This morning I waltzed into Barnes & Noble for a look at the 4ed Player’s Handbook. Of course I didn’t buy it, just skimmed through to get an idea of how badly the system has degenerated.

Since I didn’t want to be there all day, it was enough just to look through the character stuff. I didn’t have the fortitude to check out the combat system.

So let’s get to it. First, the races. There are new ones: Dragonborn, Eladrin, and Tiefling. The big change, however, is every race gets some bonuses, but there are no penalties. None. Yeah, let’s not have any weaknesses to overcome.

Second, there are three tiers to every class. The first is what we’re used to, the “ordinary” character (not so ordinary any more, though) of levels 1-10. Second tier is “paragon”, which opens more abilities, running 11-20, and finally, “epic”, which tops at 30. Epic is the exit path, by the way. You do some epic quest and then retire your character. Might as well; you could take on gods by that time.

The paragon tier is actually a specialization path, where your character focuses on developing in a specific way. For instance, a Fighter could choose to focus on a particular weapon. Or a cleric might decide to become a War Priest.

Leveling up is different, somewhat. As before, everyone uses the same x.p. table, but the numbers are a little higher here. At 4 and 8, you get to increase any two of your stats. At 11 & 14 (paragon), you get one to each stat. Unfortunately, I forgot what it is at the two epic levels, but you get the idea.

Multi-classing, as such, is gone. What happens is, you have a feat that allows you to acquire feats from one other class. Only one, though, so there are no more “triple” (or “quadruple”) threat characters. So you can take on the abilities of one other class without actually being it. I’m surprised they restricted this, given everything else.

Each class has a bunch of special abilities they acquire over level increases, not including feats. Just glancing through that gave me the shivers.

Skills have been reduced tremendously. The 3.5ed has 35 skills, along with 10 knowledge skills. 4ed has 18 total. Big difference. Sorry, I didn’t take a good look at the feats.

Remember alignment? Sure you do. They did a hatchet job on that one, possibly one of the good things in the revision. There are now just four: Good and lawful good; evil and chaotic evil. That takes rather a load off everyone, DM and players alike.

If I’d remembered to take a notebook and pen, I could have provided more lowlights. But this alone should give you a fair idea of what D&D has become. And if you have a bookstore nearby, and you’re feeling up to it, you can take a look for more info, too. Provided you have the strength ;)

This sure makes me worried about future CRPGs that will use the 4ed system. Power is all well and good, but this is the edge of the ridiculous, if not over it. Then again, $34.95 for the Player’s Handbook is a lot cheaper than $15/month for WoW. Munchkin City. Does anyone really roleplay anymore?