In this installment of our read through of the Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition Player’s Handbook, we take a look at equipment. Every class starts with 100 gold to equip themselves, a welcome reduction in complexity from the class-based random roll that still persisted in 3e.
Armor has the first big changes. It’s divided into light or heavy. With light armor, you add your Int or Dex modifier, whichever’s higher, to your AC. With heavy armor, you don’t.
Even mages are proficient with cloth armor, which though it doesn’t give an armor bonus, can be made of special materials or gain enchantments that do. That’s pretty elegant.
They show leather (+2), hide (+3), chain (+6), scale (+7), and plate (+8). The chart is oddly cluttered with weird masterwork options that are only possible with enchantments of like +4 or more, limited to level 16 and above – “feyweave,” “elderhide,” etc.
Shields are nice – +1 or +2, with that applying both to AC and Reflex defense. Shields have always sucked in D&D way worse than their utility in real warfare has indicated, so this is a welcome boost.
Weapons are still kinda complex. Simple, military, superior, or “improvised”; melee or ranged; one or two handed; belonging to a weapon group; having any number of keywords like “versatile,” “reach,” or “high crit,” etc.
BIG CHANGE ALERT. Weapons have a “Prof.” rating that gives you a bonus to hit if you’re proficient with that weapon, and the bonuses are big, all +2 to +3. So if you are proficient with a longsword you are getting a +3 to hit with it!!!
Now, I don’t dislike this just because it’s new – but it seems like unnecessary overhead. They’re flipping around the nonproficiency penalty, and then making it variable. If it were more variable that would be one thing, but it literally is either +2 or +3 for each weapon.
And they again show they have the economic skills of feces-throwing monkeys in the “Selling Equipment” section – “You cannot sell mundane armor, weapons, or adventuring gear unless your DM allows, in which case you receive one-fifth of an item’s market price.” This kind of rule that is obviously specifically for PCs and not the way the rest of the world works is why 4e justly gets criticized as being a WoW derivative. “I want to sell a dozen swords I just made!” “Sorry, 20% of list.” “But why is that smith selling them for list then?” “He’s an NPC. All NPCs have unlimited amounts of money, and sell things at list.” I would like whichever designer was behind this (and the selling magic items at 20% rule) to step forward so I can publicly humiliate them for their douchebaggery.
Man, so far this chapter – one overwhelmingly good, two questionables, and one retard molester half-brother of a rule.
Adventuring gear – as it always is. A pretty short list, actually.
And then – magic items! Yep, magic items in the PHB. Odd. I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I always liked the D&D mystique of keeping magic separate from the player so it’d feel special and mysterious when doled out by the DM. On the other hand, no other RPG bothers with a player’s book and a GM’s book any more. If they only put the XP rules in the PHB, the DMG goes from being a core book to being an optional “advice on your game” guide. The only reason I’ve ever opened my 3.5e DMG is for the XP tables and the magic items. Maybe the time for a “core” DMG has gone. (Not that they would ever give up that revenue stream.)
Magic item pricing is fixed, X gp per level of the item. Items are described in levels, in terms of “about what level you’d be when using it.” Thankfully it’s not a WoW-like limitation; you can use items above/below your level freely.
Magic items are “slotted”. Armor gives AC bonuses, weapons give hit/damage bonuses, neck slots give For/Ref/Will bonuses, and mostly other items don’t give number bonuses. Which is good, avoids the power-stacking issues. Many items give some kind of power or other property, not just a plus.
You can disenchant magic items into magic dust, called residuum, that’s then used to make other magic items. Any designer saying they didn’t rip this off from World of Warcraft is an inveterate liar.
Armor. Armor generally gives some kind of minor property or daily, sometimes encounter, power. Example:
Property: Gain an item bonus to Stealth checks equal to the armor’s enhancement bonus.
Power (Encounter): Minor Action. Gain concealment until the start of your next turn.
Level 23 or 28: Gain invisibility until the start of your next turn.
Weapons. All thrown weapons are automatically returning, which I don’t mind. Most of the weapons are more familiar – flaming, dancing, vorpal…
Holy symbols. There’s a whole section for these, which give bonuses to divinity powers, have powers themselves, etc.
Orbs, wands, staves. Same deal for wizards, except that staves can be used as weapons by someone else (but no special powers). Powers are mostly daily – so a wand of ray of enfeeblement does one ray per day.
Rods. Same deal for warlocks.
Arms slot. These generally protect you or do damage when you’re hit. Or so they say, but really there’s ones that increase melee or ranged damage. There’s only three kinds of bracers, and some shields.
Feet slot. Movement related effects.
Hands slot. Gloves and the ever popular Gauntlets of Ogre Power! These actually suck now…
Gauntlets of Ogre Power
Property: Gain a +1 item bonus to Athletics checks and
Strength ability checks (but not Strength attacks).
Power (Daily): Free Action. Use this power when you hit
with a melee attack. Add a +5 power bonus to the damage
All this “once a day” stuff seems like it will encourage people to carry around like a dozen spare magic items to swap out once they’re used. In 3e I pretty much ignore “once a day” items as being more trouble than they’re worth, unless it really is a “save your life” kind of effect. +5 to damage on one of the 100 sword blows I’ll be dealing a day – not worth it. I am in favor of reducing dependence on magic items, but this is the wrong way to do it.
Head slot. Int/Wis skill boosts, damage increase (why?) and sense enhancers. They’ve avoided straight stat boosts, which is nice.
Neck slot. Amulets, cloaks. Add to defenses.
Rings. All kindsa stuff! Invisibility, flying, etc. These suck bad. Ring of invisibility – turn invisible once per day, for one round. many rings give some additional bonus if you’ve reached a “milestone” today. Like a save point?
Waist slots. These are split into heroic/paragon/epic, unlike the others. I’m not sure why – it doesn’t explicitly say you can’t use them at lower tiers… Is this a holdover typo?
Wondrous items. Only 13 of them, generally the most iconic. I hope there’s more coming, because the treasure rules as I recall them give away a fair amount of magic, and class builds being the same AND gearing being the same equals too much the same. In WoW, there’s a very limited number of char builds, but they compensate by having a billion different magic items in a dozen slots.
Potions. 4 of them! The potion of healing’s worthless – you have to spend a healing surge and get 10 hp rather than whatever you would have (oh, thanks). Or the 125,000 gp potion of life, which returns you to life and 50 hp if you drink it a round after you died. The potion costs are inflated.
And that’s the gear!