Five good things I learned playing D&D 4th edition (or… How I learned not to care about diagonal movement!)

Some of you might have gotten the idea from a previous post that I don’t like Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. Nothing could be further from the truth. I played the game for the better part of a year and had fun with it. Ultimately my players and I sat down to talk about it and decided to play something else, in this case Pathfinder. But I think 4th edition had many things to teach, lessons I’m applying to my current Pathfinder campaign, and will benefit others systems I play in the future. Let’s look at them…

1. The biggest lesson was to let go of my fear of “breaking” the game and get creative. When D&D 3rd edition came about the system codified so many different elements, everything was so closely interconnected that sometimes I feared eliminating a certain part of the system without worrying about the cascading effect it would have on the game. Thought years of playing I felt pretty comfortable with winging things, but making sweeping changes to the rules was something I was reluctant to do! D&D 4th edition’s simplicity meant I felt free to create modify and wing just about anything I could imagine.  This gave me the confidence to look back at 3rd edition, and now at Pathfinder, and shake off the false sense of strict adherence to the rules and feel freer to create, modify and learn from my mistakes. I now approach games with a more experimental outlook!

2. Reskinning, just taking the math and abilities of one creature and making up a new one from the foundations of that other creature, the whole idea is so simple I am amazed it took me so long to consciously do it. I owned tons of monsters book, a creature for every purpose. Now I can do so much with just one book just by describing a monster differently. I had fiddled with the details of monsters before, but now I just redress them and describe the effect differently, adding an ability here or feat there.

3. Making characters just a little bit tougher… Here is something I have tried to do for a long time, make those first levels more survivable and taking some cues form 4th edition I now make characters a little bit harder to kill allowing them to survive longer and face tougher challenges.

4. Making terrain an integral part of combat! I’ve always drawn detailed maps, and even had an adventure where the party fought in floating pillars above an underground lake, but these instances were the exception not the rule. After playing D&D 4th edition I now plan my combats and challenges with an eye for how terrain can be integral to the situation, hindering or helping combatants as they interact with the terrain. I think this has been the change that has caused the biggest shock to some of my players. It adds another wrinkle to the tactical element of combat that some who are more interested in just getting their character close to the monster and beating it down resent. Still I think it creates a much richer and diverse combat experience.

5. Diagonal movement… Here is something I embraced when they changed the rules from D&D 3.0 to 3.5 but added unnecessary complexity to the game. If I’m willing to forego things like facing or other “realistic” elements why insist on this? Now calculating effects and movement is quicker, true it changes the rules, but hey it’s my game, I learned that lesson!

Theses are just five examples, but there were many little things I learned form playing D&D 4th edition. I still read reviews and rules for the system and talk with friends that play the game so I may learn more and keep growing as a gamer and a Game Master.

What have you learned for playing this or other games? Let us know…

Welcome reader, thanks for taking the time to find out just who I am! My name is Roberto, although in the Internet I usually go by the name of Sunglar. Long time pen & paper RPG player, mostly a GM for the better part of that time; some will say that’s because of my love of telling a good story, others because I’m a control freak, but that’s debatable… I was born, raised, and still live in Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean, with a small but active gaming community.

I’ve played RPGs for 30 years, and for most of that time I played D&D in all its various permutations, including Pathfinder and I'm currently playing D&D 5th edition. Other games my regular gaming group has played over the last few years include Mutants & Masterminds and Savage Worlds, but I have played many other games through the years, and plan to play many more. I am a compulsive homebrewer and rarely play a campaign I have not created myself.

You can follow me on Twitter as @Sunglar, and find me in Google+ also as Sunglar. I'm very active in Facebook where you can find me posting regularly in the Puerto Rico Role Players group. Looking forward to hearing from you!

7 thoughts on “Five good things I learned playing D&D 4th edition (or… How I learned not to care about diagonal movement!)”

  1. I have to be frank, 4E is not my cup of tee….I did enjoy playing it with new and old friends a few years ago though.

    Right now I just see it as a faster paced version of the core D&D conandrum of which I am a lifelong fan…..with a major lose of flavor and essence.

    In my opinion the reformulation of the regular format is a commercial move. Wizards took what they knew about card games and miniature tactical rules and adapted masterfuly to the D&D platform. The new organization is good even for a LARP version of D&D…..but it is not the good olde D&D the older gen enjoyed for over 30 years.

    What can I say? …good editing nonetheless. At the end we got a new version with vibrant illustrations and a lot of newbs eager to play D&D which has no idea what TSR stands for.Then again simple is good, oversimplification is not, I think Wizards must keep that in mind.



  2. Re-skinning: "now I just redress them and describe the effect differently, adding an ability here or feat there."

    Do you not think that this may have been one of the reasons yo stopped playing 4e? I re-skin things from time to time, but the entire 4e system is just a handful of rules with different fluff thrown over them. It gets very repetitive very quickly, and even the player feats and powers are the same way. Soon you feel less like you're on a grand adventure, and more like you're grinding levels to level up your main attack power.

    I'm not against 4e (for example, I particularly like the Monster Manual for it's variants on many creature types and ease of creating groups of enemies), but this example in particular is why we're playing Pathfinder and Mutants&Masterminds, and NOT D&D4e.

  3. Thank you all for your comment…

    Ake good to see you here, always great to see friends drop by and leave their opinion…

    thekelvingreen, enjoyed your post very much. Funny how these things come through even if I decided the game is not my favorite. I guess what my granddad told me is true, you DO learn a little bit from everything.

    RTM, I think the system’s simplicity is a strength in the case of the DM, creating and adventure is really a breeze. For players seeking more variety in terms of rules and subsystems to work with feel a little bored. TO me the math felt too similar from level to level… Different gaming paradigms I believe. Some people can let go of their expectations and enjoy the game now that it’s different, others want to play something closer to what they grew up with. Thankfully there are options for everybody.

    Like a wise man said, make love, not edition war!

  4. Todd you are right! Pillars over and underGROUND lake! And underwater lake sort of defeats the purpose of the lake to begin with… Thank you for spotting that. I corrected the mistake.

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