General Questions on 4th edition


4th Edition

Liberty's Edge

I've only ever looked at the player's guide (or whatever its called) once, so my knowledge is greatly limited. Initially I was repulsed, it certainly didn't fit my group's style at all. So I haven't touched a 4th ed book since its general release.

However, over the years I've got more into pbp and so now I'm more curious about it, having a larger pool of players. So I have questions and I'm coming here because I believe a few of the people will have answers, and hopefully the rest will be respectful enough not to jump in here just to bash 4th ed.

What is it that makes 4th edition so easy to dm? If someone was going to get into dming 4th edition, what books would they need? I don't recall being impressed with dual classing, mutliclassing, or whatever it was in the first book. Is there some other support to it?


Here's a few that stand out to me off the top of my head.

1) Monsters are way easy to make, like way easy. For uncomplicated monsters that mostly just hit things, there's literally monster rules on a business card and it's supplement HP rules on something that is smaller then a business card. I made the last name up, it admittingly is not catchy. For more complex monsters, it's a whole lot easier to steal or make up sweet powers it has then it is to slog through individual spells it might know. This is probably what most people will point to for making 4e easier.

2) You don't have setting breaking abilities being doled out at random. For example, regular flight isn't really a thing until, like, Paragon levels, which correlates with Companion/Master in BECMI terms (in other words, you likely aren't just dungeon delving at this point, you are actively playing a role in the setting). This also means skills remain important throughout the game.

3) Inherent Bonuses and Boons means you never have to worry about doling out loot again. Like, ever. Give the wacky, bizarro magic items you really want to and wave your cares about itemization goodbye.

4) Individual power levels tend not to fluxuate too much. A super de duper awesome wizard won't make other classes meaningless. A crappy-poo poo fighter likely won't be worthless. It's somewhat hard to make genuinely bad characters so long as you put a high score in your primary attribute and make, like, maybe half your feats good ones.

5) Combine 4 with 1, meaning even if you do have a group that's just awful, you can very easily scale encounters down to the party's level if it's too hard.

6) Combine 3 and 2, which means it's very easy to gauge a party's general "can do things" level. This makes it easier to make challenging encounters or set pieces of things are too easy.

7) Tier system! Sort of a subset of number 2, tier system for me at least makes it easy to set when the players hit certain milestones. So for example, once they hit paragon, I figured they've gained enough fame and fortune to start changing the setting outside of just keepin' the status quo, be it gaining lands and a keep or actively becoming power players in pre-established nations.

8) "Say yes." Literally I've never once had to worry that a player was bringing in some sort of bizarro horrid power or spell or combo that destroyed everything forever. There's like maybe two or three in the whole system, and none of them can really be done completely on accident.

In general I'd say I spend probably the same amount of time "preparing" for 4e as a DM as I did in 3e, but most of 3e's preparations was going over mechanics, whereas most of 4e's preparations are in making cool stuff, narratives, how to set different scenes, and set pieces.


I think the Professor covered the DM preparation subject quite well.

I also add that in game play the rules, and specifically powers, are very easy to adjudicate. Less arguing at the table about what you can do.


Can't really compare like the Prof (If i can be so bold!) on the differences between 3E and 4E. I came back to D&D after a 16 year break, so no 3E for me, just BECMI and AD&D.

However on DM books to buy I can...

DM's Kit from the Essential line. DM book (softcover), adventure (although not up there with Paizo, it's quite good), counters and screen.

Monster's Vault from the Essential line. Great, great monster book (with the "new" HP and condition ends with fluff!), counters and an adventure (Which I did not like, but that's me!).

Both are box sets, so if you do not like digest paperback books it's the old hardback DMG 1 &/or 2 for 4th ED.

Or just buy a month subscription to DDI and get most of the above in the monster builder, compendium and character builder plus all the Dragon and Dungeon material. It is a roleplaying all you can eat buffet in electronic format! DDI will definitely give you a grounding in whether you want to continue your foray into 4E for the cost of a Paizo PDF.


What is it that makes 4th edition so easy to dm?

4E prep is generally quicker because, at its core, the entire system is fundamentally DM fiat with guidelines. DM fiat is fast...X is true because I say it is true is an extremely quick way to set things up and the guidlines element (which are things like the meta level idea that all monsters fall into specific roles or the skill numbers of page 42/126 (Rules Compendium) insure that what the DM said via fiat was true mathematically when their players show up to interact with the scene.

So you don't 'build' monsters - you set them at the level desired and then give them whatever else you want them to have due to your vision or story or what not by DM fiat. Taking something kind of off the wall I decide that I'm going to face my players with a Kobold of high level and I'm modeling him after Riuken (Sp?) from the Street fighter video game - I have not even played street fighter since I was a teen 20 odd years ago - I'm literally pulling something out of my ass to use as an example.

OK I choose 10th level for this guy because that is a challenge for my players. I make him an elite because I want this monster to be potent. I choose a roll for the monster based on how I want this guy to play, maybe brute. At this point I have almost all the base numbers for my baddie. What remains is skinning him for flavour...pretty much just choosing his powers. We have said he is a kobold so I give him the constant shifting power of kobolds. So what else can Riuken do? I decide he has a basic attack that represents his normal kicks and punches - I go with the default numbers for a 10t level brute for this.

I give him a fireball on a recharge, pick the recharge rate and give him the default numbers for a 10th level limited use power for this but I'll have to choose (by DM fiat) things like range as well as the powers blast etc. I give him the Uppercut move also on a recharge and give it some numbers - I'll also attach some conditions to this one - say push 2 and knocks prone (this sends his melee opponent flying back and knocks them down if they are hit.

That covers his main attack powers. I'm going to give him a nasty defence ability that is sort of like the all encompassing 'block' in Street Fighter. As an at will immediate reaction (once per round essentially) when he is hit he can 'block' which reduces the damage from whatever hit him to the minimium possible damage (i.e. the players are assumed to have rolled the lowest possible numbers on their damage dice). I'm going to also give him a movement power to leap over enemies.

I commit all of this to a statblock and I'm done. It Since I'm practiced at this I can make this monster in roughly the same amount of time it takes me to explain it in this post and even a new DM would mainly just be slowed up by figuring out how to translate the ideas into the way game mechanics are written.

Oh as an aside I can tell you right know that if your players fought this guy what they will remember is the immediate reaction block power...the fire ball and uppercut will quickly fade away from their memory but - bastard kept nerfing our good attacks will stick. Mainly because this is a trick that interacts with them - they need to figure out how to draw out that 'block' and then, after Riuken has used it for the round, pile on good attack powers - it interacts with them.

This same DM fiat element works in other areas as well - NPCs do what teh DM says they can do - if you need an NPC that can leap from a 20' balcony and keep running for some scene then he has the 'leap from balcony power'. If an NPC is such a great blacksmith that she is the only person in the world that can repair the magic sword Yservig then that is true because the MD said it was.

Setting up interactive encounters runs the same way - use of the numbers on page 42/126 gives the correct ranking of the skills for whatever the PCs are trying to do, hence the act of the DM putting something into an adventure makes it level appropriate by default.

ShadowcatX wrote:


I don't recall being impressed with dual classing, mutliclassing, or whatever it was in the first book. Is there some other support to it?

Yes - they are called Hybrids. Introduced in PHB3 however they mainly effect the older classes so if your starting with Essentials you may see this in play only in a very limited way. If you choose to keep expanding (especially if you start using the DDI) you'll see them more often.


ProfessorCirno wrote:


3) Inherent Bonuses and Boons means you never have to worry about doling out loot again. Like, ever. Give the wacky, bizarro magic items you really want to and wave your cares about itemization goodbye.

Note that this is true but optional. By default most groups still use the basic magic item system.


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
ProfessorCirno wrote:


3) Inherent Bonuses and Boons means you never have to worry about doling out loot again. Like, ever. Give the wacky, bizarro magic items you really want to and wave your cares about itemization goodbye.
Note that this is true but optional. By default most groups still use the basic magic item system.

I sadly can't help those who don't use the best thing to ever come to D&D :(

As far as hybrids and multiclassing go, multiclassing is meant to represent someone who just dabbles a bit in the other class while specializing in their own, while hybrids are more old school multiclassing a'la AD&D. 3e's pick as you go classes are sort of a 3e only thing.

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