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Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Starter Set Review


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#1 Kalidor

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 12:10 AM

As resources allow, one thing I'm going to start introducing on the site is a more general side of things. This will include anything from new games (video or otherwise), DVDs or anything we generally talk about here.

To kick it off, here's a review of the newest offering from Wizards of The Coast -- the new Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) released today (Sept 7th)

http://www.allspark....t/view/7778/18/

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#2 Joker

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 06:56 AM

It sounds pretty solid.

Me and my friends have been playing 4th since it came out and our campaign is almost at the point of winding down. I might get this just as a novelty and I may run a one shot adventure with characters made using the method presented in the box.

#3 Vestras

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:09 AM

Sounds decent enough. How much gameplay would you expect the box to provide? Is it a single encounter/quest beyond the tutorial, or is it enough you could start making your own campaign without having to buy a couple hundred bucks in game books?

I admit, I would like to give 4e a shot, I hear it's pretty streamlines and MMO like in terms of player rolls now which has some appeal to me.
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#4 Kalidor

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:40 AM

There's a pretty well fleshed out adventure in the DM book that picks up where the solo adventure leaves off. It's a straight dungeon crawl with about 7 or so encounters, along with tips for creating your own adventures, encounters and a mini-monster manual filled with the stuff you find during your dungeon adventure.

It's enough to get you started. Of course, as with any D&D game it's going to be limited by how much you put into it. I'd say it wouldn't take too terrible long to outgrow what's presented. I think the highest level thing you fight is level 5 or so.

But there is a dungeon, and there is a dragon, so it lives up to its name icon-hotrod.gif

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#5 Esser-Z

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 09:24 AM

Essentials is something I still need to look into. I generally play more 3.x (mainly modifications like Pathfinder, now) than 4e, but I do enjoy 4e. From what I've read, I don't like Essentials as a replacement for the other 4e stuff, but it's not supposed to be. Could be an interesting addition to the available options.

#6 ultra magnus13

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 11:28 AM

I hear 4th edition is pretty much pen and paper WOW. Is this true? What about 3rd? I've only ever played AD&D 2nd.
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#7 Esser-Z

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 11:30 AM

Not WoW, no. Not really. However, it does have a very much more gamist outlook on previous editions. For example, all effects from spells and the like are in square areas, for ease of mapping. This results in fireball being a cube.

#8 Kalidor

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 09:04 PM

I just remembered why I feel like I got conned into buying the 4E books. When they came out, in 2007, the promise was that in a month or so after launch we'd have this awesome virtual tabletop to play on. Shortly after that, it was revealed there'd be a monthly fee to use it (wtf) and even 3 years later it still hasn't been developed.

The ONLY reason I bought the 4E core books (along with my friends) was due to the Virtual Gaming table. We feel like we got suckered into spending 90 bucks each and none of us were very happy about it.

We went from waiting until the tools came out to play to saying "Oh, I think I have those 'new' books somewhere, but whatever"

Order your Guardians of the Galaxy tickets from now until August 4th from Fandango and you not only help The Allspark, but you also get entered in a chance to win original movie props from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers movies.

 


#9 Esser-Z

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 09:11 PM

When you could have downloaded Maptool for FREE!

#10 Kalidor

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 09:22 PM

Not really the point icon-waspy.gif but I will check it out.

Order your Guardians of the Galaxy tickets from now until August 4th from Fandango and you not only help The Allspark, but you also get entered in a chance to win original movie props from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers movies.

 


#11 ultra magnus13

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 10:09 PM

Yeah I snagged a sweet virtual table top program someone one here posted awhile back, I think it was maptool.
I finally got rid of that big white box.

#12 Kalidor

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 10:31 PM

Find me one that looks as good as this and I'll be happy.

http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

Order your Guardians of the Galaxy tickets from now until August 4th from Fandango and you not only help The Allspark, but you also get entered in a chance to win original movie props from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers movies.

 


#13 BB Shockwave

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 06:44 AM

4E is a really streamlined, or - if I want to be (chaotic) evil - dumbed down version of D&D for today's younger generations, who do not want to bother with long and well-thought out adventures, they want fast combat and great rewards.

The new Monster Manuals are a great example of this. Being a biologist, I always loved to read about the monster's ecology, place in the world, behaviour... Instead, we now only have the descriptions of how the creatures attack, and you have short "Monster Lore" blurbs which is what you know of the things if you roll the dice right. Reducing the previously well-developed bestiary into grey-ish cannon fodder to be slaughtered for XP. The encounter groups also feel forced and (sorry) WOW-ish, like descriptions such as "You can encounter Balors together with Efreeti and Salamanders" - WTF, three totally unrelated monsters hanging around? Oh wait, they are all on FIRE. Makes sense now, no? icon-arcee.gif

Throwing out the Alignment system, and the totally free cast-choosing was something that already began during 3E, political correctness in D&D, I thought I'd never see the day, but apparently people wanted to play Elf Barbarians, Halfling Paladins and Half-Orc Wizards. Still the alignments are my main beef - now there are evil paladins too, and alignment is reduced to all creatures being Evil or Unaligned. A pity, because the 3x3 alignment system was one of the best in any RPG.

I wonder what 5E will be like - it's surely around the next corner, after all, ever since Hasbro took over, they are rebooting the franchise every few years just like they are doing with Transformers. You'd have thought Hasbro taking over D&D would have at least resulted in mainstream awesome toys, but nope, Orcus is a pricey exclusive now and Lords of Madness will most likely be the last D&D Mini booster.

Edited by BB Shockwave, 09 September 2010 - 06:46 AM.


#14 1stStageMidboss

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 07:02 AM

Essentials sounds interesting. Not something I want, already having the PHB, DMG, MM and a few other books (plus an Insider subscription, though it's a few months out of date now), but I think it's a great idea and I hope it gets more people into the hobby.

QUOTE(BB Shockwave @ Sep 9 2010, 12:44 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
4E is a really streamlined, or - if I want to be (chaotic) evil - dumbed down version of D&D for today's younger generations, who do not want to bother with long and well-thought out adventures, they want fast combat and great rewards.

The new Monster Manuals are a great example of this. Being a biologist, I always loved to read about the monster's ecology, place in the world, behaviour... Instead, we now only have the descriptions of how the creatures attack, and you have short "Monster Lore" blurbs which is what you know of the things if you roll the dice right. Reducing the previously well-developed bestiary into grey-ish cannon fodder to be slaughtered for XP. The encounter groups also feel forced and (sorry) WOW-ish, like descriptions such as "You can encounter Balors together with Efreeti and Salamanders" - WTF, three totally unrelated monsters hanging around? Oh wait, they are all on FIRE. Makes sense now, no? icon-arcee.gif

Throwing out the Alignment system, and the totally free cast-choosing was something that already began during 3E, political correctness in D&D, I thought I'd never see the day, but apparently people wanted to play Elf Barbarians, Halfling Paladins and Half-Orc Wizards. Still the alignments are my main beef - now there are evil paladins too, and alignment is reduced to all creatures being Evil or Unaligned. A pity, because the 3x3 alignment system was one of the best in any RPG.


Eh, I always found alignment to be awkward and restrictive. There's no real need in D&D for a system which says if someone is good or bad, it just makes it harder to run intrigue and mystery when the Paladin can just Detect Evil on every villain. "Playing to alignment" is almost never a good thing, as shown by how many people have complained over the years about badly-played Paladins.

Overall, I think 4e's better because it knows it's a game and it focuses on that. It makes sense that the rules are about combat, because there's far more need for rules there. It is a shame having less fluff in the Monster Manuals nowadays, but that's never been a huge problem for me. There's nothing in the game stopping you from having "long and well-thought out adventures", just as the older versions could do "fast combat and great rewards". Hell, fast combat is generally not and advantage of 4e, especially if you're using the earlier monsters (newer ones tend to deal more damage and have less HP to prevent combat getting long and dull).

I don't play 4e at the moment, but that's because it takes too long for my group so we switched to Savage Worlds (which I might stop too because we're off to seperate universities and frankly I'm not a good GM.)

Edited by Amadeus Windfall, 09 September 2010 - 07:04 AM.

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#15 Esser-Z

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 07:03 AM

Free class choosing is a good thing. Alignment's importance varies by game--mine tend to just use it as a basic indicator. But, 4e's dumbing down was pretty bad, yes.

For Paladins, I definitely prefer the evil ones having a different name, even if they have the same features (With alignment based things mirrored). A paladin is supposed to be a champion of good, somebody you know to be reliable and heroic just based on their job title (Except the ones that are dicks, but that's not how I run them.)

I 100% agree with you on the monster manuals. Even the 3.x ones--my preferred edition, in general, if you include Pathfinder as 3.x--were starting to lose some of the glory of the 2e manuals. I tend to read the 2e Monster Manuals for flavor and plot hook ideas (the 'what part of this creature is valuable' and 'how this creature interacts with civilization' bits are GLORIOUS for that), then use the 3.5 ones for the actual stats--could do the same with 4e, in theory.

And don't forget the absurdity of some of those lore entries. DC15: Cave bears live in caves. DC20: BEARS MAUL YOU WITH THEIR CLAWS.

I resent rituals, as the replacement for non-combat spells, because they simply don't do the job well. There's no more on the fly utility--one of my favorite aspects of 3.x spellcasting.

The combat, though, I do enjoy. It's very much more gamist, such that I almost consider 4e more a Chainmail followup than a D&D edition. It's fun to play, yes. I'm not as fond of DMing it as previous editions, though--I don't like how NPCs and monsters are built completely differently from PCs.

I don't play it as my primary edition of D&D for a few reasons. The lack of utility bothers me. The skill system did make some good decisions--consolidating the stealth and perception skills instead of having several to take--but it dropped some stuff I like to take (like perform and craft), and I prefer skill points to a binary system. It also gives me a harder time than usual with suspension of disbelief. Things like Storm Pillar. This is a wizard spell that creates a, well, storm pillar that damages those near it. Sounds simple, right? Weeeelll... For balance reasons, it's errataed (HOW DO I SPELL THIS) to only hurt things that willingly move up to it. This way, the party can't use forced movement powers to rack up damage; back in my day, this wasn't unbalanced. It was a combo.

Or the spell Grease. Rather than simulate a slippery surface, it's more like Mordenkainen's Mischievous Gravity Vortex. The wizard gets to slide people around in any direction he wants! A viable spell, not so much a viable implementation of Grease. And then there's Firecube and it's ilk...

A bit more positively, the game IS balanced, especially compared to the power level discrepancy nightmare that was 3.x. On the other hand... they go about it the wrong way. Rather than limit spellcasters some and raise up melee, they bring everybody to a level barely above the old Fighter, especially when it comes to ongoing effects (most (de)buffs only last a round or two at most!) and affecting the outside world. (I note that, in practice, I've never really had issues with the 3.x balance, either. In theory it's incredibly broken, but a good group does fine). Balance is a noble goal, but I feel too much was sacrificed for it.

To be ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE for a bit, there're some 4e things I absolutely love (and they go well together!): The implementation of Genasi, who I really need to look at the 3.x stats for sometime, and the Warlord class. The Warlord is an archetype I love: frontline tactician, inspiring and leading his/her team to glory. In 3.x, you could try the Marshall class, but it didn't work very well. A White Raven martial adept (Tome of Battle is a wonderful book) could do it to some extent, but not fully. The best option was really Bard, which doesn't fit the idea quite right. Warlords are awesome. I need to write up a 3.x version.

I also appreciate that it's actually possible to tank and protect the squishes viably in 4e. I like the design of the Fighter's class features quite a bit--I plan to take some inspiration from them, along with the glorious ToB, if I ever get around to writing the 3.x Fighter fix (other than just using Warblade) I keep meaning to do. The power system has its ups and downs, but for Fighters at least it does a very good job of differentiating combat tactics based on weapon choice. They really should get plate, though.

I can talk for a long time about this--if anyone wants to IM me, my AIM's on my profile. D&D is one of my passions, and I like analyzing what I like and dislike. I may sound quite negative about 4e, but that's simply due to it using a different game design philosophy than my primary tastes. I will definitely say it's a good game, and I enjoy it. I will also say that I prefer previous editions of D&D for my D&D playing.


QUOTE
There's no real need in D&D for a system which says if someone is good or bad, it just makes it harder to run intrigue and mystery when the Paladin can just Detect Evil on every villain.

Fortunately, there are ways to mask alignment, which any BBEG worth his or her salt will have access to. icon-hotrod.gif


Also, if anyone wants to try to get an Allspark D&D game (either 3.PF or 4e) going, I'm totally interested. Would even be willing to GM, though might end up going with published adventures if I do--already am running a weekly game, so.

Edited by Esser-Z, 09 September 2010 - 07:04 AM.


#16 Rhinox

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 09:23 AM

I run a 4th ed game every week. It does feel similar to an MMO, though ironically, DDO is based on 3.5 rules. I do have some issues where I feel they streamlined too much, but overall, I find it's a very good game, decently balanced, though it does tend to overfavor the players rather than the monsters. I've really had to go way above challenge rating to find monsters that are worth my player's time as they mop the floor with anything their level or lower.
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#17 Vestras

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 10:46 AM

I haven't been to an actual D&D game since AD&D2nd ed back around...sweet zombie jebus... 97...

I do want to scratch this itch, so what can you tell me about how things have changed since then in simple terms, and other than this starter kit, what's the best way to try getting up to speed for either 4e or 3.X?
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#18 1stStageMidboss

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 11:10 AM

I don't know if there's really a good way to get into 3.X these days... the Pathfinder core book maybe? I think this set is probably the best way to get into modern D&D, especially for its cost.
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#19 RAC

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 11:29 AM

Really dumb question: is that picture on the review page really what the box looks like? Because I may end up buying this if so, just for nostalgia's sake.

Edited by RAC, 09 September 2010 - 11:31 AM.



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#20 Esser-Z

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 11:37 AM

QUOTE(Amadeus Windfall @ Sep 9 2010, 12:10 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't know if there's really a good way to get into 3.X these days... the Pathfinder core book maybe? I think this set is probably the best way to get into modern D&D, especially for its cost.

Weelll... You can get in for free. d20srd.org and d20pfsrd.org, for 3.5 and PF respectively, plus a person willing to walk you through stuff to start with will work fine!



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