I started playing D&D 4.0 every other Friday night. As a long time D&D’er, I wanted to see what the new rules and mechanics brought to the game. Here are my thoughts after two evenings of play.
- It keeps people involved during all parts of combat. The powers (at will, encounter, daily) make sure that wizards don’t run out of spells or weak melee characters don’t have anything to do.
- The classes and races have changed, in many ways for the better.
- Tactical combat is less abstract than previous editions; the grid and rules regulating grid movement have made the action clear
- There is a ton of variety in character generation and customization
- People, even those who are very familiar with the rules, spend more time looking at their power cards and character sheets than actually role-playing. There is so much variety and capabilities that it can be overwhelming
- It is definitely a more complex game, at least from a combat perspective. In fact, I think the game is more about the grid encounter, with plot lines simply stitching the grid encounters together
- Party balance is critical, even more so than in the old versions. While anyone can heal or shoot or fight in 4.0, the “amorphous roles” make things less clear on who needs to be doing what. At least in previous editions, the roles were more clear (clerics heal, wizards cast, fighters are melee, etc.). I think that the character generation and customization is actually too much
My verdict on whether 4.0 is an improvement or not is almost irrelevant. 4.0 is an entirely different game than 3.5 and previous editions. It emphasizes tactical play and combat more than its predecessors. The DM and players I play with are making the story and role-playing work, but its almost in spite of the system, rather than helped along by it. They are all good players and veteran RPG’ers. I fear that without that experience, new players may find it the equivalent of World of Warcraft without the computer.