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  1. #1

    Default D&D Essentials Talk?

    I picked up the Rules Compendium and Heroes of the Fallen Lands Essentials books this week ahead of switching to the Essentials rule set for an upcoming pnp game. Wondered what other people thought about the books?

    I know there's been some controversy over whether the Essentials line is sort of a version 4.5 of the rule set. It's really more of an update to 4th incorporating recent rules changes by Wotc, but I have to say it sure does seem like a bit of a new "base line" edition for the game. It's not that you can't mix 4e and Essentials, especially since the 4e rule set is really fairly basic. When I was reading the Rules Compendium it really felt like "common sense RPGing" to me, it was like I knew the rules even before I knew the rules.

    I know there's a lot of 4e hate out there, I personally have enjoyed my 4e experience (mostly at Gen Con, admittedly.) I'm thinking that Essentials is a mix of a rules update, marketing campaign and an attempt to sort of detach the current rule set from the 4e hate.

    So, my two cent reviews of the books:

    BOTH:

    - Excellent artwork. I really enjoyed the art in the books. I've read that there's some recycled art, but that's fine with me.
    - Nice packaging. The smaller footprint makes the books more portable and the softcover design feels very nice.
    - Book shelf looks nice. One of my biggest complaints about D&D over the years has been the way the books stack next to each other. I've personally felt the hardcovers end up looking like a series of Time Life books, with some weird odds and ends that make it unattractive on the book shelf. I like the consistent look of the books, hopefully Wotc sticks with the design.
    - Nice price point. $20/book seems like a reasonable entry price for me.

    Fallen Lands:

    - Overall a very nice book. My only complaint is that some of the classes feels half-complete. For example, people without the 4e core books but with Essentials have only the Wizard (Mage) to choose from, and even then they limit school choices to only two: Evocation and Enchantment (I think?) I would have liked more options for feats, skills and spells in particular. I kind of think of Essentials are being the "core" set for the current game (at least that's how it's being marketed.) Having such limited class build options feels like they are holding back the good stuff to make me buy non-"core" books.
    - There might be a bit TOO MUCH fluff/story in the book. I heard they added a lot more fluff in response to criticisms in the core books, but honestly the book could be reduced about 100 pages and still contain all the relevant info and choices. I would have preferred them having a few less pages saying "think about how to play your character" and replace that with more spells, skills, feats and build options.
    - Cleric, Fighter, Wizard, Rogue. That's it! No barbarian, ranger, bard, etc until the 2nd essentials book coming out soon. Feels like a double-dip, sorta.
    - However, despite these criticisms, I overall had no problem building my first 4e Wizard and am looking forward to checking it out. As an entry into the game for newer players, this will do very nicely.
    - I said this above, but I really like the look and feel of the books, they just feel and read great.

    Rulez Compendium:

    - Best book ever? I know nowadays pnp groups are all like, "what's this paper doing here? My laptop is better!" but this book really will serve as a great, portable rules bible for 4e Essentials. Nicely indexed and organized, well written, good explanations, etc.
    - I also like the setting in the book. I'm not sure how this setting compares to the older 4e core setting, but I like the Astral-to-Earth-to-Underworld story behind the setting. Beautiful image of the universe as well. Spurs the imagination in a great way. Personally, I'd love to do a 4e Eberron campaign, but as a basic "generic" campaign setting I think Wotc did a really nice job on this.
    - Criticisms: Not enough treasure or items to buy. No example of a monster info block, which would really help a new player understand how the numbers work in combat. Especially since the Essentials Monster Vault hasn't yet been released.

    Only other complaint at this point is D&D Insider. They promote it several times in these books, but the current character generator doesn't work for Essentials builds due to changes to characters and other changes (for example, my wizard was unable to select the proper feats and spells according to how they fell in the book, and got powers and stuff that wasn't mentioned at all in Essentials.)

    My biggest concern is confusion, even at the game store the guy behind the counter told me, "I can't figure out what Essentials is. Is it like 4th Edition?" Wotc seems to want Essentials to be everything: rules update, entry point for new player, something they want current players to buy and yet be compatible with 4e while being different enough that an Essentials-only books player and a 4e-only books player will find multiple points of confusion. As a way to keep the D&D game alive in the wake of 4e economic sluggishness I'm all in favor of it, just wish they didn't feel the need to "PR" the Essentials line to meet all bullet points at the expense of actually being clear about what they are trying to do.

    Highly recommended on the new books if you want to start playing the newest version of D&D. Highly recommended for first-time would-be D&D players. If you already own all the 4e books, I'm not sure there's much here for you other than the rules changes, which from what I understand is available with D&D Insider.

    For people buying the Essentials line, I WOULD NOT recommend subbing to D&D Insider for a while, at least until it's updated with Essentials content.

    Your thoughts?
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  2. #2

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    DM's kit released today! Probably will pick it up at some point, not sure when though. I don't think there's really anything in there I need, but the tokens and maps will be nice. Anyone else using Essentials?
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  3. #3
    Community Member Ashurr's Avatar
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    Gave 'em a shot this afternoon actually - Still not a fan of 4th ed. The whole "streamlining" of the system is just, well, too confining - a t least for my players.

    Agreed about the artwork though.
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashurr View Post
    Gave 'em a shot this afternoon actually - Still not a fan of 4th ed. The whole "streamlining" of the system is just, well, too confining - a t least for my players.

    Agreed about the artwork though.
    I agree in principle about the confining qualities of 4th, when I was building my wizard I was thinking, "really? That's all the choices I get?" Essentials in particular doesn't give wizards many paths to go down, they only outline the powers for two of the schools of magic for crissakes! Also, it's funny to build a character and read, "choose TWO of the following feats from this list" and the list contains three options.

    However, in terms of actually sitting down with folks and playing the game, I'm loving 4E. The gameplay has been a lot of fun and removing a lot of the crunch makes for a smooth role playing experience. I also understand Wotc's reasoning for 4e, and think Essentials is a bit of an olive branch to former disgruntled players (maybe, time will tell.) It's interesting to read the Essentials books and not see the phrase "4th Edition" anywhere in sight. It's obviously deliberate.

    So, I see both sides. I was one of those ragers when 2nd became 3rd, but time and maturity showed me how good 3.5 actually was. I hear my old self when I read about 4e hate, but I also think 4e is just fine from a "is it fun?" perspective. Yeah, it is, and if it brings new blood to the game I'm all for it. But if you hate it, I understand!

    Hoping to pick up the DM's Kit and Tile Set in the coming weeks when I get a bit of money and am REALLY looking forward to sitting down with a group this weekend for an Essentials session.

    I also love how on the Wotc boards people are distinguishing 4th Edition from Essentials by using 4e or 4E. That's why I love DnDers.
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  5. #5
    Community Member Ashurr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mockduck View Post
    I



    So, I see both sides. I was one of those ragers when 2nd became 3rd, but time and maturity showed me how good 3.5 actually was. I hear my old self when I read about 4e hate, but I also think 4e is just fine from a "is it fun?" perspective. Yeah, it is, and if it brings new blood to the game I'm all for it. But if you hate it, I understand!
    I was one of those ragers as well ( I actually allowed a new Guildie in several days ago based on the sheer fact he referred to his BaB as his "THAC0") Right now I can say I "hate" 4th ed, in the same way I once said I "hated" 3rd.....getting older and fearing change is a apart of life I suppose. I've always been a sortof "eclectic" DM however, and take from several different systems when running a campaign, so I'm sure that one day down the road 4th ed will work it's way into one of my campaigns just like the rest have.
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  6. #6
    Community Member katana_one's Avatar
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    Looking forward to checking out Essentials, but I've not bought any of the books. I stopped buying books after the 4E core set because I don't have room for more splat books, and I have a DDI subscription anyway, so no real need for me to purchase them.

    Been playing in a weekly 4e game that's been going strong for about 2 years now.
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  7. #7
    Community Member RangerRat's Avatar
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    Default 3.5

    I have all books from 3.5. Is there any good reason to go to the next version?

  8. #8
    Community Member katana_one's Avatar
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    Depends on what you're looking for from your PnP game. I recommend going to the WotC website and downloading the trial version of the 4e rules.

    http://www.wizards.com/dnd/TryDnD.aspx

    Take a look and decide for yourself if you want to move to 4e. I would not get rid of the 3.5 stuff tho.

    Personally, I like both systems, but each for very different reasons.

    3.5 vs 4e flame war starting in 3 …

    2 …

    1 …
    Last edited by katana_one; 01-01-2011 at 04:37 PM.
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  9. #9
    Community Member ferd's Avatar
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    Good post bud!
    I spent about an hour going over them, but I walked away more confused on the actual intent.

    As the packaging is nice, it has nothing to do with whats inside!
    I feel it's another over the top attempt at trying to compensate for the terrible 4E content.
    (sorry 4E fans)

    As analog as my beloved 1 & 2 E sets are compared to ANY of the newer stuff, they still are king of D20 systems.


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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerRat View Post
    I have all books from 3.5. Is there any good reason to go to the next version?
    no. I gave mine away after buying the whole $300 set

    Quote Originally Posted by katana_one View Post

    3.5 vs 4e flame war starting in 3 …

    2 …

    1 …
    lol
    No flame, I bought all the books, read it over, tried it out, TRIED to run a game with it, and then gave the books to a shop nearby cause I hate it
    I TRIED to like it. Ive been playing D&D since I was in 6th grade. Im 33 now. If they dont un screw it, I wont be coming back sadly
    Would be neat id they redid DDO with these rules though lol guess that would be too ironic though
    Last edited by buddahcjcc; 01-04-2011 at 08:04 PM.

  11. #11
    Community Member FoxCourier's Avatar
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    Haven't checked out Essentials (didn't even know it was coming out - may have to give it a glance over at some point in the future), but I think one of the biggest things I took away from 4th was how easy everything was to refluff and reskin to better suit what you really wanted to do with it (provided your DM is alright with you doing so).

    EG: I had a Raven Queen Paladin that had a very specific borderline-evil feel going (Karrnathi Bone Knight style), and noticing that all of my attacks did Radiant damage almost to a point (and most of the Raven Queen feat lines only offered bonuses for Necrotic damage in general, which I lacked significantly), I asked my DM if I could switch 'Radiant' for 'Necrotic' in my damage descriptions and rename my powers to better fit my character.

    Holy Strike became Wither Flesh, Majestic Halo became Dark Pulse, Divine Challenge became Reaper's Promise, and so on.

    Half the fun became changing the theme for our characters at that point to better suit what we envisioned them to be, while keeping with the mechanical framework that was in place by the rules system. I'm not sure how well this would translate to Essentials, but it's something I'm definately going into it looking to continue doing. May also help if you feel a bit too confined by the fluff/etc. in the system, too.
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  12. #12
    Community Member Chai's Avatar
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    4e doesnt need to streamline anything they have created so far. They need to start adding in all the things that edition left out that the older editions covered. When they do begin to account for those situations, only then will they learn their lesson that scrapping a good portion of the old systems didnt really balance the game or do away with all the old problems the previous editions faced, by leaving those questions unanswered.

    Here we may be entering the era as I stated previously, where they begin to try to account for this, only to find those same issues they thought they avoided smiling back at them when they "streamline" a rule by adding particulars or more specific clarification for something they once thought solved with a broad stroke.
    Advocating repeated nerfs in the name of "balancing the game" then complaining about how DDO is moving away from D&D, is a direct contradiction in logic - D&D 3.5 (what DDO is based on) is not a balanced game. We can either have a balanced clone MMO with homogenized classes, or we can have a D&D game. We cant have both.

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