4th Edition – Dungeons and Dragons

It’s now that I remember the days when 3rd edition came up – replacing the beloved 2nd edition with new rules, new ideas, a new flow that simply was strange to many fellow players and I do remember when dozens of them vowed to stick to the 2nd edition because of it’s (in their eyes) obvious advantages.
Back then, my first impression was not that good of this new version, but I thought – let’S give it a try… and after several games it felt okay – it lost a bit here and there, but the general game was a bit easier and nicer to play with these new rules.

Lately something happened again – they released the fourth edition, a new approach and – hey guess what – everything started with quite the same feelings – I read a lot on these new rules before they were released – of course I ordered the new package of mm, dmg and phb – I went through the rules and though my feeling was not the same as it was when 2nd edition was “replaced” – this time I said again, let’s try it.

The result

Pro 4e

Though I have had severe discussions on that matter, the fourth edition is (in my very humble opinion) not worth spending more than a few euros on. I do like a few approaches and my first positive impressions were: Hey! Finally every character has really the same powerlevel! Honestly I loved this feature from the first moment onward – and I do like the new passive skills for perception (physical) and insight (social) – that’s a great approach.
I even do like the quick and simple combat rules – you got your powers – that’s it – deal with it – and not to forget the great descriptions for the various powers, that’s probably the one flair-element that’s really great and made it into the game. (Similiar to 3e Spell Compendium’s descriptions of spells – finally they got something here!)

Ok these were the advantages…

Contra 4e

Unfortunately it’s not all about pro 4e. You know, I’ve played a lot of rpg-systems in the last 16 years, but up to day I have not met one system that competes to be a computer game in level of flair. Let me explain this a bit more – for me the fourth edition is a great system for a computer game, it’s not a secret that they have integrated vital aspects of games like Diablo or World of  Warcraft into this game. But honestly – who wants to play a Tank in a pen and paper game?
We’re describing here perfect rules for a game without imagination – and honestly while I can make up a lot of flair and fantasy and the whole environment, I prefer a system that supplements and assists in this – not one based solely on combat with a few clues dropped on a skill-check system that we’ve been using in a similiar way for ages now…

The system feels blunt to me (and at least some of my players, since not all were present on Sunday). While streamlining was a great improvement of 3rd edition over 2nd edition and made things a lot easier for new players to this extraordinary and just great hobby – the streamlining of the newest edition does not enable a new dungeon master to create something to remember. Of course, experience will help here – and you can do virtually everything… Rules are just a guideline… I’ve heard a lot of these lately when I started a discussion on that matter… I have to admit, lack of flair in a RULEBOOK is hard to define, but read through the older 2nd and 3rd edition (or even better Pathfinder) classes and compare their powers and their descriptions with the 4e ones.

“Play a dragonborn if you want to – look like a dragon.”

“Play a dwarf if you want to be tough, gruff and strong as bedrock.”

Sorry, no flavour in these words for me :(.


Still, we got a great mix in our Ptolus Campaign, we got 2 100% newbies which hardly ever played anything like an RPG before, we got a few with intermediate experience and knowledge of a few systems and we got two players who enjoy dungeon-mastering probably as much as I do – and spent a good share of their past with various different systems.
I doubt anyone will, after our next session, spend a single thought on going back to the fourth edition. I honestly doubt that a lot.

The best 4e could offer to me is a good idea for new house-rules that might be introduced in the future. So long 4th edition – welcome back Pathfinder – may you prevail!

7 thoughts on “4th Edition – Dungeons and Dragons

  1. Good post! I have to agree. There is just something intangible here that by definition is impossible to explain. 4E is fun, but it isn’t AS fun as 3rd edition.

    All of the complaint that the folks who have totally embraced 4e are the things I consider essential…how do you get around that?

  2. Heck yeah! PFRPG is where we’re headed. I’m writing my penultimate 4e post now, check my blog is that interests you, it should go up in an hour or two.

  3. I havn’t played a 4th edition game yet, heck I havn’t read any of the core books cover to cover yet I have merely scanned things. However I agree. Their a few nice innovations. FOr one I love the minion concept and when I run my next game (which is a 3.5 game) I may put the concept into effect.

    It is unfortunate that their is no “Flair” or “Fluff” (as WOTC put it) in the books. It might make it more appealing as a system

  4. interesting thing, what exactly do you understand as the “minion” concept? They 1hp creatures that just look like a challenge? 😉
    I’m not sure about this myself, in 4e I think these minions are pretty good, but please report back how minion-concepts work in 3.5! It’s really interesting for me in this case.

  5. I actually find the lack of fluff an advantage of 4e.

    Except for a short run in the Mystara world of the old D&D boxed sets, I’ve always created my own worlds. And I’ve always had to set up my own fluff. Which sometimes contradicted the rulebooks’ fluff, which led to confusion on my players’ part on occasion.

    4e gives me a conflict resolution system, and gets out of the way of my roleplaying. I love that about it.

  6. I think that’s indeed one of the advantages of 4e – the system is solid and not overloaded. I hope you’ll enjoy it a lot more than we did in our playtesting so far…
    I think the fluff-stuff I am missing is more based inbetween characterclasses – but to be honest – I still am not 100% sure why I don’t like the 4th edition – or in other words – I prefer pathfinder or 3.5 over the new one…

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