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D&D 4E 4E Dislike - a hypothesis

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Mercurius

Legend
An idea came to me while reading the Thread of the Week and was inspired further by some of AbdulAlhazred's comments in this thread, about his experiences of being a grognard that likes 4E, and more than previous editions of D&D, including the hallowed AD&D 1E.

It is very simply this: My sense is that a lot, even most, of the dislike of 4E--and I'm not talking about indifference but actual dislike--comes not from old-time players, that is folks who started playing D&D before 3E arrived in 2000, but from those that started with 3E and "grew up" with it, so to speak, at least as D&D players. Sure, there are some Old Schoolers that prefer OD&D or Labyrinth Lord or AD&D, but they probably felt that way before and during 3E. In other words, to the Old Schooler it isn't 4E specifically that is the problem, but anything after, say, Dragonlance or Gary Gygax left TSR, or wherever an individual might draw the line. But of those who have outright rejected 4E, even felt betrayed by WotC for publishing it, I think the vast majority are players that were new to D&D with 3E.

This is just a hypothesis, mind you, but let me explain my reasoning. A common view (and I would say an ultimately fallacious one) is that D&D's biggest jump was between 3E and 4E. I would say that it was between 2E and 3E; with 3E, D&D in a sense "modernized" and became a very different game from 2E. Not only did it catch up with the rest of the RPG world in terms of having a streamlined game and engine based upon a unified core mechanic--an approach that went back at least to the late 80s with Ars Magica and was popularized by Vampire: the Masquerade--but a shift in game style and approach. Because of the simplicity and strength of the core mechanic, the 3E system could hold much more "weight" than 2E, and so its designers--and later supplements--piled on option after option, exception after exception, and 3E became by far the most simulationist iteration of D&D ever made. There was a rule to handle anything, an option to create any character concept you wanted, down to the nitty-gritty details.

4E changed that. It went back to its gamist roots and said, "We don't need to know every little detail about every monster, we can just wing it." Of course it followed a similar (and unfortunate, imo) pattern of weighing the game down with endless options (which has made creating a character in Character Builder increasingly tedious - the feat menu, for instance, is a nightmare) but it has also advocated a more free-wheeling, improvisational style, partially by sacrificing game mastery for playability and balance.

In addition to a re-focus on gamism vs. simulationism, the designers at WotC integrated more contemporary elements, many of them based upon what could loosely be described as the "World of Warcraft Mythos." Not necessarily specific Warcraftisms, but Warcraft-like elements. But what many seemed to miss is that the default approach to 4E was as a toolbox: everything is core, everything customizable. Campaign settings are not heavily detailed because you, the DM, decide the details and set the tone. Don't like dragonborn, tieflings, and shardminds? Fine, don't include them in your campaign. This has always been true, but 4E re-emphasized this (although evidently not enough).

So back to my main point: It is my view--more of a hypothesis than a theory--that most of those who have reacted negatively to 4E are people who were new to D&D with 3E; in other words, it is the contrast and difference between 3E and 4E that people are (for the most part) not liking, not the contrast and difference between older editions and 4E.

What do you think?

p.s. This is not to say that anyone is right or wrong; I certainly feel that both 3E and 4E are valid approaches and versions of D&D; however I do think that people who come from 3E roots and say that 4E "isn't real D&D" are missing the larger tradition of D&D, because in some ways 4E is even more connected to earlier editions than 3E was; but my point is, that the feeling that "4E isn't real D&D" is less so from long-time players than it is from people who grew up on 3E; in other words, what said folks are really saying is that "4E isn't 3E," no more or less. Which is, of course, a truism.
 

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Aeolius

Adventurer
My sense is that a lot, even most, of the dislike of 4E--and I'm not talking about indifference but actual dislike--comes not from old-time players, that is folks who started playing D&D before 3E arrived in 2000, but from those that started with 3E and "grew up" with it, so to speak, at least as D&D players.

I guess I'm not "most", then (no surprise, there). I started with Basic D&D in 1979, moved on to Expert, and then 1e AD&D. When 2e came out I didn't care for the core rules, so I skipped it. 3e brought me back to the fold and I enjoy that edition more than 1e. 3e inspires me to create. 4e came along and once again I decided that that the newer rules were less inspiring that the prior ones.
 

delericho

Legend
What do you think?

Two things:

1) You're wrong in my case. I started with BECMI D&D, moved to 2nd Edition, moved away for a while, came back to 2nd Edition just as 3e was announced, moved to 3e, then 3.5e, and then stopped. (I haven't moved to 4e or Pathfinder, at least as a DM. My long-standing position is that I'll play anything anyone cares to run.)

2) Why the constant need to explain, rationalise, or otherwise analyse peoples' dislike of 4e? Why can it not be accepted as a matter of taste - some people like it and some don't?

Continuously analysing the question in the manner will, at best, just lead to another round of edition wars. At worst, it's insulting - an uncharitable reading of your post could suggest that those of us who don't like 4e simply don't know our own minds, and if only we could change our thinking then ENWorld would be one big, happy family again. I'm sorry, but that's just not so.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What do you think?

I think that liking or disliking a game is a matter of taste. I think trying to lump the various tastes of a large number of individuals under one umbrella is both tossing out a lot of useful information for little gain, and asking for trouble in a social sense.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I'm a 4E player and DM and don't have any current plans to change that, but let's be honest here. 4E is different from earlier editions--all earlier editions--in some very fundamental ways. Just off the top of my head:

  • The hit point rules. Now, every edition of D&D has included what I call the "Hit Points Are Not Wound Points Paragraph"--a place where it explains that hit points are a combination of toughness, luck, defensive skills, yadda yadda yadda. But in all previous editions, that paragraph was just a handwave. You could disregard it completely and treat hit points as pure physical toughness, the rules supported that interpretation, and lots of people did so. In 4E, however, treating hit points as wound points would require some major house rules.
  • Completely unified class mechanics. Every class uses the same arrangement of at-will, encounter, and daily powers. Before 4E, every class was its own beast with its own rules. 4E largely did away with that (although Essentials is bringing it back to some extent).
  • Almost no effects with long-term consequences for PCs. In previous editions, you had things like poison, energy drain, rust monsters, permanent curses, and so forth, all of which could mess you up for quite a while. 4E has done away with such things; no matter what happens during the day, one night's rest brings you back to 100%. The only exception I can think of is disease.
  • Rules rewritten from the ground up. Every previous edition of D&D has maintained a basic continuity with what came before--sometimes to its detriment, as when 3E kept the same list of wizard spells while altering saving throw and spellcasting mechanics (resulting in a massive power-up for arcane casters). For good or ill, 4E threw out the rulebook and started over.

4E also continues some trends from 3E, moving it farther from Classic and AD&D. For instance:

  • Rigorous, precisely defined rules, avoiding reliance on DM judgement and interpretation.
  • Focus on mechanics qua mechanics, while de-emphasizing the idea that the purpose of the mechanics is to help describe an imaginary world.
  • Dependence on the battlemat.
  • Magic items as interchangeable commodities rather than unique and legendary things.

In the end, while it is almost certainly true that the majority of dislike for 4E comes from 3E players rather than AD&D and Classic players, I attribute that to one simple fact: There are a whole lot more of them.
 
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TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
The very specific hypothesis may not be right. My guess is that on these boards, most 3E/PF fans started with an earlier edition, since so many of us here did. Also, I am guessing that over on the wotc boards are a number of 3e only to 4e now players.

I think my own anecdotal evidence in interesting: In my current group:

-2 skipped 3E entirely and have no problem with 4E--and in fact have dived right into its tropes. (including martial dailies and moving things around the battlemat)

-2 played through 2E (and some earlier) and 3E and seem to like 4E fine.

-1 played through 2E (and some earlier), liked 3E a lot and still likes it better, though he plays 4E.

In addition:

-1 previous player is the only one I know who started with 3E and moved to 4E he seemed to like 4E better.

-A good friend who has played, lets say everything, was annoyed by 4E, liked 3E and stuck with 3E.

From this limited evidence and what I have seen on the nets:

-People who liked old school D&D can certainly like 4E (it is...very...unclear to me if they will like essentials better).

-People who liked 3E and maybe only played it can like 4E

BUT

-A lot of people liked 3E. I think this is key. They liked it and didn't see the need for the big changes in 4E. Given the initial popularity of 3E, the massive support it received, the extent to which it has been played and play tested and the fact that it is such a strong compromise between old and new, I am not really surprised by this, even if I dropped it like a hot potato when I got the chance.
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
It is very simply this: My sense is that a lot, even most, of the dislike of 4E--and I'm not talking about indifference but actual dislike--comes not from old-time players, that is folks who started playing D&D before 3E arrived in 2000, but from those that started with 3E and "grew up" with it,
I would fit the mold, having essentially started with 3e and mostly used that system. I like 3.X, and I played a little 2e before that (as well as Baldur's Gate and such) and enjoyed it. I found 3.0 a very natural evolution of what I understood of 2e. I find 4e a virtually unrecognizable and unplayable game by comparison.

This is just a hypothesis, mind you, but let me explain my reasoning. A common view (and I would say an ultimately fallacious one) is that D&D's biggest jump was between 3E and 4E. I would say that it was between 2E and 3E; with 3E, D&D in a sense "modernized" and became a very different game from 2E.
This I completely disagree with. The 2e to 3e jump created a new spine that unified many mechanics (skills feats) and allowed more flexibility (universal availability of classes, ability to choose a class each level). Design elements that always existed were now more transparent (creation of monsters, magic items). But it was still the same game.

p.s. This is not to say that anyone is right or wrong; I certainly feel that both 3E and 4E are valid approaches and versions of D&D; however I do think that people who come from 3E roots and say that 4E "isn't real D&D" are missing the larger tradition of D&D, because in some ways 4E is even more connected to earlier editions than 3E was; but my point is, that the feeling that "4E isn't real D&D" is less so from long-time players than it is from people who grew up on 3E; in other words, what said folks are really saying is that "4E isn't 3E," no more or less. Which is, of course, a truism.
The distinction between going back to the roots and simply taking a step backwards is strictly a matter of opinion. I don't admittedly know a great deal about the game before late 2e, but I operate under the general assumption that the game improved over time (up until 3.5) and that the "gamist roots" inasmuch as such a thing exists, were abandoned for a reason.


Without getting more technical than that, I can only say that as a 3.X player and DM, 4e doesn't work for me. I don't play it for the same reason I don't play any of numerous non-D&D rpgs on the market; the rules don't do what I want them to do. The same might be true if I looked at various early incarnations of D&D. I am, however, skeptical that longtime D&D players have accepted 4e moreso than people like me; it seems to me those types are drawn to Pathfinder (which many consider "real D&D" regardless of name) or Trailblazer, which also mix modernized and retro elements while retaining the advantages of 3e's rules spine.
 
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Zhaleskra

Adventurer
I started with AD&D2E, had a chance to buy the Rules Cyclopedia at a bookstore and I passed up that opportunity. Near the end of 3.5 I realized what I don't like about D&D, especially among the 3.x editions and I was already growing away from D&D as it was. On the other end, I did find a new appreciation as I found the difference between what people think 3.x rules say and what they actually say.

Pre-release 4e discussions showed me I probably wouldn't like it. Actual product information continued this feeling. Examples of actual play sealed it.
 

TheYeti1775

Adventurer
The hypothesis has merit, though it can be defeated easily with a few examples.
;) Me for example. ;)

Where it has merit though is those new players who started in 3E(3.0) and progressed through 3.5E. Many hated the revision so close to the original release. Errata fix would have been one thing, but whole rules/spells/etc change out left a slightly sour taste on many lips.
In a way I would wager the 'grognards' to actually have liked the .5 release. Most of us had seen years without a rules update, so to us it would have looked like a very active interchange going on.

If the only rules you knew were the 3/3.5E rules you never played the fly by the seat of your pants because you've played every module released.
You always had third party support, to fill the gaps, give you new worlds almost weekly.
So the jump to 4E, massive rule changes to very minor 3rd party support to begin with (I can't speak for current 3rd party stuff as I don't play 4E enough to know/care.) could be enough to turn you sour without trying it or trying it and leave the sour taste on the lips.

So I would say 'grognards' did have an advantage going forward to 4E play. We know what it is like to have a big rule change followed by little 3rd party support. For us we think the electronic tools are the awesome sauce. Remember we lived through Core Rules, E-Tools, and the various 3rd party stuff. Persons that started with 3E have always known computer support for their gaming. Us old guys used to be impressed because our friend in the computer lab came up with a random number generator based off of dice.

But now I'm rambling and I got work to do.
 

Smoss

First Post
In my experience of the gamers I know, it has really been more of a personality and type of game they want - not where they started.

I started in college with AD&D 2e. I like 3e as it fit the flavor I wanted at the time, though I have moved on since then. 4e is a game I will play sometimes, but not my preference. It does not do what *I* want. Of course, 3.x and its ilk no longer does what I want either... :)

However, I have a bunch of friends that started the same kind of way I did. Each has their own varied opinion of 4e.

One embraced it fully. I know why for him. Because it was "the latest greatest thing gotta have it". That is the way he is.

Another utterly hates it and wants nothing to do with it. Ever. He would totally be a loud voice against 4e in the edition war if he was on this forum. Despite giving it no chance.

A couple of guys play and like it - If less vociferously than the first guy.

We've all been through similar experiences - We all ended up with different opinions on the matter. I would believe (in most cases) an edition would matter only when it comes down to either their nostalgia of it being better or actual fact that it fit their play style better. If 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, etc take you away from the kind of game you want to play - feel free to dislike it and play what you like.

I personally like MY system that I made with my own hands. I made it fit ME like a glove so I have a problem seeing me running any other system - they all feel flawed to me now for what *I* want. Does not stop people from playing those systems and enjoying them. They are not ME. Most people are quite glad they are not ME actually... :)
-----------------------
Smoss
Doulairen
 

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
I started with BECMI, and played 2e in college, but really got back into gaming with 3e (actually 3.5e). Right now I'm oscillating between 3.5e (and variants) and Basic/Labyrinth Lord. Really it just depends on what type of campaign I want.

The main reasons I didn't get on the 4e wagon were mostly practical and aesthetic, rather than mechanical. I simply didn't like its presentation at the time it came out, and didn't know anyone interested in playing it. I'll soon be taking another look with the Essentials 4e stuff, though, as that seems to more closely align with my D&D sensibilities.

In the end, though, I don't actually care why anyone likes or dislikes my particular edition(s) of choice. The only important thing to me is finding good people to play with when I can, and playing whatever game we all enjoy. :)
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
What do you think?

Doesn't match the experience of myself or my players.

Started with Red Book Basic rules & Blue Book Expert rules. Moved to AD&D 1e and played well into 2e. Eventually abandoned D&D during the 2e days & came back to D&D around the time 3.5 was released.

4e doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.
 

pawsplay

Banned
Banned
What do you think?

Nope.

I started with Basic D&D, played a bit of AD&D 1e and 2e, and stopped playing D&D as a game of choice, before returning to 3e. 3e was simply a much better game, which fixed many of the aggravations I had with D&D, although by no means perfect.

I don't dislike 4e because it's "gamist," whatever poorly conceived construct that is supposed to be, but because I don't like the design. I sincerely considered getting Gamma World, just for a lark, but I stared at the art on it and as I contemplated the photographed references to shifting and dailies and all those little symbols, I could feel my interest waning, much as one might feel one's consciousness growing faint right before taking an unexpected nap. It has nothing to do with what 4e might be in relation to 3e... I play a large number of games, without any tremendous loyalty. But I enjoy 3e, and only a handful of things about 4e are appealing.

I like Fantasy Craft, which also departs from many 3e memes and is also very focused on simple monster design, clean mechanical effects and abilities, and clean scaling of PC abilities across all levels, all design goals of 4e.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I'm a player dating back to 1977, and I've come to a slightly more generalized view: the dislike stems from legacy issues, regardless of your preferred prior edition. By that I mean that I can objectively look at 4Ed and see it's a well designed RPG, but the way it does things jars with the way things should be done for a game called "D&D."

Yes, it's sort of a genericized version of the dreaded "It's not D&D to me" argument.

Simply put, had it been advertised as "A next generation RPG from the makers of D&D," it would have been free of legacy issues, and could have developed it's own mythology. It would have more space in which to grow, unimpeded by preconceived notions about what it should or shouldn't be.

Clearly, those legacy issues matter more to some than others. Just as clearly, opinions differ on whether the new or old mechanics model certain aspects of the game better than others. Some just think the benefits of unified mechanics outweigh whatever other negative issues that may arise.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I think you're wrong. I don't think you can necessarily tie it to which version someone started with. Either 4e works for you or it doesn't. But if I were to do some armchair sociology, I'd be inclined to put my hypothesis in the other direction

In my case, for example, I started with the Holmes Basic set in 1981 and moved to AD&D shortly thereafter. I've played through 2e and made the transition to 3e with some skepticism. I was, however, won over by the changes in the game and the respect the designers had for the game's roots, even as some mechanics were changing.

4e, by comparison, I approached with some optimism only to be really disappointed by the substantial changes in design and philosophy in those designs. Many of the roots, respected by the 3e team, were deliberately left behind as I see it. Turns out, I don't even like most of the gamist changes to the mechanics.

You may think the game changed more radically between 2e and 3e, but I don't agree on any level with that. 4e's the most substantially different animal in that family.

EDIT: Allow me to add a caveat - I don't much like the mechanical changes - for D&D. I'd be more accepting of them in a different game like, say, one for Asian martial arts cinema.
 
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Corathon

First Post
I am one of the folks who started with AD&D and prefers it to either 3E or 4E. I don't hate 3E or 4E, but I have no desire to play either. Since that is indifference rather than hate, I guess this goes along with the hypothesis in the OP.

OTOH, I did buy 3E stuff to "steal" things (e.g. monsters, spells, magic items) for my 1E camapaign. I don't do that with 4E, as the game seems too alien for it to be worth the effort.
 
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Raven Crowking

First Post
IMHO, Dausuul's post, above, is correct to a very high degree.

I would add only, "de-emphasis on exploration; increased emphasis on combat" combined with "combats that take far too long (and thus individually bear a disproportionate amount of the weight in terms of a satisfying game session)".


RC


EDIT: I started with Holmes Basic, Christmas 1979.
 

radmod

First Post
I started in '76 with whatever edition that was (Basic?). I loved the changes from 2e to 3e simply because some of them were rules that I had already instituted, would wanted to have instituted, or fit with my own variations of 2e. 4e is radically different.

One thing I'm not hearing here to a loud degree (which surprises me) is that many old school (2e and later) players simply don't want to play 4e because it's now a "kid's game." That's actually the first thing people say when I ask them in person.
 

Tuft

First Post
What do you think?

Nope, does not apply to me either.

I first came into contact with AD&D 1st ed for four glorious hours, and got to borrow the DMG and MM overnight, dreaming about meeting the wonderful magical beings therein. Then it was four long years of seeking and false starts until I got to play the game again.

1st ed AD&D, 2nd ed AD&D heavily house-ruled to support lots of percentile runequest-like non-combat skills, Shadowrun 1st, 2nd, 3rd ed, Earthdawn, Feng Shuei derivates, Space 1899, AD&D 3rd and 3.5 ed.

And yes, I tried 4th Ed weekly for one year, levels 1-25... and am one of those that seriously dislike the system.

Well, I pretty much got told by WOTC that 4ED wasn't for me. I'm one of those who like "traipsing off through fairy rings and interacting with the little people", to use the infamous James Wyatt quote.

I love non-combat magic, and the non-combat part of solutions. People might fight in the other part of the room, but give me a simultaneous non-combat task, and I am happy. Let it involve magic, and/or NPC interaction, and I am doubly happy. I managed that even when we played in an "Aliens"-inspired military campaign (thank god you could steal from Bishop).

The 4ED rulebooks were the first rulebooks since I discovered this that I could go through without finding something I truly liked and *wanted* - and my regular DM likes collecting old and odd systems from bargain bins at various cons, and usually lets me leaf through those ;)

I miss non-combat magic (face it, 4 ED rituals are a serious non-hitter; by the time we reached lvl 25 in the 4E campaign I think I had collected over 50 rituals, and still hardly ever got to use them) and I miss non-combat monsters. My first love was the original 1st ED MM way back, and then not the monsters you could defeat, but those that you could *meet*.
 
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Reigan

First Post
When you design a game based on the question "why have you stopped playing our game?" the people still playing it may not like the result.

WotC did the same thing with essentials, redesigning the game for people who were not playing it and upsetting a good proportion of gamers who are.
 

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