Saturday, 18 February 2012

The unexpected 4E Primer Project

I've mentioned I'm running a PbP for some 4e newbies.  Also that it's been a truly interesting experience.  The group are all experienced gamers, but at least three have not really played using 4e rules before.  They have, however, played a lot of Pathfinder and 3.5.

As their first combat unwinds, it's become clearer to me just how many differences there really are.  Nothing huge, nothing game breaking, just very different.  In order for this to make sense, you have to know that I only ever played 3.5 for about 6 months just before 4e came out, so 4e really is my edition and the one I know much the best.

Writing and playing a game with for people who don't know the way it works is very, very instructive.  One result is that I've tried to make their lives easier by putting together a kind of mini-Primer for easy reference.  Unlike the Player's Handbook, it can assume a lot about basic terminology and it concentrates on the differences.

Issues I've dealt with so far fall into two basic categories:

  • Conditions - covering Blinded, Dazed, Dominated, Grabs and escaping them and so on; and
  • Terms - which has turned into a much longer section and covers things like Bloodied, surges, OA (not exactly the same thing in 4e), movement and the infamous shift which isn't a 5 foot step, saves ends effects, how to die, temporary hit points, action points and so on.

Naively, I've always assumed that shifting from one to the other would be easy.  It certainly is for a GM, but from the player perspective I never really thought about it - I hadn't played 3.5 long enough to really absorb it.  Our home group pretty much just picked up 4e and played with never a backward glance.

I wonder how many assumptions we make about game systems.  Until I sat down and seriously thought about it, I really had not appreciated the small things that changed in subtle ways.

As a corollary to this, is 4e a system for GMs rather than players?


  1. I, for one, would be interested in taking a look at the primer. I had the three main 4e books for quite some time and could not get anyone to try it. I was not planning on buying any more manuals but a co-worker is selling off all of his 4e stuff for $10 each. As the saying goes, the price is right.

  2. I'll put it up on Google docs if you like.


    There you go. It's still a work in progress, so feel free to say if something is unclear or needs more information. Or if there's anything glaring I've missed.

  4. Thanks! I gotta say THUMBS UP so far.