Is anyone else ignoring Essentials?

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Hey all, I will have to say that I am a somewhat new DM, while I did learn D&D on 3.5, I love playing 4 for the tactical aspect.

I DM for my local group that I get around 5 players + my self for. I recently came into a slight conflict with a player who wants to use his resources to his fullest, I personally don't have any of the Essential books and just have the Core 4th Ed stuff (DMG1, PHB1-2, MM1-3, and a few extra things like the Adventurers Vault). He is wanting to run options out of the Heros of ______ (he has about 3 different books along this line) and while I have been looking into them, the classes seem changed from the PHB versions and the use of Themes and Backgrounds only on him seem like a way to only boost his character. I don't really want to change the whole full of character development because of (what I view atleast) the two different systems.

  Any advice from people encountering this same problem?
My Commander Decks Zur The En-hancer Omnomnom
The Essentials style is basically new builds for the classes; there's no rules or power-level conflict in having, say, a Knight or Slayer in the same party as a Tempest or Great Weapon fighter.  Themes and Backgrounds can be applied to any character, so they aren't 'only on him'; either everybody gets to use them, or nobody does, basically.

They aren't two different systems.  Essentials is 4e, 4e is Essentials.
there's nothing spooky about essentials, they are more self-contained and easier to build with the consequence of fewer choices
Aw, people are still leery of Essentials. Takes me back. Good times.

Yep, Essentials are just a different approach to 4e, like the power point characters from Player's Handbook 3. Themes and backgrounds are still optional, so if you don't want to use them then don't, but they're not really that powerful, or that disruptive so you might try letting everyone choose one. Even if not everyone takes one, it's not that big a deal.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I was somewhat hesitant of Essentials until I took the time to read the books and understand the design.

After that I found Essentials was actually pretty cool.

Some of my player like Essentials because they feels it has a simpler design.

I haven't found an issue yet mixing Essential characters with the ones from the Players Hanbooks or the other setting books.

I really enjoy the Knight, Slayer, and Warpriest.
You appear to have DDI, so you can check out the Essentials material in the Compendium.  As per the majority of the posts above, there's nothing there to be worried about.  You might want to steer your other players towards any Essentials feats that supersede earlier feats (the aforementioned expertise feats being a prime example).
Essentials also revamped the Skill Check DCs for Easy/Moderate/Hard, and did more to stress the improvisational nature of skill checks both in and out of combat.

Frankly, I see Essentials as being more comparable to Unearthed Arcana and Tome of Magic than to 3.5e.  It's more of an expansion of player options than anything else.
Okay, first I have to ask: you said your player has about 3 different books along this line.  Are they softcover, hardbound, or a mix?  Because the softcover are the heart of the Essentials branch, while the hardbounds are probably the Players' Options collection, which are a blend of things that mix Essentials' style classes with more original 4e-style stuff, though Essentials is not really in any appreciable way all that removed from 4e's mechanics.

If he has the two softcover player books entitled Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and Heroes of the Fallen Lands, those are the primary Essentials books, and feature some class variants that are somewhat retro-fied, along with the variants on the races.  In Essentials, they go back to the original PHB1 races and do to them what they did with the races in PHB3: all the races have one of their stat bonuses as a set stat, the other is a choice between one of two stats.  There are also alternative racial powers for those races, which can be taken in place of the PHB1 ones.  I find that this gives greater variance to what one can do with the various race/class combos, and my group has particularly adopted these racial rules as the norm.  Now, if only they'd done that with the PHB2 races...

As for the Players' Options stuff (Feywild, Shadow, Elemental Chaos), these books have new races (again, on that sort of PHB3/Essentials racial stat vein), and a few classes and such that range from interesting to incredibly poorly implemented (the Vampire and Witch classes, particularly), a few valuable feats, and magic items.  There's some class stuff that isn't compatible with the baseline 4e classes (basically, any class power that doesn't have a level number in the power's description block), but there's definitely a fair bit of that can be used interchangeably between them.

As for things like Themes and Backgrounds, I'd say offer them up to the other players as well, as Themes in particular are interesting for spicing up a PC and making them distinct and giving them a few tricks outside of their baseline class/race combo.  It's not terribly overpowering, and it can be very useful to have some Themes present in the group.

So, while the classes in Essentials are different from the originals in PHB1 and PHB2, they are fairly self-contained in the changes.  They're not really too extreme compared to the originals, though as erachima mentioned, some of them are a bit frontloaded.  It really comes down to your best judgment, though there's not really enough difference to be too worried about them being major game-changers/game-breakers.  Plus, as Litmus mentioned, having DDI means you can check them out and test them if you're too concerned about his builds.
  Backgrounds are trivial to implement:

  Choose one skill related to the character's history. The character either adds that skill to their class list or gains a +2 bonus to its use. Alternately, the character knows one additional language related to their history.

  Done.

  The only mysterious thing about Backgrounds was why the authors of the books and Dragon articles felt compelled to waste pages upon pages blah-blah-blahing obvious things about how Arcana was relevant to someone who studied at a magical academy or Nature was relevant to an ex-farmer...
  Backgrounds are trivial to implement:

  Choose one skill related to the character's history. The character either adds that skill to their class list or gains a +2 bonus to its use. Alternately, the character knows one additional language related to their history.

  Done.

  The only mysterious thing about Backgrounds was why the authors of the books and Dragon articles felt compelled to waste pages upon pages blah-blah-blahing obvious things about how Arcana was relevant to someone who studied at a magical academy or Nature was relevant to an ex-farmer...



Perhaps they initially wanted to simply give backgrounds as a way of giving a player a in-game reward for picking a background. So a fighter who came from a farming villiage could select Nature as a background and also had a way of explaining why they had that skill.

Backgrounds can be seen as merely an access to a bonus to a character called backgrounds, or as a background with a bonus for your character.

As for all the "blah" info, it could be about explaining it to players who need the explaination or to fill words into pages.

I find that backgounds are trivial of the player with that background wants them to be.  If they wish it to be important to thier's character then as a DM that character's background should be.

Now, if only they'd done that with the PHB2 races...


They did. 

I'll PM you the list, since you don't have DDI.  If anyone else needs to know, PM me.
Thanks for all the replies everybody! I'll try to address what you all asked...

I wasn't "afraid" of Essentials as much as I didn't want to try to convert all the players over to a new system. The player brought it up with a somewhat selfish intent of only giving Backgrounds/Themes for him. I was abit worried about Themes and Backgrounds giving him/all the players more bonuses then needed.

As for which books he had, they were 2 soft covers and a Hard cover, I don't remember them off hand right now. 
My Commander Decks Zur The En-hancer Omnomnom
Thanks for all the replies everybody! I'll try to address what you all asked...

I wasn't "afraid" of Essentials as much as I didn't want to try to convert all the players over to a new system. The player brought it up with a somewhat selfish intent of only giving Backgrounds/Themes for him. I was abit worried about Themes and Backgrounds giving him/all the players more bonuses then needed.

As for which books he had, they were 2 soft covers and a Hard cover, I don't remember them off hand right now. 



Then you have nothing to worry about, as there is no 'conversion' to be done.  Essentials is not a new edition or half-edition (4.5), despite what many loud misinformed people may tell you.

As far as backgrounds and/or themes go, either let everybody use them, or nobody.  Either way, keeps the characters on a level playing field.
Personally themes are what make heroic still worth playing.  Without them I don't think I could force myself to play anything below level 5.

But, yes, let the players choose what to play/build.  You have a DDI sub, so just let them make stuff on the builder and be happy.  It won't effect the overall power level of your game.

The Only way it will effect the power of your game is in these conditions:

Low Op game: Generic BA specialist is almost impossible to screw up and even with bad stats will cause issues at low levels.  At higher levels (high heroic and beyond) they will seem to stay ahead because they are harder to screw up than other classes, but not so much so that its nuts.

Med Op game: Optimized BA specialist gets their striker features out of the box, so will hit harder early on.  Even noticeably stronger.  They will level out with the other players in high heroic and start to fall behind in mid-paragon.  At high paragon they may be noticeably behind.

High Op game: Optimized BA specialist will be noticeably stronger until level 3-4.  At that time the multiattackers will be catching up and become even or pass them at med-high heroic.  Some gimmicky builds will do it faster, having a strong enabling leader using you as their Weapon of Choice (TM) may mitigate parts of this.  At paragon it will stay similar (BA being slightly behind, but still the WoC) until 16 when most build's tricks come online and far outstripe them.  In epic most of the Eclasses can't even compete (although, in high op, little can).


So if you are just starting out you are going to be either at low Op or working to get from low to medium.  The chances of it being a huge issue are tiny unless someone gets annoyed at seeing the difference at level 1. 
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The biggest issue is probably the Axe Scout, which is an unholy terror at level 1 but goes cliff-diving by level 13.
> I find that backgounds are trivial of the player with that
> background wants them to be.

It's not about whether the character's background is trivial narratively.

It's the habit of wasting page space (print or online) re-describing the same material as as was already presented earlier in the article. Because spending two pages in the body of the article talking about the local crime gang and its potential relevance to PCs coming from that background is TOTALLY useless unless we get a half-page restatement of the same idea at the end of the article under a "Background - Local Crime Gang" header and with a "Suggested Skills: The Patently Obvious" footer attached.

Never mind that there are already a bunch of other essentially identical background entries - no, we need another half-page of blather saying the same thing as all the rest with the same utterly unsurprising conclusions about suggested skills to add to the collection of crime gang backgrounds.

We also have such gems as being told that if you're a burglar or a pickpocket, Thievery is probably a relevant background skill for you! Because gee, we'd NEVER make that kind of connection on our own if we're thinking about playing a character whose story includes that kind of past (or present). Where's the "Captain Obvious" background, Wizards!?

And, of course, an article will end up using at least a couple of pages on a collection of these bundles of wisdom because apparently that makes it count as "crunch" content.

Due to the resonant sound of breaking noses caused by mass facepalming, perhaps.
  Backgrounds are trivial to implement:

  Choose one skill related to the character's history. The character either adds that skill to their class list or gains a +2 bonus to its use. Alternately, the character knows one additional language related to their history.

  Done.

  The only mysterious thing about Backgrounds was why the authors of the books and Dragon articles felt compelled to waste pages upon pages blah-blah-blahing obvious things about how Arcana was relevant to someone who studied at a magical academy or Nature was relevant to an ex-farmer...

You are apparently using the common sense house rule, Neutronium_Dragon. I use that rule in my campaigns as well, but not everyone does. I wish the common sense rule could be made core, but I'm not sure if we could find enough support for it. The biggest argument against it is that "only a DM who is a control freak" would allow common sense into his/her campaigns.

The opposing side does have one legitimate argument against the common sense rule. It sometimes puts limitations on creativity. What if, for example, someone's character concept is an elven wizard who is neither elven nor a wizard? The common sense rule might require, at the very least an explanation to the curious DM as to how that would work. Such a DM would also enforce some sort of 'arbitrary' restriction, such as requiring the elven wizard to be elven or cast spells or perhaps even both.

All seriousness aside... I think the mechanics are there to be just useful enough to warrant writing it down. I see it as a vague shortcut to actually developing a character, but useful to the casual gamer. I'm guessing most of us here are more in the avid gamer camp and quite a few of us are forgetting what it was like when we first began trying to figure out not only the rules to a role-playing game but the concept in general.

Simplicity in the background rules, even if some things are redundant to old pros like us, might be helpful to beginning players, particularly younger ones.

As long as I can get +2 on my crop rotation check, I'll be happy with my farmer theme.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.


 
As long as I can get +2 on my crop rotation check, I'll be happy with my farmer theme.




Is that stackable with the Compost Expertise feat?

As long as I can get +2 on my crop rotation check, I'll be happy with my farmer theme.

Is that stackable with the Compost Expertise feat?


The +2 from Farmer is a power bonus, and the +1 from Compost is a feat bonus, so sure.  If you play a Halfling and take the Gamgee subrace, you can get a +2 racial bonus as well, and really be the harvest master.
You are not alone in ignoring Essentials. There are still a lot of us that totally disregard anything to do with it.

To be fair, though, if the player has already built and established the character in the campaign, you might as well let him continue. Yes, it is different, but not game-breaking.

Backgrounds: not a big deal. I have yet to see one that was really disgustingly over-powerd. Auspicious Birth/Born Under a Bad Sign are the closest to being major game changers, and I still allow them.

Themes: some are good. Some are interesting. Some are lame. Usually just means an encounter power and different utility power options. And they cap out at lvl10. Some synergize nicely with certain classes, and others don't help much of anyone that I've seen.
Enjoyable.

But if themes and backgrounds are being used, everyone should probably take one.