The 4th edition hot button

I was introduced to D&D by a friend early in high school who at the time played 2nd Edition AD&D (this book still adorns my shelves as we speak) and I wasn’t really sure what the hell was going on at first. Sit at a table and pretend to be someone else? Do I dress up and change my voice? I heard about all these crazy adventures that had taken place, powerful magic items and all the cool stuff they did and in my mind all I could think was “Awesome, but I wonder what all this looks like” and in my minds eye it was some sort of elaborate video game/VR simulation. I found myself daydreaming about these scenarios I’d been told about, or overheard them talking about “So I took the oil from my lantern and poured it all over the dungeon floor and lit it ablaze with my torch just as the orcs burst through the door and Andy’s character got clobbered” wow, what the hell were these guys doing after school and why hadn’t I gotten in on it sooner?

I started thinking about the game like epic movie scenes with awesome special effects – I was probably thinking “Jurasic Park” around this point in time. Not knowing what to expect at all I went to our FLGS at the time, ready to play my first game of D&D shortly thereafter. Only to realize at my first D&D session there I sat with a piece of paper, a mechanical pencil, some funny looking dice and my imagination. All of a sudden it clicked – those things I was trying to picture in my head thinking about video games “that’s what this is all a bout!” that was 12 years ago, I was 13. I’ve played D&D ever since, and honestly can never get enough. I’m pretty prone to things growing old on me rather quickly and I think D&D’s complete lack of limitations are what keeps the game fresh. Of course this applies to most any pen & paper RPG.

What does all this have to do with 4th edition you ask, well lately I’ve been reading a lot of highly biased thoughts on the subject and I feel I have to put my two cents in on the hobby as a whole, although Graham’s rebuttal to above linked post couldn’t have been put any better in my opinion I’m choosing to still get a few words in on the subject. Over the course of playing 4e the past year, I’ve found it has done nothing but add to my D&D experience, rather than detract from it. The arguments that it impedes roleplaying are absolutely stupid and I won’t even waste anymore time detailing why other than saying what everyone else already has – you don’t need rules for roleplaying – period. End of story.

I’ve watched quite a few videos in the past and just kind of wrote them all off as basement dwelling virgins who have the time to make angsty youtube videos on subject matter that ventures outside the realm of their mom not doing their laundry anymore. However latley in my uptaking of the label of “amateur D&D blogger” I realize it’s still a really touchy subject. I understand the late great Mr. Gygax isn’t around to give his utmost opinion on 4e to quell or rile the crowd, so it seems a lot of people have taken it upon themselves to speak for him on the matter, which I find asinine and rather unfair.

Let me go off on a tangent a bit by saying that I for one, understand nerd rage very well. It’s a good thing, it means we’re passionate about something which speaks for a whole lot more than a majority of the masses this day in age. Without detailing all of my nerd rage buttons one could possibly push, let me just say to the 4e haters that I understand your blind disgust for something that seems to derail your entire range of emotions associated with something so near and dear to you. Like when one of my favorite bands decided to sign to Dreamworks records and start producing songs that appealed to 16 year old girls, and when I went to their concerts no longer made it to the front row due to the droves of teenage girls wearing their hot topic uniforms. Or when a great book gets turned into a shitty movie, the analogies are endless. But you’ve really gotta’ stop caring about nostalgia and open yourselves up, forget who makes 4e, forget about WoTC or TSR or World of Warcraft or how much you really enjoy making 4 dice rolls to cast a single spell.

Just because the list of 50+ skills from 3rd edition have been encapsulated into 17 isn’t the end of the world. Sure there are a few that could be re-looked at or maybe split a time or two, but they all still make perfect sense. A lot of the new mechanics play out fundamentally similar only with less dice rolling, skill challenges aren’t evil machinations of what used to be ‘organic roleplaying’ either –read up on them. If you don’t want your players to know they are partaking in a skill challenge, dont tell them they can (for the most part) be done completely transparent to the players! 4e is a great foundation, it provides great structure for DM’s to build from and run with in any direction they so choose. It also gives the players freedom to make any race/class/alignment combo they so choose, thus making even more room for roleplaying than previous editions. Oh and that “flat footed” mechanic from 3e – cram it up your ass! Having 3 different AC’s isnt much friendlier than THACO either, now instead you have penalties to attack rolls it just makes more sense. Since when is streamlining such a bad thing?

With all that being said I’d like to make a short list (which I may add more to later) containg things 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons has given me that previous versions would never have:

  • Allowing me to introduce 10+ new players to the game (not just D&D but tabletop RPG’s as a whole) in the past 10 months or so, without scaring them away before they even finished creating their character.
  • Hooking said players, clamoring to come back for more!
  • Newbie friendly mechanics and overall learn-as-you-go playability.
  • Giving players the ability to play any race/class/alignment combination they so choose.
  • Character interoperability for those off nights of playing an absent players char and overall balance.
  • Something I can teach my son and daughter to play and get their minds flowing at a young age without dumbing the rules down too much
  • Allowing less pigeonholing of class selection via the realistic healing surge mechanic

Yes the above bulleted items mostly reflect back to simplicity or “dumbing down” or “hand holding” if you will, but no one ever said cryptic sets of rules, endless charts or PC’s dying within the first few levels made for a good time. It’s in my opinion that we should play D&D to have a good time, not to try and kill off all the characters or be a rules lawyer, or an argumentative know it all. If you hate 4th edition and you haven’t even played a game, please go out and at least give it a whirl once or twice. If you hate 4th edition and you have played a time or two with others who have a chip on their shoulder about 4e, maybe just give it a try with some new folks who’ve never played a pen & paper game (trying it with a pro-4e person maybe just as counterproductive to your opinion making process as playing with one who despises it).

Really, I wish people in the community (the world over actually) would just read into things or at least give them a try/chance before they go forming opinions. If you’ve played 4e extensively or enough to form an honest opinion and still don’t like it, more power to you as there’s no such thing as one size fits all. If you still want to dislike 4th ed blindly based on nostalgia (or whatever reason(s) you may have) then hey, that’s fine too – we’ve all got our boundaries. Hell I cant even pretend to be open minded about music, movies, video games and a whole bundle of other stuff. All in all though I’d just like to add to the pile of those louts defending 4th edition, and encourage anyone who hasn’t given it a chance to at least consider, reconsidering.


I still feel this post is inferior compared to the justice done for 4e over at so please if you haven’t already, give it a read.

Let me go on record to say that the last paragraph and a half here were written hastily and rather narrow mindedly and I apologize for those who caught my rash side, I”ve edited the conclusion of this post to better reflect my thoughts in a more genuine manner, and less of an angry-nerd-rage one. Thanks for reading.


  1. Good post and an interesting read.

    For my part, time for people to start getting over the hate and spending so much time fretting over a system they don’t like.

    I know my gaming time is limited and I would much rather spend it preparing for the next game of thinking about a system I enjoy.

  2. I really just have to comment and say that the first two paragraphs of this post grabbed me and made me read the whole thing simply because it’s so similar to how I got into tabletop RPGs and D&D in the first place. I’ve actually very rarely met or talked to someone who started with those same 2nd Edition AD&D Revised books that I did, they usually were into the game before that or came into it later on. A lot of your preconceptions also align with how I felt, and I’ll say thank you for the trip down memory lane and the nostalgia!

    I’m also very happy to see the list of things that 4th Edition has done for you and that it has in fact brought more players into gaming and D&D from your experiences. However, I think the last two paragraphs are a bit heavy handed and confrontational for my taste. It sounds like you’re essentially telling anyone who doesn’t like 4E to not speak their mind, I know this isn’t exactly what you’re saying but that’s what it sounds like at first glance. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to gauge exactly how valid someone’s opinion is, in person and especially so online, and many people who express their opinions feel that they are perfectly valid in having them. No matter what, even if they’ve never even seen a 4E book or played the game once, people have the right to not like the game.

    The point of contention comes with the validity of their opinion, and we as respectable and intelligent people simply have to weed through the opinions we read or hear and find those that are valid and respond to those rather than the ones that are uninformed or unsupported.

    • @Bartoneus

      I do admit to hastily trying to wrap up my post, as I’d spent quite some time trying to perfect my thoughts and towards the end just got a little too heavy hearted about it. I know it comes off as confrontational, because it was. It really should have been directed towards the article that tipped me off in the first place instead of the general public, so I apologize for my mood swing in the end there. I feel I should re-summarize and better position my standing so I think i’ll do that in a follow up shortly after this response.

      However on a better note I just want to say I’m glad I could bring someone back down memory lane and I appreciate your genuine and thought filled response, this is exactly the kind of thing I’d hoped would come from writing this blog.

    • @Bartoneus: At the risk of derailing into a side-issue, while it is true that people are entitled to their opinions, and all opinions are valid, there are some generally accepted criteria for the analysis of opinions.

      Generally speaking, when evaluating a product, there is an expectation of participation. We expect that people who review a movie for example, have actually watched the movie. While someone might be able to give an opinion or analysis of a screenplay simply by reading it, that is not generally accepted as the standard for a movie review.

      Likewise, it is a fair expectation that if someone wants to say that 4E or any game is good or bad in a broad sense, they probably should have played it. Someone can just have read the PHB and say that certain things appeal or not to them, but if you want to evaluate the play experience, it isn’t unreasonable to have asked for them to play.

      This isn’t about rights, its about evaluating whether someone’s opinions are useful. I can say that I hate Pepsi and love Coca-Cola. Those are my personal, and perfectly valid, opinions. However they are completely worthless to you as a tool to actually judge Pepsi vs Coca-Cola.

      • As an example, many people whose opinions I have heard or read, that have tried 4E, regardless of whether they like the game or hate it have a common complaint that Combat Encounters in 4E often take too long. I believe that is a valid criticism.

        Someone can say they hate 4E because they didn’t like that Gnomes were left out of the original PHB, or they believe that without Vancian Magic no game deserves to be called D&D. While valid personal opinions, I believe there is very little in them that is persuasive or more meaningful than “I like Coke and hate Pepsi.”

      • Nicholas: I agree with you 100%, my first comment was a reaction to the original conclusion to this post which (to me) sounded like it was saying many people don’t even have the right to dislike 4E. My intent was not for Dreadgazebo to revise it, but that was their choice and I think it’s a much better conclusion now!

        • @Nicholas yes, my original post was a bit heavy hearted towards the end and bartoneus’s first response was aimed at the original wording. He was spot on as well, which inspired me to re think my post. Thanks for all the comments guys!

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