• COMING SOON! -- Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition! Level up your 5E game! The standalone advanced 5E tabletop RPG adds depth and diversity to the game you love!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 4E Is there a "Cliffs Notes" summary of the entire 4E experience?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Kai Lord

Explorer
Hey guys,

As I mentioned in another thread I was very active in playing 3E and then "real life" pulled me away from role-playing games from about 2005 until now. I'm really psyched about getting back to D&D and 5E looks like it will be extremely cool. But with regard to 4E it's like I'm coming out of suspended animation and completely missed the entire experience. The announcement, the overall reaction, the sneak peeks, and then of course the actual release of core books and so on. 3rd Edition was so much fun to anticipate through this site and then I had a blast playing both it and 3.5 with my friends.

I see that 4E was polarizing in a number of ways. But can someone give me the "jist" of the whole thing? Or maybe point me to a site that has already broken it down?

Specifically:

1. How did everybody (or most people) here react to the news of a new edition in the first place? Excitement or trepidation? Didn't 3.5 still have a good amount of momentum in 2007? Or were people ready for an overhaul?

2. How impressive were the early sneak peeks? Were people shocked at some of the changes from the get go? Or were people who didn't like the new game mostly blindsided once they picked up the core books?

3. I see that that having the option of playing "Pathfinder" fragmented the fanbase somewhat. Was that a good thing or bad thing for this forum? Or did it have a minimal effect at all?

4. What else was noteworthy about 4E? Was there some product that was particularly awesome or infamous?

If any of my questions trigger memories of frustrating times then that's not what I'm going for. I guess I'm more curious about reading a bit of a forensic breakdown of how the whole thing played out. Just for my own curiosity. Thanks in advance for anyone who indulges me. :)
 

log in or register to remove this ad

thexar

Explorer
Personal experience. Our first read through reaction was: meh, I don't get it. We played through the launch title Shadowfel (something or other), and it was a lot of fun. We were happy and thought, ok we get it now. Then we played some more games, got some levels, and it quickly became uninteresting. My usual group didn't want any more to do with 4th. We had enough 3.5 to keep us going for years. We still never got through it all (plus Exalted, Savage Worlds, and a few others).

I was determined to find the fun in 4th, so I joined another group on a different day. With that group I played: wizard, rogue, warrior, and warlock, levels 1 through 15, and it was never fun (I enjoyed the company, and I was determined). The content is weak to annoying, character maintenance was a nightmare, and there was no flavor between the classes.

But -they- liked it, and that was ok with me.

I don't think PF split the players. I think there were a lot of people like me who just didn't like the new version, and PF stepped in to fill that desire.

My read-through of the playtest and basic D&D went very well. This is more like the game I want to play. I hope it goes well, and PF is able to merge back to D&D.
 

Dungeoneer

First Post
I see that 4E was polarizing in a number of ways. But can someone give me the "jist" of the whole thing? Or maybe point me to a site that has already broken it down?
You are putting it mildly. For some folks the sheer mention of 4e makes them crazy. I don't know if you can get a "tl;dr" version without being dragged through 5+ years of bad blood.

I'll just say that 4e was an edition that wasn't afraid to try some new things and slaughter some sacred cows. It may have erred too much in this direction; there were some that felt it wasn't truly D&D.

That said I think 4e and Pathfinder players got along just fine for the most part and I know many people who played both.

Every new edition is "too soon."
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
The biggest thing about 4E was that it wasn't OGL. It had a much more restrictive license, which most third party publishers felt they couldn't work with.

So that gave the 3PP a lot of incentive to keep their OGL games going, rather than transitioning to 4E variants along with WotC. And as we saw, that eventually led to Pazio overtaking WotC (at least in traditional sales metrics).

I still think that if 4E had been OGL, the 3PP would have switched to 4E as well. They probably would have published alternate rules which toned down the game mechanics that caused the most dissension. But I think that the D&D community would all be playing a recognizable version of 4E today if 4E had been OGL.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Dungeoneer has a good synopsis. I think the biggest contention is that so MANY things had changed, from rules, to presentation, to marketing and business strategy, that for many it was N + 1 bridges too far (varying per customer).

Then the OGL got put to its greatest test with Pathfinder - and Pathfinder according to some sources like ICV2 started selling better than D&D. Enough people were unwilling enough to follow 4e that Pathfinder made a business model off of continuing to support it. Had it lower needs for Return on Investment, I believe D&D4 would have maintained enough market share to be quite viable - but given the company structure, the timing, and the investment, enough people moved to Pathfinder or other systems like the OSR games or Savage Worlds, etc. that it just didn't have the market share to thrive.
 

Remathilis

Legend
1. How did everybody (or most people) here react to the news of a new edition in the first place? Excitement or trepidation? Didn't 3.5 still have a good amount of momentum in 2007? Or were people ready for an overhaul?

Come 2007, 3.5 was still strong, but the momentum of dozens of splat-books was dragging it down some. They tried several "same but more" books (Monster Manual 5, Complete Mage) and several "new and different" (Magic of Incarnum, Tome of Magic, Book of Nine Swords) but the system was starting to strain under the weight of its options and the balance issues that came with dozens and dozens of options.

There was a need for a change, or at least a house-cleaning.

2. How impressive were the early sneak peeks? Were people shocked at some of the changes from the get go? Or were people who didn't like the new game mostly blindsided once they picked up the core books?

For some, there was a LOT of alienation about the leadup to 4e. A lot of early material gave people a feeling of "3e was wrong, 4e will do it right" The debate culminated in a post known as "cloud watching" which many people took offense to. (The jist was, we have seen the whole picture and you haven't, so don't complain until you see it all).

That said, it wasn't all doom and gloom: the preview books (Worlds and Monsters and Classes and Races) were excellent, and the Tiefling and the Gnome video was well-received.

[video]www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UqFPujRZWo[/video]

3. I see that that having the option of playing "Pathfinder" fragmented the
fanbase somewhat. Was that a good thing or bad thing for this forum? Or did it have a minimal effect at all?

The Pathfinder/4e split is still bad in some places, but its died down some here.

4. What else was noteworthy about 4E? Was there some product that was particularly awesome or infamous?

I can't comment on it too much: I was out shortly after PHB2 came out. I've heard the Essentials line (a update to 4e's rules) are generally liked, while many of the original books (esp the Adventurer Vaults, Monster Manuals, and X Powers books) were dull lists of powers. The DDi is generally well received.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
I see that 4E was polarizing in a number of ways.


Some one just threw a "4th Edition is Dead" Party, complete with book burning (he took pictures)

So, yeah, there was some polarization.

Healing Surges seemed to be a factor of high annoyance. At least, people's misperceptions about what Healing Surges actually were seemed to cause grief.

Still, many who played it had fun. Piratecat had a big honkin' thread describing the game he was running.
I still listen to the "Acquisitions, Inc." podcasts; if for no other reason, D&D4e should be respected for bringing us Omin, Binwin, and Jim Darkmagic.
 


M.L. Martin

Adventurer
Welcome back, Kai Lord! It's been a long time; I owe you a belated thanks for inspiring elements of my Dragonlance Anti-Canon.

I didn't get as much play experience with 4E as I would have liked, but something that hasn't been mentioned is that the game made a lot of changes to the D&D mythology--and produced a lot of good fluff. The three Planes books (Manual, Below and Above) and Underdark seem to be particularly popular, as was the revision of Dark Sun they did. The changes to the Forgotten Realms, by contrast, were not at all welcomed.

You might also get a kick out of the two Draconomicons, if only for the fact that aside from Bahamut and a few other outliers, there are no good dragons in 4E. :)
 

Tequila Sunrise

Adventurer
I see that 4E was polarizing in a number of ways. But can someone give me the "jist" of the whole thing? Or maybe point me to a site that has already broken it down?
Others have answered your specific questions, so I'll just link you to my Why 4e Fans Love 4e blog post.

Hope it helps. :)

Some one just threw a "4th Edition is Dead" Party, complete with book burning (he took pictures)

Wow, that is some serious nerdrage.
:eek:

Still, many who played it had fun. Piratecat had a big honkin' thread describing the game he was running.
I still listen to the "Acquisitions, Inc." podcasts; if for no other reason, D&D4e should be respected for bringing us Omin, Binwin, and Jim Darkmagic.
Didn't know about that one; I'll have to check it out!
 



Ratskinner

Adventurer
1. How did everybody (or most people) here react to the news of a new edition in the first place? Excitement or trepidation? Didn't 3.5 still have a good amount of momentum in 2007? Or were people ready for an overhaul?

I was running two 3.5 groups when it was announced. Most of us just sort of shrugged. We weren't really all that anxious for a big change. However, I as DM was very ready for anything that would reduce the workload.

2. How impressive were the early sneak peeks? Were people shocked at some of the changes from the get go? Or were people who didn't like the new game mostly blindsided once they picked up the core books?

I didn't actually pay too much attention during the 4e run up. I figured it couldn't be a huge change from 3e, because of the OGL. Also, they told us to look at the Bo9S and SWSE as examples of what we could expect. I did feel shocked when the books came out, because the presentation and some of the assumptions are so very different from a DNDSE. On the other hand, I still don't feel that the base mechanics were a big shift as others do. AEDU, just seemed like an organizational scheme to me.

3. I see that that having the option of playing "Pathfinder" fragmented the fanbase somewhat. Was that a good thing or bad thing for this forum? Or did it have a minimal effect at all?

I don't have too much to say about it WRT the forum. The advent of 4e did split up the groups I was in. However that had little to do with Pathfinder.

4. What else was noteworthy about 4E? Was there some product that was particularly awesome or infamous?

I want to preface this by saying that I don't particularly hate 4e, but that I didn't find it perfect either. Also, 4e had lost my interest by PHB2, so I never got the later advice that apparently made clear how best to use 4e.

The single best aspect of 4e for me was the ease of DM prep. I loved whipping up a whole session's worth of encounters in 15 min or so, including custom critters.

However, that didn't help make combat run any faster. The characters still had a zillion fiddly bits. It was very easy for me to lose my sense of fictional immersion amongst the nuts and bolts of the (to me) very repetitive and tedious powers. While p42, is always cited here. Every single person that I ever played with (as DM or player) agreed that your powers were better than p42. OTOH, we also agreed that is was a truly excellent ruleset for a tactical skirmish game. Further, IMO, That was comparable in disruptiveness to the way some 3e games would grind to a halt from rules questions and complexity (grapple, I'm looking at you.)

I also, as a DM, felt like 4e was stuck in AWESOME mode and that it was hard to make it feel gritty or dark.

Overall, though, I would have liked to have played or run more of it. My local area is solidly PF, though.

Here's hoping that was helpful and doesn't spark an edition skirmish.
 

Mercurius

Legend
One aspect that no one has really touched upon yet (at least according to my skimming of the thread so far) is the vibe and tone of 4E, which many found off-putting. Phrases like "gonzo" and "Warcraftian" were used. A lot of folks were turned off by what seemed like a breaking with D&D tradition; for instance, in the Player's Handbook, gnomes and half-orcs were replaced by eladrin, dragonborn and tiefling. Also, there were no druids, barbarians, bards or monks (in the first PHB), but instead warlocks and warlords. And so on.

To put it another way, 4E didn't feel like "real" D&D to many folks. This was part of what led to the exodus to Pathfinder, and probably gave the Old School Renaissance (OSR) a boost - and of course got WotC thinking seriously about a new edition just three years into the edition cycle.

As for game play itself, the biggest complaint I've heard (and experienced) is that for many, 4E felt like two games that you had to toggle back and forth from. The one game was relatively traditional, it was out of combat and pretty much the usual story-based D&D that we all know and love. But when combat began, out rolled the battlemat, and the game took on more of the feel of a wargame (albeit a rather fun one). But due to the intricacies and tactical nature of 4E combat, most games were dominated by it. Just speaking for my own group, in a typical 4-5 hour session, we might have two combats which ended up taking about 3 hours total.

As for which 4E books were best, my vote goes for the Rules Compendium. It is thoroughly useless if you're not playing 4E, but for my money it is the single most useful desk reference rule book for any edition. I hope that there's something similar for 5E.

I also liked the plane books, although I'm in the rare group that liked the Astral Sea and the 4E planar set-up.
 

As I mentioned in another thread I was very active in playing 3E and then "real life" pulled me away from role-playing games from about 2005 until now. I'm really psyched about getting back to D&D and 5E looks like it will be extremely cool.
Welcome back!

1. How did everybody (or most people) here react to the news of a new edition in the first place? Excitement or trepidation? Didn't 3.5 still have a good amount of momentum in 2007? Or were people ready for an overhaul?
3.5e had a LOT of life left and a lot of people were caught by surprise. 3e books hadn't been doing *that* well, but WotC wasn't doing themselves any favours by releasing some really clunkers and odd choices of books.
Near the end they released a lot of products that suspicious people said were test products for 4th Edition, but most posters dismissed those theories. But then 4th Edition was announced and everyone realized the speculated test products actually were test products.
Feelings were mixed. 4e followed really closely after the transition from 3.0 to 3.5 so a lot of people were not ready to switch. But 3e as a whole had been around for a while and a lot of people had grown tired and played enough to see the flaws and rough spots in the edition.

2. How impressive were the early sneak peeks? Were people shocked at some of the changes from the get go? Or were people who didn't like the new game mostly blindsided once they picked up the core books?
The sneak peaks were few and far between. WotC really kept a lid on things for a long time. They previewed more world lore than mechanics for the longest time, which did cause some debate. We didn't see previewed pages so much as snippets of text scattered powers. And a lot of the previews also had to do with changes to the Forgotten Realms and the digital tools. The digital tools were a real focal point of the initial releases and every interview on the editon really included discussing the tools and hyping the tools.

There was also a lot of selling 4e by slamming the past. A lot of "X was bad so now we're doing Y". Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. For example, grapple took a LOT of heat during 3e and took a lot of shots during the transition, but "Grab" really wasn't worth doing in 4e and seemed to exist only in the rules so they could show how simple it was. And a couple metallic dragons were not included in the first two Monster Manuals (bronze & brass, and maybe copper) because they were "samey" and people got them confused so they wanted to do them right, but come Draconomicon 2 they were... kinda samey and really easy to confuse.

WotC was really focused on surprise and controlled releases of information. They didn't reveal the cover of the Core rulebooks until after a preview book was released because that revealed the existence of dragonborn.
Lots of players did not see the game until players at the Winter Fantasy (February 2008) convention copied the provided rules and posted them online. We knew a heck of a lot less about the state of the game.

A lot of people were surprised by the final product.
I read all the previews and saw the pregens but was still surprised. It's one thing to see all the first level characters and pregens look a lot alike, it's another to see the symmetry across all classes and levels.
There was also a lot of denial and confusion floating around. Early on they posted monster stats from a creature on a card, and people assumed it was for the miniature game not the RPG. Or they looked at the previews and assumed they were only seeing a small potion of the statblock or flavour text.

3. I see that that having the option of playing "Pathfinder" fragmented the fanbase somewhat. Was that a good thing or bad thing for this forum? Or did it have a minimal effect at all?
It's been... mixed.
There were always pretty heated edition wars between 3.5e and 4e. But those slowly died down as the 3e fans migrated away from the 4e forums. Pathfinder really reignited those wars and prolonged them.

Paizo slowly gained traction and grew in support but it's been divisive. When Pathfinder started selling better than 4e, the 4e fans were a little irritated and denied everything. Then it became clear that 4e was in trouble and the 4e fans switched to blaming Pathfinder.

4. What else was noteworthy about 4E? Was there some product that was particularly awesome or infamous?
I'm a pretty big 3e/Pathfinder guy so I can't speak for 4e fans... but a lot of the later books had a nice mix of flavour and mechanics making them more interesting for people who aren't going to play the edition. Heroes of the Elemental Chaos and Heroes of the Feywild for example. The Dungeon Master Guide 2 was a pretty solid book for running games for any edition.

The first four DM environment books (Manual of the Planes, Plane Above, Plane Below, and Underdark) were decent but not particularly comprehensive. 4e had pagecount limit on mosts books of 160 pages and a large font, so a lot of books just got started on a topic and then moved on. So I always wanted more and never felt like I had just read the definitive book on a subject. But they were a good starting point.

If any of my questions trigger memories of frustrating times then that's not what I'm going for. I guess I'm more curious about reading a bit of a forensic breakdown of how the whole thing played out. Just for my own curiosity. Thanks in advance for anyone who indulges me. :)
Hope I helped.
 

My own 4E journey:

- Shocked at the annoucement of the new edition when I thought 3.5 still have lots of time to run
- Encouraged by the release of the initial rules; published one of the first 4E-compatible adventures and got nominated for an Ennie
- Disqppointed by the way the essential game was broken across multiple books (PHB2 and MM2 necessary for "base" D&D)
- Excited by the tactical options and mechanics
- Frustrated with the revision of long-extant D&D fluff
- Had fun with the initial adventures
- Enjoyed a short campaign using PHB2 options
- Gradually discovered that all of the mechanics started feeling the same and started to lose interest
- Was utterly confused by the release of "D&D Essentials"
- Drifted away to OSR and Pathfinder
 

Aenghus

Explorer
I like high level D&D play, clear and transparent rules, and long campaigns with good PC survivability. I was burned out from running high level 3.5 D&D when 4e came out and I instantly liked 4e for the sort of game I wanted to run. It's not perfect, but the rules lie to me far less than 3.x did and it's much much less work to run.

Like 3.0, the developers didn't understand the strengths and weaknesses of their own system properly so the early adventures are weak, with too much hack and slash.

It constantly amazes me that so many players apparently want a system that lies to them and constantly trips them up with it's flaws. For me obfuscated rules have nothing to do with a sense of wonder.

At present I am writing my own adventures, which is considerably less work than it would be in 3e. Reskinning monsters is really easy.

I have no plans to convert to 5e, and I have converted to every successive edition since 1e and Basic. I'm not sure if I will even buy the edition.
 
Last edited:

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
There where those of use who knew a new edition was coming and were excited for it. Very early, a lot of people were excited for it.

That gave way to polarization very, very quickly.

1) The initial marketing had to much "that game we were just selling you, it totally sucked, this one is much better".

2) It did have a lot of change, some for change sake. A lot of us liked the changes, and what they where fixing. Others did not agree.

3) The extent of the change was too much given the time set aside for development. The errata would start early, and build, and build, and build.

4) Linked initiatives, including ending the print magazines, the new game license, a 3D virtual table top and Gleemax (never forget), did not go well.

5) Beyond the errata, the 4E PHB had other problems, with clear lack of balance across options, in a game very focused on balance, and missing options that a minority of players, but a significant minority, actually liked. The MM, DMG, and, especially, early adventures had their own problems.

6) But, it takes two sides to make an edition way. 4E fans liked the balance and expanded options. The smoother play across a wider range of levels. The tactical combat. The more coherent core math. The ease of encounter design and monster customization (it is very DM friendly). The disappearance of 3E issues like excess buffing, swingy combat, uber-casters, a large rule set driven by corner cases, complicated monster and NPC building, etc.

7) 4E Fans also eventually got some computer tools that worked pretty well.

8) But I am still going. Even as "edition wars" were rolling, things further complicated. Many 4E fans had noticed that combats took a long time, rituals did not work quite as hoped, and the power structure could feel redundant. Bunches of splat was released. WotC noticed that Pathfinder was eating its lunch, and responded with more errata, online only tools, and essentials.

9) All this leads to the excitement of edition "civil warring" (mea culpa, I suppose) even as some of the best 4E products were coming out and some of its main problems had been solved.

10) Pathfinder, while being too convoluted for many non PF D&D fans, continues to ride high and in 2012 WotC finally pulls the plug.

That the summary version, anyways.
 
Last edited:

Kai Lord

Explorer
You guys seriously rock. Thanks for the recap. I really feel like I've got a good sense of what went on. Obviously there was a lot of controversy but you guys gave me the exact "Dateline NBC" play by play that I was hoping for.

Thanks for the warm welcomes back too, its appreciated. Matthew L. Martin I'll definitely give your DL Anti-Canon a read. :)

What did people think about Wayne Reynolds doing the art for both 4E and Pathfinder?
 

BryonD

Hero
There where those of use who knew a new edition was coming and were excited for it. Very early, a lot of people were excited for it.

That gave way to polarization very, very quickly.
I actually have a clear memory of the announcement and first few days thereafter.
I was at a condo in FLA when it was announced.
I do recall a lot of excitement. But I also recall a whole lot of the "too soon". I was in the Day 0 minority of excitement.
By the end of Day 1 I recall being at odds with several groups of people proposing hoped changes and a lot of references to Star Wars.
I told them they were nuts to think WotC would go that way.
I was wrong.

So, yeah, you nailed this. :)
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top