This is a mirror of this Twitter thread, which was written in real time as I read 4th Edition D&D. It hasn’t been edited in any way. You can pick up Fourth Edition from DriveThruRPG. You can also leave a tip at Ko-Fi if you like this kind of content and want to see more of it. I post these tweet mirrors to Detritus at least a week before they go live on Loot The Room. This post isn’t affiliated with or sponsored by Wizards of the Coast in any way, though the DTRPG link above uses an affiliate code. Thanks for reading.
Sitting down with the D&D 4e Player’s Handbook to read it for the first time. This will be a very long thread that will last a few hours.
This isn’t a review, this is me looking at a game for the first time and reacting to it. I may misunderstand things or get things wrong and that’s okay. I’m interested both in reading lots of games and in exploring the ways in which people approach new texts. I will talk about the things I like and don’t like. If I don’t like things you love, that’s fine. Don’t be a dick about it.
I may also phrase things as questions. 99% of the time these are rhetorical.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in! Here’s what I know about 4e going into this: weirdly, not a lot?
I’ve played every edition of D&D extensively but skipped 4e. I started with 2e in the early 90s and graduated to 3e and 3.5 when they were released. I got back into RPGs after years away in ~2015 with 5e. The 2e I played as a kid was actually a weird blend of B/X, AD&D, and 2e using whatever books we could lay hands on, and in the past few years I’ve been playing a lot of B/X and OD&D plus retroclones. So my experience of D&D as a holistic thing is large and varied. But 4e specifically? Not so much. I was very active on the WoTC forums towards the end of 3.5 and I remember staff at the time saying “there are no plans for a new edition”.
And then 4e got announced. And Dragon & Dungeon magazines got cancelled and rolled into D&D Insider. And everyone was big mad. Including me
So I was honestly already primed to not like it.
My memory of what exactly happened next is hazy because it was 2007/2008 and it’s all a bit of a blur, but I bought the Races & Classes preview supplement.
I don’t remember exactly why I bounced off it but I know I did. I think that I didn’t realise this wasn’t the full Player’s Handbook, that it was just a preview, and I was annoyed that it only contained a handful of classes and that the rest were going to be in another book. Looking at it now this is unambiguously a preview and not the full thing so I’m not sure where my confusion came from, but whatever happened I bounced off it. This was the only 4e book I bought. I do clearly remember it arriving and me being annoyed, and throwing it on a shelf and immediately ordering the first volume of Rise Of The Runelords and deciding I was going to play Pathfinder from now on instead. In the years since I’ve heard lots of things about 4e, both good and bad. People either love it or hate it. I’ve heard it’s more like a board game, that it’s “an MMO in a book”, that the way monsters work is great, that the Delve format for adventures is either good or bad. But I know nothing concrete.
Today we’ll change that. (For the record I’m still salty about losing Dragon and Dungeon magazines)
The contents page is interesting. The Combat chapter looks to be the biggest at first glance but it’s actually only about 30 pages long. The ‘Adventuring’ chapter is only 7 pages, though.
I’ve heard people call 4e a skirmish game before and that’s how this reads.
There’s a lot of familiar stuff here but there are things I have no real context for. I assume a Paragon Path is like a Prestige Class, but maybe I’m wrong.
There’s also no magic chapter (unless that’s Rituals?) That’s interesting. I’m used to a PHB being mostly spells. But the Rituals chapter is only 4 pages long.
This is… Really fascinating. This art style is such a huge departure from 3e and I think I love it.
There’s a “what is a roleplaying game” section which is fine, it’s D&D, the expectation that people new to RPGs will start here is objectively sound. The section repeats itself a lot though. It could be half as long and just as effective.
Troika! still has the best one. I do remember loving ‘points of light’ as a central conceit for the campaign world and that hasn’t changed.
“[Settlements appear] as a point of light in the widespread darkness, a haven […] in the wilderness that covers the world” is a really good, evocative sentence. “Monsters […] prowl in the dark places between the points of light.”
Seriously, you’re selling me on this setting even though you haven’t actually told me anything specific about it yet. The History of D&D section claims 4e “firmly established D&D for the next decade” which is hilarious given that 4e came out in 2008 and D&D Next happened in 2012. I guess 5e didn’t officially drop until 2014 but that’s still only 6 years. I don’t know what the launch of 5e looked like but knowing how mad people were about the short life of 3.5 I can’t imagine they were happy about a 6 year edition.
The book has referred to characters as being “like the protagonists of a novel or a movie” a few times already. That’s not phrasing I remember from 3e or earlier (though it may be there) and I think that’s an interesting shift in attitude. I grew up knowing that my character’s life was tenuous and that a poor decision or bad roll of the dice could mean curtains and it’s still how I play a lot of games today. But generally you expect a protagonist to survive the story, and I think that expectation has carried to modern 5e play culture.
This isn’t a criticism. They’re just different play styles, nothing more. I’m just interested to see it here and I wonder where that shift happened. This is a decent summary of what it means to be a DM in D&D. Nice and clear.
I’m trying to force myself not to skim anything here because I know D&D as a concept so well and it’s hard. My brain is going “you already know all this” but I want to be sure I don’t miss anything crucial to 4e that doesn’t exist in other editions. We get an example of play and it’s…fine? It uses pretty natural language that mostly sounds like how people play, which is good, and it introduces the concept of Perception checks, the DM making decisions based on secret information, and Initiative.
I feel like it could be better, but I’m not sure how exactly. I’m glad it’s there before we’ve interacted with any rules text though. We get the core mechanic – d20 plus modifiers Vs a target number, roll equal to or higher – and “three basic rules”.
I really like the framing of character powers as “little ways of breaking the rules”
The other rules are “specific bests general” and “always round down”, if anybody is curious
This just got difficult.
Chapter 2 is making characters. I’m very used to character creation being stats first, and IIRC 3e still worked that way. It’s interesting that we go Race and Class first before ability scores here. I think that marks a shift in the philosophy of these games
Speaking of shifts in philosophy, here’s a passage that butts head first into a lot of current sensibilities about the games we play and the kinds of stories we tell.
We’re only on page 14, but the change to the way characters are made (i.e. stats being less important), the emphasis on characters as protagonists, and the inclusion of Eladrin, Dragonborn, and Tiefling as core races tells me that this is a D&D that wants to change things. It’s not just doing the same things that have always been done simply because “that’s what D&D looks like”. I’m not surprised that opinions on this are so divided. Explicit character roles are new to me. Saying “this character class can stand in for this class to create a balanced party” is interesting. It’s obviously a game that cares about ‘balance’ and optimisation. They’re things that eventually drove me away from 3.5 and PF so I’m interested to see how I respond to the rest of this.
I’m also interested to finally learn about the Warlord that people talk about so often. We’ve got our first mention of attack, at-will, and daily powers in a sidebar here. I’m beginning to wonder if the reason there’s no spell list is because spells have become Wizard powers, so that every class functions in the same mechanical way? I don’t really have a basis for that assumption other than that the game obviously cares about ‘balance’ and at-will powers made me think of cantrips, and this is the conclusion my brain jumped to.
We’re on to ability scores after a brief description of the four character roles. It does a good job of explaining what each ability is for and how they’re important to new classes.
I’m reading about defenses – the 4e term for Saves, I guess – and it strikes me that this is only making sense because I have the context of all the other editions of D&D to draw from. When I read “Fortitude defense” I know what it means because I played 3e. I wonder how jarring this new term would be without any context? There’s a page reference given, but this is one of those moments where I think rulebooks should embrace redundancy of information. Yes, I can turn to page 275 to learn about Fortitude defense, but tell me more here.
Similarly, we’re told that sometimes we add Dex or Intelligence to our Armour class and that term is in bold, but there’s no page reference given and it isn’t explained further. I know what it means, it’s common parlance in RPGs, but the book opens with a “what is an RPG?” section.
Obviously this book is 15 years old but… Let’s do more to onboard new players smoothly. We’re given 3 options for generating ability scores: standard array, point buy, and rolling. The section on rolling definitely has an air of “we know some of you are going to do it so here it is but we don’t want you to” and this feels like the first concession to old players. I think I’d respect it more if it simply didn’t entertain the idea of rolling for stats, to be honest. And I say that as someone who hates point buy and will always roll for stats if given the choice. The text mentions to RPGA and tells us we can’t roll for stats for a character we’re going to use in an RPGA game.
Every character begins play with 100gp to buy equipment. Hello, attempts at game balance.
“D&D is a roleplaying game but not necessarily an exercise in improvisational theatre” is a sentence I adore. It welcomes new players, tells them it’s okay to just want to roll dice and hit things if that’s where they get their fun, and removes any burden of being good at acting. That’s a sentence I wish had carried over to 5e.
There’s definitely a section of modern play culture that has forgotten it or was never told it in the first place. The Alignment section is weird. It’s halfway between alignment as it was (i.e. it represents your relationship to universal forces of chaos and law and not your outlook on society) and alignment as it is (i.e. nobody cares about it). It’s completely optional, only contains Good, Lawful Good, Evil, Chaotic Evil, and Unaligned, and it’s prescribed that PCs must be Good or Lawful Good if they choose an alignment.
This again feels like a concession to older players who would absolutely lose their shit if a D&D didn’t contain alignment, even though it really does feel like the writers expect and almost encourage you to ignore it. We get a few pages about deities and developing your character’s personality and background that I don’t find particularly inspiring. I like that the background section is short and says “hey, this is fun to consider but what’s more important is what your character does in play”.
After this it’s another, longer, explanation of the core mechanic, and then the three main types of interactions with that mechanic – ability checks, skill checks, attack rolls – in detail. The language is casual and clear and does a good job of explaining everything. What we see here is the first step towards 5e’s Proficiency Bonus. The Base Attack Bonus in 3.x varied depending on your class but here it always includes half your level. I’ve said before that I bounced off BAB initially coming from 2e to 3e. I don’t know why, but I did.
4e is immediately easier for me to understand, though of course I’m coming to it with 20 years more experience of these games than I had when 3e released.
Holy shit, how many levels does this game have?!
At 11th and 21st level we get to pick a Paragon Path or an Epic Destiny. I don’t know what they are, but we’ll learn about them in chapter 4. It also looks like we gain new powers at most levels and that we always get a choice, which I like. IMO one of 5e’s biggest sins is “dead levels” with no choice.
I obviously haven’t seen the powers yet but “you can take each power only once (you can’t choose the same power multiple times)” tells me there’s going to be lots of choice and I like that. I could well be way off base here but that phrasing makes me think of generic systems where you essentially build your own class. Obviously we have classes here and are going to be picking powers from those lists but I like the idea that they might be very customisable. We also learn new feats at every even numbered level.
It sounds like characters are going to have a lot to do here. I’m thinking back to how short the Adventuring and Combat chapters are and how brief the rules explanation at the front of this book is and it seems like 4e is really mechanically simple? I get the impression that the complexity is going to happen within individual powers. I obviously could be wrong but if I’m right about that I think I really like that? There’s no need to learn a super crunchy system, you just learn what your character can do and all the unique ways you get to break the rules.
Let’s see if I’m right. I also like that retraining is built in to levelling up. Every time you level you can replace a single feat, power, or skill that you previously selected. Retraining baked into the rules is something I liked about PF2 as well. Sometimes you’re not happy with choices you made that turn out to never get used etc. and some GMs can be dicks about it. It’s nice to just have changing your mind as an option in the book. We now have an answer to the question I posed here and the answer is 30 levels, split over 3 tiers: heroic, paragon, and epic.
30 levels. Wow.
It’s fun that the three tiers are defined in some part by the kinds of dragons you might fight, and the kinds of dungeons you explore. D&D being true to its name. Here’s more evidence of that drive towards ‘balance’ that I’ve been picking up on. Everyone advances at the same rate and has the same number of feats and powers, regardless of class.
Earlier during the character creation there was a brief passage that said “now fill out the rest of your character sheet. The calculations you need are in page 30”.
This is page 30.
The calculations you need to complete the character sheet aren’t actually on this page. Each step directs you to another page in the book.
This is another example of rules as reference text Vs rules text intended to be read in sequence. I think character creation in most games would benefit from very clear step by step instructions that tell you exactly what to do and don’t make you flip through pages. If I’m trying to make a character here, this is a lot of page flipping to things I haven’t read yet. (I will say that the character sheet diagram is still better than the one on Pathfinder 2)
Chapter 3 is Races. I may not read each race in detail here. I’ll comment on anything interesting that sticks out to me though. Of immediate interest is that Speed is measured exclusively in squares. This is a game that demands a grid and minis or tokens. I’ve found the first part of the text where I’m reading it and I don’t know what it means and don’t know where to find the answer. The terms ‘bloodied’ and ‘healing surge’ haven’t been explained yet.
What’s interesting is that I already know what ‘Bloodied’ is just through cultural osmosis. And I can make an educated guess at what healing surge is (my guess is that it’s a power characters can use to heal themselves in combat). But yeah. If I’m a new player trying to pick a race to build a character, the first section of information about this race talks about things I have no context for.
There’s an index and I could look it up, obviously, but I don’t think I should have to? Once again we’re back to my point about rules as reference vs. rules to be read, and about the benefit of quick starts and starter sets.
I actually bought the 4e quickstart with Keep On The Shadowfell last week so maybe I’ll compare it to this some time next week. Anyway.
“Play a Dragonborn if you want to look like a dragon” is the most honest sentence I’ve ever read in a rules text.
We see the same thing with the dwarf, where it says, “when an attack would knock you prone, you can immediately make a saving throw to avoid falling prone”. This is the first time the words ‘saving throw’ appear in the text, and we’ve ostensibly already learned about the core mechanic and the three types of rolls.
I like that each race only takes up two pages, and I like that we get three example adventurers of each race. Lidda & Tordek, two of the 3e iconic characters, make brief appearances. I’m very curious to know why it’s just those two and not e.g. Regdar or Mialee. Maybe the others show up as example characters in the classes section, or maybe it’s just a little nod to the old edition and nobody felt the urge to take it further.
The introduction to the Classes section gives us a breakdown of what mechanical elements a class has. One of them is how many Healing Surges you can spend in a day, so I think I might be right about what they are. Still no explanation though. We also get a sentence that brings back horrible memories of the 3e forums: “The next section of a class entry describes each class build in more detail. […] The build you choose (if you choose one) suggests what abilities you should prioritize”. I’ve never been a powergamer or a min-maxer. I just don’t get any enjoyment from figuring out “optimal” character options and planning character advancement ahead of time. If you do that’s cool, but it’s not for me and it’s one of the things that made me put 3.5/PF down. Having it explicitly called out as a thing you can do in the game text says that this game maybe isn’t for me. But we’ll press on, because so far I do like what I see and an emphasis on ‘builds’ is largely a table culture thing anyway. The final part of a character is Powers. “The longest section of a class description contains full descriptions of all the class’s […] powers, as well as its utility powers.”
I suspect this is where we’ll find spells. Which… Don’t exist using that terminology in 4e. This is a strange experience so far because so much of it is familiar as being D&D but little things like that are completely different. There’s lots of “referring to new concepts that haven’t been introduced yet” going on in this chapter.
Paragon paths sound cool, like a second class on top of your normal class. But the concept of spending action points to take extra actions in combat is just thrown in there. We move on now to the different types of powers (at will, encounter, daily) explained in more detail. I like that daily powers always have some effect even if they fail. Having an ability you can only use once fail and do nothing would suck so mitigating that is nice. The section about how to read a power is good, and I think it was smart to use a relatively high level wizard spell as the example because that has completely answered any lingering questions I had about how spells work. They work just like other powers. The keywords on powers are nice, and the explanation of how they interact with the rest of the rules is very good. Pathfinder 2 does the same thing but doesn’t explain them very well (it just says e.g. “this has the Concentration tag” and leaves you to figure out what that means)
So far I’m very impressed with how clearly this is written. The Implement keyword is interesting and I’m really curious to see how this works in practice. Hopefully I’ll remember to look up a power with this keyword when I get to them.
This section – How to read powers – is the longest continuous section of the book so far. I think it would really benefit from ending with a sample power printed in full so you can look at all this information in context, but that’s a minor quibble.
The next section lists all the classes with their powers, so it’s not like I have to wait ages to see a real power on the page. Class entries follow the same format as races, with a boxed section listing traits and key information right up front. It’s familiar and easy to follow after the races. The identical formatting for races and classes is a nice mirror for the idea that all characters interact with game mechanisms in exactly the same way and as I’m reading it I really like it. This is all really easy to parse. If they could have fit every class onto a two page spread like the races that would make it even better but that is asking the impossible really. Immediate answer to the Implement question I had earlier, which is nice. It’s cool that the bonus is implement-specific rather than power-specific. I wonder if there’s a variety of implements or if in practice it’s just a static bonus?
It looks like at level one you know both Turn Undead and Divine Fortune under the umbrella of “Channel Divinity” and that you can use one per encounter. You can learn other uses for Channel Divinity with a divinity feat. The sentence “The Channel Divinity class feature encompasses multiple powers, two of which are presented below” really tripped me up for a minute because it read to me like you get to pick one of these and that there’s a longer list somewhere that I’m not being directed to. After reading the whole section a few times I’m pretty sure it’s just referring to clerics learning new uses from gaining feats, but I definitely stumbled here.
This is the first time in the book that unclear writing has caused me issues.
Anyway, Turn Undead. I like when Turn Undead can potentially destroy low level undead outright based on cleric level, and this can’t do that. Maybe we can gain a better version at a higher level? I do like that it has an effect even when it misses, though.
Something 4e has solved simply by turning spells into powers is removing the confusion of caster level vs. spell level. Your spells are just powers and their level is the character level you can gain them at. It’s actually annoying that 5e undid this change, because it’s good. Spell level distinct from caster level but using the same terminology sucks and I’ll die on this hill. I’m not going to read through lists of powers because that’s just not a particularly useful or enjoyable use of my time, much like how I usually don’t read through spell lists.
What I am going to do is skip forward and read the Warlord because I’ve heard a lot about it. (A quick note here to say that I really like the Pit Fighter paragon path for Fighters.)
Also it looks like the Paladin shares Channel Divinity with the cleric but has different uses of it, which explains (but doesn’t forgive) that weird wording that trips me up earlier. Yeah okay the Warlord is cool and I see why people like it. On first read, and without looking at any powers yet, it feels somewhere between a battle master fighter and a bard (if we’re talking in 5e terms even though this game obviously predates 5e). I’d play a Warlord for sure
Wizards are fun as well. I like that you choose whether to specialise in wands, orbs, or staffs at level one. That really stands out from other editions of D&D that are more about schools of magic (which makes sense when spells have been turned into powers)
Wizard powers do work slightly differently to other classes in that you select two daily powers but can only actually use one of them. So you still have that classic wizard thing of having to prepare spells and decide what to use, but under 4e’s mechanical framework. I like it.
You get Ghost Sound, Light, Mage Hand, and Prestidigitation as cantrips that you can cast as at-will powers at first level, a little clutch of classic utility spells. And you also have some other classics to choose from as at-will powers, like Magic Missile and Ray of Frost.
Looking at the spell list, they’ve done a good job of porting classic D&D spells over to 4e. And you still get Fireball at 5th level, as is tradition.
Oh shit one of the paragon paths is blood magic, and I love blood magic as a trope. It’s a big surprise to see something like that in the core book.
After wizards we get into Epic Destinies and learn about levels 21-30. We’re told that this “describes your character’s exit from the world at large”. It’s cool that there’s an explicit end game to this edition. I do wish the “Destiny Quest” was described more thoroughly in this book rather than the Dungeon Master’s Guide, since it seems like it’s something the game is aimed at and wants you to engage with. We do get some brief examples of what to expect, though. Epic level play isn’t something that’s ever really appealed to me and I think that’s because I’m used to the end game being domain play. Epic levels become a bit like playing superheroes for me and that’s not something I’m into, but I do see why people enjoy it.
I do wonder where that shift from domain play to epic levels happened. I’d guess somewhere during 2e, but maybe it was 3e? I’m unsure. After all of this we move to the section on skills, and we get back into some mechanical rules stuff. Take 10 (do something slowly with no pressure and assume you rolled a 10+modifiers) exists in 4e but Take 20 is gone. We also get passive checks, where you’re assumed to be taking 10 for opposed checks when you’re not actively using a skill. This obviously carried forward into 5e with Passive Perception etc
Skill Challenges are something that I get the impression are a very popular feature of 4e that a lot of people still use in 5e and other games. It is infuriating that the rules for them aren’t in the PHB at all. They’re hinted at, and you’re instructed to buy the DMG for them. The next chapter is Feats, followed by multiclassing rules. It’s interesting that multiclassing is just taking a feat which then allows you to take feats from the class you’re dipping into, and that the multiclass feats themselves also have a benefit so it’s not wasted.
Balance. Even magic items use the same format as powers. I’m willing to bet that monster stat blocks look similar as well.
Of course there’s no way to know because there are no monsters in this book, because of my old favourite “the 3 core book model”. Magic items work in slots – arms, feet, hands, head, neck. I’ve seen people refer to 4e as feeling like a video game and this, I think, is the place where that’s most apparent. I don’t have any feelings either way about this, to be honest. (I missed rings and waist slots but whatever, it’s not important)
The fact that magic items are in the PHB and have very fixed pricing for both buying and selling them tells me the game expects you to have lots of items. Is this a looter shooter TTRPG? Maybe. The combat rules are not hugely dissimilar to 5e (or more accurately, I suppose, 5e combat isn’t hugely dissimilar to 4e). There’s nothing here that’s surprising or that I feel any real need to comment on. We do get an explanation about Action Points, which let you take additional actions and also trigger some feats and paragon powers. You gain one at the start of every session, after an extended rest, and after reaching a milestone. 5e has got rid of these and has largely replaced them with Inspiration. I like them a lot. Pathfinder 2 styles them as Hero Points and uses them for rerolls, and I really enjoy them. Using them for extra action is nice and I like it. We finally learn about healing surges, which can be used once per combat and as many times as you like up to your healing surge max during short rests. The heal you 25% of your max HP.
5e replaced this with rolling hit dice and doesn’t let everybody just do it during combat. I understand the need for it to be a fixed value in a game like 4e, and I also understand why 5e went back to rolling. I think I prefer it being tied to hit dice, as a matter of personal preference. I also like the way healing surges interact with death saving throws. I think I’d possibly house rule that into 5e if I were to play it again (although obviously 25% of max HP is a much better heal than rolling 1HD)
The final chapter is rituals, which are (largely) utility spells that take extended amounts of time to be cast. Stuff like enchanting items, animal messenger, locating secret doors, etc.
And that’s it. That’s all of 4e. For a game that people talk about as being super crunchy, it’s actually very simple. Most of the complexity comes from individual powers and so it doesn’t feel like it’s overwhelming to learn. I like that.
I definitely understand why people were so annoyed that the original plan was the release the DMG and monster manual months after the PHB, because right now I can’t actually play this game. I don’t know how to award XP, I don’t know what monsters look like, I don’t know what traps and hazards look like, and I have absolutely no basis on which to start building those things. And that’s very annoying.
I actually really like what I’ve just read, I’d like to play it, but I literally can’t. And all it would have taken would be another 10-20 pages in the PHB with some sample monsters and sample traps, maybe a one page dungeon as an introductory adventure.
Every time I read a 3 core book trad game I make this complaint and I’m not going to stop. Put everything people need to play in one book, and then build on that with supplements. Anyway. I enjoyed that, I’m glad I read it, and at some point I’m definitely going to run it. First I’ll need to check out the DMG and MM, though. And I’ll be looking at the quickstart and Keep On The Shadowfell in the near future to see how that goes about onboarding players.
If you’ve stuck with me this far I appreciate it. If you’ve enjoyed this thread, I always appreciate donations of coffee (Ko-Fi.com/chrisbissette)
Thank you for your time and attention.
(I came back to this thread a little later as I read the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide. Rather than post those tweets as an individual post, I’m attaching them here.)
Tacking this on here. I’m going to dig into the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide as well. I’m not going to go as in depth on twitter as I did with the Player’s Handbook but I do feel like I’m missing a big chunk of the game having only read that.
This is immediately one of the best sections in any DMG I’ve ever read. When I play I am definitely a combination Instigator/Watcher depending on my mood.
So one of the reasons the PHB felt so light on rules is that a ton of what I’d expect to find in there – rules for flying, mounted combat, strange terrain etc – are all in the DMG. There is a lot of really good advice about how to run the game in the first couple of chapters of this book, though. I’ve heard people say the 4e DMG is valuable even if you don’t run D&D and they’re not wrong. I’ve finally got some stuff about monsters. The monster roles are really interesting and a good way of building encounters, and I like the symmetry between monster roles and character roles. Specific solo monsters designed to function like groups of 5 monsters is a really nice touch, too. The big solo enemy is a fun concept that often falls flat at the table. Obviously without playing the game and seeing stats I don’t know how well this worked but in theory I like it
This copy of the DMG is pre-owned and I just found this slip of paper from Gencon UK inside it marking the Encounter XP budgets tables.
4e does something that makes complete sense that isn’t repeated in many other games for reasons I don’t understand, and that’s (basically) matching monster power to character power. Monster level = character level and so 5 level 7 monsters is a good challenge for 5 7th level PCs. The encounter templates using different combinations of monster roles are really good, too. Honestly if this section and a handful of monsters was in the PHB you’d be good to go. I often see people complain that D&D spends so much time on rules for combat and doesn’t have mechanisms for anything else and the Skill Challenges seem like a good response to that. The example given, of PCs trying to convince a Duke of their trustworthiness, is a good example of social conflict interacting with mechanisms. The more I read of 4e the more I’m seeing how much Pathfinder 2 drew from it. Look how similar the format for hazards is in both games, for example
There’s a little chapter about artefacts, with some samples. The Hand and Eye of Vecna are here – unsurprisingly, since Vecna is in the pantheon – but I’m surprised the see the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords here. I have good memories of running that campaign in 2e
Monster design steps starts with “Choose the monster’s level”, as it should. I’ll never figure out why the 5e DMG fucked this up so badly by making calculating CR the last step. Random enckuntera are the last thing before we hit Fallcrest and the Nentir Vale, which I’m looking forward to reading.
All I’ll say is that any procedure for random enckunters that doesn’t account for surprise, distance, and reactions is rubbish. I take back everything good I said about 4e, there’s no Black Pudding in the monster manual
(another thing the game gets right is monster stat blocks being short and easy to parse, and putting monster ability scores at the bottom where they belong because you very rarely need them)
If you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful I always appreciate tips on Ko-Fi.