Ogre in the Playground
Re: Fourth Edition Retro Clone
I like what I'm seeing, even though I didn't play 4e at all.
My I suggest Magic Sword as a name for the game? It comes from a thread where some-one pointed out that 4e probably wouldn't have caused as bad a fanbase split if it had just been called Magic Sword or something like that.
To make the dwarves distinctive, just do what Sword of Shanara did; make them racially claustrophobic. Of course, in that setting, dwarves still look like Tolkein dwarves, due to having to survive in deep underground tunnels in their backstory for generations...
Goblins need to be a player race; few things would make the game as distinctive as having Goblins be an actual politically strong entity in their own rights. I do have a Goblin empire write-up for a game I was going to run, where they revere necromancy as an artform, worship their Barghest ancestors as god-kings, and have no afterlife, thus making number one make a lot more sense.
I like the idea of adjusting the number of powers that you end up getting; I would like to have at-Wills be spread out more often, perhaps with some of the weaker Encounterly powers allowing you to take them as at-Wills when you are X levels higher? (So a Wizard gets Fireball as an Encounterly power at 7th, say, but if they wait for, say, 14th level, they can learn it as an at-Will power; doing this allows them to replace Fireball as an Encounterly with another one they could have taken at the same level.)
I love you so much for hitting upon reducing HP and healing surges; I would like to see something that makes whittling down HP cool, like benchmarks that make some of your powers better (like, I don't know, Death Spiral deals 2[W] damage normally, but 3[W] if the enemy is below 1/2 HP, with later Powers giving you the ability to modify this?)
I would also like to see each class getting some mechanical thematics added into their make-up, as well, like a Fighter's powers mostly dealing damage in terms of [W], while, I don't know, Rogues could gain some defensive abilities that allow them to reroll both their defenses and those of their enemies?
On that note, why not work it out so that the players roll all the dice? So every monster entry, once you adjust for the random abilities that some monsters will have, will be a set of static numbers? This might already be how 4e worked, so excuse me if this is not a change.
On the subject of monsters... I think adopting a more 3e approach to monsters might be a good idea... or at least make some extra "power sets" you can throw onto monsters if you want them to have a more distinctive feel (want that dragon to be a spellcaster? Toss the Wizard power-set on it. Want it to be a warrior? Toss on the Fighter power-set. Want it to be a mix? Toss on "half" of both!) Of course, these power-sets would have to be adjusted by each tier (which there should be 6 of, if we are keeping the same general sense of "weak monsters are 5 levels below, normal monsters are equal level, and strong monsters are 5 levels above" that I've heard was present in 4e.) Of course, all of these would be divorced from fluff, so that you can fit them in more easily and so that new DMs don't have the problem of "but this doesn't fit the fluff of what I want!"
On a similar note, you could approach the paths at the higher levels in a similar way; just make it so that if a Wizard wants to develop more of a Rogue-ish outlook on life, he takes a Rogue path, while another could take a Fighter path, or whatever. If they wanted to be more specialized, you could just throw descriptors on everything a la 3e (but less of them, a lot less), and then make some generic paths that grant more of that type and buff them up, while decreasing the power of other descriptors (So a Wizard selecting what they want to call the Necromancer path would be focusing on [Death] powers, just like a Fighter who wants to be a Fleshripper (also focuses on [Death] powers, is the exact same path, just with a different name.)). Of course, this would need a lot of balance, to stop the Wizard who has the Fighter path 5 times from being a better Fighter than a Fighter, but in the end I think it would be worth it.
Anyway, I could help with fluff or mechanics, either one.