Can Essentials and 4E Be Used Side-By-Side?

I’ve been debating this back and forth in my head for a good long while now. I was blessed enough to (finally) play both the Dark Sun Game Day as well as the Red Box Game Day– both with different groups of players and even in different states. And my experiences there, I think, color my opinions on this more than anything else.

I gotta admit, the marketing campaign for Essentials kinda threw me for a loop. The talking heads at WotC seemed to make a point over and over again in podcasts, interviews and articles on their own website of how Essentials and Core 4E were intended to be used together, in tandem, and how Essentials was just another approach to the game in general. From my point of view, they seemed to go out of their way to tell consumers that the two were inter-mixable.

But are they, really?

I think I’m inclined to say no. I don’t really want to say no, mind you, but my instinct tells me that Essentials and 4E are different enough beasts that having them together in the same game might be troublesome, with either the Essentials player feeling outclassed by the 4E player or, in contrast, the 4E player feeling like the Essentials player has a better version of the rules– more streamlined, easier to play, etc.

Also, if this is such a selling point for 4E & Essentials both, where’s the support for it? Dungeon/Dragon articles, Character Builder and Compendium updates, etc? Seems like WotC dropped the ball on this launch to me. I’m still a 4E fan, mind you– I’m just not sure the essentials line is as solid a product as they want it to be.

I know this is a quick post, and I also know I’m definitely not a numbers-cruncher who has the time or wherewithal to put Essentials and Core side by side… but I really wonder if anybody has run Essentials and 4E characters together in any kind of playtest or put the numbers side by side to see how they stack up. Is a combined 4E/Essentials party a viable option? Is it doable in terms of numbers, in terms of playability, and most especially in terms of fun?

Let me know. I’m really interested to hear what the community at large has to say here.

If anybody wants to write a post on the topic, especially if you have tried to combine the two at your table, link back here in a comment and I’ll happily put it up RPG Blog Circus-style!!

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7 Responses to Can Essentials and 4E Be Used Side-By-Side?

  1. Shinobicow says:

    from what I understand, most of the rules that have come out in essentials are supposed to supersede the previous rules, i.e. are a revision/erata of older stuff. I believe what is supposed to be able to work side by side is player characters built using essentials rules and PC’s built using standard 4e rules from other sourcebooks. I haven’t played them side by side yet, but I am interested to try. If they really are interchangeable and can work side by side I will be interested to see how MC Slayer / two-sword ranger will work, or if hybrids are even possible using these essentials rules.

    • Gary says:

      You would be incorrect. There are some small updates to a few things here and there. The biggest change has to do with item rarity, and that’s not really a problem for anyone but Living Forgotten Realms. However, most of the material are brand new classes, not revisions.

      With respect to the blog entry, I don’t think there is any problem using Essentials classes with previous material, at all. The only one who might feel outclassed is a Slayer. I say this having played at mixed tables. It’s just not a problem.

  2. OnlineDM says:

    I’ve played in a Living Forgotten Realms game that contained both traditional 4e and Essentials classes. It was no big deal, frankly. The Knight at our table worked a little differently than a regular Fighter, sure, but as far as impacting the table it was about the same as having any defender there. I think the new builds play alongside existing builds with no problem so far.

  3. Paul says:

    I’m going to be playing a Knight in an upcoming campaign where everyone else will be running normal 4e characters. I don’t foresee any big problems, at least not with the knight. He might not be as flashy as the normal 4e fighter, but I think he’ll get the job done.

    The one Essentials class that I can see problems with is the Mage. As far as I can tell, he out-strips the standard 4e wizard in every way. He has a bigger spellbook, his spells are better, and he has feats which can upgrade them further. He loses the implement mastery feature of the normal wizard, but he can essentially recoup that loss with feat choices. IMO, the new implement mastery feats are better than the original implement mastery abilities of the standard wizard.

    • Syrsuro says:

      They work fine side by side. I’ve been playing Encounters for the last four weeks in a mixed group.

      But, just for the record:
      ” his spells are better, and he has feats which can upgrade them further”

      The spells are the same for both. The upgrades to the spells apply to both classic 4E and essentials 4E wizards. And so do the feats they can take.

      “IMO, the new implement mastery feats are better than the original implement mastery abilities of the standard wizard.

      Except those are the new versions of the implement mastery feats – period. They are available to both new and old wizards, not something only Essential wizards can have.

      As for power, my impression so far is that the Essentials character is a solid baseline. It takes less effort to avoid gimping yourself, but conversely you can’t achieve the heights of character optimization you can with the full set of 4E books. If you prefer a more streamlined build, play an essential 4E character and if you want the complexity, play a classic 4E character. But imho the differences between Essentials and Core is slight and no more significant than the already existing differences between the various builds.

      Carl

      • Paul says:

        I was speaking more to the class abilities of the two classes, rather than the feats. For example the standard 4e wizard can specialize in an implement – Wand of Accuracy, Orb of Control, Staff of Defense.

        The Mage, on the other hand, specializes in a school of magic. The “school of magic” specializations are better than the standard wizard’s implement specialization, especially now that the implement specializations can be taken separately, as feats.

        For example, it is easily possible to build an Enchanter with an at will close blast 5 vs. Will that pushes enemies 6 squares and does a little damage.
        Beguiling Strands + Enchanter + Orb Focus Feat (or whatever it’s called).

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