4E by the numbers

March 7, 2008

So a lot of stuff has hit the internet since the D&D Experience day.  Some of which, includes the sample characters and monster stats.  Looking over it all, some interesting thoughts come to mind:

1. Conditions play a big role

Looking at the monsters, it looks like nearly every one either has a way to inflict some kind of condition, or maximize based on a condition.  3.0 gave us a host of conditions, but for the most part, unless it dropped you prone, caused you to lose actions, or drop a weapon, no one bothered.  Here, the conditions are short-lived, but they look like they hurt a lot.

2.  Multiple means of offense/multiple means of defense

Also looking at the monsters & PC powers, there’s attacks against all 4 types of defenses, and they also look pretty equal in terms of hurting for damage, or for conditions, or both.  This is one of those basic strategy lessons of any game- you have to have multiple viable choices, for strategy to form.  If there’s just one or two ways of going about it, there’s no strategy- you solve the optimal methods and leave it at that.

3.  Movement matters

There’s a lot of abilities built around moving folks on the map.  While in 3.0 it was simply about cover and AoOs, this looks like it’s set up to go with interesting terrain.

Pushing someone 3 squares?  Who cares?  Unless you’re pushing them off the edge of something, into something burning, into water, etc.   Basically,  moving folks around the map is interesting if the map is interesting.  And, if the map isn’t interesting enough to get movement in play, you might as well abstract it like Riddle of Steel or Burning Wheel and skip having a map and minis altogether.

Movement only became really interesting in 3.0 with Iron Heroes introduction of the Harrier which found it’s incarnation in 3.5’s Skirmisher, but otherwise, it was simply about finding optimal placement and beating/blasting/shooting the other guy down.

4.  Strategies

Looking at the monster stats, I can simply say it looks fun from a GM’s standpoint.  I see monsters set up to inflict conditions, another type set up to take advantage of it, it becomes like putting together encounters is like putting together a Magic deck- you’re looking to combo them in interesting ways.  And, just the few monsters they’ve released stats on, it looks like the team is already thinking along those lines.  All the Kobolds are like a single color in Magic- they’re already set up to work well together.  Races have common abilities which make sure they all share certain tactical aspects, but each variation is different enough that its not just “same guy, more HD”.

5.  Mechanically supported color!

Dwarves are tough!  But it’s not just slamming more HP on the Dwarf- they get this ability to self heal as a minor (swift) action.  So it’s not that they have “more” HP, it’s just that they can keep standing in a fight without having to use actions to self heal.

Hobgoblins get bonuses to fight in formation, Gnolls get bonuses to use pack tactics, etc.

The mechanics are telling you how to run things, and it makes sense.

These are just guesses based on the bits that have been released, but if this plays anything like what I’m guessing, I’m excited.

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