"D&D Essentials ... It's Not 4.5!" - Reposted from EN World


4th Edition

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graywulfe wrote:
The initial comment I replied to was that DDI had set the standard. WoTC's failure to provide the tools they promised is part of what DDI is, like it or not.

No, it really isn't. In my mind, something is what it is. Something is not what someone else has said it to be, or promised it to be, or hyped it to be. A product is simply what it is.

For the person who has just started playing D&D and is ignorant of the promises made regarding DDI originally, he gets the exact same DDI that you do. He doesn't know or care that there was originally supposed to be a VTT; he's got DDI, and he's able to judge it on its merits. If he comparison shops the product, he will discover (just like anyone else would) that a comparable product really doesn't exist.

Again, it's totally up to you how you judge a product. I'm not trying to force your hand or anything. But I think it's silly to judge a product in a way that potentially would result in you deciding that the product isn't "worth it" because of a promised feature that isn't reflected in its value or in the value of any competing product.


Studpuffin wrote:
ProfessorCirno wrote:

Dumb.

Dumb never changes.

Bethesda called, they want their IP back. :P

'Tis a sad day to see that this reference is attributed to Bethesda and not to Black Isle.

Liberty's Edge

Malaclypse wrote:
Studpuffin wrote:
ProfessorCirno wrote:

Dumb.

Dumb never changes.

Bethesda called, they want their IP back. :P
'Tis a sad day to see that this reference is attributed to Bethesda and not to Black Isle.

Black Isle will get their FO: NV, or at least the former Black Isle guys at Obsidian. It's like Cadburry owning Dr. Pepper.

Sorry for the thread jack.


Malaclypse wrote:
Studpuffin wrote:
ProfessorCirno wrote:

Dumb.

Dumb never changes.

Bethesda called, they want their IP back. :P
'Tis a sad day to see that this reference is attributed to Bethesda and not to Black Isle.

I got asked for the name of the developer of Fallout at a bar trivia night this last week. They also mentioned that it was the name of a biblical pool. I was a little disappointed that they apparently didn't realize that there had been two.


Stefan Hill wrote:

Quote from WotC website;

"As you can see, an items’ rarity has a big effect on how it interacts with the game. Characters can easily stock up on common items, but rare and uncommon items only enter the game at the Dungeon Master’s discretion. This approach seeks a middle ground between empowering characters to buy and sell items while giving the DM a useful tool for keeping the game manageable and exciting."

On the money! I'm sure WotC are reading my mind via satellite!

:)

I'm concerned about how this works out in practice. Prior to the upgrades we already, mostly had this, simply because the PCs where cash poor. By the time you could afford to buy a magic item it was already pretty weak compared to your level.

Whats happening here concerns me in one area - the full resale value of the rares. Our group just picked up some magic sword in Scales of War and its supposed to be all awesome. Its +3 making it the most powerful enhanced item in the group easily, it adds its enhancement bonus to any ongoing damage martial power used and, once per day it can just deliver 10 ongoing (save ends) to any target hit. All and all its pretty impressive - but its also worth 17,000 gold. That is a s*@! load of gold. If our martial guys had any powers that did ongoing damage this might be a really tempting weapon - but we don't...so now its just a +3 sword with a good daily. Is that really comparable to being able to cherry pick your magic using the 17,000 gold resale value? I'm seriously skeptical.

Especially since it seems WotC is contending that the static bonus type items are the commons. Thing is static bonuses are usually better in terms of returns then flashy powers - we learned this in 3.5 when everyone sold all the magic the DM gave them and bought static bonuses to raise their strength or dexterity. A static bonus that is always in effect and gives a benefit to every attack roll or helps reduce the number of hits every time one is attacked usually is just straight up better then some one use flashy power.

So now we have a scene where the DM has handed out some really potent weapon of awesomeness and, for the first time in 4E, we are seriously talking about dumping that and getting the gold. The 20% resale rule was so bad that you just did not sell magic unless the item was near useless but here they are making the gold very tempting...and its not even the gold - its really just that they have made the ability for us, the players, to transfer a magic item the DM gave us into ones that we buy from the magic item store a viable option - where it was not really before.

I wonder how long it will take them before they figure this part out and put out errata for it? The concept of rarity is a good one but the returns that the players get for selling rares is to lucrative for an item that the DM might spend an hour and a half designing, thinking up a name for and creating a history of.


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
I'm concerned about how this works out in practice. Prior to the upgrades we already, mostly had this, simply because the PCs where cash poor. By the time you could afford to buy a magic item it was already pretty weak compared to your level.

Actually, I very much ran into this problem as my game got higher in level. Sure, you couldn't buy weapons, armor or neck items that were too strong for the level - but there was plenty of cash to buy items 5-10 levels lower that had very powerful powers. Everyone was picking up Dice of Auspicous Fortune, Power Jewels, Fortune Stones, Salves of Power, etc. Or at epic levels, some very potent boots, gloves, etc.

Now, I don't begrudge PCs having good items. But the ability for our Sorcerer to pick up a boot-glove combo that could easily and regularly make him invisible for entire encounters... I'd have liked some limitation on that. And while I could have just required them to run every purchase by me (which was how we did it at earlier levels), that became less feasible with the money available at Epic, along with the fact that they were now shopping at places like the City of Brass, etc.

I like having a solid guideline that lets them shop but limits them from the strongest items.

(Now, that doesn't solve the problem that sometimes static bonuses are the strongest items anyway... but that's a different issue. And one easier to solve via house rules.)

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Whats happening here concerns me in one area - the full resale value of the rares. Our group just picked up some magic sword in Scales of War and its supposed to be all awesome. Its +3 making it the most powerful enhanced item in the group easily, it adds its enhancement bonus to any ongoing damage martial power used and, once per day it can just deliver 10 ongoing (save ends) to any target hit. All and all its pretty impressive - but its also worth 17,000 gold. That is a s&!~ load of gold. If our martial guys had any powers that did ongoing damage this might be a really tempting weapon - but we don't...so now its just a +3 sword with a good daily. Is that really comparable to being able to cherry pick your magic using the 17,000 gold resale value? I'm seriously skeptical.

It might look like a lot of money. But the interesting way numbers scale, typically the most powerful item you'll see (an item 4-5 levels above you) will sell for only enough to buy an item of your pick of your own level.

So you can have your +3 weapon with a power that doesn't impress you, or a really awesome item with a lower bonus. That seems a fair trade off.

I think this will be an issue with uncommons that sell for 50%. Those are the ones I see the sorta thing happening now - finding a powerful item with a daily power no one cares about, and thus selling it. But an item with a higher enhancement bonus is rarely worth selling. And Rares? Intended to be found once per tier or so? I suspect they will be awesome enough that they are well worth keeping.

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Especially since it seems WotC is contending that the static bonus type items are the commons. Thing is static bonuses are usually better in terms of returns then flashy powers.

Yeah, here's the real issue. We'll see how this goes. I'm guessing that Rare's will include both static bonuses and cool abilities, thus mitigating this problem. Uncommons, though? I've already seen people turn down level 30 bracers because they didn't want to give up paragon level Iron Armbands of Power.

Liberty's Edge

Scott Betts wrote:
graywulfe wrote:
The initial comment I replied to was that DDI had set the standard. WoTC's failure to provide the tools they promised is part of what DDI is, like it or not.

No, it really isn't. In my mind, something is what it is. Something is not what someone else has said it to be, or promised it to be, or hyped it to be. A product is simply what it is.

For the person who has just started playing D&D and is ignorant of the promises made regarding DDI originally, he gets the exact same DDI that you do. He doesn't know or care that there was originally supposed to be a VTT; he's got DDI, and he's able to judge it on its merits. If he comparison shops the product, he will discover (just like anyone else would) that a comparable product really doesn't exist.

Again, it's totally up to you how you judge a product. I'm not trying to force your hand or anything. But I think it's silly to judge a product in a way that potentially would result in you deciding that the product isn't "worth it" because of a promised feature that isn't reflected in its value or in the value of any competing product.

I assure you that I do find the character generator useful. I just find DDI, and yes I look at them as different entities to a certain extent, to be a disappointment due to failing to live up to the original hype and that affects my experience with it. That said, I think we may have to agree to disagree on this point.

A slight tangent. Hero Lab has 4E tools. Have you or anyone you know checked them out? Between support for Pathfinder and Shadowrun, both games near and dear to my heart, it has caught my eye. Consequently, I am curious about how well it supports 4E as well.

Graywulfe


graywulfe wrote:


A slight tangent. Hero Lab has 4E tools. Have you or anyone you know checked them out? Between support for Pathfinder and Shadowrun, both games near and dear to my heart, it has caught my eye. Consequently, I am curious about how well it supports 4E as well.

Graywulfe

My understanding is there are some people using 4E herolab. The main benefit is Herolab, once you know how to use it, has what amounts to a pretty robust system for adding user generated content (i.e homebrew classes, races, powers etc.). This is a weak point of the DDI where its possible to do a little customization but difficult, or often impossible, to get your customization to work with the rest of the material.

However there is a significant kicker - you still need a DDI subscription. This is not a combo for the faint of heart but if you know what your doing and the money is not an issue its a powerful option.


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:


Umm...if I'm reading this correctly then you seem to be saying that you hated the 3.5 upgrade from 3.0 so much that you never upgraded. But now WotCs marketing for 4E Essentials has been so good that you have decided to forgive them for ever having put out 3.5 and now your going to go and find yourself the 3.5 books.

I mean I must be wrong in my understanding because the very concept strikes me as really deeply improbable...but that is what I seem to be getting when I try and parse these sentences.

Well yeah. I guess here's my thing. I was mad because 3.5 was completely overwriting 3.0, but you take some of the 3.5 stuff as alternative classes and I actually kind of like it--like say there's some paladins where they learn laying on of hands first thing (like Illmater clerics) where others (like say Kord or Tempus depending on setting) don't see that as a huge focus and save it for later. Some ranger schools have sword and bow specializations while others don't. Some druids have preternatural nature sense, others just get more training. I like that idea.

So yeah, maybe Red Box is getting me over being mad about the 3.5 transition too. 4e has been doing a lot of that for me over its run.

But yeah I agree it's deeply improbable, and a little weird. But whatcha' gonna' do, right? *shrug*


bugleyman wrote:
Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
My feeling is these changes are far less significant then changes to the stealth rules, the skill challenge rules and monster damage output.

Agreed. Further, since according to Merriam Webster, an edition is "the form or version in which a text is published," AND we apparently agree that there have been substantive changes in the rules since 4E was first published, we now have a revised edition in the form of Essentials. Whether they call in 4.5 or not doesn't really matter (personally, I'd prefer 4th edition revised, or 4ER).

And what are we going to call it two months after Essentials is released and the next piece of errata comes out?

Why was it not the revised edition when the last element of errata was put out? Or the one before that?

Especially considering that the changes with Essentials are, from everything we have so far seen, not the largest changes in how the game plays - that was really the changes to monster lethality that we saw with the release of Monster Manual 3.

I mean if we think about what we have so far heard regarding Essentials rule changes it sounds like mounted combat will change, but mounted combat is not that complex and probably won't change that much - I'm expecting two or three sentences on a subset of the rules that are a bit of a corner case anyway (certainly none of my players is currently mounted and when I play my cleric is not currently mounted). They will do the same with flight - but again probably 2-3 sentences on a part of the rules that does not come up that often. Finally we get to magic item rarity and usage. OK but even here it sounds like 2-3 sentences - I mean magic items probably won't even appear in the new rules compendium. Presumably some will appear in their new format in Hero's of the Fallen Lands - and, of course, for all magic items, on the DDI.

Presuming I've already assimilated previous errata are you really contending that I ought to go buy a book for what seems likely to be 6-9 changed sentences? Maybe I'll buy the book because its nice to have just the rules all compiled at the table - I'll probably buy it if the index is good enough but not for a few sentences.

The real difference between this and what we saw in the 3.0 -> 3.5 switch however is in the DDI and how we consume the rules. In this case so long as the rules are improvements to how the game plays and don't take more then a few minutes to assimilate we expect them to keep evolving - especially since these mainly pop out of the character builder when we next level up without us having to do anything at all.


graywulfe wrote:
Uchawi wrote:

For any game that offers the complexity of D&D, I see no way around the need for a computer utility to manage it all. With DDI, that standard has been set. It will be the basis for my decision to buy future games of equal complexity.

With the rules compendium, and a one month subscription to DDI, you have the basics to play the game. Or you can buy the red box and rules compendium. You may add other material, or update your DDI subscription as necessary.

You don't need a computer to run the game, but you need it to print items from DDI or the character generator.

DDI is your standard? So your standard is big promises and failure to deliver? ;P

Seriously, The character Generator is well done. I've seen a few minor customization issues with it but overall I was pleased with it. The rest of DDI is an utter failure to live up to promises. Where is the Virtual tabletop, and all the other features that were promised to roll out within a year of 4th edition hitting the shelves? More or less nowhere to be seen. What did WotC do when they failed to meet their original projections? Fire all but one of the staff members responsible for completing the task... IIRC. Working with computers and programming for a living I never expected them to complete all the listed projects on time, once I realized where they were at 6 months into their schedule. Still their failure to properly plan and execute in this case is ridiculous.

Graywulfe

If you have problems with other items that wizards mentioned developing then pulled back off the table, then I understand your concerns. But my comments where specific to the character generator, so my mistake is to continue to reference it by DDI, as I sometimes use both terms.


Having looked at this thread and also tried to follow the announcements for the upcoming Essentials line, I'm interested in the reorganization of D&D4E. I just picked up the Castle Ravenloft boardgame and it has somewhat reinvigorated my very small interest in playing 4th Edition.

Here's the core question for me as an experienced roleplayer with extensive experience in 3.0/3.5/PFRPG and enough dabbling in 4E to understand the basics:

Is it now possible to run a 4E game effectively and relatively simply just by buying, say, the Rules Compendium and a copy of the core Monster Manual? Because that's an idea I could get behind.

I don't need a boxed set to introduce me to roleplaying games. I have a dry erase map board and enough dice and miniatures to choke a tarrasque.

My primary gripe with 4E is the poor organization of the PHB - by the time I made it past the Cleric class description, I already felt like I was drinking from the firehose and not understanding half the terminology used. When I'm trying to make a relatively low level character just to get started in a pick-up game, I don't need information on paragon paths and epic level play ideas.

The very name "Rules Compendium" harkens back to the 3.5 Rules Compendium which, although a very useful table reference and one that I typically use even in Pathfinder game for when I need a quick rules reference on the fly, couldn't be used to run a game without at least the PHB and DMG.

But if I can play 4th edition just by purchasing one rulebook and one monster book, then sign me up.


The rules Compendium will not have character creation rules. However those will by in the "Heroes of ..." books in the Essentials line, and I believe they are priced cheaper than a PH ($20 I think).


You can also get the 3 core books for $66 on amazon, cheep by anyones standards.


You could pretty much get by with a DDI subscription and the rules compendium. The great thing about dnd 4E is the online tools are really well done, making it very easy to build characters, monsters etc... without needing any books. Furthermore, pretty much anything you'll need to know about your character will be on your sheet (s), so once you know the basic rules you rarely ever need to consult a rule book during play. The problem or one of the problems with 4E is that it's a pain to make a character without the builder, especially anything in the paragon or epic tier. The other main issue is that you no longer have a character sheet, now you've got to print out a 10 page document for one PC. This is one of the things that I'm starting to loath about 4E.


P.H. Dungeon wrote:
You could pretty much get by with a DDI subscription and the rules compendium. The great thing about dnd 4E is the online tools are really well done, making it very easy to build characters, monsters etc... without needing any books. Furthermore, pretty much anything you'll need to know about your character will be on your sheet (s), so once you know the basic rules you rarely ever need to consult a rule book during play. The problem or one of the problems with 4E is that it's a pain to make a character without the builder, especially anything in the paragon or epic tier. The other main issue is that you no longer have a character sheet, now you've got to print out a 10 page document for one PC. This is one of the things that I'm starting to loath about 4E.

10 pages is an exageration, 3 sheets for the character sheet only. The power cards are optional.


As others have mentioned, Rules Compendium doesn't have actual races and classes in it.

Your options: A DM can probably get away with just picking up the Rules Compendium and a monster book of choice (MM, MM2, MM3, Monster Vault, etc). Each player can then just pick up whichever player book has the class they care about in it.

Alternatively: You can pick up the Rules Compendium and 1 month subscription to DDI ($10). You get all existing classes, races and character options to date (in the Character Builder), along with all monsters released to date (in the Monster Builder).


P.H. Dungeon wrote:
You could pretty much get by with a DDI subscription and the rules compendium. The great thing about dnd 4E is the online tools are really well done, making it very easy to build characters, monsters etc... without needing any books. Furthermore, pretty much anything you'll need to know about your character will be on your sheet (s), so once you know the basic rules you rarely ever need to consult a rule book during play. The problem or one of the problems with 4E is that it's a pain to make a character without the builder, especially anything in the paragon or epic tier. The other main issue is that you no longer have a character sheet, now you've got to print out a 10 page document for one PC. This is one of the things that I'm starting to loath about 4E.

That is why I wish they would have an optional format that didn't present the data in card format, but an optimized line format. They should have figured out by now that the cards are not a major selling point for the game. This is also why my interest is reserved in regards to the new gamma world release.

But I do agree a DDI one month subscription and rules compendium would be the way to go.


Uchawi wrote:


That is why I wish they would have an optional format that didn't present the data in card format, but an optimized line format. They should have figured out by now that the cards are not a major selling point for the game. This is also why my interest is reserved in regards to the new gamma world release.

But I do agree a DDI one month subscription and rules compendium would be the way to go.

They sure are a major selling point for me. If they took them away I'd throw a hissy fit and cry like a baby.

Still I suppose I'd not care if they gave the option for some kind of optimized line by line feature...just so long as they left my oh so precious cards.


P.H. Dungeon wrote:
You could pretty much get by with a DDI subscription and the rules compendium. The great thing about dnd 4E is the online tools are really well done, making it very easy to build characters, monsters etc... without needing any books. Furthermore, pretty much anything you'll need to know about your character will be on your sheet (s), so once you know the basic rules you rarely ever need to consult a rule book during play. The problem or one of the problems with 4E is that it's a pain to make a character without the builder, especially anything in the paragon or epic tier. The other main issue is that you no longer have a character sheet, now you've got to print out a 10 page document for one PC. This is one of the things that I'm starting to loath about 4E.

In this case I'm not sure. PWU complains about issues with organization in the PHB as being a major problem. The DDI's character generator is a stunningly good tool but it is doing a lot of things behind the scenes.

An experienced gamer is likely to want to understand this behind the scenes number crunching and the DDI does not really answer that question (well it does in the glossary but you need to know the right questions to ask...in effect you need to know the rules already before the glossary can help you).

What will happen here is a the gamer will use the CB to make a character and then wonder why their reflex is their best defense...after all their dex sucks. The answer of course is because their super high intelligence is boosting their reflex defense but said gamer will only understand that if they understand the fundamentals of how characters are built.

Paradoxically Newbs won't really have this problem...if they have an experienced DM all their questions can just be answered and they will accept most things without questioning it so they don't really need detailed books (but their DM does)....but a full on gamer must know the why of every stat...not knowing is a kind of gamer hell.


Matthew Koelbl wrote:

As others have mentioned, Rules Compendium doesn't have actual races and classes in it.

Your options: A DM can probably get away with just picking up the Rules Compendium and a monster book of choice (MM, MM2, MM3, Monster Vault, etc). Each player can then just pick up whichever player book has the class they care about in it.

Alternatively: You can pick up the Rules Compendium and 1 month subscription to DDI ($10). You get all existing classes, races and character options to date (in the Character Builder), along with all monsters released to date (in the Monster Builder).

Okay, but at the end of that month, is my access to the character builder forever gone if I choose not to renew? If so, that's a bit of an issue to me.

I'm not keen on ongoing paid subscription services, personally - it's the reason why I don't have cable and don't play World of Warcraft. I already use HeroLab for Pathfinder, but it's my understanding that using HeroLab for 4E would require a license payment for the HL software PLUS an ongoing DDI subscription.

I think that, in the end, if my group really wants to try this, I'm going to go with the basic heroes book (cleric/fighter/rogue/wizard) and the rules compendium from the Essentials line. Between the stat cards we have left over from 4E-compatible miniatures and free content available from online resources like Kobold Quarterly, I can probably skip the Monster Manual for now.

I am interested in running this system, though, because even though I have my own reservations about 4th Ed, I am tired of naysayers who claim the game has no redeeming value. I guess maybe I'm just arrogant enough to believe that I'm a good enough GM to prove them wrong and make it into a good overall roleplaying experience, and not just the battle engine that it's perceived to be.

I almost wish I could set it up like a soda taste test - figure out the system, devise a scenario, run it, and then pull the masking tape off the label and say, "You're playing 4th Edition D&D!"

The question is, do I really want to spend forty bucks (or more) to run this little experiment? ;D


Once you download the character builder onto a computer it's there until you delete it. The only thing the month-to-month subscriptions get you are updates from new books and new issues of Dragon and Duneon. If you buy a one month subscription now you'll get the character builder with every option from every book to date, same with the monster builder, and every issue of Dragon and Dungeon to date.

As long as you download all of that, you keep it until you delete it, or until your computer dies.


Sure printing the power cards is "optional", but if you don't print them you won't know what any of your powers do and you will have to looking them up all the time, and given that your powers might come from any number of different source books/dragon articles, it really is not an option to be looking them up. You need some kind of sheet in front of you that explains what all your abilities do. The character builder does that for you via the power cards it creates, but if you are building a character that is higher than around 5th level and has some magic items you can easily end up with a document that is 8-10 pages (especially if you make a wizard).

Xabulba wrote:
P.H. Dungeon wrote:
You could pretty much get by with a DDI subscription and the rules compendium. The great thing about dnd 4E is the online tools are really well done, making it very easy to build characters, monsters etc... without needing any books. Furthermore, pretty much anything you'll need to know about your character will be on your sheet (s), so once you know the basic rules you rarely ever need to consult a rule book during play. The problem or one of the problems with 4E is that it's a pain to make a character without the builder, especially anything in the paragon or epic tier. The other main issue is that you no longer have a character sheet, now you've got to print out a 10 page document for one PC. This is one of the things that I'm starting to loath about 4E.
10 pages is an exageration, 3 sheets for the character sheet only. The power cards are optional.


Closer to on topic... I picked up the Rules Compendium, Heroes of the Fallen Lands, and the Dungeon Tiles "The Dungeon" Master Set at a FLGS today. Once I have a chance to look over them I'll post some thoughts.


Honestly, I've found the best way too do character sheets is to simply bring a laptop with the CB on it.

It's a problem that's more or less existed in just about ever edition. Ever play a wizard in 2e? Every single spell has its own initiative modifier. 3e? With all those spells, magic items, or class abilities, you're somewhat never not looking something up.

CB takes out most of that.


P.H. Dungeon wrote:
Sure printing the power cards is "optional", but if you don't print them you won't know what any of your powers do and you will have to looking them up all the time, and given that your powers might come from any number of different source books/dragon articles, it really is not an option to be looking them up. You need some kind of sheet in front of you that explains what all your abilities do. The character builder does that for you via the power cards it creates, but if you are building a character that is higher than around 5th level and has some magic items you can easily end up with a document that is 8-10 pages (especially if you make a wizard).

Well its gathered all the info you need in one place. It'd probably be at least reasonably doable to make a spreadsheet.


P.H. Dungeon wrote:
Sure printing the power cards is "optional", but if you don't print them you won't know what any of your powers do and you will have to looking them up all the time, and given that your powers might come from any number of different source books/dragon articles, it really is not an option to be looking them up. You need some kind of sheet in front of you that explains what all your abilities do. The character builder does that for you via the power cards it creates, but if you are building a character that is higher than around 5th level and has some magic items you can easily end up with a document that is 8-10 pages (especially if you make a wizard).

It's interesting, because in 3.5 I wouldn't have thought twice about just jotting down the names of spells/powers, and then looking them up whenever the time came to cast them. Standardizing power cards as default has helped avoid that sort of slow-down, but I do wish there was an option to present that info in a different format. Sometimes I like having cards, but at other times just having a 1-page sheet that lists each power and the math for it would be much easier.


One of my players takes all of the character generator pdfs and formats a word document for each player that lists all the powers and the necessary details with them onto a single page. It's a lot of work, but he is generally able to boil an 8 page character pdf down to a single page word document. However, the font is very small, and it's a lot of work.


Waiting for players while they flipped through rule books trying to figure out how spells worked was a bit of pet peeve of mine in 3.5. I used to try to get them to write out a cheat sheet detailing spells that they were commonly going to use, and if they were using a spell that wasn't on their sheet that they wanted to look up, I would normally have them try to do that between their turns.

Matthew Koelbl wrote:
P.H. Dungeon wrote:
Sure printing the power cards is "optional", but if you don't print them you won't know what any of your powers do and you will have to looking them up all the time, and given that your powers might come from any number of different source books/dragon articles, it really is not an option to be looking them up. You need some kind of sheet in front of you that explains what all your abilities do. The character builder does that for you via the power cards it creates, but if you are building a character that is higher than around 5th level and has some magic items you can easily end up with a document that is 8-10 pages (especially if you make a wizard).
It's interesting, because in 3.5 I wouldn't have thought twice about just jotting down the names of spells/powers, and then looking them up whenever the time came to cast them. Standardizing power cards as default has helped avoid that sort of slow-down, but I do wish there was an option to present that info in a different format. Sometimes I like having cards, but at other times just having a 1-page sheet that lists each power and the math for it would be much easier.


So I received my copy of the Rules Compendium. It was everything I basically expected. It made me start to think again about this idea of whether Essentials is basically 4.5 in disguise.

Well, yes and no. It clearly is an advancement of the game, no doubt about it. There have been so many changes and tweaks to this and that rule over the last couple years that some things are definitely changed (for the better in my opinion). However, these changes are in the details or in addition to previously established rules. For example, the Teleport rules are now described to include forced teleport of targets, rather than just teleporting oneself. This is not really a game changer, but it is a change.

There really is nothing in the book that makes me feel like it's a different game than the one I've been playing over the last couple years. Also, the majority of the book is basically the same information as my past books. I almost wondered it if was worth the purchase, but then I had to remind myself that I did need a more up-to-date rulebook for the table.

I didn't purchase but I did look over Heroes of the Forgotten Land. This book does feel a bit like a different game. Characters receive benefits and powers in a different way now that makes it feel like something different. However, I can see how these characters are still compatible and can be played along side other characters from past books. I don't know how this affects power creep as I have not played the characters or studied them in detail. Nor am I sure how these Essentials characters work with multiclassing or hybriding.

At this point, if someone were to say to me that this is 4.5, I wouldn't necessarily disagree because, if compared to the PHBI and DMGI, there are a good deal of alterations, most of which have already been seen in one form or another. However, I wouldn't necessarily agree either, as I don't think the changes are quite as comprehensive. Regardless, I think they've done a really good job (and you can tell they worked at it) with making the transition to Essentials as painless as possible, without making past books obsolete.

All in all, I think Essentials is a step in the right direction.

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Whimsy Chris wrote:

All in all, I think Essentials is a step in the right direction.

I agree. I'm not a regular 4E player (aside from a few games with my nephews), but picked up the red box, Rules Compendium, and Heroes of the whatchacallit (can't remember the full title off-hand).

I must say I'm happy with what I've seen. I haven't read them all cover to cover, nor have I played using them, but I do like the way they're laid out. I think, for a new player, these are a great gateway to the game. The rules are easy to understand and the books are laid out in a way that you can find what you need quickly.

I also like the smaller format for the books, making them more portable. You won't need the backbreaking, reinforced backpack or suitcase to bring your books to the table anymore.

And the $19.95 price point is a step in the right direction. I know of quite a few people who haven't jumped into RPGs because of the large upfront cost of the books ($30-$60 is just too much for them to try a game out). Now, for about $20 they can give it a shot without feeling like they had to break the bank to get the ruleset.

So far, I'm impressed.

Those of you who are skeptical of the Essentials line should pick them up and have a look. I think you'll like what you see.

YMMV.


I liked the Red Boxed set, but I found it very frustrating that the choose your own adventure format is the only real means provided for generating a PC. I think that 2-3 pages breaking down character creation in the more standard format would have been really beneficial.

Liberty's Edge

P.H. Dungeon wrote:
I liked the Red Boxed set, but I found it very frustrating that the choose your own adventure format is the only real means provided for generating a PC. I think that 2-3 pages breaking down character creation in the more standard format would have been really beneficial.

The Red Box was "ok" from a veteran player standpoint. I feel like I paid 20 bucks for a map and some tokens. On the flip side though, I think it will do its intended job when I hand it over to my 9yr. old daughter, who is far closer to the intended audience then I am.

I'm hesitant to invest into any of the other Essentials products though. I'd much rather give my money to Paizo and Lone Wolf. :)

-Vaz


P.H. Dungeon wrote:
I liked the Red Boxed set, but I found it very frustrating that the choose your own adventure format is the only real means provided for generating a PC. I think that 2-3 pages breaking down character creation in the more standard format would have been really beneficial.

I keep seeing this complaint and constantly feel it misses the point. You already know how to play. You can just use the actual rules.

For a test drive there is a quick start guide at WotCs site. I think that would be more useful to people that already understood RPGs. Or just by the actual rules if your more certain in your purchasing. They are way more comprehensive.

WotC is to blame for much of this as they seem to have really managed to play their nostalgia card hard and conned a bunch of hard core gamers into buying this. I even understand this as there are a ton of really busy business men or others who have no free time of their own but who loved D&D in their youth and might well snap it up for their children.

The product works great for the child of this absentee parent. She can still figure it out when he fails to actually make time to teach her. It also results in the players quickly having an inkling of what their character does and why which makes it useful for a first character.

If you don't need any of this then the product is not really aimed at you.


I realize it's not aimed at me, but I bought it with the intent to use it with a group of grade 4 students that I wanted to introduce the game to. I wanted a simple way to get them started without having to overwhelm/intimidate them with the massive tome that is the phb. I didn't have the time to go through the solo adventure with each kid to make a character, and I found it was too frustrating to try to build characters with the set because the solo adventure was the only way to do it. I ended up buying the Heroes of the Fallen Lands, and I'm using that instead. I'll still make some use of the maps and tokens in the red box, but I'll likely give it away to one of the kids in a couple of weeks. Don't get me wrong, I think that the solo adventure was a neat way to introduce the game and character creation, but I wish they had done 5 or 6 pages with a more standard character creation format.

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
P.H. Dungeon wrote:
I liked the Red Boxed set, but I found it very frustrating that the choose your own adventure format is the only real means provided for generating a PC. I think that 2-3 pages breaking down character creation in the more standard format would have been really beneficial.

I keep seeing this complaint and constantly feel it misses the point. You already know how to play. You can just use the actual rules.

For a test drive there is a quick start guide at WotCs site. I think that would be more useful to people that already understood RPGs. Or just by the actual rules if your more certain in your purchasing. They are way more comprehensive.

WotC is to blame for much of this as they seem to have really managed to play their nostalgia card hard and conned a bunch of hard core gamers into buying this. I even understand this as there are a ton of really busy business men or others who have no free time of their own but who loved D&D in their youth and might well snap it up for their children.

The product works great for the child of this absentee parent. She can still figure it out when he fails to actually make time to teach her. It also results in the players quickly having an inkling of what their character does and why which makes it useful for a first character.

If you don't need any of this then the product is not really aimed at you.


I liked the feel of the choose your adventure for the first read through, but felt that they could have included (either in the DM book or on a separate sheet) a summary of the character creation rules. Otherwise, it actually does a very good job at what it was designed for.


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
WotC is to blame for much of this as they seem to have really managed to play their nostalgia card hard and conned a bunch of hard core gamers into buying this...If you don't need any of this then the product is not really aimed at you.

I just got a look at Red Box the other day and while I see your point, I wonder at the same time once they realized what a spectacular nostalgia card they HAD in their hands, why they didn't put it to better use and go ahead with a product that did aim at us a little.

Particularly what urks me is that the rules only give you levels 1-2. I mean, don't get me wrong I think it's a really fun homage to the old box set that they don't give you all 30 levels. I would have been okay with the first 5--though it would have made more sense to break it up by tier and included up to 10th level in the box set. I really love the red box and would love to buy it, but I saw that it only includes levels one and two and just got mad. I just have no idea what made them think that was a good idea, regardless of who they're marketing it for.


Grimcleaver wrote:
Particularly what urks me is that the rules only give you levels 1-2. I mean, don't get me wrong I think it's a really fun homage to the old box set that they don't give you all 30 levels. I would have been okay with the first 5--though it would have made more sense to break it up by tier and included up to 10th level in the box set. I really love the red box and would love to buy it, but I saw that it only includes levels one and two and just got mad. I just have no idea what made them think that was a good idea, regardless of who they're marketing it for.

Well, I do think part of it is that they don't want to make it too good at replacing the rest of the game. A $20 box that an entire gruop of players can invest in to play the game makes a good starting point - but WotC does want them expanding into the rest of the game eventually.

And if the game did extend more than a few levels, I think they would have to start adding more to it to allow more customization of characters, more free-form character building, more room for the DM to customize and develop adventures. All of which, of course, are good things to have anyway - but the price of the box would probably go up with it. And I think one of the big goals was to keep the price down and make it as accessible as possible.


My copies of the Rules Compendium and Heroes of the Fallen Lands came in this weekend, giving me something to read while I nursed my sunburn from my two-day stint at the beach. I spent about two hours immersing myself in the books and comparing them to a friend's copy of the 4E core rulebooks.

The Good: The presentation of rules is much cleaner than the PHB. I feel like I have a much clearer understanding of the mechanics of 4E play from reading HotFL. While the Rules Compendium contains lots of duplicate information that is identical to its sister book, that's not a bad thing - I imagine having two copies for table reference will come in quite handy. The character options for the four core classes are pretty well laid out and made to be basic, easy to build, and flavored more toward the earlier-edition bias that I carry as someone who cut their teeth on 2E and still prefers Pathfinder overall. When I do run a 4E game, I'm going to restrict my players to only these two books for the purposes of equipment buys. The reason for that is that I like the idea of the really cool stuff - like the magic items featured in the PHB - being available only in the hard-won treasure troves.

The Bad: I can't help but feel as I read through these books that Essentials is a bitter pill hidden in a chocolate sundae. Despite the recasting of the system as a bit more user-friendly and approachable, the associated product line that is so extensively detailed within seems designed to further compartmentalize the game's rules and provide Wizards with another opportunity to sell more supplements. For instance, the RC contains no magic items beyond the sample weapon stat block; HotFL contains the bare minimum rules for them. One assumes that these will be covered more fully in the upcoming Essentials releases - but maybe not. So not only are the rules of the game being further compartmentalized into more books for the purpose of this product line, but it seems like the intention is to eventually steer people toward the three existing core rulebooks for the complete package of game features.

Does that make Essentials bad? Not at all; in fact, Essentials has made me want to build a character and head to a Wednesday night Encounters game for the first time since the edition launched and we played the Try Out game on Worldwide D&D Day.

Nevertheless, does it reinforce the feeling that I and other players who are wary of 4E have that this entire edition is being engineered for sales more than for player satisfaction? Well, kinda. I don't like being this cynical, but because I work in marketing for a living, I can tell that there have probably been some heavy backroom discussions by my counterparts at WotC who are figuring out how to structure this game so that more and more books will be viewed as necessary for the optimal play experience - and I have a strong suspicion that it will work.


Grimcleaver wrote:
Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
WotC is to blame for much of this as they seem to have really managed to play their nostalgia card hard and conned a bunch of hard core gamers into buying this...If you don't need any of this then the product is not really aimed at you.

I just got a look at Red Box the other day and while I see your point, I wonder at the same time once they realized what a spectacular nostalgia card they HAD in their hands, why they didn't put it to better use and go ahead with a product that did aim at us a little.

Particularly what urks me is that the rules only give you levels 1-2. I mean, don't get me wrong I think it's a really fun homage to the old box set that they don't give you all 30 levels. I would have been okay with the first 5--though it would have made more sense to break it up by tier and included up to 10th level in the box set. I really love the red box and would love to buy it, but I saw that it only includes levels one and two and just got mad. I just have no idea what made them think that was a good idea, regardless of who they're marketing it for.

Fair enough.

I mean I pretty much agree with you and yet...this is a top selling product at Paizo, I can't remember when a 4E product was a top selling Paizo product so I have to think that that made sense from a marketing perspective.


Followup to my last post: My wife and I were bored Wednesday (no Netflix in the mail!), so I said, "Well, we could always go to Game Theory* and play in D&D Encounters." She was up for it, so we headed to the store and whipped up a human slayer and a halfling enchanter. Charcater creation was astonishingly painless for me, even working from pen and paper, and my wife's enchanter was a pretty easy build to follow as well.

The session began with some roleplaying that devolved into a drinking contest between my slayer and a female dwarf PC, which I lost. As punishment, my character had to wear a frilly pink dress for the rest of the session. (When I asked the DM if they even made frilly pink dresses for 6'5, 250 lb. humans, her response was, "They do now!")

We fought the halfling rogues outside the tavern in the Keep on the Borderlands scenario, and I came very close to death several times (got crit on twice by throwing daggers - ouch!). I ended up racking up a good number of renown points, though, mostly due to exploiting the Duelist stance (and also because of my reduced AC due to the lack of armor and presence of a dress - got the GM's discretion 2 pt. reward for that).

I have to admit, I had quite a good time. I think I'm going to stick with a pure warrior for the time being, but I'll definitely be going back for more 4E sessions when my Wednesday schedule permits it.

* Our FLGS in Raleigh, NC - if you live here and don't know about it, you are missing out big time. Great staff, great product selection, and lots of table space.

The Exchange

Power Word Unzip wrote:


Nevertheless, does it reinforce the feeling that I and other players who are wary of 4E have that this entire edition is being engineered for sales more than for player satisfaction? Well, kinda. I don't like being this cynical, but because I work in marketing for a living, I can tell that there have probably been some heavy backroom discussions by my counterparts at WotC who are figuring out how to structure this game so that more and more books will be viewed as necessary for the optimal play experience - and I have a strong suspicion that it will work.

Having become a WotC cynic myself I definitely see your point, but I'm a little more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one. I think they genuinely saw how upset many of us got with them and this is their way of 1) making peace by making 4e closer to the kind of game "we" would like & 2) helping new players get into the game. Sure there will be sales and marketing aspects to any product, but I really don't think that is the primary reason for their existence.

I for one am really happy with the 2 Essentials books I bought (RC & HorFL). I will buy the next Essentials PHB, HotFK and I might pick up MM3, but I don't feel the need to do more than that. I can easily adapt the books I already own and that have been gathering dust on my shelf the past year and a half, to the Essentials style of play. I don't have to buy anymore books.
I'm not saying I won't buy another 4e product, if it is comparable to Essentials and has something I would like for my game, I very well might consider it. Of course I would still only buy a 4e product if there is no DC Adventures, Pathfinder or Starblazer Adventures products out that I want at the time.
If they decided to keep the Essentials line going beyond the 10 products as a compatible but separate line, I might be willing to continue buying products and make ED&D a regular part of my gaming rotation, but basic D&D 4e will not darken my gaming table anytime in the near future. I'll steal from it, but I won't actually use it to play.
I still have a few minor issues with Essentials, but over all it has been a far better experience playing ED&D than it ever was playing 4e. Plus I really, really like the digest sized books.


Power Word Unzip wrote:
Nevertheless, does it reinforce the feeling that I and other players who are wary of 4E have that this entire edition is being engineered for sales more than for player satisfaction? Well, kinda. I don't like being this cynical, but because I work in marketing for a living, I can tell that there have probably been some heavy backroom discussions by my counterparts at WotC who are figuring out how to structure this game so that more and more books will be viewed as necessary for the optimal play experience - and I have a strong suspicion that it will work.

Welcome to the real world, where companies actually need to make money to survive. Obviously 4E is engineered for more sales. Same as pathfinder, 3.5, 3.0 and .... any other edition. Same as Paizo who put half of 3.5 DMG I into the Core Rulebook, so every player has to buy a more expensive book. Same as PF or 3.5 making enough little rule changes that the previous edition stuff is not fully useable anymore, and everyone needs the new rules. Yes it might have been possible to make PF/3.5 fully compatible with 3.5/3.0, but this would mean less people need new books to play, and therefore hurts sales. At least this time, WotC was honest (or desperate?) enough to keep their promise of compatibility, unlike the 3.0->3.5 transition where they didn't.


Malaclypse wrote:
Welcome to the real world, where companies actually need to make money to survive. Obviously 4E is engineered for more sales. Same as pathfinder, 3.5, 3.0 and .... any other edition. Same as Paizo who put half of 3.5 DMG I into the Core Rulebook, so every player has to buy a more expensive book. Same as PF or 3.5 making enough little rule changes that the previous edition stuff is not fully useable anymore, and everyone needs the new rules.

I think the feeling is that Hasbro doesn't seem satisfied with making a profit, they have this need (like many shareholder driven companies) to make a very large profit. Anybody in business has to make a profit (and hopefully keep enough capital on hand to deal with unforeseen problems), but large companies often feel that they need a big profit or something isn't right. I don't think the RPG industry can support that type of thinking for very long.

However, from what I am hearing about the red box itself, it appears to be a good core to build on. It has simplified things (4E, in my opinion, made things easier for the DM by shifting a lot of the complexity to the players), which makes introducing new people to the hobby much easier.

For myself, I'll ask if it manages to address my problems with 4E.

Do all classes feel the same? When I last tried 4E I was wondering if I could swap out my class every week without the DM figuring it out.

Does it put the dice back into the hands of the player? The deal-breaker for me was the attack to take my turn away, save granted next round. Playing in a larger group with a DM who didn't want to keep track of additional monsters left us facing something that never missed as long as it didn't attack AC. And the DM who ran it was in love with "turn removal" powers. This was partially a problem with the DM, but it was the system that made it easy for him to do it.


Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
I think the feeling is that Hasbro doesn't seem satisfied with making a profit, they have this need (like many shareholder driven companies) to make a very large profit.

And making a very large profit helps D&D and roleplaying in general, as more books are sold, more people play and more additional books are getting made. Everyone wins.

Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
Anybody in business has to make a profit (and hopefully keep enough capital on hand to deal with unforeseen problems), but large companies often feel that they need a big profit or something isn't right. I don't think the RPG industry can support that type of thinking for very long.

Yeah, because we want starving artists and writers! ... What? ;)

Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
The deal-breaker for me was the attack to take my turn away, save granted next round. Playing in a larger group with a DM who didn't want to keep track of additional monsters left us facing something that never missed as long as it didn't attack AC. And the DM who ran it was in love with "turn removal" powers. This was partially a problem with the DM, but it was the system that made it easy for him to do it.

But that's mainly a problem with the DM. E.g. 3.5 has many more turn removal powers, and they usually have only one save - if you fail it, you will not be able to contribute to the current battle any longer. At least in 4E even the worst of those powers have a 55% chance of ending every turn.

But as I already argued in another thread, action denial from monsters against players is generally unfun and should only be used very, very rarely.

Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
Do all classes feel the same? When I last tried 4E I was wondering if I could swap out my class every week without the DM figuring it out.

I actually feel it's quite noticeable if someone has a warden or a fighter, a rogue or a ranger or a wizard, an invoker or a druid, even if those classes have the same role.


Malaclypse wrote:
3.5 has many more turn removal powers, and they usually have only one save - if you fail it, you will not be able to contribute to the current battle any longer. At least in 4E even the worst of those powers have a 55% chance of ending every turn.

I think that's 3.0. In 3.5 turn removal powers tend to grant a save every round, but the big thing is the save to not lose even a single turn, something that 4E lacks. However, I agree that they should be used very sparingly. Our 4E game ended in a player revolt. The entire group only agreed to show up again if the game wasn't 4E. (one player was contemplating inviting the DM over and tossing the books into his fireplace) And that's sad, I want to like it, but every time I start thinking I can, I play in a game, and start hating it again.

Malaclypse wrote:
Yeah, because we want starving artists and writers! ... What? ;)

I'm assuming you are kidding based on the wink. Otherwise you are confusing small-business thinking with large corporate thinking.


Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
I think that's 3.0. In 3.5 turn removal powers tend to grant a save every round, but the big thing is the save to not lose even a single turn, something that 4E lacks.

Actually, both 3.0 and 3.5 are very bad in this. And I rather have a clean 55% chance every round to save than a single chance to save 3.x-style, which depending on various modifiers and depending on class might be very simple or almost impossible to do. And there's not only save-or-sucks but lots of actual save-or-dies. I don't think SoD are fun for a player, ever. So at least in that respect, 3.x is quite a bit worse than 4E.

Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
However, I agree that they should be used very sparingly. Our 4E game ended in a player revolt. The entire group only agreed to show up again if the game wasn't 4E. (one player was contemplating inviting the DM over and tossing the books into his fireplace)

Ok, but that's a classic DM failure. Now this could be because the DM is just a jerk, but also because he just doesn't quite understand encounter building. Whatever it is, you probably should not blame the DMs failure on the system.

Jason Ellis 350 wrote:


Malaclypse wrote:
Yeah, because we want starving artists and writers! ... What? ;)
I'm assuming you are kidding based on the wink. Otherwise you are confusing small-business thinking with large corporate thinking.

No, I'm just not into the whole juvenile ooooh-all-corporations-are-evil thingy. Corporations as well as small business have an interest in rewarding good workers.

Liberty's Edge

Jason Ellis 350 wrote:

And that's sad, I want to like it, but every time I start thinking I can, I play in a game, and start hating it again.

Took me a few goes also. I was always thinking "this isn't like 3.5e" and then leaping to the conclusion it therefore must be bad. I was in a group of people where we all basically thought this. Strangely enough the exodus of 2/3 of the group meant we had to find new players. In this new group we played 4e like 4e. All the same roleplaying of any other edition and we accepted that we would read and use the 4e system and not play "compare the editions". That is what got me into the game. 4e is a better game for team work than 3.5e was, at least in my experience. Each round someone is contributing something to someone else usually.

I short give yourself a 3.5e lobotomy and find a group that really wants to play 4e. Anything else results in the 'hating again' syndrome.

Having now played a little bit of the Essentials rules I would almost suggest use these and forget about the 4e PHBs. To me Essentials just seems a better game than 4e even though it is exactly the same... Go figure.

Cheers,
S.


Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
Do all classes feel the same? When I last tried 4E I was wondering if I could swap out my class every week without the DM figuring it out.

I'd say so, yes. Now, I may not be the best to answer this - I never was as bothered by class-sameness in 4E as some - but Essentials does seem intended to answer those complaints. The fighter builds and rogue build experiment quite a bit with class structure compared to earlier class builds. Even the wizard and cleric options, while largely the same structurally compared to most classes, are defined enough by specific elements (domains and spell schools) that they feel pretty distinct.

Jason Ellis 350 wrote:
Does it put the dice back into the hands of the player? The deal-breaker for me was the attack to take my turn away, save granted next round. Playing in a larger group with a DM who didn't want to keep track of additional monsters left us facing something that never missed as long as it didn't attack AC. And the DM who ran it was in love with "turn removal" powers. This was partially a problem with the DM, but it was the system that made it easy for him to do it.

I'll say that I am somewhat surprised by this, since I thought that was something that 4E moved away from compared to 3.5... though thinking about it, I think I can see where it exists. In 3.5, at mid-high levels, you had a decent chance of running into spells and abilities that might shut you down for an entire combat with one failed save. However, very little chance of that at low levels. Whereas in 4E, there basically aren't any powers that will shut you down for a full encounter - but ones that may take away a single turn are more plentiful and can be seen even at low levels.

That said - those powers aren't gone from the game entirely, but WotC does seem to be more sparing with them, and has said they are working at being more cautious with what monsters they give them to and how often they can use them. Additionally, in Essentials there is a feat (Superior Will) that can let you save against stunning effects at the start of your turn instead of the end of it.

I don't know if that is enough to address your concerns, but it does seem to be something the game designers are thinking about, and trying to find ways to keep these elements in the game without leaving them as potentially abuseable as with your DM.

Of course, a determined DM will find ways to screw over the players no matter what. :) But I imagine most DMs that ruin a game do so out of ignorance rather than maliciousness, so making sure the rules can steer them in the right direction is certainly a good thing.

Scarab Sages

bugleyman wrote:
I've long argued that the updates WotC is releasing go beyond merely errata to change basic aspects of the game. Apparently, the answer to the rapid obsolescence in their library that this practice has caused is to deny it, then release new books anyway.

Gosh, it's like 1986 all over again.

bugleyman wrote:

In this case, they're releasing totally revamped versions of the core classes that exist "alongside" the current versions... we can't discuss an "AD&D fighter" or a 'Basic D&D Fighter' with any sort of assurance we're talking about the same class, the common language of the game is destroyed.

If they're going to release a half edition, they should come out and say it. All the current strategy is going to do is create confusion. It's almost like TSR wants to run D&D into the ground.

Gosh, it's like 1980 all over again!

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