4th Edition – What I Wouldn’t Have Changed

27 Jul

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since Basic and 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  Through the editions, I’ve seen a lot of changes.  Some I liked – for example, allowing the Thief to choose how to distribute his percentage points among his Thief Abilities.  Some I didn’t.  What follows are some of the changes from 3.x to 4E that I don’t like.

  1. Alignment changes What is up with this?  Sure, some folks consider the old alignment system restrictive and over-simplistic.  The truth is, I partially agree with that sentiment.  The 9-alignment system was very simplistic.  However, throughout the editions, it was a constant.  In 3rd edition, they built several mechanics around it, such as the various Detect and Protection spells, magic items, and damage reduction.  It wasn’t perfect, but it made sense within the rules.  My major problem with the 4E alignments is that they pared them to five alignments.  Five.  If you’re going to get rid of some, why not throw away the entire construct?  In 4E, they have no real effect on the game, other than the options available to divine characters.  Throw all of them out, and be rid of them, or, keep all nine, and make the logical connections like in 3.x.
  2. The Elemental Chaos In prior editions, the Inner Planes were the basic building blocks of the Prime Material Plane, and, sometimes, the rest of the planes.  The planes were distinct, there were the Plane of Fire, Plane of Air, Plane of Earth, and Plane of Water.  Now, in 4E, we have one single plane consisting of all four of the elements.  No infinite plane for each individual element, they are now all stirred together in a huge mess.  Sorry, but the classical elements divided make sense to me in this milieu, not a mish-mosh of all.  How do “pure” elementals make sense now, if their building blocks intermingle randomly?  Answer: they don’t.
  3. The Outer Planes Rather, the absence of them is a stickler for me.  Related to my first point, the absence of the nine alignments necessitates the removal of the Great Wheel.  Yes, I want it back, but look at what we have in its place.  The Astral Sea, a single plane, wherein we have islands, realms where none other than the gods themselves live.  No longer are infinite planes the homes of gods, but little islands where the greatest powers in the multiverse live.  Why?  Why limit gods to an island?  OK, so the earlier editions’ gods ruled over finite sections of the outer planes, or entire layers of them, but there were boundaries there, and not just the “shorelines” of a sea.
  4. Eladrin Please, earlier editions had elves, and their offshoots, the drow.  Why split the line further with another elf?  What’s the point?  So we can have an elf with different stat adjustments?  Allow me to roll my eyes.
These are only a few of the problems I have with the changes between 3.x and 4E.  I could go on, but I’ll stop here, for now.
Don’t get me wrong, I like 4E for the most part.  I haven’t had as much experience with it as I have with earlier editions, and that may have something to do with my complaints.  Still, from the first time I read the 4E books, I’ve had these issues with the rules.
How about you?  Do you have any problems with 4E, when compared to 3.x or earlier?  Or maybe you prefer these changes to the earlier editions?  Let me know in the comments.

Posted by on Wednesday, 27 July 2011 in Gaming


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6 responses to “4th Edition – What I Wouldn’t Have Changed

  1. Symatt

    Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 8:35 AM

    I like 4E because there is no Alignments. Elements do not mix in the real world so why would they because all the planes are together. Iron and Water do not me to make Watron do they. To many Elves in 3.5 now down to three is better. elf, Eladrin drow . that’s good. Having Set an Adventure in the Astral sea i found it much better to travel in.
    These are only my points of view and bear no resemblance to intelligent life what so ever.

  2. blindgeekuk

    Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 8:51 AM

    I actually found the old system way too complex. I could be virtuous and a bit self centered – Lawful Evil, or Evil but quite honourable – Chaotic Good… Their was too much overlap. I agree however, that I’d like alignments to have more impact on 4e, and I can see themes being used this way, with different options available at each feature based on alignment.

    The Planes:
    The way I see it is that the material presented are just ideas. Island don’t need to be islands, they can be whole worlds. You can have islands of pure flame, of solid iron, of salt and fresh water locked in an battle… It’s a roleplaying game, your a GM, make it up, change it to suit you, WotC aren’t going to come to your door and tell you off.

    Look at fantasy over the years, and there has almost always been a distinction made between high elves and wood elves, and I think 4e did this right. I also agree with SyMatt, there have been way too many elven subtypes over the editions, and limiting this to 3 with feats to represent the minor differences within those was a good move.

    For my own list of things I miss/wouldn’t have changed:
    More skills, where does seamanship come in for example? Athletics? Endurance?, Both?
    Strongholds/name levels
    d% use
    Turn Undead affecting different undead differently
    Thieves skills have different uses and different chances (but not 3e’s silly, I can walk silently but not listen for things configurable)
    Solo adventures/challenges
    Side treks in Dungeon

  3. alphaant

    Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Definitely better to have Eladrin than splitting the elves like was done in 3rd edition. There were moon elves, sun elves, wood elves, wild elves, mithril elves, sea elves and air elves and yes they all had different stats.

  4. BeefGriller

    Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 9:18 AM

    First and foremost – thank you for your comment, Symatt.

    Now, alignments are still in 4E, but they got rid of Lawful Neutral, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Good and Chaotic Neutral, and renamed Neutral Good, Neutral and Neutral Evil. On the other hand, if you’re saying that alignment has no (or very little) mechanical effect in 4E, then I agree. But, I don’t mean to put any words in your mouth.

    Elements, in the classic, four-element sense, do mix to form the materials with which we are familiar on the Prime Material. If it were asked of me, then I would say that iron is a mixture of Earth and Fire; mix Water (note the capital “W”) and iron, and you will have rust. But, to your initial point that “Elements do not mix,” I would say, then, that they should then have their distinct planes as well.

    “Too many elves in 3.5” is true when you take all the expansion books into account, but the Player’s Handbook only specified one, with subraces statted in the Monster Manual. Let me say, though, that I *wholeheartedly agree* with you that there are *way too many* elf subraces in 3.5 in its entirety. I will grant that, by specifying two elf races (three if you count the mention of drow) in the 4E Player’s Handbook, they set the precedent that there are only those three. In later books, they have racial feats that turn your elf or eladrin into a Sun Elf, Wood Elf, etc.. This is not as bad as statting out a completely new player race.

    If the Astral Sea with its island realms worked better for you, then that’s great. It’s only my personal preference for the old Great Wheel.

    Which is, really, a perfect way for me to close with this: If the changes in 4E work for you, then by all means go with them. I would never be so bold as to say, “You’re playing it wrong.” As long as it’s fun for you and your group, “You’re Playing It Right.”

  5. BeefGriller

    Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 12:26 PM

    blindgeekuk & alphaant,

    I am in total agreement about the overabundance of elf subraces in 3.5. I just don’t like the idea of *2* races in the PH – I would have preferred just one elf with the subracial feats. I probably should have clarified that I was talking primarily about the core rulebooks for both editions.

    As for the blindgeekuk’s point about alignments – it seems to me that the problem with 3.5 is not that they are too complex, but too simplified. You are correct that no one is really 100%, all of the time Lawful Good or Neutral Evil. Those nine categories are very neat and tidy in their definitions, and can perhaps be held up as “ideals.” Of course, alignment definitions have been the subject of arguments ever since the “Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic” system was introduced in Basic D&D. If the game were to have alignments at all, it should have kept the entire system.

    As always, this is entrirely in my humble opinion.

    Thank you both for your comments.


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