Options For D&D 4.0 Players Expand

It has been fascinating to watch the conflict between fans of the new 4.0 rule set for Dungeons and Dragons and those still clinging to 3.5e. Personally I love 4.0, but it seems I am not in the majority, at least not yet. Of course, I must admit that my viewpoint on the matter is influenced by the fact that I never played 3.5 in pen and paper form. My first experience with D&D was actually a little game called “Neverwinter Nights” by Bioware. (But that is another topic altogether.)

So I found myself eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Player’s Handbook 2. This was in spite of the fact that my most recent gaming group had collapsed and I had nowhere to play it. Just the thought of having all those new classes and races to choose from had me positively giddy.

I haven’t had time to properly go through the entire book yet, but what I have seen is very impressive. Months back I read an article (I’m afraid I don’t remember where or who by) discussing some of the goals the designers had for this newest incarnation of D&D. A desire to make the bard less of an underpowered class was mentioned, as well as a desire to distinguish the sorcerer and wizard, druids and clerics more fully. They also mentioned a goal of remaking the Aasamir into something a little less silly, on par with the “cool factor” of the Tiefling. I am happy to be able to report that these goals have been accomplished. The bard might now actually be too powerful, having a wide range of great options yet retaining their jack-of-all-trades vibe. Druids are now much more focused on wild shape, with extra at-will powers to compensate for them being usable only in one form or the other. The unpredictability of the sorcerer is a nice addition as well, and of course they don’t share spells with the wizard or any other classes, as each and every class has their own unique set of spells/prayers/attacks.

The barbarian has received an extensive face lift as well: Their rage feature is now much more versatile, with the barbarian entering a different rage for each daily attack power. The idea of sacrificing defense in favor of a stronger offense is key to the barbarian. For example the barbarian has one of the strongest at-will attacks, gaining an extra d8 on the damage roll by sacrificing a +2 to all incoming attack rolls.

The two new divine classes are very primal in their aspects, both tied to ancient orders less recognized than normal cleric or paladin disciplines. The avenger is something of an assassin, a holy hit man that may in fact be reviled by the “mainstream” followers of their deity, the invoker a controller class willing even to ally with the followers of deities opposed to their own in their quest to ensure the gods are not overthrown by the rulers of elemental chaos.

Of the new races the Deva and Gnome are much improved over previous versions, and the Shifter has great potential as well. In fact the only one I didn’t much care for was the Goliath, which didn’t stand out much as a unique race.

Generally the main criticism of the 4.0 edition has been a feeling of sameness across the classes, and I will admit this is true, at lower levels. This becomes much less of a concern as the characters reach the greater options of the paragon class, as well as the variety of utility and attack powers gained over time. That said, the solution mostly lies in role-playing and the skill of the DM, which really is vital no matter which game is played. Regardless, I still heartily recommend 4.0 and this manual in particular.

[tags]Dungeons and Dragons, RPG, Pen and Paper[/tags]

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