I’ve spoken at length about the differing atmosphere that has gravitated around 4th Edition D&D compared to its predecessor. There is an increased intolerance with deviating from accepted D&D principles. Knee-jerk reactions from certain designers created a false atmosphere of paranoia about the GSL. Then WOTC’s inconsistent communications and shifting philosophies didn’t help matters either. To make a situation more convoluted, there’s a growing segment of gamers that insist that the success of a product is based on its capacity to include an online element, either an interactive character builder or a pervasive online environment. The GSL prevents companies from using the SRD in any online form, including a character builder. Lone Wolf got around this temporarily, a work around DEM had been secretly working with, but the recent development by WOTC to shift the entire Character Builder to on online-only system closed the book on that. WOTC has not made any attempt to allow 3rd party products on D&D online, despite many requests. It’s a strange and difficult environment to be a 3rd party 4E D&D game company. At least the game didn’t go through a radical change in rules like 3.0/3.5 did…
In fact, what Wizard of the Coast did was nearly as frustrating. They released several errata over several years, and then released Essentials, promoted as an alternate approach to D&D without replacing the old 4th Edition rules. All this would be have been nice and good…except that most the rules that they changed with Essentials found itself into the errata. So is this late 2010 set of rules an unofficial 4.5 D&D? When I ask that, I refer to the rules, and not the Essential lineup itself. For that, we would have to look at the differences between the new 4E rules and the old 4E from 2008, and then compares those to the differences between 3.0 and 3.5 D&D from nearly a decade ago.
As for 4th Edition, missing rules and clumsy wording notwithstanding, what actually changed? The races were altered with the new concept that each race has a variable attribute modifier. Instead of an elf gaining a +2 to Dexterity and Wisdom, now he gains Dexterity with an option to select a +2 to either Intelligence or Wisdom. Humans also gain a racial power as well. If we look at combat, we’ll notice a few more changes. Looking at the DMG, we see altered mount rules, improved skill challenges, and entirely new tables for creating monsters. Notice the radical change in the look of monsters in Monster Manual 3 compared to the previous two. They are tougher, with higher ACs and more devastating attacks.
So does this make a 4.5, even if disregarding Essentials? It would be only the opinion of one person if I said yes or no. However I can make one confession and that is that it’s still frustrating for game designers. For Amethyst, we’ve already found the Wizard errata conflicting with rules or concepts that we had accepted as gospel. Those mount rules for example resulted in outdating our Kannos Kavalier. All of our monsters were made under the previous system. We don’t necessarily have to update our races…but we are.
So here goes another Amethyst errata, out now as this article goes online. Beyond the technical glitches we fixed with the first errata, we are now addressing the shifting mechanics of the system we mated ourselves to. The classes are all receiving a tweak; all the race traits are being revised. Because of the popularity of our vehicles, the rules regarding them are also being updated. It’s the cost of playing in this sandbox, especially when the wizard running the box changes the sand.
At least we were able to incorporate these changes during the writing of our second book, Evolution. The races are being reprinted there as well, reflecting the new philosophy. And in order the match the WOTC model point-by-point, Evolution is also rereleasing the original techan classes of Amethyst Foundations for use with D&D Essentials. Like Wizard’s rhetoric continually reminds us, this is not replacing the techan classes of the Foundations book, only offering an alternate build for those wanting a simpler character experience. We imagine that as long as WOTC continues to support both product lines, we’ll continue to do so as well.
You can find Amethyst’s 2.0 Errata here.