D&D 4e report

I’ve delayed writing because of a week of sad and busy circumstances, but here it is, my assessment of D&D 4th edition, based on the game I ran last Saturday.

A caveat: the party consisted of two PCs played by Scott and one played by me, when calculations for XP and opponent size are based on a party of five. That made it a little more challenging up front for planning encounters than it should’ve been. I did make use of the online encounter builder at the Wizards site (I’d link to it, but I don’t think it’s free anymore).

I heavily modded Keep on the Shadowfell. In fact, not so much of the "keep" nor the "shadowfell." I made much use of a series of articles by Justin Alexander from the Wizards forums. Just a note about KotS–the proofing is awful. On one page I found differences in stat blocks that obviously reflected a change in how they intended to regard ability modifiers.

Combat took longer than I expected. The DMG indicated 1 1/2 hours for combat, which I thought must be grossly overestimated, but it wasn’t. Granted, we had a learning curve to overcome, but we easily took an hour and then some to defeat 6 kobolds (4 of which were minions). I do like the minions rule–one hit and they’re dead–but you do still have to hit them, as Scott said. The powers were interesting and did give you the ability to do something every turn, but that did often end up being the same thing over and over, not that much different than in 3.5.

After rescuing the dwarf father and son beset by kobolds, the party moved on to town to try to meet their objective of locating the heir they’d been sent to find. Scott’s characterizations were great, as usual, especially the lawful good Cleric of Eratis with a foul mouth and a hatred for anything not a city. She was a lot of fun. I probably should have used some skill challenges here, but in planning I focused more on combat and the story, in typical Donna fashion.

Naturally investigation was interrupted by danger. Undead were roaming in the graveyard, so the heroes ran off to fight some skeletons and a couple of 3rd level gravehounds that gave them fits. Killing the gravehounds took forever.

They went down into the mausoleum of the follower of Bahamut and found the sacrificed woman. Next stop–room full o’ skeletons. They were all minions, contrary to what I had originally intended, and again took forever to kill. They didn’t get to the cool encounter with the ghostly paladin, nor save the day in their final battle with the UBG (well, low level UBG anyhow). So close, but that would’ve required probably another couple of hours to complete.

All in all, I have to say, <shrug> Eh. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the Great Fun of It. Combat does go smoothly for DMs, I have to say, but I’ve been running games for a long while. Prep work was more time consuming than I’d been led to believe. I should have included some traps or other cool displays of 4e, but the sections in the DMG seemed complicated and I didn’t read them. Truth to tell, I ran out of time.

I’m glad we played, and I wouldn’t be opposed to playing again, but if we don’t, now I don’t feel I’ve missed out on anything. I guess the bottom line is, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Brandis Dale

Since Scott posted his PC for our 4e game, here’s mine:

  Brandis Dale

Male Human Ranger / Rogue, Level 1, Good
Strength 14 (+2), Constitution 14 (+2), Dexterity 18 (+4), Intelligence 13 (+1), Wisdom 18 (+4), Charisma 9 (-1)
Height 5’10", Weight 180 lb, Skin: Brown, Eyes: Black, Hair: Black, Wavy, Beardless; Size: Medium; Speed: 6 squares; Vision: Normal
Maximum Hit Points: 26; Bloodied: 13; Surge Value: 6; Surges / Day: 8 [includes constitution modifier] 

Initiative: 1d20 +4 = + 4 [dexterity]
Base Strength Attack: 1d20 +2 = + 2 [strength]
Base Dexterity Attack: 1d20 +4 = + 4 [dexterity]
Base Constitution Attack: 1d20 +2 = + 2 [constitution]
Base Intelligence Attack: 1d20 +1 = + 1 [intelligence]
Base Wisdom Attack: 1d20 +4 = + 4 [wisdom]
Base Charisma Attack: 1d20 -1 = -1 [charisma]
Armor Class: 16 = 10 + 4 [dexterity] + 2 [leather]
Fortitude Defense: 14 = 10 + 1 [Human] + 1 [ranger] + 2 [constitution]
Reflex Defense: 16 = 10 + 1 [Human] + 1 [ranger] + 4 [dexterity]
Will Defense: 15 = 10 + 1 [Human] + 4 [wisdom]

Armor: Leather (15 lb)
Shield: None

    Unarmed Melee: +2 vs AC [+2 strength]; damage 1[W]=1d4+2 [strength]
    Short sword: +5 vs AC [+2 strength] [+3 proficiency]; damage 1[W]=1d6+2 [strength] 2 lb (Light blade) Usable off-hand
    Crossbow: +6 vs AC [+4 dexterity] [+2 proficiency]; damage 1[W]=1d8+4 [dexterity] range 15/30 4 lb (Crossbow) Load minor
        Add +1 damage for Weapon Focus — Crossbow
    Careful Attack +2w [strength] vs AC
    Careful Attack +4w [dexterity] vs AC
    Nimble Strike +4w [dexterity] vs AC
    Twin Strike +2w [strength] vs AC
    Twin Strike +4w [dexterity] vs AC
    Evasive Strike (melee) +2w [strength] vs AC
    Evasive Strike (ranged) +4w [dexterity] vs AC
    Split the Tree +4w [dexterity] vs AC

    w Weapon-based power. Apply adjustments for proficiency, situation, feats, magic, etc.

Base Saving Throw: d20 vs 10

Encumbrance 4e

Normal Load:
Heavy Load:
Maximum Drag Load
140 lb.
280 lb.
700 lb.

Encumbrance 3.5

Light load:
Medium load:
Heavy load:
Lift over head:
Lift off ground:
Push or drag:
58 lb. or less
59-116 lb.
117-175 lb.
175 lb.
350 lb.
875 lb.



Languages: Common; Draconic;



    Acrobatics: +9 = 4 [dexterity] + 5 [class training]
    Arcana: +1 = 1 [intelligence]
    Athletics: +2 = 2 [strength]
    Bluff: -1 = -1 [charisma]
    Diplomacy: -1 = -1 [charisma]
    Dungeoneering: +9 = 4 [wisdom] + 5 [class training]
    Endurance: +2 = 2 [constitution]
    Heal: +9 = 4 [wisdom] + 5 [class training]
    History: +1 = 1 [intelligence]
    Insight: +4 = 4 [wisdom]
    Intimidate: -1 = -1 [charisma]
    Nature: +9 = 4 [wisdom] + 5 [class training]
    Perception: +9 = 4 [wisdom] + 5 [class training]
    Religion: +1 = 1 [intelligence]
    Stealth: +9 = 4 [dexterity] + 5 [class training]
    Streetwise: -1 = -1 [charisma]
    Thievery: +9 = 4 [dexterity] + 5 [multiclass training]


    Weapon Focus — Bow  
    Multiclass Rogue  



    Basic Melee Attack: By weapon, damage 1[W]+2 [strength]
    Basic Ranged Attack: By weapon, damage 1[W]+4 [dexterity]
    Bull Rush: +2 [strength] vs fortitude
    Grab: +2 [strength] vs reflex
    Move grabbed target: +2 [strength] vs fortitude
    Escape: +9 [acrobatics] vs reflex / +2 [athletics] vs fortitude
    Careful Attack [Level 1]
    Nimble Strike [Level 1]
    Twin Strike [Level 1]

    Other Standard Actions: Administer a potion; Aid another; Charge [+1 to basic melee attack or bull rush]; Coup de grace; Equip / stow shield; Ready an action; Total defense; Sustain standard action; Some skills during combat (i.e., Acrobatics — fast escape; Bluff, Heal — first aid, Intimidate, Perception — active, Thievery depending on circumstances)
    Other Move Actions: Crawl; Run [speed 8]; Stand up; Shift; Squeeze; Walk; may include some skills during combat (i.e., Acrobatics, Athletics)
    Other Minor Actions: Draw / sheathe weapon; Drink a potion; Drop prone; Load a crossbow; Open / close a door; Pick up an item; Retrieve / stow an item; Sustain minor action; Some skills during combat (i.e., Insight)
    Other Immediate Action: Readied action


    Other Opportunity Action: Opportunity attack


    Other Free Actions: Drop held items; End a grab; Talk
    Other Non-Actions: Delay; Endurance checks; Insight to counter Bluff; Knowledge checks; Perception — passive
    Short rest: Healing surges as available
    Five minutes: Normal escape from restraints (Acrobatics)
    One hour: Forage; Streetwise check

Encounter Powers:  Second Wind,   Spend an Action Point [free action, not in surprise round],  Sneak Attack [multiclass rogue][sneak attack once per encounter with combat advantage],   Evasive Strike [Level 1]

Daily Powers:  Split the Tree [Level 1]


  • One extra at-will power from your class (already included)
  • One bonus feat at 1st level (already included)
  • One bonus skill from the skill class list (already included)
  • +1 to fortitude, reflex, and will defenses


  • This ranger chose the archer style. This gives the equivalent of the defensive mobility feat [not listed above].
  • Hunter’s Quarry — bonus damage 1d6 [minor action]
  • Prime Shot

Brandis Dale’s Equipment:

    22 lb
    3 lb
    2 lb
    5 lb

    1 lb
    10 lb
    10 lb
    2 lb
    4 lb
    1 lb
    60 lb

    Weapons / Armor / Shield (from above)
    Arrows (quiver of 30) x1
    Flint and steel
    Pouch (belt) x1
    Rations (1 day) x10
    Rope (50′, hempen) x1
    Sunrods x2
    Waterskins x1
    Thieves’ tools


More about Brandis Dale:

    Brandis Dale’s parents and grandparents were members of the Order of the Crucible, so naturally Brandis rebelled for a time, wandering through the forests and the cities of the fallen Empire on his own. After witnessing the dangers faced by the common people (when he got the scar creasing his face), he returned to the Order and begged for a place in it. Quiet, moody and somewhat fierce in appearance because of his scar, Brandis can be very kind, especially to children, and cares deeply for the needs of the common folk.

Edited to take advantage of sneak attack

Gaming goodness

Haven’t posted in a bit, not substantially, so here goes.

We didn’t get to play much, but we have the beginnings of an intriguing adventure ahead, finding out more about Rashmali’s people, the benraman. We played for not quite an hour, then sold stuff and bought more stuff, which took about three hours. But it had been ages since we’d done that, since before the Underdark, so we had a backlog. I still haven’t gotten to see how Mordecai performs as a gnome; he’s fought a scale golem, but those have spell resistance. He made some tasty magic item purchases that should help in that area.

I’m excited about running a one-shot 4th edition game for S. on the 20th. I’m reading through Keep on the Shadowfell and will mod it to some extent–well, the extent is getting greater and greater the more I get into it. Should be interesting, and fun to run a game again, although 4e still seems more like a minis game than D&D. I’ll try and reserve judgement though.

Roleplaying skills and social encounters in potential different 4e

 [I started this as a comment in

 ‘s blog, but continuing it here.]

OK, let’s come at it from a slightly different direction, gameplay. What about Diplomacy and Bluff and Intimidate? I never quite feel that they work. We’ve had discussions about player ability vs. PC ability, and that somewhat enters into it. I’m not so sure those skills should be (and I’m thinking out loud here) straight skills.



 Let me see if I can explain what I mean by that. Do skills adequately address the abilities of negotiation? I know that you can use Bluff and Intimidate in combat, but we rarely do. I’m not sure that those are the same skills. You might be cunning and tricky in combat, but when it comes to talking to the Hakima without losing your cool, you might not be so suave. Does that make sense? I still don’t know that much about maneuvers and stances, although it seems really interesting. Bluff and Intimidate in combat might well be addressed as part of maneuvers. I think about Ari and her deft and dancing swordsmanship in this context. If she had had access to maneuvers, J could’ve modeled the sort of Errol Flynn swashbuckler that Ari is in my mind. 

On the other hand, I wanted Raef to be decent in combat, but to excel in B, I & D, and he never really did because DONNA sux at those things. I still feel my PC got penalized for my personal shortcomings. I do not, however, want the DM to have to finess it and say, Well, you made your Diplomacy roll, so you say the perfect right thing. Or maybe I do. Still conflicted on that one. Still, there has to be a better system.

Now, a lot of what

said (here) about the ability to roleplay in 4e makes sense. But it’s still not there.

I’ve said a whole lot of nothing. I think I can’t get my head around how you would do RP in a better way. Social encounters is probably a better term. How do you simulate them?

Hmm, White Wolf games come to mind. I may look up in the one WW book I have and see how they do it.

Revision of 3.5?

 The post that S pointed me to by

 about her dislike of 4e D&D was interesting. I’m beginning to feel that way too. I haven’t even played it, although I have read the Player’s Handbook (and own the boxed set), so I want to withhold judgement until I have. But the possibilities of a different D&D are myriad. 

So here’s the challenge, obviously pointed at

(generally my only reader):

What would YOUR version of 4e look like?

Now, let’s not eat the elephant all at once here. Pick one complicated aspect and explain how you’d do it better.

I’ll think on it as well and see what I come up with.