D&D In The News: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Buyer's Guide

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D&D In The News
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Buyer's Guide

By Mike Shea

While we pay much attention to the D&D Next Playtest there has never been a better time to dig into the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. After four years, we have the most polished 4e products available, ones playtested throughout the life of the edition. If deep tactical roleplaying and rich refined character mechanics are the style you seek, 4e is hard to beat. This article, a rewrite of the original article entitled A New DM's Buyers Guide to D&D 4th Edition from January 2011, aims to help new dungeon masters figure out what they need to run great 4th edition D&D games.

Talk about this article here.



Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

I find the advice odd.  My wife and I have found the post essentials classes we have tried rather lacking.  Why try to tell anyone entering into 4e to avoid anything pre-essentials?  There is plenty of good stuff pre-essentials.
Yeah, slyflourish has always been extremly essentials and anti-4e biased...Bah! I found essentials lines to be terrible entry point for new players...wish was something i thought was the benefit for it.

1.The Books editorial design was terrible

2. The player's handbook (Heroes of Fallen Lands, Heroes of Forgotten Kingdom) don't have the information a player need, also the Dungeon Master Kit is lacking "essential" information about it...you basically need a 3rd rules book, the rules compedium...you need 3 books for something the original books had on only 2

3. Less content for your money...Heroes of Fallen Lands and Heroes of Forgotten Kingdom together have as much options and content together than PHB1...and it still be lacking compared to PHB1.  The amount of monster stats on Monster Vault was also extremly low, because how the monster statblock was made (harder to read and taking alot more space) 
WoW what did I just read?

I was expecting, and dreading, the "Essentials is the gateway book" song and dance routine but throwing out everithing Pre-Essentials is just to over the top.
That is a terrible terrible idea.

I like how they suggest a DDI sub but then say don't build any of the old classes.  Because, you know, something. 
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
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Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
The author of the article gives terrible advice overall.  About the only thing I agree with is that you should get the monsters vault, the rules compendium, and the settings books and ddi is good for a group to have.

The idea that you should not get or use PHB1 or 2 classes is shamefully bad advice.  The sole exception that you can get the updated PHB1 classes for free online so it would be ok if he had recommended that and then buy PHB2 or at least get that material from DDI, but he doesn't even mention that those PHB1 freebies are available for the taking.

Most of the best classes and paragon paths, both in terms of fun and effectiveness, in the game are in those two books.  PHB3 is another decent addition and the power books are good additions, but the key point is the best stuff in the game is all pre essentials.

If you follow his advice you will hardly have any access to enabling leaders such as the warlord or shaman.  The warpriest and skald can enable, but he does not even recommend the books that have the skald or the book that makes the warpriest a good enabler.  Enabling leaders are one of the biggest advances that 4E had.  The advice is especially bad since he does recommend you have the essentials classes like the slayer and thief that work so well with them.
I do like poster maps > dungeon tiles though. I've only ever bought one set of tiles, and I never stopped regretting it. 

(except that I supported my FLGS with it, which is always good) 
I loved the pre-Essentials material passionately but I do agree that the Essentials era material is more balanced and polished. In light of D&D Next, the abandonment of 4th edition, the current goal of retro creationism within D&D, I'd give anything to have more Essentials related material to be released- especially some Monster Vaults. I hated Essentials because it went down a direction I didn't want 4th to go. Now- just give me some 4th material before D&D Next. At least with the ending of 3.5 they released campaign epic ending books- give us an Epic DMG, an Epic Monster Vault and then call me non-bitter.

Im actually starting a campaign using solely the Essentials line (DM kit, HotFL, HotFK, Monster Vault, Rules Compendium, and the three tile sets). It's enought to get my four friends to level 22 without running out of material (mostly monster token, which oddly the Monster Vault is lacking for epic tier).

The article is dead on- there's enough material just in the Essentials line to last a couple years.
Actually no...essentials is not polished or balanced...look at Heroes of Shadow...probably the worst 4th edition book ever
Essentials is really not that balanced and a lot of the classes are flat out poorly designed.  While there are a few evenly and well built classes like the knight and slayer a lot of the essentials stuff is underpowered even when just compared to other essentials classes.  You can make a fairly strong PC out of almost all the pressentials classes without hybridding, excepting the assassin.  That is true a lot less with essentials classes.

The sentinel is the worst of the leader builds even when just compared to the warpriest and skald.  An ogmha warpriest in particular will blow it out of the water in effectiveness in late paragon even if you limit yourself to only essentials materials, but its not even that close before then.  Any of the preessentials leaders is better.

Cavalier is the worst defender, even when just compared to the Knight.  The preessentials defenders are all a lot better.

The binder is the worst controller.  The mage is a lot better, as are the preessentials controllers.  Regular Warlocks and even the lowly seeker is a little better at this point.  Witches, bladesingers, and sha'ir are all weaker than the Mage and Arcanist.

Vampire and blackguard are fairly weak strikers.  Again several of the essentials ones like the slayer and thief are better and almost all the preessentials ones are a lot better excepting the assassin.
The author of the article gives terrible advice overall.

His advice appears spot on to me. Lots of different stuff there.

The idea that you should not get or use PHB1 or 2 classes is shamefully bad advice.

He does not say that. He merely says "consider avoiding any books published before September 2010", which is good advice because they do not contain the copious errata. The PHB1 & 2 classes are still available in DDI's character generator (which he recommends getting a subscription to). I agree with his advice even though I personally only play classes from PHB1.

Other than this, was there other stuff you disagreed with?

(to be fair though: I did find PHB1's presentation to be superior to the essentials books)
He says that you should get DDI because its lets you build your essentials PCs quickly.  Never once does he in any way advise that you should use DDI to make a preessentials PC, let alone even look at them to see if you might like them.  

If your issue is the errata then you can download the errated PHB1 classes and paragon paths that are fully available for free online.

If he said "buy all this stuff and check out the DDI versions of the older classes to see if you like those" the advice would be fine.  But he says avoid those materials, which is bad advice.

If he said "buy all this stuff and check out the DDI versions of the older classes to see if you like those" the advice would be fine.  But he says avoid those materials, which is bad advice.


+1
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Show
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
Yeah, slyflourish has always been extremly essentials and anti-4e biased...



What are you talking about?

Slyflourish has been a HUGE supporter of 4e over the years. In fact, he continues to support it heavily by being one of the few big name D&D bloggers who hasn't switched all of his attention over to D&D Next.

Don't forget, this is the guy that literally wrote the book on epic tier (and good luck to anyone who tries to run an epic tier game without following his advice!) He then went on to create the single most useful 4e tool ever created (try it, you'll never look back). His monster design is top notch and over the years his advice on how to make your 4e games run better has been rock solid. Remember, most of what he writes is to help DM's run their games better and his point of view on the game is quite different from that of char op.

While I do disagree with his stance on running Essentials only games (I run a table where Pre-E and E-classes are welcome), I'm going to stand up for Mike Shea and say he has been a major supporter of 4e over the years and to claim he is anti-4e is flat out wrong.


i used my words wrong, i was refering to AEDU 4e...derp english...
Never once does he in any way advise that you should use DDI to make a preessentials PC

I did not say he did. I said he didn't tell people not to use the old classes (as you and others in this thread claimed).

I also asked if there was other stuff you disagreed with other than this (i.e. to warrant your statement of "The author of the article gives terrible advice overall")?
Essentials is really not that balanced and a lot of the classes are flat out poorly designed.  While there are a few evenly and well built classes like the knight and slayer a lot of the essentials stuff is underpowered even when just compared to other essentials classes.  You can make a fairly strong PC out of almost all the pressentials classes without hybridding, excepting the assassin.  That is true a lot less with essentials classes.

The sentinel is the worst of the leader builds even when just compared to the warpriest and skald.  An ogmha warpriest in particular will blow it out of the water in effectiveness in late paragon even if you limit yourself to only essentials materials, but its not even that close before then.  Any of the preessentials leaders is better.

Cavalier is the worst defender, even when just compared to the Knight.  The preessentials defenders are all a lot better.

The binder is the worst controller.  The mage is a lot better, as are the preessentials controllers.  Regular Warlocks and even the lowly seeker is a little better at this point.  Witches, bladesingers, and sha'ir are all weaker than the Mage and Arcanist.

Vampire and blackguard are fairly weak strikers.  Again several of the essentials ones like the slayer and thief are better and almost all the preessentials ones are a lot better excepting the assassin.

If all you care about is min/maxing and you're going to do that in comparison to the pre-Essentials classes then most of what you're saying is probably true, but so what?

I mean, ideally, every class would be exactly equal. OTOH all the 4e classes you've mentioned, and all the others that might fall under the rubrik of Essentials classes (except the Binder, that one you can rag on all you want) all work fine. Sure, you can make up some other example class in many cases that is 'better', but guess what? The cavalier is a perfectly viable defender. The sentinel is a perfectly viable leader too. The vampire is cool and will do fine as a striker for 99% of all players. I've seen most of these classes in action, and they work well, they're flavorful and they play fine.

I'm not saying I think Mike Shea's phobia for pre-Essentials 4e is at all sensible, but recommending the DMK, MV, and HotF* books is a good solid recommendation that will serve most purchasers well. I'll stink-eye the "oh maybe you should try the PF BG" and the "whatever you do stay away from pre-Essentials 4e" but OTOH most people that have played with Essentials for a while are going to decide for themselves what other books to get...
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Never once does he in any way advise that you should use DDI to make a preessentials PC

I did not say he did. I said he didn't tell people not to use the old classes (as you and others in this thread claimed).

I also asked if there was other stuff you disagreed with other than this (i.e. to warrant your statement of "The author of the article gives terrible advice overall")?

I think the gist of his advice was that pre-Essentials 4e is a bugaboo you should just not waste your time on. He doesn't LITERALLY say not to ever play it, but he does tell you not to buy it. I think it is pretty safe to assume that in Mike Shea's mind Essentials is the only 4e you will ever need or want.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
I think the gist of his advice was that pre-Essentials 4e is a bugaboo you should just not waste your time on. He doesn't LITERALLY say not to ever play it, but he does tell you not to buy it. I think it is pretty safe to assume that in Mike Shea's mind Essentials is the only 4e you will ever need or want.

Ah. Fair enough (corroborated here). I can understand taking issue with that part.

I think the gist of his advice was that pre-Essentials 4e is a bugaboo you should just not waste your time on. He doesn't LITERALLY say not to ever play it, but he does tell you not to buy it. I think it is pretty safe to assume that in Mike Shea's mind Essentials is the only 4e you will ever need or want.

Ah. Fair enough (corroborated here). I can understand taking issue with that part.


Yeah, personally I have fundamental disagreements with Mike Shea's opinions on Essentials. I personally neither think the problems he cites are a big deal, or as serious as he thinks, nor do I see that Essentials in any way shape or form fixed them.
That is not dead which may eternal lie