Friday, September 7, 2007

A few thoughts on multi-classing and mob combat

The playtest reports are quickly becoming my favorite source of 4e info. This one by Rich Baker was especially good.

The first thing that caught my attention was the way Rich converted his 3e character to 4e. It was an unusual character to begin with and came out looking very different on paper, but still played the same way. That's a key distinction. I'll definitely be keeping that in mind when/if we convert our current party to the 4e ruleset next summer.

Then there's the bit on multi-classing. For starters, they've enabled multi-classing. Yay! Not that I was too worried about it being removed. But with talent trees as I understand them, I suspected multi-classing as it exists now might go the way of the bard. Still useful if done correctly or in small doses but with better or easier ways to get the same result.

And then there was this quote. "...then using our multiclass system to dip into some wizardly bits." (emphasis added by me)

Is it just the cherry picker in me that finds this to be an interesting choice of words? To be fair, the character is human, a race that in 3.5 has no problem with "dipping" into a second or even a third class. Still, it gives me hope that I'll be able to "dip into" other classes besides the core.

On the opposite end of the spectrum I dislike his talk of the "Swordmage" class. Maybe it's the addicted multi-classer, or because of the multi-classer in me, but I hate having two or more core classes melded into a ready to play, straight out of the cookie cutter class. I'd prefer a variety of core classes, each one with a unique angle or ability set, combined with a simple and easy to use multi-classing system. Don't melt classes together because all you get is a watered down "class" that steps on the toes of others. I'm looking at the Scout and any incarnation of the Swordmage/Bladedancer etc....

I just think that those melted classes take too much of the fun from multi-classing. Why play a complex mix of fighter/wizard when the Swordmage is all laid out for you? Don't muck around with min/maxing that Ranger/Rogue, just play a Scout. It's multi-classing for dummies. Fun!

No not really. At least it's no fun for me.

Rich's rollercoaster then climbs back up as the party encounters the room full of vampire minions and mummies. My first thought was that without a dedicated cleric they were doomed. In fact I fully expected the next paragraph to detail a full party wipe.

Instead I was elated to read how every character in the party managed to lay out some damage with area of effect abilities. Nice! Even the psion (Gawd I hate that psionic crap!) contributed.

Better yet, we were given a juicy look at the 'per encounter' and 'per day' abilities. I was worried that the 'per day' things would be the utility type of stuff. Well, Rich dispelled that concern with one very cool use of a scorching ray type of thing. Looked like a mix Scorching Ray with the line of effect of a lightning bolt. Awesome!

Finally, I thought that the entire encounter with a room full of undead was great. I love going toe to toe with one big high CR 'boss', but nothing beats a mob for hectic action. This playtest once again affirmed that 4e is going to streamline combat rules and encourage the DM to throw waves of baddies at the party. I just hope that Cleave and Whirlwind Attack will be among the feat choices.

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