Dragon 389 - Commensing Countdown! ~Countdown to Essentials~

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Dragon 389
Commensing Countdown!
Countdown to Essentials

By Mike Mearls, D&D RPG Group Manager

Have you been amongst those asking, "What is D&D Essentials, really?"  Well, today, we begin the Countdown to Essentials, and Mike Mearls starts us off by giving us the answer to that complicated question! 

Talk about this column here.  Oh, and as with this month's Ampersand and the Ampersand Previews that will come each Friday of the month… this column is free.  Insiders and Outsiders alike.  Enjoy.
389_AMPERSAND_1.JPG


Oh, and ONE MORE THING:  Essentials classes are NOT the same as Standard classes… take that as you will.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

Part of me wants the "Essential" version of the class to have a different name, like the Fighter->Knight speculation based on the content calender.

Miss effects to encounter powers will be nice, I wonder if it's just a boost to the red rated powers or a widespread application?
Wizard encounter spells with miss effects?!  That alone makes me stoked to see what else they've done to add to the existing classes and races.

I also totally agree that adding such a thing does not make the current wizard unplayable.  In game, a character can view an unchanged wizard as a student of a different teacher or school.  Yeah, ultimately that other wizard may be a little less powerful, but people (including myself) play it as is now and love it.

Keep up the cool tidbits and previews, WotC; this player can't wait for more.
I'm kinda looking forward to having a Paladin that plays more like the Tome of Battle Crusader (perhaps the ONLY thing I miss from the entire 3.5 catalogue).
Wow, surprising positive comments thus far. 

I know a lot of people were hoping the builds in Heroes of the X would be usable by standard classes, so I was thinking that most people would be negative.  Well, we've only seen the beginning thus far…

This has decreased the likelihood that I'll buy Essentials outside of the Rules Compendium, though.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

Dragon 389


Oh, and ONE MORE THING:  Essentials classes are NOT the same as Standard classes… take that as you will.



Well eff! That's what I'm reading too. So it IS D&D 4.x (something). Miss effects on Wizard Encounter Powers and eliminating Daily Powers? 

New builds and powers I can handle, and was hoping for. But changing the rules on CORE (PH1) classes? I don't like that at all.

I'm not happy about that, not at all.
I am always cynical about the need to "re-release" material that is already being used. Unless these books are priced significantly less than the current products, I'll likely pass. I love D&D, but it's really become a pokemon-style affair trying to keep up with book releases, only to have the same stuff re-released, slightly "improved", in twice as many books.

As an aside, I'm not sure how WotC keeps selling dice. I can buy 3 sets of dice at my game store for the price of one of their dice sets.
I am always cynical about the need to "re-release" material that is already being used. Unless these books are priced significantly less than the current products, I'll likely pass. I love D&D, but it's really become a pokemon-style affair trying to keep up with book releases, only to have the same stuff re-released, slightly "improved", in twice as many books.


Yeah I don't think we're the target audience for these books really, except maybe the Monster one.  They're aimed am new players to get them into the game as their first purchases.  If you're already a D&Der I don't think they'll be of much use.
> But changing the rules on CORE (PH1) classes?

Based on the chatter in other threads (including posts from Mike Mearls), the PHB1 classes will stay as they are. Essentials will have a different version available, but they're compatible within the same game. You could have a PHB1 fighter and an Essentials fighter in the same party and they'd function equally well as fighters.

It actually sounds as though the Essentials versions are 'learner' versions of the classes that try to avoid the management/build hassles that the PHB versions sometimes bring up, and in any case, they're not replacing the PHB versions. To quote him directly:

"However, I can say that since wrapping up Essentials design we've been busy working on 2011 releases. Perhaps more to the point, I still use my PH 1 as my primary rules reference when working on those books."
I'm starting to become frustrated with what WotC is NOT telling us about D&D going forward.  Here's what I think they're NOT telling us:

"We're rebooting D&D 4E, but it will be backwards compatible."

"We're not making any new Handbooks (PHB, DMG, MM), and its likely you'll be seeing the old handbooks less and less in stores."

That said, I don't think its necessarily a bad thing.  I'm just frustrated that they're trying to slowly let the news out instead of coming out and saying it. 
I'm starting to become frustrated with what WotC is NOT telling us about D&D going forward.  Here's what I think they're NOT telling us:

"We're rebooting D&D 4E, but it will be backwards compatible."

"We're not making any new Handbooks (PHB, DMG, MM), and its likely you'll be seeing the old handbooks less and less in stores."

That said, I don't think its necessarily a bad thing.  I'm just frustrated that they're trying to slowly let the news out instead of coming out and saying it. 



To lessen the nerdrage I guess. Calling it straight out 4.5 would be suicidal. There are links posted about WOTC reassuring us about the change of 3.0 to 3.5 which is almost a repeat of what is being said about Essentials.
This does kind remind of the 3e/v.3.5 revision.  Okay, Std 4e and Essentials 4e will (apparently) work well together (something 3.0/3.5 was never really designed for).  I'm still not crazy about the idea of splitting the game so relatively early in its shelf life.  They wanna make the game friendly to newcomers, I understand that but can't it be done without watering down the system?

The watering down does sound interesting, don't get me wrong.  No daily powers, classes streamlined.  I am interested in seeing how its gonna be done.  Love the 'red box', my nostalgia is in overdrive on that one ;).  Its not a bad idea, I just hope it works as well as they say. 

The good news is, I don't have to buy all new books (like I did with the 3.0/v.3.5 revision-- which didn't bother me too much).  I'm mostly concerned about claims that the two systems will work equally well together, side-by-side even.  My excitement for the Essentials line is being held back by the fact that it sounds too good to be true.  I'll just have to wait and see.
/\ Art
I'll probably buy the monster book because it comes with tokens (!!!)
Just because there might be a change to dailies, doesn't mean that it's an entirely different edition.

Look at Psions.  They took out encounter powers essentially, but kept the encounter dynamic by letting power points regenerate per encounter.

I can see the same thing being done for daily powers.  Frankly, you can remove all Daily attack powers if you grant everyone one bonus action point per encounter and granted alternate uses of said action points.  It's about the same power level, would drastically change a class, but it's still the same system.

Different class mechanics does not equal OMG Edition Change!

Frankly, the only thing I'm disappointed with is the inability to buy the tokens/maps separately from the DMG/MM box (assuming that the essentials will cover the same material as the core MMs/DMGs).

Check out my free online comic! Familiar Ground Fantasy Humor, Familiar Point of View
Listen to CdrcJsn.  This isn't an edition change.  It's a simpler options set, much like the Basic Game (the old Red Box) was a simpler game than AD&D.  While they're both contained within the 4E D&D system, like Psionics, the Essentials versions play with the nature of powers a bit to make it easier. 

They're NOT changing the system for everything: the rest of the game is staying the same. 

In the words of a famous guidebook for stellar thumb-lifters:


DON'T PANIC



That is all.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

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A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

    So does this mean that WOTC isnt going to be supporting "old" 4e now?
I've heard that they arent planning on releasing any more PH, MM, or DMGs for the pre-essentials system. Frankly I dont like the idea of having spent money on this system only to have it be replaced by a new, shinier, version only two years after the fact. Easing new players into the game is good and all, but find a way to do it that doesnt render the old game obsolete
I'm starting to become frustrated with what WotC is NOT telling us about D&D going forward.  Here's what I think they're NOT telling us:

"We're rebooting D&D 4E, but it will be backwards compatible."

"We're not making any new Handbooks (PHB, DMG, MM), and its likely you'll be seeing the old handbooks less and less in stores."

That said, I don't think its necessarily a bad thing.  I'm just frustrated that they're trying to slowly let the news out instead of coming out and saying it. 


There is absolutely no evidence of that.  The opposite, in fact, since Mearls has stated in one of the other threads on the article that he uses the PHB1 as his main developing aid.
i, for one, am looking forward to seeing the new sub-classes.  at worst, some of these sub-classes might make their corresponding older classes less popular.  that's fine with me.  when it comes to game innovation, wotc, keep on trucking.
  . . . 


congrats on your first post.  welcome to the forums.
Hmmm... I have some serious doubts that this is going to do anything to make the game simpler for new players.  Instead of just learning how a "Fighter" works, everyone will need to understand how an "Essential Fighter" and "Standard Fighter" work, two separate classes that have very little in common other than the name.  The "Standard Wizard" is having his encounter spells errata'd in the "Essentials" book but there will also be a new "Essential Wizard" that is separate from the "Standard Wizard".  "Essential" classes won't have daily powers but they can be in groups with "Standard" characters that do, which means the "Standards" will always be the ones pushing to rest when the "Essentials" never need to unless they're out of healing surges.

I'm also wondering how they're going to support both the old version and new version of each class in later books.  Will Martial Power 3 have separate chapters for "Standard Fighter" and "Essential Fighter", and so on for every single class?  Will feats need to be divided between Standard/Essential versions of the classes?  Can "standard" classes multiclass or hybrid with "essential" classes?  Is everything going forward going to be based entirely around "Essential" with only occasional small gestures at support for "Standard" in lame Dragon articles?

I'm going to try not to become too cynical, but this really does feel like "4.5 with a different name" at this point.

Wow, this article has got me really interested in the Essentials line.  As a father of 4 kids (the oldest is 8) I appreciate a simplified/streamlined version.  This is what the 2008 starter set (and the 3e starter sets) should have been.

It's kind of like the basic D&D of my youth, except that it isn't a separate game.  The old basic/advanced D&D stuff was pretty compatible, but they were offically separate games.  Now the basic game (i.e. Essentials) is a subgame within the main game and fully compatible.  I am really looking forward to seeing the end product.

 Any Edition

I didn't really get the idea from the article that anything was particularly streamlined or simplified; on the contrary, it sounds like they're making it more complicated, by having different classes use different power mechanics (like psionics) instead of having all the classes use the same template, and by adding a bunch of new racial and power options on top of existing ones.  I think the books will try to present the material in a more interesting and noob-friendly manner (which is definitely needed, the core 4e books read like electronics manuals) but it doesn't sound like the system is actually being simplified at all.
I didn't really get the idea from the article that anything was particularly streamlined or simplified; on the contrary, it sounds like they're making it more complicated, by having different classes use different power mechanics (like psionics) instead of having all the classes use the same template, and by adding a bunch of new racial and power options on top of existing ones.  I think the books will try to present the material in a more interesting and noob-friendly manner (which is definitely needed, the core 4e books read like electronics manuals) but it doesn't sound like the system is actually being simplified at all.



Not the system being simplified, but the classes.  I got that from this:

This time, though, we looked at eliminating daily powers and simplifying encounter powers. That approach would allow us to create a character class that is simpler to use while still offering a compelling array of choices during play.

 Any Edition

The apparent goal of Essentials is to simplify the game for newcomers but as makeshiftwings points out (in post #8), it could very easily make the game more complicated for everyone.

Even if they keep the material clearly divided between Essential and General, the games are still ostensibly designed to work side-by-side.  There's gonna be questions/confusion about which is which.  That's gonna happen at the table, no matter what appears in which books.  Why?  Because its all being marketed as 'everyone's still playing D&D', no matter which system they use.

Essentials does sound fun.  I'm mostly concerned about how it might split the game; even inadvertently, that's bad I think (bad for the hobby, not necessarily bad for me ;)).  Hope it works as well as they say.
/\ Art
There are 10 planned Essentials Products.  No more, no less.  There will always be 10 4E Essentials products.  No more, no less.

There will be no support for Essentials outside of Essentials


Why does this make things more complicated?  How is this a 4.5e? 

The Standard Wizard is being errata'd at the same time, because, frankly, it needed it.  Why should I be complaining?  I don't need to get Essentials to see this: It'll be in the October Rules Updates, in the Compendium, and in the Character Builder (the last of which I personally can't use due to lack of OSX support, but others can). 

This is a simplified game to ease new players into playing the game.  Frankly, the number of powers and choices in 4E can be overwhelming, even for a long-time player like myself.  I love the options, but at the same time, I recognise that my new players, and many people's children or younger siblings, have trouble with everything.  It was overwhelming when I first played 4E, even though I had been playing D&D for years and years. 

4E is a fun, standardised system.  But while it's simplified the rules all-around, it's made each class extremely complicated through the options of hundreds of powers.  This is a good thing, because it makes every class fun and gives a large variety instead of just, "swing your sword and hope you deal damage," as Fighters once were.  Now they can be as complex as a Wizard or a Cleric, which is cool.


But at the same time, the options -are- overwhelming.  Essentials takes some of that load off.  Gives new players training wheels to help them get their bearings with all the other rules to learn.  Then, when they're ready to try new options – races beyond the 10 supported and classes beyond the 8 supported – they can move on to buying or borrowing one of the Player's Handbooks and make a new type of character.  It was overwhelming for me in my first year of playing 4E.  But now, I swim through the game quite easily, and I'm a DM for multiple 4E games as well.  I had to learn the hard way: I was thrown into the lake as a toddler, with the knowledge to walk and climb from previous editions, but not the knowledge to swim in 4E.  I had to sink or swim, and I swam, somehow.  But new players can get floaters to help them learn to swim.  It's a more gradual process. 

I see this as a very positive thing.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

There are 10 planned Essentials Products.  No more, no less.  There will always be 10 4E Essentials products.  No more, no less.

There will be no support for Essentials outside of Essentials



WotC has not made any of those promises as far as I'm aware (though I'd be happy to see a source!).  They may have said they have possible plans around that, you know, just like the Character Visualizer will definitely be ready as soon as 4e launches, and that the Virtual Gaming Table is almost done and just needs some finishing touches to be ready for the launch of 4e...  WotC will most definitely change focus to the Essential races and classes if they think it will be more profitable, and I can't really blame them, I'd probably be trying to figure out how to get us all to re-buy the books without being too obvious about it if I were them too.


Why does this make things more complicated?  How is this a 4.5e? 


Well, more complicated because it's adding another 8 classes to the game with the same name as the existing classes, and the "core" ruling is that both versions of the classes are allowed to play side by side.  (Let's try not to drift off into "but I can ignore the book or change the rules"... sure, but then nothing that WotC ever publishes matters at all, so that's not much of an argument)


The Standard Wizard is being errata'd at the same time, because, frankly, it needed it.  Why should I be complaining?  I don't need to get Essentials to see this: It'll be in the October Rules Updates, in the Compendium, and in the Character Builder (the last of which I personally can't use due to lack of OSX support, but others can). 


The fact that you get stuff through the Compendium really has nothing at all to do with whether the game is becoming more complicated or whether it's being rebooted.  I wasn't complaining about the price of the books or anything, I'm not sure what you're getting at.  But I'd say that adding a bunch of miss effects to all of the Wizard's encounter powers is making the game more complicated, not less.

This is a simplified game to ease new players into playing the game.  Frankly, the number of powers and choices in 4E can be overwhelming, even for a long-time player like myself.  I love the options, but at the same time, I recognise that my new players, and many people's children or younger siblings, have trouble with everything.  It was overwhelming when I first played 4E, even though I had been playing D&D for years and years. 


Well, I'll have to see the books, but the fact that they're devoting two entire books to JUST the presentation of the eight classes, instead of devoting one chapter of a PHB that also contains the entire ruleset of the game and a bunch of magic items... makes me think that the Essentials class books will actually have a lot MORE options per class than the PHB.  Otherwise I don't know what they'd be filling the pages with.  There might be a lot more Encounter powers and no Daily powers but that's still a lot of choices.


4E is a fun, standardised system.  But while it's simplified the rules all-around, it's made each class extremely complicated through the options of hundreds of powers.  This is a good thing, because it makes every class fun and gives a large variety instead of just, "swing your sword and hope you deal damage," as Fighters once were.  Now they can be as complex as a Wizard or a Cleric, which is cool.


Do you mean if you own every book and incorporate every issue of Dragon?  Because that doesn't really have anything to do with Essentials.  You're supposed to still be able to use most of all of that with the Essentials classes, you'll still have access to all those powers if you want them.  I think you'd need to compare the Essentials book with just the PHB, and I think Essentials will probably have a lot more powers and options than just PHB, since, as I said, they're filling two entire books with just that, rather than squeezing all of it into one chapter of the main rulebook.


But at the same time, the options -are- overwhelming.  Essentials takes some of that load off.  Gives new players training wheels to help them get their bearings with all the other rules to learn.  Then, when they're ready to try new options – races beyond the 10 supported and classes beyond the 8 supported – they can move on to buying or borrowing one of the Player's Handbooks and make a new type of character.  It was overwhelming for me in my first year of playing 4E.  But now, I swim through the game quite easily, and I'm a DM for multiple 4E games as well.  I had to learn the hard way: I was thrown into the lake as a toddler, with the knowledge to walk and climb from previous editions, but not the knowledge to swim in 4E.  I had to sink or swim, and I swam, somehow.  But new players can get floaters to help them learn to swim.  It's a more gradual process. 

I see this as a very positive thing.


But the 8 supported classes are all of the PHB1 classes (with Warlord swapped for Druid) except with a ton of extra content.  And there are MORE races in Essentials than PHB; it's the PHB races plus drow and half-orc.  It seems you're saying that the only choice is "Essentials" or "Reading every single 4e book ever published" when really it seems like it should be "Essentials" vs "PHB".  If all new players need is a limited number of options than just giving them the PHB should be fine, right?  I'm not sure why you'd need to buy a book that "allows" you to not read a hundred other books... you can already play just using the PHB.  And WotC is saying that the Essentials stuff is supposed to be compatible with Standard stuff, which means if you feel there's a "need" to read every other book to make the perfect character, you'd probably still feel that need with Essentials.

There are 10 planned Essentials Products.  No more, no less.  There will always be 10 4E Essentials products.  No more, no less.

There will be no support for Essentials outside of Essentials



WotC has not made any of those promises as far as I'm aware (though I'd be happy to see a source!).  They may have said they have possible plans around that, you know, just like the Character Visualizer will definitely be ready as soon as 4e launches, and that the Virtual Gaming Table is almost done and just needs some finishing touches to be ready for the launch of 4e...


You could also throw in "The assassin will remain D&D Insider-only, and will not be published in a book."


Things change.

I am extremely happy with how Essentials streamlines the class mechanics. No more Daily powers! Yay!

Commencing Countdown! Countdown to Essentials:

'This time, though, we looked at eliminating daily powers and simplifying encounter powers. That approach would allow us to create a character class that is simpler to use while still offering a compelling array of choices during play.'

Most of us coming from 3e and earlier versions take Daily powers for granted - sometimes dont even notice the discrepancies. But they have too many mechanical problems, not least of which is the official 1-hour workday. Within the narrative timeline, each battle lasts approximately 5 minutes. The gaming system is balanced for about 4 battles per day before needing an extended rest, especially to replenish Daily powers. Thats only 20 minutes per day! No matter how you stretch it, even with 'milestones', it still tends to come out to about one hour of activity. And twenty-three hours of sleeping. Or rather, one hour of fighting, six hours of sleeping, and seventeen hours of 'sharpening weapons'. Now Essentials gives the option to eliminate the Daily powers. This fixes the problem. It allows more flexibility for deciding when to take extended rest, thus lets the adventure narrative decide when it makes the most sense to rest. Plus a whole lot less bookkeeping. For me, it makes a better game.

Im going to love these new classes.

A simplified mechanic with beefier Encounter powers and zero Daily powers.  Please, please, please, make the Essentials line include a Psionic class that uses these streamlined mechanics, a Monk or hopefully a Psion.
I don't yet see how this isnt 4.5 but I'll control the nerd rage until I see the book.
I don't yet see how this isnt 4.5 but I'll control the nerd rage until I see the book.


the difference:

3.5 was not compatible with 3.0.

essentials is compatible with pre-essentials materials. 
There are 10 planned Essentials Products.  No more, no less.  There will always be 10 4E Essentials products.  No more, no less.

There will be no support for Essentials outside of Essentials



WotC has not made any of those promises as far as I'm aware (though I'd be happy to see a source!).  They may have said they have possible plans around that, you know, just like the Character Visualizer will definitely be ready as soon as 4e launches, and that the Virtual Gaming Table is almost done and just needs some finishing touches to be ready for the launch of 4e...  WotC will most definitely change focus to the Essential races and classes if they think it will be more profitable, and I can't really blame them, I'd probably be trying to figure out how to get us all to re-buy the books without being too obvious about it if I were them too.


It's been stated by WotC a number of times.  Let's find one… here's the first discussion of it, and Bill Slavicsek said it from the beginning.  Bill then clarified that they aren't a replacement.  At the XP 2010 itself, the team clarified it to be finished after those 10 products. 




Why does this make things more complicated?  How is this a 4.5e? 


Well, more complicated because it's adding another 8 classes to the game with the same name as the existing classes, and the "core" ruling is that both versions of the classes are allowed to play side by side.  (Let's try not to drift off into "but I can ignore the book or change the rules"... sure, but then nothing that WotC ever publishes matters at all, so that's not much of an argument)


Trevor said they could be played side by side if you WANTED to.  That by no means means you HAVE to.  They've said time and time again, it's only a presence by how much you make it one.  the Essential rules are a sub-system that won't get support beyond their 10 products, unlike the core system, which will continue. 




The Standard Wizard is being errata'd at the same time, because, frankly, it needed it.  Why should I be complaining?  I don't need to get Essentials to see this: It'll be in the October Rules Updates, in the Compendium, and in the Character Builder (the last of which I personally can't use due to lack of OSX support, but others can). 


The fact that you get stuff through the Compendium really has nothing at all to do with whether the game is becoming more complicated or whether it's being rebooted.  I wasn't complaining about the price of the books or anything, I'm not sure what you're getting at.  But I'd say that adding a bunch of miss effects to all of the Wizard's encounter powers is making the game more complicated, not less.


Now you're the one making my statement complicated.  I was responding to the speculation made by some that you'd have the essentials-errata'd core wizard and the non-errata'd core wizard.  That errata will appear everywhere, so it's not like you'll have to get essentials to see it.  Frankly, I don't even think the errata'd core wizard with miss effects will appear in Essentials, but in errata alongside it.  Also, adding miss effects is fixing the Wizard, so it can compete with other controllers:  you could say adding ANYTHING to the game makes it more complicated.  You might as well just stick with the PH1 as written.



This is a simplified game to ease new players into playing the game.  Frankly, the number of powers and choices in 4E can be overwhelming, even for a long-time player like myself.  I love the options, but at the same time, I recognise that my new players, and many people's children or younger siblings, have trouble with everything.  It was overwhelming when I first played 4E, even though I had been playing D&D for years and years. 


Well, I'll have to see the books, but the fact that they're devoting two entire books to JUST the presentation of the eight classes, instead of devoting one chapter of a PHB that also contains the entire ruleset of the game and a bunch of magic items... makes me think that the Essentials class books will actually have a lot MORE options per class than the PHB.  Otherwise I don't know what they'd be filling the pages with.  There might be a lot more Encounter powers and no Daily powers but that's still a lot of choices.


They're also paperback.  And the nature of the titles of those books sound like there will be considerable fluff.  Baseless speculation is bad for your mental health, by the way.  WotC said simpler; I'm going to trust them.



4E is a fun, standardised system.  But while it's simplified the rules all-around, it's made each class extremely complicated through the options of hundreds of powers.  This is a good thing, because it makes every class fun and gives a large variety instead of just, "swing your sword and hope you deal damage," as Fighters once were.  Now they can be as complex as a Wizard or a Cleric, which is cool.


Do you mean if you own every book and incorporate every issue of Dragon?  Because that doesn't really have anything to do with Essentials.  You're supposed to still be able to use most of all of that with the Essentials classes, you'll still have access to all those powers if you want them.  I think you'd need to compare the Essentials book with just the PHB, and I think Essentials will probably have a lot more powers and options than just PHB, since, as I said, they're filling two entire books with just that, rather than squeezing all of it into one chapter of the main rulebook.


Again, your speculation isn't rooted in anything I've heard.  Essentials is a slightly separate game system.  It would be like saying you could use a feat that requires Power Points when you don't have any because you never took a Psionic Class or option that gives you one. 



But at the same time, the options -are- overwhelming.  Essentials takes some of that load off.  Gives new players training wheels to help them get their bearings with all the other rules to learn.  Then, when they're ready to try new options – races beyond the 10 supported and classes beyond the 8 supported – they can move on to buying or borrowing one of the Player's Handbooks and make a new type of character.  It was overwhelming for me in my first year of playing 4E.  But now, I swim through the game quite easily, and I'm a DM for multiple 4E games as well.  I had to learn the hard way: I was thrown into the lake as a toddler, with the knowledge to walk and climb from previous editions, but not the knowledge to swim in 4E.  I had to sink or swim, and I swam, somehow.  But new players can get floaters to help them learn to swim.  It's a more gradual process. 

I see this as a very positive thing.


But the 8 supported classes are all of the PHB1 classes (with Warlord swapped for Druid) except with a ton of extra content.  And there are MORE races in Essentials than PHB; it's the PHB races plus drow and half-orc.  It seems you're saying that the only choice is "Essentials" or "Reading every single 4e book ever published" when really it seems like it should be "Essentials" vs "PHB".  If all new players need is a limited number of options than just giving them the PHB should be fine, right?  I'm not sure why you'd need to buy a book that "allows" you to not read a hundred other books... you can already play just using the PHB.  And WotC is saying that the Essentials stuff is supposed to be compatible with Standard stuff, which means if you feel there's a "need" to read every other book to make the perfect character, you'd probably still feel that need with Essentials.


No, it's not.  You're acting like the PH1 is the only core product.  That's simply not true.  Everything is equally core in 4E.  Essentials is one route, and the PHs and the PGs are another.  There are far more options in the core system.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

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A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

I essentially agree with Marandahir and the optimistic posters.

The core 4E player characters are far too complex for casual gameplay - anything that simplifies combat options (and thus speeds up encounters) will be an improvement in my estimation.

I too am a long time player, and I do like the 4E combat system, except for the fact that the complexity slows down game play to an excruciating extent when you play with a group of non-pro D&D players.  Seems to me in the old days it took 1-2 game sessions to get through a decent sized dungeon or adventure - now it seems to take 4-5, that's a killer for campaign storyline when you spend a month or two in the same dungeon (...why were we fighting in here again?)

The slow down is simply due to the fact that combat encounters take too long to play, primarily because each player is trying to play his or her best and calculating their turns like a chess match.  The combat strategy is great, I really enjoy it, but not at the expense of the campaign's storyline. 

If "Essentials" simplifies the characters to an extent that it speeds up gameplay than I would consider it a success - I don't care if it's 4.5 or gets confusing with CORE or what-have-you.

 
All in all, it's great that there will be a noob friendly product.

but I have several concerns

If this book will have new builds and options for existing classes that are compatible with the current game, then I don't care how you dress it up. This is also a book for the core, not just the newcomers.

Some of us will buy the book just for the new options, because if they can be played in the current game, they WILL be played in the current game. That's just how things work.

So the questions about the Standard Fighter vs the Essentials Fighter will come up. If the classes are different, then that raises a bunch of rules questions that'll need straightening out.

I guess my biggest concern then, really, is the idea of classes being released with the same name in the same game. Even if the games are compatible with each other the idea that the new Fighter and old Fighter can't mix still gives off the 3E to 3.5E vibe (even if it's a bit unfair).

Easy fix would to just give the essentials classes new names. Say what you will, but since these books are presenting new options for the current game, they are as much for us as they are for the newcomer. Without some more clarification, I don't like the idea of the classes being distinct like this.

It's been stated by WotC a number of times.  Let's find one… here's the first discussion of it, and Bill Slavicsek said it from the beginning.  Bill then clarified that they aren't a replacement.  At the XP 2010 itself, the team clarified it to be finished after those 10 products. 



Those are good links, thanks.



Trevor said they could be played side by side if you WANTED to.  That by no means means you HAVE to.  They've said time and time again, it's only a presence by how much you make it one.  the Essential rules are a sub-system that won't get support beyond their 10 products, unlike the core system, which will continue. 


Still, this is kind of what I was saying I didn't want to wander off into... everything is optional, you don't "have" to use any book, but every book is "core" including Essentials (the motto is "Everything is core" not "Everything except essentials is core, but Essentials are essential").  I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.



Now you're the one making my statement complicated.  I was responding to the speculation made by some that you'd have the essentials-errata'd core wizard and the non-errata'd core wizard.  That errata will appear everywhere, so it's not like you'll have to get essentials to see it.  Frankly, I don't even think the errata'd core wizard with miss effects will appear in Essentials, but in errata alongside it.  Also, adding miss effects is fixing the Wizard, so it can compete with other controllers:  you could say adding ANYTHING to the game makes it more complicated.  You might as well just stick with the PH1 as written.


That's sort of my point...  If it's simpler to stick with the PHB1 as written than use Essentials, then Essentials isn't really simpler than the existing "intro to 4e", the PHB1.  If the only point is that using Essentials is simpler than using every single other book combined, then that's not really a fair comparison.  No one is forcing you to use all books in "standard", and no one is forcing you to not use those books in "essential".  The extra books are extra books that are supposed to work with both systems.



They're also paperback.  And the nature of the titles of those books sound like there will be considerable fluff.  Baseless speculation is bad for your mental health, by the way.  WotC said simpler; I'm going to trust them.


They also say there are multiple new builds for classes, a bunch of new feats, more powers, more options, even new subsystems, and classes that work differently rather than all following the same template.  WotC already said 4e was "simple" and "streamlined"; that was one of its main selling points, so I'm a little suspicious when now they try to frame 4e as complicated and burdensome in order to sell a new and improved simple and streamlined update.  I would guess some things are streamlined, but a bunch of new things get added that make things more complex.  The Rules Compendium is supposed to be all the rules that currently exist in 4e plus the errata plus whatever new rules they need, so I don't think they're going to be streamlining anything core to the system.


Again, your speculation isn't rooted in anything I've heard.  Essentials is a slightly separate game system.  It would be like saying you could use a feat that requires Power Points when you don't have any because you never took a Psionic Class or option that gives you one. 


That's not the way I'm reading it... in the first article you linked, they say "The Essentials line consists of 10 key products that will always be in stock and will form the core of the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game experience moving forward."  That sounds like it's basically the replacement core books, even though they say they're not the replacement core books.  They're sending out mixed messages, I think we could agree on that.  They also say "Rules Compendium puts all the core rules of the game into a single volume for the first time" which sounds like it is exactly a replacement rulebook... what else would it be? 


No, it's not.  You're acting like the PH1 is the only core product.  That's simply not true.  Everything is equally core in 4E.  Essentials is one route, and the PHs and the PGs are another.  There are far more options in the core system.


I don't think that's what they're saying.  Essentials is a new "path into" the system but it leads to the same system.  The Rules Compendium is the new core.  The classes are different, perhaps simpler, builds but they are designed to work with the same system.  Essentials is the new entry for everything going forward... you're not supposed to buy those books and then stop buying things; you're supposed to be able to use your characters and the Rules Compendium and all the monsters for everything going forward in the future (and hopefully, the past).

I think the real clues we'll have to whether this is actually 4.5 or not will come when we start hearing about the "front list 2011" releases.  The paragraph you linked has some interesting info if you like to be paranoid like me ;) :

"In January, 2011, our new front list products begin rolling out, providing expanded game options and materials for all players. We’re going to continue to use the lessons we learned from Essentials while applying the innovation and design we’re known for. You’ll see options for players that include new power sources, new class and race options, and even more universal options that work with the material you’re already playing with. For Dungeon Masters, options will include new campaign elements, new monsters, new tools to help plan and run the game, and more. These products will include our traditional formats, but you’ll also see new formats as well. There’s exciting things coming for D&D, and we’ll get more and more into this topic as the year progresses."

The final paragraph of the article in the original post is also pretty clear that Essentials is basically adding a layer on top of core and will represent the new baseline going forward, in the "Most Important Thing To Remember" section; it's entirely about how they wanted to make sure that current characters were still valid for the system going forward.  If Essentials was supposed to be a separate game, why would they care?  To me that entire last paragraph is basically saying "Yes, this is a rules reboot, sort of like 4.5, and everything is going to be based on this in the future, but don't worry, it's backwards compatible with 4.0."  So I do applaud them for making it backwards compatible... the fact that 3.5e wasn't was one of the main things that people hated about it.  But this still sounds like Essentials is basically the new core standard and will be what everything afterward is based on, even if it doesn't have the word "Essentials" on the cover.   (Which would be a little ridiculous, "Everything is core AND essential!"  Go marketing!)
Well, you're right, makeshiftwings.  I was partially wrong here.

They're using the Essentials format for the rest of 4E.  >_<

At least EVERYTHING is compatible, to the point you can pillage from one version of the class or the other.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

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A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

The curious bit to me is that their 1st Essentials example, the Warpriest, actualy looks more complicated to me, systematically. It's easy enough, looking at PHB 29, to see, understand, and eventually thoroughly remember the level development of every class in 4e: which levels feats are gained; which levels encounter, utility, and daily powers are gained; level boosts; etc. A simple change in the presentational design of the PHB could make that chart and the standardization it represents more prominent.

Granted, we have seen feat and power complexity introduced to the game in the form of additional books and their options, but one can limit play to the PHB if one wishes to have a simpler experience of any of the available classes and races.

The level-by-level breakdown of the class abilities of the Warpriest looks extraordinarily like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions -- class-specific XP break points, class features, and powers. It may be that this class-specific level array simply reiterates PHB 29, but it will be much more difficult for a new player to understand the iver-arching pattern without analysis. As presented, the Warpriest is also a wall of text, and that doesn't lend itself to comprehension.

In any event, it is far too early to discern what is going on with this. I'm not convinced it's a simpler presentation, though, even if the class mechanics are being simplified.
Well, you're right, makeshiftwings.  I was partially wrong here.

They're using the Essentials format for the rest of 4E.  >_<

At least EVERYTHING is compatible, to the point you can pillage from one version of the class or the other.



I just wanted to say, and I mean it sincerely, that I am very impressed that you said you were mistaken.  It's a very rare trait on the internet!  I wish I was better at admitting I'm wrong sometimes ;)  I actually came to this thread ready to launch into a new rant after the cleric article but I'm now somewhat humbled.  
Well, they did tell us time and time again that it wouldn't be this way, and then they flipped it on us.  Based on what they had said, I truly believed what I was saying.

But yeah, you pierced their illusion.  That said, I'm not as much upset about the new format as about the subterfuge involved in the unveilling of it.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

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A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

It would be great if the rulebooks were rereleased in Digest Size with ALL the erratta and corrections at the $19.99 price.
I'll admit, I don't really understand how this is gonna work.  Let me get down the facts as I understand them. Feel free to correct any outright mistakes ;):

1) D&D Essentials will be a core product line for D&D.  Its designed as an introduction for newcomers to the game.

2) Even as a core product, Essentials isn't gonna replace the core books.  That is, the ones we already have will be compatible.  Question:  Are we still likely to see books like Player's Handbook 4 going forward?
 
3) The lineup is pretty much set in stone; 10 products, that it.

A couple of questions:

1) Will the Essential version of classes and powers (and so on) be supported in the general D&D product line (or will it be elsewhere)?  Or is 10 products all the support we'll ever see?  I'm assuming we won't be seeing feats for the Essential Fighter in Martial Power 3, in any case.

I'm also assuming that things seen in Essentials wont become standard.  For example, an Essential dwarf might have a +2 to Con and one variable stat.  This won't supplant the standard dwarf, +2 Con, +2 Wisdom (from the PH), right?

 I'm just curious on these things.

/\ Art
/\ Art
I'll admit, I don't really understand how this is gonna work.  Let me get down the facts as I understand them. Feel free to correct any outright mistakes ;):

1) D&D Essentials will be a core product line for D&D.  Its designed as an introduction for newcomers to the game.

2) Even as a core product, Essentials isn't gonna replace the core books.  That is, the ones we already have will be compatible.  Question:  Are we still likely to see books like Player's Handbook 4 going forward?
 
3) The lineup is pretty much set in stone; 10 products, that it.

A couple of questions:

1) Will the Essential version of classes and powers (and so on) be supported in the general D&D product line (or will it be elsewhere)?  Or is 10 products all the support we'll ever see?  I'm assuming we won't be seeing feats for the Essential Fighter in Martial Power 3, in any case.


I would assume we'll see feats for Fighters in Martial Power 3, if the book is ever released.  That said, according to both Mike Mearls and Bill Slavicsek, both PH1 Fighters and Heroes of the Fallen Lands Fighter kits – Knights and Slayers – will be able to qualify for feats that have fighter as a prerequisite.


I'm also assuming that things seen in Essentials wont become standard.  For example, an Essential dwarf might have a +2 to Con and one variable stat.  This won't supplant the standard dwarf, +2 Con, +2 Wisdom (from the PH), right?

 I'm just curious on these things.

/\ Art



Bill Slavicsek said that all races are getting the variable ability score treatment through errata; this is something they were going to do whether or not they went ahead with Essentials as a revised model.  So, while I can't say this with 100% certainty, it's likely that you're going to see in October the PH1 get errata with Dwarves getting to replace the bonus to Wisdom with a bonus to Intelligence or something else.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

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A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

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