I let the new D&D Fourth Edition excerpts on the Wizards of the Coast site gather up this time since the first couple weren’t too notable.
Fallcrest is the new “default starting town” in the 4e DMG. It’s fine, it’s a generic small town, D&D style. I still wonder why they felt they needed to so totally cut bait with all the rich legacy of older editions. Why not Hommlet? Why not Saltmarsh, they revamped it and put it in the 3.5e DMG2 after all. But, whatever. 3/5.
Rituals are the new way you cast ‘big spells’ in D&D. Crafting magic items and raising the dead are rituals, not spells or feats. Rituals come in scrolls and books, which work like magic scrolls and books (one use vs reusable). Actually, as I read on – rituals have been used to replace any spell with a permanent effect, or even an effect that lasts more than a couple rounds. Cure Disease, Detect Secret Doors, Silence, Endure Elements, Water Breathing, and Knock are now rituals, not spells. Basically anything you wouldn’t normally cast in combat (well actually, a lot of the above I would normally cast in combat).
Rituals can be performed by anyone – they are skill linked, not class/spellcasting linked. Some require checks – the Cure Disease ritual requires a Heal check but the Raise Dead ritual doesn’t, meaning anyone with any Heal skill can use it (odd).
All rituals require expensive components to perform. Detect Secret Doors – 25 gp, Cure Disease – 150 gp, Raise Dead – 500 gp.
On the one hand, this is kinda nice for some effects. I like not having to burn feats on magic item crafting and making super-special spells like Raise Dead more special.
On the other hand, I don’t like a couple things. One, it takes a lot of spells that would otherwise be cast during combat and makes them “downtime only,” leaving only damage and buffs in the spell category. This sucks – there’s been many an interesting encounter where Silence, Water Breathing, Arcane Lock/Knock, etc. was used in an innovative method to save the party’s bacon. Apparently now, combat’s only for fightin’, not thinkin’. This appears to be oriented around their goal of designing the game to be easily computerized and combat happening on their electronic tactical map. Can’t allow too many options there!
I also don’t like that it somewhat “cheapens” the rituals – if you have enough money, you can get infinite Raise Deads (much cheaper than in 3e)! Until you level up. Get this – components for a Raise are 500 gp for a Heroic level character, 5,000 gp for a Paragon tier character, and 50,000 gp for an Epic tier character. That gets my award for the gayest, most gamist rule in 4e, and it’s got some strong competition.
Also, for some rituals (magic item creation I assume) you have to use residuum, which is the magic dust you get from disenchanting other magic items. It is of course “not sold on the open market,” because who sells raw materials? This is the worst WoW ripoff of the new rules too.
I like the concept of rituals – but again, the pooch is screwed in the implementation. 1/5.
Undead. You know them, you love them. Actually, this excerpt is only about zombies.
The zombies suffer from the same design issue all the other monsters do; namely that they’re not designed to scale smoothly. In 3e, you could have a zombie of about any Hit Dice. Here, different zombies are specific monsters. The “Zombie Rotter” is a level 3 minion. The “Zombie” is a Level 2 Brute. The “Gravehound” is a level 3 brute. Et cetera. Want a zombie above level 8? No. Well, you have to wait for another monster book (ah, the plan becomes clear).
This is another WoW-ization – in computer games, they have specific critters, like the ubiquitous pigs that, while appearing in varieties from level 1 to 60+, are distinct creatures – the “Crag Boar” (L4-6), the “Ashmane Boar” (L48-49), etc. Another blow for gamism over realism, yay. 1/5.
The monster situation reminds me of even older computerized RPGs. Remember in early Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior games, they would use the same graphic for a whole range of monsters; they would just change the colors? So now, we’ll know a Zombie (blue shirt, green skin) from a Zombie Rotter (red shirt, yellow skin) from a Gravehound (brown shirt, red skin). How convenient.
I was looking forward to you ripping on what IMHO is the worst WOW rip off of all – the meaningless death penalty. -1 to all your rolls for 3 encounters? That’s it? What happened to level and/or ability score loss? If death is meaningless the tension and excitement won’t be there. It’s TPK or nothing. Next thing you know they’ll be adding the ability to save your game or something. I tell ya, in my 4E campaign we’re having level loss gawddamn it!!!
The whole Crag Boar vs. Ashmane Boar etc doesn’t bother me: I think that it’s just good design. Even Hackmaster has it’s Brown Crested Owlbear or whatnot. And just make up the stats for a level 8 zombie. Give it some kind of special ability that makes it more than a level 3 zombie with more hit points – maybe it bursts into a maggot swarm on death, or whatever. A zombie with just more hit dice is boring.