Avatar 2: Nukes from Space!

Admit it, you thought this too

So after everyone else on the planet has seen it I finally got around to seeing Avatar. What took me so long? Well there was that whole eye surgery thing that made me not want to goto movie theaters for a while. Then by the time I was in a state where I wasn’t constantly dropping drops in my eyes, or worried that the 3D would destroy my vision forever the movie was trapped in that limbo between the time between it’s in first run theaters and cheap theaters. So this week I spent a whopping $1 to see Avatar and $5 on a large soda and a large popcorn and settled down to watch the darn thing.

And you know what it was good and enjoyable. I liked watching it, it was fun, the visuals were stunning, the characters were interesting, and it told a pretty classic story. So all in all the movie was great. A+

But like a lot of other movies sometimes things just really glare out at you if you really start thinking about them. Like why not just drop bombs on the magical Yggdrasil stand-in tree from space? Does the future not have unmanned drones anymore? I mean they have unmanned blue people! Why not just use systems like the avatars to pilot a hordes of killer drones?! When that giant aboriginal horde is gathering, why not just dig in and plant land mines, etc. Maybe evac non-essential personnel off the rock first. That plan seems a lot more sound then, “Fly into the super-Bermuda triangle beneath the giant ambush rocks.” Why fly under the giant ambush rocks? Those things they were piloting are VTOLs! Fly over the bloody ambush rocks and /then/ descend. I’m pretty sure their vehicles with pressurized cockpits can fly higher than a bird can. Heck maybe just drop the bomb from that height to begin with! Why do the Navi’s arrows just bounce off their vehicles in one scene yet in a later at the climax of the film they punch through them like paper. For that matter why is anyone in the future making cockpit glass for military gunships out of glass weaker than today’s bullet-proof glass? And why in the hell wouldn’t the sequel be called, “Avatar 2: Nukes from Space”? You know that nine years later when the survivors get back to earth their response won’t be pretty.

Oh yeah, that’s assuming you ignore the fact that they have the only people dealing with the Navi under such little surveillance that they can so easily go off the reservation. Or why in the heck they can’t just dig a tunnel under the ground to the Unobtanium site and just mine it from there.* (I still can barely believe they really called it Unobtanium.) Nevermind that, there’s got to be other sites of the mineral somewhere on the planet that would be better to mine first before they start sinking their profits into a native extermination campaign.

Anyway, it’s a good movie. Just don’t think about it too hard. Let’s be honest, watching the “sky people” launch cruiser missiles and drones across Pandora for two hours would have been crazy boring.

*And let’s not get started on the fact that they show no scenes of Jake Sulley ever talking to the Navi about the Unobtanium, and if there is, you know, maybe someway they could get the really important space rocks the Navi don’t give a damn about in some way where everyone would be happy. I mean, I just assume magic space rocks came up sometime in montages or backstory, but who knows, maybe he never said a bloody thing.


Goodbye NBC and WAVY-TV

Well tonight is Conan O’Brien’s last night on the airwaves as host of the Tonight Show. And so I’ve decided that tonight will be the last night I watch NBC, and by extension my local NBC affiliate, WAVY-TV 10. As of now I’ve deleted all episodes of Heroes I had planned to watch, and yesterday’s Community is the last of that show I’ll be seeing. It’s unfortunate I have to stop supporting a good, new show that deserves the ratings, but there you have it. I can’t sit by and help fun the network that’s destroying what I consider to be the greatest thing on modern television. Uncharacteristically of me I actually took the time to send a professional snail mail letter to my local NBC affiliate’s, WAVY-TV, president and manager, explaining why I would be switching off his station forever, a station that I’ve watched since 1993. Here’s a copy.

January 22, 2010

Doug Davis of WAVY-TV 10
300 Wavy St.
Portsmouth, VA 23704

Dear Doug:

I’ve been a viewer of your station ever since moving to the area in 1993. My household has enjoyed your station and your newscast for years and has even contributed to your “10 on your side” segment in the past, as well as enjoying programming provided over the air for years by your network. However by the time you read this letter we will have turned off your station forever. In light of NBC’s deplorable treatment of Conan O’Brien I’ve decided it’s best to turn off NBC entirely, and by extension your station. I know this isn’t actually your station’s fault, but I refuse to support a network that has ruined one of the few remaining good things on television, and by extension that means I cannot support anyone affiliated with NBC either. I will also be posting this letter online for public viewing and encouraging everyone I know to switch off NBC and your station as well. Goodbye WAVY, it was nice knowing you.

Don Scherig

Included with the letter was the image you see attached to this post, printed on an index card, in case the letter wasn’t clear enough.


I’m With Coco

It begs to be made into a Half-Life 2 Spray

Conan O’Brien has been a treat for me to watch for years now. Stretching all the way back to the mid-90’s I’ve really enjoyed watching him on TV. I mean, I like Jay Leno too, but once his monologue is over and he starts actually talking to people, well, that’s it, he turns into a dry boring corporate-man who only serves as a vehicle for the person across from him to sell whatever it was they want me, the viewer, to buy into this time. I always loved watching Conan’s show because he spent more time on comedy sketches and because I thought he was much more lively and personable with his guests than other hosts. Guests on Conan’s show seemed to always be more relaxed, more lively, more willing to joke and have fun, you know, like an real conversation. A definite improvement to the common “I’ll just be a sounding board for you to make plugs… uh-huh.. ok.. let’s show that clip,” that I’m used to seeing everywhere else.

I remember clearly to last year when it sunk in that the schedule at NBC’s late night was going to be changing. I remember feeling a lot like I do now. A whole lot of rumors, few updates, and no way to really know what’s going to happen. I remember really being worried when there was talk even back then that NBC was going to bump off Conan after he’d packed up Late Nite and had prepared to move when their was talk of Jay Leno wanting to keep the Tonight Show spot after he had decided to retire in 2004 and all the contracts to pass the torch had been signed. However in that case, after lots of waiting and no updates, things turned out ok, and I got to see Conan on in the Tonight Show spot, and it was great. The Tonight Show since then has kept a constant place in my DVR (That’s how I watch /all/ my shows) and I watched religiously for the first month or two, setting aside that time to watch it with others in the household. It was a little awkward at first, and there wasn’t as much time as their used to be for sketches, and I could tell that someone had wielded the censorship truncheon in their somewhere as well, but hey, all was good and it could only get better from there.

So now it’s 7 months later and the turmoil of 2007 has come back again like nothing ever happened, another “gotcha” moment for the universe loves so much, and it’s looking like Conan’s going to be leaving NBC. Jay Leno’s 10 o’clock spot isn’t doing so well. I don’t know, maybe his viewing crowd is just those who still think watching the 11 o’clock news is the best way to get information. Either way it looks like they’re set to reverse a decision they made back in 2004 to pass the torch to keep Conan, spurred by Leno’s desire to retire, and to keep him from taking offers better than his Late Nite gig unless Conan agrees to make The Tonight Show “The Tomorrow Show” and push poor Fallon (Who is awesome) even farther, something Conan has stated he’s dead set against.

Some people are using the chance to make good humor out of a bad situation. Me, I’m just starting to wonder what I find in television anyway. Seriously the good old boob tube seems determined to cancel everything other than “reality TV” shows and the Simpsons. Reality TV is something I absolutely hate on TV. We’re just two changes of the seasons before Survivor is 10 years old, meaning the reality TV “fad” will have dominated Network TV for 10 long soul-crushing creativity-destroying years. And Simpsons, while not a bad show, is something I stopped being interested in once I grew out of adolescence and stopped caring about watching things because they were “edgy” and they upset my parents. Not that Simpsons is bad, far from it, I’ve seen a few episodes, they’re decent, but they say you can’t go home again, and I can’t go back to watching a show memories of which are tied to me being in 4th grade and snarkily telling my best friend he’s full of shit about this “Game Genie” thing he just heard about. (Whoops)

It seems like the “big three” are just determined to grind anything that might be worth watching into the dust? Kings was riveting, that got canceled. Better of Ted is hilarious, and that’s probably going to be canceled. Community got extended, but that seems to be on the chopping block too, and Heroes seems to only stay on the air so NBC can pointing to something they air as entertainment. And I do love watching House… ok, so that one’s not going anywhere. (For now) So out of my list I’ve got a bunch of shaky items and a sure bet. Compare that to Cable TV where I’m riveted to shows like Burn Notice, White Collar, Eureka, Mythbusters, Man v. Food, and I just feel a little let down by what are supposed to be “The Big Three”. I think I’ve spent more time watching Web Series from the Angry Video Game Nerd and That Guy With The Glasses this past year than I have “The Big Three”. How sad is that?

Why should I have to scrimp and scrounge through the three networks with the most funding, many of whom own the cable networks showing “the good stuff” to find something that isn’t reality TV, a law and order clone, or an ER clone?

(A version of the I’m with Coco image formatted for use as a spray in Half-Life 2 and any source games may be found here. Just goto options and click the import spray button to import it for use in multiplayer games.)

Update: This site has a nice update of the entire debacle. It’s a bit vitriolic toward Jay Leno, but it is also pretty accurate with the events as they occurred.


Western Digital Green Power: Why No One Else Uses “Idle 3”

Some of you may think I don’t have anything to blog about. Not so, quite the opposite. I have so much that I would like to blog about that I can’t decide what to write about. Where to start? Global Warming? Netbooks? Gaming? Portable Apps? Books? The list just doesn’t seem to shrink. So instead of all that great controversial stuff that you’re probably all waiting for, here’s a tech article about a problem with a device that I’ve had for months now and have only been able to fix. All because some shmuck at Western Digital decided that “Green Power” was an effing sweet slogan.

The year was 2008 (AKA Year Awesome compared to 2009 AKA Year Epic Fail) and it was February, and WD had made their RE2-GP drives. I decided to pick up a 1TB edition of the line. Because that was their newest 1TB drive, and who doesn’t just love being able to say they can store a Terabyte of data. Even though it’s not really a Terabyte because  hard drive makers sing themselves to sleep at night by singing 1 kb = 1000 bytes in stark contrast to the reality that 1kb = 1024 bytes, SI be damned. Anyway to top this off the GP in RE2-GP stands for “Green Power” which was WD’s way of saying the drives turn themselves off. A lot. They like to call this state “idle 3”. And that’s not such a bad idea. That means less wear on the drive, and all the bench marks said things worked well and it got good reviews.

Problem is it seems those benchmarks were treating this thing like any other drive that doesn’t go into idle3 if it’s left alone over 30 seconds. Once the drive starts up, the drive works great. But when the drive is in idle 3 it takes it a second for it to wake up. How long you ask? Long enough for Windows to decide your new drive has a bad block, that’s how long. Forums and product review pages alike were littered with people RMAing these drives because of bad blocks, meanwhile those people were being shouted down by others who didn’t have any problems. The difference between these groups was just how the drive was used. Those with problems were using the drives in a way that the drive would go into idle 3 mode and then give them the errors when they tried to access them.

So when WD finally released a firmware update that keeps their drive from going into idle 3 mode every two seconds do they make an announcement? No, they quietly release an update, bury it on their site, and then include a readme which says things like the following

Some utilities, OS’s, and applications, such as some implementations of Linux, for example, are not optimized for low power storage devices and can cause our drives to wake up at a higher rate than normal.

The number of systems using such applications and utilities is limited and customers can resolve this symptom by optimizing their systems to not wake up the drives unnecessarily every 10-30 seconds or so, thereby gaining substantial power savings and eliminating superfluous activity.

Yeah I guess if you consider the Event Viewer a limited use application then sure, I suppose the issue did affect limited users, as everyone else was too dumb to realize those program errors they were getting were caused by Windows saying “@#$% it” every time it had to wait for the drive to come out of idle 3 and just spat out an error instead of waiting. Needless to say once I installed this firmware all of those bad block errors that occurred only when the drive first attempted to perform a task after being idle, like say when booting up, all magically went away after installing this firmware.  So much for “Green Power”, huh? Guess next time WD wants to unveil some new drive technology they should make sure it works with any operating system on the planet before trying to sell it.

Also, because of this I had to dredge out one of my floppy disks and make a boot disk just to upgrade this firmware. That just annoys me. Those floppy disks are for super-secret emergencies, darnit!


SecuROM is the Devil

Did they use 1984 as their guide to slogan writing?

Contrary to what some of my readers may be thinking, the above is not an opinion, but actually a fact. A fact that bears repeating. There is in fact a hell, and SecuROM, the prince of lies, lords over all of its many honeycombed layers.

Ok, perhaps that is just a teeny tiny bit of exaggeration, but it’s not too far off the mark. You see all of the various bits and pieces of undocumented software that things like SecuROM and Starforce and things such as Gameguard have installed into my various computers have caused more problems and crashed more software and caused me to format and reinstall my machines more than anything else. Think about that. That’s more than viruses, adware, and spyware. That’s a lot of problems for a “legitimate” business.

I’m just so sick and tired of having my expensive high-priced machine being dicked around with by a company that is scamming game companies by promising protection against piracy, a promise that is as much of a boondoggle as timeshares (Which they don’t call timeshares anymore because we’ve all learned it’s a scam.) How many studies have to come out that show it’s not piracy but bootlegging, something the copy protection cannot stop, that are the cause of loss of sales?

Brad Wardell from Stardock put the whole issue together better than I will here, so I’m not going to go into deep analysis here. What I am going to do is relate one of my recent experiences with SecuROM.

Blood Bowl is a game I enjoy. A lot. I bought it direct from Cyanide because I wanted them to get the most money they could from my purchase. Blood Bowl, I found out after purchasing, uses SecuROM. Makes me wish I waited for Steam’s version, but who knows maybe that has some similar DRM  on it too. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

So I installed it on my PC, and shortly after my PC crashes and I have to format and reinstall. Blood Bowl only allows 3 activations. But I’m not too worried because, hey, SecuROM says that I didn’t lose my activation because it is the same PC. I mean, yeah SecuROM is the devil, but devils are lawful evil right? So according to SecuROM I have two activations left. So then I install Blood Bowl on my laptop. No problems, and this means I should have one activation left. So I go to install it on my netbook and BAM!,  failed to activate. What? I only have two copies of the game installed! Where’s did my third activation go?

Well if you haven’t guessed what the problem is I’ll illuminate it for you. SecuROM’s support FAQ is a pack of lies. My first install, the one before the format and reinstall, devoured my first activation and sent it to the farthest reaches of time and space, never to be seen from again despite what the FAQ says. The software will gleefully steal your activations whenever it feels like it and give nothing back in return. The FAQ topic is there to fool consumers into thinking SecuROM isn’t going to bend them over a table and screw them, because if they did they’d avoid anything with SecuROM on it like the plague it is.

But should this be any sort of surprise from a piece of software whose slogan is “Get MAXIMUM Control”. I mean great fishes and little gods. Get MAXIMUM control? What kind of a slogan is that? Only sick people want MAXIMUM control over other people. Also, if this were my slogan, I wouldn’t put it on the internet. I mean if you’re going to go through all the trouble to lie to people about your software you shouldn’t undo the whole damn thing by leaving your fascist slogan out there for everyone to see.

It just all reminds me why I don’t buy things from Sony, the owners of SecuROM, in general. I own one Sony product in out of all the many electronics I own. And I don’t even like that. Every time I’ve bought from Sony I’ve found that LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and Altec Lansing have made superior products for less. Oh, and the DRM, lock you in, you use only our stuff philosophy bleeds over into everything they make. (IE: Don’t buy their ebook reader ever) And in the realm of DRM, all Sony and SecuROM have manged to do is make me a lifetime customer of Stardock, and a lesser extent Valve. Both great companies on their own, but SecuROM and Starforce have made what should be standard business practices of decency and customer service and selling a product that isn’t design to self-destruct into a major virtue.


Why Game Systems do not Enhance Roleplaying

Every so often I’m told that a particular game system enhances role-playing, or that it is more role-playing friendly. However it’s my opinion that the “Game” part of “Role-playing Game” is actually in most cases is something that generally limits the “Role-playing” part, not enhances it. Since D&D is most popular, I hear that about editions of D&D, but this phenomenon and discussion is something that has come up in one form or another in every game I’ve ever played. In this article I will attempt to explain what role-play is, identify the best case scenario for role-playing, why role-playing is traded in exchange for the game, and give some examples of how game systems limit role-playing potential and how they’re largely divorced from the minutia these discussions usually delve into.

So to begin, what is role-playing? Well when in doubt, grab your dictionary. Here’s how the Random House dictionary defines role-playing.


  • verb (used with object)

1.     to assume the attitudes, actions, and discourse of (another), esp. in a make-believe situation in an effort to understand a differing point of view or social interaction: Management trainees were given a chance to role-play labor negotiators.
2.     to experiment with or experience (a situation or viewpoint) by playing a role: trainees role-playing management positions.

  • verb (used without object)

3.     to engage in role-playing.

A pretty basic definition. So what situation is ideal for role-playing? Free-form role-playing. Now some of you reading this may have dabbled in this before and some of you haven’t. Free-form is just what it sounds like, it’s completely free and there are no rules attached to it. About the only kind of restriction on what can be role-played is any kind of theme that might be in place to provide a setting. Other than that players can create characters with of any type or background or ability that they can possibly imagine. It’s an ideal scenario for role-playing in that pretty much whatever any player wants to roleplay is allowed.

However as anyone who has dabbled in free-form will tell you there can be some problems with this setup. The fact that anything is allowed can be a double-edged sword. You have to work and flow with concepts that may be strange, and if there is any conflict between players, well, you can just forget it. Without anyone in a position to arbitrate and no way to make judgments about what is and isn’t acceptable the entire thing will almost always devolve into a power-gaming mess unless all the players are on the same wavelength. And that’s the crux of the problem. Unless you have a group you can really trust for this, or an experienced group that knows how to work their way around this, then it doesn’t really work so well. All it takes is one guy not in sync to knock down the house of cards.

That’s where the “Game” part of “Role-playing Game” comes in. When you play a Role-playing Game you’re trading some of the freedom of free-form for some rules that decide how strong your character can be, what they can do, and a system to resolve conflicting actions as a kind of neutral arbiter. This is the reason combat is often a big section of any game system, as it’s a large conflict often in need of strict management. You no longer have infinite options, but everyone’s options are limited equally. If the game-system won’t support your character concept or won’t let you have an ability you’d like to play then your ability to role-play that is eliminated.

Now some games choose to take a very light-handed approach to the game system, like Amber or Fudge, and some have a pretty heavy-hand like D&D or Warhammer. None of these approaches is wrong. The game system is written with a particular tone or common activities being the focus of the game, and so it is written to facilitate  these things and to anticipate the conflicts one will see there. D&D expects a focus on exploring sites, fighting monsters, feats of skill, etc. so it has a lot of rules to govern this, where as a system like BESM expects more focus on character abilities and social events with quick bursts of conflict, and so it focuses on these elements. What particular system you decide to use largely depends on the sort of activity you would like to be doing in your game, and then using a game system to supports that.

However in all these cases it’s not the minutia of how the game handles something, like if it uses magic points, spells per day, per encounter, etc, or which dice are role and how they’re compared to a stat that limits your roleplay, but if the system will even let you do something in the first place. If you can do the action at all, then generally the game mechanics side of it doesn’t really matter. The player describes the action, embellishes it, describes it, does whatever the game-system demands he do in exchange, and either it succeeds or fails. It doesn’t really matter how the game mechanics of casting a fireball or a lightning bolt work so long as you can cast one in the first place.

This means that really what determines what is going to be better for role-playing for a particular character is what set of restrictions they are willing to accept on their role-playing in exchange for the benefits the game system itself provides. If a player finds the way a particular set of restrictions on their ability to roleplay are set they’ll enjoy that system better, but it doesn’t make any system better for everyone. Just remember, role-playing lives in the fluff, not the crunch, and when comparing game systems we should be talking about how game systems restrict role-playing more or less in different areas, rather than saying certain game systems promote role-playing.


Thirty-five Improvements D&D Fourth Edition Made to the Game

Diplomacy, it's not just a nickname for your axe

I’ve played a lot of D&D. I had my first taste of it in the final days of AD&D2e. It was ok, but I never really understood how it worked, that always had to be handled by my DM. And when 3rd came out, we switched. I’m one of the few people who actually bothered converting an AD&D2e character to 3e. When 3e came out I liked it. The game system was revised. Things like certain races only being able to get to certain levels of a class were gone, the rate of XP gain was unified, and it introduced the modifier system for stats which replaced so many copious tables and was one of the best things to happen to D&D since the d20. In short, 3e was good. I played many a great games of 3e, and I had many great adventures dealing with the Coryani Emperor’s mad plans in Onara, navigating the twisted intrigues of Sharn in Eberron, and driving out giant hordes from Geoff in Greyhawk.

But at the same time I was enjoying 3e I heard the wails and the gnashing of teeth of people who hated the change. 3e is an abomination. They’re taking all the flavor out of the game. They’re dumbing it down. All the role-playing flavor is gone. 3e is a money-grab. Why can’t they just stick with AD&D2e. 3e is a horrible flop and they’ll have to go back to AD&D2e. I remember hearing all those arguments back in 2001 and well on into 2003. I remember being berated for even mentioning that 3e was D&D.

So when 2008 rolled around I suppose I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised when history repeated itself and I hear the same sorts of arguments when the 4th edition of D&D saw the light of day. And you know what, I get why someone wouldn’t like any sort of new version of their favorite game. There are plenty of changes. Some you’re not going to like, nevermind the fact that most of us are pre-disposed to dislike changes of any kind. Toss in the fact that a new edition is a request for you to buy new product, and I completely understand how that could be a deal-breaker of sorts.

What I have never gotten though is the need to heap abuse upon anything about the new version or anyone who uses it. I mean “Gabe” from Penny-arcade had “4e is an abomination, you should play X, that’s the real version” as one of the top things he’d been emailed about his D&D campaign. Is that really the kind of message to send to someone brand new to the game? Then again, I never really understood “system fanboys” and “Mac or PC fanboys” and it seems to be pretty much the same phenomenon, and let’s not even get into “real-life” issues that delve into the same territory.

Back to the matter at hand, sometimes I am foolish enough to get into this “discussion”. Though it’s never really a discussion so much as an opportunity for people to sling hate at each other. On one of these occasions I was told, in classic hyperbolic fashion, that there was nothing good about 4e. So rather than being smart and not getting involved, I instead decided to write-up a list of everything off the top of my head that I thought was an improvement that 4e made to the game. Then my list was 32 items long. I have since added three more.

Even though getting into an argument which is probably nothing more than an exercise in misplaced  anger wasn’t the wise thing to do, I still think the list that was written up was an interesting thing to look at, and so it deserves to be shared here with anyone willing to take a look at it. I don’t think I imagined the list would get so long when I began writing it.

A few disclaimers before the list begins, however. I imagine someone is going to say something about how one edition promotes role-playing more than another, and you won’t see that on this list. I decided to keep this list about the game design itself, which keeps other external things like book layout out of the list too. For the record though I don’t think either game by its nature encourages role-playing more or less than the other. Look for a future article where I explain why. Also 4e is not perfect. I could make a list of things I don’t like about 4e too. It’s not perfect, and with any luck when 2015 or so rolls around at 5e comes maybe some of those things will be addressed.

So without further ado here is my list of 35 improvements I think 4e brought to the game.

  1. Cone and Burst templates replaced with easy to follow Burst and Blast squares which do the same thing but do not require memorizing the square pattern or having a template, such as the ones by steel squire. No more groans from Entangle being cast. Wire coat hangers everywhere breathe a sigh of relief.

  3. Skill system was redesigned so similar skills were combined into groups, eliminating the need for skill synergy as synergistic activities are now part of the same skill. All classes tend to have skills that are often relevant in every adventure.

  5. Skill point system replaced with / untrained / trained / skill focus setup. Generally in this game and 3e what happens is players will max out certain skills and just continually put a point into it each level to keep it maxed. Now this simply happens automatically as training and skill focus are flat bonuses that can be given to skills and all characters get a half their level as a bonus to skill checks. This also has a side effect of ensuring your character improves overall at skill related tasks to represent experience gained as an adventurer, rather than eternally being pathetic at a number of tasks like what would happen in the earlier system.

  7. Large Base Attack Bonus, Fort, Reflex, Will tables replaced with static bonuses at level 1 based on class and defenses, attack bonus, ability checks and skill checks increase by 1 every other level (IE: Half level). I’m never going to forget what a pain it was leveling up my Fighter/Wizard/Spellsword at level 10 having to references three different charts.

  9. Game is stable and consistent through levels 1-30, where as 3rd has a “sweet spot” of 5-12. Before level 5 characters are rather weak, after level 12 the game breaks down.

  11. Vancian spell casting is gone. Spells now use a unified easy to understand implementation that is shared by all powers regardless of the power source while still keeping their flavor due to the properties available to the powers themselves. Fireballs still explode and need good reflex to avoid and roast your party members if you’re not careful, while divine casters often need not worry about this as their offensive prayers usually only hurt enemies, but they tend to have less offense in comparison. Martial characters still primarily deal in AC. Players do not need to learn whole new systems to understand spell casters or psionic characters.

  13. Powers system allows for all classes to shine in their own way and emulate the feats of heroism that players are accustomed to in legends, stories, books, movies, and yes, sometimes video games. Large number of powers to choose from allows characters to make their character different from others of the same class by the selections they make. Power selections also allow martial characters to differentiate themselves from other martial characters more so than in earlier editions, where before only spell-casters got that kind attention. Rogues in combat are no longer just a defined by their sneak attack, but their ability to blind, cripple, slip through defenses, etc.

  15. Races strengthened and made more unique. Races are more important throughout a character’s career thanks to more feats and class options related to race. Had side effect of no longer requiring ECL for many classic D&D races.

  17. Combat rules streamlined and unneeded complexity removed from key areas.

  19. Roles for Monsters and Character Classes make it easier for the DM or Players to narrow down their search for what they want to play or what monsters to include and careful choose which entries they want to read fully.

  21. 3rd edition followed a “battle of attrition” model of balance, where upon players would face a large number of easy challenges that would spend their resources and player’s mistakes would come out most of all in later encounters where resources they spent in the beginning encounters cause their downfall. This lead to the “30 minute day” where players would get up, fight something huge, then goto bed. (The length of time it takes to run encounters encouraged this as well.) This lead to DM’s often having to pump things up for the one big fight to work correctly. 4th edition centers more upon each encounter being dangerous and less on attrition between encounters, encouraging parties to continue adventuring.

  23. Encounters are now easier to create. Monster types make it easy for DM’s to get ideas how a group of monsters interact with each other, avoiding game-breaking combinations. The effects of traps in an encounter with monsters are now easier to determine. As a result, traps are more often parts of combats and not “That thing that happens between combats”.

  25. Skill challenges give a framework for DM’s to visualize and create a variety of non-combat based encounters. (Previously you just kind of winged it.) Skill challenge system is flexible and abstract so it is not confining.

  27. DC’s and Damage table in DMG makes it easier for DMs to calculate original or unexpected things, such as terrain not thought as such being used as a weapon

  29. Fantastic terrain added, effects of natural terrain more clearly defined.

  31. Disease system is more robust, with variable effects dependant on the stage of the disease on the affected character.

  33. Sizes of creatures adjusted and consolidated. No more piles of tiny sizes most people don’t remember and no more colossal size that filled up most people’s game mats. Have you seen that Colossal Red Dragon mini in person? It’s huge. It’s a statue, not a mini.

  35. Classes always gain something each level. No “dead levels”.

  37. Epic levels (21-30) no longer need a separate system to use and are part of the core game. Note that Level’s 13-30 in 3rd are past the sweet spot of 5-12 and game mechanics break down in those levels.

  39. Epic destinies get players to think about how they want to exit the game when it’s over. Epic destinies have many important world-changing events in them which can spur on future campaigns.

  41. Paragon Paths are easier to use than Prestige Classes and serve the purpose of specializing a character better than prestige classes

  43. System is written from the ground up to accommodate future books and expansion without breaking the core system.

  45. Weapon groups with their feats and the magic items eligible for those groups allows for lots of flavor to be tied to a weapon type, with the added benefit that newly created weapons do not need new rules added to use these feats / magic items

  47. Encounters are generally based upon groups of monsters opposed to 3rd ed being largely based on “The one big thing”. This makes movement and tactics more important, making combat more interesting. 4th edition however can still easily do “the one big thing” very well, where as third has lots of difficulty with groups of monsters, especially if you’re talking about more than a pair of the same monster.

  49. Monster stat blocks are easier to read and are written with running them at the table in mind. Running monsters is vastly easier as a result.

  51. Death and dying rules allow for the character’s health to be taken into effect (Death at -Bloodied instead of -10), while at the same time making it so the dying state is more dramatic, yet simpler to manager. The three failed death saves per encounter and you’re dead is simpler and more effective than the -1 hit point or 10% stabilization a round. The unneeded 0 hit point condition of disabled has been removed.

  53. Magic item slots consolidated. With three primary slots, weapon, armor, and neck, and the rest being supplemental. Stat boosters items that were required for progression removed.

  55. Encumbrance rules simplified. No more unwieldly chart that just gets ignored.

  57. Rest and recovery simplified. No more need to play the cleric-rest healing game

  59. Swimming and flying simplified and made easier to understand and run creatures with those abilities or adventures in those settings.

  61. Frustrating grapple rules eliminated. Monsters that were grapple-centric now have abilities to represent this, making them simpler to run while keeping their flavor.

  63. Healing surges take much of the need to manage healing resources off of the cleric. Healing surges encourage the encounter-centric game balance and de-emphasize attrition-based challenges.

  65. Fort, Reflex, and Will saves turned into defenses just like AC. This streamlined attacking because the die rolling is all on the attacker’s side and not the defender’s side. This also tends to make things easier on the DM.

  67. Spells with durations longer than a round have been replaced with effects that can be sustained by the caster or effects that need the target to make a saving through (10+ on a d20) every round to escape the effects of the spell. This makes it so you do not end up having to keep track of the duration of several spells cast on you like in previous editions, and you simply have to remember if something is cast on you or not. Once again, this tends to make things easier on DMs.

  69. Recharge system replaces effects that were often “recharges in 1d4 rounds”. Recharge powers now instead list what numbers on a d6 that must be rolled to get the ability back. The monster rolls a 1d6 each round and if one of those numbers come back up the ability returns. Instead of “ticking off” rounds for the ability the DM only has to keep track if the ability has been used or not, and remember to roll recharge each round to see if it comes back.