Posted by : David Guyll January 19, 2009

Are the classes in 4th Edition too similar? Its something I've seen crop on a couple occasions, but I dont think its a fair assessment if you look at the previous editions. Basically, I guess people are pissed of that a lot of the primary powers of a given class amount to roll, and roll damage if you hit. Often, there is a kicker effect or secondary attack added to the mix.

Going over all the at-will powers from the eight classes, this is technically a pretty fair analysis. If a fighter uses cleave, he rolls to hit, rolls damage if he hits, and can deal automatic damage to an adjacent opponent. With magic missile, the wizard rolls to hit, and rolls damage if she hits. There is nothing special about this attack except that it deals force damage and has a shitload of range (20 squares).

Now, these are two classes that are arguably very different in concept. A fighter hits you with an object, while a wizard channels arcane power. This is noted with their respective power sources (martial for the fighter and arcane for the wizard). My point is, is this really that much different from how it used to work?

A fighter in 3rd Edition would roll to attack, and roll damage if he hits. This attack did absolutely nothing but straight damage. With the millions of feats, its possible that one of them did something extra if you managed to crawl up the massive tree, but in virtually every case it was pretty straightforward. You could use feats like Power Attack to shuffle your attack and damage bonus, but in the end it was roll to hit, roll damage if you hit. Sound familiar?
Lets look at like, most of the classes in 3rd Edition. Over half of the ones in the Player's Handbook center around this basic theme: roll to hit, and roll damage if you hit. The rogue, the ranger, the paladin, the barbarian, the bard, the cleric: everyone had this capability, but for many classes it was what they spend almost all of their time doing in a given round. Roll to hit, roll damage. If you compare the fighter and rogue, you'll find that they basically do identical things, and thats hit things in melee. Their attacks dont feel different at all, because mechanically they arent.

There are quite a few wizard spells that follow this same basic two-step model, such as melf's acid arrow. Roll to hit, roll damage. The only difference is really the description of the effect, which is largely how 4th Edition does it.

Sure, every class rolls to hit, but thats not necessarily a bad thing. They just got rid of the spellcasters reverse-rolling all their shit, which might have lead some to think that it somehow made them "unique". The reality is that it doesnt. Its just a backwards method of making an attack roll to see if you, wait for it, deal damage.

Despite this unified attack resolution mechanic, I think that 4th Edition succeeds in making classes feel and play differently. Fighters dont feel like rogues in heavy armor. A rogue is capable of zipping around the battlefield, making fast attacks and darting out of danger, while a fighter can get into a monster's face and keep his allies safe from harm. Even the barbarian feels way different from the fighter, and the only thing that used to separate them was armor selection and an extremely limited rage ability.
So, do the classes all feel the same? Not nearly as much as they used to. Yeah, everyone rolls to hit, but classes have their own unique style that sets them apart in actual play.

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