Season 4: Seriously, Wizards?

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I want my store to do well, but I'm not going to buy things I don't want in order to help it. i want my store to do well, so I'm buying a Small World expansion pack there next Wednesday. It's Wizards' problem that they can't figure out how to sell products that we want to buy, despite hosting a game that we want to support. It's also their problem that the character builder isn't ready for Encounters Season 4. It's not like the start date is a surprise or anything.


Agreed. I'm not going to buy things I don't like either, but what I was really talking about is about being positive.

Scenario 1: "Welcome to the new season of Encounters. This game allows Fortune Cards, which I think are terrible. Anyone want to buy them or bring them to my table, 'cause if you do, allow me to bellow loudly and say that..."

Scenario 2: "Welcome to the new season of Encounters. This game allows Fortune Cards. I have a copy of the rules here and if you need time to go buy some, let me know. Now, character introductions..."



I couldn't agree more. 



I was looking forward to seeing how the Fortune Cards worked in real play.  This was to be my main reason for showing up to Encounters next season.  However, I was just at my LGS and they informed me that their judge pool have gotten together and agreed to throw out the rules for Fortune Cards and make up new ones instead.

Of course, he informed me that we were not allowed to make up our own Fortune Card decks in his store AFTER I bought 8 boosters so that I'd have enough cards to make a good deck.



I spoke with the LGS in question and believe there is a little bit of confusion on the subject of the Fortune Cards.  The Dungeon Masters & a few of the players had all recieved a few packages of Fortune Cards over the past few weeks and we wanted to play with them a little bit as the new product and to get some feel for how they could effect the game.  But we didn't have enough cards for everyone.  So what we have been doing is using a single deck for the table, that anyone could benifit from the card that was flipped up.  How ever now that the product is available it would be going to the traditional rules for the decks.


This is after the same store threw out the rules last season on only allowing Essential characters when I really wanted to see how the game worked without any pre-essentials characters in the group.  And they required that anyone who made a custom character in Dark Sun must own a copy of the Dark Sun book and bring it to the table or they were not allowed to make their own character.  Even if they took nothing at all from the Dark Sun book.

I'm just saying that you can claim that all of your house rules are "in the name of fun", but whose fun?  Simply because you don't like something doesn't mean it's in the best interests of all the players who are showing up to change things.



I'm not sure where you went to play the Keep on Boardlands but I know at the LGS where you played Darksun we enforced the Essential only rule all through session 3.  So I can only assume that you played at a different LGS and found the rules not to your liking. 

The Darksun rule was agreed to by all the DM's based on the fact that none of us intended to purchase the book in question (right away) and wanted to ensure that if someone was using a darksun character that we had the rules available to see.  Rather then just going by what they had to say on the rules.  The requirement of a physical copy of the book also came about to prevent someone from bringing in a downloaded pdf on the laptop or iPad. 

Hopefully this answers some of your concerns, I know a couple of DM's from our LGS also read this forum and would welcome there comments here as well.

I've found, due to lots of experience, that classes outside of essentials can slow the game down...sometimes dramatically.  Also, the power structure can be confusing for new players to understand.  Experienced players often feel the need to explain how their characters work at the table to everyone.


You make a good point.

I still suspect that in general, a new player is confused about everyone else's PC. That's ok, because they don't really need to understand everything, outside of synergy areas ("I can boost your attacks, stand next to me") that generally don't require a great degree of explaining. So, whether Essentials or not, I don't think it matters greatly what the others use. We ran two seasons without Essentials and I did not have any problems nor see any at 4-6 tables per week.

I do think that the pregens should be Essentials, and even then should be really simple builds. You want to really reduce tactics on a pregen. A new player is primarily looking to get an adequate chance to be a hero. An overwhelming experience inhibits that.

What is interesting me is that new players, a few weeks later, will often ask about other books. "Can I use PH3?" "I read about an Artificer, how do I play one?" Here is where the all-Essentials fails on both a fun and marketing angle. And, of course, it fails for all established players. (And if you played all of a season you really aren't that new a player. You can handle the core 4E game that we all approached as new players and enjoyed just fine).

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

I know at the LGS where you played Darksun we enforced the Essential only rule all through session 3.  So I can only assume that you played at a different LGS and found the rules not to your liking. 

The Darksun rule was agreed to by all the DM's based on the fact that none of us intended to purchase the book in question (right away) and wanted to ensure that if someone was using a darksun character that we had the rules available to see. 


I don't know your store(s), but Dark Sun used pregens for 2 of the 3 chapters, then allowed any PCs (Essentials or not) so long as they conformed to a few rules (such as no divine power source).

For the rule you discuss, if I am understanding it correctly, that is a real shame. Organizers should keep in mind what is in WotC's and their store's interest. You should always encourage people in a store to buy new material. You should never create a rule against buying a new book. The Dark Sun Campaign Setting likely set records for sales at our gaming store. It did so because of Encounters but also because we held a raffle for everyone that bought it. The winner received an extra copy of an old gameday adventure. It was a big boost to the store feeling good about running Encounters and ordering more product.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

I know at the LGS where you played Darksun we enforced the Essential only rule all through session 3.  So I can only assume that you played at a different LGS and found the rules not to your liking. 

The Darksun rule was agreed to by all the DM's based on the fact that none of us intended to purchase the book in question (right away) and wanted to ensure that if someone was using a darksun character that we had the rules available to see. 


I don't know your store(s), but Dark Sun used pregens for 2 of the 3 chapters, then allowed any PCs (Essentials or not) so long as they conformed to a few rules (such as no divine power source).

For the rule you discuss, if I am understanding it correctly, that is a real shame. Organizers should keep in mind what is in WotC's and their store's interest. You should always encourage people in a store to buy new material. You should never create a rule against buying a new book. The Dark Sun Campaign Setting likely set records for sales at our gaming store. It did so because of Encounters but also because we held a raffle for everyone that bought it. The winner received an extra copy of an old gameday adventure. It was a big boost to the store feeling good about running Encounters and ordering more product.

I think perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my initial post.  We didn't disallow people from making their own Dark Sun character.  The ruling was that if you wanted to that you had to bring a copy of the Rule book that went along with it.  This ruling would have only encouraged people to buy the Campaign Setting books and was certainly down with WotC's and the Store's interests in mind. 
Ah, that makes sense!

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

My initial reaction (as a DM) to the "Essentials-only" season 3 was "That's silly. Lets ignore that rule and let everyone play what they want." I regretted that by chapter 3 of season 3. Almost every week there was some new combination of "look at all my gimmicky bullsh!t tricks" and more than once I had somebody slip something by me because I'm not an encyclopedia of every class, power and feat in the game and didn't want to waste time looking up everything those people did every turn.

The people playing the stuff from the essentials books didn't present those issues for me and generally ran their turns faster too. Dark Sun was great because it was pre-gens the entire time. The difference between Season 2 and 3 for me was huge because we let people bring anything in season 3. If I can't get my store to switch to following the Essentials-only guideline then Season 4 might be the last I DM because of burnout, and at this point that's really just because I want the season 4 adventure book, not because I'm not already burned out.
So far I like how this season is written.  A lot more information and stuff for the DM to have fun with (not that playing the monsters can't be fun, but....) and having the whole adventure from the start saves time and will hopefully curtail confusion.

I also like the change for the layout with the pre generated characters' half-sheets. 
My initial reaction (as a DM) to the "Essentials-only" season 3 was "That's silly. Lets ignore that rule and let everyone play what they want." I regretted that by chapter 3 of season 3. Almost every week there was some new combination of "look at all my gimmicky @&!^@% tricks" and more than once I had somebody slip something by me because I'm not an encyclopedia of every class, power and feat in the game and didn't want to waste time looking up everything those people did every turn.


You can always adjust the encounter difficulty to what will be fun for the table. This is a tough call, in that you can face many different situations:


  • Table does not want a challenge and will have fun if they blow away the encounter (general DMG guideline is that every couple of encounters you should have one easy one).

  • Some at the table are really optimized, reducing the enjoyment for the unoptimized/new players

  • Entire table is full of really optimized PCs and the players may or may not want a challenge (some want to trounce whatever they face, others want a challenge)


I recommend speaking to the table in an honest open way any time you see overwhelming optimization. "Gang, I'm thinking this encounter will be really easy for you. You have a few/many strong PCs that by far exceed what the encounter expects. I can make adjustments, or you could also make adjustments. What seems like the most fun?"

This is especially important if some players are not having fun. "Gang, some of the players here are more experienced. How do we want to handle that so everyone has a good time? Should I increase the encounter difficulty? That might be a challenge for newer players? Or, do we want to tone down some builds to keep a more even playing field?"

The results won't always be fail-safe (you can get a mean player that feels entitled to their build and doesn't care for others), but most of the time a player will adjust.

In all cases, only escalate the challenge if the table wants it. You won't win an arms race. Sneak in more damage and kill off an optimized PC and the player may take issue and cause problems. Be up front about problems.

I absolutely suggest not fighting anyone's build. I always trust my players, but I call it as I see it. "Wow, that is a strong build. This adventure may have trouble challenging you. Is that okay?" Let them win D&D, but give them the trophy as soon as they earn it and then see if they want to be a team player. Also, if the combat will be blown away, spend more time on RP. It can level the playing field and give players that did little in the combat a time to shine and shape how the adventure progresses.

Essentials is no guarantee of balance. Most experienced gamers see a lot of cheese with Essentials builds. The issue is always the players and how to get them to function as friends.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

I wasn't having issues with the balance or anything like that. The encounters were still challenging most of the time. It was just a pain keeping track of all the stuff people were pulling out. At least in an ongoing game where the group remains the same there aren't many points where suddenly somebody has an ability you're not familiar with combined with a bunch of Dragon feats to twink it out. In season 2 I knew within a finite range what everyone could pull out. Not for purposes of metagaming my monsters to cancel their abilities, just knowing so somebody didn't whip out a burst 3 on their swarm druid and forget to mention it targeted all their allies too.

Honestly if I didn't have people who kept showing up with exotic characters or a frequently shifting band of people I probably wouldn't have gotten as aggravated by it but I had both. I do have the Compendium at my finger tips via my iPhone or iPad but I don't want to stop and look stuff like that up every other turn any more than the people playing want me to just say "That doesn't work because I don't recognize it."

The games I had fun running were the ones where I had the people using Essentials characters because I had a good idea what was going to go on. Also, I played at another store a few times where they enforced the rule and the game ran consistently faster. I want faster and easier to run. I see enforcing the rule getting me there. Every week I drive 50 miles (each way) after work to help run the game (and sometimes not getting to run or play because we didn't get enough people). Not much fun, no DM rewards, costs money (gas) and about 2-3 hours extra time on top of running the game. Lots of cost, very little benefit.

I'm not sure where you went to play the Keep on Boardlands but I know at the LGS where you played Darksun we enforced the Essential only rule all through session 3.  So I can only assume that you played at a different LGS and found the rules not to your liking.


No, this was at the same store.  I forget which DM it was, but two guys showed up one week with non-essentials characters and the DM told them they were allowed to play with them since he didn't want to deal with the hassle of them making up new characters.

The Darksun rule was agreed to by all the DM's based on the fact that none of us intended to purchase the book in question (right away) and wanted to ensure that if someone was using a darksun character that we had the rules available to see.  Rather then just going by what they had to say on the rules.  The requirement of a physical copy of the book also came about to prevent someone from bringing in a downloaded pdf on the laptop or iPad. 


I wish this was true.  Alas, I asked explicitly: "If my roommate shows up with a character who takes nothing at all from the Dark Sun book, like a Human Fighter with stuff just from the Player's Handbook, he still has to buy the Dark Sun book and have a copy at the table?" and I was told "Yes, no one creates custom characters for Dark Sun without the Dark Sun book, we've decided we don't want to deal with people having things on their character sheet that we don't know what they do."

So, I said "I don't think you understand...they'd make up a character who didn't take anything at all from the book.  Are you sure?" and he said "Let me go check with our head DM."  He asked you, and came back and said "Yes, that's right...you can't make any character, no matter what unless you have the Dark Sun book."  I tried to reason with him, saying "You don't own copies of Primal Power and don't know what the powers out of there do, but you are allowing me to take things from there."  Nothing.  I asked if it was ok for my roommate to play a character if I brought my own Dark Sun book and had it available at the table to look at and I was told everyone needs their own copy.

This was on top of my frustration with being told a couple weeks in a row that DMs were allowed to make up whatever rules they wanted since the DM was always right.  Even if it meant making up new defenses or attack bonuses for all the monsters or doubling or tripling the number of monsters in an encounter.  This had a lot to do with the frustration of having a TPK one week only to find out the DM decided it wouldn't be difficult enough for everyone, so he added another monster or two.

Essentials is no guarantee of balance. Most experienced gamers see a lot of cheese with Essentials builds. The issue is always the players and how to get them to function as friends.


I'd like to see some of these cheese builds.  So far, I am not aware of anything remotely considered overpowered that is Essentials only.  I don't read the CO boards too much here, but I'm fairly certain that the only optimized builds they've come up with for Essentials classes involve power swaps for non-essentials powers or feats and Paragon Paths from non-essentials books.

I really have begun to think of 4e as two different games:  Essentials and Non-Essentials.  Most of the benefits you get from Essentials only work if you don't combine the two.

Essentials is no guarantee of balance. Most experienced gamers see a lot of cheese with Essentials builds. The issue is always the players and how to get them to function as friends.


I'd like to see some of these cheese builds.  So far, I am not aware of anything remotely considered overpowered that is Essentials only.  I don't read the CO boards too much here, but I'm fairly certain that the only optimized builds they've come up with for Essentials classes involve power swaps for non-essentials powers or feats and Paragon Paths from non-essentials books.

I really have begun to think of 4e as two different games:  Essentials and Non-Essentials.  Most of the benefits you get from Essentials only work if you don't combine the two.



If you do swing by the CharOp forum and check the DPR king thread many of the top builds are essentials.
I'm second from the left in the picture.


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

I wanted to clarify my earlier post. I did not mean that palyers did not get anything at third level. What I said was that no class except the Mage got a CHOICE at level 3, and as I looked through the character classes, that holds true throughout the builds. 

Essentials severly limits choices. Clerics, Paladins, and Warlocks? Make a choice at the beginning of your career and you have locked in your power choices at level 29. One slayer is going to look pretty much exactly like another. As a matter of fact, as you go up in level, Fighters, Rangers, and Rogues are going to look MORE like each other as the pool of available stances/aspects/tricks gets smaller.  

I understand the principle behind Essentials, I really do, and why they are good for group play. However, putting an artificial straitjacket on what classes people can and can't use is self defeating.

Here are the rules that I will be using at the table for season 4:

1) Pregens will be Essentials, and new players will be encourgaed to use them.

2) Classes and Races will be limited to those that are available in Essentials:

Classes: Assassin, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Warlock, Wizard

Any build of one of these classes, 4e or 4eE, will be allowed.

Races: Dragonborn, Drow, Dwarf, Eladrin, Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling, Half-Orc, Human, Revanant, Teifling

Ability modifiers: Essentials (prime and selection between 2 secondaries)

Racial Abilities:
Drow: Cloud of Darkness or Darkfire, chosen at character creation
Half Elf: Knack for Success or Dilettante
Human: Heroic Effort or Bonus At Will Power
Tiefling: Essential Infernal Wrath

Treasure:
Using the table in MotPB as a guideline, I am creating an expanded treasure selection table, using PHB, PHB2, AV, AV2, HotFL, and HotFK to allow for expanded customization. If a player creates a character after level 1, the character will get (Level -1) rolls on the table in MotPB only (not from the expanded table) in an effort to encourage players to stick with the caracters they start to play or create at level 1.

I am hoping this allows the plaers some choices without "opening the floodgates."

Essentials is no guarantee of balance. Most experienced gamers see a lot of cheese with Essentials builds. The issue is always the players and how to get them to function as friends.


I'd like to see some of these cheese builds.  So far, I am not aware of anything remotely considered overpowered that is Essentials only.  I don't read the CO boards too much here, but I'm fairly certain that the only optimized builds they've come up with for Essentials classes involve power swaps for non-essentials powers or feats and Paragon Paths from non-essentials books.

I really have begun to think of 4e as two different games:  Essentials and Non-Essentials.  Most of the benefits you get from Essentials only work if you don't combine the two.



If you do swing by the CharOp forum and check the DPR king thread many of the top builds are essentials.



Please for the love of God dont point people to the CharOp forums.  Especially new people. We need less CharOp and more fun and roleplay out there.
In case anyone's looking for other options to deal with this issue, here's what we did last season, and will continue with Season 4:

- You can play any 4th Edition PC of the appropriate level you like.
- If you don't play an Essentials PC, you don't earn Renown Points.
- An "Essentials PC" is one using a class build and a race from the HotF* books. We're not strict on feats (and Essentials has generally better feats, anyway).

Basically, if you want a shot at the player rewards provided by Wizards, you need to play by their rules. But if you come in to play with some other 4e PC, we won't turn you away. 

Essentials is no guarantee of balance. Most experienced gamers see a lot of cheese with Essentials builds. The issue is always the players and how to get them to function as friends.


I'd like to see some of these cheese builds.  So far, I am not aware of anything remotely considered overpowered that is Essentials only.  I don't read the CO boards too much here, but I'm fairly certain that the only optimized builds they've come up with for Essentials classes involve power swaps for non-essentials powers or feats and Paragon Paths from non-essentials books.

I really have begun to think of 4e as two different games:  Essentials and Non-Essentials.  Most of the benefits you get from Essentials only work if you don't combine the two.



If you do swing by the CharOp forum and check the DPR king thread many of the top builds are essentials.



Please for the love of God dont point people to the CharOp forums.  Especially new people. We need less CharOp and more fun and roleplay out there.



 At cons where they had peer votes for best roleplayer at a session I have been more often than not the one selected for the honor as a player. As a DM I have been consistantly praised on my ability to flavor and enhance the roleplay and fun of the group. I am also a CharOp.  Please I wont tell you how to play the game and return the favor to me.
I'm second from the left in the picture.


D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

If you do swing by the CharOp forum and check the DPR king thread many of the top builds are essentials.

Err, not quite.  The CharOp builds are using non-Essentials feats and gear, and they don't get really stupid until level 6.