Design Work, Orcus I: June through September 2005
Team: James Wyatt, Andy Collins, and Rob Heinsoo.
Mission: Our instructions were to push the mechanics down interesting avenues, not to stick too close to the safe home base of D&D v.3.5. As an R&D department, we understood 3.5; our mission was to experiment with something new.
Outcome: We delivered a document that included eight classes we thought might appear in the first Player’s Handbook or other early supplements, powers for all the classes, monsters, and rules.
First Development Team: October 2005 through February 2006
Team: Robert Gutschera (lead), Mike Donais, Rich Baker, Mike Mearls, and Rob Heinsoo.
Mission: Determine whether the Orcus I design (as we named it) was headed in the right direction. Make recommendations for the next step.
Outcome: The first development team tore everything down and then rebuilt it. In the end, it recommended that we continue in the new direction Orcus I had established. This recommendation accompanied a rather difficult stunt accomplished in the middle of the development process: Baker, Donais, and Mearls translated current versions of the Orcus I mechanics into a last-minute revision of Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords. It was a natural fit, since Rich Baker had already been treating the Book of Nine Swords as a “powers for fighters” project. The effort required to splice the mechanics into 3rd Edition were a bit extreme, but the experiment was worth it.
One Development Week: Mid-April 2006
Team: Robert Gutschera, Mike Donais, Rich Baker, Mike Mearls, and Rob Heinsoo.
Mission: Recommend a way forward.
Outcome: In what I’d judge as the most productive week of the process to date, not that anyone would have guessed that beforehand, Mearls and Baker figured out what was going wrong with the design. We’d concentrated too much on the new approach without properly accounting for what 3.5 handled well. We’d provided player characters with constantly renewing powers, but hadn’t successfully parsed the necessary distinctions between powers that were always available and powers that had limited uses.
Flywheel Team: May 2006 to September 2006
Team: Rob Heinsoo (lead), Andy Collins, Mike Mearls,
David Noonan, and Jesse Decker.
Mission: Move closer to 3.5 by dealing properly with powers and resources that could be used at-will, once per encounter, or once per day.
Outcome: A playable draft that went over to the teams that would actually write the Player’s Handbook and the Monster Manual.
The one-week ORCUS development team realized that Orcus II, as well as earlier drafts, had failed to properly account for attrition powers. Earlier designs had been working too hard on our newfangled renewable powers and hadn’t properly addressed D&D’s legacy of attrition-style powers, powers that went away after you used them once or twice.
So the Flywheel team’s main job was to nudge the eight player character classes away from the flamboyant precipices they’d occupied in Orcus II toward expressions that would look more familiar to players of 3rd Edition D&D.
Things That Would Make Me Happy
All classes effective at all levels. Game is fun and playable at all levels. Dungeon excursions last through many encounters. Game rewards tactical play; smart decisions are “right” (and vice versa). Defeat is meaningful but (usually) not final. Game’s expectations are clearer to players and DMs. Character classes provide compelling archetypes. PC team is a collection of interchangeable parts. All characters can participate meaningfully in all encounters.
5. Three-dimensional Tactics.
We want to continue using miniatures in 5-foot squares. We want to design minis game (skirmish) to work with the RPG. More discussion on how this occurs to follow.
We must force ourselves, instead, to evaluate what the rules set aims to achieve with its various new elements and determine if we believe that a) its goals are appropriate, and b) it’s headed in the right direction to achieve those goals.
For example, whether Class A is better or worse than Class B, or whether the attrition mechanics hit the right balance, is largely immaterial at this stage of design.
What’s much more significant (using the latter example) is whether we think that the idea of reworking D&D’s traditional attrition mechanic to encourage longer-term adventures is a) a good goal that b) we can achieve by developing the concepts presented in the rules set. (That’s one example of a goal/concept from the rules set, mind you, but certainly not the only one.)
3rd Edition had a sweet spot. Somewhere around 4th or 5th level, characters hit their stride, possessing fun abilities and a number of hit points that allow the player characters to stick around long enough to use them. Somewhere around 13th or 15th level, the sweet spot gets a bit sour for many classes. Skilled players frequently disagree with that assessment, but the truth is that many D&D campaigns more-or-less rise out of existence. As PCs pursue the most fun reward in the game—leveling up— they get closer and closer to the levels where the abilities of the strongest characters eclipse those of the weakest characters, where hard math and a multiplicity of choices push DMs into increasingly hard work to keep their games going.
Power sources have always been in D&D, but no one ever bothered to pay attention to them. From the earliest days of the game, it was clear that wizards (then called magic-users) tapped into a different source of magic than clerics. Later on, classes like the druid and illusionist seemed to tie into similar sources, but it was never completely clear. As the game expanded, psionics clearly staked out a completely different source of power.
4th Edition makes the move to create more vivid differences between the sources of magical power. It also creates a source of power for characters who don’t use magic, such as fighters and rogues. While these characters don’t cast spells, at epic levels they eventually gain the ability to perform superhuman feats. After all, some of the greatest heroes of myth and legend toppled buildings with their bare hands, wrestled gods, diverted rivers, and so on. The martial power source allows us to draw a clear line between a mighty hero and the average person in the world of D&D.
The exciting thing about power sources lies in the design options they open up. Divine and arcane magic are built to serve as independent magic systems, rather than as the core definitions of how magic works in D&D. This decision has a subtle but important impact on design. As noted above, it lets us avoid a kitchen sink approach to spell design. We no longer have to put every single imaginable spell effect into divine and arcane magic, relegating other forms of spellcasting to merely copying existing spells. We are also free to create bigger differences between classes without worrying about straining credibility. A class like the wu jen or the hexblade might use a completely new and different type of magic, allowing us to reinvent the ground rules rather than use what has come before. Since those classes clearly use magic in a different manner when compared to a wizard, we shelve them under a new power source, build a system of magic that works for their needs, and create spells tuned to them rather than simply use the 3E wizard/sorcerer spell list.
We decided very early in the process that we wanted character race to play a more important part in describing your character. In earlier editions, your character’s race was something that you chose at a single decision point during character creation. Your race pick bestowed a whole collection of static, unchanging benefits at 1st level (many of which were useless clutter on your character sheet), and never really “grew” with your character. A 20th-level dwarf had the exact same amount of racial characteristics as a 1st-level dwarf—and during the nineteen intervening levels, the overall importance of that long-ago race selection had diminished to a tiny portion of the character concept.
That led directly to the first philosophical shift in the way we look at races: Rather than consider a race a simple package of ability modifiers and special abilities you choose at 1st level, we decided to include higher-level feats that you can choose for your character at the appropriate time. For example, dwarves are extraordinarily resilient, so they gain the ability to use their second wind [a healing ability] one more time per encounter than other characters can. Eladrins gain the ability to step through the Feywild to make a short-range teleport. You might remember that races such as githyanki or drow gained access to unique powers when they reached certain levels; this is an extension of the same principle.
A small problem that handcuffed our design in 3rd Edition was the lack of “space” for ability bonuses and special benefits. Because the races in the Player’s Handbook were all balanced against each other, we couldn’t add new races in later products that had significantly better ability modifiers or benefits, because they’d obsolete the core races of the game. The patch we used in 3rd Edition was the notion of level adjustment (more on that later), but with the new game we have a new opportunity to address this problem. Character races now offer a “net positive” on ability score modifiers , so there’s more room for new character races to stand.
For example, halflings were simply too small in 3rd Edition. You could create a halfling who weighed as little as 30 pounds. That’s like a human toddler, not a heroic adventurer. Halflings also lacked a real place of their own in the world; elves had forests, dwarves had mountains, but halflings didn’t really live anywhere.
The 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook describes humans as “the most adaptable, flexible, and ambitious people among the common races” and human adventurers as “the most daring and ambitious members of an audacious, daring, and ambitious race.” When considering their role in 4th Edition, that seemed great. It’s the same way that humans are portrayed in other works of science fiction and fantasy from Star Trek to Lord of the Rings, and people have a tendency to think of humanity that way in the real world. Yet an aspect of that description bugged us: It’s all positive.
Dwarves are described as suspicious, greedy, and vengeful. Elves are known to be aloof, disdainful, and slow to make friends. Gnomes are reckless pranksters. Half-orcs have short tempers. Each race in the 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook brings with it classic flaws—except humans. Maybe that was because we know human flaws so well, or maybe humans were described in such glowing terms as a means of explaining why we presented them as the dominant race in all of D&D’s published settings. Whatever the reason, it seemed like something that needed to change for 4th Edition.
Humanity needed a weakness—a trait common to all humans that could counteract their adaptability and ambition. It couldn’t be a simple personality trait, such as bad temper, because the infinite variety of personality traits all stem from humanity in the first place. It also couldn’t be something that might come off as odd when highlighted in humanity. If we say that “being fractious” is a big feature of humanity, it makes sense. We fight a lot of wars. Yet highlighting that feature of humanity implies that other races are less fractious, and we want elves fighting elves to be just as likely as humans fighting humans. So what negative trait typifies humanity and works to counteract their potential? What keeps humanity for holding onto the great things it achieves?
In a word: corruptibility.
Humans are our most resilient race. Though they don’t have more hit points or higher defenses, they recover from damage and conditions more quickly than other races can. Humans are all about dramatic action and dramatic recovery. Many of these benefits come from racial feats.
Using the racial feats to emphasize humans’ advantages gives the race an interesting dynamic. Even though they have more potential for some classes, it’s never stupid to play a human of any class. Most classes’ racial abilities intentionally make them lean toward some classes, but humans really can take on any task.
Dragons are such an iconic monster of fantasy that we named the game after them. Until now, though, playing a dragon meant either using a lot of variant rules (as in the 2nd Edition Council of Wyrms campaign setting) or taking on a hefty level adjustment to play either a dragon or a half-dragon.
Not any more.
If you want to play a proud, battle-bred warrior, if you want to sprout wings and breathe fire as you go up levels, or if you just want to touch the coolness that is dragons, you’ll want to play a dragonborn.
Everyone agreed that this should be a really cool race that everyone would want to play. Yet everyone had different ideas about what it should look like: How much should it resemble a dragon versus how much should it resemble a human? There were lots of discussions and we started with trying to make the head unique by creating a blending of human and dragon. It became very apparent that this had been tried before. We quickly determined that we needed to go in the other direction and work with a more draconic head on a humanoid body.
Designing the male of the race was easier than the female. Like the earlier versions of the dwarves, we did not want the females to look so similar to the males. We wanted them to be more feminine and recognizable as female dragonborn. We gave them the curvy figure of a female and while they are more slender then the males, they are still stronger and bulkier than a human.
When we designed the 4th Edition of the D&D game, we knew we needed to improve how the game handled special kinds of vision. Out of the three 3rd Edition core rulebooks, only humans, halflings, and lizardfolk need a light to see normally at night. Every other creature possesses some special sight that allows it to see in dim light or even in darkness. That seemed a little crazy , and when we thought about it, the inequality of special vision also complicated the game. To play appropriately, the DM has to describe the big dark room one way for the drow (who has darkvision 120 feet), one way for the dwarf (who has darkvision 60 feet), another way for the elf (who has low-light vision), and still another for the human holding the torch. And there’s one more problem with many creatures having darkvision: The PCs don’t get to see the scenery in caves or large dungeon rooms.
To eliminate those problems we took darkvision away from most creatures, including dwarves. Now dwarves illuminate the homes they build into mountains. They possess low-light vision so they don’t use as much light as a human might, but when the PCs enter the dwarven city, it’s likely everyone can see its splendor.
In the evolution of the D&D game, dwarves have changed little. They’ve always had a clear place and role. In the new edition, the dwarf is a model for how races can be flavorful and still have clear mechanics.
From the early days of the game, dwarves have been tough and soldierly. Only with the advent of racial ability adjustments in the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Player’s Handbook did they gain a penalty to Charisma and a cap on Dexterity. Dwarves have been apt at stonework and able to see in the dark since the D&D Basic Rules. In 3E, dwarves still made great fighters, but they became worse clerics than ever due to turning’s reliance on Charisma.
The new edition’s dwarf gives a nod to all its ancestors, while acknowledging the needs of the new edition. Dwarves make great fighters and paladins, and they can excel in leader roles as well, especially as clerics, since they have no Charisma penalty. Flavorful abilities round out the package, reinforcing the dwarf as a defender and as a creature that likes to live underground. Only darkvision, a troublesome game element, went away in favor of low-light vision.
Dwarves still play into the expectations of veteran players, and they live up to the conceptions of myth and fantasy literature. But now, they might fit their intended place in the D&D world better than ever.
Back in the early days, back before D&D first became Advanced . . .
. . . back when D&D players had three pamphlets in a brown or white box . . .
. . . back when Tactical Systems Rules (TSR!) published wargame rules in the same pamphlet format on topics such as modern micro-armor tank battles . . .
. . . back then when D&D was new, there were two topics that resurfaced endlessly in gaming magazines.
First, people argued about the best way to handle lightning bolt and fireball spells. The eventual publication of AD&D provided concrete rules, though that only intensified the Great Fireball Debate.
Second, people argued over whether dwarf women had beards. Yes, it’s true—”Hirsute Dwarven Women” wasn’t a bad-hair band, it was a debate that flared through half a decade of fandom. Remarks by early D&D creators, particularly in reference to GREYHAWK, sparked fanbase suspicions concerning the apparent absence of female dwarves in Tolkien, despite the fact that they were said to be on the scene. Did female dwarves grow beards and move unremarked among dwarf males? Did female dwarves have to shave? Et Tedious Cetera.
So thank Moradin we’re eight years into the Zeds and Bill O’Connor has gifted us with a magnificent new look for dwarf women. Strong, sensual, earthy and feminine, with an exotic beauty that no one would think to splash a beard on. Questions of dwarven female beauty have been buried once
for and all. We’ll have to make do with the Great Fireball Debate.
D&D is emphatically not the game of fairy-tale fantasy. D&D is a game about slaying horrible monsters, not a game about traipsing off through fairy rings and interacting with the little people.
On the positive side, though, there is something very appealing about the legends of a faerie land, a world that’s an imperfect—or a more perfect—mirror of our own. There’s something genuinely frightening about the idea that a traveler in dark woods at night might disappear from the world entirely and end up in a place where the fundamental rules have changed. Magic is more real there, beauty is more beautiful and ugliness more ugly, and even time flows differently in the fey realm. Books like Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell depict that world in vivid language.
The 3rd Edition Manual of the Planes introduced the idea of Faerie as a plane of existence that lay outside the standard cosmology. It was a parallel plane like the Plane of Shadow, touching the world in many places, similar to it in general form and landscape, but hauntingly beautiful and inhabited by fey. That’s the plane we adopted into the cosmology as the Feywild.
What, then, to do with the cute sprites and good-hearted nymphs? Well, we put the wild back into the Feywild. One aspect of legendary and literary Faerie is that the fey are curiously amoral. They don’t think of Good and Evil in the same way that mortals do, and they can be cruel or murderous almost on a whim. Those are the fey we wanted in the Feywild. The Feywild is home to unearthly eladrins who might call up the Wild Hunt and rampage through the mortal world to avenge some real or imagined wrong, or just because the moon is in a certain phase. Its dryads walk into battle alongside their treant allies, slashing about with branchlike arms. Its nymphs can kill with a glance or enchant mortals to act as their slaves.
If you take a look at the height and weight suggested for elf characters in previous editions, you’ll discover that elves used to be exceptionally small and slight. It wasn’t unusual for elf characters to stand only about 5 feet tall and weigh less than 90 pounds—about the size of a typical 12-year-old. It’s hard to make a character of that stature look slender and graceful without making him or her extremely small, at least as compared to the humans, dwarves, or half-orcs in the party. So we decided to revisit elf stature for the new edition.
Elves retain several of their distinguishing characteristics from earlier editions, most notably the pointed ears and the slight tilt to the eyes. And elf males don’t have facial hair. They’re not effeminate; they’re lean, athletic, and clean-shaven. That’s not to say that elves never look feminine—female elves sure do!
Somewhere around twenty years ago, the D&D game started to suggest differences between varieties of dwarves and elves. Dwarves were either hill dwarves or mountain dwarves; elves were high elves, wood elves, or gray elves. Of course there were drow too, so that suggested the dwarves might have an evil variety, and thus the duergar were born. Different campaign worlds came up with unique and flavorful names for these varieties, and different abilities too, making even more subraces. So before we knew it, we had a game with a dozen varieties of elves and just as many dwarves—and most had different mechanical characteristics from the basic elf, turning one character race into a dozen.
For 4th Edition, we decided to take a big step back from that. We decided that most of the differences between different types of elves (drow excluded) were cultural, not physical.
In the beginning (which we’ll call 1974), halflings were hobbits straight out of Tolkien. The D&D game —at that point three booklets and some reference sheets costing $10— even called them hobbits. But then D&D made the transition from an overgrown hobby to a full-fledged product line, and by 1977 all the hobbits became halflings.
Throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, the D&D halflings still looked and acted like something right out of the Shire—they were often a little plump and they walked around with their fuzzy feet bare. Most of them were thieves, a class that’s conceptually similar to what we’d call a rogue today.
In the mid-1980s, halflings started to move away from the Tolkien vision—spurred on by tens of thousands of D&D players. Bilbo Baggins might have been a reluctant thief, but D&D tables everywhere were full of mischievous, wisecracking, and enthusiastic halfling thieves. The players drove D&D halflings into new territory, and the little fellows became a key repository for much of the game’s humor.
The look of halflings started to change, too. Subraces emerged: the traditional hairfeet, the somewhat dwarflike stouts, and the tallfellows, who were associated with the elves and were only tall when compared to hairfeet and stouts.
Then came the DRAGONLANCE version of the halflings: kender, a diminutive, vaguely elfin race. Talk about a race designed for a mischievous player —kender are impossibly curious, utterly fearless, and they have an instinctive desire to “borrow” things from the pockets and backpacks of whomever is standing nearby. Some players embraced the kender, while others found them a little too far in the “comic relief ” territory. Whether the antics of the kender PC at your D&D table were hilarious or annoying tended to determine how you felt about the kender as a whole.
With the onset of 3rd Edition D&D in 2000, a consensus quickly emerged: retain the halfling’s natural enthusiasm, but shade them a little darker than the kender so they could be more than comic foils. Get them out of their comfortable homes, and for heaven’s sake let them wear boots like everyone else. Halflings became nomadic and had a measure of whimsical trickery—but whimsy that could turn sinister at a moment’s notice. Their visual identity changed, too. Halflings got the lithe physique of gymnasts rather than the portly physique of rustic gentleman farmers.
As we began our work on 4th Edition, we decided that we still liked the 3rd Edition look and feel of halflings—but we needed to continue to evolve the halfling role and appearance in the game.
Sundered from humanity by their ancestors’ overweening ego, tieflings are a race whose bloodline stems from an infernal bargain made nearly a millennia ago.
Lacking any knowledge of their creator and without a purpose instilled by a caring maker, humanity determined its own purposes, but often only by accident. Unpredictable and adaptable, this strangely malleable race claims many an ancient and long vanished empire. One such empire birthed the tiefling race.
Do you recall the whispered stories of Bael Turath? The empire of Bael Turath’s reach exceeded its grasp, but the empire’s ruling nobility were addicted to their own power and glory. They vowed they would retain their rule, no matter the consequences, no matter the cost, no matter what they had to give up. Even their own humanity.
Bael Turath’s brash promises were heard in a distant, burning realm amid the silvery Astral Sea . . . a realm called the Nine Hells.
Whispered secrets slithered into the dreams of those who thirsted most for the continued dominion of Bael Turath, and upon waking, the red-eyed dreamers repeated their visions in the day’s wan light. Those visions were instructions for how the nobility could achieve its ends. A grisly month-long ritual would be required, one that every living ruling house of the empire needed to participate in if the desired effect was to be achieved. The ritual included unsavory and terrible deeds that had to be enacted by each of its participants.
A few houses, even in decadent Bael Turath, refused. These houses were exterminated, and the remaining houses conducted their ritual without naysayers to question their grim certainty.
The ritual began in darkness and blood, and deep into the small hours of the second night, the first devil appeared from Hell’s iron doors. The first was followed by others, each more terrible than the last, and to each pacts were sworn by the power-mad leaders of Bael Turath. Infernal bargains were avowed with names such as the Scarlet Claw of Hunger, the Iron Crown of Madness, Night’s Loving Void, and the Million Pains of Eternal Torment. Though hardly remarked upon at the time of their swearing, the pacts bound not only the nobility present in the hideous ritual, but also promised to mark the descendents of every one present, even unto their last generation, so that no one would ever forget what Bael Turath had agreed to.
And so was born the tiefling race.
Tieflings trace their origins back to the 2nd Edition PLANESCAPE® Campaign Setting. With their horns, tails, and wicked tongues, tieflings quickly became the exotic “bad boys” and “bad girls” of the Outer Planes. Sly, sexy, and a little sinister, they afforded D&D players a chance to flirt with the dark side without actually crossing the line into full-blown evil. Why play Drizzt when you could play the great-grandson of a pit fiend?
Tieflings reappeared in the 3rd Edition Monster Manual as one of the “plane-touched,” inexorably bound to their dogooder cousins, the aasimar. Forgive my bias, but I’ll take horns and brimstone over sunshine and perfection any day. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be the super good guy.
In 4th Edition, tieflings finally claim their rightful place among the core races. Including them in the 4th Edition Player’s Handbook was an easy, early decision. Their infernal heritage gives them plenty of angst and an excuse to “get medieval” whenever the mood suits them. However, unlike their Machiavellian rivals for coolness, the Underdark-dwelling drow, tieflings are neither confined to the darkness nor afraid to mingle with the surface dwellers. They also carry less evil baggage and enjoy far more autonomy.
In fact, they can pretty much go anywhere they want and do as they please. Players can take the race to either extreme, portraying tieflings that embrace their inner devilspawn as well as tieflings who strive to transcend their twisted heritage and lead honest to semi-honest lives. Or they can play tieflings who walk the line between Good or Evil without fully embracing either.
That kind of versatility makes for a great core race and places tieflings on a footing comparable to humans.
Playing a tiefling (or a warlock, or a drow or half-orc, or any other “bad boy” of D&D) is different from playing an evil character. Part of the appeal of playing a tiefling is that being a hero is both more challenging and more dramatic when you’re overcoming the weight of heritage and stereotype to do it. If Han Solo had burst into the room to save Luke from the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi, it would have felt contrived. But the fact that Darth Vader, the great villain of the trilogy, sacrificed himself to save his son—that was powerful. Drizzt Do’Urden is a compelling hero because of the evil society he grew up in, the fear and prejudice he faces on the surface world, and the hatred the other drow of Menzoberranzan still hold for him.
It’s fun to flirt with danger—to walk the edge of the dark side without crossing over. There’s an appeal to playing a character who might not be Evil, but who might be described as “Evil-curious.” It’s a chance to give expression to our dark sides, the parts of our own personalities that we suppress for the sake of getting along in society. Tieflings almost literally embody that dark side, our shadow selves.
I won’t lie: making Good-associated creatures as exciting as their Evil-curious counterparts is a challenge. I call the challenge the “Ave Maria” problem, a reference to Walt Disney’s original Fantasia, a wonderful animated film that ended with musical meditations on Evil and Good. Evil got Night on Bald Mountain, accompanied by an evil-storm orchestrated by a whip-wielding demon. Good followed up with barely animated candle-bearing keepers of the faith proceeding across the screen singing Ave Maria. It’s a sweet piece of music, and it certainly speaks to the possibilities of Good, but the animation just didn’t hold a candle to lightning storms on Bald Mountain.
So now you know our mission: celestials who sizzle bright enough to hold their own against Bald Mountain lightning storms. We’re working on it!
Elves. Lolth. Spiders. Underdark. Drow are iconic in the D&D game, and we didn’t fix what wasn’t broken. Drow have changed only to fit into the world of the new edition, evolving in ways that make them more accessible as characters and villains.
Drow are cruel and matriarchal, focused on the dogma of Lolth, their mad spider goddess who was once the deceitful eladrin goddess of shadows and the moon. Lolth took the spider as her symbol, so drow revere all things that share this form.
Another significant change is that drow are fey, but in type only. Drow don’t live in the Feywild, and they don’t work with other fey. They live in the Underdark beneath the world, from where they surface regularly to raid and take prisoners.
The most exciting change is that drow will be available as a player character race without any level adjustment. The average drow isn’t much more dangerous than a human peasant, because drow gain significant abilities as they gain levels.
Gnomes lack a strong position in D&D. If you ask someone to name the important races in the world of D&D, gnomes always seem to come in last. They’re elf-dwarf-halflings—a strange mixture of the three with little to call their own besides being pranksters. DRAGONLANCE presented an iconic image of the gnome, but the concept of tinker gnomes and their crazy machines has now been thoroughly used by games such as World of Warcraft, and many D&D players dislike the technological element that version of the gnome brings to the game.
So, what to do with the gnome? How can gnomes be repositioned or reinvented so that the race has a unique position in the world?
In the Feywild, the best way for a small creature to survive is to be overlooked. While suffering in servitude to the fomorian tyrants of the Feydark, gnomes learned to hide, to mislead, and to deflect—and by these means, to survive. The same talents sustain them still, allowing them to prosper in a world filled with creatures much larger and far more dangerous than they are.
Gnomes were once enslaved by the fomorian rulers of the Feydark, the subterranean caverns of the Feywild. They regard their former masters with more fear than hatred, and they feel some degree of sympathy for the fey that still toil under fomorian lashes—particularly the spriggans, which some say are corrupted gnomes. Gnomes are not fond of goblins or kobolds, but in typical gnome fashion, they avoid creatures they dislike rather than crusading against them. They are fond of eladrin and other friendly fey, and gnomes who travel the world have good relations with elves and halflings.
People are often inclined to play warforged as unfeeling robots, but that’s not how I see them at all. They’re living creatures, and part of living is emotion, attachment, grief, and love. They might have trouble expressing their emotions because of their blank, almost featureless faces, but to my mind, at least, they feel them just as strongly as humans do.
Constructs in 4th Edition don’t have the long list of immunities that they do in 3rd Edition, which made it a lot easier to make warforged playable as 1st-level characters. (Other races also got beefed up a bit, so the 1st-level bar is set a little higher.) You can’t poison a warforged, but you can paralyze him or sap his strength. They’re good at resisting some effects that can hamper other characters, but if you prick them, they bleed—those cords and fibers in their construct bodies carry fluids just as vital to life as blood is to humanoids.
They no longer carry a list of immunities, but warforged are still an attractive option for fighters, paladins, and warlords who can benefit from the stamina and endurance that come with this race
everyone knows that drow can levitate and cast darkness. But they don’t have to automatically be able to do it at 1st level, do they? Now you decide if you’re playing a drow whether or not those abilities are worth a feat pick (and presumably many or most NPC drow make exactly that choice).
Character classes are the heart of the D&D game. Fighters wear armor and mix it up with monsters in melee. Wizards are fragile but use potent spells to swing entire encounters. Clerics heal and rogues sneak. All those things have been true for 30 years, and they’re going to remain true in 4th Edition
One of the first things we decided to tackle in redesigning D&D’s character classes was identifying appropriate class roles. In other words, every class should have all the tools it needs to fill a specific job in the adventuring party. Clerics must heal, fighters must lock up monsters in melee to protect weaker characters, and wizards must deal damage to multiple enemies at range. If you want to exchange characters in the party—for example, replacing a cleric with a druid, or a fighter with a paladin—you should still maintain a mix of high-defense characters, healers, and damage dealers. If you drop in a character who can’t fill the role of the class he’s replacing, you’re weakening the adventuring party and damaging the table’s fun.
We debated long and hard about which roles actually existed, and which classes corresponded to them. Ultimately, we came up with four important roles:
Defender: A character with high defenses and high hit points. This is the character you want getting in front of the monsters and absorbing their attacks. Fighters have been doing this job in D&D for 30 years. Ideally, a defender ought to have some abilities that make him “sticky”—in other words, a defender should be difficult to move past or ignore so that he can do his job.
Striker: A character who deals very high damage to one target at a time, either in melee or at range. This is the job we want to move the rogue toward—when she positions herself for a sneak attack and uses her best attack powers, she deals some of the highest damage in the game. Strikers need mobility to execute their lethal attacks and get away from enemies trying to lock them down.
Controller: A character who specializes in locking down multiple foes at once, usually at range. This involves inflicting damage or hindering conditions on multiple targets. The wizard is a shining example of this role, of course. Controllers sacrifice defense for offense; they want to concentrate on taking down the enemy as quickly as possible while staying at a safe distance from them.
Leader: A character who heals, aids, or “buffs” other characters. Obviously we thought about just calling this role “healer,” but we want leaders to do more than simply spend their actions healing other characters. The leader is sturdier than the controller, but doesn’t have anywhere near as much offense. The cleric is the classic example. All leaders must have significant healing abilities to live up to their role, as well as other things they can do in a battle.
In 3rd Edition D&D, each character class began with a skeleton consisting of four distinct progressions: Attack Bonus, Fortitude Save, Reflex Save, and Will Save. In 4th Edition, these have been combined into a single level-based check modifier that applies to all of your character’s attacks, defenses, and skill checks. All 10th-level characters have a +5 bonus to AC, all three defenses, attacks, and so on. Naturally, your ability scores, class abilities, and feat selection impact this single progression, so you can expect that a paladin’s Fortitude defense will be significantly better than his Reflex defense, and likewise better than the rogue’s Fortitude defense. In fact, every class features important attack or defense boosts at 1st level that distinguish their best traits from their ordinary ones.
We think this significantly simplifies character creation and advancement and improves the interaction of characters and monsters. In earlier editions, it was far too easy to accidentally create a monster who could hit the party’s fighter at a reasonable success rate but then would never miss the party’s wizard —or one who hit the wizard at a reasonable rate, but then could never actually land a hit on the fighter. Characters still have significant and important variations in their attacks and defenses, but it’s driven from one simple progression now instead of four.
Perhaps the single biggest change in 4th Edition D&D is this: Every character class has “spells.” In other words, every class has a broad array of maneuvers, stunts, commands, strikes, heroic exploits, or what-have-you to choose from, just like clerics and wizards in previous editions had a wide assortment of spells. Ultimately, a spell, curse, weapon trick, or command is at heart a “power”—a special ability that a character can trigger in a fight.
There are a couple of reasons we decided to do this.
First, all previous editions of the game simply placed far too much of the adventuring party’s total power in the spell selections of the cleric and the wizard. These classes were simply better than other classes by any objective standard. Characters such as fighters and rogues accompanied the adventuring party to protect the spellcasters while the spellcasters defeated the encounters. We decided to shift to a model in which all characters were equally vital to the party’s success. That required offering powers for the fighter and rogue to choose from, just like the cleric and wizard.
Second, choosing and using powers is fun. Fighters in 3rd Edition D&D had many more options than fighters in previous editions thanks to feats such as Power Attack , Spring Attack, and Combat Expertise, but for the most part, fighters still spent 90% of their rounds doing the exact same thing time after time— taking a basic melee attack. A selection of powers to choose from means that fighters now have real choices available to them in combat. From round to round, they decide whether to employ one of their once per encounter abilities, expend a precious once-per-day power, or conserve resources and execute one of the simple at-will attacks they know. Every round is different for the fighter in 4th Edition D&D, and that’s lots more fun.
We’ve also given characters something to add to their power mix at every level, so that a character always gets meaningfully better every time he or she advances a level. There’s always a choice, and always something cool to look forward to every time you level up your character—and that just adds to the fun of the D&D game.
All 4th Edition characters have some ability to heal themselves and all leaders can increase that healing. A cleric grants all allies near him an increase to their self-healing, and he can also cure their wounds by using healing words. A cleric doesn’t spend any of his other spells to use them, nor will he need to spend the lion’s share of his actions healing others.
Rituals allow a cleric to heal persistent conditions, create wards, and even bring people back from the dead. Many 3E spells have become rituals instead, allowing the cleric to fill his spell and battle prayer lists with proactive attacks and enhancements.
We didn’t move forward in 4th Edition with that pantheon [from 3rd Edition, which was heavily based on the Greyhawk campaign setting] because its deities weren’t designed for the improved experience of D&D we were forming. Also, its ties to Greyhawk and its uses in 3E wouldn’t sync up with the new cosmology and mythology we’ve designed to be better for play. We struggled with what deities to put in the game for a long time, and many factors influenced our final decisions:
• We don’t want deities to be thought of as omniscient and all-powerful. Omniscience and omnipotence makes it difficult to use gods in adventure plots or have them interact with characters.
• We want epic characters to be capable of challenging gods and even of becoming gods.
• We wanted deities to be designed for play in the D&D world. Sure, it’s realistic in a sociological sense to have a deity of doorways or of agriculture, but it’s hard to figure out how a cleric who worships such a deity honors his god by going on adventures.
• We wanted fewer, better deities. In your campaign, you can have as many deities as you want, but in order to design classes, a cosmology, and products that work well together, we wanted a good set of deities that cover most players’ needs without that pantheon being too complex and cumbersome.
• We wanted deities to represent the new game and new vision for the D&D world.
For a long time we wanted to design a pantheon that was wholly new, but the harder we pushed it in that direction, the more it seemed like some of the deities of the 3E pantheon were a good fit for the game’s needs. Thus, the pantheon is a blending of old and new.
It’s no secret that 3rd Edition clerics are really good. 4th Edition clerics are no longer better than other classes, but are more fun to play.
The huge difference between the two versions is that clerics no longer spend all their time healing and buffing. Moving a modest amount of self-healing into every class has really loosened up the reins on the cleric, as has putting healing in its own bin so it doesn’t overshadow offensive magic. We expect that, in an average encounter, a cleric will use one standard action to heal and will be using the rest of his actions for offense.
we wrote a ton of new cleric powers! We wanted persistent magical effects that the cleric could maintain over many rounds (such as spiritual weapon), big magical attacks (like flame strike), and short-term buffs. Most persistent effects sit in the battle prayers, so a cleric drops one in every fight, usually to keep an enemy under control. Big attacks can be found in battle prayers and in spells. They include big explody things like flame strike, supernatural weather (inspired by storm of vengeance), and spells that utterly crush a single opponent. Short-term buffs are much improved because we did away with the duration-tracking that was such a big part of cleric life in 3E. Most short-term buffs lasts until the end of the encounter. That’s it. It’s simple, it’s clear, and the effects are more powerful since the duration’s shorter.
So you might miss the 3E cleric if you just have to be a bit overpowered or were such an altruistic soul that you liked healing somebody every round, but we think most players will prefer the new cleric over the old.
The second quality a defender requires is an ability to keep the monsters focused on him. We called this “stickiness” around the office—once you get next to a fighter, it’s really hard to move away in order to go pound on the party wizard or cleric. Fighters are “sticky” because they gain serious bonuses on opportunity attacks, have the ability to follow enemies who shift away from them, and guard allies nearby through an ability called battlefield control. Once the fighter gets toe-to-toe with the monsters, it becomes very dangerous for the monsters to do anything other than battle the fighter . . . which is, of course, what the fighter excels at. Enemies ignore fighters at their peril!
In previous editions of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game, the fighter has always been the character who didn’t have any spells or special class powers. Generally speaking, a player running a fighter character did the same thing every round: He took a swing at the bad guys. In 3rd Edition D&D more options became available through the use of various feat trees, but it was still true that the fighter offered none of the resource management or battle strategy of a spellcasting character. Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords introduced a new twist on the 30-year-old mechanics of the fighter class by describing fighterlike classes who used a variety of spectacular martial maneuvers. Using Tome of Battle you could play a fighter (well, a warblade) with the tactical challenge of choosing when and how to use dramatic maneuvers. The new DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 4th Edition game improves and expands this concept even more.
Per-encounter powers are special weapon tricks, surprise attacks, or advanced tactics that can only be used one time per fight. The fighter doesn’t “forget” a power once he uses it, nor does a power deplete any innate reserve of magical energy. He can’t use it again because it simply isn’t effective more than once per battle. If an enemy has already seen your dance of steel maneuver, he won’t be taken in by it a second time. Because you can use one of these powers once per battle, the challenge is to find the exact right moment to use each one for maximum effect
The fighter has always been one of the four iconic pillars of the D&D game (along with the cleric, wizard, and thief/rogue). As the game progressed, the fighter grew into an extremely customizable class, especially in 3rd Edition D&D, where a fighter’s feat choices could change the way he looked: was he a lightly armored, Spring Attacking, glaive wielder? A Power-Attacking, greatsword-swinging, damage dealer? An impregnable, Combat Expertise-using, sword and board AC junkie? Or maybe just a spiked chain trip monkey?
The new fighter still allows for such customizations within the role defined for the class. The class “builds” are supported through feats, class features, gear, and power selection, with each aspect of character creation adding its own flavor to the mix.
If you think you’ve seen the idea of per-encounter powers for fighters before, you’re right. Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords built a system of maneuvers for martial characters that presaged many of the nonspellcaster powers coming up in 4th Edition D&D.
At one point in our power design, we examined the idea of whether or not character powers could be constructed more or less like a card-game model. In other words, all the power choices available to you would be your “hand,” and when you used a power in a fight, you’d “discard” it. In fact, you might even have important “draw” or “refresh” mechanics to return discarded powers to your hand. One of the most aggressive ideas of this sort was the notion of a character who drew his hand randomly as the fight progressed. So, to test the acceptability of these changes to our audience, we adopted the classes in Book of Nine Swords to use an execute, discard, and refresh system for their maneuvers.
While the Nine Swords classes actually work fine with the system (even the crusader!), we eventually moved away from the idea of maneuvers refreshing in an encounter. We decided that we didn’t want to make the players play a game of managing their “hands” at the same time they were playing a game of defeating the monsters. But we learned a tremendous amount from watching D&D fans play with the rules in Book of Nine Swords. And heck, they were fun enough that most of our D&D games around the office saw plenty of Nine Swords characters enter the dungeon.
The rogue is the prime example of a striker. Capable of delivering more damage to a single target than many other characters, a rogue has to spend some effort setting up such a boost. By skillful maneuvering, the help of allies, and the occasional dirty trick, a rogue sets up devastating attacks. In exchange for high damage, a striker ends up frail compared to a defender.
In the beginning thieves had the backstab ability, and it was good. A +4 bonus on attacks and double damage were great back in the day, but they came with a catch. It was really, really hard to actually complete a backstab. The rules were vague about how they worked, and most DMs shied away from allowing thieves to use this ability on a routine basis.
When D&D 3E arrived on the scene, gamers who loved rogues had reason to celebrate. Sneak attack, while perhaps not as swingy as backstab, was clearly implemented and easy to use. Those extra d6s of damage were great. At least, they were great when the rogue got to use them. Entire categories of creatures, most notably undead and constructs, were immune to sneak attack. Without the offensive boost provided by this ability, rogues were severely crippled.
For D&D 4E, we’ve made sneak attack more flexible while retaining its basic mechanic. You can now use sneak attack whenever you have combat advantage, a combat modifier gained whenever an opponent’s defenses have been compromised. Flanking a foe gives you combat advantage, as do some special abilities. More important, immunity to sneak attack has been scaled back to almost nothing. Almost every creature a rogue now faces has the requisite vulnerable spots needed for a sneak attack to take place. While a construct might lack internal organs, you can still smash its knee or find a weak point in its construction to deal a fistful of extra d6s in damage.
This change reflects one of the important philosophies behind D&D 4E. Some abilities are so key to a character’s class that they should rarely, if ever, face a blanket immunity. Monsters that shut down one character are more likely to make the game dull for a few characters, or force the spotlight on to a sole player character, rather than create interesting situations for the entire party. The rogue relies on sneak attack for his or her offensive abilities, so we’re much better off making it a reliable tool
As a rule, immunities are almost completely gone from D&D 4E. In their place we have damage thresholds to reflect resistances and invulnerability. A fire elemental might ignore a wizard’s fireball, but an elder red dragon can still blast it into oblivion with its breath weapon.
In the design of D&D 4E, the team sought to create a game where a reasonable Dungeon Master could create a reasonable challenge for everyone at the table. A DM must make a conscious decision to shut down a PC or close off a set of options. For this reason, sneak attack now functions against a wide variety of monsters.
This design decision highlights one of the principles of D&D 4E design. In prior versions of the game, designers would sometimes use out-of-combat abilities to balance combat deficiencies. A rogue might have low AC and low hit points, but a lot of skills were supposed to balance that. True, the rogue had sneak attack, but moving into a flank also left him vulnerable to being flanked himself. Since D&D 4E moves from a model of “the party versus one monster” to “the party versus an equal number of monsters,” this problem became even worse.
To better balance the classes, the design team set aside noncombat functions and looked solely at what each class does in a fight. We then balanced their abilities across the board, while following a similar process for noncombat abilities. By cutting off any bleed in balance between those areas, we created characters that are on equal footing across every part of an adventure, rather than creating a situation where player characters are balanced only if you look at all the encounters as a whole.
Along with a clearer fighting archetype, D&D 4E strengthens the rogue’s core competencies both inside and outside of combat. Rogues are now the best skill users in the game. Not only do they get more skills than other classes, but they also have more options and abilities relating to those skills.
We greatly simplified the skill system to fix these problems. We stripped the list down and combined skills that were pointing in the same direction (Open Lock and Sleight of Hand appeal to the same character, so they’re now functions of a single skill). Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, and Read Magic have all been combined into a single Arcana skill.
As of this writing, we have cut the number of skills in half (while maintaining most of the functions). The Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga Edition includes some of our experiments with skill simplification, most notably in the way it removes the need for constantly increasing skills.
Of all the classes, rogues are the most skill-focused (followed closely by rangers). Many classes have a few skills that are crucial to their functionality, but rogues get the widest swath of options.
Another major change to skills was the removal of several skill functions that we no longer believe should be default parts of skills. The prime example is using Tumble to avoid attacks of opportunity. To have a check (one that can even be made untrained) be able to bypass such a fundamental risk of the game is just too easy and ultimately not all that much fun. Now, skill functions like this are either unlocked by taking a feat or are incorporated into specific powers.
Another idea that’s been bandied about lately is converting some skills to passive “defense” values. Spot and Listen are good examples. Telling the players to roll Spot checks, first of all, tells them that something is up. Also, if you have everybody roll every time there’s something to see, there’s a high probability at least one party member will see it just due to a lucky roll. Skills like this might work better as passive values: Every player character could have a value equal to 10 + skill bonus. Then, when there’s something to see, the Dungeon Master can compare the DC to notice it to the player characters’ “take 10” numbers. So far in playtests, no one has batted an eye and it’s easier on the Dungeon Master—and on your d20.
You send a ranged attack against your foe to get its attention and lure it in your direction. Then, you spring from the shadows and deliver a devastating follow-up attack.
The Rabble Yammer in Terror
You deliver a stinging blow to an enemy who besets you. His allies shrink back from you, each unwilling to draw your ire next.
Go Ahead and Hit Me
Your daunting glare gives you an edge over foes who dare attack you.
A rogue can still disarm the trap, but that is just one option among many. Furthermore, Trapfinding is now a feat. Rogues receive it for free, but anyone can become skilled in disabling traps.
This decision points to a larger trend in the game—challenge the party, not a single character. We don’t want one character handling everything in an encounter , and our new trap rules reflect this. After all, D&D is about an adventuring party, not a single character. Not even a cool one , such as the rogue.
Warlocks are arcane characters. They learn their powers from magical entities they commune with through ancient rites. These may be dark, primal fey spirits, old as the earth itself; the restless shades of ancient warlocks and demipowers long dead; strange, magical intelligences associated with prominent stars; or infernal beings bound by ancient laws the warlock knows how to exploit.
In battle, warlocks are strikers. They are highly mobile and elusive adversaries who scour their enemies with potent blasts of eldritch power and harry them with a variety of potent curses. They deal high damage to one or two enemies at a time. Warlocks have few powers that attack multiple foes at once, but they excel in dealing with small groups of enemies.
Warlocks are not very durable, but they are quite good at avoiding attack by magically evading their enemies. They possess highly accurate and highly damaging short-range attacks and shift easily from ranged to melee combat.
The reason warlocks changed is simple: Their cool, unique thing isn’t unique anymore.
Since their resources don’t deplete over the course of the day, warlocks hold a special place in D&D 3E. In 4th Edition, any spellcaster can use a power every round without worrying about running out, so warlocks need something new to differentiate them.
The early changes from the 3E warlock to the 4E version included access to powerful sustainable curses that gave penalties to their enemies and picked up the binder’s vestiges as “hellpacts.” All this pointed them toward the same sort of maybe-this-guy-is-a-little-too-nasty-to-hang-out-with-our-party vibe that the 3E version has, but gave him some new tricks so he’s not playing in the wizard’s sandbox quite as much (duplicating spell effects and the like). It also brought forward some elements from other interesting, but less popular, 3E classes. Of course, the warlock kept eldritch blast, along with abilities that modify the blast.
These were good ideas, but they weren’t quite clicking in playtests. The pacts, like binder vestiges, didn’t have benefits that all pointed to a single theme or play style. Since we wanted to emphasize certain builds, these got narrowed and focused so when you take a pact, you really know what type of character you’re playing. They also aren’t just “hellpacts” anymore. You can make pacts with various powers, each of which has its own build focus and a strong hook for your backstory. Curses were, initially, imparting penalties and giving advantages to the warlock if he voluntarily ended the curse. Unfortunately, this usually meant that a warlock spent his turn invoking a curse, then watching the target die before he had a chance to do anything else. This was an easy problem to fix: We cranked the curses up. Now the curses themselves could put down a ton of damage and impose huge penalties on the target’s actions.
Alignment is one of those systems that’s been in flux for a while because everybody has a strong opinion about it. When one person’s saying “kill it entirely” and another is saying “keep it as it is,” you know there will be a lot of time and discussion about the topic. R&D is really just like a big gaming group: We all have our opinions about what alignment should be.
To tackle this issue, an elite team of special agents (Michele Carter, Bruce Cordell, Steve Schubert, and Bill Slavicsek) convened to figure out why people do and don’t like alignment as it has appeared in previous versions of the game. We wanted to keep the recognizable names of alignment, but we also had to recognize the failings the old systems had.
A major change to the system is the concept of unaligned characters. Most people just never choose sides, and never dedicate themselves to an ideal—they just do what they can to get by. Alignment is now a system you don’t have to play in if you don’t want to. Only characters with strong ideals will take up the cause of Good or Evil. This allows players more latitude. They can play a character who isn’t all that nice, but can still be in the same party as the bright and shining paladin and not have much difficulty. An “Evil-curious” character might be underhanded or bloodthirsty without crossing the line into evil.
We also wanted to emphasize the difference between personality and alignment. For a long time, people have used alignment as a guide to roleplaying, but that ends up being too restrictive and predictable. While alignment should influence your actions, it shouldn’t define your entire personality. A Good-aligned person can be surly, or even do something that’s not exactly “good” once in a while. This doesn’t mean the person isn’t trying to uphold the virtues of a good alignment—and the dedication to keep trying is what’s important about alignment.
Perhaps more important than any other change is the deemphasis of alignment. Instead of the overarching system of previous editions, alignment is now a much smaller part of the experience. Only a minority of people (and monsters) is aligned at all, and most spells and abilities that key off of alignment have been eliminated. For a player, choosing a Good alignment won’t make your character more susceptible to evil attacks. Dungeon Masters get the freedom to create storylines with intrigue and deception that can’t be derailed by a detect evil spell. Shades of gray can make a campaign deeper and ultimately more rewarding. PCs should decide for themselves whether they think someone is evil, not rely on spells to make their decisions for them.
I worked on the Player’s Handbook with Rich Baker and Dave Noonan (this was in the third stage of the process). We all sat within two cubes of one another, close enough to shout out whatever weird thing one of us had just come up with. Even though people in nearby cubes were working on different projects, they would occasionally hear one of these snippets about the Player’s Handbook. Usually, this was some oddball placeholder name Rich had written for a warlord power, but warlock powers were a common topic, too. I think our neighbors might have known more about the warlock than any other class, actually.
I wrote up the basic structure of the warlock and established the over-the-top descriptions and effect names the class would use (stuff like the curse of the bloodfang beast and iron chains of misery). The power-writing stage came after that, and Rich was in charge of taking the few powers already written and fleshing out the list (while incorporating changes the development team had made to the overall class structure).
Whenever Rich would write up a crazy power (and the warlock is master of crazy, mean powers), he would relay it across the cube walls to Dave and I, and thereby give everybody else nearby a dose of warlock joy.
Once or twice a day, Rich would say something like, “Okay, here’s a new one: hurl through hell. You banish a foe to the depths of the Nine Hells. During his journey he takes a bunch of damage. He returns prone in his former square, suffering from fear.” Everybody in earshot would have an evil chuckle (Dave’s is the most evil, by the way) and think about the reaction the hapless monster will have when that happens during a game.
Rich (and maybe all of us) really wrote his most entertaining stuff when he was getting punchy at the end of the day. The warlock is a great class to work on when you just need to cut loose and write the most insane powers possible, and he’ll likewise be more fun to play the more exhausting your day has been.
I can’t wait until people first get their hands on this class and say, “I can do what?” And the reactions of the other people at the table will be even better. You just might hear your party’s cleric saying, “I know I said we should punish these evildoers, but ouch!”
In the end, you are the most powerful adventurer in the group but only when you work with their allies as a team. A lone wizard faces death at the end of foe’s weapon, yet a wizard alone can call down powers that overshadow any other adventurer’s attacks. While some wizards sequester themselves in isolated towers, far from other folk, the mightiest wizards achieved their great deeds with the help of equally legendary warriors, clerics, and rogues. Sure, they might not provide the most intellectually stimulating campfire conversation, but they do have their uses.
It’s really just that simple. The wizard is, and always has been, the quintessential battlefield controller. Fireball, lightning bolt, meteor swarm, even magic missile—they’re all iconic wizard spells that deal damage to multiple opponents at a distance. They are fun, evocative, and the new wizard gets them in spades.
But the wizard is more than a simple arcane howitzer. The wizard has always had a huge bag of tricks, and the new wizard is no different. In previous editions, those trick’s natures were expressed by way of the schools of magic, and while many of those tricks endure, the new wizard identifies them by implements of her art—the orb, staff, or wand.
Wizards who wield an orb flavor their blasts with terrain control and manipulation and focus on retributive and perception effects. If you see a wizard with a staff, you can count on her magical might smiting you with lines and cones, and you can expect to go flying across the battlefield as a consequence of the spell’s effect. A wand wizard is the truly long-distance controller who sits behind layers of magic protection—he’s a hard nut to crack.
But don’t get comfortable thinking that you’ve got a wizard’s number after you’ve spied his arcane implement. The wizard’s specialization doesn’t preclude any of the other powers; it just improves the power and versatility of spells thanks to the focused implements.
The intent was not to limit choice, but rather to create new and interesting ones for the wizard (and the other classes). Feats can increase the potency of arcane powers. Many of these choices will seem self-evident for the role of the traditional wizard—feats that increase defenses, feats that limit the penalties for using powers in melee, feats that increase speed—but others, called skill feats, add breadth to skills. Cherry-picking skill feats can enhance the know-it-all nature wizards exude.
Oh, and here’s something for martial-minded wizard players (fans of the warmage and the duskblade, listen up): arcane strikes, power words, and spells of the wizard don’t have anything like the arcane spell failure of past editions. And while the wizard starts with very few armor and weapon proficiencies, feats can expand those choices. While you’ll never reach the melee might of the fighter and paladin, it’s easier to play the controller with the sharp pointy bits and the tough outer shell that hurls lethal arcane energy across the battlefield!
When we set out to determine the right power level for each class, we first had to establish a baseline, independent of any particular class. Once that was in place, we could discuss the aspects of each class in relation to that baseline, comparing the components of a class’s offense, defense, and utility. The wizard has always been high on the offensive scale and on the lower end defensively, and much of that flavor has been maintained. We set out to preserve the idea that the wizard is very powerful, with abilities that affect multiple opponents at once, but he doesn’t last long if the enemy brutes start wailing on him. Thus, the wizard’s powers follow our higher curve of output, using spells and abilities that hit lots of enemies in quick bursts (as opposed to other high-damage classes like rogues or warlocks that do lots of damage to a single opponent, or spread their damage out over a few rounds).
With potent spells and powers, the wizard can clear away weak minions with fireballs, and he can also control the actions of multiple opponents through directly targeted control powers or indirectly by changing the battlefield with walls and clouds. But where the D&D 3E wizard had many “save or die” spells in his repertoire, to cast over and over until the opponent finally failed a save, the new wizard has fewer powers that can eliminate a worthy foe with a single shot (critical hits not withstanding). Many of the wizard’s direct control powers affect targets for a much shorter duration.
So where are the schools now?
Abjuration’s long-term wards and restorative effects like remove disease moved to rituals. There are still plenty of midcombat protective spells, especially in the cleric list.
Conjuration’s long-distance teleportation moved to rituals.
Divination spells have moved almost entirely to rituals.
Enchantment is still around, but expect future classes to emphasize it more than the classes in the first Player’s Handbook.
Evocation is all about blowing things up and, since the wizard fills the controller role, we need more options for blowing things up.
Illusions are common in the wizard’s list. Still, much more are coming.
Necromancy is the most diminished set of effects, but this was an intentional change for the good of the game. Save-or-die effects were too unpredictable, and high-level play was a nightmare because of them. Negative levels also make the game less fun, and penalties are now more focused and generally don’t last longer than the combat encounter.
Transmutation is a school I can’t really understand. What the heck binds these spells together? Anyway, since this school is a bit of a grab bag, expect some things to show up and others to not. You can bet that polymorph won’t be making an appearance (at least, not as a single spell).
So schools have obviously disappeared, but does this really mean they’re dead? Well, all the coolest spells are still there. A school is really only dead as its spells. All we did was remove “school” as a mechanical division. If you want to play an “abjurer,” you can grab all the defensive spells you want —and if wall of force seems like abjuration to you, go for it! Removing the word “school” from our spell vocabulary doesn’t mean the effects and themes have gone anywhere. Some future classes will even be based more heavily on past schools. Don’t be surprised if you see illusionist or conjurer appear as classes or paragon paths at some point.
While the warlock continued to evolve into its own new class, the lesson had been learned: Every class should be able to do something interesting each round, even at the lowest of levels. The wizard needed to have a power, or better yet a selection of powers, that he could use every encounter or even every round. Of course, this thinking was part of the core of the new system, where every class would be a different mix of at-will, encounter-based, or daily resources.
Clap of Thunder [Reserve]
You can deliver a thunderous roar with a touch.
Prerequisite: Ability to cast 3rd-level spells.
Benefit: As long as you have a sonic spell of 3rd level or higher available to cast, you can deliver a melee touch attack as a standard action. This attack deals ld6 points of sonic damage per level of the highest-level sonic spell you have available to cast. Additionally, the subject must succeed on a Fortitude save or be deafened for 1 round.
As a secondary benefit, you gain a +1 competence bonus to your caster level when casting sonic spells.
Hurricane Breath [Reserve]
The power of elemental air you hold in your mind allows you to exhale the wind.
Prerequisite: Ability to cast 2nd-level spells.
Benefit: As long as you have an air spell of 2nd level or higher available to cast, you can attempt to knock a single creature within 30 feet back with a blast of wind. This requires a standard action and functions much like a bull rush; roll 1d20 + the level of the highest-level air spell you have available to cast opposed by your opponent's Strength check. If you succeed, you push the creature back 5 feet.
As a secondary benefit, you gain a +1 competence bonus to your caster level when casting air spells.
These trends speak to the greater issue of extending the amount of fun players can have, by extending every class’s resources over many more encounters. While wizards still have the opportunity to cast (and run out of ) spells, they’ll have a few other powers to use much more frequently, allowing them to continue to contribute even once their spells run out.
On a historical note, my playtest barbarian character used a rage ability called lightning panther strike to move across a dungeon chamber and chop down five skeletons in one round. He also had an unhealthy tendency to follow up strikes from his axe with a quick bite attack. Barbarians are more feral and, well, angrier, than ever. All that stuff might not make it into the final draft, but that’s the direction we’re headed.
A master of artistry and social grace, a bard is a leader who wields magic both dramatic and subtle. Harnessing a natural talent for creativity (be it song, painting, dance, or oratory), a bard draws magic from otherworldly patrons that admire the bard’s work. This is fundamentally different from the relationship other spellcasters have with their power sources. A bard is not a subservient worshiper like a cleric, nor does he bend forces to his will like a wizard. The relationship between a bard and his patrons is one of mutual respect, and the magical gifts given cannot be taken away.
The druid presents an interesting problem for D&D 4E design, in that the class in 3E covers so much ground. Is the druid the guy who summons monsters? Is he the guy who transforms into monsters? Is he a spellcasting healer like a cleric? Many gaming groups consider the D&D 3E druid one of the most powerful classes in the game, and for good reason. The druid does a lot of things well, though it takes an experienced player to see and fully utilize the possibilities inherent in the class.
In battle, no one is faster or more agile than the monk. After darting across the battlefield, a monk can execute rapid maneuvers that send his opponent flying, knock it to the ground, or stun it into submission. A monk’s defenses are also strong—an awareness of his own body and his surroundings lets a monk avoid attacks, and he can channel his ki to heal his own wounds.
The monk class is still on the horizon, but we know it will work great in the game’s new structure. Since the monk relies on mobility, the class will likely be a striker, putting down high damage with unarmed attacks.
In practice, I hate playing paladins. They live somewhere between the fighter and the cleric, but they get none of the bonus feats of the fighter and none of the cool spells of the cleric.
Smite evil, the paladin’s best attack, is limited to a few times per day and it’s useless against a non-Evil foe. Not only that, it has a terrible tendency to not work at all when you use it!
A paladin can summon a warhorse that’s pretty much useless in a normal dungeon environment, and he or she can use remove disease a couple of times a week.
Whoop. De. Do.
Not only do sorcerers in 4E use different spells, but they utilize a different method of spellcasting.
The design team posited a class that has a more rudimentary, simplistic style of magic. Sorcerers use inborn talents, giving them a leg up on wizards when it comes to learning spells. The magic they use is more art than science, driven more by a feel for the ebb and flow of energy than by hours of study and practice.
To capture this flavor, the design team built mechanics that reflect a caster who barely controls the power he wields. A wizard creates magical effects by carefully reciting a magical formula. The sorcerer reaches into the magical energies that burn within him and lets them loose on the world with little real control.
The power wielded by a sorcerer is powerful enough that even after a spell is done, ambient energy swirls around him. A sorcerer who blasts you with a cold spell is protected by a small, swirling cloud of snow and ice for a short time. One who unleashes a fireball bursts into flames that scorch enemies who try to attack. The sorcerer is one with his magic, and he (in some cases quite literally) wears it like a second skin.
I often use placeholder names in feat and power design until I figure out exactly what I want to call something. For example, in Book of Nine Swords I came up with a Tiger Claw power I simply called Tear His Damn Head Off. But the single most egregious example from the Orcus design process was the warlord rally I called Feather Me Yon Oaf. Basically, the warlord uses the power, and everyone in the party gets an immediate opportunity to yank out a missile weapon and shoot the target creature the warlord designates—in other words, “shoot that guy for me” or “Feather me yon oaf!”
The warlord does not rely on magic; he is a martial character. The leadership qualities of a warlord vary, but they’re all from his own personal power.
Warlords are resilient, front-line leaders who significantly increase the party’s damage output by using powers that help other characters to fight better. In addition, they help others to recover from damage and shield them from harm almost as well as clerics do. But their distinguishing characteristic is an unprecedented control of battlefield positioning. Warlords are tactical masters who can reshape the lines of battle in a way that no other D&D character has ever been able to.
Tiers are one of those things that existed in D&D 3E without any official acknowledgement. Anyone who played the game from 1st level on up to double digits likely noticed a subtle, continuous shift in the game. Monster damage grew high enough that low hit point characters could take only a hit or two before going down. Saving throws became more important, as more monsters had save or die effects. Once teleport came into the game, the PCs could go anywhere they wanted, helping to make traditional dungeons more difficult to run. Wands became affordable, allowing a smart party access to unlimited healing, flight, and invisibility. In short, D&D changes across the levels that it covers. The tier system seeks to quantify those changes and define the roles of adventurers across the levels.
When a character reaches 11th level, he crosses a significant threshold. No longer a mere adventurer, he is now known as a paragon hero.
Paragon-level adventurers see the bigger picture. It’s not enough for a paragon just to protect a town from evil cultists, or to root out the band of ogres preying on travelers. Paragon adventurers are the type of folks you call on to save the kingdom from an army of giants massing in the mountains, or to uncover the fiendish plot to overthrow the empress and replace her with a pawn of Asmodeus. They’re also the adventurers brave enough to enter the trap-filled tomb of a deadly lich, or to take out that red dragon that’s been demanding sacrifices for the last five generations.
Paragon adventurers battle many of the D&D game’s mightiest classic monsters—giants, demons and devils, beholders, mind flayers, rakshasas, yuan-ti, and, of course, dragons—along with a few new or updated foes, such as rune carved eidolons, elemental archons of fire and ice, and the fomorians, the dreaded tyrants of the darkest caverns of the Feywild. They venture ever farther from familiar locales, exploring the gloomy reaches of the Shadowfell and delving deep into the Abyss to battle their enemies.
D&D has always contained the seeds for high-level play. Did you, like my friends and I, choose gods from 1st Edition’s Deities & Demigods book to fight each other? Those were some epic battles indeed.
The thing is, all previous editions of the game have added Epic level support only after the core rules were out the door. No matter how great these efforts, support for high-level play in products not specifically designed as such was nil to patchy. Therefore, only a fraction of the players ever routinely advanced a character beyond 13th level.
With the new edition, we bring Epic level play into the core experience. Every player can run a character from 1st to 30th level, and during the final ten levels of play, they shake the pillars of heaven and hell to achieve their epic destiny. Your character’s epic destiny describes the mythic archetype you aspire to achieve, perhaps from the moment you began adventuring. Whether you’re a wizard who dreams of assuming the mantle of an archmage or a fighter finally realizing your previous lives as an eternal hero, your epic destiny is what you were born to become.
We have new ways to expand on your character at higher levels. You’ll pick up a paragon path at 11th level and it will carry you through 20th. At 21st, your epic destiny kicks in and you’ll become a legend. In some ways they’re similar to prestige classes (and a few prestige classes have made the jump to paragon paths), but they’re much cooler because you don’t give up anything. As you’re leveling up in your main class, you’re also gaining abilities from your paragon path or epic destiny. At the same time the requirements are much simpler; they’re easier to understand and won’t make you jump through hoops.
Epic destinies are a smaller group, but each one gives you some huge benefits. Only a few are planned for the Player’s Handbook, but when you have the option to serve as the right-hand man to a god, become an undying warrior, or call dragons with a wave of your hand, more than a few choices will make your head explode in a burst of awesome. By the time you finish your epic destiny, you’ll be stomping down all challengers, breaking rules of science, and odds are you’ll be immortal.
I’m so excited about 4th Edition I can barely contain myself. Running the Delve in our booth yesterday was awkward—I saw so many of the things I have grown to dislike about 3E come into play. Oh, the poor rogue’s useless against all these plants and elementals. Oh, the poor dwarf didn’t confirm his crit. Oh, look at all the people forgetting about attacks of opportunity (especially at reach) and getting pummeled as a result. I can’t say too much about it, but you can be sure it’s not just grapple that got an overhaul.
I’m playing a ranger in Bill Slavicsek’s weekly game. I’m not sure I’ve played a ranger since the one who stood on top of a pile of gnoll bodies while my magic-user friend killed Yeenoghu in the early days of AD&D. I’m having a blast. I’m playing a paladin in Andy Collins’ monthly game. I love paladins—I seem to keep writing about them in my fiction. (Check out “Blade of the Flame” in the Tales of the Last War anthology for a concise example, or read my other novels!) But I’ve never liked playing a paladin. At one point during the design of this game, I made a paladin for a game where we were testing out Dungeon Tiles, and it made me so sad. I could smite evil once. Then I was done—down to swinging my sword once per round. I wasn’t sad when I died. I love my new paladin.
You can’t really just convert a character directly from 3E to 4E. We pretended you could do that from 2E to 3E, but that conversion book was pretty well bogus. The fact is, as I explained it a lot at Gen Con, that your character isn’t what’s on your character sheet: your character is the guy in your head. The character sheet is how the guy in your head interacts with the rules of the game. The rules of the game are different, so you’ll be creating a new implementation of that character, but the character needn’t change much. In fact, I propose that in 4E your character might actually be truer to your vision of him than in 3E. You might finally see him or her doing all the cool things you imagined doing but that never quite came out on the 3E table.
So Corwyn, our human knight, became a human fighter. His player said yesterday that the character was informed by some of the features of the knight class, but that as a 4E fighter he was a better expression of what he’d wanted the character to be. (The fighter and the paladin pretty well ganged up on the poor knight and divvied his stuff between them.)
Zurio, the illumian spellthief, became a multiclass half-elf rogue/wizard. His player, too, felt strongly that this multiclass combination was a better expression of what he’d wanted out of the spellthief class than anything in 3E, which actually was a huge relief to me—I’d been a little concerned about whether our multiclassing system was going to work.
That left Larissa and Aash. Larissa was a catfolk druid who was more of an archer than a spellcaster (thanks to that level adjustment thing). Her player decided to start from scratch with a dwarf cleric. Aash was my xeph swordsage. That wasn’t a concept that would be easy to translate at this point in the game’s design.
And here’s where we get into roles. In 4E terms, our previous party consisted of:
The knight, a front-line kind of guy.
A ranger, a spellthief, a warlock, a swordsage, and an archer druid, all sort of doing the single-target, high-damage job.
A couple wands of cure X wounds, which served as the party healer.
Now we have this:
Fighter and paladin holding the front line.
Ranger and rogue/wizard in the high-damage role, with the ex-spellthief doing some AoE stuff mixed in.
Cleric doing the clericky thing.
The interesting thing is that both the fighter and the paladin are greatsword wielders, giving up some AC in exchange for more damage, and thus leaning a bit toward the higher damage role. All of which is to say, again, that the roles aren’t there as straitjackets, but to help you build a party that works well together. We were still playing the fighter and paladin we wanted to play, filling our role in different ways while kickin’ monster butt with our greatswords.
New multiclassing rules, you ask. Yep, we’ve got ’em. Multiclass characters are running at a couple of our internal playtest tables right now. Early results are promising, but we’re talking about only a couple of characters, so we haven’t seen broad proof of concept yet.
It’s easy to critique 3E multiclassing rules, but it’s also important to remember that they represent a massive, doublequantum leap from multiclass/dual-class rules in 1E/2E. We really like the configurability and freedom of 3E multiclassing, the way it’s extensible even when you add new classes to the mix, and how it respects (to a degree, anyway) the changing whimsy of players as their characters evolve.
But it’s got some problems—and in particular, it doesn’t tackle the gish very well. There’s the arcane spell failure problem, which takes some levels of the spellsword PrC, a little mithral, and some twilight enhancement to take care of. But beyond that, the low caster level can be just crippling for the fighter/wizard who wants to blast the bad guys into oblivion, rather than use his spellbook as a really good utility belt.
So that’s one big problem—the caster level situation. In 3E, we’ve cemented over that with some prestige classes and feats. But there’s another problem: Your journey through the “Valley of Multi-Ineffectiveness.” For the gish, it’s hard to truly be, well, gishy at low levels before you’ve figured out a reasonable answer to the armor problem. You can’t really wade into melee like a fighter, because you’re gonna get creamed. So you have to take an “I’m basically a wizard for now” or “I’m basically a fighter for now” approach. That works, but you’re just biding your time until you get to play the character you want to play.
So the improvement we’re seeking from the multiclass system is something that solves some specific math problems (the caster level thing) and some specific career-path problems (letting you feel like a blend of classes from the get-go).
The Gish, Today: So what does this mean for our gish PC at the playtest table? Well, from very early levels, he’s wearing armor, stabbing dudes, and casting spells. He’s not as good at stabbing as the fighter, nor as good at casting as the wizard. But he’s viable at both. In theory.
In theory? Well, like I said, the gish characters don’t have a lot of mileage on them yet. And creating hybrid characters involves a careful balancing act. Multiclass characters can’t be optimal at a focused task (because that horns in on the turf for the single-class character) and they can’t be weaksauce (because then you’ve sold the multiclass character a false bill of goods and he doesn’t actually get to use the breadth of his abilities). There’s a middle ground between “optimal” and “weaksauce” that I’ll call “viable.” But it’s not exactly a wide spot of ground.
Finding that viable middle ground isn’t a problem unique to 4E. The 3E designers (myself included) took lots of shots at it; the bard, the mystic theurge, and the eldritch knight are all somewhere on the optimal-viable-weaksauce continuum. I really want to get the gish right.
It might sound crazy, but most of the monsters designed for 3rd Edition D&D are designed with only a hazy understanding of what numbers are appropriate. Monster design is dictated by the math and rules of design, rather than the math and rules serving a fun play experience.
In 3rd Edition, if I want to design a monster, one of the first decisions I must make is creature type. Creature type has tremendous ramifications. If I choose fey, the monster might have half the hit points and miss three times as often as the dragon I create that has the same number of Hit Dice.
One of the next things to do is pick ability scores, and this is done based largely on a comparative basis. Strong as a cockatrice? Wise as a phantom fungus?
Monster abilities are often a seemingly logical collection of elements already designed for the game. Is it big with tentacles? Well then, it must have improved grab and constrict foes. Is a magical beast that stalks prey? Then it probably has scent and a camouf lage power. Is it a demon or devil? Don’t forget to give it a dozen spell-like abilities it will almost never use ...
Then, after making a bunch of decisions and completing the design, you attempt to discover the creature’s CR (Challenge Rating). Maybe it’s about as strong in a fight as a manticore but has twice the hit points. Maybe it’s as fragile as a pixie, but deals twice the damage. Maybe it looks a lot like three different monsters, each with a different CR. Thankfully, we use a tool here at Wizards of the Coast that provides target numbers based on type and CR, and we can build a 3rd Edition monster in it to get close to those numbers. Yet even that process is crazy. We end up jumping through dozens of hoops set up by the rules of monster design. If I don’t use all the monster’s skill points, it’s “wrong.” If I give it more than the “correct” number of feats, I have to explain that it has a bonus feat. And don’t even think about putting that ogre in full plate without advancing it enough to gain the Armor Proficiency (heavy) feat.
Good grief. I want to design a cool monster, not wrestle with the game system for hours.
Thankfully, 4th Edition is doing it completely differently. Monsters are being designed for their intended use—as monsters. We’re not shoehorning them into the character system and hoping what comes out works in the game. Of course, they look alike in many ways and use the same game system, but now the results matter, not the rules for minutiae.
When I designed monsters for the 4th Edition Monster Manual, I thought first about what level the PCs should generally be to fight the monster and the role in the combat the monster would occupy. Then I devised the cool new attack mechanic the monster should have, given its flavor and role. Then maybe I thought of a unique defense power, and maybe another attack power. And then I was pretty much done. The numbers and exactly how it gets there, or varies from the standards, are the last step.
The game makes the DM’s life easier in many ways. For one thing, monsters are more fun to play. A monster doesn’t need thirty spell-like abilities to be cool. Given that the typical monster has a lifespan of 3 to 5 rounds, it really only needs one or two “signature” abilities in addition to its normal attacks. The new game also makes it a lot easier for the DM to determine appropriate challenges for the party with an encounter-building system that’s much more intuitive than the current EL/CR system. It also doesn’t hurt that we’ll have a data-driven, plug-nplay encounter builder tool on D&D Insider.
The 4E game system also speeds up round-by-round combat by smoothing out some of the clunky or less intuitive mechanics. For example, we’ve made attacks of opportunity dirt-simple by reducing the number of things that provoke AoOs and keeping the list short, intuitive, and free of exceptions. We’ve also made it so that no single player’s turn takes a lot longer than any other player’s turn by eliminating things that cause players to stall on their turns (the shapechange spell as currently written is a fine example).
We faced a similar situation with the change from 2nd Edition to 3rd Edition, so we assume that not every 3rd-Edition player will switch over to the new game overnight. All in all, 4th Edition offers a much better gaming experience for players and Dungeon Masters. Even though 3rd Edition is an excellent game, 4th Edition gives players better character options at every level, makes DMing less of a chore, and (as mentioned above) speeds up round-by-round combat. I expect that the improvements in game play will convince even reluctant players to switch over to 4th Edition. I also anticipate that the majority of d20 publishers will support 4th Edition going forward.
Talent trees aren’t unique to MMORPGs. Wizards has produced other games that use talent trees, such as the d20 MODERN Roleplaying Game and the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga Edition. The theory of game design, regardless of platform, is constantly evolving. We’ve taken our gaming experiences over the past decade, as well as player feedback on the games and supplements we’ve produced in that time period, to build a system for character creation and advancement in 4th Edition that draws inspiration from numerous sources, but isn’t exactly like anything that’s been done before.
Just as MMOs have looked to the D&D game for inspiration, so too have we learned a few things from MMOs. (And not just MMOs, but games of all kinds.) However, the D&D game is not an MMO, nor are we turning it into one. As it happens, certain things that work well in MMOs also work well in tabletop RPGs. For example, we like the idea of being able to create different “builds” within a single character class, so that one player’s 5th level fighter can look and feel different from another player’s 5th-level fighter. This is something we experimented with in various other game products produced by Wizards in recent years.
Party roles existed in 3rd Edition, but they were never discussed openly in the core rules. We simply assumed that a typical group of players would know enough to make sure their party included a frontline fighter-type character, a cleric or other healer-type character, a wizard or other artillery-type character, and so forth. In the interest of helping less-experienced players build stronger parties, we’ve addressed the issue of party composition more openly and directly in 4th Edition by explaining party roles and the importance of having characters who can fill these roles. Each base class in 4th Edition has been designed to fill a specific role, but that’s not all the class aims to do, and every base class has things that it can do outside of its primary role.
3E got a lot of things right, but anyone who has played it for a time knows that it gets things wrong. There are also legacy issues with the game that have persisted unquestioned for years. 4E is all about taking the things that work in D&D, keeping them in the game, and fixing everything else. That’s the goal, and I think we’re heading there.