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Customer Review

484 of 544 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A radical change of pace, June 6, 2008
This review is from: Dungeons and Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
The meteoric rise of Massively Multiplayer RPGs has created a unprecedentedly-large case study about what works for class advancement and balance. When I was first looking through the promotional material I noticed concepts from the MMO space cropping up: defender(tank), striker(dps), controller, and leader(support). I was initially disappointed by this, but the more I thought about it the more the idea began to grow on me. Every class now has a role within the group so there's no question about what each character should be doing.

The options for character advancement are fewer than previous versions. Whereas 3.x gave you the tools to create just about any type of character, that's not so much the case in 4. For the advanced players who enjoyed making odd concept characters, this is going to be their primary gripe with the system. I'm talking, frothing-at-the-mouth, storm-the-Bastille forum fanboy crazy.

For the rest of the players, who just want to _play_, it's going to be great. You don't have to worry about some powergamer creating a monstrosity of character that starts an arms race with the DM. Even if you don't have a powergamer around, there's very little chance of a player accidentally creating a character that's isn't effective in the group.

What excites me as a player is the fact that you get something cool at every level. It was always kind of boring as a fighter in 3.x: "Another feat. Yawn. This'll be interesting in another dozen levels when my build finally comes together". In 4e, I get something new to play with each time.

What excites me as a DM is that my life got easier. There aren't any "Attack of opportunity" or "grapple" nightmare rules like before. There's less opportunity for rule-lawyering and general powergaming. The various social skills have been streamlined, giving the DM the chance to RP with interested players, while disinterested players can just roll their way through it.

What doesn't excite me is the online component. From what I've seen I don't think WotC has the staff necessary to put out quality software. Anyone remember the e-tools they touted in 2000. No? There's a reason you don't. They got delayed for _years_, and when they finally came out they were terrible, unusable even. Software development at that scale is hard and it's even harder if you're not a software development house and aren't used to managing the projects.

Some people will complain that the new rules are too much like an MMO. It's their choice as to whether that's something they'll enjoy. One thing to keep in mind is this: It doesn't matter if you've been DMing for 30 years, any given MMO sees their rules exercised more in a single weekend that you've done in your career. A MMO is a crucible for finding rules that require a _minimum of human intervention_.

It boils down to this: if you enjoy the act of playing with your group and the rules are an accessory, then you'll love 4e. If you enjoy playing with the rules and your group is an accessory, then you'll hate 4e.

The MM is what you would expect: 150 or so monsters for heroes to fight. There's not much info that would be useful to the player. To help the DM, most monster entries (maybe all?) have an "Encounter Group", which is gives a list of creatures that, together with the current one, would make an appropriate encounter for a group of PCs and that makes sense in the D&D universe. The encounter group gives the recommended level and resulting XP. (Unlike 3.x, XP rewards don't scale based on the PC's level compared to the Challenge Rating. It's like 2E, where each monster has a set XP reward)

If you read the DMG2 for 3.x, the 4e DMG will be quite familiar. Most of the rules have been moved to the PHB, leaving MUCH more space available for giving advice to the DM on how to run a successful game. (If you DM 3.x and haven't read the DMG2, it's worth taking a look at, even if you don't choose to move up to 4e).

The DMG takes a back seat at the table. This is a benefit for both players and DMs. Players don't need to buy it for the magic items(which are now in the PHB) and well-prepared DM could get away with leaving the book at home.
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Showing 1-10 of 28 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 6, 2008 8:50:07 AM PDT
Fallensbane says:
Good Solid Review, thanks. Much better than 'That other Guys' review :)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2008 9:54:43 AM PDT
Ron Hockman says:
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.

I'm really sorry that some people are going to go crazy about the classes and overall simplification. Certain elements of the D&D secret sauce have changed, but I think that the trade offs are worth it. I've run a simple combat between two characters and three creatures and it went smoother than I remember my first test-play of 3e. I was able to go through it without constantly referring back to the book.

Posted on Jun 8, 2008 1:02:27 AM PDT
G. Williams says:
The concepts of a Tank(fighter), CC(Wizard), Healer(Cleric) and DPS(Thief/Assassin) have been in ADnD from the beginning. They weren't specifically named and they didn't appear well defined until the later levels of PC advancement but they were there. WoW don't explicitly call each class a Tank/Healer/DPS/etc either, it's just that the PHB now comes right out and says it explicitly.

At least you didn't fall for the people that complain that ADnD are copying magic spells from WoW, naming spells that have been in the PHB since First Ed, some 25 years before WoW.

Overall, a decent review and I look forward to playing it too, if/when the group I'm with, move from 1st Ed.

Posted on Jun 14, 2008 6:23:30 AM PDT
" It boils down to this: if you enjoy the act of playing with your group and the rules are an accessory, then you'll love 4e. If you enjoy playing with the rules and your group is an accessory, then you'll hate 4e. "

That was a wonderfully concise analysis.

Posted on Jun 18, 2008 5:01:03 PM PDT
Hasbro putting the roll into role playing.

Posted on Jun 21, 2008 10:28:36 PM PDT
Paul Suliin says:
"The meteoric rise of Massively Multiplayer RPGs has created a unprecedentedly-large case study about what works for class advancement and balance. When I was first looking through the promotional material I noticed concepts from the MMO space cropping up: defender(tank), striker(dps), controller, and leader(support). I was initially disappointed by this, but the more I thought about it the more the idea began to grow on me. Every class now has a role within the group so there's no question about what each character should be doing. "

Finally, the pro-4E crowd is admitting what those of us who dislike it have been saying all along: this is World of Warcraft with dice.

I agree with the reviewer: if you want the rules to tell you exactly what your character should be doing (as opposed to making that decision yourself) then 4E should suit you to a T. The developers did a masterful job of achieving their goal: simplicity at the expense of almost all options for both players and DM. Video game combat in a tabletop game. D&D 4E represents the next stage in the evolution of miniatures wargaming. If you wanted a roleplaying game, however, then you're going to be disappointed.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 24, 2008 6:06:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 1, 2008 3:02:34 PM PDT
Ron Hockman says:
"Finally, the pro-4E crowd is admitting what those of us who dislike it have been saying all along: this is World of Warcraft with dice."

No, that's not what I said at all. I said it borrowed concepts from the MMO sphere. Calling it "WoW with dice", while catchy, has the unfortunate distinction of being untrue. There is a "WoW with dice", it's called "World of Warcraft: the roleplaying game", and playing it is much different than the online version.

"simplicity at the expense of almost all options for both players and DM"

At the time of creation, your options are limited. We both agree on that. However, at play time I'd say that non-spellcasting players have more viable options available to them in 4e that 3.x. The character powers give all players, even fighters, plenty of options on how to play from the beginning.

"D&D 4E represents the next stage in the evolution of miniatures wargaming."

I find this statement incredibly entertaining. You are, perhaps unintentionally, completely correct. If you meant this as a pejorative, I think you would benefit from more time researching the history of D&D.

"If you wanted a roleplaying game, however, then you're going to be disappointed."

Hardly. If anything the 4e books give more helpful advice on how to successfully "role-play" (i.e. pretend to be someone else) than any previous version. Did you mean to say "If you wanted a RULEplaying game..."?

I don't have a whole lot of time to make sure that my players' characters and their place within the party are completely balanced. The 3.x ruleset with it trillions of races, classes, feats and prestige classes made this a nearly impossible task. Unbalanced characters are poison for a group. As a working professional, it's a monumental challenge for me to find and retain a good group. It's a tragedy when the rules instigate a breakup. 4e benefits from a smaller but heavily-playtested set of class and race abilities.

I am aware that loopholes exist in 4e, but there are far fewer than 3.x. It's possible that as 4e matures it will enable as much abuse as 3.x, but I doubt it. Keep in mind that I post this as an anti-min/max DM and player. Some people love it, and for them 4e is a step in the wrong direction. Maybe if I had more time I'd see it their way (probably not. I didn't see it that way in college when I had more time.) but as my life stands now, I just want to spend the precious little time I have sitting down with friends and playing a game.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 29, 2008 5:13:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 29, 2008 5:14:43 AM PDT
>>I agree with the reviewer: if you want the rules to tell you exactly what your character should be doing (as opposed to making that decision yourself) then 4E should suit you to a T.

Precisely. It's annoying.

If I wanted to play a game where a company handed me a class that I got to play, I'd go back to playing WOW or similar games. If I want to play a game where I can pick and choose what classes I have, then, well, I have to go back to 3ed.

Posted on Jun 29, 2008 8:29:58 PM PDT
Immanuel says:
The idea of roles pre-dates the MMO. Roles like Striker, Tank, Defender etc. come from Champions, the SUper Roleplaying Game that first debuted in the early 80s.

To me though, 4e seems to be more in tune with D&D in the past with well defined party roles, but broad enough that you can adventure without one of the core classes, a weakness I think in 3e. 3e was a great game but it took the archetypal element of D&D (in 3.5) and lost that particular flavour that said "Dungeons & Dragons" in the way that the BECMI version and AD&D (and maybe 2e, depending on supplement bloat) expressed the ideas behind the game. I think that Castles & Crusades capture it a little better but 4e does it quite well in a different approach.

Posted on Jul 1, 2008 10:09:15 AM PDT
Very well worded review. I liked it very much. Some comments:

About the the well defined roles, I liked the flexibility from prior editions, which encourages the DM to be in part a game designer, in that the imagination steers the rules and game. This encourages creativity, and I loved adding my own special sauce to the mix. This system seems on the surface to rigidly steer to cookie-cutter roles, and exempts players and DMs from being independent, so that they can be spoon fed whatever Hasbro flings their way.

Absent from online games, is the ability to do what you want, as one can do in a real world, or as an author can script a story. In real life, and in the fantasy life, the story may not always fit into the boundaries of what the published books (Hasbro) offers. They players in 3.5 and before, didn't necessarily take a back seat to the rules, but rather a back seat to the story. The DM negotiated the story with the players, or else s/he find no audience.

In online video games, the DM is out of the picture, as the publishers design the game, story, and boundaries. Perhaps analogous to that, is that the DM is just a machine that implements story for 4e, rather than a creative person that defines the game, story, and boundaries for his/her audience.

On the topic of online material, back in the days of TSR, and I am sure inherited to WotC and current owner Hasbro, was this zeal to control the license. I've seen amazing incredible online multimedia software, all the way back to even HyperCard on older Macintoshes, that were lightyears ahead of anything that TSR/WotC/Hasbro ever published, complete with intuitive drag 'n drop and calculate controls. They won't allow such innovations to come to light, as they steadfast want to control their license and do big corporate deals, which hasn't helped them thus far. It will take a unique skillset in intimately understanding technical capabilities and well as be a gamer at heart to know what companies to work with.

This leads to a point not mentioned in the review is about the licensing with this game. Apparently, it is more strict. What is great about the d20 material is that there is a rich universe of really quality (and some not so quality) gaming material out there, both published commercial, and underground online. The 4e not only leave DnD3e (and all the previously publish ideas) behind as roadkill, but also the whole d20 community, both in aspects to licensing opportunities, and incompatible published works.
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