This is a post I first wrote for EN World, but it’s a bit bloggish, so I’m going to add it here as well (so my friends will see it, and I’m going to be able to find it again as well).
Does 4e sound more D&Dish to you than 3e did?
It’s perhaps a strange question, but there are a few things that I’m hearing about that are getting me really excited. You know, real Sense of Wonder time. (Feywild – stupid name, but awesome concept).
And some of those things are pushing buttons and going, “Hey – that’s what D&D is all about!”
The weird thing is these things haven’t exactly been in previous editions. Or rather, they were… but in the sense there were new things in previous editions. The Great Wheel was cool when I first imagined what it could be when reading the AD&D Player’s Handbook. Ditto the Drow in the Giants modules. Oh, and the Plane of Shadow? Ultimate Coolness. My sense of the Plane of Shadow was mainly derived from the Gord the Rogue books, but hey!
A large part of the coolness, however, was because they were new areas to explore. Then they were good, but we’d been there. And eventually familiar.
So, I see 4e as inputing a lot of that *new stuff to explore* that we had in earlier editions.
(Not to say that 3e didn’t have cool new stuff – but it came mainly in the late 3.5e supplements and invention of Eberron).
Listening to the “Monsters, Monsters, Monsters” podcast, I was really excited to hear about how orcs are going to become a little more unpredictable the first time you face them – you’re not going to know everything about them. (My very first D&D memory is of watching a group come up against Killer Bees and Green Slime. One thing I really miss about 3e is how Green Slime hardly got used, and really wasn’t written up very well).
I also feel there’s also something of a turning away from D&D as exploring purely D&D-tropes, and re-examining the sources that led to D&D in the first place. These myths… they’re what led me to D&D, and old-style D&D drew heavily on these myths and other great fantasy stories for inspiration.
When you come down to it, I feel the heart of D&D is the basic combat system. You know: roll d20 to hit, there’s an Armour Class, there’s hit points, and you lose them based on some strange die when you get hit? Everything else is just chrome on the top.
So, things are shifting around? As long as I have my AC and hit points, and we’re all adventurers pursuing quests in a magical world… I think I’m going to be playing in a really fun and cool version of D&D.
Of course, I could still be proven wrong. But I’m an optimist, aren’t I?