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Fourth Edition Round-Up

A friend of mine who’s attending Gen Con has been sending dispatches of what he’s learned about Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition. Since has no blog, and these dispatches mostly take the form of emails, I figured I would collect them into a blog post. Some of this may be duplicate of other folks’ coverage, but here’s what I’ve heard:

  • 30 Levels; 1-10 will be “heroic play”: defending the town, saving the mayors daughter, fighting orcs/ogres etc, stopping a small invading horde. The lower level type stuff. Level 11-20 will be “paragon play”: saving the kingdom, defeating the Vampire Count. 21-30 will be “epic play”: big dragons, liches, and terrasques.
  • Advancement at every level; no “dead levels” where your character doesn’t gain any real abilities.
  • Fewer base classes in the Players Handbook: no more Bard. More defined class roles for each of the classes. The Ranger will gain some of the abilities of the scout, and a more distinctive fighting style. The Fighter will work similar to the rules for stances and maneuvers in Tome of Battle. The difference between Wizard and Sorceror will be more stark, and a Wizard should never have to pick up crossbow.
  • To that end, classes will have “at will” abilities, as well as per-encounter and per-day abilities, so that a caster will never run out of things to cast.
  • New races: Aasimar (“planetouched”) and Tieflings (evil-inclined Aasimar). They’ve been toned down from the their appearance in non-core materials in Third Edition, but the other races are meeting them halfway by being empowered to a degree.
  • Encounters are being redesigned with larger-scale encounters in mind, as well as streamlining combat. Making turns go quicker around the table, as well as eliminating the “I just finished my turn, I have five minutes to get a snack before I have to do anything” mentality.
  • Skills are going to be reworked and given a bigger role. No real details on that currently.
  • Players Handbook (288 pages) in May 2008, Monster Manual (288 pages) in June, and the first Dungeon Master’s Guide (256 pages) in July.

I’ve also been very impressed by the all of the enthusiasm from all the Wizards of the Coast employees assigned to work on this. In an interview, the head of R&D discussed how they had essentially shut down work on developing Fourth Edition and just playtested the draft of the rules they’d produced for a month solid. That shows a level of dedication that is everything we could hope for.

Stay tuned for more info, as I might be hearing more. Thanks to Wes, my inside man at Gen Con.

UPDATE: (Midnight EST, 19 August) Some more fresh informations:

  • Characters will always have some kind of choice at each level: picking a feat, picking between this or that class ability.
  • Reduced reliance on magic items.
  • Truncating the spell system. If you want to be a tailor, writer “Tailor” on your character sheet, because “Profession (Tailor)” is gone. There’s a focus on active (i.e. combat?) skills. Also, combining certain skills: who buys Hide without Move Silently? Also, complex things like Diplomacy should be somewhat more complex than a single die roll.
  • Any kind of conversion guide from Third to Fourth will be anemic, if even extant. 1:1 conversions are so difficult, you’re better off re-rolling the character, attempting to recreate the spirit of the character within the new rule set. (Worked for Third, in my opinion.)
  • Prestige classes will still be around, but somewhat different. They want a greater level of integration between base classes and prestige: some kind of advancement in your base class as you take levels in your prestige class. Not many details on this.
  • Allowing for re-allocation of some feats. For example, Whirlwind has five pre-requisite feats: you shouldn’t have to start planning to get whirlwind so far ahead. There’s talk of re-training a la Players Handbook 2.
  • XP will be easier; no more comparing challenge rating to party level to find out how much they’re worth. CR is gone, melded into monster level. To build an encounter, you determine the XP value you want, and then pick out monsters that total that XP value. This should also make it easier to modify encounters.
  • For monsters, the focus is going to be on what the monster is likely to do. As they did from 3.0 to 3.5, they’ll cut out a lot of monster abilities because a monster with a life expectancy of 7 rounds doesn’t need 30 abilities.
  • Alignment is getting a re-work. Less concentration on it as a “mechanical element.” (Eberron shades-of-gray system, anyone?)
  • No more magic item creation costing experience points. Or monsters eating your levels.
  • Starker contrasts between races: real tactical differences.

Some things occurred to me while I was typing this up, almost all of them related to Fourth Edition and Iron Heroes. Many of the changes they discuss (non-reliance on magical items, more active skills, more involved diplomacy) remind me of changes to the d20 system in IH. This actually fits into a statement I heard via some of the video coverage from a developer, who spoke about how many recent books (he cited Tome of Battle as an example) have been experiments in seeing how players responded to certain propositions. Many of the favorably received such experiments are becoming a part of Fourth. I can only wonder if the entire IH system started out that way. And if you’re not hearing Twilight Zone music yet, let me add that one of the folks presenting all this information at Gen Con is Mike Mearls, the mind behind Iron Heroes.

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Categories: Gaming
  1. Wes
    August 19, 2007 at 9:58 am

    I’m heading back to the WotC booth today with more questions to in mind…so I should have more stuff to fill you in on. I hope!

  2. August 22, 2007 at 1:36 am

    Hey Hober. It’s Wes’ wife.. a.k.a Mileena

  3. hobershort
    August 22, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Hey Linsey. Good to hear from both of you again.

  4. August 23, 2007 at 12:03 am

    I believe I mentioned to you that the latest episode of the D&D Podcast is about the announcement of 4E. You may be interested to know that Mike Mearls is one of the two voices you hear in this episode.

    http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4pod/20070820e14

  1. August 22, 2007 at 10:59 am
  2. September 17, 2007 at 10:52 am

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