I can haz 4E?

Through my wondrous occult skills (I love you buy.com!), I am now in the process of reading the 4E rulebooks. One thing that jumps out at me (my comments in brackets):

From the DMG:


A place to play [check]
Rulebooks [check]
Dice [check, although I loves me my Dragonbone electronic dice roller]
Paper and pencils [check]
Battle Grid or D&D Dungeon Tiles [errr… what happened to the paper and pencils?]
Dungeon Masters Screen [okay…]
D&D Miniatures [choke!]


Character sheets [check]
Snacks [check]
Laptop computer, PDA, smart phone, or digital camera [CHOKE! SPUTTER!]
D&D Insider [whimper]

[And, from another section of the DMG…]

“Most groups get through an encounter in about an hour of play.”

Okay, I have taken a lot of heat over on EnWorld for daring to suggest that, on the basis of the demo game I played at Ubercon last April, it seemed to me that miniatures were a necessary component of the combat encounter system. Well here it is in black and white, straight from the horse’s mouth, doubters.

I don’t need an hour to run a normal combat encounter. Now, that’s not to say that a pre-planned set-piece battle can’t take a lot more than an hour, but for an average encounter, with (for instance) equal numbers of PCs and roughly-evenly-matched enemies, an hour is just excessive.

Now, while there seems to be quite an emphasis on combat encounters, to their credit WotC has an entire chapter on non-combat encounters in the DMG. The sections are:

  • Skill challenges
  • Puzzles
  • Traps and Hazards

Am I the only one who sees something missing from this list of non-combat encounters??? Apparently 4E has banished role-playing encounters to the dustbin of history. Oh, you can speak in character, but the final effect comes down to the roll of the dice. Put the “challenge the player” concept in the ground, it is dead.

I need time to digest. To consider. To absorb. My primary focus in reviewing the 4E books will be on how 4E will impact my beloved World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting. But I cannot help but post a few (hopefully salient) thoughts as I wade through the material. I might write a full-blown review, or a point-by-point comparison of 1E and 4E. Time will tell.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

4 thoughts on “I can haz 4E?

  1. Same here. I’m curious if challenging the player is gone, or if it’s just relegated to suggestions buried in the DMG.

    – Brian

  2. There needs to be die rolls for role-playing or simple character interaction?

    If you mean social encounters when there’s a negative consequence involved then dice probably should come into play. Otherwise, either unfair GM judgements could result or it impairs role-playing. The player or the character fails because the player can’t influence the GM or rewards improperly playing a low charisma/socially skilled character.

  3. Agree wholeheartedly. Check out my postgame entry after a 4E demo this weekend. There was narry an in-character moment to be seen or heard.

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