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 What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?

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Felorn Gloryaxe
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PostSubject: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:35 am

Well would it have been?

If the Original 4e would have been the Essentials line (except not paperback and in actual hard cover books) do you think it would have fared better with long time fans? I'm honestly not too sure. I think there would have been less 4e, WoW, comparisons as not every class would have had the AEDU power lineup. And I think we can all agree, Essentials tried to cater more towards older fans while still remaining 4e. But I also feel like it would still be largely rejected because of the horrible 4e GSL, and the angry "This isn't the same game" argument.

But I also feel that if Essentials was released first we may not have seen such a tight knit 4e community (which personally I like).

What are your thoughts?

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sat Apr 05, 2014 8:32 am

The biggest irony of 4E is that Paizo was on board for their new Pathfinder setting and materials to be 4E supplements right up until they say the new GSL. Had 4E been OGL, their biggest competitor would never have released Pathfinder as a 3E retro-clone.

The other problem with 4E was that it was announced and released about about one year too early. In the life cycle of updated products there are the early-adopters, the average consumer and the late-adopters. By 2007 when 4E was announced, the early adopters were ready for a new edition, but the average consumer wasn't QUITE there yet and that gave people offering 'more of the same' a better opening than they otherwise would have had if WotC had announced in 2008 and released in 2009.

Let's also not forget the utterly crappy economy. Back in 2008, the markets were down, unemployment was up and the forecast looked crappy. In that environment, why spend money on a new system when you've still got the old one that works perfectly well?

It was a perfect storm of factors that were only partially under WotC's control (the GSL and the release date I suspect had as much to do with Hasbro's profit demands as anything) that would have sunk ANY new edition of D&D.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sat Apr 05, 2014 10:38 am

Felorn Gloryaxe wrote:
If the Original 4e would have been the Essentials line (except not paperback and in actual hard cover books) do you think it would have fared better with long time fans? I'm honestly not too sure. I think there would have been less 4e, WoW, comparisons as not every class would have had the AEDU power lineup. And I think we can all agree, Essentials tried to cater more towards older fans while still remaining 4e. But I also feel like it would still be largely rejected because of the horrible 4e GSL, and the angry "This isn't the same game" argument.
I suspect that you're right. 'Essentials' -- god, I hate that misnomer! -- would have kept a few extra old-timers in the fold, but not enough to make a meaningful difference by itself. I think other factors, like the ones that Chris mentions, and like game lore changes made a bigger difference than the AEDU structure.

And as an aside, I'm glad that 4e began with the tighter AEDU structure. 'Any class concept can operate under the same easily-balanced structure' would never have been a thing if 4e had begun with wizards being all-daily and fighters being all at-will. Or however exactly the e-classes work. Splat options never get tighter as an edition ages.

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sat Apr 05, 2014 10:50 am

Chris24601 wrote:

The other problem with 4E was that it was announced and released about about one year too early. In the life cycle of updated products there are the early-adopters, the average consumer and the late-adopters. By 2007 when 4E was announced, the early adopters were ready for a new edition, but the average consumer wasn't QUITE there yet and that gave people offering 'more of the same' a better opening than they otherwise would have had if WotC had announced in 2008 and released in 2009.
I don't think that waiting one more year would have resulted in a critical mass of average consumers being ready for 4e, if that was ever an issue at all, but...

Chris24601 wrote:

Let's also not forget the utterly crappy economy. Back in 2008, the markets were down, unemployment was up and the forecast looked crappy. In that environment, why spend money on a new system when you've still got the old one that works perfectly well?

It was a perfect storm of factors that were only partially under WotC's control (the GSL and the release date I suspect had as much to do with Hasbro's profit demands as anything) that would have sunk ANY new edition of D&D.
You make a great point here. In 2008, I was living with my parents, sitting on a BA in English and lots of debt, and I know there were lots of folks in similar situations. The 4e core set was basically the one thing I treated myself to that year, and I'm sure that lots of folks in similar positions quite reasonably made a different decision.

I'm still kind of amazed how many gamers seem to be in love with the OGL -- I guess because I've never used 3pp stuff -- but in retrospect WotC really seems to have shot itself in the foot with the GSL, as demonstrated by the unprecedented success of Pathfinder.

...Or with even longer retrospect, WotC shot itself in the foot by publishing the OGL, and then switching to the GSL. Genie out of the bottle, and all that.

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sun Apr 06, 2014 12:25 am

Personally, if Essentials would have been released first, I would have waited until the Advanced D&D set would have been released and then looked at it. Truth is, most of the complaints I hear from folks around me is that 4E is too simple and there are not enough customization options for characters. Granted, these people don't play 4E because they are die hard 3/3.5 fans, but I think the release of Essentials first would have made this worse.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sun Apr 06, 2014 3:18 am

Chris24601 wrote:
The biggest irony of 4E is that Paizo was on board for their new Pathfinder setting and materials to be 4E supplements right up until they say the new GSL. Had 4E been OGL, their biggest competitor would never have released Pathfinder as a 3E retro-clone

I know... It's almost enraging to know that WotC sabotaged their game with that awful GSL. If 4e would've had better 3rd party support I would assume that it would've gone a long way, or at least further than it did.

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:05 pm

thanson02 wrote:
Personally, if Essentials would have been released first, I would have waited until the Advanced D&D set would have been released and then looked at it.  Truth is, most of the complaints I hear from folks around me is that 4E is too simple and there are not enough customization options for characters.  Granted, these people don't play 4E because they are die hard 3/3.5 fans, but I think the release of Essentials first would have made this worse.
I am pretty sure I never would have got involved in it, however something uncertain between essentials and Tome of Battle?

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:03 am

Did anyone else really like the Class Compendium WotC was doing for awhile? I thought it was great. I would've liked to have seen all PHB 1-3 classes remade like that.

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:14 am

Was that the thing where WotC was renaming the PHB1 fighter the 'weaponmaster' and such?

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:29 am

Felorn Gloryaxe wrote:
Did anyone else really like the Class Compendium WotC was doing for awhile? I thought it was great. I would've liked to have seen all PHB 1-3 classes remade like that.
Honestly? No.

You could have achieved the same thing and more if they'd just re-released the PHB with the errata applied and without the confusion of re-naming the classes in the process (what's so hard about calling a fighter a fighter a fighter and the 'sub-classes' a knight and a slayer? When you say fighter you mean the original fighter... when you say knight or slayer you mean those classes. Simple and less confusing than saying "Weaponmaster fighter, knight fighter and slayer fighter").

That's literally ALL the Class Compendium was, a re-release of of the PHB1 material for 5 classes with the errata applied and then bulked up with E-style fluff and a couple of feats to let the E-classes poach more things from the main classes or visa-versa. For all it actually added they could have put out a 2-3 page Dragon article with the new feats and been done with it.

What I would have liked to see is more of a Class Compilation series. Take the Fighter and ALL its options (including the Knight and Slayer), including all the fighter specific feats and put it into a single volume... so that's all a player would need to build/level-up a fighter. Then do the same for the other classes. Provided you went back to the original formatting with less fluff, you'd probably still need two volumes for the Martial classes, but could probably fit the rest into individual volumes slightly larger than their X Power books (each base class was only about 15 pages in the PHB's).

That would be closer to how it worked for me During the PHB1-2 days when introducing new players to the system. You wanna build a wizard? Okay, you'll need the Player's Handbook and Arcane Power for the options you'll want. Thinking about a primal class? Everything you need is in the PHB2 and Primal Power.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:32 pm

Chris24601 wrote:
Felorn Gloryaxe wrote:
Did anyone else really like the Class Compendium WotC was doing for awhile? I thought it was great. I would've liked to have seen all PHB 1-3 classes remade like that.
Honestly? No.

You could have achieved the same thing and more if they'd just re-released the PHB with the errata applied and without the confusion of re-naming the classes in the process (what's so hard about calling a fighter a fighter a fighter and the 'sub-classes' a knight and a slayer? When you say fighter you mean the original fighter... when you say knight or slayer you mean those classes. Simple and less confusing than saying "Weaponmaster fighter, knight fighter and slayer fighter").

That's literally ALL the Class Compendium was, a re-release of of the PHB1 material for 5 classes with the errata applied and then bulked up with E-style fluff and a couple of feats to let the E-classes poach more things from the main classes or visa-versa. For all it actually added they could have put out a 2-3 page Dragon article with the new feats and been done with it.

What I would have liked to see is more of a Class Compilation series. Take the Fighter and ALL its options (including the Knight and Slayer), including all the fighter specific feats and put it into a single volume... so that's all a player would need to build/level-up a fighter. Then do the same for the other classes. Provided you went back to the original formatting with less fluff, you'd probably still need two volumes for the Martial classes, but could probably fit the rest into individual volumes slightly larger than their X Power books (each base class was only about 15 pages in the PHB's).

That would be closer to how it worked for me During the PHB1-2 days when introducing new players to the system. You wanna build a wizard? Okay, you'll need the Player's Handbook and Arcane Power for the options you'll want. Thinking about a primal class? Everything you need is in the PHB2 and Primal Power.

This would be a much better Idea. But are you recommending that each class have it's own book, or each power source? It would get pretty ridiculous if each class had their own book (Especially at what would probably be 30-40 USD a pop). I would definitely try to get some more lore worked in though. Maybe not for each individual power but for the power sources. Talk about power training and how certain classes get their abilities and why they are limited.

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Mon Apr 07, 2014 8:31 pm

I'd go with as many as you could reasonably fit into a book. A book for each power source would probably be ideal, though I suspect that to keep the books to a reasonable size you'd probably need two books for all the Martial options (I'd probably do Fighters and Warlords in one book and Rangers and Rogues in the other).
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:19 am

As an initial release? I would have gone the opposite delayed the release of epic tier brought a few more classes and races in to the main book. Just that would have supported better adoption by some folk.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:49 am

Given that they still hadn't entirely worked out the controller role or that 'V' classes just didn't work as well as they thought it would I don't think cutting epic to add more classes would have helped the initial release that much.

They NEEDED that year of actual releases with thousands upon thousands of eyes on it to actually work those issues out (admittedly a number of the issues did show up in playtest, but the sample size was small enough they were able to ignore it... once real money is changing hands those issues HAD to be dealt with) and you can really see the effects of that in the much more solid PHB2 classes.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Wed Apr 09, 2014 7:17 pm

Chris24601 wrote:
Given that they still hadn't entirely worked out the controller role or that 'V' classes just didn't work as well as they thought it would I don't think cutting epic to add more classes would have helped the initial release that much.

Hmmmmm I was pretty sure they needed more time is an independent issue I wouldnt argue against that, but assuming less time spent on epic and more on the stuff people would interact with first absolutely couldn't hurt.

None of that stuff you mention really brought out the OMG I dont even want to try this in folk.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:45 am

Perhaps not, but that year delay gave us much better designed second-gen classes like the Barbarian, Bard, Druid and Sorcerer that I just don't think would have been as good (I base this off the concepts they were throwing around in the Races & Classes preview book).

There's also the fact that unless something like the epic tier is built into the math from the beginning it'll end up a tacked on subsystem. Thus, even if it wasn't included in the first book, all the development work for epic tier would still have needed to be done in the lead-up to 4E's release (as it was epic was STILL the least supported tier, but at least it got more than a single splatbook worth of content unlike past editions).
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:17 am

Could you give a synopsis of why you consider these classes "much better"? Barbarian/Bard/Druid/Sorceror - my responses to them is more gut level but I would like to hear something more analytical.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Thu Apr 10, 2014 12:55 pm

Here's one biggie... At the time the PHB1 was released the controller role was viewed largely in terms of AoE damage rather than being the best at debuffs/conditions. Imagine how the druid and invoker would have looked if built under that design paradigm.

Likewise, at the time of the PHB1 the idea of MBA's keying off anything other than Strength (the ability to make an opportunity attack using Intelligence was considered worthy of a paragon path feature) just hadn't been considered yet. Indeed, the idea that a melee attack (or, more accurately, a weapon attack) could even use a mental stat for its attack and damage rolls hadn't really worked itself out yet (you see a glimmer of it in the Paladin, but that's pretty much it... a Chaladin's opportunity attack was crap until Divine Power added virtuous strike), which is big part of why we had V-classes in the first place. Imagine if the bard and avenger had been built as V-classes with different stats for their weapon and implement powers.

Another distinct development that came after the launch of the PHB1 was the idea of clearly stated secondary roles and varying them based on your choice of class feature (the PHB1 class options expressed different archetypes, but made no specific attempt to bolster a specific secondary role the way the PHB2 choices often did). The druid's choice of wildshape leaning the towards either defender or striker is an example of this in action.

And then we get to summons/pets, which also had not been worked out yet (and truthfully weren't ideal even when the PHB2 was released, but were still a vast improvement over the 'sustain minor' conjurations you see in the PHB1). Without the work done starting in Martial Power with the beastmaster ranger we wouldn't have gotten the shaman as an actual 'pet' class.

All of these things pretty much needed that year of actual player feedback to work through because they weren't super obvious and could actually be missed even if you had a hundred playtesters looking at it, but NOT when you've got tens of thousands of actual players eyeballing the mechanics and providing feedback.


Last edited by Chris24601 on Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:25 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling and clarity)
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:57 pm

Of note I never got into 4e until 2009... so some things that were positive developments and may have been influenced by users of the game seem a natural part ie they were already there when I got hold of things - some do seem implied possibles however -  You did mention a couple which are indeed biggies for me.  I actually have suspicions that pets/companions may be better as something outside of a class build ... Every class in the game might have appropriate flavored companions and moves which support them and are supported by their companion. Ie my knight having his fighting squire needs vastly different mechanics than the Ranger with his puma because?

And attacks based on differing attributes are indeed one of my faves... the feat Martial Training might be tacked on but it can be effective for ones without the build in element.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Fri Apr 11, 2014 3:27 pm

Yes, Martial Training is awesome and its always ticked me off a bit that because of the E-martial classes they had to nerf the damage component of it. We halfway turned it back by adding the following to the feat;

Special: If you choose the primary attribute of your class, you can use your full attribute bonus for damage with melee basic attacks.

That keeps out the cheese of a Knight or Slayer taking Melee Training (Con) or (Dex) and double stacking their bonuses, while still allowing it to function as intended for the non-MBA spamming classes.

And I do like your suggestion about separating the companion from the class mechanics. I could certain see working them into a number of themes akin to the Fey Beast Tamer.

-'Landed Knight' might give you a Squire as your level 1 benefit, free room and board when in your liege's lands at level 5 and some boost to the squire at level 10.
-'Arcane Mentor' could provide an apprentice mage.
-'Gang Leader' could provide a trusted lieutenant, and some minions to do errands for you while in a civilized location.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Fri Apr 11, 2014 11:15 pm

Chris24601 wrote:
I'd go with as many as you could reasonably fit into a book. A book for each power source would probably be ideal, though I suspect that to keep the books to a reasonable size you'd probably need two books for all the Martial options (I'd probably do Fighters and Warlords in one book and Rangers and Rogues in the other).

That format reminds me of the Racial and Class books in 2nd Edition.  Wouldn't have been a bad idea.  Everything you need to know to be any type of fighter you want to be would be in the Fighter's Handbook including fighting styles, new builds, new feats and powers, different options to your marking abilities as a fighter, ect.  Same for Rouge, Warlord, Ranger, Wizard, ect.

They did that a bit with the Dragonborn and the Tiefling Racial Handbooks, but they apparently didn't go over that well with costumers.  I have never read them myself, so all I know is the reactions of others.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Fri Apr 11, 2014 11:17 pm

Garthanos wrote:
As an initial release? I would have gone the opposite delayed the release of epic tier brought a few more classes and races in to the main book. Just that would have supported better adoption by some folk.

And maybe if they did that, they could have worked out the problems they ran into with Epic tier play including the long battles and better DM guidelines for running games at that level.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:21 am

I never actually had a problem with epic tier combat running too long. Right after 4e came out we ran a pretty traditional 5 man party (cleric, fighter, ranger, rogue and wizard) built at 30th level against a level 30 red dragon and dropped it in five rounds and about an hour of real time... Which felt right for what should be a climactic battle at the conclusion of an adventure.

I think a LOT of the problem with long fights was based on the fact that 4e's encounters were designed to dramatic set pieces... which even in prior editions took a while to play out. The problem, I think, was that they really didn't explain that these were NOT meant to be used the same way as the trash mob fights that didn't advance the plot at all and were only there to burn resources. This led to using full encounters where trash mobs would have been more appropriate and complaints that the combat took too long.

To truly emulate the previous edition feel 75% of the daily encounters should have been split up into quarter-to-half sized encounters of mostly minions and a standard or a lone elite with a full 4e style encounter popping up only at the deepest levels of a dungeon.
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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sat Apr 12, 2014 1:11 pm

Small atmospheric encounters designed to establish that the setting is dangerous to the world at large not necessarily the heros is valuable perhaps to that end...taking out red-shirts to show the bad guy might be useful. I find party minions a fun element to show off the heros as well. Most of the party minions who are "rescued" by a hero just wounded (with a real affliction) and out of the fight (critical hits against them is another thing however)

I think the DMG could discuss the purpose of encounters in general and designing encounters around those purposes.

I however dont think earlier editions did it "better" as players being the minion was way too likely and almost entirely "purposeless" was the most likely type of encounter their advice created.

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PostSubject: Re: What would 4e have been like if Essentials was released first as "Core 4e"?   Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:11 pm

It's not really that they did it better in earlier editions, rather my point was that because of, for want of a better term, institutional inertia, people coming from previous editions had certain expectations about what a standard encounter was supposed to be and 4e didn't do as good a job as it could have in pointing out the difference in mindset.

Something as simple as a paragraph in the encounter building section about 'how to make encounters feel more like they did in past editions' would have both provided the guidelines for those who wanted that playstyle AND reinforced the idea that the 4e encounter building guidelines were for a different kind of fight than was featured in past editions.

Sometimes it really DOES take putting the old version out there in black and white, even if the intention is to never use it, in order to drive home that the new version is supposed to be used differently.
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