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Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition

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The Gish [Jun. 2nd, 2008|01:52 pm]
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition


Anyone spending any time in the 4th Edition forums on ENWorld or the WotC site is bound to see a thousand and one complaints about the new rules. I am not here to say that all of those complaints are unfounded -- though I do believe that 4th is a big step forward.

But one thing that I'd like to dispel is the myth that 4th edition multi-classing is too limited.

Now, I'm not going to argue that it's not more limited than 3rd. It clearly is -- that was the point. Multi-classing in 3rd edition (if you include all the splatbooks) became a complicated and easily abusable affair. And yet, despite its many MANY loopholes, there still wasn't a really good way to build the "ideal Gish" without using a class that was designed around the idea (such as a Duskblade) -- and those classes have their own problems.

So, when I see people complaining that there's no good way to build a Gish in 4th Edition, I'm forced to laugh. There was no way to easily put together a full-powered Gish in 3rd either!


Historical definition: Githyanki fighter magic-user
Loose definition: Someone who can cast spells and fight in melee
Magic-oriented definition: A (nearly) full-powered mage that can swing a sword when out of spells.
Melee-oriented definition: A (nearly) full-powered meleer that can magically buff himself and maybe do some nuking from range
Munchkin definition: I want to do everything a wizard can do and also be the deadliest swordsman in the world.

There are simply too many definitions of what a "Gish" is, and therein lies most of the problem. No matter what solutions people present to the "Gish problem", there's always someone else complaining that it doesn't do _________.

Another significant part of the problem is that the rules have changed. You want your wizard to wear armor and be proficient in the longsword? Just spend a few of your (many more than 3rd edition) feats. There's no arcane spell failure chance. You can wear a suit of full plate, carry a greatsword, and still blow people up with Meteor Swarm. The concept of "caster level" is gone -- so whether you're going from Fighter -> Wizard or Wizard -> Figher, your spells will always be great.

Since the old "Base Attack Bonus" has been unified, EVERY character has the same basic chance to hit. If there's a specific fighter power you wished you had, you can spend a feat to get it. If you want to join a fighter Paragon Path, that's allowed too.

Of course, you won't be the same character as a 3.5 Gish...the game's just different now. There are fewer buffs, for examples. That's just the nature of 4th Edition -- they've removed buffs in an effort to reduce bookkeeping. Instead, all classes have a host of powers that offer very temporary "buffs". Consider what this means: No, you can't multi-class into Wizard (or Cleric) and grab Bull's Strength......but you don't *need* that any more. You're perfectly capable of buffing yourself with less effort and in ways that benefit your primary role more than ever!

The other problem is that people aren't recognizing the role changes that the basic classes have undergone.

I'd say that 99% of people who want to play a Gish want to play a "Striker" type of character. Hard hitting, mobile, and full of tricks.

A 4th Edition Fighter is a defender. They aren't meant to do lots of damage and they aren't meant to be all that mobile or tricky. There's a good chance you don't want your Gish to be a Fighter.

A 4th Edition Wizard is a controller. They aren't meant to do lots of damage. Their "tricks" tend to involve debuffing enemies more than doing cool stuff themselves. This new Wizard also handles himself pretty damn well in close quarters and can NEVER run out of castings, so there's less of a reason to draw a melee weapon. There's a good chance you don't want your Gish to be a Wizard.

The problem is that they should (in my opinion) be focusing on the Striker classes. The Warlock, for example, is a much more Gish-friendly class. It has a lot of funky abilities revolving around mobility, and it has lots of tricks that it can do to gain concealment and other great defenses. You can also build a Constitution-based Warlock, making it ideal for someone who'll get in the thick of things. Depending on your Fighter build, Con may even be your primary stat!

Then again, why focus on Fighter? A Rogue can be a stylish companion to the Warlock, for example. You can take advantage of the Warlock's movement and misdirection powers to position yourself for the perfect sneak attack.

Of course, I believe that Fighter/Wizard hybrids work perfectly fine too -- it just comes down to the specific style you're looking for. You also need to be able to decouple the mechanics from the flavour. If you go Rogue/Warlock, you can still SAY that you're a fighter that dabbles in magic -- who cares?

And we haven't even touched on Rituals yet. One feat gives any non-caster the ability to cast every ritual in the game (ignoring the skill checks for the moment.) Rituals are where 95% of the cool magic stuff has gone.

In the end, what people really have to do is detach themselves from the old 3.5 mechanics and just think about the concept that they are trying to achieve. Once you have solidly determined your concept, I'm willing to bet you can find a way to make it work in 4th Edition. Just make sure that your concept doesn't include *mechanical* elements, like wanting a specific buff spell. Wanting to boost your melee combat with magic is easy. Having access to Bull's Strength is not.

Finally, remember that all we've got right now are the core books. 3rd Edition gishing only started to get good (well, sort-of-good) once a ton of splatbooks were out. There's already been some leaked info about upcoming feats that let you use melee weapons in place of Arcane Implements and such -- the support will be there!

(And, of course, there will be the Swordmage class in the Forgotten Realms players handbook.)

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