4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Core Mechanic Holds True

A recent article in the Design and Development section of D&D Insider hinted at the core mechanics for 4th Edition. And since I’m still fishing for good (quality) tid bits of information I dove right into it.

From what I’ve read it sounds like WotC (Wizards of the Coast) is doing a great job in making this new edition more than just an excuse to sell us new books.

What we mean when we talk about streamlining the system is this: making design decisions that make learning and using the game less difficult, while keeping the system just as robust. And making it more fun as the result.

If you want to know whether or not you succeed in doing some action in 4th Edition, you grab a d20 and try to roll high. Just as in 3rd Edition, you add a modifier to that roll from your character sheet, and you check for any extra bonuses or penalties from the situation or from your allies. The key difference in the new edition is what you roll for and what you add.

The standard defenses remain (AC, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will) but now they all work more like AC. When a dragon breathes fire on you, it attacks your Reflex and deals half damage if it misses. The DM rolls a d20, adds the dragon’s modifiers, and asks you what your Reflex score is. The dragon might roll a 1 and automatically miss no matter how much tougher it is than you, but there’s also the frightening possibility that it will roll a 20 and deal double damage.

Folks familiar with the new Star WarsSaga system will recognize this concept, but it’s evolved a bit to better suit D&D. In 4th Edition, when a creature only needs to touch you to deliver an attack, it targets your Reflex. When you’re surprised, you grant combat advantage, but you don’t need to look at a special AC on your sheet — the normal number works fine. When a pit suddenly opens up beneath your feet, you make a check to jump out of danger, but if a crossbow trap fires an arrow at you, it the bolt attacks your AC.

That’s pretty interesting. So gone are the somewhat confusing touch and flat-footed ACs? No more Saving Throws? I may be a bit sad to see the classic Saving Throw gone but I do like the idea that they are “defenses” now. Foes will attack the defense rather than PCs trying to avoid a situation.

One thing the article didn’t allude to was how do you determine your ability to affect these defenses. In previous editions you had attack rolls but they were used to attack Armor Class – and certain classes excelled at doing this. I’m guessing that the Base Attack will not be used to attack all the defenses all of the time. This snippet hints otherwise:

Have you played a spellcaster and been a little envious of the excitement of other players when they roll critical hits? Have you wished that you could do that for your spells?
You can in 4th.

Just guessing here, but I assume wizards will attack the various defenses when they cast spells (hence the ability to roll a crit). But the gods help them if they are dependant on their Base Attack! There has to be another piece to this puzzle.

I mentioned in a previous post that Wizards were my favorite class. The new streamlining is only enhancing that feeling. Can’t wait to try out a new Wizard!