Latest 4e updates

Another day, another few 4e updates. It’s probably worth saying at this point that we really know very little about 4e. A lot of what we’re theorizing is going to have no basis in reality. However, that really doesn’t make it any less fun to do!

So, what came out of yesterday?

The big thing here was this article on the Wizards site. We’ve also been having discussions on EN World about monsters in the new system (here, and here). There’s a couple of things…

* Complexity of monsters
* Monsters as PCs

The dragon, as described in James’s article, seems rather complex. Of course, it’s a high-level dragon, and – as Mouseferatu observed – if anything should be complex, it should be the elder dragons. However, and I speak from personal experience here, it’s a lot less complex than the 3e spellcasting dragon. I ran several of them in the Age of Worms adventure path from Paizo, and they were an absolute pain to run.

For me, a dragon should be claw, claw, bite, breathe, and possibly some minor magical abilities – well, not minor as such, but minor as in they don’t overwhelm the monster. Having a dragon sitting back waving its claws at you just isn’t dragonlike to me. That’s why we have wizards in the game!

Oh, and the fighter isn’t hitting for 500 points. Mike Mearls made the comment, “Let me assure everyone that, if the fighter in the example actually did do 500 hit points of damage in one attack, development will ambush him on his way out of design and soundly beat his damage back to a real D&D level.” It’s apparently the 4th or 5th round of combat. That sounds a lot better. 🙂

So, what can this dragon do?
* Create a 25′ aura of flame as a free action
* 2 Claws as a standard action
* Tail slap (pushback) as a free action
* Spit ball of fire as a standard action
* Take an extra standard action – unknown special ability
* Breath weapon
* Dropping Dragon below half-hp gives it immediate use of Breath Weapon (immediate action)
* May tailslap as immediate action

Hmm. That’s quite a bit; and there’s some complexity there. You have hp thresholds (as seen in MMV), the full attack of “claw/claw/bite/tail/wings” seems to have wandered into a new realm of some standard actions and some free actions. Has the Full Attack action gone? Could be!

Now, I hope that we’ve seen the majority of the dragon’s abilities in that list. When you get down to it, the DM doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by special cases and things that monsters can do- and it is something they’re winding back, apparently.

I’m pushing the line on EN World that they’re getting rid of feats for monsters. Joe Kushner doesn’t like that idea as he thinks monsters and PCs should be built using the same rules. Now, I understand entirely where Joe’s coming from. (Of course, I think he also likes Point Buy, which I abhor…) I just don’t think monsters with feats adds enough to the game to work against the complexity of calculating the effects that feats have.

As I recall, Mike Mearls or another of the 4e team has hinted that they’ll be disappearing from monster statblocks. What’s the problem with them? Two reasons:

* They add an extra level of complexity when making statblocks. The number of monster statblocks that are wrong because the designers forgot Weapon Focus…

* They provide a shorthand for writing an ability… which the DM then forgets about or has to look up. Awesome Blow comes to mind – it doesn’t come up very often, and because it’s not described in the statblock, the game comes to a halt as the DM tries to find out what it does.

This doesn’t mean that a monster with class levels can’t have feats, but just they’re not derived from monster levels. Instead, monsters will have a couple of special abilities laid out in the statblock – and they’ll be of such a nature that they make the monster unique.

Still, I’m theorizing a bit here.

Clerics and Healing
In Book of Nine Swords, the Crusader class had a manuever that, when they hit someone, they could heal someone else for a small amount of damage. That’s great, because it means that the Crusader can help keep everyone healthy without sacrificing their own actions. There’s nothing more boring than playing a cleric whose only actions in combat are to heal everyone else! I know, I’ve played one.

So, it looks like in 4e, the cleric will have a similar ability. Really, really cool.

You can find some discussion of it here.

Multiclass Wizards
I’ve got a few players in my groups – mainly Greg and Dave – who love playing multiclass casters. And, guess what, it’s the most problematic thing to do in any edition. This blog entry by Dave Noonan talks about the problems a bit.

You see, you need to have multiclass casters so that they’re weaker than normal casters, because otherwise normal casters suck. And you need them strong enough so that they contribute. And you need so that you don’t have the first few levels where they really can’t do anything. (I’m looking at you, Mystic Theurge wannabe with Cleric 3/Wizard 3)

So, apparently, they’re working on it. Cool.

Mike Mearls and Matt Sernett have just had a great idea about skills, but they can’t tell us about it. Heh. Actually, it’s about skills according to Mike, and traps according to Mat.

Discussing 4e without knowing about it
Logan Bonner had the best description of it.
“A lot of the 4E threads at this point are kind of unproductive, just because people are in a 3.5 mindset and not talking about things that translate directly to 4E. For example, somebody was talking about how the monk should get a version of ki strike that upgrades to become effective against different types of damage reduction. Well, that assumes that there will be monks, that they have ki strike, and that DR exists. Now, at least one of those is true (you can probably figure out which), but the idea has a pretty unstable foundation compared to what the rules will actually look like.”

Is that going to stop me? Not a chance!



  1. blue_23

    Great sum-up

    There are so many places where it’s getting talked about that it’s hard to find the tidbits that leak – great job! The GenCon blogs were gold for finding some signal among the noise.

    Initial reaction from the announcement was that SWSE was goign to come over wholesale, but from comments (such as Noonan on multiclassing and Mearls/Sernett on skills), those things are still open to “D&D flavored twists”.



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