D&D 5E A 5th Edition: And It's About Time

airwalkrr

Adventurer
I remember when I first found out about 4th edition. I was really gaming hard back in those days, and I mean religiously. I would play in three or four campaigns at a time, most of them meeting on a weekly basis (much to my now-wife's dismay). And they were all D&D. Sure, I picked up a new game from time to time. Tried Big Eyes, Small Mouth for a spat. Toyed around with Paranoia for a bit of levity once. Tinkered with some White Wolf (both live action and tabletop). I even got back into my first RPG love, Rifts, from time to time. But D&D had a captive audience in the town where I lived and a game with enthusiastic players is the best game of all. I was a writer, editor and administrator for the RPGA. I played 3.5 to the hilt and was never bored. I was a huge fan of Wizards of the Coast, the OGL which allowed a huge boom in supported material for the game, and what they had done to make 3e such an excellent game. When I heard about a new edition, I was excited. I knew people who were play-testing it before it was even announced (although I was asked, I did not volunteer). I was convinced WotC could do no wrong and imagined 4th edition would be the biggest smash hit ever.

Then things started to go south. WotC fired Paizo, taking away two of my favorite magazines (Dungeon and Dragon), to which I had held loyal subscriptions for years (even before Paizo). Then I heard about Gleemax and the Digital Initiative. It sounded kinda cool, but it did not sound like it was for me. After all, D&D was supposed to be about playing with people around a table; it was a live social activity. I was not totally against these things for those who had few other options (still plenty of remote locations where internet access might be your only means to game), but it seemed like the focus of D&D was really starting to drift away. And then I started to see the rules come into focus. I do not know why the powers system bothered me so much at first or why it continued to bother me, but it did. It was a novel approach to the game, but they were taking away with it a number of things that had made D&D so iconic in the first place. Eventually I figured it out. Fighters were starting to look more like wizards. And wizards were starting to look more like fighters. I do not want to say that they were making the two look identical or even virtually identical, but that is sure the way it felt. Everything looked rather bland and generic with every class following the same formula for gaining powers by level. And the Vancian magic system which I felt had always made D&D such a great tactical game of managing resources was practically ripped out of the game and not really replaced.

So I got disillusioned. The more I heard about 4th edition, the less I wanted to hear. I remember the day 4th edition was released. I went to my local gaming store and picked up a copy of the Player's Handbook. I flipped through it. I remember I literally looked at every page. I was looking for an excuse to buy it. I had brought the money with me because I figured I would be able to convince myself once I got a look at the actual product. But the spark just was not there. It looked like a decent game. But it did not look like D&D. I could not get over the presence of Tieflings and Dragonborn in the core rulebook. I could not get over the fact that powers established this incredibly arbitrary sense of "recharge" rate. I could not get over the fact that Greyhawk, which had been the core setting for practically every incarnation of D&D from the beginning, had been almost completely excised from the book. I could not get over the placement of magic items in the Player's Handbook, which seemed to imply that players, and not Dungeon Masters, were the ones who were supposed to dictate which magic items showed up in their campaigns. And so I put the book back down. And I thought about it for a minute. Then I walked away.

I never bought it. I did try to play the game, first with the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure, and then later with a couple borrowed books from a friend. But I did not really like it. And as more and more books came out, I would enter my local gaming store time and again and flip through the books and see more things I did not really like. It was not really a bad game. But it still did not look like D&D. I started to call it WotC's role-playing game. Because to me, that is what it was. It looked like WotC was trying to force into the game concepts from their very successful (and I should add very entertaining and exceptional) trade-able card game, Magic the Gathering. It looked like WotC was ignoring a whole host of things that had made the game such a great and captivating experience in the first place and transforming it into a tabletop war game. It also looked like WotC was really disenchanting a lot of fans as I saw many local games rise and fall like so many ephemeral European middle-ages kingdoms. I saw Pathfinder rise as it embraced the concepts of the d20 system and expanded upon it. The great company that was and continues to be Paizo seemed to be doing a heck of a job. And as Pathfinder grew, D&D languished. I had tried Pathfinder too, and felt it did a much better job than 4e, but aside from the promise of continuing game support for the system, I did not see it as being necessarily better than 3e in most respects. I saw it as a way to continue in the proud tradition of D&D without really calling it D&D.

I came back to the RPGA for a stint to meet some familiar faces again and see if maybe I could get into the game that seemed so bothersome to me for so many reasons, but yet was called D&D. I tried. I really did. My wife even joined me. But even she, as a relative neophyte to the world of role-playing, said it was not as much fun as 3e. I played a few 4e play-by-post games thinking maybe that would work out better for me since there was more opportunity for role-playing. But that just highlighted one of the key design flaws of 4th edition's numbers-based balance: you could run a battle that was designed to be balanced with the party and they would win, every time (unless they did something dumb), or you could run a battle that was designed to be a level above the party and they would lose most of the time, or you could run a battle that was designed to be a level below the party and it would not even tax their resources in the slightest.

Now I am sure that those with extensive experience with 4e will tell me I have it all wrong. They will say that my anecdotal experience proves nothing. They will say that 4e is extremely various and diverse and caters to all forms of play and that I just never found the right Dungeon Master or played with power gamers or whatever. But I did try. I tried hard. And I never really liked the game. In all honesty after these last few years trying on and off again to play the game all I can say about the game that is positive is that it works. Yes, it works very well. Under ideal circumstances the numbers match up and everything is balanced. But that is never what I wanted out of a game. I did not want just balanced numbers. And in the end that is all 4th edition ever was to me.

WotC says they have learned from their mistakes. They are saying they will be having a much more open play-test this time. They are saying that they want to go back to D&D's roots. They are saying they want to listen to their fans. All I can say to that is, it's about time.

Maybe the next time I go to pick up the new Player's Handbook at my local gaming store I will not have to work so hard to convince myself to buy it and then come up short.
 

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FireLance

Legend
I'm certainly not going to fault you for posting honestly about what you see are 4e's flaws in a non-inflammatory manner.

And I certainly hope that 5e will be more to your taste. :)
 

ferratus

Adventurer
But that just highlighted one of the key design flaws of 4th edition's numbers-based balance: you could run a battle that was designed to be balanced with the party and they would win, every time (unless they did something dumb), or you could run a battle that was designed to be a level above the party and they would lose most of the time, or you could run a battle that was designed to be a level below the party and it would not even tax their resources in the slightest.

Now I am sure that those with extensive experience with 4e will tell me I have it all wrong.

Actually that is a very good criticism of 4e, and is one thing I find problematic about the system too. This isn't a design flaw however, but a design goal. Of course, 3e was supposed to have this design element as well, that's what the CR system was all about. However, the CR system doesn't really work, so you can have some wonky variation in difficulty even as you are trying to design challenging encounters that the PC's are supposed to win.

I myself have grown largely disillusioned with 4e as an overall system, but I certainly defend its good ideas. 4e, believe it or not, had plenty of good ideas which make the game fun and easy to DM. I'd probably play 2e (with houserules) if I had complete control over what my group played, but 4e is a close second. I tried to go back to 3e/Pathfinder, but there are just too many things I'm glad 4e fixed for me to go back now.
 
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Dannager

First Post
Now I am sure that those with extensive experience with 4e will tell me I have it all wrong. They will say that my anecdotal experience proves nothing.
No, but I think we will tell you that your post isn't much more than yet-another-anti-4e-rant and doesn't actually contain anything substantive on the topic of 5e. We get that you didn't like 4e. What we don't get is why you (and countless others) feel the need to try and justify your dislike, unsolicited, to strangers on the internet.
 

airwalkrr

Adventurer
I myself have grown largely disillusioned with 4e as an overall system, but I certainly defend its good ideas. 4e, believe it or not, had plenty of good ideas which make the game fun and easy to DM. I'd probably play 2e (with houserules) if I had complete control over what my group played, but 4e is a close second. I tried to go back to 3e/Pathfinder, but there are just too many things I'm glad 4e fixed for me to go back now.
As I said, it is a decent game. I particularly like the combat chapter in the Player's Handbook. It really condensed the rules into a very manageable format and defined actions is a very concise way. I liked that as it made combats simpler, and I even incorporated some of the changes into my 3e games. But then you had powers, which just mucked up the whole experience for me. Yes, 4e had some good ideas. But it was plagued by bad ideas in my opinion. And a silver lining on a dark cloud does not a bright cloud make. I feel that 4e is a much better system to borrow ideas from than to play whole-cloth.
 

airwalkrr

Adventurer
No, but I think we will tell you that your post isn't much more than yet-another-anti-4e-rant and doesn't actually contain anything substantive on the topic of 5e. We get that you didn't like 4e. What we don't get is why you (and countless others) feel the need to try and justify your dislike, unsolicited, to strangers on the internet.
I apologize if it came off as a 4e rant to you. I did not mean it as such. I was actually expressing my relief that it finally seemed like WotC understood more of the fans (like me) and my optimism about the prospects of a new edition. There is no denying that 4e lost WotC a lot of fans. The recent overtaking of Pathfinder as the top-selling RPG on the market (although the #1 spot has switched places a time or two) is evidence of that.
 

ferratus

Adventurer
As I said, it is a decent game. I particularly like the combat chapter in the Player's Handbook. It really condensed the rules into a very manageable format and defined actions is a very concise way. I liked that as it made combats simpler, and I even incorporated some of the changes into my 3e games. But then you had powers, which just mucked up the whole experience for me. Yes, 4e had some good ideas. But it was plagued by bad ideas in my opinion. And a silver lining on a dark cloud does not a bright cloud make. I feel that 4e is a much better system to borrow ideas from than to play whole-cloth.

I also feel the powers system is a mistake, though not because it doesn't conform to notions of what "D&D is supposed to feel like". I'm much more experimental in my RPG's that most, so I don't really mind new ideas so much.

No, the powers system sucks because at-wills are repetative, encounters are always blown as the first actions in an encounter, and dailies are something you hoard all session and often deliver nothing but a lump of disappointment.
 

hanez

First Post
Actually that is a very good criticism of 4e, and is one thing I find problematic about the system too. This isn't a design flaw however, but a design goal. Of course, 3e was supposed to have this design element as well, that's what the CR system was all about. However, the CR system doesn't really work, so you can have some wonky variation in difficulty even as you are trying to design challenging encounters that the PC's are supposed to win.

I myself have grown largely disillusioned with 4e as an overall system, but I certainly defend its good ideas. 4e, believe it or not, had plenty of good ideas which make the game fun and easy to DM. I'd probably play 2e (with houserules) if I had complete control over what my group played, but 4e is a close second. I tried to go back to 3e/Pathfinder, but there are just too many things I'm glad 4e fixed for me to go back now.


As a person who finds it hard to post without mentioned 3e / 4e (ok maybe Im a 4e hater....) I must agree it had a TON of goood ideas.

I also must say my story was very similar only maybe because I wasn't up to date I RAN to the store and bought the books! I sold all my 3.5 books, (who needs this crap! lol) I ordered my two campaigns to do the same! Were switching. and then it worked out much like your story, so I won't repeat. I'm not really a fan of pathfinder... I felt like 3.5 needed an update, and pathfinder wasn't as much of an update. I really like Montes Arcana Evolved, and wish 4e would have taken some of that (along with some innovative 4e ideas as well).

If I had to pick one thing, (and maybe there really is only one thing), it would be forcing all classes into the same structure. That was just to much.
 

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