Quote Originally Posted by MoutonRustique View Post
Good / Bad - as always, is a thing decided by the beholder.

What Essentials did (as objectively as I can):
Good list. I'd like to add,
  • Gameplay of most classes other than the wizard revolves around melee basic attacks. This is not meant as an insult; WOTC noticed that certain players prefer this.
  • Restoration of some sacred cows, e.g. that magic missile autohits, all blast-type wizard spells deal half damage on a miss, or that hours-lasting buff spells exist now.
  • A couple of spells that have effects decided by the DM, such as Charm Person. This proved pretty controversial.
  • In addition to the flavor text (which describes what a power does) and its name (which also describes what a power does), each power now gets an additional paragraph of description (which, again, describes what a power does).
  • The promise that certain non-book material (e.g. a dice set and some map tiles) would FOREVER be available in stores. Nobody cared, and it was quietly removed from stores.
  • Almost zero material for paragon or epic tier, because according to WOTC, pretty much nobody played that. There are no paragon or epic feats any more.
  • Magic items would not be bought or crafted (except commons), but only found in randomized packages. As stated, this rule was SO BAD that the devs themselves adviced to not use it.
  • The new rule for skill challenges says that they can only have two outcomes: either the PCs win, OR the PCs win with a minor penalty to the next combat. Of course, good DMs ignored this change.
  • Numerous splatbooks were promised and then quietly withdrawn; this had not happened earlier except to the PHB Races line.
  • Some of the worst classes ever printed. Where most e-classes are fine, the books also include the much-maligned binder, sentinel, and vampire...
  • Class powers and items, as a whole, are clearly weaker than in the earlier books. While that's not a problem if you're playing just essentials, it has the effect that (e.g.) a PHB1-wizard will basically ignore HOFL, whereas a HOFL-wizard will want as many PHB1/AP spells and items as possible.
  • They actually tried a second simultaneous organized-play program, focusing on shorter sessions and disallowing older books. This, too, was largely ignored.
  • A new introductory boxed set, that was released early and turned out not actually compatible with the new books.
  • And let's not forget: Fortune Cards! You could get a deck of random bonuses with your character, which would imbalance the game, slow down combat, and prove hugely impopular. Whoops!