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Depending on what you are hoping for from this new edition, you will either love it or hate it. It is definitely not for everyone, as can be easily surmised from the highly mixed reviews. You should be clear about what you want out of the time and money you will invest before buying the books. Like anything in life, it depends on what type of experience you value. One thing is for sure - this edition is a very radical departure from the previous D&D and accordingly will provoke a radical reaction, depending on how much you liked or disliked playing 3rd/3.5 Edition D&D, how long you have been playing the game, and what sort of game you like.
If you are hoping for a more streamlined game that takes the bookishness and vast amounts of reading and reference out, and makes the combat system more interesting and fun, you will love it. It lends itself well to people who like fast-paced, action-packed games and want to spend as little time as possible on character and adventure design so they can just get straight to the action. This edition takes much of the time out character and adventure design and puts it on the action. This change can be quite fun if action is what you like. For the casual or new RPG fan who enjoys playing but does not have time to truly immerse themselves in details of the game, this edition is the best one yet. Most people who will buy these books will probably fit into this category. So for the casual gamer, this is a good edition to buy. It's definitely a more practical edition to play.Read more ›
The meteoric rise of Massively Multiplayer RPGs has created a unprecedentedly-large case study about what works for class advancement and balance. When I was first looking through the promotional material I noticed concepts from the MMO space cropping up: defender(tank), striker(dps), controller, and leader(support). I was initially disappointed by this, but the more I thought about it the more the idea began to grow on me. Every class now has a role within the group so there's no question about what each character should be doing.
The options for character advancement are fewer than previous versions. Whereas 3.x gave you the tools to create just about any type of character, that's not so much the case in 4. For the advanced players who enjoyed making odd concept characters, this is going to be their primary gripe with the system. I'm talking, frothing-at-the-mouth, storm-the-Bastille forum fanboy crazy.
For the rest of the players, who just want to _play_, it's going to be great. You don't have to worry about some powergamer creating a monstrosity of character that starts an arms race with the DM. Even if you don't have a powergamer around, there's very little chance of a player accidentally creating a character that's isn't effective in the group.
What excites me as a player is the fact that you get something cool at every level. It was always kind of boring as a fighter in 3.x: "Another feat. Yawn. This'll be interesting in another dozen levels when my build finally comes together". In 4e, I get something new to play with each time.
What excites me as a DM is that my life got easier. There aren't any "Attack of opportunity" or "grapple" nightmare rules like before. There's less opportunity for rule-lawyering and general powergaming.Read more ›
I was really looking forward to 4ed. The idea that you can just pick-up and play without having to decipher lots of fine print and sub-rules and supplements and so on, this seemed like a good idea. (Although, frankly, the mastery of D&D minutiae is most certainly the appeal for some geeks.)
Surprisingly, I've had to literally force my way through the Player's Handbook. It's all so ... boring. Part of the fun of D&D (for me, as a DM) was reading through all the possibilities, and imagining more. 3ed had this in spades: You could do just about anything, and it gave a lot of room to go in interesting and unique directions.
4ed, meanwhile, maps everything out. Everything is classified in terms of how often you can use it, and you add this power or that feat at each level according to a unified formula. It reminds me more of Diablo than anything.
I'm not being dismissive, either. Really, 4ed is an impressive piece of work, streamlining and cleaning up a very messy game. I give it three (of five) stars because it's so easy to read and has big type with every detail clerly spelled out. (I don't like the artwork but that's my own taste.) It will surely be easier for people to casually pick up and play. What I can't figure out is why they--or really, why =I= would want to play it.
I gather that a lot of issues with 3ed came about because of pickup and competition games. There are such things as "powergamers" and "rules lawyers" and they found ways to drag the game down. And, of course, not all classes in previous editions were equally powerful, if you crunched the numbers. (It never occurred to me that this was a problem, but then I do everything I can to keep my players from focusing on the numbers.)