D&D Essentials, Power Creep, and the Need for Keeping a DDI Subscription

WotC has put up a short document describing the new changes and rules updates to the game with the release of essentials. WotC has really pushed the idea that essentials for the most part would be a matter of choice and options for the older 4E player (something reemphasized in a recent podcast). But with this preview of the essentials rules updates, it clearly looks like you’ll have to pull out your old PHB and edit the races to reflect these new changes.

I called the rearing of racial power creep back on my old blog with the release of PHB3. I’ll admit that having this option helps make races more flexible, but it is pushing character creation closer to a number crunching, super optimization process to max out abilities. While the old 4E elf might have been a little restricted with his ability bonuses, I think it could be circumvented by choice of ability scores. Yeah, having that racial bonus for a key stat helps, but you could get by. With the release of PHB3, I saw a disparity with the new races having a floating bonus in 2 stats. Now it looks like all the older races have to get this change also.

I want to note that with this new update, WotC has made it clear “These changes will be incorporated into the rules update documents and the digital tools in the near future.” Yeah, so you can expect a new errata to come out in the next few months updating all your old books. I imagine that if you want to use the character builder to make an ‘old 4E’ dwarf, that option will be no longer available. So much for essentials being an optional book for the 4E player.


I guess this is true. After all if you maintain a DDI subscription, you don’t have to bother. You always have access to all the rules and can whip up a new character with the updated, optimized, character builder tool. Pretty crafty of WotC to eek out another rules update to the game to push consumers into keeping an active DDI just for the simple sake of convenience.

I love that WotC was putting out a D&D product to introduce new players to the game. A streamlined version of the rules was a great addition. But I was worried as more products were being announced, I felt these would drive a divide in the player group between folks that played essentials, and folks that used the old 4E books.

I’m dreading over the next few months if I get a new player in my game. The guy is going to sit down at the table with a new human character. My older players will give a glance at his newfound encounter power and wonder why the hell don’t they get that power? So I’m back to updating my books with the new errata and allowing players to retroactively change out ability scores and powers. The alternative is I be a hard ass and say no essentials at the table.

I’d be even more pissed if I was running a brick and mortar, local gaming store. Now I’ve got old 4E books on my shelf that are likely worthless to the new player. Why bother picking up a ton of books with old rules and outdated characters? After all, all the new shiny, up to date material will be these new essentials books. Come to think of it, why not just pick up the rules compendium and never have to buy another book again. Simply maintain a DDI subscription and you can get all the stuff you need digitally. Yeah, if I had a fair stock of the old 4E books, I’d be putting clearance prices on them now.

I think it is pretty clear what is happening with 4E now. The digital tools that were optional are shifting towards being necessary. The alternative is dropping out of the errata rat race, but you risk further alienating yourself from the group of ‘new 4E’ players. I’m seeing a financial decision from WotC that DDI is the way to keep revenue coming in and new printed material has to reinforce maintaining a subscription. It’s sad to see. I was worried about essentials putting a fissure between the 4E player base, and it looks like that is exactly what is appearing on the horizon.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Geek Ken likes games. Sometimes he likes to blog about them too.


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Geek Ken likes games. Sometimes he likes to blog about them too.
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