost exclusively.  There are no more references to feet or other distances - everything is termed in "squares".  While conceptually there's little different, it really does seem like more of a tabletop game (a la Warhammer 40k) in concept than a true fantasy RPG.
  • It's obvious that they've leveraged a lot of experience from CCGs into the D&D 4E rules.  Even weapons are considered "at-will" powers, and it's just another thing that detracts conceptually from the "true" RPG experience that many people might be expecting.
As we started playing through, a few additional things became somewhat clear:

  • The game is VERY combat-oriented now.  The focus is very strongly on offensive capabilities for most classes, and the ability to heal yourself during combat without using items or potions makes it very much a "munchkin" game.  Granted, these are the first adventures published, and as such it's not surprising that they're action-oriented.  Perhaps as additional rulebooks are published and more adventures become available (and at higher levels), we'll be able to see more variety.
  • I'm wondering about some of the at-will abilities.  Specifically, some of the Fighter and Paladin at-will abilities pose the question of why anyone would ever use a standard attack.  For example: Reaping Strike, a Fighter at-will ability, gives the standard attack bonus and the standard damage if hit, but on a miss still does damage equal to the character's STR bonus.  There's no reason to ever not use this power...and you'll always do at least 3 points of damage.  Seriously?  Guaranteed damage every round??  That just doesn't seem right at all.  At least the Paladin abilities mostly require the targets be "marked"...but still, seems a little overpowered for 1st level.
  • The adventure itself, or at least the initial encounter, was pretty well-balanced for our smaller-than designed group.  I think if we'd had a fourth or fifth player, that might not have been the case.  There was danger, there was damage on both sides, and overall it was an exciting experience.  There was a little getting used to some of the new rules, new abilities, and such, but that's to be expected.  Overall, it was pretty fun, a few minor nit-picks, but nothing that ruined the experience for us.