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Boss Around the Gnomes: D&D 4e Core Books

When D&D 4th Edition launches on June 6th, many GMs will be making a tough decision: to 4e or not to 4e [1]. Several of us gnomes have already made that choice, though, and will be snagging all three core books either on or shortly after launch day.

We’ll be rubbing our grubby little gnome-paws all over them anyway, and we’d love to write about all three core books from a GM’s perspective for you. That’s something we don’t expect a lot of other sites to do — but it’s all we do. Let us do it for you!

As a GM, what would you want to know about the core books before picking up a set? And what GMing aspects would you like us to write about here in the days after 4e goes live?

Depending on how many comments this post gets, we might cover your questions Q&A style or more organically — we’ll just have to see what makes the most sense.

The mike is open, the stage is empty: What 4th Edition coverage would you like to see on the Stew?

24 Comments (Open | Close)

24 Comments To "Boss Around the Gnomes: D&D 4e Core Books"

#1 Comment By Snargash Moonclaw On May 19, 2008 @ 2:17 am

I can’t imagine any 4e coverage that I would be interested in – I have no intention of switching. I realize that the site (and any others not specifically dedicated to older edition(s)) will need to cover them – I’m just not among the audience who will be reading that coverage.

#2 Comment By suudo On May 19, 2008 @ 4:01 am

While D&D isn’t my first game of choice (I’m a Savage Worlds guy) I am definitely going to 4e, and I generally prefer game specific GMing information to general stuff that I can more or less hammer out myself. So what I’d like would be…

I would say, resources to make it easier to run 4e (of course, one of the perks of the new edition being ease of play/run, this may not even be a thing).

Tangible resources, that is. Maybe some tables, maybe a sheet of rules summaries or something. I dunno. You guys certainly know more about this stuff than I do.

#3 Comment By theboeh On May 19, 2008 @ 5:14 am

I really like SUUDO’s idea of tangible resources. I would love to have a couple quick reference sheets that I could print out.

Besides reference material I’m not really sure what to suggest because I don’t know what the new Dungeon Masters Guide is going to address. I’m always interested in reading about how to create stories that take advantage of the rules to the fullest extent possible but it seems like that might be something that the DMG will cover.

Something that might really help me is to hear reviews of the system. It’s going to be quite some time before I get a chance to run 4th ed. and it would help to know where the system breaks down. This might be a lot to ask but I think if you guys here at the stew could put the system through its paces that would help. I’d like to know both its strengths and weaknesses.

#4 Comment By zacharythefirst On May 19, 2008 @ 5:29 am

Lesson learned, perhaps–any ideas you feel would translate well to other games. But as of right now, we don’t have plans to move to 4e, and GM talk on that system would be less valuable for me. Thanks for asking!

#5 Comment By spenser On May 19, 2008 @ 6:34 am

I’ve got the books on preorder from Amazon, so I won’t be getting them until probably a week after they drop. So, if anyone gets the books on launch, I’d love to know more about rituals, and maybe see the table of contents from the DMG.

#6 Comment By LordVreeg On May 19, 2008 @ 6:41 am

I’m pretty much with Snargash on this (as in most things). I have no interest in 4e and actually find the superabundance of coverage in WotC’s latest money-making new coat of paint a reason not to visit a site.
I applaud your intelligent query to gauge the impact of coverage and ascertain the type of coverage readers look for.

I understand mechanic-specific stuff. I’m not against it. It’s just that I derived my rule system decades ago and so cannot imagine yet another ‘4e conversion angst thread’ ever being read by myself.

#7 Comment By Patriarch917 On May 19, 2008 @ 8:50 am

I’ve very excited about 4e. It appears that 4e will give GMs a whole new set of tools for constructing awesome encounters, and I would love to have Gnome Stew give advice on how to take full advantage of the new system. Topics to address might include using terrain in an encounter (4e is far more mobile), gnomes as monsters, crafting skill based encounters (one of the best ideas I’ve seen in 4e), and how to let the monsters win a fight without breaking the game.

#8 Comment By StephenWard On May 19, 2008 @ 9:57 am

I’ve already pre-ordered my books. I’d be very interested in seeing some 4e coverage. Don’t overwhelm those who refuse to switch by any means, but don’t ignore it either. I’m sure we can find a happy medium.

#9 Comment By sjarvis On May 19, 2008 @ 11:21 am

I may be an outlier but I’m specifically interested in 4e content. I didn’t care for 3.x much, and I play mostly Burning Wheel or AD&D these days. Based on what I’ve learned so far, I’m cautiously optimistic about 4e and have the core books on pre-order at Amazon.

I’m interested in how to incorporate new things like skill challenges into adventures, etc.


#10 Comment By oddysey On May 19, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

The main aspect of 4e I’m curious about is if it’ll actually be easier to run and prep than 3rd. So information about that, and tips on maximizing the efficiency of 4e prep would be awesome.

I’d also be interested in tips on how to use the gnome write-up in the Monster Manual to run gnomes as characters. Supposedly you’ll be able to do that out of the box, but I wonder if you guys have any ideas to improve on the gnome-as-written. I hear that the WotC team hasn’t decided what to do with gnomes, so I don’t know that there’s much in the way of personality or culture in the write-up.

Actually, a whole article on incorporating gnomes into your game would be pretty awesome, no matter what the edition.

I’m also curious about how the book recommends that DMs use the new cosmology. I have a fair idea of what it involves, the new planes and whatnot, but what does the DMG tell you to do with it? Am I encouraged to modify it and given information on doing so? Told that it must be used in just this way or its not actually D&D?

And generally, what’s the tone of the DMing (and playing) advice in the books? How does it expect the reader to use the material presented?

#11 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On May 19, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

I know that having new players GM cold out of their published modules was an aspect of 4E that was part of Wotc’s internal playtests. It’s been blogged about on the Wotc site.

Of course, I don’t know the outcome of those playtests. (I seem to recall 3E got run through the same hoops).

Certainly, one of the objectives of 4E was to run tactical combat encounters with minimal record-keeping. (The 1 hp minions being an example of that approach).

I have high expectations for the DMG, both because of its principal author (Wyatt) and when select playtesters were allowed to make public testimonials, the DMG was mentioned as being an excellent roleplaying resource.

#12 Comment By Bear On May 19, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

I am more interesting in the subjective stuff. How does it feel? Does it move smooth from one scene to the next. How intuitive is it going to be for the players? The GM? Is it easy to upgrade/downgrade your encounters on the fly? Do the NPCs make sense? That is the kind of information that I am looking for.

It sounds like there are a lot of possibilities, but I want to know what the Stewed Gnomes are thinking (good or bad).

#13 Comment By Irda Ranger On May 20, 2008 @ 6:28 am

WotC has promised that there will be lots of juicy DMing advice in the DMG. I’d be interested in the Gnome’s opinions on the various chapters and suggestions the book might have, and how I could build on different options presented to get different results.

e.g., Want a more noir game? Look at Ch.2 pg. 24, only do THIS instead. Etc.

#14 Comment By DarthKrzysztof On May 20, 2008 @ 8:14 am

I would also like to see 4E coverage along the lines requested by these other users: how it actually plays. It may be awhile before I adapt, so I’d like some idea of what I’m getting into when I finally do.

#15 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 20, 2008 @ 8:40 am

My mental list of things to cover starting on 6/6 is growing — thank you for all the suggestions! Based on your comments so far, it seems like a Q&A approach won’t be a great fit, but tackling broad elements of the game in a series of individual posts should work just fine. If enough small stuff crops up, maybe we can mix in a Q&A post as well.

For folks who have no interest in 4e, fear not: You’ll have plenty of non-4e stuff to read in the coming weeks. 😉

#16 Comment By Sarlax On May 20, 2008 @ 11:20 am

I’ll be picking up 4E; I knew that when it was announced. But if I were a more discriminating guy, there are things I’d like to know.

First, what is the layout like? D&D has used a nonsense layout since time immemorial – stats, then race, then class, etc. If WoTC wants to bring in new players and make sure the old players know what they’re in for, the book should begin with at least a chapter that explains the implied setting and game styles of D&D; the basic Iron Age structure with a medieval coat of paint. There shouldn’t be any rules at all for that first chapter. Following chapters should start with the core mechanic and then only gradually work up to stats, race, etc. If I were to pick up any unfamiliar game and find stat charts on page 1, I’d put it back down. This would need to be across all 3 core books – the PHB needs to be accessible to new people, and the DMG and MM should be friendly to the GM in building a game. It seems to me that for every previous edition of the game, there’s somehow been the assumption that the reader already knows how to play.

Next, I would need to know that D&D had taken a big step away from resource management. Gear and gold should not so drastically shape the course of the game. I know that players spend a lot of time agonizing over items, but as a GM, making treasure come out fairly can be tough. Hopefully the previews are right and the game’s somewhat moved away from that.

#17 Comment By supergnome On May 23, 2008 @ 7:55 am

I’m long winded so I’m trying a NEW format for my post.
Gnome Terse Beta 1.

Ease of Play?
Feel like D&D or (something unmentionable)?
-Color and tone what you’d expect from D&D?
-Combat have a heroic feel, or comic book feel?
Core mechanic flexible?
Any broken class/skill/spell/ability/feat/etc…?
Time investment for game prep?
General highlights/lowlights
Logs of testing/play sessions including highlight/lowlights of that session.


#18 Comment By DarthKrzysztof On June 5, 2008 @ 5:10 am

One thing I really want to know: how feasible is it to play 4E without the battlemat? Just looking at the powers of the PCs from Keep on the Shadowfell (esp. the warlord) is making my head spin, trying to decide how I’d handle them in a chat-based game…

Of course, the online client might be great too, so I’d like some hands-on impressions of that as well.

#19 Comment By gomez On June 5, 2008 @ 5:18 am

Ok. Easy question. How much the 4th ed is encouraging rule-play against role-play?

(I’m still not sure if I’m gonna switch)

#20 Comment By gomez On June 5, 2008 @ 6:56 am

Anothet thing I will love to read it’s a series of articles taking one monster (or group of monsters) at time and exploiting their best combat strategies.

In the official D&D forums, for instance, there’s already a lot of comments about using (and countering) a nasty ability of the kobolds. I’ve found this quite useful.

#21 Comment By Alan De Smet On June 5, 2008 @ 9:55 am

How much 4e specific coverage do I want? As little as possible.

I’m a fan of 4e; I’m running a campaign starting next week. But generally speaking I don’t need GMing advice specific to a particular system. The occasional item is a nice change up, but all of the really valuable GMing advice I’ve ever gotten isn’t system specific. (It’s frequently genre specific, and that’s okay.)

#22 Comment By Martin Ralya On June 5, 2008 @ 11:14 am

@Alan: There’ll be some 4e-specific coverage here in the coming days, but on balance I don’t think you (or anyone else who prefers to avoid it) will be too miffed. Taken collectively, we gnomes are a diverse bunch when it comes to our gaming tastes — in fact, the only thing we can agree on is that I have a butt like Adonis.

I do feel comfortable speaking for all of us, though, when I say that any 4e coverage we do will be done because we enjoy doing it and think a substantial portion of our readership will enjoy reading it. EN World will still be 4e central, and Gnome Stew will still be home to a wide range of posts (many of them system-neutral). 😉

#23 Comment By Tally On June 5, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

Just wanted to throw my two-cents in; my group will be updating to 4th edition, so 3rd edition coverage after the release date won’t be too useful to us. Coverage for the new system, and system-neutral items will be helpful though. And thanks for this website, I’ve already gotten great ideas from it!

#24 Comment By argokirby On June 6, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

I would like to see campaign play by plays. After every game session I would love to see a post of what happened, then a brief comment by the gnome who ran it as to how easy or hard it was to pull off in 4E and if 4E made it possible where 3.5 would have made it impossible.