Looking back on 4E
I’m fairly certain I’ve played my last instance of 4th edition. I ran a campaign for a year of 6 players, during which they eventually reached 14th level. I also played in about a half dozen (give or take) Encounters seasons, so I feel I experienced the majority of what 4E had to offer. Having come from a background of mainly 1st and 2nd Edition, I was pretty shocked at how much had changed from the early days. It took some adjustment to be sure. There was plenty about 4th edition that I liked. The amount of choices available to the player each round for one thing was great. Fighter types had options beyond simply swinging their weapon. Now you had lists of potential moves to choose from and each provided different benefits. I enjoyed the variety immensely. Caster types were not as squishy, although I missed the traditional list of spells from the earlier editions. At-wills were great too, especially for casters.
I probably should mention that I missed 3rd Edition completely. It came out when I was starting a family and my game time dissolved away into nothing. To fill the gaming void, I immersed myself in MMOs mainly, up until 2012 and hence, missed out on a fair share of the RPG evolutionary process after the early years. Edition wars didn’t make my radar until I got back into the hobby and I don’t think I missed anything to be truthful. All of my old gaming crew had moved away or I had lost touch with them but thankfully I discovered Encounters and now my dice and I are happy once more.
4th Edition’s heavy reliance on minis was fun and I did enjoy the tactical feel of combat. However, the role-playing aspect of the hobby seemed to be forgotten. I felt a bit out-dated playing this new version of D&D, like I had awoken from a 15 year slumber and the whole world had changed, while I was stuck in the past; a relic. I had become “that guy” who continually was spouting about how “things used to be”. Still, I adapted and after two months of just playing, I began what would become a weekly campaign. The PCs felt like superheroes to me as they continually survived through everything I threw at them. I would read back through my notes of my old 2nd Edition campaign and its number of PC deaths mocked me and at the same time made me question my own ability to DM years ago. I always felt fair then, and truly, the story was the thing for me; not building a body count. Still, if I was able to get a PC to make a death save in my current campaign I felt like that was an accomplishment.
4E had its share of things I didn’t care for either. Healing surges, action points, the “requirement” of an online account to create a character, min-maxer players, backstabbing without actually being in back of the target, combats taking over an hour to complete, no classic spells, drow that no longer avoided daylight, costliness of minis, poorly written modules, no more Greyhawk and a general lack of character or feel in its campaign settings.
Over time, it became clear to me that 4th edition more of a super heroic combat simulator (and a fun one) than what I remembered D&D to be. I became jaded and when personal life changes intervened, the campaign was put to rest. Now, I look for what will be my next system. 13th Age is one system I’m currently running and I’m playing in a Pathfinder and Castles & Crusades campaigns as well. 4th edition though seems to have breathed its last for me. Like all things, it had its moments.