How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

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How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Sep 25, 2016 2:15 pm

Over in my Hammerfast: A Dwarven Outpost Adventure Site topic, Zeromaru X told me that the 4e DMG doesn't contain much information about Hammerfast, but the DMG Essentials verison (which I think is supposed to be called The DMs Book) does.

I know that they made a big deal about 3.5 being "a mistake" when 4e came out, then promised they would never do a 4.5, and then kind of did Essentials instead of doing 4.5...

...but without a big 4.5 on products, how can someone tell what is standard 4e and what is Essentials 4e? :?

Do people have to look at the copyright date and compare it to some sort of cut-off point? Or is there an easier way?

Does every Essentials product have the word Essentials on the cover?

Are there any hybrid products that are both 4e and Essentials?

Are all the later 4e products Essentials ones, or did they flip back to non-Essentials products at any point?
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Zeromaru X » Sun Sep 25, 2016 2:57 pm

The Essentials books/products are the Dungeon Master's Kit (which includes the Dungeon Master's Book, the Dungeon Master's Screen, and the Reavers of Harkenwold adventure), the Monster Vault (which includes the Monster Vault book and the Cairn of the Winter King adventure), Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale, the Rules Compendium, and the Red Box (also called the Starter Set). There are also a few Essentials-specific Dragon Magazine articles, I can make a list of those if you're interested.

There are "essentialized" books, meaning they are not officially part of the Essentials line, but follow its philosophy of simpler stuff and character creation/advancement. Those books are: the Player's Options Books (Heroes of Shadow, Heroes of the Feywild and Heroes of the Elemental Chaos), Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

The rest of 4e books are just vanilla 4e books.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Sep 25, 2016 8:17 pm

Zeromaru X wrote:The Essentials books/products are the Dungeon Master's Kit (which includes the Dungeon Master's Book, the Dungeon Master's Screen, and the Reavers of Harkenwold adventure), the Monster Vault (which includes the Monster Vault book and the Cairn of the Winter King adventure), Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale, the Rules Compendium, and the Red Box (also called the Starter Set).


Thanks for that.

I didn't realise that Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale was an Essentials product. I guess that means that Nentir Vale is spread over standard 4e and Essentials.

Zeromaru X wrote:There are also a few Essentials-specific Dragon Magazine articles, I can make a list of those if you're interested.


It would be nice if you could do that, at some point. :)

One of the things that was concerning me, right now, is that it seemed like Essentials was missing from The Book-House on The Piazza. I use that site to help me build my wishlists (including my Nentir Vale wishlist). I also help add stuff to The Book-House (when I have time) so I can kind of fix my own problem...if I can work out what the problem is.

I was also figuring that some of the Essentials products are going to mostly be replacements for early 4e products. (That Dungeon Master's Kit sounds like a replacement for the Dungeon Master's Guide, for example.) So once I could work out what was Essentials and what was not, my next question would be: What Essentials stuff replicates previous 4e products and which out of the two products is "best"*.

* = "Best" obviously being a subjective thing. But in my case "best" is probably the product that contains more information about Nentir Vale.

Zeromaru X wrote:There are "essentialized" books, meaning they are not officially part of the Essentials line, but follow its philosophy of simpler stuff and character creation/advancement. Those books are: the Player's Options Books (Heroes of Shadow, Heroes of the Feywild and Heroes of the Elemental Chaos), Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.


I have Neverwinter Campaign Setting! :cool: To be honest, I struggle to understand some of it. :oops: But then I also struggle to understand some of my other 4th Edition books.

Zeromaru X wrote:The rest of 4e books are just vanilla 4e books.


Thanks.

I might have a chat with Ashtagon and see if she is OK with me adding an Essentials section on the home page of The Book-House, so that I can move the existing Essentials products in there, as well as adding in any missing books.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Tim Baker » Mon Sep 26, 2016 12:30 am

I don't think Wizards of the Coast did a great job of making it clear to D&D fans -- both 4e fans and the fans of previous editions -- what Essentials was. A lot of people assumed it was D&D 4.5 and I heard it called that many times. That being said, I played 4e in the Essentials era for several years, and am happy to share my experience with it.

The original 4e content put a lot of emphasis on class balance. It took this to the extreme of giving each class "powers" within 4 broad classifications: at-will, encounter, daily, and utility. Classes gained different types of powers at a predictable and standardized pace. Different classes called their powers different things. One class might refer to them as "spells" while another had "maneuvers," but the game broadly referred to them all as powers.

Different classes' powers would do different things. A paladin's powers weren't the same as a wizard's, for example. But by level 10, they would each have the same number of at-will, encounter, daily, and utility powers to draw from. This is where many of the video game comparisons came from. Structurally, the classes had a lot in common, and the powers could -- given a certain play style or and inexperienced DM -- end up being used as the only things a PC could do. When paired with the Power Cards that WotC published, I can understand how some games ended up being played more like a board game. "Tap this card to use it" can quickly move from a bookkeeping help to a straightjacket for roleplaying.

I believe Essentials was Wizards' attempt to address this complaint, but to do so without invalidating any existing 4e material. The Essentials classes weren't necessarily easier to play (although some were), but were different from one another. The Essentials wizard isn't the same as the Essentials fighter, in terms of the number of powers available of each category. A DM could choose to limit her game to only Essentials products, or could open it up to all products. An Essentials fighters (the knight or slayer) are actually sub-classes of the vanilla 4e fighter. Thus, a 4e fighter could use Essentials materials and vice versa, assuming the DM allowed it. A vanilla 4e fighter could never access the non-power, core sub-class features of the knight or slayer, but they still had utility powers, for example, that a 4e fighter could choose from (knight and slayer utilities are still fighter utilities).

When played without the other 4e products, a game that only utilized Essentials would feature more variation, several simpler classes, and a core sub-set of feats, races, and classes that allowed the DM and players to have a good grasp of what was available for their game. In other words, it addressed splatbook bloat, helped to reduce (but not eliminate) feat taxes, and made the classes feel a lot more differentiated.

When played with other 4e products, the Essentials line introduced a differentiation between classes that was lacking before. It expanded a group's options without invalidating anything that came before. Many groups were already using the Dungeons & Dragons Insider Online Character Builder, and it was updated with all of the Essentials features, which could be mixed and matched with the existing 4e features (if that option was selected).

I ran a campaign for my kids using only Essentials. It was perfect for tweens and early teens who were being exposed to an RPG for the first time. There were enough options that they could build a character to their liking, but not so many that they were overwhelmed. The feat list was manageable and there weren't "trick" feats that experienced players knew not to take. I could direct the tweens in the group to the simpler classes, while nudging the older kids toward the more complex ones.

I was a player and later took over as DM for a game that allowed content from both vanilla and Essentials products. While the DM limited which sourcebooks we could use, the three vanilla PHBs and the player-focused Essentials books were all available, which gave us plenty of options. Some of us selected vanilla classes, while others played Essentials PCs, and we had no problems with balance or things becoming confused.

I'll also add that the changes in Essentials were focused mostly on player options. The changes on the other side of the DM screen were mostly cleaned-up presentation. The stat blocks looked a little different after Essentials, and all products used the new stat blocks from that point on, regardless of if they were Essentials products. So if you didn't mind using a different format for stat blocks, a DM could run a vanilla 4e adventure in an Essentials group and vice versa.

We'll never know for certain, but I suspect that if WotC had launched 4e with the Essentials content, it would have been less jarring to the D&D community. D&D fans had spent over 30 years playing classes that were significantly different from one another, and it was too major a shift to suddenly adopt a common "chassis" for all classes. I know there are other reasons why people didn't care for 4e, but the "sameness" of classes and the "MMO feel" are often cited, and I think Essentials helped to soften those aspects of 4e to a significant extent.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Tim Baker » Mon Sep 26, 2016 12:39 am

Big Mac wrote:I have Neverwinter Campaign Setting! :cool: To be honest, I struggle to understand some of it. :oops: But then I also struggle to understand some of my other 4th Edition books.

I know time is probably the limiting factor here, but if you ever want to dive a bit deeper into the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, feel free to post your questions on a thread. 4e relied pretty heavily on iconography to communicate concepts, which is great if you're familiar with the icons -- it took up less space and we humans are very good at visual pattern recognition -- but is a serious barrier for anyone who doesn't know what the symbols mean. You may be struggling to understand not only 4e-specific terminology but also the "shorthand" for things like melee, ranged, close, and area attacks on a monster's stat block. Once you understood some a bit of "4e-speak," the crunchy parts of the sourcebook would become accessible to you. You may need to look something up from time to time, but you'd understand enough to know where to begin the search.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Big Mac » Thu Oct 13, 2016 5:53 pm

Tim Baker wrote:I don't think Wizards of the Coast did a great job of making it clear to D&D fans -- both 4e fans and the fans of previous editions -- what Essentials was. A lot of people assumed it was D&D 4.5 and I heard it called that many times. That being said, I played 4e in the Essentials era for several years, and am happy to share my experience with it.


I think that one of the biggest problems with all the changes of D&D is that the marketing people always come out and say: "This is better than the last version." They can't say anything else really (they are never going to say that something is bad) but it does make the Edition Treadmill into a bit of a blur.

I think I would have preferred to have seen a 4.5 shift, as it would have meant that WotC was fully committed to Essentials and not just dipping a toe into the water to see what it felt like. WotC had already put out a "3.5 is a mistake and we will never publish a 4.5" mantra and that must have tied the hands of the designers of the late 4th Edition era somewhat.

Essentials had all that baggage going on and it must have gotten in the way of some people giving it a shot.

Tim Baker wrote:The original 4e content put a lot of emphasis on class balance. It took this to the extreme of giving each class "powers" within 4 broad classifications: at-will, encounter, daily, and utility. Classes gained different types of powers at a predictable and standardized pace. Different classes called their powers different things. One class might refer to them as "spells" while another had "maneuvers," but the game broadly referred to them all as powers.


That is one of the aspects of 4e that has confused me.

But as someone who likes 3rd Edition because of some standardised mechanics, I can see how making things more and more standardised could be seen as a valid way to go by designers and work well for some fans.

When I first played D&D I used to think that wizards and clerics were a bit too complex. So I can see how a wizard that is no harder to play than a fighter could be something that gets more players to give the wizard class a go.

Tim Baker wrote:Different classes' powers would do different things. A paladin's powers weren't the same as a wizard's, for example. But by level 10, they would each have the same number of at-will, encounter, daily, and utility powers to draw from. This is where many of the video game comparisons came from. Structurally, the classes had a lot in common, and the powers could -- given a certain play style or and inexperienced DM -- end up being used as the only things a PC could do. When paired with the Power Cards that WotC published, I can understand how some games ended up being played more like a board game. "Tap this card to use it" can quickly move from a bookkeeping help to a straightjacket for roleplaying.


Yep. I don't play 4e, but I can see where those comparisons come from.

If you look at some of the various bolt-on systems that D&D has created over the years (like Battlesystem, 3e's Chainmail or the Miniatures Handbook) the D&D designers have introduced some pretty radical concepts in the past. But I think they have always been "optional extras" that fans could use (and that non-fans could avoid). 3e turned 2e's "optional" proficiency system into a "compulsary" Skills system (and i think it got criticism on that basis. 4th Edition was more bold and introduced more compulsory changes.

Although it isn't my preferred ruleset, I am disappointed that the 4e SRD was released under the GSL instead of the OGL. With 5e and 3e both being released under the OGL it means that people can "code share" between the two editions and build their own hybrids. I'm a little bit worried that the best ideas of 4e are going to get abandoned (as dead-end ideas) instead of being retained as part of a 4e old school movement (like they probably should be).

The "tap this card" effect might be something that makes people worry about people "ruleplaying" instead of "roleplaying" but we have had rules-lite "introduction to D&D" boxed sets that fit into that exact same role since long before Wizards of the Coast came along.

Hopefully - one day - they will come up with a way to make the sort of radical (but interesting) concepts that follow along in the footsteps of the original Chainmail game dovetail with the traditional D&D concepts so that we can have both a fast-play system that is easy for newbies and a way to allow for experienced roleplayers to take on mental challenges that go beyond the stats on their sheet.

Tim Baker wrote:I believe Essentials was Wizards' attempt to address this complaint, but to do so without invalidating any existing 4e material. The Essentials classes weren't necessarily easier to play (although some were), but were different from one another. The Essentials wizard isn't the same as the Essentials fighter, in terms of the number of powers available of each category. A DM could choose to limit her game to only Essentials products, or could open it up to all products. An Essentials fighters (the knight or slayer) are actually sub-classes of the vanilla 4e fighter. Thus, a 4e fighter could use Essentials materials and vice versa, assuming the DM allowed it. A vanilla 4e fighter could never access the non-power, core sub-class features of the knight or slayer, but they still had utility powers, for example, that a 4e fighter could choose from (knight and slayer utilities are still fighter utilities).


You know, this is where Wizards of the Coast seems to go wrong (addressing the complaints). There have been people complaining about all sorts of D&D elements and WotC has listened to various complaints and made radical changes that have just led to other complaints.

So 4e has come in with some fairly radical (but interesting ideas) and has then been abandoned, when there are probably still people out there who like core 4e or Essentials play.

Tim Baker wrote:When played without the other 4e products, a game that only utilized Essentials would feature more variation, several simpler classes, and a core sub-set of feats, races, and classes that allowed the DM and players to have a good grasp of what was available for their game. In other words, it addressed splatbook bloat, helped to reduce (but not eliminate) feat taxes, and made the classes feel a lot more differentiated.


That sounds interesting.

Was there any such thing as an Essentials Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual? Or was Essentials structured more like BECMI (with a number of books that built onto the last book)?

Tim Baker wrote:When played with other 4e products, the Essentials line introduced a differentiation between classes that was lacking before. It expanded a group's options without invalidating anything that came before. Many groups were already using the Dungeons & Dragons Insider Online Character Builder, and it was updated with all of the Essentials features, which could be mixed and matched with the existing 4e features (if that option was selected).


Hmm. So did Essentials create adjusted versions of the core 4e classes...as well as doing it's own thing?

Tim Baker wrote:I ran a campaign for my kids using only Essentials. It was perfect for tweens and early teens who were being exposed to an RPG for the first time. There were enough options that they could build a character to their liking, but not so many that they were overwhelmed. The feat list was manageable and there weren't "trick" feats that experienced players knew not to take. I could direct the tweens in the group to the simpler classes, while nudging the older kids toward the more complex ones.


I don't want exact numbers but roughly how "big" is Essentials compared to core 4e, 3.5, 3e and other systems?

Tim Baker wrote:I was a player and later took over as DM for a game that allowed content from both vanilla and Essentials products. While the DM limited which sourcebooks we could use, the three vanilla PHBs and the player-focused Essentials books were all available, which gave us plenty of options. Some of us selected vanilla classes, while others played Essentials PCs, and we had no problems with balance or things becoming confused.


I've been thinking of doing a restricted game (but with 3rd Edition) where there is an "extra book".

Tim Baker wrote:I'll also add that the changes in Essentials were focused mostly on player options. The changes on the other side of the DM screen were mostly cleaned-up presentation. The stat blocks looked a little different after Essentials, and all products used the new stat blocks from that point on, regardless of if they were Essentials products. So if you didn't mind using a different format for stat blocks, a DM could run a vanilla 4e adventure in an Essentials group and vice versa.


I've seen a few changes of stat blocks over the years. It does seem that, after a few years of an edition (any edition) being out, people have time to review the actual way things play and "fix" a few things. And stat blocks seem to be something that is a easy fix.

I've seen the 4e stat blocks and, while I don't understand them (because I never played it) they do look pretty elegant. But I'm not sure if I was looking at 4e or Essentials.

Tim Baker wrote:We'll never know for certain, but I suspect that if WotC had launched 4e with the Essentials content, it would have been less jarring to the D&D community. D&D fans had spent over 30 years playing classes that were significantly different from one another, and it was too major a shift to suddenly adopt a common "chassis" for all classes. I know there are other reasons why people didn't care for 4e, but the "sameness" of classes and the "MMO feel" are often cited, and I think Essentials helped to soften those aspects of 4e to a significant extent.


I suppose we will never know...

...unless WotC decides to release Essentials to Dungeon Master's Guild, at some point, so that people can build more products for it and see if the market wants them.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Big Mac » Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:26 pm

Thanks for your help everyone.

I've now edited the 4th Edition section on the front page of the Book-House to split out the Core Rulbooks (as is done with other editions of D&D) and to split out D&D Essentials.

There were already two Essentials products on the Book-House (which I didn't realise at first). I've added a third one and altered the categories of the articles so that there is a D&D Essentials category for all the Essentials stuff and the 4th Edition category shows the Essentials stuff after the main product line.

I think the 4e products for Nentir Vale might need a slightly different approach as most of them are semi-generic. (I think they might need to be listed as both core 4e products and Nentir Vale products.) :? But I'll take on one 4e problem at a time.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby BotWizo » Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:51 pm

Many essentials books were white or a majority of the covers were white, while all other 4e books were not.
Most of the products declare an essentials on the spine or somewhere.

As others said essentials was to placate the critics, it was a slimmed down version of 4e with new classes, it was not a 4.5e, I felt it was a way to draw in people that were haters and wanted a more classic dnd feel to thier 4e characters.
As someone who was playing 4e at the time I was not happy with essentials since it felt like watered down 4e, and I was looking for more 4e material at the time not essentials.
But it played the same and used the same base rules, and as a DM I still needed all the regular 4e stuff to run campaigns at the level of detail and intricacies of 4e that I liked.
so definitely not a 4.5 e in my opinion.

I agree that it should have been launched right from the start with 4e, I think Wotc didn't expect the 4e backlash so had to go back and make essentials after 4e launch.

in regards to the way essentials was brought out, yes there were essentials versions of phb, dmg, and mm, they were sold in a little pack together.
I don't have my product list infront of me so I think that is corect.

The essentials products in relation to the whole of 4e products was maybe 1/4 or less of what was published as 4e core.

Big mac, the essentials classes were adjusted from original 4e classes.
Wizard and fighter are good examples.


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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Big Mac » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:32 pm

BotWizo wrote:Many essentials books were white or a majority of the covers were white, while all other 4e books were not.
Most of the products declare an essentials on the spine or somewhere.

As others said essentials was to placate the critics, it was a slimmed down version of 4e with new classes, it was not a 4.5e, I felt it was a way to draw in people that were haters and wanted a more classic dnd feel to thier 4e characters.
As someone who was playing 4e at the time I was not happy with essentials since it felt like watered down 4e, and I was looking for more 4e material at the time not essentials.
But it played the same and used the same base rules, and as a DM I still needed all the regular 4e stuff to run campaigns at the level of detail and intricacies of 4e that I liked.
so definitely not a 4.5 e in my opinion.

I agree that it should have been launched right from the start with 4e, I think Wotc didn't expect the 4e backlash so had to go back and make essentials after 4e launch.


I think it's a bit of a shame that there has been a pretty critical relationship with some editions of D&D.

I was a bit unhappy that 3rd Edition didn't continue, but 4e was a different thing. And I think it should have been judged (and if necessary criticised) in it's own context.

The one good thing is that now 4e is also out of prints, the 4e fans are free to do whatever they want to do with it. There shouldn't be any more pressure for it to "beat Pathfinder" or be "more like previous versions of D&D".

But if Essentials is supposed to be 4e for pre-4e players, maybe that makes it more useful to someone like me, who is trying to understand the "Points of Light" themes and Nentir Vale in a 3e context. :)

BotWizo wrote:in regards to the way essentials was brought out, yes there were essentials versions of phb, dmg, and mm, they were sold in a little pack together.
I don't have my product list infront of me so I think that is corect.

The essentials products in relation to the whole of 4e products was maybe 1/4 or less of what was published as 4e core.


I don't think I've seen the PHB, DMG and MM set. :?

Do you mean the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set?

BotWizo wrote:Big mac, the essentials classes were adjusted from original 4e classes.
Wizard and fighter are good examples.


I have an explanation but have to go sorry for the abrupt end to this post.


To be honest, I mostly started this topic, so that I could tidy up the 4th Edition products on the Book-House (and then use the Book-House to help me work out what cheap 4e books I might want to grab).

But, I have been advised that I would be better off buying Essentials than core 4e, so if you have time to come back later and tell me more, I would appreciate it. :)
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Zeromaru X » Thu Oct 20, 2016 1:42 am

Big Mac wrote:Do you mean the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set?


Nope. The Starter Set, also called the Red Box, is a "preview" of the Essentials line. It has two books, the Player's Book (32 pages) and the DM's Book (not the same one that comes in the Dungeon Master's Kit), a set of cards with powers, a set of tokens, a set of dice and a map.

The Player's Book have a "solo, DMless" adventure that helps you to create a character (with only the races and classes presented in Heroes of the Fallen Lands), and somehow start the plot of the disciples of the evil wizard Altus Kalton. The Dungeon Master's Book have an overview of rules and that stuff, and a sample adventure, the Twisting Halls, that continues the plot of the adventure in the Player's Book, and somehow is the prequel of Reavers of Harkenwold. The DM's book also have a list of common monsters in the Nentir Vale.

It's not a necessary product to get, but the adventures are fun, and the list of monsters is helpful in a campaign in the Nentir Vale.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Tim Baker » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:49 am

Big Mac wrote:
BotWizo wrote:in regards to the way essentials was brought out, yes there were essentials versions of phb, dmg, and mm, they were sold in a little pack together.
I don't have my product list infront of me so I think that is corect.

The essentials products in relation to the whole of 4e products was maybe 1/4 or less of what was published as 4e core.


I don't think I've seen the PHB, DMG and MM set. :?

Do you mean the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set?

I think he's referring to Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms when referring to an Essentials version of the PHB. These books contain the character creation and core rules (they actually reprint much of the same material, with the main difference being that Heroes of the Fallen Lands features the "common" races and classes, while Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms has those that are "uncommon").

Dungeon Master's Toolkit serves as the DMG for Essentials. However, it's not a one-to-one relationship. This was a boxed set with an adventure, battle map, and tokens, in addition to the DMG-esque content.

Finally, the Monster Vault is the Essentials equivalent of the MM.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Zeromaru X » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:19 am

And you have then the Rules Compendium, that as its name implies, is a compendium of all the rules in 4e until that point. It was errataed with the last errata update of 4e (after that, they didn't released any significative errata anymore), making it really useful for DMs, regardless if you use vanilla 4e or Essentials stuff.
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Re: How do I tell 4e stuff from Essentials?

Postby Tim Baker » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:21 am

Big Mac wrote:
Tim Baker wrote:When played with other 4e products, the Essentials line introduced a differentiation between classes that was lacking before. It expanded a group's options without invalidating anything that came before. Many groups were already using the Dungeons & Dragons Insider Online Character Builder, and it was updated with all of the Essentials features, which could be mixed and matched with the existing 4e features (if that option was selected).


Hmm. So did Essentials create adjusted versions of the core 4e classes...as well as doing it's own thing?

Essentials introduced sub-classes, which hadn't been used in 4e up until that point. This is a concept that returned in 5e, and is similar to kits in 2e. Essentials had its own sub-classes of the core 4e classes (fighter, wizard, cleric, rogue, druid, paladin, ranger, and warlock). These could be played side-by-side with the core 4e versions of the classes. They featured different mechanics and powers, but were still compatible with core 4e products. The way the rules were written, if you played an Essentials sub-class, you had to stick to Essentials materials. However, if you played 4e core classes, the Essentials products were open game for options you could use with your character. For example, my most memorable 4e character was a "vanilla" priest who borrowed heavily from the Earth Domain spells of the Essentials Warpriest (a cleric sub-class).

Big Mac wrote:
Tim Baker wrote:I ran a campaign for my kids using only Essentials. It was perfect for tweens and early teens who were being exposed to an RPG for the first time. There were enough options that they could build a character to their liking, but not so many that they were overwhelmed. The feat list was manageable and there weren't "trick" feats that experienced players knew not to take. I could direct the tweens in the group to the simpler classes, while nudging the older kids toward the more complex ones.


I don't want exact numbers but roughly how "big" is Essentials compared to core 4e, 3.5, 3e and other systems?

I don't have a great sense of how many 3e vs 3.5 products there were. My impression is that 3e didn't last all that long compared to 3.5, so 3.5 had a lot more books. I'd take a guess and say 4e is probably around the same size as 3.0 (not including 3.5). Essentials had around 6 products, and then there were another half dozen or so that were core 4e books that also offered further support for the Essentials sub-classes. So it was maybe 20% of the size of the whole 4e run.

Big Mac wrote:
Tim Baker wrote:I'll also add that the changes in Essentials were focused mostly on player options. The changes on the other side of the DM screen were mostly cleaned-up presentation. The stat blocks looked a little different after Essentials, and all products used the new stat blocks from that point on, regardless of if they were Essentials products. So if you didn't mind using a different format for stat blocks, a DM could run a vanilla 4e adventure in an Essentials group and vice versa.


I've seen the 4e stat blocks and, while I don't understand them (because I never played it) they do look pretty elegant. But I'm not sure if I was looking at 4e or Essentials.

After a few years away from the game, I'm not sure I'd recognize the difference between a pre-Essentials and Essentials stat block. They have the same information, but were simply formatted a bit differently.

Big Mac wrote:
Tim Baker wrote:We'll never know for certain, but I suspect that if WotC had launched 4e with the Essentials content, it would have been less jarring to the D&D community. D&D fans had spent over 30 years playing classes that were significantly different from one another, and it was too major a shift to suddenly adopt a common "chassis" for all classes. I know there are other reasons why people didn't care for 4e, but the "sameness" of classes and the "MMO feel" are often cited, and I think Essentials helped to soften those aspects of 4e to a significant extent.


I suppose we will never know...

...unless WotC decides to release Essentials to Dungeon Master's Guild, at some point, so that people can build more products for it and see if the market wants them.

The Essentials products are available on the DM's Guild, but I suspect WotC will never change the license 4e products were released under, so we're unlikely to see any 4e-compatible content appear. Maybe some year they'll make the Nentir Vale IP available for DM's Guild products. :)
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