My concerns about at-will, encounter and daily powers

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I am really trying hard to remain optimistic about the 4e version, and I have pre-purchased the books so I will be able to start digging into the game play with a vengeance in about a month (or exactly a month depending on how long it takes me to type this comment...)

More and more I am coming to the conclusion that the game designers had a mandate to "do something about" the broken parts of the game, and from what I've seen, one of the things they considered "broken" was the discrepancy between spell users and non-spell users when it comes to game-changing powers.

In 3.5e (and all previous versions that I've played) there has been a qualitative as well as a quantitative difference between spell casters and non spell casters. The most obvious example of this is that non spell casters typically had a few reasonably powerful options that never ran out. They could swing their +4 sword or shoot their +2 bow essentially forever. This gave them a moderate power output that was predictable and reliable. The spell casters were diametrically opposed. They typically had a huge selection of powerful options to choose from, but a very limited number of "slots" to put them in. Their abilities were vastly more powerful than the non spell caster's options, but they were also much less reliable, much less predictable, and they ran out quickly. Even so some of the spells that did exist were so off-the-scale that when they worked, they essentially broke the game.

The "solution" to this dilemma that the 4e designers came up with was to give everyone BOTH types of attacks. Wizards and clerics get the same number of at-will, encounter and daily abilities as the fighter does, and they are more or less equally powerful. Now spell casters have exactly that reliable, predictable and unlimited power that they lacked, and fighters have now gained a limited number of game-changing powers of their own. That's been the holy grail of the game designers, perhaps best summarized as "leave no role behind."

I understand this, I understand why they did this and I understand more and more each day HOW they did this.

And it is possible that when it comes to playing the game, I will be OK with it.

But right now it feels wrong. The 4e approach of making everyone the same is no doubt much better balanced, and much easier to keep track of (some of my higher level wizards had over a hundred spells to choose from each morning...), but does it make sense from a historic, traditional or fantasy perspective?

This whole idea of "daily powers" that a wizard chooses being restricted to four powers at level 20 just seems to be completely at odds with the whole concept of what a wizard is and does. Similarly the ability for a level 20 fighter to somehow once per day do something really cool with his sword is just as bizarre as the wizard basically only being able to know four big-time spells. When you back up and look at the design from 20,000 feet it sure looks like the "solution" to the 3.5e situation ends up with significantly enhancing the non spell casters; abilities, while at the same time vastly reducing the spell casters' abilities.

So to play 4e as a wizard, I have to accept that no matter how much study a wizard may undertake, he will be limited to a very restrictive number of game-changing spells that he can cast only once per encounter, or even worse once per day.

Again, I understand this as a game mechanic, but I am having a very hard time seeing this as a believable model for MAGIC itself. It makes sense from the perspective of defining and balancing arbitrary roles that the game designers felt were necessary, but it doesn't really seem to make sense from any other perspective.

What is funny about this is that I can just see me having a conversation with the game designers about this going something like this:

Me: "See, the thing is, you've pretty much nerfed the wizard, and cleric by taking all the unique and powerful things that MADE them wizards and clerics, cutting it down by an order of magnitude (or more) and turning what little you left to them into just another combat tactic."

Game Designers: "Yep! Isn't it great?"

Me: "Well, no, not really. Actually not at all. See, what very, very little you have left for them to do, you also gave to the non spell casters too. So there's really no difference now in being a wizard and being a ranger. They do the same basic things, the only difference is how the things are described."

GD: "Youve GOT IT! Isn't it great?"

Me: "NO! It's not great. Now what you've got is not wizards, clerics, fighters and rogues, what you've got is a bunch of people with more or less identical capabilities whose only difference now is the role you have pushed them into. A spell-casting "striker" is not significantly different than a non spell-casting "striker". They both have more or less the same capabilities, they just use different words to describe how it happens."

GD: "That was our master stroke, right there. That solved all the game balance problems, stopped the arbitrary ability to create god-like characters and allowed us to control the balance of the game completely."

Me: "But it means that everyone is the same, the only difference is their position in combat and their flavor text. Your 'wizard' is not a 'wizard' by any description I've ever heard of. He's just a guy who does area of effect damage at a distance."

And on and on...

I'm sure I'm not getting it. That there are compelling reasons to play a wizard still.

See, I LIKED poring over my spellbook. That made me feel like a wizard. "Let's see, what spells do I want today... One from column A, two from column B..." That image of the studious wizard in the corner of the cave poring over his carefully tended spell book, while the cleric sat nearby communing with his deity to gather his powers for the day, that made sense to me. It felt like a fantasy setting.

The more I learn about 4e, the more concerned I am that all of that will be lost, sacrificed to the altar of "game balance".

One more month, and I'll know if these concerns are valid or not. But right now I am very concerned about the game turning into interchangeable game pieces with a lot of flowery text paper-clipped to them, but their actual function in the game is limited to a very few things that are more or less identical whether they are spells, prayers or exploits. At root, I am afraid that the designers were so successful at balancing the game, that they made everyone exactly the same, except for that paper-clipped text that nobody really wants to read.

Sigh, shouldn't do these posts so late at night... ;)
So to put it in simpler terms. You've either:

A) Never played a noncaster in 3e and realized how monotonous and mundane it is to do the exact same thing round after round while not really contributing to the encounter at all because the Save or Die is gonna hit anytime now, rendering your HP damage useless.

Or

B) Never really played a spellcaster that did anything but blasting, because if you had you would have realized that from level 1 you can completely destroy your opponents and the fighters opponent without having to break a sweat.

Something tells me you play spellcasters a lot. Because, you seem to enjoy a system that basically looks at noncasters and says "**** you!" and then bows down to the insane save or die DC of spellcasters.

A thought occurs, the only way to build a spellcaster who anything in 3e is to have a huge arsenal of Save-or-Die spells. Therefore, you don't only want monotony in the hands of the fighter, you want it in the spellcaster, you just want them to create a variety of flashy effects..

Wait... flashy effects, that sounds a lot like the flavor text you were complaining about earlier. Since that's all the flashy effects are and the mechanics just come down to "Save or Die"

Okay. I see your problems, and understand where you're coming from.

Solutions:

A)Keep playing 3.5e.
B) Come to the conclusion that your logic is in fact backasswards and play 4e

Either way, have fun. 4e seems to be about balanced mechanics and roleplaying possibilities, 3e is about ridiculous synergies, monotony, powergaming and roleplaying possibilities. Whatever floats your boat.
The problem is that someone who can do stuff only per day, and someone else who can only do stuff at will, can never be balanced against one another. If you make the per day stuff stronger, then they're broken as they spend all their abilities, then basically cripple the party and force them to rest because if they don't the party is down a character, so they are always stronger than their teammates. If you make the per day stuff the same power level as the at will stuff, then the per day people suck because they run out of power and force resting just the same as before, but are strictly worse than the at-will people because they CAN run out of power.

More to the point, why should spells be daily? There is no answer to that, in fact; there's no reason why magic should be more tiring or less repeatable than normal stuff. So everyone working on the same system makes sense in that regard. It also makes sense in terms of game balance.

So basically there's no real complaint here; you have an unreasonable expectation of daily only on the part of the wizard. There are tons of other ways to differentiate characters beyond how often they can use their abilities, and they're better because they don't lead to people being felt left out or one class of character always being better than another.
Also wizards still have spellbooks and during extended rest they can swap out their 'daily' powers with others from their spellbook. In this way you still have a remnant of the vancian magic system by limiting how many daily powers they have 'readied' at a time but the spellbook lets them swap out their daily powers during a rest so some other set is readied.

Also a lot of the old wizard spells weren't directly combat related and in 4e have been moved over to rituals instead of powers. Also with a lifting in the vancian system you no longer need a ton of spells as you don't have to worry about filling out memorized spell slots for 9 levels of power.

Also a lot of the 3.x feats for melee characters are now powers and feats are more overall bonuses rather than combat maneuvers freeing up melee characters to spend their feats on things that aren't so situationally restricted.
brassbaboon I can understand your fears, though I do not share them.

Compared to the vast majority of people, I haven't been playing 3.5 (or D&D as a whole) very long. However even in my short time I noticed a problem with the spell-casters (specifically Wiz+Sorc).

The idea of limiting powers makes sense; if the Wiz can use "Fireball" every turn, that pretty much makes combat a boring (if flamly) affair.

So of course you're encouraged to limit your powers, which is a good idea. But the problem that arose in our group was two scenarios reoccurring:

1) Wiz uses the vast majority of his powers in one or two combats; why not just rest now? He's pretty much useless, the player won't have much fun, the group could use some healing, so why not?

2) If in a situation where resting is not possible (say a Dungeon for example) this means that the Wiz has to stretch his powers out over (lets say) 20 rooms. This makes for a large amount of low BAB attacks, with normally weak weaponry. This isn't the most fun in the world for the Wiz, but we all understood the reasoning.

I am greatly looking forward to 4E's mechanic of everyone having Daily Powers. This will mean that rather than the 9-5 Swinging-his-sword-again-and-again working man Fighter and the 5 minute Destroys-Everything-In-Sight-Then-Hides Wizard; you will have a compromise.

All classes will have there moment in the sun, but no class will have to sit in the dark afterwards.
All I have to say is this is actually one of the first reasonable concerns I have seen about 4th Ed, not knee-jerk/panty-bunching.

Good job, brassbaboon.
The idea of limiting powers makes sense; if the Wiz can use "Fireball" every turn, that pretty much makes combat a boring (if flamly) affair.

I am wondering if that may be the case in 4e as well. The current combat setup seems to encourage me to open up with an encounter power, then spend an action point to use an at-will power (or daily if I am facing a particularly tough solo foe or the BBEG). In subsequent rounds, it is simply a case of using whatever actions I have to spam whichever powers are the most effective.
I agree with the original poster that it made one feel more like a wizard by pouring over multiple pages of spells, but that didn't mean it was fun :D
I too am looking forward to the balance and especially the game's streamlining in general. I know I'm not saying anything that has been said before on here, but the power creep at higher levels was ridiculous and it took the Christmas Tree effect to balance encounters, which in our group, left us with about 2 fights during which the PC's would exhaust HP's and supplies and then have to rest. This new system seems to be in line with true fantasy. I think the power system works well both for non-casters by making them more effective as well as casters by balancing their power level which tended to get WAY out of wack at higher levels in 3.x.
I agree with the original poster that it made one feel more like a wizard by pouring over multiple pages of spells

Yeah, in some ways the days as starting as a glorified cobbler (1st level) and ending up as a demigod (13th level + or so) will be sort of missed, but I'm all for the toning down of the cryptically fantastic.
I am wondering if that may be the case in 4e as well. The current combat setup seems to encourage me to open up with an encounter power, then spend an action point to use an at-will power (or daily if I am facing a particularly tough solo foe or the BBEG). In subsequent rounds, it is simply a case of using whatever actions I have to spam whichever powers are the most effective.

I'm not convinced.

I think things will be different at low vs high levels. At level 1, a PC has 1 encounter + 1 daily power, plus any extras from their class. By level 20, they've accumulated at least 4 of each, plus utility powers. This gives a lot more options in higher level play.

And many of the encounter (and daily) powers are conditional. There's a certain advantage in opening up with a powerful attack from the word go. There's also an advantage in spending a couple of rounds manoeuvering the bad guys into a position to make best effect of your encounter powers. As PCs rise in levels, I wouldn't be surprised to see them picking a mix of "first strike" and "opportunistic" encounter powers.

Hopefully 4E contains sufficient vareity of terrain and foes that PC teams can't rely too much on a "standard opening", needing to adapt to the situation.


Admittedly, the Black Dragon encounter did eventually degenerate into "pick the best at-will and repeat". But that was a level 4 solo encounter at level 1, which limits the options for dynamic tactics (PCs have fewer choices, only 1 big monster) after the first 10 or so rounds.
Let's just say (I'm making up numbers) a ranger has some ability that makes all his longbow attacks do 2d6, and he has an infinite quiver. Wizard can magic missile at will for 2d6 (I think they made it d6's in 4e). Every round each can do 2d6 ranged damage. Both require attack rolls now. I think that this is what he's talking about. It went from tremendously unbalanced characters in 3.5 to every character is the same in 4e. It's not that they are now balanced that is the issue here, it is the way that they did it. Like FR, the complaint isn't that they changed everything, it's the way that they did it (flavor-wise).

It makes me wonder if 5e will be effectively classless, where you pick a role (striker, etc.) but it doesn't define your character even half as much as feat selection.
I can understand the OPs concern and actually share them to an extent. From what I've seen the only real differences between the classes now are in dressing. They all seem to operate with the same core mechanics and just have different terms to make them seem different. Given the limited number of powers that have been revealed it is too early to say if I will fell this way once the game comes out - especially once the splat books start hitting.

A comment her on TD's "impossible to balance" comment. Who cares? You are not fighting against you fellow party members and every party member can contribute something to the group effort even if it is not necessarily in combat. I hate it when I see people expect all classes to be balanced with all other classes. That limits rather than expands the designers ability to bring some great material to the table.

Also, since when did people define their character by their powers. I define my characters by their personality and habits. I have often times done very bad things in regards to the power level of the character because it made sense from a role-play aspect. A good example - suddenly becoming a Paladin at 13th level. Talk about a poor choice from a power-gaming point of view but from a RP point of view - he found god and took up the mantle of his calling.
-Wizard can magic missile at will for 2d6 (I think they made it d6's in 4e).


-It makes me wonder if 5e will be effectively classless, where you pick a role (striker, etc.) but it doesn't define your character even half as much as feat selection.

-I believe magic missile is 2d4 + Int modifier force damage, range 20, may use as an OA.


-Yeah, I'm thinking we really only need 4 classes; Controller, Defender, Leader and Striker – everything else is window dressing.
Let's just say (I'm making up numbers) a ranger has some ability that makes all his longbow attacks do 2d6, and he has an infinite quiver. Wizard can magic missile at will for 2d6 (I think they made it d6's in 4e). Every round each can do 2d6 ranged damage. Both require attack rolls now. I think that this is what he's talking about.

Don't forget that there is more than just AC to defense now. The ranger's arrow at-will will be rolling against AC, but the wizard's magic missile at-will attack will be against Reflex. That means that more than just the fluff is different. They are each more effective against different types of enemy.
I think one of the biggest problems you guys are lingering on is that classes all put out like amounts of damage. This, in no way, is going to make the wizard any better at finding traps. There is far more to the game than 'how much damage do I do?'. Or is that just me? In my opinion (only my opinion) D&D should be 90% roleplaying 10% hack and slash. Now, in my 15 years of playing I've done my fair shares of the latter, but, in the end, there's nothing like the roleplaying part of the game, and I'm sure that when they bring out the barbarian, he just isn't going to be the type to sit at a table and work out an alliance.;) Once again, this is only my opinion, so don't get all upset about it.
See, with what little play experience I have with 4e (and it is only what we can put together from the quick-start info from this website and Enworld) I have actually seen not only very different play-styles between the classes, but I've found that each class has a distinctive feel.

I think we are underestimating the influence power source has on the way the classes play. While Fighters and Wizards (for example) both have At-Wills, Cleave is really nothing like Flame Burst. The Fighter's Daily Brutestrike is nothing like Sleep. While they have siloed abilities in a similar way across classes, the way these abilities interact with each other and play-out is very different. The Fighter is never going to have the kind of utility abilities that a Wizard has (invisibility, flight) and lacks access to rituals (an apect of the game of which we have seen little).
The main problem with offensive spells before 4e is that too many of the ones in practice were "save or suck" spells that, if they worked, singlehandedly won the encounter, and if they failed did little or nothing. Spellcasters only had daily spells which led to the individual spells being very powerful.

It also led to some nasty system mastery features where monsters were actually or practically immune to a bunch of spells and very vulnerable to a few others.

Spellcasters were almost playing a different game to the other PCs, one where monster hp were irrelevant, only saves and resistances mattered.

4e is nerfing PC daily powers, which in relation to 3e mostly means spells. From what I've seen spell-type daily powers will be weaker across the board with respect to their 3e equivalents.

Still, there will be role-based and class-based differences in powers. Controllers will have more and better area and multi-target effects, while strikers will have better single-target powers.

While spellcasters won't ultimately be as godlike as in 3e, at-will and per-encounter powers will compensate somewhat.
I think one of the biggest problems you guys are lingering on is that classes all put out like amounts of damage. This, in no way, is going to make the wizard any better at finding traps. There is far more to the game than 'how much damage do I do?'. Or is that just me? In my opinion (only my opinion) D&D should be 90% roleplaying 10% hack and slash. Now, in my 15 years of playing I've done my fair shares of the latter, but, in the end, there's nothing like the roleplaying part of the game, and I'm sure that when they bring out the barbarian, he just isn't going to be the type to sit at a table and work out an alliance.;) Once again, this is only my opinion, so don't get all upset about it.

Um yeah, if you make trapfinding a feat: than any class could in theory take that feat and be as good or better than the Rogue.
"If you can't believe in yourself, believe in me who believes in you." and "Go beyond the impossible, and kick reason to the curb" Kamina, from Gurren Lagann
A comment her on TD's "impossible to balance" comment. Who cares? You are not fighting against you fellow party members and every party member can contribute something to the group effort even if it is not necessarily in combat. I hate it when I see people expect all classes to be balanced with all other classes.

We're not talking about balancing the ability to fight your party members.

We're talking about balancing the effect that each character has on the encounters.

---In 3.5E, levels 1-13ish, "normal encounter" : Spellcaster casts 1 spell then stays out of the fight. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 80% of the battle.
---In 3.5E, levels 1-13ish, "difficult encounter" : Spellcaster casts save or dies until the boss is dead. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 20% of the battle as they kill a few mooks.
---In 3.5E, levels 13+, "normal encounter" : Spellcaster casts save or dies until the enemies are dead. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 20% of the battle as they kill a few mooks.
---In 3.5E, levels 1-13+, "difficult encounter" : Spellcaster casts save or dies until the boss is dead. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 20% of the battle as they kill a few mooks.

What 4E is aspiring to:
---In 4E, levels 1-30, "normal encounter": All characters regardless of class use an encounter ability or two, and 2-3 at will abilities.
---In 4E, levels 1-30, "difficult encounter": All characters regardless of class use a daily power, an encounter ability or two, and 1-3 at will abilities.


Its about balancing "stage time" not "Player versus Player ability".
I think by looking at the high level Wizard powers that have been previewed we can see how different classes will be different from one another.

Bigby's Grasping Hand is the best example, as it does something no non-magic user could hope to do: it grabs two enemies that can be far apart, crushes them, then smashes them together; and it can be repeated each turn. That just screams "Wizard" to me. It's flashy, it's powerful, it's cool.

Furthermore, the DDXP Fighter's Daily power had the "Reliable" keyword, which I imagine will be only found on Exploits (not Spells or Prayers).

Lastly, as others have said, much of the 'Wizardy' or 'Clericy' stuff has been moved into Rituals, as there is no limit to the number of rituals a character can have access to (as far as we know).
Yeah, save and die sucks, but so does unrealistic Wizards.

And why do fighters/rangers/rouges need a daily power? At will and encouter would be good enought, and more realistic.
I don't think it's fun to make every class work the same.
Yeah, save and die sucks, but so does unrealistic Wizards.

So, all wizards suck?
I don't think the op has to worry - most likely wizards will still kick the fighters ass.

Mechanics should be purely game related. Fluff is fluff, new fluff doesn't require new mechanics. Psionics, arcane, binding, sword magic etc - it should all have the same mechanics. Obv diff effects though. Rogue sneaks into a castle - needs the 'sneak into castle power', also known as teleport.
4e removes the variable suckage of 3.5:
If you have 1 battle/day the noncasters suck.
If you have 10 battles/day the casters suck.
If you have battles every 6 hours the wizard sucks but the cleric might be fine.
If you have battles at the wrong time of day, the cleric sucks, but the wizard just goes back to sleep.

With 4e everyone is playing off the same clock. Everyone wants 5 min downtime after every battle if they can squeeze it in. Everyone wants a six hour rest when their dailies and healing surges are getting depleted. No more half the party is severelly depleted in power while the other half is in perfect condition. (at least not as a matter of class design.)

Despite that, in practice all of the classes play very differently.
The fighter plays as a living roadblock.
The paladin draws opponent after opponent into duels to the death.
The cleric heals and bolsters his allies (without needing to stop attacking to do so).
The ranger rains death on the enemy from afar.
The warlock messes up enemy's minds and bodies.
The wizard rains death on clusters of enemies at a time.

Even classes in the same role take very different approaches to the game, and I get the impression you can even do a very different take on the same class fairly easily. The fact that everyone has about the same level of power-resource management just makes them all equally complex and intersting to play, which is not anywhere close to being the same.
You missed the rogue
Despite that, in practice all of the classes play very differently.
The fighter plays as a living roadblock.
The paladin draws opponent after opponent into duels to the death.
The cleric heals and bolsters his allies (without needing to stop attacking to do so).
The ranger rains death on the enemy from afar.
The warlock messes up enemy's minds and bodies.
The wizard rains death on clusters of enemies at a time.
The rogue slinks down the side and messes up the dangerous looking monster

4e removes the variable suckage of 3.5:
If you have 1 battle/day the noncasters suck.
If you have 10 battles/day the casters suck.
If you have battles every 6 hours the wizard sucks but the cleric might be fine.
If you have battles at the wrong time of day, the cleric sucks, but the wizard just goes back to sleep.

I think my original post stated pretty clearly that the goal of the designers was to remove things like character "suckage." And I have very little doubt that they have accomplished this goal.

My question is "at what cost to the game?"

With 4e everyone is playing off the same clock. Everyone wants 5 min downtime after every battle if they can squeeze it in. Everyone wants a six hour rest when their dailies and healing surges are getting depleted. No more half the party is severelly depleted in power while the other half is in perfect condition. (at least not as a matter of class design.)

You are repeating my concern here without realizing it. Yes, everyone is playing off the same clock. Everyone wants the same downtime to recharge their encounter powers. Everyone wants the same daily rest to recharge their daily powers. That's part of my point. They all have the same fundamental mechanic. That's how the designers accomplished their holy grail of "balance above all" (well, next to exterminating pun-pun perhaps). Again, I have very little doubt that they have accomplished their goal of having all the characters have the same goals. Again I have the same question, "at what cost?"

Despite that, in practice all of the classes play very differently.
The fighter plays as a living roadblock.
The paladin draws opponent after opponent into duels to the death.
The cleric heals and bolsters his allies (without needing to stop attacking to do so).
The ranger rains death on the enemy from afar.
The warlock messes up enemy's minds and bodies.
The wizard rains death on clusters of enemies at a time.

The fighter is just one incarnation of the "Defender." All "defenders" are living roadblocks. Even though defenders have a different ROLE than other characters, they have the same GAME MECHANIC.

"Hey, should I use my encounter power now, or wait 'til next round?"
"I don't know, I'm trying to figure out the same thing, I only know that we BETTER use our encounter power or we're idiots because then we just wasted it."
"Right.... what about my daily power, do you think this is a bad enough battle to use my daily power up?"
"Well, I'm thinking about using my daily power, so maybe you should keep yours in reserve."
"Well, then I may not be able to use it at all, I don't know if we'll need it before we sleep after all, so maybe now is the best time to use it."
"I was thinking the same thing...."

This is game balance. Everyone is thinking the same basic thoughts, and reacting the same basic way. "When do I use my encounter power? Will I waste it? Is this the one encounter that needs my daily power? What if the wizard uses his, should I save mine?"

Sure they are engaged in different ACTIVITIES, but the mechanic is more or less identical. This means that from the most basic aspect of the tactical combat approach, it all boils down to when to use encounter vs. daily powers, and when to whale away with the at-will ones. Yes, the defender's powers are DIFFERENT, and the fluff is DIFFERENT, but the combat dynamic is virtually identical.

Even classes in the same role take very different approaches to the game, and I get the impression you can even do a very different take on the same class fairly easily. The fact that everyone has about the same level of power-resource management just makes them all equally complex and intersting to play, which is not anywhere close to being the same.

I'm sure you can role-play each class and role as differently as you like. And that's part of the game for sure. But that's not part of the game MECHANIC, that's the "fluff" part of the game.

To me, right now, all these characters seem to "crunch" the same way.

Now, the one thing I read in the above that gives me SOME solace is the idea that wizards can choose different daily and encounter powers each day from their spell books. That restores a bit of the "wizard-ness" to the game. I'm sure the cleric can do the same through prayers as well.

But I have to ask this. Can a fighter and a rogue swap out their daily and encounter abilities each day as well? If so then we're back to the same dynamic for each character again. If not, then how are they balanced?
By the way, here is my list of currently active characters:

13th level wizard
13th level ranger
14th level fighter
11th level wizard
10th level cleric
7th level rogue
4th level druid
3rd level spellthief

I don't deny that I have a preference for spellcasters, particularly wizards. But I've played a LOT of non-spell casters too. What I have found in the pre-4e versions of the game is that most non-spellcasters seem to gather up a lot of cool magical stuff that gives them a whole lot of flexibility themselves. Magic swords, magic armor (my 14th level fighter has plate mail of etherealness and a ring of fire elemental command. He's got some options).

But if what I am hearing is true, the designers of 4e also considered magic items to be "broken."
I think my original post stated pretty clearly that the goal of the designers was to remove things like character "suckage." And I have very little doubt that they have accomplished this goal.

My question is "at what cost to the game?"

I've only DMd a 1st level playtest of 4e off of leaked rules and monsters, so take my opinion for what it is worth.
The cost to the game, from what I've seen, is that they've taken away the level 1-2 experience; you know, the part where if you're not a strength based martial weapons user you pretty much suck, and a random orc can crit you to death in one shot. If you can't tell, I don't care much for that part of the game. I like levels 3+, when everyone can pretty much do what they're intended to do at a basically functional level.

You are repeating my concern here without realizing it. Yes, everyone is playing off the same clock. Everyone wants the same downtime to recharge their encounter powers. Everyone wants the same daily rest to recharge their daily powers. That's part of my point. They all have the same fundamental mechanic. That's how the designers accomplished their holy grail of "balance above all" (well, next to exterminating pun-pun perhaps). Again, I have very little doubt that they have accomplished their goal of having all the characters have the same goals. Again I have the same question, "at what cost?"

You've latched onto this one mechanic, that everyone drains their basic functional resources at about the same rate (it will vary in practice, but it is no longer a fundamental difference between classes) and you seem to have extrapolated pretty wildly from it. It is absolutely true now that characters have the same basic mechanics for draining down thier resources. I think that is a plus. You seem to kind of agree with the reasons it is a plus and hand wavingly say you don't like it. Okay. I recommend giving it a try. I don't require you to like it however. Some people will be happier in 3.5 or 2e or whatever.

The fighter is just one incarnation of the "Defender." All "defenders" are living roadblocks. Even though defenders have a different ROLE than other characters, they have the same GAME MECHANIC.

Of the two existing defender classes, only one is a living roadblock. Seriously, as a DM I was looking at the fighter on the board like this big 3x3 tarpit of inescapability, since any monster unlucky enough to get trapped in it was just that: trapped. A 27 max HP monster can't just ignore the fact the fighter is going to get a free swing for 6-15 damage if he shifts, or worse get that with a +2 to hit and the ability to abort the monster's move if the monster tries to move away. (and if the monster does shift, what's to stop the fighter from shifting on his turn?)

The Paladin has nothing like this. The monsters can shift around and past the paladin just like any other character and not worry about him coming up to them and trapping them. What they can't ignore though is the paladin's challenge. He marks enemies one at a time (marking a second undoes the first mark) and the marked enemy takes damage (8 in the pregen) if it attacks anyone else. Again, a 27 HP monster can't just ignore that. Whoever the Paladin challenges is stuck fighting the paladin, while the other monsters just ignore him and go around. To balance this, the Paladin (who ends up eating less attacks and therefore using less healing surges to stay up) can burn his healing surges to heal other charactes (using Lay On Hands). So while the Paladin doesn't eat as much damage as the fighter, he can still put his bonus healing surges for being a defender to good use to protect the party (retroactively).

These are completely different interpretations of the same role that don't play anything like one another. They also both have a bit of role bleed in that the fighter has a strikery feel to it (that's a big part of how they keep attention on them; they hit hard enough you can't just ignore them and go for the squishies, and their defenderiness comes from forcing you to give up free attacks to them if you want to bypass them) while the paladin has a definite leader aspect to it (the Lay On Hands, sure, plus other abilities that bolster allies a bit).

"Hey, should I use my encounter power now, or wait 'til next round?"
"I don't know, I'm trying to figure out the same thing, I only know that we BETTER use our encounter power or we're idiots because then we just wasted it."
"Right.... what about my daily power, do you think this is a bad enough battle to use my daily power up?"
"Well, I'm thinking about using my daily power, so maybe you should keep yours in reserve."
"Well, then I may not be able to use it at all, I don't know if we'll need it before we sleep after all, so maybe now is the best time to use it."
"I was thinking the same thing...."

This is game balance. Everyone is thinking the same basic thoughts, and reacting the same basic way. "When do I use my encounter power? Will I waste it? Is this the one encounter that needs my daily power? What if the wizard uses his, should I save mine?"

Everyone has the same levels of power at hand, the at-will power level, the encounter power level, and the daily power level. Yes, you look at the situation and think about whether this is an important enough fight for the dailies to come out or not. But there's also the question of what is your particular daily good for? Going by the pregens again; the fighter's daily is good for wasting one strong enemy. Great for a solo monster or an elite especially, or at least an important enemy or a brute. The Ranger's daily needs two targets, and is a substantial hit on both. I wouldn't mind burning it on a couple normal enemies if it takes them out of the fight, but you need two decent targets to put it to good use. The wizard had more AoE dailies, so you look for large gatherings of enemies to put it to good use. Even if a fight isn't a major one by the looks of it, you might use that one to put down a large number of mooks so you don't end up losing healing surges to trash enemies.

Sure they are engaged in different ACTIVITIES, but the mechanic is more or less identical. This means that from the most basic aspect of the tactical combat approach, it all boils down to when to use encounter vs. daily powers, and when to whale away with the at-will ones. Yes, the defender's powers are DIFFERENT, and the fluff is DIFFERENT, but the combat dynamic is virtually identical.

It's only the resource management dynamic that's identical. The rest of the battle plays out radically different.
To relate it to things you've obviously experienced, don't a 3.5e fighter and a rogue play out very differently in combat? They both have nothing but at-wills, why wouldn't they be the exact same thing?
How about a 3.5e wizard vs a cleric? They both have pretty much nothing but daily powers. Isn't that the exact same thing?
Of course not. The nature of the at-wills a fighter and a rogue use are very different (even when they are both nothing but basic attack). It's not just that you describe the fighter as hitting very hard and the rogue as deftly exploiting weak points. The crunch is different, and they shape the game flow around them differently. Same with a wizard vs a cleric. They both cast 'spells', but wizard spells and cleric spells are completely different in what they do.

I'm sure you can role-play each class and role as differently as you like. And that's part of the game for sure. But that's not part of the game MECHANIC, that's the "fluff" part of the game.

To me, right now, all these characters seem to "crunch" the same way.

I really recommend getting a 4e demo together and trying it out. It won't take long to see how differently they crunch. About the closest you'll see in the pregens is the ranger and the warlock, and even then.. the warlock has a lot of nifty side effects he throws on that can be exploited tactically, while the ranger just lays on the damage fast and hard. (Though warlock curse and Hunter's Quarry do strike me as painfully similar. I'm hoping there's more differentiation between the two when we see the full books.)

Now, the one thing I read in the above that gives me SOME solace is the idea that wizards can choose different daily and encounter powers each day from their spell books. That restores a bit of the "wizard-ness" to the game. I'm sure the cleric can do the same through prayers as well.

That appears to be a unique wizard-only advantage that no other class gets (not even cleric). Also, I think it's only for the daily powers, but I'm just going off a single pregen character sheet for that.

But I have to ask this. Can a fighter and a rogue swap out their daily and encounter abilities each day as well? If so then we're back to the same dynamic for each character again. If not, then how are they balanced?

Only wizards get to swap out powers each day. (Though I think others can do some swapping as part of leveling. We don't know all the retraining rules though.) Also, wizards and clerics get 'Ritual Casting' which is out of combat utility magic. I haven't figured out yet how they balanced that part against the mundane classes.
I'd say the daily power-swap feature of wizards might be part of balancing for their substandard HP. They also get a number of 'cantrips' at will in addition to the normal 2 at-will attack powers. There don't seem to be any damaging cantrips, but instead they are things like Ghost Sound that make wizards more.. well... magical.

By the way, here is my list of currently active characters:

13th level wizard
13th level ranger
14th level fighter
11th level wizard
10th level cleric
7th level rogue
4th level druid
3rd level spellthief

I don't deny that I have a preference for spellcasters, particularly wizards. But I've played a LOT of non-spell casters too. What I have found in the pre-4e versions of the game is that most non-spellcasters seem to gather up a lot of cool magical stuff that gives them a whole lot of flexibility themselves. Magic swords, magic armor (my 14th level fighter has plate mail of etherealness and a ring of fire elemental command. He's got some options).

Aside from maybe wizards (due to spellbook costs), casters should be getting just as much cool stuff.. better since they can use casting-dependant items which are a significant chunk of the cool stuff in 3.5. Do your parties just shove extra loot toward the non-casters to prop them up and try to level the playing field or something? (I play a lot of RPGA where the meta-campaign rules make that sort of thing largely impossible, so I'm used to basically everyone playing with the same wealth level, so fighters have some nice stuff but the casters have just as nice stuff plus spells. And usually the casters rely less on +X items and can afford more 'fun' items)

But if what I am hearing is true, the designers of 4e also considered magic items to be "broken."

I think the 4e designers thought that making a bunch of bland +x to stat y items, whose prevalence made them an effective necessity but which added little or nothing to making the game dynamic and interesting was what was 'broken'. So far the least interesting 4e items I've seen have been +x weapons that had bonus damage on a crit. I've seen +x armor that gives a free healing surge 1/day, +x cloak of resistance (+ to fort/ref/will) that gives resist all 5 for one round as an immediate action (ignore 5 damage from each hit, regardless of damage type), and things like that.. even as things for level 2 or so characters to get. They seem to basically be tossing out the static + items for items that give static +s and give some new activated option. I'm pleased so far. No more choosing between static +s that make you win, and dynamic options that make the game interesting. Now you get both in one combined package deal.
I've only DMd a 1st level playtest of 4e off of leaked rules and monsters, so take my opinion for what it is worth.
The cost to the game, from what I've seen, is that they've taken away the level 1-2 experience; you know, the part where if you're not a strength based martial weapons user you pretty much suck, and a random orc can crit you to death in one shot. If you can't tell, I don't care much for that part of the game. I like levels 3+, when everyone can pretty much do what they're intended to do at a basically functional level.

Yeah, you and me both. I actually think D&D in most versions has had a sweet spot at about level four through level 12. That's why my characters more or less maxed out at that level. Once you start fighting demigods, the game seems to lose something for me.

You've latched onto this one mechanic, that everyone drains their basic functional resources at about the same rate (it will vary in practice, but it is no longer a fundamental difference between classes) and you seem to have extrapolated pretty wildly from it. It is absolutely true now that characters have the same basic mechanics for draining down thier resources. I think that is a plus. You seem to kind of agree with the reasons it is a plus and hand wavingly say you don't like it. Okay. I recommend giving it a try. I don't require you to like it however. Some people will be happier in 3.5 or 2e or whatever.

I have given it a try. I played in one of the 4e demos at our local gaming store. I played the Ranger. The warlock and I sort of hung out together for most of the game. That's one of the things that set me down this path. I could not tell much difference between our abilities, our game mechanics or our tactics because other than the flavor text, we pretty much filled exactly the same role, with exactly the same power level, exactly the same usage rate and more or less exactly the same results. Maybe that's too limited of a data point to use to extrapolate, but it got me watching the way the rest of the players addressed the game, and the whole "when should I use my encounter power" thing started going off like a gong as every player repeated it more or less word for word time after time. I haven't "hand wavingly said I don't like it," I have given specific reasons I don't like it. In the game I played, it made the characters feel like vaguely distorted copies of each other. As I said, I hope that it isn't always the case, I'm just saying what it felt like. What it felt like is that every character was some variant of a melee/caster, a "Gish" if you will. Everyone had powers that were infinite moderate damage in battle, everyone had powers that could be used a few times per day and everyone had powers that could be used only once per day. You can call them "martial" powers all you want, from a game mechanic perspective they are exactly the same thing as "spells" or "prayers" and the game designers admit, nay BRAG, that they intentionally designed it that way in the name of "game balance." Yeah, but now my fighter is really more of a fighter/wizard, and my wizard is more of a wizard/fighter. Oh, and so is my ranger. And my warlock. And my rogue. etc. etc...

It's only the resource management dynamic that's identical. The rest of the battle plays out radically different.
To relate it to things you've obviously experienced, don't a 3.5e fighter and a rogue play out very differently in combat? They both have nothing but at-wills, why wouldn't they be the exact same thing?

Yes, as I said, the major distinction in the pre-4e game was the spellcaster vs. non-spellcaster dynamic. Fighters and rogues do indeed share similar game dynamics, as do clerics and wizards. But this is not a trivial distinction. Saying that there are TWO fundamental game mechanics involved in the game is a LOT different from saying there is ONE fundamental game mechanic involved in the game. Especially when the difference is in fact perhaps THE significant aspect of the game that makes it "FANTASY." Now that distinction is gone. Everyone's a fighter, and everyone's a wizard. Even if all the other opportunities for distinguishing one class in the same mechanic remains the same, this not only cuts the options in half, it removes a fundamental dynamic of the game that has ALWAYS been a big part of fantasy. "I hit things with sticks" vs. "I manipulate the awesome power of nature." Now everyone manipulates the awesome power of nature and everyone hits things with sticks. If the designer's goal was to remove a fundamental role playing dynamic, they did a fantastic job.

Only wizards get to swap out powers each day. (Though I think others can do some swapping as part of leveling. We don't know all the retraining rules though.) Also, wizards and clerics get 'Ritual Casting' which is out of combat utility magic. I haven't figured out yet how they balanced that part against the mundane classes.
I'd say the daily power-swap feature of wizards might be part of balancing for their substandard HP. They also get a number of 'cantrips' at will in addition to the normal 2 at-will attack powers. There don't seem to be any damaging cantrips, but instead they are things like Ghost Sound that make wizards more.. well... magical.

Some of these points might help restore some level of the "ambiance" of the game to something resembling what I think of as fantasy more than it resembles an arbitrary world where (in the immortal words of Dash Incredible) "if everybody's special, nobody is". I sure hope they do.

Aside from maybe wizards (due to spellbook costs), casters should be getting just as much cool stuff.. better since they can use casting-dependant items which are a significant chunk of the cool stuff in 3.5. Do your parties just shove extra loot toward the non-casters to prop them up and try to level the playing field or something? (I play a lot of RPGA where the meta-campaign rules make that sort of thing largely impossible, so I'm used to basically everyone playing with the same wealth level, so fighters have some nice stuff but the casters have just as nice stuff plus spells. And usually the casters rely less on +X items and can afford more 'fun' items)

No, in the campaigns I have played in, most of the cool magic stuff that my characters use has actually been taken away from enemies in combat. I actually don't think any character of mine has ever purchased a magic weapon. Magic armor, sometimes, but just about all the magic stuff they have they took off of bad guys who were using it against them. And when you wrestle a magic flaming sword away from the demon using it, who do you think ends up with it? And when they pull the ring of wizardry off the cold, dead fingers of the mind flayer, who gets that? Somehow it seems that they managed to fight more or less balanced parties who had reasonably useful items for all the classes. It's almost as if our DM tried hard to maintain party balance. hmmm...

I think the 4e designers thought that making a bunch of bland +x to stat y items, whose prevalence made them an effective necessity but which added little or nothing to making the game dynamic and interesting was what was 'broken'. So far the least interesting 4e items I've seen have been +x weapons that had bonus damage on a crit. I've seen +x armor that gives a free healing surge 1/day, +x cloak of resistance (+ to fort/ref/will) that gives resist all 5 for one round as an immediate action (ignore 5 damage from each hit, regardless of damage type), and things like that.. even as things for level 2 or so characters to get. They seem to basically be tossing out the static + items for items that give static +s and give some new activated option. I'm pleased so far. No more choosing between static +s that make you win, and dynamic options that make the game interesting. Now you get both in one combined package deal.

I actually agree that magic items were broken. I would play with groups sometimes who spent days in town shopping in the local magic shop like it was a Wal-Mart. "I'll take two of the cure light wounds wands, one ring of protection +2, hey you have any blue light specials?" I admit that always got on my nerves, even when it was necessary. Shopping is not high on my list of role playing objectives. It got even worse when everybody started showing up with stuff like bags of holding at level 3. Geez, what's the point of adventuring if you can just buy the good stuff at the local shop? Or steal it. To this day my campaigns are notoriously magic item deficient. You're not going to buy a +5 dancing sword in the local blacksmith's store in one of my campaigns. I don't care how much gold you've got. You want a +5 dancing sword, you go take it from the person who is using it. Because there's likely only one in the whole world.

Look, I'm not saying that there are not opportunities to role-play different flavors of characters in 4e. I'm not even saying that I'm not going to like it, maybe I will. What I am saying is that right now, after playing one demo game run by a Wizards' approved DM, and after reading megabytes worth of pre-release info on the game. The game dynamic seems to have sacrificed what I have always felt was a key aspect of the game in order to try to "please everybody." And my experience in the past has been that attempts to please everybody don't usually succeed.

As far as whether I think a wizard should be more powerful than a fighter, why yes I do. Lots more powerful. Frighteningly more powerful. So long as he has his spells available, and isn't caught by surprise or outwitted. So how does a non-spellcaster beat a spellcaster? Wear him down, endure some punishment and eventually when he is out of his most powerful spells, catch him by the collar as he tries to run away.

That's more or less the way my fighter and ranger always did it. Unless they managed to just sneak up on him and catch him off guard. That works sometimes too.
We're not talking about balancing the ability to fight your party members.

We're talking about balancing the effect that each character has on the encounters.

---In 3.5E, levels 1-13ish, "normal encounter" : Spellcaster casts 1 spell then stays out of the fight. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 80% of the battle.
---In 3.5E, levels 1-13ish, "difficult encounter" : Spellcaster casts save or dies until the boss is dead. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 20% of the battle as they kill a few mooks.
---In 3.5E, levels 13+, "normal encounter" : Spellcaster casts save or dies until the enemies are dead. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 20% of the battle as they kill a few mooks.
---In 3.5E, levels 1-13+, "difficult encounter" : Spellcaster casts save or dies until the boss is dead. Actions of the non spellcasters take up about 20% of the battle as they kill a few mooks.

What 4E is aspiring to:
---In 4E, levels 1-30, "normal encounter": All characters regardless of class use an encounter ability or two, and 2-3 at will abilities.
---In 4E, levels 1-30, "difficult encounter": All characters regardless of class use a daily power, an encounter ability or two, and 1-3 at will abilities.


Its about balancing "stage time" not "Player versus Player ability".

Is this a common experience for players? That at high level casters spam save or die spells. Who is your dm and what is he thinking? JK But it does make me wonder, a high level wizard, if we look at say the 6th level and up, might have 15 spells that could be save or die but its not like he's fighting kobolds anymore. Most of the creatures have saves of around 6+ and have spell resistance. I've dmed a lot of wizards and in most cases they opt for high damage output spells because at worst you have a guaranteed half damage over what is likely only a small chance of success with saves or die spells. Normally combatants do the majority of the work still.

I've seen the saves or die thing cited several times and maybe its a selection of players abusing a rule or a dm not playing encounters to be a challenge, but its something I've never witnessed as an exploit at my table. I don't mean to get off topic but it has it's relevance. IF save or die spells were unbalancing some games, then the solution would be to nix those spells and not take away the variety offered to not just casters, but all players by having the option to to be a defender wizard, striker fighter, or controller cleric. I'm not real fond of the pigeonholing myself.

***off subject observation*** and granted we have been doing 4e lite. We've been playing nearly every weekend with 4e, some of my players are starting to point out a lot of things that really relate to what the OP said. One of the main things being that damage outputs are about the same for all classes, and wizards spamming magic missiles being the same as 3e fighters complaining they had nothing better to do but swing. 2 have cancelled their pre-orders.
Yeah, save and die sucks, but so does unrealistic Wizards.

And why do fighters/rangers/rouges need a daily power? At will and encouter would be good enought, and more realistic.

I'm curious where you're getting the idea of what a "realistic" wizard entails, given that magic isn't real in the first place.

What you hold characters to is cinematic and novel simulation. And honestly, the per day Vancian wizard doesn't seem to exist in much fantasy literature or movies at all. We really don't know how many times any one wizard can execute a move.

We know that most characters have abilities they use all the time, abilities they use often and abilities they use for special circumstances only.

In that manner the At will, per encounter and per day makes sense.
***off subject observation*** and granted we have been doing 4e lite. We've been playing nearly every weekend with 4e, some of my players are starting to point out a lot of things that really relate to what the OP said. One of the main things being that damage outputs are about the same for all classes, and wizards spamming magic missiles being the same as 3e fighters complaining they had nothing better to do but swing. 2 have cancelled their pre-orders.

Has your group considered that 4E Lite has only a small portion of the options available in the actual game? In the real thing, you'll have more options to pick from in terms of powers when making your first-level character, and you'll be picking up new powers and feats as you level up - I can understand how 4E Lite would get monotonous over time, but that's because it's only a fraction of the game and you're doing it over and over again.
Has your group considered that 4E Lite has only a small portion of the options available in the actual game? In the real thing, you'll have more options to pick from in terms of powers when making your first-level character, and you'll be picking up new powers and feats as you level up - I can understand how 4E Lite would get monotonous over time, but that's because it's only a fraction of the game and you're doing it over and over again.

I hope you are right nth. But even if you are, and there are lots and lots of powers that replicate what wizards do with magic missile. The concern is that if they act more or less like magic missile, that's not much different than the fighter who says "Man I am SICK of swinging this sword!" and pulls an axe out of his backpack.

I am not trying to argue 3.5e or older versions of D&D against 4e. God knows they suck too in places. What I'm trying to do is describe what I see in 4e that seems to provide an ILLUSION of variation, pulled over a reality of sameness. Yes, we need to see more of 4e, and now, in less than a month, we'll have the actual books. You can bet I'll be all over this issue in character creation and in game play. Perhaps I'm all wet. I sure hope I am. But the reason I am concerned is because 4e is reportedly all about combat, and it is the primary combat mechanism that feels monotonous to me. Sure there may be all kinds of ways to differentiate characters in the "down time" but I like to differentiate them when it matters, when their lives are on the line.

Maybe the differentiation is now striker, leader, controller and defender. But I'm not sold on that yet. In the demo game we played, I could not tell you who took the role of "leader" or of "controller". "Defender" and "striker" were pretty clear, but that was really just a new way of saying "tank" and "artillery". I know the wizard was supposed to be the "controller" but once his daily power was cast, he was pretty much just another ranged attacker using magic missile instead of a bow. I don't even know who the "leader" was supposed to be. But what I did notice is that everyone had a more or less equal role in the fight. We all did about the same damage, we all had similar encounter and daily powers and we all used our at-will powers over and over again. So in that sense it was a fairly good demonstration that the designers goals were met. So why did it feel so flat?
I think it's fair to say that different reasonable people can have different reasonable opinions on what a wizard's spellcasting should "feel" like during combat to make it appear more realistic. After all, magic isn't real, so it's just a matter of personal opinion and aesthetics whether you can suspend your disbelief in a given magic system.

Personally, when I'm DM'ing, I like to think of combats in a cinematic sense. I ask myself "if I was watching this during an action sequence in a movie, what might it look like?" Given that perspective, I like the idea of all the player characters getting to do something flashy every round, as if the sequence is doing short cuts between the characters actions. So when it comes to wizards in particular, I'd think I'd rather see them lobbing out magic bolts or other spells every action than hanging back firing a crossbow or swinging a quarterstaff. Therefore I like that 4th edition's wizards are able to do minor attack spells every round as much as they like since it fits well with the way I want to envision the action.

And I'm not concerned that wizards will feel the same as fighters simply because the very basic underlying game mechanics are the same for how powers work across all classes. After all, even though all the classes have the same number of powers, the specific powers they get are very different. Not to mention the different class features.
...***off subject observation*** and granted we have been doing 4e lite. We've been playing nearly every weekend with 4e, some of my players are starting to point out a lot of things that really relate to what the OP said. One of the main things being that damage outputs are about the same for all classes, and wizards spamming magic missiles being the same as 3e fighters complaining they had nothing better to do but swing. 2 have cancelled their pre-orders.

Keep in mind that all your characters are still level 1. (Or at least I'm guessing they're level 1 since there aren't many rules for leveling up the characters in the PHB lite.) And at level 1 I wouldn't expect a vast difference in damage output between the classes because the opponents simply don't have that many hit points at such a low level.

Ask yourself what would happen if you reran the same adventures you're playtesting using 3rd edition rules. The level 1 casters would still have limited options during combat; in fact, they'd probably be forced to use their weapons instead of their spells most of the time. So it's probably a misconception to think that going back to 3rd edition would make a level 1 wizard more fun. If anything 4th edition 1st level spellcasters at least get to cast spells most of the time, right?

In fact, why take my word for it? Try running a series of 1st level adventures over and over for a few weeks in 3rd edition until 4th edition is out. Then compare how you like the 1st level adventures in 3rd edition to how you like them in 4th edition. That will give you a better idea which system you actually prefer, at least at low level.
Therefore I like that 4th edition's wizards are able to do minor attack spells every round as much as they like since it fits well with the way I want to envision the action.

Yeah, I like that too. I actually am very keen on the idea of wizards with at-will magic powers. And the idea of them being able to get off a magic missile with some level of competence each round, instead of lamely trying to roll a natural 20 with a crossbow is a MUCH improved vision of a wizard in my mind. In fact if they had added the concept of at-will magical powers to wizards to 3.5e and did nothing else, I would have applauded because I don't think that would have unbalanced the game, and it gives me a better vision of an actual wizard. So don't think I have a problem with wizards having at-will capability to launch magical attacks pretty much as long as they are conscious. I'm good with that.

Keep in mind that all your characters are still level 1. (Or at least I'm guessing they're level 1 since there aren't many rules for leveling up the characters in the PHB lite.) And at level 1 I wouldn't expect a vast difference in damage output between the classes because the opponents simply don't have that many hit points at such a low level.

Here I have to disagree with you. There is a profound difference in power between spellcasters and non-spellcasters at level 1. As has been noted elsewhere on this thread, spellcasters suck at level 1. OK, they might get a couple of spells off, but those spells are going to be more or less equal in damage to the non-spellcasters weapons, and when they are out of spells, they are now attempting to hit monsters with usually about a -4 or more compared to the martial characters who have bonuses from their attributes, and usually a feat or two to boot. As everyone knows who played a crossbow-firing wizard, that usually meant you just littered the ground with useless bolts. Back in the old days this was considered "balanced" because the reverse was true once you hit the higher levels where the spellcasters began to dominate the game. It was almost a reward system, if you could stomach the ridicule and incompetence of being a spellcaster four four or five levels, you might just start earning some respect a couple of times a day until you hit level ten or so, when the party began to defer to YOUR ability to wreak havoc on the enemy and became supporting characters. Such a model is no longer acceptable for a lot of reasons. One of the most common and least discussed reasons is because very few games start at first level anymore. So wizards are unbalanced ALL THE TIME when you start your games at level 15 or so. And martial characters are quite right to complain about this.

Ask yourself what would happen if you reran the same adventures you're playtesting using 3rd edition rules. The level 1 casters would still have limited options during combat; in fact, they'd probably be forced to use their weapons instead of their spells most of the time. So it's probably a misconception to think that going back to 3rd edition would make a level 1 wizard more fun. If anything 4th edition 1st level spellcasters at least get to cast spells most of the time, right?

I'm not sure anyone said a "level 1 wizard" in 3.5e would be more fun than a "level 1 wizard" in 4e. First of all it's a false comparison. A level 1 wizard in 4e is, imho, roughly equivalent in power and flexibility to a level 4 or 5 wizard in 3.5e. One of my problems is that from what I've seen a level 20 wizard in 4e seems to be roughly equivalent in power and flexibility to a level 10 wizard in 3.5e. There is no exponential power curve any more. Wizards plod along a growth path to reach the eventual nirvana of FOUR daily powers. Yay.

In fact, why take my word for it? Try running a series of 1st level adventures over and over for a few weeks in 3rd edition until 4th edition is out. Then compare how you like the 1st level adventures in 3rd edition to how you like them in 4th edition. That will give you a better idea which system you actually prefer, at least at low level.

Here's a better idea. Run some 3.5e adventures at level 4 or 5 so you get a more accurate comparison, and THEN compare them to 4e at level 1.
Here's a better idea. Run some 3.5e adventures at level 4 or 5 so you get a more accurate comparison, and THEN compare them to 4e at level 1.

I've seen people mention this (compare 4E 1st level with higher level in previous editions) but why?

In 4E, at 1st level, you fight kobolds and goblins and presumably at level 4 or 5, you'll fight gnolls and hobgoblins...

Which is exactly like what you do at the same levels in previous editions..So why are you comparing fighting at different levels?
I just read the character´s sheets of those demo games... and considering all excerpts and released material... i totally agree with the OP, and the majority of the people that posted in this thread.

4e Simplified every aspect of the game and Especially the character creation and uniqueness(role in combat and etc...)

All characters look the same... the diferences are merelly cosmetic.

This is NOT RPG. Maybe a plataform pen and paper game in the line of a Street Of Rage/Final Fight/etc... but definitelly not rpg.

There is no point in balance things that are actually the same. Balance is exactly the act of considering the diferences and apply the principle of equity and fairness. NOT EQUALITY.
Btw, the entire beauty and importance of balance is to exalt and give importance to the diferences of those 2 things.

For this new 4e, balance come for the price of the diferences.

D&D as a game lost complexity, richness of elements, character customization and its replayability(i am already sick of it)
I am wondering if that may be the case in 4e as well. The current combat setup seems to encourage me to open up with an encounter power, then spend an action point to use an at-will power (or daily if I am facing a particularly tough solo foe or the BBEG). In subsequent rounds, it is simply a case of using whatever actions I have to spam whichever powers are the most effective.

Here's something on ENworld which I found to be HIGHLY introspective on the issue of spamming and 4E

This brings me to one of my main concerns about 4e, which goes back to the early playtest reports from DDXP, where several people described a feeling of "button-mashing", getting into the same routine each combat once you were familiarized with your powers. The standard response was that if you think 4e involves button-mashing, what do you think about 3e, where you usually don't even have a choice of powers (at least for mundane combatants)? Perfectly reasonable response... except that some, at least, definitely felt it more in their initial 4e experiences. It instilled some worry in me, too, although it took me a while to figure out why.

Ironically, I think the "wahoo" feel of powers in 4e may be the very thing that makes them seem like old hat after a while. In 3e (and before), there usually isn't much to a non-spellcaster's attack: roll to hit, roll damage. Sure, you might occasionally mix it up with a feat or a bull rush or something, but the typical procedure is almost subconscious. You may not be flipping over tables or pushing opponents around the battlefield, but you don't usually notice that.

The dynamic nature of 4e powers forces you to pay attention to the effects of your action, because you're doing all kinds of cool extraordinary things. But after the 5th Tide of Iron, won't it get to seem a little ho-hum? And will you notice that more because the initial thrill is gone? (A thrill which was, granted, harder to come by at all in 3e.)

I have the same concern about monsters. It's cool interesting that a goblin picador can harpoon you and pull you around the battlefield. But how many goblin picadors can you fight before that just becomes annoying, along with most goblins' ability to shift away when you miss them? Earlier D&D goblins are as boring as they get, being nothing but a weapon and a few hit points in combat, but you never expect the coolness from goblins, so you don't usually miss it.

My concern with 4e is, despite PCs and monsters having much more flavorful and tactically interesting choices in combat, that the more flashy and exciting those choices are, the more you'll notice their repetition, thus potentially turning a great strength of 4e against it. I hope this doesn't happen, at least not to the point of making the game unenjoyable for a lot of people. I don't think we'll get a good sense of this until people have gotten some long-term playing in
.

re: Tactics...
Heh, runestar, at first I thought the same thing but playing with the pre-4ePHB lite and monsters has changed my viewpoint entirely...

Actually, it makes more sense to open a battle with an AT-WILL attack rather than an Encounter power. In fact, you probably should use an At-will power every round UNLESS you know the stats/current hp of the opponent. There are 3 main reasons..

  • 1. There's no way to tell the difference between a kobold minion and a kobold skirmisher for example. Better to use your at-will on a target first and see how it reacts...
  • 2. The bloodied mechanic/threshold. Many creatures we've seen "change" when they hit the Bloody Threshold. Either their defense goes down or they become in fact even more ferocious.

    In the latter case, the math actually works out that it makes more sense to use at-will to get them to "Bloodied" then to use your Encounter power to finish them off as quickly as possible rather than the reverse while in the former, given that you want as great an advantage when using your encounter power, it makes sense to hold off until their defenses go down...




  • 3. The fact that characters aren't as fragile and monsters won't one shot you means that DMs are more and more likely to run scenarios such as "The ruckus from your fight brings more enemies to the encounter" and feel confident that the party can survive it. Much more tactically sound to hold off on your Encounter power until you NEED it.
I just read the character´s sheets of those demo games... and considering all excerpts and released material... i totally agree with the OP, and the majority of the people that posted in this thread.

4e Simplified every aspect of the game and Especially the character creation and uniqueness(role in combat and etc...)

All characters look the same... the diferences are merelly cosmetic.

This is NOT RPG. Maybe a plataform pen and paper game in the line of a Street Of Rage/Final Fight/etc... but definitelly not rpg.

There is no point in balance things that are actually the same. Balance is exactly the act of considering the diferences and apply the principle of equity and fairness. NOT EQUALITY.
Btw, the entire beauty and importance of balance is to exalt and give importance to the diferences of those 2 things.

For this new 4e, balance come for the price of the diferences.

D&D as a game lost complexity, richness of elements, character customization and its replayability(i am already sick of it)

Most other RPGs actually do balance different characters on the same axis...

Personallly, Ive always been somewhat skeptical on the claim that the wizard was balanced with the fighter due to the scarcity of the wizard's power.

The problem I have with this is something which the CR system highlighted. The CR system assumes that the party is at 100% capability. At low levels, 1-4, this is ok since the power of magic isn't impressive or that game-changing..

But try a CR 10 creature and assume for example that the party has no magic (no spellcasters, no magical items etc...). You'll notice the so-called balance (since if it was balanced, an all fighter or all rogue party should have no problems) goes flying south.

Yet, it is not just the Monsters themselves (after level 5, monsters assume that you have a spellcaster with you). Its the actual advnture itself..Everything assumes that you have a full spellcaster with you so the vaunted "power" of the fighter is totally diminished.

Assuming a typical 4 classic class party, Even if you're fighter and rogue are at max hp and have a pack full of cure light wounds, after level 7 and increasingly so, you simply can not "go on" without the power of the spellcasters.

This "balance" is like the hidden drawback of making a thief in 1E actually have to wait before they could train (Thieves in 1E had a faster XP chart but all classes in 1E had training fees they had to pay before they could level and if you were in the middle of a dungeon, where the hell are you going to find a trainer? Especially when everyone else wanted to keep on going and thus the "balance" of the thief class disappeared)

As for "playing the same", heh, I'm a fan of Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords and by your reasoning, a crusader would play exactly the same like a swordsage and be exactly the same like a warblade in feel.

Anyone else here want to disabuse this guy of that notion:D Hell, two WARBLADES don't even play the same much less two SWORDSAGES (the Crusader, maybe but that's because they have such restricted access to the schools/paths. Even here, I've seen two crusaders run differently due to the selection of manoeuvers, feats and prestige classes)
Is this a common experience for players? That at high level casters spam save or die spells. Who is your dm and what is he thinking? JK But it does make me wonder, a high level wizard, if we look at say the 6th level and up, might have 15 spells that could be save or die but its not like he's fighting kobolds anymore. Most of the creatures have saves of around 6+ and have spell resistance. I've dmed a lot of wizards and in most cases they opt for high damage output spells because at worst you have a guaranteed half damage over what is likely only a small chance of success with saves or die spells.

Then your players weren't very good wizards. The math has been crunched, save or dies are more efficient than damage spells, which are literally worthless since they compare poorly to a fighters normal attack. A single attack from a fighter at nearly any level will out damage 1d6/level from nuke spells.

Onto the topic at hand, D&D loses nothing but poor game mechanics. and gains balance and fun. Everyone is playing the same game now, which is how it always should have been.
Unless you complain about [manacost]wubrg[/manacost] all using the mana system in mtg. Or everyone using vespene gas and minerals in starcraft. You can't logically complain about everyone playing the same game in D&D.
After all there all playing D&D, there all working together, they need to be playing the same game or there playing over each other instead of with each other.