Sunday, April 21, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: Sunday Special, D&D 4th Edition

This Sunday A to Z special we are talking about the most controversial version of D&D put out. That would be 2008's Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition

Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition Core Books

Again, lets set the stage. It is 2007, and Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, now in its 3.5 edition, has been going on for 7 years. There are hundreds of D&D 3e books out there, and if you count the ones released by 3rd party publishers, then there are thousands.

Rumor has it that the Powers that Be at Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro saw all that money these publishers had made and also saw that they were getting none of it.  So they had the D&D team design a new version of D&D. Now, seven years is not a bad run for a set of core rules; a little light, yes, but not bad. But it was not the normal dropping off of sales that prompted this change; rather, it was a desire to reign back in the OGL and SRD.  Thus, 4th edition was born. Or so the story goes.

Now I have heard these tales for a long time. While I can certainly see where they could be true I have never seen a smoking gun or anything like that to confirm it. I do know that out of all the editions 4th is the least compatible with all the others. I also know that the license used to support 4e products was restrictive and slow to come out. 

Pathfinder, as I mentioned on P day came out and took over the market from 3e, and many other gamers saw the new 4e rules and went back even further still to older games.  

Much like the hydra of old the problem only got bigger.

This is too bad, really, because there is nothing really wrong with 4e.

I loved the art and the attention to detail in the game's design. Was it D&D? I can't answer that for you. For me, it was "near D&D," just like Pathfinder was/is. In some ways, Pathfinder was more D&D 4 than D&D 4 was. They were cousins, born at the same time, whose grandparents had trouble telling apart as their favorite.

DrivethruRPG has a sizable collection now of Fourth Edition PDFs.  A few I have already bought. I could simply unload a few of those books, not sure how or where, and then rebuy them on PDF.

I love that 4e was very modular in layout.  I very easily could cut up all the books and reshuffle them to have all the classes in one place and all the skills and feats in another. All the monsters, mostly alphabetical in yet another.   The organization appeals to my innate sense of order and collection (or is that OCD?).

The real question is, is it worth it?  Obviously, if I played the game more then yes.  But I only dabble. Here and there now. I like the fluff.  I have talked about 4e in terms of sunk cost fallacy and how I would later go on to adapt the materials for my 5e games. But I still feel it never really got a fair shake.

Maybe I'll come back to it someday.


Tomorrow is back at it with S Day, and I'll talk about a topic very close to the heart of many Dungeons & Dragons players in the 1980s, the Satanic Panic!

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.


centauri said...

I started playing D&D with the Mentzer Red Box in the late 80s, and 4th Edition finally fulfilled for me the promise of the cover image of that fighter going up against that dragon. I still play it.

MP said...

At first glance, 3e seemed to be a pretty big departure from 2e. But even a cursory examination revealed that it was simply a new body built on an older chassis.

4e, on the other hand, was not actually the "fourth edition" of anything; it was a completely new game from the ground up, having nothing in common with its supposed predecessors aside from superficial elements shared by all fantasy RPGs (race and class names, hit points and armor class, etc.).

4e would have been fine if it had been released as a standalone tabletop skirmish game. A new game is all well and good, but passing it off as an existing game for the sake of brand recognition is extremely dishonest.

doccarnby said...

I never went on to 4e, its release happened to coincide with when I dropped out of playing TTRPGs, which I only came back to a few years ago, but honestly none of the mechanics or new lore really appealed to me either. That said, I did think it was pretty cool when they decided to bring out Dark Sun for it.