Old Gamer Plea: Update me on the year's events!

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Hey folks!  I'm a longtime player of D&D whose heyday was 3.5, but I also played plenty of 4e - right up until the Essentials stuff came out.

My exodus didn't really have anything to do with that release (though I didn't really get the differences, and stuck to my 4e campaign a bit) - I went overseas a while, trips, personal stuff, all that.

tl;dr: I've been WAY out of the loop for far too long, and I want to get caught up on my favorite hobby.  Especially since (after a long period of crippling self-doubt and reflection) I'd love to someday give back by designing my own modules and such for the community.  And optimally make a living off it, but yes I know we all dream of it - beside the point.

Right now, I'd love for someone to give me a run-down of the "timeline of D&D" for 2011.  I know at least some of you love organizing thoughts as much as I do - Go!
Hmmmmm, lets see... After Essentials was released what was there? Well, the later part of 2010 was fairly anemic. Its hard to recall exactly when each thing came out, but there were a few books announced and then unannounced around that time. Dungeon and Dragon were pretty thin on content there too for a couple months going into 2011.

Then we got Heroes of Shadow (a splat book basically covering the shadow power source). It has some fun stuff, though the charops people hate it because there's not a lot to play with in that direction (and the binder class really is pretty blah, though not exactly broken you just have no reason to want to play it).

We got Gloomwrought, which is a boxed location product for the city of Gloomwrought, and contains a bunch of Shadowfell material in general, maps, pogs, etc. Don't have a copy myself, but it has gotten good reviews. Kind of one of those products that you'll probably love if you need something like it and otherwise can be ignored. In any case it is totally a DM side product.

We got Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, which was one of the 2010 MIA products. Kind of an item reboot and adds or tweaks a number of items of equipment and such. Well-written and really fills out the 'item rarity' setup a lot. Has a setup for cursed items, etc. Not a vital book to have but it does serve as a good replacement for AV1 and AV2 in the lineup. I get the feeling that was its job, since those books are apparently out of print now.

Heroes of the Feywild is the newest book, which just came out. This is another splat book themed on the Feywild this time, so it is the sibling of HoS. Has a couple new subclasses that are a bit more 'in between' the Essentials and PHB/AEDU type structure (they are AEDU but have some minor twists). Pixies and Satyrs are PC races, as are Hamadryads. There is other new stuff, lots of background material etc. This book is well-liked from what I can see (as much so as any splatbook anyway, and more than most).

The other major 4e product was the Neverwinter 'setting', which is billed as the 2011 4e setting. It is basically a heroic tier campaign set in Neverwinter in the FR. Again, well-received, but I didn't get a copy. It adds a bunch of options for players, mostly stuff that is kind of FR specific as it isn't meant as a splat. Still, you can work a lot of it into any game.

That's about it for published products aside from they announced we will get minis back in 2012, and the usual releases of tiles. There were also fortune cards, which I think generally got the sort of reception that cards usually get for RPGs, sort of meh. There was also the Conquest of Nerath board game, and the Drizzz't board (another in the series of 'D&D lite' games). Conquest is a risk-type game with added features and a whole map of the PoL world, which DDI has provided some background on areas of since then.

Beyond that there are themes now for non-DS games. Many are out on DDI (at least in the CB) and various products have added more. There were a good chunk of Errata released for various PHB1 classes too.

That covers most of it. Probably forgot something, but that's the gist of it, unless you count the usual rumors (IE D&D is dying, 5e is about to be released, the fighter is about to be renamed 'Badger!', and all the other usual nonsense).

EDIT: Oh, Essentials got another monster book "MV: Threats to Nentir Vale", which is pretty much heroic tier stuff, but with a lot of fluff. Obviously sort of tied to the NV region and plot that has been developed there, but also pretty generally useful, at least for heroic tier and a bit into paragon. The fluff is pretty good and the monsters are up to the standards of late, which are high.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
 
Heroes of the Feywild is the newest book, which just came out. This is another splat book themed on the Feywild this time, so it is the sibling of HoS. Has a couple new subclasses that are a bit more 'in between' the Essentials and PHB/AEDU type structure (they are AEDU but have some minor twists). Pixies and Satyrs are PC races, as are Hamadryads. There is other new stuff, lots of background material etc. This book is well-liked from what I can see (as much so as any splatbook anyway, and more than most). 



I got an opportunity to read this one for about an hour the other day and it looks very sweet. Even enjoyed the pure flavor elements... mildly disappointed with the Witch class (a straight wizard pretty much but some of the spells are still pretty nice) but generaly speaking its getting real high marks. 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Feywild really is a decent book. It's hardly immune to criticism, but it has a lot of great stuff in it. The semi-magic items are fantastic, and the art - and the story it tells - is great.
Fire Blog Control, Change, and Chaos: The Elemental Power Source Elemental Heroes Example Classes Xaosmith Exulter Chaos Bringer Director Elemental Heroes: Looking Back - Class and Story Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Xaosmith (January 16, 2012) Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Harbinger (May 16, 2012) Check out my Elemental Heroes blog series and help me develop four unique elemental classes.
I think it has managed to get me interested in new product again something which hadnt happened since Darksun.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

If the Elemental book is at least that good, I will not be unhappy. I won't be as happy as I would be if they brought out a new PHB full of elemental classes, but it would be adequate.
Fire Blog Control, Change, and Chaos: The Elemental Power Source Elemental Heroes Example Classes Xaosmith Exulter Chaos Bringer Director Elemental Heroes: Looking Back - Class and Story Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Xaosmith (January 16, 2012) Elemental Heroes: Complete Class Beta - The Harbinger (May 16, 2012) Check out my Elemental Heroes blog series and help me develop four unique elemental classes.
EDIT: Oh, Essentials got another monster book "MV: Threats to Nentir Vale", which is pretty much heroic tier stuff, but with a lot of fluff. Obviously sort of tied to the NV region and plot that has been developed there, but also pretty generally useful, at least for heroic tier and a bit into paragon. The fluff is pretty good and the monsters are up to the standards of late, which are high.



Actually, about 25% of the monsters are paragon tier, the rest heroic, with a decent spread of choices per level up until late paragon where it thins out.  Agreed about the rest - the designs are mostly excellent, challenging and tricky without being overpowered, and the fluff (while nice to see) is easily adjusted to use them more generically.  Interestingly, the book's Big Bad is (of all the unexpected things) an old, cranky treant.  And that despite the inclusion of a three-headed mutant red dragon.   
Thanks for all the info guys.  Looks like things have been surprisingly quiet since I fell off the map...I remember when they were pumping out stuff like the PHB3 that got everyone stoked, and I personally loved the MM3 - had a nice Lovecraftian flavor, and I took the fun, better-balanced monster mechanics from it and extrapolated them to apply to the MM1 and 2.

I didn't check out the Dark Sun stuff - it seems like people enjoyed it, how high would you rate it compared to the rest of 4e's material?

I'm a bit discouraged to see that it seems like you can't even use the core books now without Essentials or Rules Compendium - the better emphasis on errata/updates was nice at first (especially compared to 3e,) but looking back it's a shame to me that so much of the original stuff is altered you have to buy entirely new books to make use of anything coming out now.
The rules compendium is very good.  I think its the one essentials book that everyone likes for the most part and its fairly inexpensive.

Dark Sun got good reviews for the most part.  Its the only campaign setting my home group used that wasn't homebrew and is my favorite setting book for 4E.

Heroes of shadow is the book that probably got the worst reception overall.  It doesn't seem like it was designed/playtested well.  The binder is simply not very good and the shade is pretty bad race.  The death domain warpriest could have been made a lot better by tweaking only a few sentences, but it is salvagable if you swap out some encounter powers through reserve manuever or a power swap with a class like invoker.  The book also brought back alignment restrictions to some classes again, which was a sacred cow a lot of us were glad to see gone.

Neverwinter was a better book for some materials.  The 4 warpriest builds in particular were fairly well done, with the Oghma build being one of the best leader builds out there once you hit mid paragon.  Bladesinger was the only part that got kind of bad reviews from what I saw.

Heores of the feywild is pretty good overall.  The witch is not that great compared to other wizards, but the other builds in the book are original and reasonably useful.  The races are well done too. 

Thanks for all the info guys.  Looks like things have been surprisingly quiet since I fell off the map...I remember when they were pumping out stuff like the PHB3 that got everyone stoked, and I personally loved the MM3 - had a nice Lovecraftian flavor, and I took the fun, better-balanced monster mechanics from it and extrapolated them to apply to the MM1 and 2.

I didn't check out the Dark Sun stuff - it seems like people enjoyed it, how high would you rate it compared to the rest of 4e's material?

I'm a bit discouraged to see that it seems like you can't even use the core books now without Essentials or Rules Compendium - the better emphasis on errata/updates was nice at first (especially compared to 3e,) but looking back it's a shame to me that so much of the original stuff is altered you have to buy entirely new books to make use of anything coming out now.

Eh, I don't know about that. PHB1's rules have been chipped away at slowly but surely, but still 95% of the book is valid as written, and unless you have specific issues you want to solve you can ignore most of the errata that does exist. A lot of it was 'rules lawyer' stuff. There were a few basic things early on like hiding and whatnot, but the more recent stuff is more like "stop this min/maxer cheese here" or "people oddly misinterpreted this phrase, so we changed it". Having an RC is a decent idea, but if you know the rules reasonably well and use the errata you'll be fine (or just ignore it and you'll be fine too).

HoS and HotFW DO present some material that is "Essentials style" and sometimes builds off existing HotFL/K stuff. I guess they could have abandoned it to make some people happy, but they're just not going to do that. It is no different than when I bought AP and it had Swordmage stuff in it and I didn't have FR. Wasn't going to be using THAT. Of course DDI will fix that if you want to pay a bit.

Basically I think they went through a year of retrenchment from the release of Essentials to this year's Gencon. The MVs redid monsters in a better way, etc. Now we're moving forward. We got our shadow stuff and our fey stuff. Not sure what actually is left to do TBH. Frankly I thought the PHB3 classes and races were stretching things. Core stuff is rather tapped. These are the days of refinement, not innovation.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
It seems like as they keep going, that is the difficulty in 4e - just coming up with more limited (in flavor or mechanics) versions of base classes, i.e. wizard.

It's a shame to hear that about the Binder and Bladesinger especially.  The Binder was one of my favorite "new idea" classes in 3.5 (much more interesting and usable than the other stuff in Tome of Magic,) and the bladesinger is so iconic to FR, you'd hope they'd at least make something decent.  The original singer in 3.0 was a little overpowered, but the version they popped out for 3.5 was so gimped it was unusable.

Feywild sounds like a good bit of fun - it's hard for me in 4e to find something that really makes me double-take and say "oh, this IS different!", and 'semi-magic items' sounds intriguing.  I'm a fan of good background too - though I think monster encounter design is my strongest like in 4e, I was sad about all the lost interesting fluff.  Whenever I read something like how the city of Mithrendain (sp?) in the Feywild rains residuum though, I get those old stirrings of interest!

I wonder if there's been an influx of pixie rogues now...
Got a pixie mage coming in this week to replace the old one that got et by bullyugs. hehe.

I think a lot of stuff is a matter of opinion. The Binder for instance is inarguably strictly inferior to the straight up warlock, and probably the weakest class in the game. Even so it works, you can play it. I'm not sure why they produced it because frankly stealing its powers and putting them on a regular 'lock is just more fun. Still its forgivable, if not a triumph it is no disaster.

The bladesinger OTOH is just plain cool. Nothing underpowered there. If anything its at-will attack shtick is a bit too good. Not good enough to cause problems, but good enough to make you ask why you would spend time casting. Still, having the spells is worthwhile, at least in a game where the DM doesn't just drop melee opponents in front of your face all day. I think the real issue these days is there are potentially so many ways to implement a concept in 4e that no matter what you design half the people will hate you for not making it something else. Take the Necromancer, a perfectly good implementation. Quite fun too. All half the people around can say is "SUCCZOR! WASN'T A FULL CLASS!!!!" So HoS, a fine book with a lot of really fun to play stuff in it, gets crapped all over because EVERYTHING in there could be done 3 ways to midnight. Drop an insistence on each new game element being a charop bonanza as a cherry on top and you have it in a nutshell.

The same thing is sort of true with the HotFW witch. A perfectly good class. Maybe a tenth of a notch below a standard wizard build mechanically, but that's it. Any theme or story be damned, it wasn't EXACTLY baseline, lol. I do think they finally wised up and realized that putting a ton of actually high quality fluff in a book reduces the attention paid to and tooth gnashing on crunch stuff though. Seems odd that it has taken WotC so long to learn that or that they never learned it during 3.x, but it seems to be getting through to someone now. Perhaps we can credit Mike Mearles on that one, but who knows?
That is not dead which may eternal lie
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