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- Change Can Be Good
Rob has an article on ten things he'd have changed about 4th Edition. There are some things that I agree with, some I don't, and some middle ground. I won't respost his post, but I will address his proposed changes.
I basically agree with what the designers did on all the cited changes: the succubus makes a lot more sense as a devil, considering that her bad is subtle corruption, and titans look cooler and are more in line with their Greek counterparts. In terms of races and classes, I don't know what went on in their decision making process, but I don't mind plopping the gnome in Monster Manual temporarily, and saving other stuff for later. Frankly I'm glad, as it gave them a lot of time to learn the class-making process and come up with a result that was probably a lot better than what we would have gotten. I know some people were upset (and used it as an excuse to hate 4E), but I don't think that Wizards should just adhere to tradition for tradition's sake.
While I have no problem with martial powers (especially considering that daily non-magical attacks existed in 3rd Edition and possibly 2nd), I think that Wizards could have explained them better. As for "power-samey-ness", that's just a product of people that haven't taken a look back at how every class in older edition makes attacks with weapons (or thinks that having the defender sometimes make the attack roll makes it magical). As for Essentials martial classes? They're too routine and boring for me to maintain interest for long. Perhaps for a one-shot or delve, but for a long term game I'll take complexity and diversity any day.
I like the format for the most part, but agree that these don't need to consume much space. We got along fine in the earlier days of Dungeon, which I think was too far in the other direction. For simple encounters, I think that taking up less space is a good idea. I also don't mind having an adventure relegate some work to the DM to come up with their own random encounters. The important thing is that the DM knows what the hell is going on.
To me, alignments were mostly a way to maintain character consistency, or to give you a fall back when it came to decision making. Some players and DMs took this to extremes, using it as a straightjacket. I don't mind the condensing, and would prefer players to notate their characters with personality traits to help make consistent role-playing decisions.
I think that the first MC feat is usually very good for a feat, generally Skill Training and something else. It's the ones after that bug me, as they not only require you take an additional feat, but also require that you swap out powers. Spending a feat so that you can exchange powers? Maybe if powers from class were globally better than those from another, I could see that. I didn't like multiclassing in 3rd Edition, because it made no sense. Yes, presumably if a fighter were to take a level in wizard, it was assumed that at some point she was studying it all along. The problem is that it purportedly takes years to learn magic, but in the span of perhaps a few days, she learns a lot of spells, gains a spellbook with all cantrips (as well as many 1st-level ones), can pick up a familiar, and more? Bullshit.
4th Edition multiclassing makes a LOT more sense. I can believe a fighter adventuring around and learning enough magic to cast one spell, gradually learning more as time passes. That's much more plausible and demonstrates her gradual increase in magic. She'll never master it like a wizard, but then she started out as a fighter, so it makes sense. The only real fix for me is to simply require that characters spend one feat to multiclass, and can exchange powers as they like when leveling up. You hit 3rd level as a fighter with wizard multiclass? Gain a level 3 fighter or wizard encounter. No need to burn another feat just to do that, too. However, since I view multiclassing in 4E as more like dabbling in another class, you might want to put a cap on it to avoid having a fighter with mostly wizard powers, such as one encounter attack, one daily attack, and one utility.
This one seems a bit odd, and I'm not sure I fully understand what he's saying, but here goes.
Of course there are goblins in D&D. The players and DM might refer to them by their Monster Manual labels, but he actual heroes in the game probably don't...most of the time. For example, a character warning another about a goblin sharpshooter probably just points and yells archer, or look out, or something. If a goblin is trying to slip around and stab someone in the back, I also don't imagine a character calling it a goblin blackblade, but simply goblin. This isn't much different than how it worked in 3rd Edition, where you would have a goblin warrior, or a goblin sorcerer, or a half-black dragon goblin monk/truenamer (what the hell would you call that, anyway?).
As for classes and powers, I don't think that divorcing them from classes is exactly a good idea, but you could certainly do that and get away pretty easily since every power does something based on it's level, not whether its magical. I think that Rob's proposed change would be similar to how something like Shadowrun does it, where anyone can do anything if you have the right attributes and buy the right skills. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it might make it a bit harder for a player to get the character they're looking for, as well as require more system mastery.
I think having a book that offers composite heroes like this could have a lot of appeal, but I don't think it should be the norm (assuming I get what he's talking about).
Great Wheel Cosmology
A lot of the planes before were very hard to run adventures in, even at higher levels, because they were so hostile to non-native life. I much prefer the new cosmology, as its not only in line more with mythological other worlds, but is also a lot more hospitable within a broader level range. I tend to use the Shadowfell and Feywild at low-levels, since they're largely just mirrors of the natural world (and thus easily accessed), and would use the Elemental Chaos and Astral Sea if I could get my players to paragon-tier (or somewhere close).
At any rate, I don't think that keeping it as it was would have made things any better. Right now, it might just be a matter of people not being used to the fact that yes, you can go for a romp through the Feywild and not be explode due to an oversaturation of "life energy", or instantly snuffed into nothingness, because that's where you blundered in to. If it was the same as before, it makes it more difficult to utilize them in adventure building, which makes it even less likely that they'll get used.
4th Edition makes it very easy to simply ignore magic items in there entirety, which is a good thing, as people can run low-magic games with minimal fuss. That being said, it's also easy to do what Rob proposes by using the inherent item rule and just making magic items do more. This is something I plan to do in Dark Sun, though I think high-magic campaign settings like Eberron are fine with the system that exists.
I think a major problem with rituals is that they're just not being used. I've put a few here and there in past campaigns as ways to overcome obstacles that I knew the party would face, and might otherwise not be able to. For example, in one adventure, they had to go into an underwater grotto with two primary entrances. The quick way required them to hold their breath for a lengthy period of time, and so I placed a scroll of Water Breathing (along with necessary ritual components) so that they could just use that if they couldn't think of another way (checking the river shore for an entrance, or using a magic item were other possibilities).
Reducing the cost, or simply eliminating it, might make for good feats (something like Eschew Materials). Basically, I think just including them is a major step forward for rituals.
Removing the more mechanical aspects of skill challenges is something I agree with. Frankly, I think dividing them into categories of primary and secondary skills is a bad idea, as I've found instances where a secondary skill has primary-applications. I think that by just posting the objective of a skill challenge, and putting up some bullet points is a better idea (and helps avoid rules-enforced skill grinding). I like the skill challenge out of Red Box, as it provides some guidelines for various skills and their effects.