I, for one, am pretty excited about the upcoming 4E release. According to this article:
Chris Perkins on the ease of running monsters: "The game makes the DM's life easier in many ways. For one thing, monsters are more fun to play. A monster doesn't need thirty spell-like abilities to be cool. Given that the typical monster has a lifespan of 3 to 5 rounds, it really only needs one or two 'signature' abilities in addition to its normal attacks. The new game also makes it a lot easier for the DM to determine appropriate challenges for the party with an encounter-building system that's much more intuitive than the current EL/CR system.”
As a DM, this is music to my ears!
Argamae brings up an interesting point:
All this talk about "more clearly defined roles" in an adventurer party gives me wrinkled eyebrows. How do they want these roles to be "more clearly defined"? Is it just me or do the roles don't have a clear definition as is?
Speaking as a former noob who started playing 3e with a character that was pre-generated for him, I can emphatically state that: NO it is not clear, especially to first-time players. The first PC I ever played was a 7th level Paladin/Pious Templar. I became Jerri the Mighty, Slayer of Dragons and Opener of Doors. I was paired up with a Wizard, a Rogue/Fighter and a Cleric/Fighter. Since I had the highest charisma and best diplomacy score, I became the de facto party spokesman, even though the Wizard was really the brains behind the brawn.
At least in my experience, just reading through the class descriptions in the PHB really doesn’t really give first time players a clear idea of what role they’ll end up playing in the party. And if I had been forced to choose for myself which class to play, I would have been stumped! I probably would have steered away from spell casting classes altogether because they seemed to involve too much bookkeeping for my tastes. So WHY isn’t there just a SIMPLE chart in the PHB that shows which classes are spell casters, maybe show which ones cast Divine magic as opposed to Arcane magic, and which classes don’t cast spells at all? Why should you have to read all the way through every Class description in the book as well as the Magic school section just to try and figure out which classes might appeal to the noob?
Have you ever tried to explain to a noob which skills and feats he/she should take? The whole character creation process is so convoluted that in order to KNOW which skills and feats are desirable, you pretty much have to plan out your character several levels in advance. I DREADED having to level up my Paladin because I would be clueless about what feats to take, where to stash my limited skill points, and I knew that somewhere there was some house rule or some part of the arcane Armor Class formula that I was missing which would result in a mis-recorded stat. If I had some goal or more specific “role” in mind for my character at the time it would have helped immensely.
Of course, after you’ve created your own characters from scratch a few times, it becomes old hat and you eventually find yourself rolling up new characters for fun in your spare time. But that road can be a long and hard one to follow, and throwing noobs into the pool to see if they sink or swim may not be the best remedy.
I’m hoping the new “Leader” roles as defined by the 4e handbook will help noobs at least understand that there even ARE party roles to be filled, and better equip them to make self-informed choices during the character creation phase. The 3e and 3.5e PHB editions don’t offer nearly enough guidance for the noob IMHO. Even for experienced players, there’s a short-hand character generation section in the back of Player’s Hanbook II complete with suggested feat progressions for each character class that should have been in the first book.
Now I DM my own campaign and I prefer playing straight-up Clerics. But if you had told me 5+ years ago when I first started playing that I’d ever be able to master the rules to a degree that would enable me to DM a game, I would have politely told you that you’re out of your flipping mind.
RE: 4e: Anything that could possibly make my job as DM easier and faster sounds like a worthwhile proposition to me. Bring it on!