Fourth Edition has first level superheroes?

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Recently I have been reading up a bit on the fourth edition materials that they have previewed. One thing that I have noticed is that they have stressed that lower level characters will be harder to one-shot and first level parties to TPK. And also that the party will be able to take on groups of monsters from first level onward, and even do things like make multiple-arrow counterattacks and spew arcane fire all day long.

Is this really the direction they are taking low and first level characters? The low level game before started simple with recognizable characters who did not have boatloads of special powers and were a special place for a lot of games to start or even explore. Is there a real harm in having characters who do not get glowing powers or take on groups of monsters for the first level or two?
All this means is more starting hit points, a slightly different way of handling actions, and spellcasters with a few minor spells they can "always use". It's not that complicated. And besides, who wants to get killed fighting three kobolds. That's not fun, that's lame.
Eh? Where you are you getting this from?

The only thing I've gotten is that it's harder to wipe at first level, and characters at first level do not run out of their most basic abilities. That's it. I've heard nothing about having super-natural abilities from the get-go.
I heard an opinion that Star Wars Saga PC's are very hard to kill. I'm hoping 4e maintains a balance and forces PC's to function effectively and smartly to survive. In 3.5e you could wipe just from starting a fight badly (should have slowed down all those giants, now they are chewing through our hit points, etc.).
Eh? Where you are you getting this from?

What we have seen has included the idea of first level parties ready to take on groups of enemies, of rangers who can respond with a dual arrow archery counterattack, of wizards who never run out of spells but instead drop to "80% power."

That is a large departure from how first level has ever played in previous editions, and is in particular a space that a lot of people have a particular fondness for. I get the distinct feeling that fourth edition's first level characters will be inveritable supermen compared to anything previous - and rememberingw much 3e pushed up the power of first level characters, that is certainly saying something.
I think the latest play test example was using characters of at least level 3, more likely over level 5. Yes, characters will not loose power as much during the day, making them in some ways a bit stronger, but not so much that it makes them "superheros."
Let your voice be heard! Tell WotC to Publish D&D 4e under the OGL!
I heard an opinion that Star Wars Saga PC's are very hard to kill.

If they play smart. A stupid PC will end up dead all the same.
In the 'Tomb Under The Tor' playtest, a group of five 1st level PCs were taxed by two goblins and two wolves, having two of their members downed during the battle.

Doesn't sound that 'superheroic' to me.
In the 'Tomb Under The Tor' playtest, a group of five 1st level PCs were taxed by two goblins and two wolves, having two of their members downed during the battle.

You mean the playtest report that highlighted the player's overeagerness and overconfidence and how it constituted bad tactics? And, re-reading that, all of them were first level, counterattacking doubleshot included. Some relevent portions:

So they created a mostly human party of 1st level PCs who are all affiliated with a local count... Neither chose to warn their oblivious comrades, so a surprise round was my players’ first contact with 4th Edition combat... Taking a cue from Heron’s boldness, thinking the fight might be over quickly, Tian rushed to the house despite protests from Domna that he was overextending himself and thereby the party...

You can read the whole thing here and see what I mean. Perhaps "easy mode" might have been a better name than superheroics, but given the above, it looks to be a bit of both when compared to previous first level antics.
... of rangers who can respond with a dual arrow archery counterattack, ...

To be fair, it was an immediate action single arrow counterattack, followed by 2 arrows during the rangers normal turn(rapid shot or the like, probably). I'm wondering if the counterattack only works, as well, if your missed by a missile shot.
The bit about choosing not to warn their fellows:

Not saying this wasn't a bad decision, but the rule here is probably that giving a warning requires a swift action, and in a surprise round, you only get one single action of any kind. Choosing to warn would have meant giving up their own action. Anyone warning would have been trading one of the party's surprise round attacks for a somewhat better surprise round defense for the surprised members of the party.

And I don't think warning the surprised fellows would have granted them an action; it just would have made them non flat-footed, etc.

I dunno about this rule if it is the rule. Seems to me you can warn pretty easily while shooting a bow. In fact, shooting a bow would sort of count as a warning right in itself.
To be fair, it was an immediate action single arrow counterattack, followed by 2 arrows during the rangers normal turn(rapid shot or the like, probably). I'm wondering if the counterattack only works, as well, if your missed by a missile shot.

I also suspect that the 2 arrows have to be fired, and at the same target, at least at first level. Otherwise the ranger wouldn't have needed to fire the third arrow. It would make sense for the ranger to gain the ability to hold back or split the 'rapid shot' attacks later on, reflecting a greater precision in bow skill.
The bit about choosing not to warn their fellows:

Not saying this wasn't a bad decision, but the rule here is probably that giving a warning requires a swift action, and in a surprise round, you only get one single action of any kind. Choosing to warn would have meant giving up their own action. Anyone warning would have been trading one of the party's surprise round attacks for a somewhat better surprise round defense for the surprised members of the party.

An action to shout out a warning??? Talking's always been a free action that can be taken on anyone's turn... Changing it into an actual action in 4e is yet another step in the wrong direction.
Rapid Shot won't be two attacks anymore. It'll be like the Star Wars Saga rules, where you take a penalty on attack for increased damage dice. The character in question opted to up his damage and "fired two arrows".

Multiple attack rolls is one of the mechanics being dropped for speed and simplicity.

It's too early to say what kind of power the new counter abilities will provide, but there is at least some emphasis on surviving 1st level more easily. Indeed, in Saga, 1st level comes with an extra 2HD worth of HP.
Rapid Shot won't be two attacks anymore. It'll be like the Star Wars Saga rules, where you take a penalty on attack for increased damage dice.

Source (other than speculation based on Saga)?
Source (other than speculation based on Saga)?

Speculation. I won't go as far as saying that I'm 100% positive, and I should have disclaimered my first post, but I would be in a category beyond flabbergasted if this wasn't the case.
My Reasoning
The two books they referenced as not just inspirations, but actual rules trials, are Book of Nine Swords and Star Wars Saga. Bo9S has more than a few "do one special move and roll lots of damage" mechanics, which is essentially the same principle. They're making a big deal about how easy and streamlined combat is going to be. Removing iterative attacks and moving to increasing damage would be the most frequently encountered speed change for combat.
An action to shout out a warning??? Talking's always been a free action that can be taken on anyone's turn... Changing it into an actual action in 4e is yet another step in the wrong direction.

It's actually a good idea. Consistent with power-word spells and command-word items being just as easy to use--swift action. Also, it got pretty ridiculous when you could free action strategize in the middle of battle. This way is better.
It's actually a good idea. Consistent with power-word spells and command-word items being just as easy to use--swift action. Also, it got pretty ridiculous when you could free action strategize in the middle of battle. This way is better.

Ah but as a Free action the DM can feel free to tell a player when enough is enough. If there were no constraints on talking it would be classified as "Not an Action."
Ah but as a Free action the DM can feel free to tell a player when enough is enough. If there were no constraints on talking it would be classified as "Not an Action."

Of couse, but DMs don't enjoy jumping in and talking about how their character is pushing it. In simple cases, forcing the DM to adjudicate things is worse than giving him a rule to follow, particularly when the rule is consistent and balanced with the rest of the game. If the gaming group doesn't like it, they can houserule it.

A six-second round can't really hold more than a couple of short sentences, especially when you're concentrating on killing crap or casting spells with verbal components.
Reading through the linked 4.0 example a few things come to mind.

First, the idea of regaining hit points during a battle. It wasn't clear from the description if this was a class attribute of the two characters who regained HP or if it was a general ability of all characters. I'll assume the latter... If that is the case, then what it sounds like is almost like a form of fatigue. Taking a break from melee allows the character to "catch his breath" which makes them more effective in battle, and HP are at root really more about effectiveness in battle than about how much damage the character can take. So without having playtested it, I have to say I can appreciate this change to the game. I've always thought that regaining hit points was one of the game's main weaknesses, particularly at low levels. Of course my sense of fairness says that NPCs should gain the same benefit.

Second, the three arrows in one surprise round deal. That just sounds crazy to me for a first level character. But then again I'm willing to see how it works out. I have always felt that D&D at level 1 - 3 or so was an exercise in party bonding, but not much more. A wizard with 3 spells and 4 HP has always been a joke. Even with 3e rules wizards are still pretty much done after one encounter and are the main reason that parties camp every three hours at that level. If healers have more healing ability perhaps they can heal a lot in a short time, but over time they can only heal a bit at a time, thus making combat still a difficult time to heal, but not forcing parties to sleep after every battle because the characters have no HP and the healer is "empty." Perhaps this will make the game more fun to play and even more "realistic" in the sense that magical powers are not one-shot deals leaving wizards with poor aim hurling pointless darts from behind the cleric for the rest of the day.

Third, having magic or spell-like abilities that are "use at will" does not seem too bad to me. One of the reasons I enjoy playing rogues and fighters is that even at level 1, I'm good to go pretty much at any time. My fighter has his sword, bow and armor, and my rogue has his tools and skills. In both cases I'm able to deal damage, and do my job pretty much all day long, unless I run out of arrows (and perhaps even then I can make my own). Wizards and clerics pretty much are like batteries that are used up, and then are sort of along for the ride. I would be OK if a wizard could cast some sort of damage-inducing spell all day long, so long as it was not comparable to the damage a fighter's sword or rogue's dagger could do. In today's world maybe it's a ray-like effect that does 1d3 damage on a hit. At least the wizard can contribute to the fight. Perhaps the cleric has a "heal minor" at will ability, or maybe once/minute or something like that. Or a buff ability that is inexhaustible. I don't think those would "break" the game.

As far as how such a party would compare to a 3.5 (or, horrors, an AD&D) first level party, well obviously they are going to be much more powerful. But super-powered? Not if it is balanced properly. Give me a wizard or sorcerer who can be at least a minor threat all day long, or who can contribute to the party in other ways all day long, and I'll be a happier role-player. Why a wizard or sorcerer cannot detect magic at will is beyond me. Or cast a simple "light" spell. Or enhance an arrow for a round.... These all seem like ways to make the game more fun, without breaking anything.
Second Wind is a mechanic from Saga. You regain around 25% of your HP, in a normal HP system. Again in Saga, effectiveness in battle is modified by the condition track, which requires actions to restore higher functioning.

The "three arrows in one round" is actually a reaction attack from an ability and then a single attack with two arrows, probably Rapid Shot.
Reading through the linked 4.0 example a few things come to mind.

First, the idea of regaining hit points during a battle. It wasn't clear from the description if this was a class attribute of the two characters who regained HP or if it was a general ability of all characters. I'll assume the latter... If that is the case, then what it sounds like is almost like a form of fatigue. Taking a break from melee allows the character to "catch his breath" which makes them more effective in battle, and HP are at root really more about effectiveness in battle than about how much damage the character can take. So without having playtested it, I have to say I can appreciate this change to the game. I've always thought that regaining hit points was one of the game's main weaknesses, particularly at low levels. Of course my sense of fairness says that NPCs should gain the same benefit.

Second, the three arrows in one surprise round deal. That just sounds crazy to me for a first level character. But then again I'm willing to see how it works out. I have always felt that D&D at level 1 - 3 or so was an exercise in party bonding, but not much more. A wizard with 3 spells and 4 HP has always been a joke. Even with 3e rules wizards are still pretty much done after one encounter and are the main reason that parties camp every three hours at that level. If healers have more healing ability perhaps they can heal a lot in a short time, but over time they can only heal a bit at a time, thus making combat still a difficult time to heal, but not forcing parties to sleep after every battle because the characters have no HP and the healer is "empty." Perhaps this will make the game more fun to play and even more "realistic" in the sense that magical powers are not one-shot deals leaving wizards with poor aim hurling pointless darts from behind the cleric for the rest of the day.

Third, having magic or spell-like abilities that are "use at will" does not seem too bad to me. One of the reasons I enjoy playing rogues and fighters is that even at level 1, I'm good to go pretty much at any time. My fighter has his sword, bow and armor, and my rogue has his tools and skills. In both cases I'm able to deal damage, and do my job pretty much all day long, unless I run out of arrows (and perhaps even then I can make my own). Wizards and clerics pretty much are like batteries that are used up, and then are sort of along for the ride. I would be OK if a wizard could cast some sort of damage-inducing spell all day long, so long as it was not comparable to the damage a fighter's sword or rogue's dagger could do. In today's world maybe it's a ray-like effect that does 1d3 damage on a hit. At least the wizard can contribute to the fight. Perhaps the cleric has a "heal minor" at will ability, or maybe once/minute or something like that. Or a buff ability that is inexhaustible. I don't think those would "break" the game.

As far as how such a party would compare to a 3.5 (or, horrors, an AD&D) first level party, well obviously they are going to be much more powerful. But super-powered? Not if it is balanced properly. Give me a wizard or sorcerer who can be at least a minor threat all day long, or who can contribute to the party in other ways all day long, and I'll be a happier role-player. Why a wizard or sorcerer cannot detect magic at will is beyond me. Or cast a simple "light" spell. Or enhance an arrow for a round.... These all seem like ways to make the game more fun, without breaking anything.

agreed.

As a reminder, we should not look and analyse 4e with the balance of 3e /3.5 in mind. It will be a different system, similar but still different. As such, the balance will be different. If low level characters will be able to do more or resist more, be confident that it will also apply to monsters as well.

[edit] just remembered something: when everyone has above-average abilities, those abilities, by principle, become average. So, compared to 3.5 those 1st lvls are very strong... but not as much in 4e...
Recently I have been reading up a bit on the fourth edition materials that they have previewed. One thing that I have noticed is that they have stressed that lower level characters will be harder to one-shot and first level parties to TPK. And also that the party will be able to take on groups of monsters from first level onward, and even do things like make multiple-arrow counterattacks and spew arcane fire all day long.

Is this really the direction they are taking low and first level characters? The low level game before started simple with recognizable characters who did not have boatloads of special powers and were a special place for a lot of games to start or even explore. Is there a real harm in having characters who do not get glowing powers or take on groups of monsters for the first level or two?

Eh, 3E's 1st and 2nd level "do little, die often" is often why I start my experienced players at 3rd level. Generally, only people I've never played with before (and whom I want to get "a feel for" their ability play) I start them at 1st level).
Is there a real harm in having characters who do not get glowing powers or take on groups of monsters for the first level or two?

Yes. It's boring.