Dungeons & Dragons: 4th edition review
Over at Enworld, I posted a quick review of the 4th edition D&D Player's Handbook. I wanted to put that here, as my "stake in the ground" about my feeling regarding 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. Here's my review.
The Player's Handbook is much better organized than the 3.5 edition book. Everything makes sense. Gameplay is better (as in, I can see how you could hustle it along with fewer pauses to consult the rules). Having said that, wizards, warlocks, and even clerics are booooooorrrring. Fewer spells, and at least for clerics, their role as healer is much less interesting considering that everyone has healing surges (and yes, I did read that a cleric can trigger healing surges even after the other players hit their cap – I'm not suggesting that clerics are useless, merely that they no longer feel as special or interesting as before).
Now, playing a 4th edition elven ranger... that sounds interesting. The class gets many combat & movement abilities. Or maybe even an eladrin ranger, so you get teleportation abilities (at first level!) so you can hop all over the battlefield and wreak havoc. The stat bonuses for eladrin & ranger don't quite align, so it's not an optimal build, but it is interesting.
In fact, most warrior classes are awesome, with tons of abilities that rival the spells of spellcasters (I don't mean to imply that a fighter does magical stuff, but his martial attacks vary widely and have many different combat effects). I wouldn't be surprised to see groups consisting of 1 paladin, 1 ranger, 1 cleric, and 1 rogue as the norm now.
Overall, I can tell that playing D&D 4th edition will do just what WotC hoped – keep gameplay moving (although you're still juggling a hell of a lot of stuff, some of it newly added). I think it also accomplishes some of the other criticisms that have been lobbed at it – it does appear to cater to newbies, and it does appear to be modeled after computer games like WoW. Some 4th edition apologists might chafe against such accusations, although I suspect the authors of the 4th edition will think, "Exactly what we wanted, tell your friends!" Whatever the case, that's the impression I get when I read things like "The roles embodied by the [characters] are controller, defender, leader, and striker."
I find such breakdowns to be uninteresting and too MMORPG-ish. Oh well.
In comparing with 3.5 edition, well, I have to say that playing a cleric or sorcerer in 3.5 with the Spell Compendium or PHB 2 still seems to have a near-magnetic pull on me. I can admire 4th edition as having done what was needed, and I can praise it as being "better than my terribly low expectations." I can't call it compelling, though. I'll buy it, but mostly because it's good enough that people will use it and I'll want to join those games. Contrast that with D&D 3.5 – I was so hung up on creating great builds (or finding a new nuance of a character or trying a new spell) that I seriously would have bought & played the game even if I was the only person on earth doing it. In fact, I did do a few solo adventures and "what if" character builds simply because 3.5 was so interesting to me.
4th edition is "good." 3.5 edition is "flawed but damn interesting."
Just my opinion.