Welcome back to our continuing review of 4th Edition D&D. The Dominion Council – no, I’m not a dictator, it just feels that way - has decided a review of just the players handbook (PHB) would be a geek tease: like a cock tease, but resulting in blue brains. The other core books of the new version will be reviewed as well and in our standard senior-friendly font.
At it’s core, D&D is still about brave heroes barging into the dank dungeon homes of creatures driven from society, killing them, taking the few nice things they had to brighten such a dreary existence, and planting ripped and dirtied girls clothing at the site to validate said heroics. What kind of things compensate such selfless crusaders with priceless wealth?
32 pages, 70%, of the equipment chapter covers them, and at the very outset they explicit advise they’ve got to be sought out. Third edition’s inferred possibility of Walmart stores of arcane goodness was a story bane.
“Do you have elven chainmail in a size 10?”
“Sorry ma’am, we dont. We can you give a discount on magic helms, 10% off. The Army of Light was defeated by the Dark Wyrm of Kalipus. A hundred more years of dread, but atleast you can get an accesory to match our dwarven plate, which we do have in sizes 10 to 20!”
Only a ritual can make them, simply by paying the normal item price for materials instead, and you cant make items higher than your level. Disenchanting a find xan be done via another ritual to harvest residuum, a poorly named magical rust that’s worth only a fifth of the item’s prices – coincidentally the standard re-sell price of said item. Simplified economics I’ll call a plus, this is D&D not Sanford & Son the RPG.
Rituals are essentially a category of spell you cant do in combat and requires a book or scroll to cast and requires a feat. These are pretty powerful spells in some cases, but they leave much to DM discretion. So, although a magic weapon can be made after level 4, in 9 hours, for 175 gold, without a skill check; deal with a Beholder to get the single use scroll version.
The goodies are written up in comprehensible capsules similar to the class powers, including prices and level equivalents stating when they’d be available to the average party. These aren’t restrictive though. Inevitables won’t come to gank your level 12 item because your character is only level 10 … unless it makes a good story or you’re being a douchebag using it but this is DM discretion. Identifying them is as easy as a Arcana skill check or just playing with them during a short rest. Many items are also organized by where you wear them, a nice time saving compared to pouring over paragraphs by item type.
Magic implements may give new powers At-Will, Per Encounter, and Daily as well although daily powers of multiple items are limited by tier. Levels 1-10 heroes can only use the Rod of Ass-Saving daily power once a day, but Level 11-20 paragons can use the Rod’s daily power and the daily power of a Belt of Anti-Rape . How do you get such wonders?
Chapter 8 explains many of the old basics we gamers know: if someone offers you an ancient map, take it. You walk this fast; horses go this fast. Terrain and lighting vary. A new addition to the encounter/rest polarity of character life is a milestone. A point in the storyline when certain unknowns become clear to the protagonists and the central conflict is dramatically heightened by these revelation – HELLS NO, none of that hippy storyteller shyte. Milestones are simply going through two encounters without resting, and this gains you an Action point (which gives you an extra action once an encounter) in addtion to allowing an extra daily usage of a magic item’s daily power … wow.
Resting has been changed a bit. They come in two flavors: Short and Extended. The first is a five minute span that lets ya regain spent encounter powers and do a healing surge – shaking out the kinks and catching your breath that restores a fourth of your hit points. Extended rests last 6 hours, which must be spaced by 12 hours in-between, and heal all lost hit points plus regain spent powers and get back your single action point.
The healing surge idea I like for enabling that action flick feel. Kill 25 orcs, fall off a keep wall when a bomb goes off, get up and walk it off by killing three dozen orcs. You get X amount of surges per day depending your class and Constitution modifer, with the defender types getting the most. This further illustrates that hit points are not necessarily bodily hits but cinemetic weariness of a hero suffered through arduous …
Besides the cleric no longer being reduced to a box of Band Aids, combat has several changes. You’ve got 4 main actions: standard (attack), move (change location), minor (self explanatory), and free (automatic or little stuff). Minor actions are small acts that are worth half a move action, which can still replace a standard. There are also reactionionary trigger actions letting you act just before some forseeable situation that are granted by an opponent’s moves and your ownpowers. The [sarcasm]much loved[/sarcasm] Attack of Opportunity made it into 4E: “Leggo my Eggo! And, take … 32 slashing damage.” Laid out with easily explained bullet points, it’s simple to learn what you can do … to kill something. Further, melee and ranged attacks are put on even footing by ranged adding your Dex mod to damage.
The defenses those targets, and you, have are changed. Basically the saves of 3e have been made to fit the armor class form, a static target number to affect equal to 10 + half your level plus something, with a versatile something. Fortitude is Strength OR Constitution modified. Reflexes, Dexterity or Intelligence – so you can see thing coming. Willpower can include the Wisdom or Charisma mod – cause some are too handsome to go crazy?
Attack rolls only, no more rolls to not die – save one (puns are NOT cheap humor!). Saves are a simple d20 roll that succeeds on 10 or higher, some sources can modify the roll but mostly it’s bare. If you go below zero hit points, three failed saves are like strikes — YOU’RE OUT! This added chaos yields more drama than the negative hp countdown. Crits are normalized too. You roll a natural 20, and if you can hit with the total you do maximum damage – if not you’re screwed in general but still hit automatically.
Any situational advantage you have in battle is given a flat +2 for Combat Advantage, which covers a list of certain conditions you may suffer. Grapple is much simplied as a Grab standard action that mostly gives others this advantage and keeps the target from moving. Even Attacks of Opportunity are much simplified, though my awesome intellect never had much trouble with them. Including the revamping of other now defunct options, like Shifting being the new 5ft step and Running two more squares as a move action but taking -5 to attacks, combat is much simplified and should move pretty fast even at higher levels once you get the hang of things in a few sessions.
Next time we’ll tackle the Guide of the Dungeon Master and I’ll tell ya why you shouldn’t just be a player instead.