A while back, I was quite upset
about the announcement of Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition. Understandably so, since Wizards of the Coast boasted that it would play significantly different from 3rd (or 3.5) edition. I had really liked that version of the game, despite many people's complaints about it causing massive slowdown (I never really experienced it), and was a little upset that they would overhaul the whole system again.
Well, that was a while ago, and now I have copies of the latest book and I have to say that I am surprised. Reading some of the teaser content they revealed before the release, I kept my pessimistic outlook, but when seeing everything, this edition is pretty solid. To help explain what I mean, I will go through the process of character creation (which I am doing for an adventure my friend will be running).
The new edition suggests that you start by determining your race. In this edition, they have significantly changed the core player character races. While the traditional Elf, Half-Elf, Human, Halfling, and Dwarf are still present, the Players Handbook replaces the Half-Orc and Gnome of the previous edition with three "new" races, Dragonborn, Eladrin, and Tiefling. Each race has their own distinguishing features and racial skill bonuses and powers (more on powers later). Dragonborn are what they sound like, tailless humanoid dragons that have a the traditional breath weapon as a power. The Eladrin are Fey creatures that can basically be summed up as super elves. Tieflings are a lesser known race that are humanoid descendants of demons and devils. The Monster's Manual offers an appendix with other race choices similar to the 3rd Edition counter-part. However, the races are balanced so there is no longer any need for the "effective character level" system from 3rd edition.
For my character, I am choosing half-elf as my race. The reason behind this is that they are painted as natural leaders. Since the group I will be playing with will be mostly new to D&D in general, my friend wants me to try to take a leadership role. The half-elves also have a unique racial power in that they can take a level 1 at-will power from another a character class and use it as an encounter power (again, bear with me, power explanation to come). This is what helped me choose half-elf over human (who are more focused on being better with feats and skills).
Next I am to choose a character class. The classes this time around are a bit different from the usual D&D affair. Returning classes are Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, and Wizard. Each class is slightly changed to fit better in the new rules set, for example a Paladin's alignment is determined by deity alignment (meaning they don't have to be Lawful Good). The new additions are Warlock and Warlord, which play more like an offensive arcane caster and a strategic fighter, respectively. Each class eventually branches off to paragon paths, which are enhanced versions of the base class focusing on some aspect of it. Each class also has an assigned role in the party: defender, controller, striker, and leader. Since I am being cast as the leader, I have chosen the Cleric class. While the other leader class, warlord, sounds appealing, but the cleric's healing abilities won out.
But what is a Cleric without a deity. The Player's Handbook offers a limited choice of deities, which came along with another massive change in the alignment system. I'll touch upon that first.
Gone is the law-chaos, good-evil system. It is replaced with a simplified version of the alignments in the form of Good, Lawful Good, Unaligned, Evil, and Chaotic Evil. This removes people from playing obscure alignments like chaotic neutral and neutral evil. For the sake of being a somewhat flexible hero, I chose Good as my alignment. That way I can go about my business helping those in need without having to be a tool of any specific civilization.
Which is really helpful since the god I chose was Avandra, Goddess of change, trade, travel, freedom, and luck. Envisioning my character as a free spirited wanderer, this works out well, since Avandra's faith is based around roadside shrines.
The book next suggests that I assign ability scores. I would do this now, but my friend has not specified how he wants that done yet. So will skip that part for now. The book offers a number of ways of doing it, but they are all pretty typical.
Skills are now only trained once, and grow along with your character. You choose a small number initially, and are presented a chance to train others as you level. Since you only have to train a skill once, you don't have to worry about upgrading your skills. My cleric will have Diplomacy, Heal, Insight, and Religion trained. He will receive racial bonuses to both diplomacy and insight.
Feats remain largely unchanged. So they barely warrant mentioning. I will be taking Group Insight, which will enhance my allies.
Now on to powers (finally). Powers are effectively actions your character can take. They come in three varieties; at-will, encounter, and daily. At-will powers are actions your character can take in combat in place of your basic weapon attacks. This is a big change in spell casters, since they will not run their resources dry, making them as big of a liability in combat as they are an aid. Encounter powers are usually only available once per encounter (fight) and require a small five minute rest to recover. Daily powers are much more powerful and can only be used once a day, requiring a 6 hour rest to recharge. This system makes characters a little more interesting and lessens the difference between spellcaster and melee fighter. Utility powers are a mix of encounter and daily powers that various effects from buffing, hindering, healing, and harming that come into play at higher levels. My character will handle healing, so the majority of his powers will be chosen as such.
Equipment is slightly different. Any character can use any weapon, but gain an attack bonus if they are trained in its use. Wearing armor requires training, and the types of armor are pretty much the same. For my gear, I have selected leather armor, a dagger, a quarterstaff, and a crossbow. I could have selected heaver armor and more traditional weapons, but I felt these better fit my characters personality. He also has a backpack full of typical adventuring supplies.
All that is left now is to fill out the numbers. I am going to go more into that when I have ability scores settled. For now, I would like to conclude by saying I really am looking forward to exploring this new edition, and I will try to keep track of my feelings about it here. I am also sorry for any incoherence in this entry, but I had numerous interruptions and am quickly developing a headache. I hope you all enjoyed my scatterbrained look at 4th Edition D&D. read