Friday, September 3, 2010

Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition’s greatest innovation

Last weekend I found myself playing Dungeons & Dragons 3E for the first time in nearly a year.  I was happy to get the opportunity since I consider myself pretty neutral in the edition wars and I was happy to get the chance to flex my D&D 3E muscles again. 

I will admit though that after a year long hiatus I found myself missing one feature of D&D 4E.  You may wonder: Was it the powers?  The clearly defined party roles?  Skill challenges?

Nope, didn’t really miss any of them.  What I found myself missing was that a level no longer equaled a level which no longer equaled a level.

I’ve been playing wizards in D&D since they were called magic-users, so I tend to be pretty blind to how confusing differences in character level, caster level, and spell level could be to the new player.  Knowing that you get your third level spells at fifth level seems as natural to me as breathing.

This time though, I looked at it from another perspective.  The game was starting at third level, so I created a Crusader 2 / Cleric of Wee Jas 1.  Suddenly, I found myself having to determine what level maneuvers my third level character could take. 

This was based off of initiator level, which was calculated from adding half of my other class levels to my maneuver granting class and rounding down.  I would then compare that number to a chart to determine what level maneuvers were available to me.

This really isn’t any more confusing then character level, caster level, and spell level are.  It was just new to me.  It did make me to wonder why determining what level maneuvers I could use couldn’t  be as simple as: “A second level crusader can use second level maneuvers.”

Which is of course how it is done in D&D 4E.

So now I know what I will miss if I ever revert back to D&D 3E (or Pathfinder) full time.  Of all the changes that were made between the editions, its something as tiny as level consistency that I would miss the most.


Jesse said...

I highly recommend the Book of Experimental Might by Monte Cook if you want level=level in 3E. He basically splits the spells out to levels 1-20, so every level a caster gainst access to new and interesting spells.

Of course, to modify that system to incorporate Book of Nine Swords material would require a fair amount of work.

Medraut said...

@Deinol - I own the Book of Experimental Might, and I do like the changes Monte Cook recommended to spell-casting there.

This probably isn't a big surprise because I am also a huge fan of the magic system Monte Cook presented in Arcana Evolved. I never played in the setting itself (just not a fan of anamorphic animals), but I have always wanted to port over the classes to a more typical D&D setting.

Swordgleam said...

I feel similarly. I laugh when people say their problem with 4e is the lack of customization. Yes, in 3.5, an experienced player can be a this 1 / that 4 / the other thing 3. But in 4e even a newbie can multiclass and still figure out their powers and class features by themselves. Now that I spend more time teaching people new games and picking up new games, I appreciate that kind of thing more than I appreciate games with room for deep mastery.