Even Yet More D&D 4e Previews

This time, we review epic destinies, orcs, and giants!

Epic Destinies. As we know from previous excerpts, in D&D 4e there are three tiers of play – Heroic (levels 1-10), Paragon (levels 11-20), and Epic (levels 21-30). Epic play ends with fulfilling your “epic destiny” and immortality (and character retirement). In other words, you can “win D&D.”

Several thoughts on this.

One, I started D&D with the Basic Set, so the progression from Basic to Expert to Companion to Master to Immortal isn’t unfamiliar to me, nothing wrong with it per se.

Two, does anyone ever legitimately ever get to those levels? I’ve played in many D&D campaigns with many different gaming groups over time, and they always do the same thing. Start at level 1, or sometimes a slightly higher level, and peter out at mid-teens max. Frankly, my concern about “what happens at high levels” is minimal.

Three, I like the idea, but the implementation of epic destinies is basically just “a high level prestige class.” Reducing e.g. “Demigod” to a prestige class seems a little odd.  And by odd I mean lame.

I’ll give it a 4/5; I like it more than I dislike it. But I don’t think it’ll come up for “normal people” much.

Orcs. This one wasn’t part of the usual excerpts archive, but is a PDF linked into the May product previews. It’s three real pages from the Monster Manual.

Now this one, I have a lot of big problems with. Everyone hated the MMIV and MMV, where WotC wasted untold page count by adding more and more variants of existing monsters. “Here’s the same monster with some barbarian levels!” “Here it is with some rogue levels!” They go even farther in that direction in 4e, but worse. The orc entry is 3 pages (1/2 of a page of that is art). In that, they squeeze in 7 different orc “builds” that are mostly just D&D minis stat cards. Even the more esoteric ones like the “Eye of Gruumsh” get barely one full sentence of description. And it’s so kludgey – instead of the elegant 3e “orc with a level of barbarian” each one of these is a unique monster. Yes, an orc bloodrager is now “hardcoded” to level 7. That’s a massive step backwards from 3e to one of the worst things about 1e/2e. They say it’s “simpler,” and you can adjust the monsters some, but is it really simpler to have to have 20 different “orc monsters” to fill in all the levels etc? And the total lack of decent fluff sucks. There’s not even a description of “what does an orc look like!”

I have other more generic gripes. Apparently to make a stat block now you need a graphic design program; they rely too much on cutesy icons and color and formatting. Also, the “minion” type means one hit point – there’s a “Level 9 minion” that’s like that. I like having mooks, I played the heck out of some Feng Shui after all. But I think this is a flawed approach because it’ll make area attacks/magic way too powerful.

This is bad, bad news. 1/5.

Giants. This is a little odd. One issue is that they feel like there needs to be one true “D&D cosmology and origin story,” so in the core rules it says that primordials created the giants, really big elemental-y creatures, who in turn made the lesser giant races.

I don’t mind the “elementalization” of giants I guess, despite it being another change-just-to-make-a-change like all the rest that plague 4e, it could be cool. Their example, though, is strange. Hill Giants and Earth Titans are both “Earth Giants.” The Earth Titans are the bigger, more-elemental types, who I guess created the more “natural humanoid” hill giants.  Not that they say that out loud.  Like in the Orc excerpt above, the “fluff” is dreadfully lacking. Maybe that’s because it’s just a preview and they left out the fluff – but learning from the orc excerpt above which is an actual MM printout, that’s actually unlikely. 3/5.

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4 responses to “Even Yet More D&D 4e Previews

  1. to be fair, that Level 9 minion has a 21 AC, 19 Fortitude defense, 16 Reflex defense and 16 Will defense, with a +14 to hit AC. Considering the sample first level characters have been no higher than AC19, with (at most) a +6 to hit AC or +4 to hit the various defense, that minion is likely to be missed 75% or more of the time, and capable of hitting back 85% of the time for the squishy classes, or 75% of the time for the front line classes. It’s the classic 1HD orc, except scarier since your low level party will likely run into 4 or 5 of them at once.

  2. Well, except any low level area effect spell will take ’em all out…

  3. My understanding is that you still roll to hits, even with area of effect spells.

  4. OK, I’m mollified on the minions rules then. The rest of the orc suckage still nets it 1/5, but I had been considering whether I should change the scale to 0/5 in this installment’s honor 😛

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