Essentials Rules FAQ
While not neccessarily connected to a rules question, many people are confused about what essentials is for and why it exists. There is an excellent Escapist interview with Mike Mearls that discusses the design intent of D&D essentials in much greater detail than anything I've seen on the D&D homepage. If you want to know why we have essentials, or what the developers intended it to do, then this is the place to look.
What is this?
It’s intended to be a repository of common rules-related questions people have about essentials, specifically how the essentials specific classes, paragon paths, and epic destinies, and rules interact with the pre-essentials rules and classes.
Because a lot of people seem to be confused by how some of the pre-essentials rules and classes work with the essentials products, and we are seeing many of the same questions over and over.
Is essentials compatible with 4E? Which sourcebooks are compatible?
Essentials uses the same game mechanics system as 4E proper, so the short answer is “all of them.”
Have there been any rules updates to the 4E rules to bring them into line with the essentials products?
Yes, although this is an ongoing process. A summary of the proposed changes can be found here:
And the second batch, released with Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms:
There is some confusion as to wether these documents, especially the second one, are supposed to be treated as updates. The first one is described as a "preview," as is the second one, but the second "preview's" filename indicated it's the november rules update...even though it's called a rules preview and is not referenced from the updates page as of yet. What seems to be happening is that the developers are working changes from these documents into the official updates slowly over time.
Are essential classes balanced against regular 4E classes and each other? Can we play both essentials and non-essentials classes in the same game?
The consensus from Char-Op is that essentials classes are balanced against pre-essentials classes. In any event, several people seem to be running games with both essentials and regular 4E characters with few or no reported problems at this point. I have done it myself, and while I think cetain essentials classes are easier to play then their pre-e counterparts, they all seem balanced as far as relative power.
Can essentials character classes take class powers from their pre-essentials 4E counterparts? Can they retrain essentials class powers for regular 4E powers?
Yes (HoTFL, page 57), but you can only trade out powers that are equivalent in type, class, and level, and they can't be powers granted by class features. So, for example, you can’t retrain or swap a fighter stance for a fighter at-will (not the same kind of power at all), but you could choose to take a fighter utility from martial power or elsewhere in place of a slayer utility of the same level. Likewise, some essentials classes don't actually get encounter or daily attack powers from their class, so they can’t choose pre-essentials encounter or daily attack powers either.
Could an essentials slayer or knight retrain power attack for another fighter encounter power?
No. Powers granted by class features cannot be retrained. RC, page 87.
What about other class features?
Class features are no more swappable between essentials and non-essentials classes than they are between other classes. Again, swapped powers have to be equivalent in class, type, and level, and cannot be granted by class features (HotFL, 57).
Can a Warpriest retrain his domain powers (including the at-wills) for cleric powers from any other books that are the same type and level?
No. Your domain is a class feature, the powers it grants are part of that feature. This also goes for your warlock pact, your cavalier virtue, etc.
What if you use power attack on a critical hit? Are the power attack dice maximized?
Given that things like hunter's quarry and backstab dice are maximized on a hit, and you can decide to apply some of those features after you know the hit is a crit, board consensus on this is yes, they are.
Can essentials characters take paragon paths and epic destinies from other sourcebooks?
Yes, as long as they meet the prerequisites for the path or destiny (HotFL, page 79). Note that essentials classes count as their “parent” class: for example, a slayer is a fighter, and a mage is a wizard.
Can non-essentials classes take essentials powers?
Again, we don’t have anything official on this, but board consensus is that this should be fine as long as you are replacing powers of the same class, type, and level. It's worth noting that the character builder presents essentials powers right alongside non-essentials powers as if there is no difference. So, for example, swapping a level two essentials mage utility for a level two wizard utility should be fine, swapping a stance for an at-will attack power is not. Also note that many powers, such as wizard's fireball, are being updated such that the essentials version is the only version of that power.
What if a human takes the extra at-will racial option, and their class does not have at-wills?
Nothing official on this either, but the board consensus is that they should be able to pick an at-will attack power from the same class. So, for example, a human slayer could take a level one fighter at-will from the PHB or any other book. No, you cannot take another stance or rogue trick, the racial feature specifies a level one at-will attack power, which those things are not.
Can non-essentials classes take essentials paragon paths and epic destinies?
Again, we don’t have anything official yet, but given that essentials classes can take nonessentials PPs and EDs, it seems reasonable to assume it would work in reverse as well, as long as the character qualifies for any prerequisites. Note that almost all essentials PPs have restrictions such that they can only be taken by essentials builds, for example, the Stalwart Knight PP can only be taken by the Knight.
What about feats?
There is no rule against taking any feat from any source as long as you can satisfy any prerequisites the feat has. Some feats have made others obsolete, while many have been updated, so you may want to check the updates page before you choose. Again, note that essentials classes “count” as their parent class, so a mage should be able to take wizard feats.
Can we now take any feat at any level?
We have been told that the restriction on taking feats at paragon or epic tiers will be removed, but to date, no language has appeared in the updates saying so.
Weapon Focus has changed such that weapons that are also implements only get the bonus on weapon attacks. But there are various feats, such as racial weapon feats, that offer bonuses to hit or damage that seem to apply to both weapon and implement attacks. Have these feats changed too?
Unless there is language in the updates that changes a feat, it has not changed.
Dwarven Resilience is now an encounter power. Is this change retroactive to all dwarves?
No update on this has been issued as of this writing, but there is every indication that it's meant to be.
Essentials Healing Word does not have the divine Keyword. Is this change meant to transfer to the nonessentials healing word?
We have no idea. There's nothing about it in the updates as of this writing.
Can Essentials characters multiclass? How?
There is nothing stopping essentials characters from taking multiclass feats, however, since some essentials classes have no swappable daily attack powers or encounter powers, not all the power-swap feats will be useful to all the essentials classes. We have no idea yet how PMC works with essentials classes, if in fact it does.
Update: a collection of feats was recently released in dragon magazine that allow essentials characters to multiclass a bit better by allowing them to get dragular encounter powers from their parent class. The article is here:
Can other characters multiclass into essentials classes?
Not currently. We have no initial multiclass feats anywhere yet for the essentials classes, which we would need in order to take power-swap feats for those classes.
Update: Rules have been Released in Dragon magazine for hybrid classing and multiclassing a few of the essentials character classes. The article is here:
Can we hybrid-class essentials classes?
Only for a few of the classes at present (see above).
Can Essentials classes use rituals?
There’s no game-mechanics reason why not, although currently no essentials class so far gets the ritual caster feat for free, so even the mage would have to spend a feat to pick up ritual caster.
Has the rule that limits magical item daily power usage been removed?
According to the "November update," yes, it has.
How does this change impact things like the Artificier's ability to grant an extra magical item daily usage?
That is a very good question, one that does not currently have any official answer. My suggested solution is to houserule the artificiers power to recharge a used daily power. This accomplishes effectively the same thing: it allows players to use more magical item daily powers per day.
Can we still use the old Parcel System?
Yes, but now that the rule limiting the use of magical item daily powers has been repealed, there is no safeguard in place to prevent characters from stockpiling low-level magical items (or consumeables) with useful daily powers and spamming them all in a single combat encounter. The easiest solution is to houserule the old limitation on daily power usage back into the game if you want to use the old treasure system.
Can we use existing 4E magical items with the new treasure system?
For now, technically no until the rules update that assigns rarity to pre-essentials magical items goes into effect. If you want to, though, you can just use the information in the preview and houserule on it until the update hits: Check the essentials rules preview for details:www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4...
Can we create rare and uncommon items with enchant magical item and brew potion?
The "november update" (and again, the only thing that even indicates that this *is* an update is it's file name) has changed Brew Potion so that it only creates "common potions." Strangely, no such language has been attached to Enchant Magical Item, so it's still unclear as to what rarity items the ritual can make.
Characters created above level one are supposed to get three magical items of differing levels. Are these items supposed to be common, uncommon, rare, or some variety of the three?
As of now, we have no offical word on this, so your guess is as good as ours. Since rare items are supposed to be, well, rare, it might be a good idea to at least rule that no more than one of the three items can be rare.