Following up on my last post, I’d like to point out a few things that are new in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons with which I do agree.
At Will Powers For Spellcasters Since Basic D&D, my favorite class has been the Magic-User, or, as the class came to be called in later editions, the Wizard. I fell in love with the idea of casting spells to change reality to better suit your needs. The problem back then was that, especially at lower levels, once the spells were gone, so was your ability to contribute to the combat. Sure, you could draw your dagger or brandish your quarterstaff, but unless you rolled a 20, you were almost certain to miss. Add to that the fact that you had at most 4 hit points per level, plus your Con bonus, and you were lucky to survive even one hit from an enemy. Well, no more! 4th Edition’s At-Will spells now mean that the wizard can fling magic missiles around all day long. Finally, the Wizard is an actual, honest-to-goodness spellcaster, not simply a glorified stage magician, performing his tricks only once before each crowd. No longer must the wizard worry about exhausting his spells before the day is over. I’m focusing on the wizard, I know, but the same is true for clerics, druids, psions, and all other classes that have spells or spell-like powers.
- Minor Actions I think the addition of the Minor Action is long overdue. 3.x had it in the expansion books, first in the Expanded Psionics Handbook(if I’m not mistaken), then pretty much every book after that, but never in the Core Rulebooks (PH, DMG, MM). It was tacked-on almost as an afterthought, causing too many arguments in our group (at least). In 4E, it’s official, and it gives characters one more action, albeit a minor one (pun intended), during their turn.
- Encounter Experience Point Budgets This, I believe, is a huge benefit to game masters. In 3.x, we had Challenge Ratings, Level Adjustments, Effective Character Levels, and a few tables thrown in to determine an appropriate encounter for a given party. Add to the mix a PC or two who is one level above or below the rest of the party, or the equivalent CR of two or more of the same monster, and you have a mess. 4E does this right with the XP budget. Sure, a table is still necessary, but once you have your budget, you have a good idea of what foes, traps and/or other challenges you can safely throw at the party. Is there a chance of over- or underestimating the challenge? Of course there is, but 4E is the first edition to give you an easy-to-use, accurate tool to build an encounter.
Skill Challenges I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flack for this one, but I think codifying a skill use to experience point award is long overdue. According to the rules in 3.x, the only way (well, OK, the only well-defined way) to gain XP was through battle. Other ways were mentioned, such as story or role-playing awards, but the only numbers given were for defeating foes. 4E is the first edition to say, “OK, you can use your skills to overcome a challenge, and you will get this many XP for doing so.” The implementation may have been a little wonky, but we finally have official rules for gaining XP outside of combat. While we’re on the topic of skills…
- Combining/Reducing Skills In 3.x, there were simply too many skills from which to choose, and far too many related skills that should not have been distinct. Do you want some examples? Hide and Move Silently; Spot and Search; Bluff and Sense Motive. Theses skills are pretty much two halves of the same action. Add to that the fact that three skills, Knowledge, Profession, and Speak Language, were really several skills under their respective umbrellas. 4E improved this tremendously by combining appropriate skills and splitting the others. Let me say this, though: this skill system is not perfect, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.
So, what do you think? Do you like the changes I’ve mentioned here? Are there any others that you think 4E got right? Please comment below.