So essentials has been out for a while now. I think all the excitement of the new stuff has worn off and players are dividing into the ‘everything goes’, ‘essentials only’, and ‘no essentials’ campaigns about now. This really makes me wonder for the new player what they should pick up and what direction they should go for getting new material.
I’ve come to think that everything in 4E now is a bit of a mess. I loved the concept of the red box. Get people into D&D through baby steps, and introduce them to the other products. What has come from that though is this idea of a streamlined character build from the essentials books, verses the modular-too-many-choices build in the old PHB.
And let’s face it, the core books are out of date. The monster math is all off. The treasure parcel system has been dumped for a random system and the skill check values retooled. The stealth system was entirely reworked and put out in PHB2. There is a bit of errata out there for the classes. A new group could likely ignore the entire rule errata, but any effort to get into organized play or buying up the new material will likely make them want to run with the current updates on the rules.
So will a second printing come out for the core 4E books? Could we see an updated version of the PHB that takes up material from the PHB2? I could easily see a new Dungeon Master’s Guide that takes material from both the original book and the DMG2 also. Not to mention an expanded monster manual that has stuff not covered in the monster vault, but updates other creatures from both MM1 and MM2. Yeah, a few folks might be willing to pick up a complete new set of books that are errata free. However, the problem out there is the essentials books.
Some of that updated material is out now in the essentials line (monster vault as an example). And I think more material will be released that focuses in on the essentials type of campaign. Should development go towards new builds and entirely new power sets for the older 4E crowd? Would it be easier in development (read less time and money) to branch that out in new theme options? Dark Sun seems to have brought up character themes that is an idea the developers have clung to.
Face it, themes work wonders for essential characters. It’s just enough power flexibility to allow a player to customize their character, but at the same time not offer an entire grocery list of powers and options like the older 4E classes. Not to mention, a theme works for just about every class. No longer do you have to work up a new product that is arcane only, or martial only. Now with a themes book, you’ve got something every player will want to buy and use. Themes might just be a selling point to get a new version of a PHB out there too. The big question is will WotC take that route.
I could see a second printing on the horizon for 4E. The question is will WotC make that effort, or will they push on in the direction of supporting an essentials style of classes? There are some subtle differences in encounter powers and which classes get access to daily powers. Having a second printing for the core books might be a good way for WotC to have a ‘do over’ and just merge these different mechanics under one design. I guess it’ll depend on whether they feel it’s worth supporting those older books, or just focus in on the people running with essentials only from now on.