Dungeons & Dragons—4th Edition: Player's Handbook Hardcover

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The first of three core rulebooks for the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game.

The Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game has defined the medieval fantasy genre and the tabletop RPG industry for more than 30 years. In the D&D game, players create characters that band together to explore dungeons, slay monsters, and find treasure. The 4th Edition D&D rules offer the best possible play experience by presenting exciting character options, an elegant and robust rules system, and handy storytelling tools for the Dungeon Master.

The Player's Handbook presents the official Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game rules as well as everything a player needs to create D&D characters worthy of song and legend: new character races, base classes, paragon paths, epic destinies, powers, magic items, weapons, armor, and much more.

  • Core Rulebook: The Player's Handbook is the first of three core rulebooks required to play the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game.
  • Quick and easy play: The improved page layout and presentation enables new and established players to understand and learn the 4th Edition D&D rules quickly.
  • D&D Insider: The Player's Handbook will receive enhanced online support at www.dndinsider.com.

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2.60/5 (based on 27 ratings)

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Definately give it a try


D&D 4th Edition has been a subject of hot debate since it was first announced and continues to be so to this day. Strip away all of the fan-boy prattle and nerd rage nonsense from the edition wars and believe it or not, regardless of the motivation for making a new edition of D&D (be it a money making scheme by an evil corporation or a true attempt at a fun an balanced system), a game does exist under there. But is it any good? Reviews have been very mixed, but here is my take.

I first played 4th Edition shortly after its release and found it shockingly different. Not bad, persay, but very different from what I was used to after so much time spent with 3.X, and I will readily admit that I did not warm to all of the new ideas right away. Much of this has to do with the DM that I played under, but those anecdotes are tales for another time. There were many merits that I found within the system even at that time, however;

-The classes seemed well balanced between one another with a wide array of interesting abilities. Including powers usable at-will, so even magical classes continued to feel magical once their allotment was mostly expended for the day.
-The skill system was streamlined into a trained or untrained system.
-Magical equipment was found within the pages of the Player’s Handbook as opposed to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, so the information on a PC’s gear was always at their fingertips.
-Status anomalies were condensed and simplified for quick reference, often using the “combat advantage” system to strong effect.
-Battles contained more enemies on average than older editions often would allow and were not only more dynamic, but longer lasting as well, as combat seemed less swingy and rarely hinged on a single roll.
-Not everything in the game world follows the same rules as the PCs. The lack of emphasis on rules for what is happening off screen allow for the shared telling of a more exciting and cinematic story. This is not a boon for everyone however, as some prefer hard and fast rules for minor details that I personally find only ads bloat to the rulebooks.
-The alignment system has been altered. Where as it once was a grid it is now more akin to a line with 5 possible alignments. While I would have preferred the end of an alignment system entirely, this was a good start.

There were some downsides as well, though many are a matter of personal preference;

-The system itself strongly supports high fantasy, and in that doesn’t lend itself well to grittier, low fantasy.
-The races chosen to be in the Player’s Handbook, while decent and varied, feel a bit out of line with the traditional options offered by the various D&D incarnations. The lose of gnomes as a staple PC race hurt since they have always been a personal favorite.
-Skill challenges can be a double edged sword. They are a natural evolution of 3.5 Unearthed Arcana’s complex skill challenges. When used appropriately they can be a tool to greatly enhance a game session, however when used incorrectly or when poorly built, can bring the fun at a table to a crashing halt.
-The errata is ever increasing and takes some time and effort to keep up with.
-Sometimes mechanics like “marking” can be difficult to explain away in game terms.

The strongest point I found with the system is its ease of use. It is quick and easy to learn or teach and ases the burden of DMing, often cutting the time needed to prepare villain statistic blocks by a good margin. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has a strong chapter on appropriate encounter design which is great for new DMs and old alike. The most fun I’ve had running games were running 4th Edition.

The weakest point overall would have to be the games reliance on a grid. I don’t always use maps, and while I often prefer them to help speed up and accurately represent combat, I don’t like needing to have one. And when I do use maps, I prefer hexes over squares, and there is too much that would need to be changed to facilitate that for 4th Edition.

I’ve heard complaints of the physical quality of the books printed for D&D. My bindings and cover feel to be sturdy and long lasting. I’ve no problems with them since they were purchased at the start of the 4th Edition era. The artwork is simply gorgeous as well. The only minor issue that I’ve had is that the ink tends to smudge a bit as I wrap my fingers around the header of the book while reading and walking, but this isn’t anything any worse than what I experienced with any older editions.

Overall, this is the best incarnations of D&D since 2E AD&D. I strongly suggest not buying into all of the negativity and giving it a try for a while for yourself before you make any final decisions. After a few initial bumps, it quickly grew on me and it may for you as well. There is a wide library of supplements for just about any interests and good online support, even if WotC doesn’t bother with PDFs. The core rules are completely worth purchasing, even if there is always room from improvement.. Four stars for 4th Edition indeed.


For the bashers out there...


If you are bashing 4E for "not being an RPG," you have problems. The problem is not with the game, but with your DM or your players. I have played 4E, and it is done very well, when you have a good DM running your game (and we do). The point of role-playing is not in the combat, but in the extra stuff between encounters. If you aren't experiencing role-playing elements, you need to find a new dungeon master, and stop bashing a game that has been designed very well.

Fighters finally shine


The new edition of Dungeons and Dragons boast some of the best art and layout in the industry. Many of the same artists and authors working here work for other companies such as Paizo and their talents, such as the covery by Paizo fan favorite Wayne, continue to shine.

This new edition drops some of the lesser appreicated races like the half-orc and gnome and replaces them with core races of Dragonborn, dragonic humanoids, and tielfings. Unlike previous editions, these tielflings are a true breeding race and have a flair for being like Elric in that they're from a fallen empire.

The game expands the core rules with 30 levels instead of twenty. Magic items, often often if not always used by the players, are found in this book.

The classes remove some old favorites like the bard and barbarian, but throw in new favorites like the warlock and the warlord.

Classes have power sources that indicate the nature of their power. For example, fighters, rangers and rogues are martial. All of their abilities come from being masters of their field. Others have arcane or divine. Future books expand upon this concept.

In essence though, this is flavor and not necessarily a huge difference between the abilities of the classes.

The game continues to maintain a high level of options to it as did 3.5. If you're looking for something that went back to old school in terms of amount of material to learn, while the conditions and other combat options aren't complex, they can be troublesome to recall in the heat of combat. Nothing new there as I remember refering to my 3.5 Player's Handbook all the time for grappling and sunder for item hardness and hit points.

Some have moaned that it's like a computer game. As an old player who started in 84' and saw the rise of computer games, they have it backward. Computer games yanked a lot of material FROM D&D and this edition clarifies how those roles and options can work in a tabletop game.

The biggest difference to me is that fighters and rogues no longer sink to insignifigance at 10th level. Now the fighter remains viable at all levels.

There are other bits scattered about that I enjoy. For example, death isn't at -10 now and doesn't require a flat 10% chance to stabalize. Character's don't tend to rely on magic items as much as they have in 3.5.

In my own playing experience, the role playing elements granted to the core of the game not only by the points of light setting, but by making the dragonborn and teifling races on opposite ends of two ancient warring empires provides a lot of potential seeds. Those who say that there is no possible role playing are playing the game in a way I can't fathom.

4e brings a lot of options to the campaign and finally makes a high level fighter worth playing.

Good Tactical Miniatures Game


This is a great resource for a tactical miniatures game. The system of powers and feats actually involve a lot of emergent complexity which only shows up when actually playing the game. In other words, the powers combine with each other in interesting tactical ways, and that's a fun (tm) part of 4e.

Beyond this? Nothing. Failure after failure.

Skill challenges suck. The role-playing advice sucks when it's provided at all. Magic items are included in the PHB instead of the DMG, so the players can shop to get the "best builds evar". The art is more dungeonpunk, off-the-roof Comic like, than ever. There's no ambiance in this game, no sense of wonder. It's instead "Koolz" World of Warcraft, Pokemon over-the-top Uber-Fantasy!!1!ONE!ELEVEN! Why? Because it seems "MOAR!" is ALWAYS Fun (tm), didn't you know?

It's all about tactical encounters and gaming the rules system. That's it. And it does that fairly well.

It would have been okay as a tactical miniatures game with strong role-playing elements. As a "role-playing game", it's alright, though it streches my suspension of disbelief more than once. As "Dungeons & Dragons", it fails miserably. As a gateway to the role-playing games hobby? God no, not this game.

1 star. Try again.

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