Monday, June 18, 2018 • Midnight Edition • "Tom Brennan's worst nightmare."

Dungeons and Dragons 4E Revisited

Written by Wisdom000 on Monday, January 05 2009 and posted in Features
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, even with my legendary hatred of THACO. 

To further worsen matters, non-combat encounters and trials are no longer handled through creative role-play or skill use. Instead they are handled through "Skill Challenges" which basically consist of the entire party making various rolls, and the number of successes or failures determines the outcome. On the surface it doesn't seem like a bad idea, but in reality this mechanic actually discourages role-play. So now playing Dungeons and Dragons feels even more like playing Everquest, Worlds of Warcraft, or whatnot by eschewing role-playing altogether and just moving from combat to combat, collecting loot and XP, and every now and then rolling some dice to get to the next combat. It is the antithesis of everything I play RPG's for.

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

4E, even in the standard setting is just like that. Even the treasure is generic and sterile. The longest lasting spells only last until the end of an encounter, which means no more casting invisibility and wandering about exploring, no more casting fly just for the heck of it, pretty much no more of anything that doesn't involve beating down something.

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

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

Don't get me wrong, I love combat, an RPG without fighting is like and RPG without dice... best left to pretentious wankers who are as easily placated by wearing their mothers underwear. But combat without accompanying storyline, without plot upon which to build my characters personality and personal history, is not something that appeals to me in an RPG. Epic Battles without the drama leading up to them are as exciting and anti-climactic as prematurely ejaculating while touching yourself.

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

So in summary, if you really love MMORPG’s, and want a TRPG that emulates them perfectly, 4E is definitely your cup of tea. 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 is going extremely well. I just updated the Super Hero rules and added art, and Psionics rules are out and both are working extremely well. Also added a rules add-on for vehicular combat and civilian land vehicle construction (Military, aircraft, and Power armor construction rules are in the Cyberpunk 2020 book Maximum Metal, Spacecraft and Mecha rules are in the books Mekton Z and Roadstrykers II for Mekton both by R. Talsorian Games. The only rules add-ons really necessary for me to do now are Magic, though I would like to see a set of Watercraft Rules as well. After those are out of the way, I can get down to the gritty of setting specific flavor, like bestiaries, aliens, and fantasy race compendiums…. Yay….

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

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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