D&D 4E Edition Experience - Did/Do You Play 4th Edition D&D? How Was/Is it?

How Did/Do You Feel About 4th Edition D&D

  • I'm playing it right now; I'll have to let you know later.

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  • I'm playing it right now and so far, I don't like it.

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I was quite enthused for 4e when it was being developed - I was running a 3.5e campaign that was really starting to bog down in high-level mathematical hell, and there were surveys run on here by D&D designers and the way they were talking really made me believe that they'd put their fingers on the same system problems that i had and were working towards fixing them.

Well, for us it was a case of correct diagnosis, wrong prescription.

I was very leery of the early previews, but my entire group bought 4e as soon as it was released. We all had an independent read-through and then next session we all looked around the table and said
"So, 4e huh?"

And it was never mentioned again.

I genuinely liked some of the things it did. It was the first edition to introduce rituals, AFAIK, and that was a great change. It identified a lot of the problems with 3e - imbalanced maths at high level, buff stacking, bloated stat blocks - and made genuine efforts to address them.

The main issues i had with it have been mentioned above. Mostly that it seemed designed almost obsessively or formulaically with class balance in mind, which led to classes kinda all feeling a bit the same. And it was very very gamey - 3e could certainly be that way with its focus on out-of-session character planning and optimisation, but in 4e it seemed this bled into the session as well. The whole 'role' thing came straight from WoW character optimisation language, ever-increasing numbers of ridiculously-named classes seemed to be designed to fill gaps on the power source/role matrix rather than fill gaps in the setting or narrative, there was little in the spell list that was weird or open-ended or lasting in any way. It hamfistedly overwrote many years of setting design and hammered square pegs into round holes all over the place with its insistence on (for instance) the Raven Queen in FR (which is already lousy with death deities) the Feywild in Athas and tieflings and genasi and kalashtar etc everywhere, and it casually threw out years of D&D cosmology for no real reason I could ever understand. It seemed to us like the intended environment for 2e was the dungeon, the intended environment for 3e was the campaign world, and the intended environment for 4e was the battlemat. It almost felt designed so it could be more easily computerised later, limited in imagination or scope. It just never felt ... fantastic.

I also profoundly hated the FR changes once they came out, I can't remotely imagine why anyone at WotC ever thought any of that was a good idea. But that's really a separate issue to the core ruleset, which is what put my group off to begin with.


Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
Back on to good points of 4E, can we talk about how totally awesome a lot of the 4E classes were?

Bards were amazing. They weren't as powerful as 5E Bards (hilariously, the 5E Bard is like what my 2E Bard, in wildest dreams, wished to be), but they were REALLY Bard-y, with their whole own deal that worked really well.

Avengers - Nothing like them in any other edition. Terrifying constantly teleporting two-hander wielding killers who could pull off incredible badguy assassinations. The 5E Paladin subclass is cute but it's not even a shadow of these wonders.

Warden - Ahhhh yes, another unmatched in other editions, a weird and wonderful combination of partial shapeshifting, druid-style combat magic, and a tremendous primal vibe.
Just wanted to highlight these 3 because I think the PHB2 might be one of the single best D&D books ever published. Every single class published in that book was just stellar. I mean, it introduced the Avenger, the Warden, and the Invoker, which is an incredible batting average for introducing new classes that are both novel and immediately recognizable as a fantasy trope.

The Dark Sun campaign setting and Neverwinter setting book are also some of the best books that D&D has ever produced. The 4e Forgotten Realms book is aggressively mediocre (I'm not a FR fan or anything, but it's pretty easy to recognize the difference in quality between the 3e FR book and the 4e FR book), but the Neverwinter book almost singlehandedly saves the setting.

I genuinely liked some of the things it did. It was the first edition to introduce rituals, AFAIK, and that was a great change.
Rituals were introduced in 3.5e as an optional rule in Unearthed Arcana from 2004 (after first appearing in d20 Modern in the Urban Arcana sourcebook/setting book). (Thus it's even OGC: UA:Incantations - D&D Wiki)

They called them "Incantations", but it was the same concept.

Rituals were introduced in 3.5e as an optional rule in Unearthed Arcana from 2004 (after first appearing in d20 Modern in the Urban Arcana sourcebook/setting book). (Thus it's even OGC: UA:Incantations - D&D Wiki)

They called them "Incantations", but it was the same concept.

Incantations are similar, and clearly a predecessor of rituals, but they're not the same thing. Incantations very much took a custom approach, where they didn't replace or supplement existing spells, they were an entire other approach to magic, and one that was a lot more menacing and intentionally risky than rituals were.


I’ve played D&D for 35+ years and every version except OD&D and Holmes Basic.

I bought the core set of 4E as soon as it came out and my regular group since high school started playing right away. We played it for a year and a half. I played and DMed it.

Half of us grew to love it and the other half grew to hate it. It was very polarizing for us.

I was in the ‘hate’ camp. It had a great deal of errata (felt cheated buying the core set), releases felt under-playtested (Martial Power ranger), combat was super slow (delay tactics were popular as others have mentioned), and too balanced in a way that made all PCs feel the same in play.

The biggest issue for me was the at-will, encounter, and daily powers for martial PCs. It felt too abstract. Why could I not do that specific combat maneuver again until tomorrow? The explanation that only a certain set of circumstances would allow an attempt of such a rare move disconnected me from the “l can do anything I want” freedom of roleplaying my PC. In the end I did create a house rule to overcome this, but the other factors were still in play.

Our group switched to other RPG games and we now play 5E. We love 5E. So glad it was publicity playtested and has held up well over the years.


the magical equivalent to the number zero
I didn't like the sweeping changes to the lore. The rearrangement of planes, the dividing of Elves into Elves and Eladrin, the dividing of Fighters into Fighters and Warlords, the extreme focus on mechanical balance over all other concerns, nor the implied grimdark tone that the game seemed designed to convey (making Tieflings into a core race, Warlocks into a core class, the post-apocalyptic "points of light" setting, the Spellplague in the Realms all just exuded a "dark and edgy" vibe I didn't like). It seemed custom-designed to divorce D&D from the lore and expectations of everything that came before.

Not sure if these things are related to the mechanics of the edition, but I thoroughly agree. Especially...

I really, really did NOT like the changes it brought to the Forgotten Realms

This. But mostly because I loved reading FR novels, and it mucked things up. And the authors (i.e. Ed Greenwood and R.A. Salvatore) hated it too and planned to reverse the whole thing from the start. It's the best they could do, but they knew it would be disastrous. And well, no more WotC D&D novels, so I don't think it's just us.

I played it and didn't care for it very much because it felt like an MMORPG. Suddenly we had defenders, strikers, and controllers all felt too similar to roles characters had in World of Warcraft.

I don't like those terms, either, and the fact that they basically pidgeonhole your class into being played in a certain way.

The at-will, per-encounter, and daily powers all felt like I was pressing a button on my keyboard and waiting for the cool down so I could press it again.

Absolutely, although on the other hand, that's true for many other editions and systems, as well. 'Once per Long Rest' from 5E is basically the same as 'daily'.


Biological Disaster
Combat was painfully long until they fixed their monster math. Which happened WAY too late in the design cycle. Same with how long it took for them to figure out how to make solos work. The downside of giving everyone crowd control options is that if you have only one opponent they're hilariously easy to lock down.

I loved Primal being its own thing separate from Arcane and Divine, and monks fit perfectly well as Psionic. Also answered the question of why gods aren't super active in the world in a fantastic way (the elder primal spirits essentially told them to sit down and stay out). I still use the 4E cosmos when running D&D games. I've never been fond of alignment to begin with, and the previous model's usage of "a plane for every alignment combo and element" just felt ridiculous to me.

The A/E/D setup was... yeah, it could have been done better. I didn't hate it, but it was a little too formulaic. I LOVED the fact that what weapon the fighter used actually mattered though. And they had ways to actually protect their allies. Heck, despite some reservations about the A/E/D setup, I liked almost all of the classes. They each felt unique inside of the powers framework. A Shaman played nowhere near the same as a Fighter, for instance.


For me it was the first version ever to give me the experience that D&D had promised me for over three decades. I switched over from 3.5 almost immediately and never looked back.

As we played it, we still found a few proud nails annoying us, so when the edition was abandoned by WoTC, I created my own clone which is something like 30% 3.x basics, 40% ideas from 4E, and 30% my own ideas.

Yeah, as someone who was playing since 1980, 4e solved a whole bunch of problems for me, some of which I never even realized existed. And I find it hard to play 5e which reintroduced many of them.

I think the contingent of AD&D players+who don't particularly like Vancian spell casters/like weaponusers+like meaningful tactical combat is one of the groups that just loved 4e.


4e was my reintroduction to D&D after a hiatus of more than a decade. I selected 'Played it, and didn't like it' but I'm not saying it's a bad game.

I only played a single session and it didn't click - it felt less like an RPG and more like a dungeon crawl boardgame. Admittedly, the session was very combat heavy, so it may not have been entirely typical, but combats took so long we barely made any progress at all. I think one, or possibly two, relatively small combats took up the entire session.

Now I love boardgames, and really enjoy the D&D adventure boardgame series which is based on 4e, but that scratches a different itch than I want from my RPGs. 4e seemed, to me, to be a hybrid of both types of game, and I far prefer to play one or the other.

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