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Dungeons and Dragons 4E Revisited

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Rain Partier

Postby LOLtron » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:00 am

Ok folks, I have had time to play doctor with 4E for a while, and I can now offer up a little more of an informed opinion, First let me get the good out of the way, there isn't much of it so this won't take long. The best thing about 4e is combat. It is very smooth and streamlined, and all attacks and movement actions fall into Free, Minor, Standard, and Full Round actions. All special attacks, powers, spells, and what not are broken up into At-Will, Encounter, and Daily uses. Spells and powers and attacks are all treated exactly the same way, so this really tends to speed up and streamline combat. Being able to use acrobatics to get away with crazy stuff, and the game encouraging GM's to allow it rather than stifle it is also a nice touch. And that is the end of the good things about 4e.

The problem with all that is that all the powers, spells, and special attacks not only work the same way, but they feel the same too. I am sure those of you who have an ear to the Gaming world have heard the 4E/MMORPG comparisons, and the similarity is obvious when using the new combat mechanics. The Warlocks magical abilities feel and function exactly the same as the Rogues Attacks. It all feels very cookie cutter, and very formulaic. Almost sterile. While there is room for customization, it is minor, and depending on role and race chosen, everyone’s is pretty much going to pick the same powers regardless of the other options. Of course the D20 system went overboard with customization, to the point where generating a first level character could take hours just to figure out the feats. 4E takes that to the other extreme, where you choices are actually pretty limited, but they fool you into thinking there are more than are actually available by offering powers no one would actually take.  

It's not as confined as say, Basic or AD&D,but both of those versions were still more entertaining to me, evenwith my legendary hatred of THACO. 

To further worsen matters, non-combat encountersand trials are no longer handled through creative role-play or skilluse. Instead they are handled through "Skill Challenges" whichbasically consist of the entire party making various rolls, and thenumber of successes or failures determines the outcome. On the surfaceit doesn't seem like a bad idea, but in reality this mechanic actuallydiscourages role-play. So now playing Dungeons and Dragons feels evenmore like playing Everquest, Worlds of Warcraft, or whatnot byeschewing role-playing altogether and just moving from combat tocombat, collecting loot and XP, and every now and then rolling somedice to get to the next combat. It is the antithesis of everything Iplay RPG's for.

It didn't really dawn on my until a friend whowas a new to tabletop gaming but an old pro at Everquest decided, afteronly a few months of sporadic 4e, to run an Everquest world based gameof his own. The first session was just spent running around outsideFreeport collecting rat pelts and Orc Skins... And it honestly feltexactly like playing EQ. To the point that I was bored of it after 20minutes and went off and clipped my toenails. 

4E, even in the standard setting is just likethat. Even the treasure is generic and sterile. The longest lastingspells only last until the end of an encounter, which means no morecasting invisibility and wandering about exploring, no more casting flyjust for the heck of it, pretty much no more of anything that doesn'tinvolve beating down something.

It's the only system I have ever played thatactively discourages role-playing. After 6 months of playing now, I cancount on one hand the number of conversations with NPC's that lastedlonger than GM narration and basic response. And the group I play withare experienced role-players, who are in other games known for spendingentire sessions on conversations and planning.

Gaming it seems has come full circle. In thebeginning, video games did everything they could to emulate Dungeonsand Dragons. Turn based combat, hit points, Stats, how Spells were castand their effects, were all the designers very best efforts to bringTarp’s to consoles and computers. Now 4e is trying to emulate thegames, and succeeding entirely too well.

Don't get me wrong, I love combat, an RPGwithout fighting is like and RPG without dice... best left topretentious wankers who are as easily placated by wearing their mothersunderwear. But combat without accompanying storyline, without plot uponwhich to build my characters personality and personal history, is notsomething that appeals to me in an RPG. Epic Battles without the dramaleading up to them are as exciting and anti-climactic as prematurelyejaculating while touching yourself.

I have played a lot of systems over the years, Ihave written my own, and I can say without doubt, that 4e is the leastchallenging game, in terms of creativity and storytelling, that I haveever played. Yet I continue playing, because despite my protests, andthese obvious revelations, it's Dungeons and Dragons, and that’s whatmy group wants to play most of the time. 

So in summary, if you really love MMORPG’s, andwant a TRPG that emulates them perfectly, 4E is definitely your cup oftea. But if you are someone that like to mix story and you know,role-playing in with the combat, then I can’t really recommend it. 


On the brighter side, Interlock Unlimited isgoing extremely well. I just updated the Super Hero rules and addedart, and Psionics rules are out and both are working extremely well.Also added a rules add-on for vehicular combat and civilian landvehicle construction (Military, aircraft, and Power armor constructionrules are in the Cyberpunk 2020 book Maximum Metal, Spacecraft andMecha rules are in the books Mekton Z and Roadstrykers II for Mektonboth by R. Talsorian Games. The only rules add-ons really necessary forme to do now are Magic, though I would like to see a set of WatercraftRules as well. After those are out of the way, I can get down to thegritty of setting specific flavor, like bestiaries, aliens, and fantasyrace compendiums…. Yay….

The Core rules just got another update as well,clearing a few minor things up, and Interlock Unlimited now has it'sown forum, since discussion and development got too big for a yahoogroup.

Finished Interlock Unlimited products can be found on my site Datafortress 2020 here:

And for the latest projects in development and active discussion you can visit the Interlock Unlimited forums here:

 Go here to discuss.

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