4E Balance? (Essentials Analysis)

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Hello everyone, long time poster here. I was big in the house rule and homebrew community during the age of D&D3E (and 3.5, but I don't consider that separate). I played a lot of D&D4E, but the system didn't lend itself to homebrewing (making a new class required a lot of work, even if you were only making one set of powers, like the vampire).

The more I played 4E, the more holes I found in the system. I grew to dislike the item grind (this was said to be going away, but it felt even worse), and I absolutely hated the need for math-fix feats (just comparing the PCs to Companions or NPCs, the PCs were expected to spend 5 of their feats on their math: X Expertise, X Focus, Improved Defenses, the +2/+4 to the weak defense, and X (armor) Specialization).

Even with all this, players felt like they didn't grow alongside monsters properly. Fights at high levels became long slogs. Yes, char-op was able to create insane builds to take things down in one or two rounds, but I've always been from the school of thought that felt abusive builds should be nixed, not required.

With 5E on the horizon, I set aside 4E at first. Now, after running the playtest for several months, I'm growing to want to run 4E again. But the math rears its ugly head again. Try as I might, player damage just doesn't seem to keep up with monster damage, even looking just at basic attacks (though, there are a few at-wills that seem to keep track, such as Reaping Strike, Sly Flourish, and anything that adds 2 ability modifiers to damage).

I'll admit, though, that I haven't been able to run games anywhere even remotely near weekly. So, at the end of its age, what are the opinions on veteran players of D&D4E? How does it hold up, balance wise (not balance between players, but balance between the players and "fair" encounters)? I'm looking to simplify aspects of the game, marrying some of 3E and 4E, for my own home games, so other opinions would be greatly appreciated.

As an aside, I was comparing the Knight/Slayer to the standard Fighter. The Martial Cross Training feat lets a Knight/Slayer trade a use of their Power Strike for a Fighter encounter power, but Power Strike just seems better than any of them: At level 30, a Power Strike is equivalent to the following powers:

5[W]+Str, +4 damage
5[W]+Str, +2 speed and +2 attack with a charge
5[W]+Str, +8 damage vs. opponent with no adjacent allies
5[W]+Str, can move Dex modifier squares as a free action
5[W]+Str with +1 attack
5[W]+Str, -2 attack and +8 damage

No level 27 Fighter power out of the PHB1 comes close to that:

vs. Reflex, 4[W]+Str, target takes -2 AC after hit
close burst 1, 2[W]+Str, shift 2 and repeat attack
4[W]+Str, take 1/2 damage from targets attacks, and +2 AC
4[W]+Str, mark all enemies within 10 squares

Is this just a sign of power creep, or am I missing something? I know the Knight/Slayer doesn't have Dailies, but they seem to get +3 to all damage with every single attack to make up for the lack of their dailies (depending on how many fights in a day and how long those fights last, this can make up for the lack of dailies).

I'm just trying to establish a baseline for comparison.

Poe's Law is alive and well.

Your missing quite a bit actually.

First up, there are only 2 actual math fix feats, expertise and improved defenses, all of the others are basically optional.
Also compare to the fact that a 21th level 4e character has 13 feats, while a 3.x char has 8; even after spending 2 feats on math fixes, the 4e character has  3 extras. And since he isn't wasting the bulk of his feats on pre-reqs for a PrC the ones he has still goes a lot farther...


High Level Slog-fests?
You are probably using pre-errara monsters. Don't.
They were errata'd for a reason, and that reason is they had high HP and low damage, which resulted in slog-fests.



As for Power Strike verses Anything, again, you are missing it. 
The point of powers (and how you get real damage) in 4e isn't by rolling a ton of dice. It's by having a big static mod and then multiplying it over multiple attacks.
For Example, look at the Fighter E3 - Rain of Blows.
Let's assume that you have a weapon and the dex to take it to it's full potential. And let's say you are in low/mid paragon tier and have a +20 modifier to your damage (it's actually really easy to do as a slayer).
Melee Basic + Power Strike = 2[w]+20
3 Hits form RoB = 3[w]+60 

And that's pretty basic.
Start looking at real fighter shenanigans and you'll see that a slayer can't even remotely compete with a fighter...
Fighter: Charge (W/ vangaurd gauge & horned helm). Use Trip Up as a free action. Now he's prone, AP for Rain of Blows (since you have Headsmans chop). If everything hits, you're pulling close to 100 damage with 2 encounter powers at level 8; that'll kill a standard mob and bloody an elite - and you're not even a real striker.

FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Your missing quite a bit actually.

First up, there are only 2 actual math fix feats, expertise and improved defenses, all of the others are basically optional.



Eeeeehhhh ... not:


Players scale by the following without trying:



Attack: +26 (+15 level, +5 ability, +6 enhancement)


Damage: +15.5 (+5 ability, +6 enhancement, +1[W-generally 4.5])


AC: +28 (+15 level, +5 ability, +6 enhancement, +2 MW)


High Defenses: +26 (+15 level, +5 ability, +6 enhancement)


Low Defense: +22 (+15 level, +1 ability, +6 enhancement)



NPCs scale by the following:



Attack: +30 (+15 level, +4 ability, +11 extra)


Damage: +19.5 (+4 ability, +11 extra, +1[W-generally 4.5])


AC: +30 (+15 level, +4 ability, +11 extra)


High Defenses: +30 (+15 level, +4 ability, +11 extra)


Low Defense: +27 (+15 level, +1 ability, +11 extra)



Companions scale by the following:



Attack: +29 (+29 level)


Damage: +19.5 (+15 level, +1[W-generally 4.5])


AC: +29 (+29 level)


Defenses: +29



Thus, especially compared to companion characters, players need the following from feats:



+3 attack - X Expertise


+4 damage - X Focus


+1 AC - X Specialization


+3 all NADs - Improved Defenses


+4 low NAD - Superior Fortitude/Reflexes/Will

-------------

So it's 5 math fix feats to keep up with monsters. Remember, monsters gain +29 to everything (attack, damage, AC, defenses).

As for High Level Slog-fests, the only HP they reduced was on solos, who went from x5 to x4 HP; standard monsters still use the exact same formula. Monster damage went up drastically; the base math used to be +15 damage from 1st to 30th (8.5 to 23.5) to +29 (8.5 to 38).

Then you rely upon multi-attack powers to get appreciable damage out of your powers. This means the single attack powers are significantly weaker. Thus, either one is overpowered or one is underpowered, and something needs to change. 

Poe's Law is alive and well.

You're still missing it.

Trust me, i am quite familiar with how monster math scales post errata. It's true that the HP change is greatest in Solo's. But all monsters had their attack bonuses, damages, and AC's normailized: post errata brutes can actually hit same level pc's, and it should be pulling away roughly a healing surge per hit. Even in low epic tier.

Speaking of, if i'm in epic tier, and fort is my lowest defense i'm not going to fix it. It's a waste of a feat.
Seriously. Let's say St/Con are my dump stats. At level 21 the higher of the 2 is 12, so i get +1 stat, +10 levels, +3 feat, +5 necklace. That's a defense of 29. Maybe a point or two higher from race or class or gear or something, so let's go with 30.
At level 21 i'm probably fighting level 23 mobs, who will be attacking my fort with a +26 roll. They hit me on a 4, it's not worth boosting since i won't be able to make it high enough to be worth it. I'd be better off taking a feat that actually does something for me.


Focus is only a tax feat for strikers, and pretty much no one else should be bothering with it. If you are basing every single thing your pc does against every aspect of monster math, you are kinda doing it wrong. Each role should be focusing on things that put them ahead of the monsters. Defenders should be focusing on getting their defenses high and mitigating damage, not doing it. Who cares it your defender does 3 less damage per hit when he has an insane punishment and mobs can't even hit him? He WILL keep them there, which means the strikers can combo and more than make up for the damage the defender didn't do. 4e is about team tactics and working together to bring down team monster, not trying to do everything on your own...

Even then some striker builds will forgo Focus in favor of other things that do more damage. See, strikers should be spending about 80% of their feats on damage and accuracy boosters anyway, it's pretty hard to qualify Focus as a tax feat (especially since, in may cases there are still better damage boosters).
Remember, you get real damage in upper tiers by multiplying, not adding.
You can pretty easily build a mid paragon anything to have about +30 to his static mod. That's well above any companion character, and if you multiattack at all (like with an at will called twin strike) you are easily pulling out 60 damage before rolling dice).



FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis

If 4E math strikes you as imbalanced, nothing's going to please you except what you create yourself.  Your analysis of the math is correct.  Just cut to the chase and create your own homebrew stuff cause that's the only way you're going to get the math right.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”


If 4E math strikes you as imbalanced, nothing's going to please you except what you create yourself.  Your analysis of the math is correct.  Just cut to the chase and create your own homebrew stuff cause that's the only way you're going to get the math right.





This is absolutely correct.
But the math speaks for itself. If the Op had a better grasp of the edition's math he wouldn't be here asking how it works.
 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis

If 4E math strikes you as imbalanced, nothing's going to please you except what you create yourself.  Your analysis of the math is correct.  Just cut to the chase and create your own homebrew stuff cause that's the only way you're going to get the math right.





This is absolutely correct.
But the math speaks for itself. If the Op had a better grasp of the edition's math he wouldn't be here asking how it works.
 

I was actually being somewhat sarcastic because the thread strikes me as a bit trollish, only I don't believe that's true because it looks like he really put some thought into it.  So if he thinks that 4e is imbalanced, nothing's going to change his mind, and there's no point in trying to convince him.  Fact is, it's one of the most "balanced" RPGs in existence, overall.  Isolating certain mathmatical scenarios and panning them is missing the forest for the trees.  The math might speak for itself but the math that people talk about doesn't take any number of factors that result from party synergy into account, so it's an incomplete and nihilistic analysis.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

I was actually being somewhat sarcastic because the thread strikes me as a bit trollish, only I don't believe that's true because it looks like he really put some thought into it.  So if he thinks that 4e is imbalanced, nothing's going to change his mind, and there's no point in trying to convince him.  Fact is, it's one of the most "balanced" RPGs in existence, overall.  Isolating certain mathmatical scenarios and panning them is missing the forest for the trees.  The math might speak for itself but the math that people talk about doesn't take any number of factors that result from party synergy into account, so it's an incomplete and nihilistic analysis.




Fair enough, and that is basically what i was trying to get at in my second post (post 4): you can't look at individual pc's in a vaccuum.

He may be trolling, but as you mentioned he did put 'some thought' into it, and also said he hasn't actually played much 4e. I've seen similar comments from other new 4e players, so i gave him the benefit of the doubt.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Onikani, I don't appreciate the baiting; that's against the CoC, no?

The thread isn't trollish. I was asking how things work out in play at higher levels. My experience is mostly in the 1-7 level range, and I've only ran a handful of one-shots at higher levels.

Thus, all I have to look at is the math, and I was asking how things work out in actual play.

So, I'm gathering that the system works fine when it is optimized? Or am I reading into your posts in the wrong manner? 

Poe's Law is alive and well.

Not sure where i'm baiting, I'm the saying that i believe that you aren't trolling. Where's the baiting? 

In a completely optimized party, the math does eventually break down since it doesn't scale perfectly.
But it breaks down in a different way than you are thinking. See, Because of the wide range of options available to Epic level characters, output becomes bimodal, the player either has enough grasp on the game to be able to kill things in 1 round, or the player falls well behind the math and takes 10 rounds to kill a standard. And as i mentioned, either way, it's not because of Weapon Focus. See, if you know enough about high level play to get a static mod of +80, then you also know enough about the game math in general to take that +80 and hit 5-10 times a round with it (which is enough to kill a solo).

But yes, it is possible to optimize 'just enough' that you will stay on the designers' intended baselines and end most combats in 3-6 rounds. But those baselines still only assume the 2 actual feat tax feats (and the reality is you don't even need Imp Defenses until somewhere mid paragon tier).
Yes, it really is 2 feats.
You missed the fact that improved Defenses and Superior (whatever) are both feat bonuses and don't stack, you missed the ac bonuses granted by masterwork armor, and your math also assumes that every player gains a +5 stat bonus to AC.

And you missed other things, I understand that part of your analysis is only what happens with natural scaling, but that is still only about half of the equation: gear, powers, temporary bonuses, class features, all add the other half of it.
I'm not even talking about anything you optimize - look at something as simple as the barbarian or monk class feature which gives free scaling ac.


Meanwhile, companion characters and mobs follow a really generic scaling pattern that is meant to be sortof boring and average, and really should not be used as a baseline for 'across the board' comparison.
The party dynamic is a huge part of this, it's pretty easy for a level 30 defender to have a 50-52 static AC, but he probably won't be doing much more than 30 dmg with a single at-will. But, as i mentioned, with minor optimization he'll be able to hit 2-3 times a round bringing that total to 75+ (or even  more with mark punishments). Meanwhile, strikers will have around a 45 AC, but will be hitting for 60-90 damage at-will.

Is it starting to make sense now?


TLDR: Everything works without any real optimization. But it requires some attention on the part of the players, and since 4e is a team game, you msut also look at the entire team dynamic and assume that players will focus on the things relevant to ther roles.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
The game effectively breaks at levels 21/24/26/30 for various characters, depending on your feat/Epic Destiny selections anyway.  Monster HP totals and attack stats don't matter when the Wizard just won initiative, clustered all of Team Monster together, Action Pointed to stun them all, and will drop even more conditions on them all again next turn.  Oh, one of the creatures had an interrupt to prevent the stun?  Guess who the striker is going to plaster with his nova, especially since said creature just used its interrupt for the round and now the striker knows nothing will interrupt him.  In short, the math matters less and less in Epic.

Many non-LFR/organized play games will houserule free Improved Defenses and a free Expertise feat to fix those math problems. 

Bargle wrote:
This is CharOp. We not only assume block-of-tofu monsters, but also block-of-tofu DMs.
 

Zelink wrote:
You're already refluffing, why not refluff to something that doesn't suck?
The thread isn't trollish. I was asking how things work out in play at higher levels. My experience is mostly in the 1-7 level range, and I've only ran a handful of one-shots at higher levels.

Thus, all I have to look at is the math, and I was asking how things work out in actual play. 

So you mostly have experience in the 1-7 range and a handful of one-shots at higher levels and you have enough experience to infer or inquire about things breaking down at higher levels, even when, despite what the math majors say, it DOES NOT due to any number of other variables?

The math might not be perfect, but it doesn't need to be.  Your "math" is not the way the game works in reality. 

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Many non-LFR/organized play games will houserule free Improved Defenses and a free Expertise feat to fix those math problems. 

Yeah, many will, but the vast majority will not.  Because the game works just fine at higher levels, pre-Essentials or post-Essentials.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

His experiences with high level play (15+) mirror my own, even with the new monster math I find myself having to wildly custom build every monster for every encounter because the monster stats in the Monster Vault and Monster Vault: Nentir's Vale lead to grindy fights. There is a topic on ENworld about grinding down the grindiness and it helps a bit, but the system above fifteen is just a mess and is badly in need of a redesign from the bottom up.
Khyber is a dark and dangerous place, full of flame and smoke, where ever stranger things lie dormant.
His experiences with high level play (15+) mirror my own, even with the new monster math I find myself having to wildly custom build every monster for every encounter because the monster stats in the Monster Vault and Monster Vault: Nentir's Vale lead to grindy fights. There is a topic on ENworld about grinding down the grindiness and it helps a bit, but the system above fifteen is just a mess and is badly in need of a redesign from the bottom up.



I would not be so quick to make that statement. Is this all with the same group of players?

I have yet to ever take a focus feat, or boost a low NAD, and my experiences are mostly 2-3 rounds of fights before mop-up. Particularly LFR adventures are easy, and the only monster modding I would advice there is a boost. 
Most of your problems would be fixed by free improved defences, expertise, and by using Inherent Bonuses (gets rid of the maths fix feats as a problem, and kills the item treadmill stone dead).

The rest is simply a need to understand why multi-attacking is numerically FAR more useful at dealing damage than adding extra [W]s.  The other thing to note is that the game IS balanced around a certain level of optimisation.  If the characters don't max their attack stat, have their secondary as their second highest stat, and don't take things like weapon focus, superior weapon proficiencies, and pick their powers based on coolness rather than utility, things will get grindy, even with up-to-date monsters.  FWIW, a well-opped Slayer can thoroughly murder a Standard at-level on its nova round, probably an Elite with an AP, and should be able to bloody a Solo on its own (easier if you put a couple of item powers in and make it a daily nova) with the same.  Slayers are fricking scary with the right kit.

I find it hilarious that you're complaining that 4e is unbalanced having moved from 3.5.

That's not to say the system wouldn't benefit from a comprehensive redesign, but that's not going to happen so...
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.


First up, there are only 2 actual math fix feats, expertise and improved defenses, all of the others are basically optional.




Also don't forget that even those 2 math fix feats (the so called feat taxes) are optional. In my current campaign (currently high epic tier) I've banned all those feats and guess what.... the game plays just fine.

The math problem is an illusion created by people who fixate on numbers instead of how the game actually plays at the table.
The math problem is an illusion created by people who fixate on numbers instead of how the game actually plays at the table.

QFT

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Quantum Field Theory ?

;P

Anyway, the math problem is not an illusion. It's importance however table / DM dependent.
     
It's importance however table / DM dependent.

No, it's always insignificant unless you choose to specifically make it significant, which no one wants to do.  Which makes it illusory.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

It's a potential issue waiting to happen unless everyone knows about it and agrees to work with it, particularly later in the game.

If one player takes expertise and improved defences, and another doesn't, in an epic group that player gets hit around 3/20 times more often, and fails to hit the same amount more often - he may not notice it, but it's bound to get irritating when you're 15% less accurate and less able to defend yourself than your teammates.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
It's a potential issue waiting to happen unless everyone knows about it and agrees to work with it, particularly later in the game.

If one player takes expertise and improved defences, and another doesn't, in an epic group that player gets hit around 3/20 times more often, and fails to hit the same amount more often - he may not notice it, but it's bound to get irritating when you're 15% less accurate and less able to defend yourself than your teammates.



Agreed. That's why I banned them outright for all players in my games. It puts all players on an even playing field and frees up feat slots.

Most importantly, I prefer the original math of the game which makes epic tier a little less of a cakewalk. As it is, even with these feats banned, it's very hard for me to come up with challenging encounters at level 25 and above without seriously jacking up monster damage, auras, and environmental effects. If you've ever DM'ed a level 28 campaign you'll know what I'm talking about.

I really feel these feats were unneccessary and simply exist to satisy those people who couldn't handle the fact that monster math progresses differently than player math. I believe the original game designers knew about quadratic player player power vs. linear monster power and tried to compensate by giving the monsters a bit of boost. These feats negate that boost and only cause the DM to use higher level monsters to increase threat.

My advice to anyone considering DM'ing a high paragon or epic tier game:  ban all expertise feats (including master at arms) and improved defenses. You'll find life a lot less frustrating.
 
 I grew to dislike the item grind (this was said to be going away, but it felt even worse), and I absolutely hated the need for math-fix feats (just comparing the PCs to Companions or NPCs, the PCs were expected to spend 5 of their feats on their math: X Expertise, X Focus, Improved Defenses, the +2/+4 to the weak defense, and X (armor) Specialization). Even with all this, players felt like they didn't grow alongside monsters properly. Fights at high levels became long slogs.

I think the 'need' for a lot of these things is overblown.  I look at the numbers, and they do seem like obvious 'problems,' I actually build characters and run games, though, and they don't stick out so badly.  Epic combats do take longer, but they feel 'epic,' where at ver low level a long fight would feel 'grindy' because you fall back on at-wills so quickly.  A climactic battle can go 10 rounds without an Epic character using the same power twice, for instance.  While base-line accuracy may slide a bit if you don't pay your feat taxes, crits become more common and do a lot more damage.  

I think people mis-judged the 4e treadmill early on, and the design team shouldn't have 'blinked' and published expertise feats, but come out with some good epic adventures to show what the game could have done.  

 Yes, char-op was able to create insane builds to take things down in one or two rounds, but I've always been from the school of thought that felt abusive builds should be nixed, not required.

With 5E on the horizon, I set aside 4E at first. Now, after running the playtest for several months, I'm growing to want to run 4E again. But the math rears its ugly head again. Try as I might, player damage just doesn't seem to keep up with monster damage, even looking just at basic attacks (though, there are a few at-wills that seem to keep track, such as Reaping Strike, Sly Flourish, and anything that adds 2 ability modifiers to damage).

Nod.  Players get more and more healing resources as they increase in level, so they can absorb more damage.  Monsters really don't (technically they get 2 surges at paragon and 3 at epic, but surge triggers remain vanishingly rare).  Crits seem to get increasingly important as you rise through the tiers, too, especially at epic.  Action points are a bigger deal at paragon.

I'll admit, though, that I haven't been able to run games anywhere even remotely near weekly. So, at the end of its age, what are the opinions on veteran players of D&D4E? How does it hold up, balance wise (not balance between players, but balance between the players and "fair" encounters)? I'm looking to simplify aspects of the game, marrying some of 3E and 4E, for my own home games, so other opinions would be greatly appreciated.

The campaigns I've been in have only ever made it into Paragon.  But I've finally tried some Epic and it works surprisingly well.  The characters have just so much to try that missing on a 12 now and then or fighting a 10-round battle isn't an issue.

As an aside, I was comparing the Knight/Slayer to the standard Fighter.

Is this just a sign of power creep, or am I missing something? I know the Knight/Slayer doesn't have Dailies, but they seem to get +3 to all damage with every single attack to make up for the lack of their dailies (depending on how many fights in a day and how long those fights last, this can make up for the lack of dailies).

I'm just trying to establish a baseline for comparison.

That's just it, lack of dailies means the comparison will skew with the number of encounters/day and rounds/encounter.  Balance between the two is impossible unless you commit to fixed numbers of both (ie, an encounter is 5 rounds of combat, a new encounter begins every 5th round, a Day is 5 encounters, at the first round of the 6th encounter, it's a new day...).  I know that sounds rediculus but 13th Age actually does that with Encounters, after every 4th Encounter you refresh everything, 'resting' be damned.

 

 

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The math problem is an illusion created by people who fixate on numbers instead of how the game actually plays at the table.




Here, here!


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In my opinion, there seem to be two basic designs:

  1. With Expertise, but without Battle Captain/Warchanter/Battle Engineer/etc.  You allow/give out Expertise, but you ban any other power, feature, etc that gives a scaling modifier to a d20 roll, or just change them all to be "+3".

  2. Without Expertise, but with the prior mentioned PPs.


Both designs work well, and are fun games.  Having both in the SAME game (LFR) leads to ... some curb stomping.

Having played both, I personally prefer option #1.  Your milage may vary.

(Edit: I'm on record as having suggested that the "half the time the leader gives you +6 to attack.  That's almost like an always on +3, right?" was how the math worked out.)

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

No level 27 Fighter power out of the PHB1 comes close to that:

vs. Reflex, 4[W]+Str, target takes -2 AC after hit


pastebin.com/yAkA2jvq

Might be useful reading.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

So, multi-attacks is the only way to stay on par? Gotcha.

Poe's Law is alive and well.

So, multi-attacks is the only way to stay on par? Gotcha.



Exactly
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Not quite.  Multi-attacks are the best way, bar none, to deal high damage.  Par is a relatively lower threshold, and can also be achieved by charging and by vulnerability tapping/damage types.  But it's worth remembering that if you're making par that way, a multi-attacker will be doubling or tripling the benefits you're getting.

This is because static bonuses are a dramatically greater portion of damage past even mid-heroic, than dice are.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
FWIW, How I define par (cause it's not super obvious)
A Par Striker should be able to


  • Use a daily nova to kill an at-level standard monster in 1 round.

  • Expect to kill an at-level standard monster in 3 rounds of at-will spam.

  • Have sufficient freedom to, assuming s/he starts the round with no conditions, choose almost any monster to attack/kill as above.

  • Not die of coughed upon.


Regarding your specific query, PHB1 fighters got multi-attack powers.  Slayers do not (minus a feat to poach PHB1 fighter powers).  This should now lead to an obvious conclusion about which is more powerful, which is a result contrary to your early posts in the thread.

I'm not gonna say that design work well... too many of the good powers are encounters when they should be dailies.  Minus those, it's nearly impossible to get to the 1/3 damage point that allows encounters to end quickly enough for my taste.  System mastery is a little over-rewarded.

But it is the design the slayer was released into.  And now you know why the slayer is not massively superior (and, in fact, is massively inferior) to the fighter at high levels. 

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

I do find it interesting how you're essentially passing off as nothing a feat that gets you one of the best heroic tier striker powers on the striker that gets some of the biggest native static bonuses.  A 3-hit Rain of Blows from a Slayer is scary (and I'd expect any moderately optimised Slayer to pick up RoB, be using a Gouge, and have DEX 17).  Put one at Paragon, throw charge-opping and reserve maneuver (probably Trip Up) into the mix and it has a potent 5-hit encounter AP nova, and a fairly scary daily nova thanks to boots of the Mighty Charge.  That AP nova should be enough to burn a standard if I have the maths correct (I may well not do, probability maths is not my strongest suit, particularly when OoE is involved).  Maybe more, if you get a bit lucky with positioning and crit-fishing with MC Avenger/Draeven Marauder/Rending, and especially if you can somehow wangle Headsman's Chop into the build.

It doesn't get up to ranger levels of at-will DPR or daily DPR, but it's a hell of a lot tougher, and has a much greater ability to keep on kicking for longer (more encounters per day, in particular).

Of course, a Barb|Fighter accomplishes much the same thing, but there you go.

Of course my understanding of par is '20/40/60 at-will DPR', so...
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
The OP just thought that PHB fighters were way weaker than Essentials-only Slayers.  And that's bunk... the only reason slayers look good here?  That they poached PHB powers.  (Yes, slayers can look really really good.  Once you add in non-essentials support)

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

I see what you mean.  And yes, if you build a Slayer using ONLY material from HotFL, it's not going to be remotely good, since it doesn't have access to ANY of the support which ,akes it good - neither the charge kit, the weaponry, nor the inter-relationship with the Weaponmaster.

I guess I don't subscribe to the fallacy that essentials is somehow different from 4e.  It's all the same game.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
I guess I don't subscribe to the fallacy that essentials is somehow different from 4e.  It's all the same game.


Reminds me a bit of Tome of Battle for 3e - technically part of the same game, but with different mechanics, a different balance point, and even a special label that can be used for categorization. Some people don't like adding them into their game because they feel the rules interactions imbalance the game. (For Essentials, it introduces 'math fixes' and basic attack buffs that were not intended by the original authors; for Tome of Battle, it pushes 3e even further into rocket-tag land.)
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
I see what you mean.  And yes, if you build a Slayer using ONLY material from HotFL, it's not going to be remotely good, since it doesn't have access to ANY of the support which ,akes it good - neither the charge kit, the weaponry, nor the inter-relationship with the Weaponmaster.

I guess I don't subscribe to the fallacy that essentials is somehow different from 4e.  It's all the same game.

Right, though it will be pretty balanced with the other Essentials classes. The Mage is the main one that is really standing out in HotFL though, its really the strongest class in that book, old school, ya know?
That is not dead which may eternal lie
I disagree entirely.  The Mage is the most customisable, but it's balanced fine with the others if you use the books in either of two ways:

1: entirely on their own without any of the prior support.  The essentials books don't have many of the powers that render the Wizard insane, or much of the stuff which makes multi-attackers like the Scout so superior.  They work fine alone.

2: As supplements to 4e - the Slayer then has access to Fighter support, the Thief to Rogue and Ranger support, and both to Charge support, and they stand up nicely to the higher power levels across the board.

The Sentinel and Cavalier don't stand up, and the Hunter loses out to the normal Archer past mid-Paragon but that's life.  The game has its share of weak and poorly designed classes, and some of them are from Essentials.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
I disagree entirely.  The Mage is the most customisable, but it's balanced fine with the others if....

I don't know.  It's hard to watch a class get that many up-grades and think "oh, it's still balanced."  Your encounter powers do damage on a miss, now.  Your at-wills are ratchetted up, again (blast /5/ at will? attacking WILL?).  Attacks with no attack rolls.   Swap encounters.  Potent Encounter 'cantrips.'  No re-training to get paragon and epic spells.  etc...

It's hard to find anything for the Mage that didn't get strictly better from what the Wizard had before the Essentials-related errata got rolling.  And I absolutely /cannot/ consider a pre-Essentials Wizard under-powered.  I've played 'em.

 

 

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Please point out anywhere I said the wizard was underpowered or not good?

I said nothing of the sort.  I said it was balanced.  The non-attack at-wills universally suck (Howling Wall and Falme Arrow are terrible.  Also, not from Essentials).  That blast 5 is good but it does static damage, and that damage never increases through the life of the character  It looks a lot worse at Epic when it's still doing 7 to 10 damage and a good striker's at-will is doing 100+.  Most of the no-roll attacks have been around for longer than Essentials, and yes, they're good, but the Wizard wasn't exactly lacking for good powers pre-essentials.  They've improved.  They're very good.  They still won't roll a table on their own.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Please point out anywhere I said the wizard was underpowered or not good?

I said nothing of the sort.  I said it was balanced.  The non-attack at-wills universally suck (Howling Wall and Falme Arrow are terrible.  Also, not from Essentials).  That blast 5 is good but it does static damage, and that damage never increases through the life of the character  It looks a lot worse at Epic when it's still doing 7 to 10 damage and a good striker's at-will is doing 100+.  Most of the no-roll attacks have been around for longer than Essentials, and yes, they're good, but the Wizard wasn't exactly lacking for good powers pre-essentials.  They've improved.  They're very good.  They still won't roll a table on their own.

I wouldn't say the Mage is completely out of whack, AEDU classes will really never get completely that way unless they were to be totally ridiculous, but the Wizard in general got a metric boatload of support. It was well-supported even before Essentials, and afterwards they just went full bore.

I played a pretty concept-driven Wizard not too long ago. I was going for full-up general utility power, and used the Wizard's Apprentice Theme, and made a Tomb of Readiness build. It was pretty damned nasty. At level one I was doing easily half the work. In the very first encounter I killed off a standard monster in 2 rounds alone, with Witch Bolt, and then blew up like 12 minions with Chromatic Orb. I was just getting rolling, and my main shtick was utility stuff, not really combat. By third level I was well-equipped with rituals, having a great time with Alchemy, making magic ammunition for the party left and right, etc. and still more effective in combat overall than the other characters. 4e is good though, it was no one-man band, but push that concept up to say 20th level and you can REALLY rock and roll.

For sure a good mage build totally obsoletes the whole Sorcerer class, flat out. Wizards have long outstripped Invokers too (a good class, but no support at all really past DP). Wizards got goodies in HotF*, HoS, HotFW, HotEC, and even more in stuff like BoVD and MME. Not to mention a couple more DDI pieces. The improvements to encounter powers really were huge. The wizard went from barely keeping up its end in damage output (though solid in other respects) to being a classy striker on top of devestating party-friendly AoE control at every turn.

I also have to note that even with the option to grab PHB-era stuff the Slayer and Knight really don't cut it in Epic. The number of options the PHB1 classes get just kill them. You can't compete with that. If you DO stick to just HotF*, then sure, you won't see that issue of course, but then you're stuck with a Mage that is still excellent at high levels, but lacks enough options to really be fun, and a bunch of other classes that just don't have enough options to really do justice to a 4e fight of that type. It doesn't NOT WORK, but its weird that higher level Essentials fights are actually more boring and less interesting stuff happens in them than low level ones.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Have you ever actually seen an optimised sorcerer or invoker in play? Either can do far more damage that than any mage.
Back to Basics - A Guide to Basic Attacks You might be playing DnD wrong if... "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
If post errata/vault monsters  are still too high HP for your tastes/group's level of optimization and desired average number of combat rounds, take 1/4 to 1/2 off pretty much all monster HP.

I also recommend using the guidelines from (IIRC) adventurer's Vault for magic items that upgrade as you level, and use the optional Inherent Bonus rule to make magic items unnecessary.

Give the math fix feats for free. The CB supports houseruling free feats or powers, so it's possible even if you're using it. If you aren't using the CB, you could work out a conversion chart that just gets rid of the to-hit/AC scaling, but that's probably a lot of work for a really superficial benefit. Much easier to just give the feat taxes for free.

Also, figure out what classes have feat taxes, and give those for free. (for instance, the assassin has 4 or so feat taxes that make the class actually work. If someone wants to play an assassin, give those feats, and I'd recommend adding a feature to Shroud that lets the character apply 1 shroud per tier upon a target when rolling initiative. Other classes tend to have fewer feat taxes, or are just hopeless, like the binder.)

I'd also, since you've reduced monster HP anyway, reduce the power gap amongst strikers by making more sources of damage bonuses have a type, and thus not stack. I'd make all non situational damage bonuses from feats have the "feat" bonus type, for instance.


That's all I can think of off the top of my head.