Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition - Board Game Box Shot

Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition

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Publisher Introduction

  • Game overview
  • Player's Handbook
  • Monster Manual
  • Dungeon Master's Guide

The Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game has defined the medieval fantasy genre and the tabletop RPG industry for more than 30 years. In the D&D game, players create characters that band together to explore dungeons, slay monsters, and find treasure. The 4th Edition D&D rules offer the best possible play experience by presenting exciting character options, an elegant and robust rules system, and handy storytelling tools for the Dungeon Master.

NEW TO ROLEPLAYING GAMES?

JUMPING RIGHT IN

First, get the core rule books (shown below):

Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook 4ed Dungeons & Dragons: Monster Manual 4ed Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Masters Guide 4ed

You will also need:
  • A copy of the character sheet in the Player's Handbook for each player.
  • A battle grid. The Dungeon Master's Guide contains one.
  • Miniatures to represent characters and monsters.
  • A set of dice (ideally one set per player):
    1 four-sided die (d4), 4 six-sided dice (d6), 1 eight-sided die (d8), 2 ten-sided dice (d10), 1 twelve-sided die (d12), and 1 twenty-sided die (d20)
  • Pencils, scrap paper, and graph paper to keep notes and to map the locations your characters will explore.

User Reviews (25)

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4
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
Pet Lover
7
33 of 37 gamers found this helpful
“Super Metagaming RPG.”

Metagaming has a few definitions. However, the primary definition of “metagaming” is playing a game outside of the most basic game.

There are two great examples of metagaming found in Poker, and in Magic: The Gathering. In Poker, metagaming comes in from reading other players, providing false “tells”, and talking during the game to manipulate others. This metagaming is much more than simply trying to get the best hand in the game. In Magic: The Gathering, metagaming takes the form of players spending creating a deck between games. Both of these examples show the basic concept of how a game is much more than the rules found in a book.

DnD 4th edition is more of the latter example of metagaming. Players will spend a whole lot of time looking at the player’s guides and/or the online character creator tool (a valuable resource) planning on which abilities their character will have once they level. In 4th edition, when a character gains a level, they typically gain a new ability. However, players much choose only one new ability from a list of several.

This is my favorite aspect of DnD 4th edition that separates it from all the other editions. Players will spend a heck of a lot of time reading the Player’s Manual, dreaming and anticipating what new ablility their character will have. This is especially valuable because combat is very structured, and you might be waiting awhile before you get your turn to play your move. Unfortunately, many RPG’s suffer from the dreaded “combat crawl.”

 
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2
Gamer - Level 2
3
36 of 42 gamers found this helpful
“Miniature Gaming”

I love miniature based games. Warhammer Quest, Hero’s Quest, Doomtroppers… those games remind me of a simpler time. Then we started to play without a board with games like Mage Knight and Disc Wars. I know that many people out there have a fondness for Warhammer 40k and other such products. For those people, I’m sure that D&D 4th Edition is a great game.

It is not the game for me.

My love for D&D comes from 2nd Edition, where it was imperative that we all had a clear idea of what was happening during combat in our head because we didn’t use minis. We didn’t use minis because we were young and didn’t have the money and because the rules didn’t support that. Because of this, we had to get into our characters and explain in detail what we were doing. Then came 3rd edition and Attacks of Opportunity. I know that 2nd ed had this idea to a certain degree, but 3rd ed blew it out of the water. Now we really needed to know where we were in relation to everything else. We still played without minis because we trusted the DM to know where we were, but as a DM it became increasingly important to show maps of the rooms. As players, we’d move our tokens around on the board. We got out of the character and more into the game element of it.

4th Edition took this and made it so much worse. The only way to role-play in this system is if you force it. Combat is no longer some abstract notion. Everything is tied down and pinpointed. The classes are all tuned and balanced. These are terms that aren’t good for role-playing.

I know that I’m rambling at this point, and I feel that I should mention that the monsters are actually well done for this system. I like the rules for minions. That’s nice. However, D&D has left the head and cemented itself down onto the board.

 
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5
Hockey Fan
I Am What I Am
9
57 of 67 gamers found this helpful
“The most Polarizing, Streamlined and Best Version of D&D”

Ever since its release 4E has gotten rather polarizing reviews. There are those who love it and those who think it has ruined D&D.

Having played and DM’ed 4E over the past two years (with 3/3.5 experience before that) I’ve appreciated the fact that it is the best edition yet.

Things that make this the best edition yet:

* Combat – It is streamlined, Standard/Move/Minor actions make it flow so much better than previous editions. No more Fighters with 8 attacks and Druids + Pets whose turns last 5+ minutes each. Players no longer dread getting into combat, it has become a fun part of d&d.

* Skills – The skills are enablers for players and DM’s, they arn’t restrained by not having trained X, Y, Z skill. By making the skills more generic it allows players to be more creative when using them and DM’s to be more accepting of different situations.

* No XP Drain for item creation and Death, always a poor consequence.

* Multi-Class Nerf, I understand that for some people the multi-classing is essential to their character’s story; however they have done well in scaling back the excessive munchkins people wanted to play.

In my experience this edition more than others allows for DM’s and players to keep with the first rule of improv. Just say yes! It does this by simplifying the combat rules and dropping alot of non-combat rules for just DM discretion. If a player wants to do something let them try, incentivize them for creativity and good role playing. Let the players drive the role playing and be willing to adapt and encourage it.

 
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6
Unicorn Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
Gamer - Level 6
Novice Reviewer
8
66 of 79 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Maybe the best RPG rules set today.”

4th edition Dungeons and Dragons is the best D&D rules system to date, hands down. Many people will disagree. They are wrong. The most important part about reviewing D&D 4e is dispelling one very silly myth about it.

“4e is all about table-top combat! It’s not an RPG anymore!”

Yes, this is kind of true. What is a myth, though, is that it must be a bad thing. Role playing games need rules to function, otherwise it is just cooperative story telling and you wouldn’t be playing D&D in the first place. Asking a DM to consistently remember (and continually describe) a combat environment without a play-aid mat is ridiculous. Does anyone get mad when he passes out a note or shows a picture of an NPC? No. Same should go for the combat mat. You remember your character’s stats with a character sheet, and you remember where that orc was standing with a battle mat.

That being said, actual -Role Play- is entirely up to the players themselves. A rules set cannot force a player to talk in-character and decide upon actions that are in keeping with that character’s personality. So, the one thing that really needs to be handled with numbers is combat. And that’s what D&D 4e does remarkably well. This emphasis on a unified combat mechanic bleeds into class design, as we shall see, but it also makes the game very welcoming to beginners.

The primary complaint about D&D is that this focus made it bland. All of the classes work, essentially, the same way. Players pick powers- at will, encounter, and daily powers- at the same progression, and they function the same mechanically 99% of the time (Roll your ability, compare against enemy ability). What this does is create balance, which is something 3.5/Pathfinder seriously lacks. Wizards and Clerics were obscenely powerful, while Fighters and Monks are really just a sad joke. The differences between classes were more flavorful, yes. But that lack of any sort of game balance just kicks all the fun you might have in the dice-bag. D&D 4e has a well balanced class abilities mechanic that looses some flare because it relies on the players to describe (role play?!) their character’s actions, which as we all know, is like pulling teeth.

Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition suffers one serious setback which might deter your investing: horrid product releases. The Wizards of the Coast model is to continually release splat books with heaps of new content. It makes it very hard to keep track of things. Some say this is remedied by their online character builder program, but in my opinion it is just as hard sorting though those hundreds of menus and options as well. And it’s another fee. The more information-driven books targeted to DMs are quite good though, and full of great inspiration for games. Pathfinder’s greatest achievement was the Adventure Path products– D&D 4e published adventures are often quite terrible. You could, in theory, use the Adventure Path stories, scrapping all the game content in favor of 4e stats, but that would be a bit of work. At the end of the day, if you (or your DM) can create your own engaging stories, D&D 4e is a fantastic game that is well balanced and encouraged role playing.

 
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9
My First Heart
My First Wish!
My First Favorite!
Gave My First Grade
9
36 of 43 gamers found this helpful
“More Roleplaying Than Advertised”

Don’t get me wrong, 4th edition D&D is absolutely got it in spades for combat rules in the rule books. In fact, the three primary books that opened the edition (the Players’ Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual) are almost 100% pure rules crunch.

What many (far, FAR too many) fail to realize is that a solid conflict resolution system and a robust (or you might say bloated) character creation system has absolutely nothing to do with how much roleplaying you can get out of this system.

As with any RPG, the amount of quality roleplaying you get out of it will largely depend on two things – you, and the person running the game. Your fellow roleplayers at the table can make things easier or more difficult, but they can’t remove what type of roleplaying experience you’ll get based on your and the DM’s efforts.

The core system is actually great for roleplaying, and not just board gaming, because it’s clean enough that it gets out of your way yet still gives you good resolutions from the daring do that you’ll attempt.

The reason many have said that this system is bad for roleplaying is mostly because it doesn’t force you to do it, and doesn’t teach you how. This isn’t a bad thing. Why would you want to be told “okay, now act like you’re struggling to stay above water”? It’s a roleplaying game, not an acting class. And being taught how to roleplay is just as bad because it doesn’t allow for individual styles, it only allows for the style being taught.

Sure, some RPGs give insight into roleplaying and then say things like “but feel free to do things in your own way”. The only difference between those RPGs and 4th edition is in 4th ed you don’t have to read through how somebody else thinks it should be done before you’re told “just do your own thing.”

4th edition D&D did a great job of cleaning up the rules mess that 3.5 had become (especially from the DM’s side of things), don’t let the fact that it explains how to work with its combat system and not how to talk in an elven accent fool you into believing there’s any less roleplaying here than in any other game.

 
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8
Gamer - Level 8
Expert Recruiter
Count / Countess
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
5
38 of 46 gamers found this helpful
“Biggest Gaming Disappointment”

Flashback: I pick up the 3rd Edition D&D Player’s Handbook. I had been on a bit of a hiatus from roleplaying games after moving to Oregon to finish college. I played 2nd Edition extensively in high school, and after moving away for college, I played sporadically when it came up. I even started a short-lived but fun campaign as the Dungeon Master. I decided to pop into my FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) and check this out. I was not disappointed.

When I opened that book, I felt I had in my hands the ability to create any type of character I could imagine. Where earlier editions had fairly rigid archetypes, the customizability of character creation in 3rd Ed. was excellent. Skills, feats, generous multiclassing… I loved it. In short order, I found the university’s gaming club, where I met other roleplayers… including my wife through the club via a listserve… to (surprise, surprise!) play D&D 3E. But I digress. Back to 3rd Edition….

Another gem of D&D 3rd Edition was the Open Gaming License (OGL). The basic system of D&D, called the D20 system, was open source. This means that third party publishers could create adventures, supplements, campaign worlds, etc., based on this system. And they did. Lots. This really opened the field for a lot of innovation, and great product lines rose from this. It was a great thing to experience. And it lasted for several years. And then 4th Edition D&D was announced.

At first, I was pretty thrilled by the announcement. I was pretty happy with the direction of the product line thus far, and was excited to see where they would take it. After all, they’d really made it shine, they’re just going to do more of the same, right? Wrong.

I started being skeptical when Wizards of the Coast started giving previews. I just didn’t feel behind what they were doing, but I still kept reservedly optimistic.But each subsequent preview made it really seem that something was not going right, in my opinion. And then it was released. I’ll admit, I went to my FLGS to pick it up at midnight. Yup, I’m a geek and not ashamed to admit it!

So, I’m not going to review 4th Ed. I’ll just say that I was unimpressed by character creation, and the fact that every character class pretty much does the same thing with slightly different window dressing. It wasn’t ever, “What’s YOUR cool power?”, it was always “What’s your 3d6 + ability modifier power?”. Basically, they’re all the same. At least it seems like that to me. Feats are also stripped of all flavor. And the archetypes and pretty rigid, backsliding to 2nd Edition. Among other things. All in all, it seems like a pen-and-paper MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game), probably by intention.

Another point of note was the Gaming System License (GSL) for 4th Edition. Whereas the OGL was very permissive and encouraged third parties, the GSL did everything it could to say that Wizard of the Coast could terminate your rights to publish 4th Edition-compatible material at their whim. It is very restrictive, though there are quite a few third party publishers who do use it. I’m not impressed with it, though. And, as I understand, the GSL itself exists only because a lot of people pushed Hasbro (Wizards’ parent company) really hard.

So… yeah. This post isn’t really about bashing 4th edition, Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro. I just wanted to convey my disappointment about the system, as compared with my previous experiences. I have played 4th Edition a bit, and enjoyed it; it’s just not what I want to spend my small amount of roleplaying time playing. I’ve chosen to look to the Pathfinder line by Paizo Publishing as my RPG of preference. To put credit where credit is due, Pathfinder is based on the 3rd edition OGL. I recommend checking this system out if you haven’t already.

 
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7
Norway
The Gold Heart
Mask of Agamemnon
4
35 of 44 gamers found this helpful
“What went wrong? A gaming group field report.”

As an RPGer for over 15 years, I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons since first edition. When 2nd edtion came out I was getting a more serious player and 3rd and 3.5 edition I’ve played hundres of hours – as a player but also as a GM.

As an avid gamer I wanted to try 4th edition, bought the books and introduced it to my group. I made a few different leveled encounters and we gave it a ago. We started a campaign with me as GM, but after a few sessions we transfered our characters over to the Pathfinder system.

We had a few serious issues with D&D 4th ed:
- First of all the great fantasy setting Forgotten Realms got more or less ruined after the spellplague in our opinion. They made the setting easier to understand for new players by making it simpler (the pantheon etc), but for us this was it’s bane.
- Second. The class system was “improved” to the worse – and a lot worse! Where 1st to 3.5 ed classes had their own feel to it, all classes in 4th edition got stream lined making it feel like a bad video game. This was the main thing that made us change to Pathfinder (which is a lot like 3.5 ed). Spell casters lost their flexibility with less spells gained. The same was for other classes as well.
- Third. Not only did the classes change up, but the powers they implemented instead of spells felt too MMO with “at will”, “encounter”, “utility” and “daily” powers.

This was too much for our group!

Not everything in 4th edition is bad – there are a few glimpses of light in there, and there are two things my gaming group has implemented:
1. Skill challenges – takes time to make but great fun!
2. Minion monsters – those with only 1 hp (canon fodder)

All in all 4th edition was a great disappointment for us. D&D Next (the next edition from the D&D owers) will be released shortly. We’ve grown fond of Pathfinder and it will surprise me if anyone in my group want to give D&D another try…

 
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5
Canada
Book Lover
6
54 of 70 gamers found this helpful
“An RPG Mainstay, but Not the Best Available Choice”

I’ve been playing role-playing games (and Dungeons & Dragons) for nearly thirty years now, and I’ve seen a lot of games including all four editions of D&D and the non-Advanced versions. I picked up the D&D 4th ed. when it was first coming out, mainly because I needed to rebuild my game shelf, having lost most of my old games. I also picked D&D because it’s basically the ‘mainstay’ RPG (when dealing with new gamers or casual players who aren’t very familiar with gaming, each category has that one game even non-gamers seem to know – D&D for RPGs, Magic the Gathering for CCGs, WoW for MMOs). I bought lots of the early 4e books, but soon lost interest.

My first impression of this edition is that it was clearly marketed and designed to try and find a foothold in a time when the tabletop RPG market is diminished from its former glory of the 80s and 90s, where MMOs have gained more popularity and publicity. The 4e D&D system made me think “World of Warcraft for D&D players”, in terms of the way character roles and parties are laid out, and just the whole system. Personally, while this isn’t necessarily bad (I certainly see the marketing advantage by appealing to MMO players), I myself don’t care for it.

I’m also a huge advocate of encouraging people to play “the other games”. I go out of my way to NOT play D&D, WoW or MtG, because in my experience “best known” isn’t the same as “best game”. I’ve sat at more than a few game tables where the group refuses to try anything new, and sooner or later someone says “let’s just play D&D”. There are a lot of really great RPGs out there that have better game systems, are more fun, and are more creative and innovative than D&D. I’m sure D&D will always be there (5th edition is supposed to be just over the horizon), but I would encourage people to try something else – Pathfinder seems to appeal even to a lot of former D&D gamers, and there are some really great systems out there like Savage Worlds, Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu (and the Basic Roleplaying system in general), all of which can provide great gaming experiences (Savage Worlds and BRP are also frankly a lot easier to teach to new players than a system like D&D).

D&D has a respectable history as an RPG, but in my opinion its day may have passed, or at least diminished, and I would rather give support (and my money) to other game systems.

 
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3
Amateur Reviewer
Strategist
Amateur Advisor
5
33 of 43 gamers found this helpful
“This is not the only game in town”

Okay what the heck is up with D&D 4th Ed being the only Role-Playing game to show on this site?

D&D 4e takes much of the customization, adaptability, and interesting choices of its previous editions and boils it down to something overly simple and singular in its purpose. D&D 4e is useable as a “kick in the dungeon door and go fight monsters” game and not much else.

Every class is designed to fight and they all fight in a similar way. There is very little diference in mechanics or effect of a brave warrior swinging his sword or a mage casting magic missile. There are little or no class powers that encourage actual role-playing or give your character anything special to do outside of combat.

I’m not saying you can’t role-play interesting situations in a D&D 4e campaign. Good game masters and players can create interesting role-playing situations with almost no rules at all. What I am saying is that D&D 4e does absolutely nothing to help you role-play interesting situations.

4e is practically a minatures battle game with “RPG” elements. There are many new role-playing games doing some wonderful and exciting things with the genre. D&D 4e isn’t one of them. It’s a shame this site doesn’t have information about Pathfinder (the true successor to 3rd Edition D&D), War Hammer Fantasy Role Play, World of Darkness, Dungeon World, or any of the other much more exciting RPGs.

 
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7
Advanced Reviewer
It's All About Me
I'm a Real Person
I'm Completely Obsessed
5
32 of 42 gamers found this helpful
“Great Flavor Text?”

4E lived up to the original D&D company name, TSR, or Tactical Studies Rules. This is a perfect game if you love the min/max, meta-heavy organization that goes into fighting a late-game raid boss in that MMORPG I got bored with. Roleplaying is a side note here as much as it is in that self-same MMORPG. Instead, the focus is clearly on combat, tactics, and rules. With EXCELLENT creature stat blocks outlining general function and strategy and perfect methods for balancing encounters and adventures, I was ready for this to take over my gaming lineup. Instead, I was instantly and familiarly bored.

I will say that the flavor text has improved. In 2nd ed, I swung my sword. In 3rd ed, I Power Attacked and swung my sword! In 4th ed, I “punctuate my scything attacks with wicked jabs and small cutting blows that slip through my enemy’s defenses.” But the flavor text also minimizes the personal thought that goes into an action, and, like I said, I got bored.

4E works as a system, but it doesn’t engage my brain in the way I want it to. It helps me kill raid bosses. It doesn’t help me play a fun game with my friends.

I had such hopes!

 
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2
Went to Gen Con 2012
 
38 of 51 gamers found this helpful
“A great game with lots of improv and with the right people, good humor.”

I love D&D. Having been introduced formally to it at the beginning of 4th edition I have nothing to compare the previous editions to. However my fellow players have often said some of the combat and skill elements were more difficult than in this edition. I feel like I was able to step into the game without any problems learning the rules quickly.

Alot of things come down to the discretion of the DM but it certainly adds an interesting twist to the game. And as I like to test my DM at every turn I personally feel like I have more freedom in this game than in previously played RPGs. If you have a good group of people this is a good game for laughs and adventure. The only problem we seem to have is covering enough ground in a short amount of time. If you are a beer drinking chatting group only plan on 2-3 encounters in a couple hour session. For those who like to level quickly and not be stuck in level limbo for months on end this can be frustrating (thats a note to fellow power gamers, of which I’ve been accused of…lol.)

The biggest problem is how long you can keep a group of people intact and available to really hit the high levels. It seems like we can never get a group past level seven before people start doing something else with their time. My only solution to this is to run campaign modules where you have specific levels and go from there.

 
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1
Gamer - Level 1
 
44 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“Not my D&D, but not a bad D&D”

I have been a player of Dungeons & Dragons for many years (since about 1982), and to me, it has always been a ROLE playing game above all else… I was eager when 4th edition came out, but to be honest, it is not Dungeons and Dragons in my opinion. It isn’t a ROLE playing game, it is a ROLL playing game. A board game… a miniatures game.

First edition (Basic D& and AD&D) was a great game and I don’t even want to think of the thousands of hours I spent playing it in High School… 3.5/Pathfinder is a great game, but very rules heavy. It took a lot of the ‘fun’ out of the original game by putting too many restrictions and trying to come up with rules to take care of every possible situation – again, this is not a bad thing either, but it isn’t first edition… (I do like 3.5/pathfinder, so I am not being negative about it).

Fourth edition however, as I said above, is not a ROLE playing game… but, that isn’t a bad thing depending on how you look at it. In fact, I really like 4th edition if you play it for the miniatures aspect. It is an awesome system to work out tactical skirmish situations and battles with clear and clean rules, powers you can use at will (whenever you want), once a day, etc…

The problem here is the spells and rules and abilities are too different from 3.5 to use with the game. Meaning you can’t play a 3.5 role playing game, and enter a big combat situation – it would be nice to be able to work it out using rules like 4e, but it just ins’t practical.

This review is quite mixed, because depending on how you look at it, I like the game and I don’t like that game, lol.

 
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7
USA
The Gold Heart
I play black
Knight-errant
9
44 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“A refutation that 4e is, indeed, an RPG.”

One of the funniest gam3r comments that Gamer Bling has heard regarding 4e was that 4e doesn’t stress role-playing. That it is really just a miniatures game in RPG clothing. In fact, Gamer Bling heard several gam3rs argue that 4e isn’t a role-playing game at all.

Even Lone Wolf’s brogue-alicious Colen MacAlister, who is ordinarily a very intelligent guy, fell for this argument, and relayed it to Yours Truly at Gen Con 2008. Of course, by Gen Con 2009, he had actually played 4e, and vowed that he could never return to 3.5. Gamer Bling has also taken this vow.

Now, when he originally heard this argument, Gamer Bling was given significant pause to wonder. How can a game be definitively proven to be a role-playing game, or to stress role-playing? By definition, role-playing is not something that can be classified, categorized, and ruled upon. Doing so makes it a rule-playing game.

Simply put, to quote the august Mike Pondsmith, who is an amazingly creative guy and has given Gamer Bling many freelance dollars over the years, as well as allowed him to vent his frustrations regarding the First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion upon a stack of boxes of old product, “RPGs are ‘let’s pretend’ with rules.”

This necessarily splits the content of an RPG into the role-playing part of “let’s pretend” and the rule-playing part. The rule-playing part deals with the effects of interactions: his sword versus her head (as Gamer Bling immediately commits a Freudian slip that clearly reflects his opinion on the First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion). The role-playing part deals with the style of interactions and the motivations behind them.

Any gam3r worth his weight in pretzels must necessarily understand that any RPG book must focus primarily upon the rule-playing portion of the game. After all, most of us instinctively know how to play “let’s pretend.” Heck, most of us do it at the movies, when we agree or disagree with the activities of a character and whisper back and forth about it until the people behind us call the usher and we get ejected from the theater.

In point of fact, the Second Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion is a fan of making many comments during movies, though fortunately she only does so when we are watching movies at home. At times, the Gamer Bling Official Companion can be a regular pit bull of opinion, and when a movie is unrealistic Gamer Bling often wishes she would just let it go and suspend her disbelief from a noose dangling from the ceiling fan.

In any event, Gamer Bling was moved to wonder whether or not WotC had, in fact, created an RPG that wasn’t an RPG. But to make a determination, he first had to figure out how to go about analyzing the data.

The first thing that Gamer Bling decided was that he was NOT going to do it by word count. No way. He’d be up all night for weeks, muttering “three thousand seven hundred and forty two… three thousand seven hundred and forty three… three thousand seven hundred and forty four… um… zzzzzzzz…”

Even page count isn’t necessarily accurate, since (a) pages can have dramatically different numbers of words, and (b) Gamer Bling keeps getting distracted by all the pretty pictures. On the other hand, comparing page count to total book length is a reasonable estimate of how much gravitas a subject is considered to have.

Eventually, as Gamer Bling ruminated on the issue, it basically boiled down to the questions “What sort of examples do the rulebooks give?” and “What priority do the rulebooks imply?” and “How can I make some actual money doing this blasted web page?” Even ten dollars would be fine. That’d pay for pizza.

So Gamer Bling did a side-by-side comparison of the 4e rulebook and the 3.5e version that Gamer Bling has with a gold foil stamp on the cover that says, “GenCon 2003,” because it gives Yours Truly a chance to taunt people with his ownership of the book before he eventually puts it up on eBay to pay the Gamer Bling Monthly Access Fee.

The first thing that strikes Gamer Bling is that the 4e rulebook is friendlier (“How to Play” vs. 3e’s “Introduction,” and “Making Characters” vs. 3e’s “Abilities”), but that does not bear on whether or not it is an RPG, just how easy it is for n00bs like Josh to learn.

The introductory section takes three pages in 3.5 (1% of the book) and eight pages in 4e (3%). In addition, the 4e PHB provides an example of a role-playing session dialog before it presents the core mechanic of the game. In contrast, 3.5 moved the role-playing example so far behind the core mechanic that it apparently tripped over the index and fell right out of the back of the book. Oops.

Maybe that’s because in a real 3.5 RPG session there is little talking as folks spend so much time looking up the rules for grappling.

The next several chapters of both PHBs take players through the task of making their characters. In 3.5, they start with abilities, then race, class, skills, and feats. Then 3.5 ends with a pitiful 8-page chapter on “description.” So 3.5 demonstrates (intentionally or not) that description is the last thing you should think of when building your character.

In contrast, Gamer Bling is of the opinion that one must have the character’s gestalt before trying to bring it into life with abilities and such. 4e starts that part of the book with a 20-page chapter on “Making Characters,” which includes a section titled “Roleplaying.”

Gamer Bling looked; nowhere in the 3.5 PHB is there a section labeled “Roleplaying.” Zing.

3.5 spends a page—a whole page!—with charts for height, weight, and age. 4e ignores that almost entirely, leaving it in the hands of the players with no more than brief guidelines. Role-playing versus rule-playing. Zing.

In contrast, 3.5 spends a pitiful half a page on “Looks, Background, and Personality”—what, no eye-color charts?—before getting back to “Customizing Your Character.” 4e spends two pages discussing Personality, Mannerisms, Appearance, and Background.

After the introduction comes the Races chapter. Which makes sense, since if you parse out the standard PC intro, “I’m playing a” is the introduction, which is then followed by the race and then the class, as in “I’m playing a dwarf fighter” or “I’m playing a flying fire-breathing Syberis kobold rogue/sorcerer/arcane trickster so I’m better than you.”

In 3.5, each race gets a description and a black-and-white head shot or two. In 4e, each race gets a description with a full-color illustration. Each version gives racial rules and abilities, physical qualities, personality, etc.

The big difference is this: In 3.5, “Choosing a Race” is the title of a section at the start of a chapter. It deals with how your race/class combo can impact how potent your character is. In contrast, each race in 4e has a small section labeled “Play a [race] if you want…” and follows it up with three reasons, two of which are pure role-playing and personality issues, and only the third deals with race/class combo.

Next, we check out classes.

3.5 spends 40 pages, 14% of the book, on classes. 4e spends 126 pages, or 40% of the book. Now this is not a fair comparison, of course, since the 126 pages includes many, many options for each class. Because apparently (according to gam3rs) having options precludes role-playing, while renaming your skill from “move silently” to “footpaddin’ ” is extraordinary role-playing (see the end of the 3.5 Description chapter if you fail to catch the reference).

To compare the classes more equally, we should lump the Magic and Spells chapters in with the Classes chapter for 3.5. But that, too, is unfair, as we shall discuss presently. So instead, let’s look at how the classes are presented.

In 3.5, the section starts out with a brief description of a generic [classname]. There then follow the sort of adventures the class takes, what the class is like, what their alignment is likely to be, their religion, background, best races, opinions of other classes, and role in the party. Then we get into the game rules for the class.

4e starts out with a pull quote and a big ol’ illustration to set the mood. Then, in a rare case where 3.5 presents role-playing material first, 4e has a block that deals primarily with game statistics. But then 4e follows again with a larger description of the [classname]. Following that, players can pick a slant for their [classname], which is again prefaced with a solid description.

So the way that 3.5 and 4e present classes is fairly even. The big difference is in how 3.5 and 4e present sample adventurers.

In 3.5, sample adventurers are placed in the classes section and presented in emotionless game-stat format: “Human Sorcerer Starting Package / Armor: None (speed 30 ft.) / Weapons: Shortspear (1d6, crit x2, range inc. 20 ft., 3 lb, one-handed, piercing)…”

In 4e, sample adventurers are placed in the races section and presented in role-playing personality format without any game stats whatsoever: “Donaar is a paladin of Erathis [who] believes that the dragonborn race is destined to rise from the ashes of its ancient empire…. As a reminder of his heritage, he keeps a piece of the shell from which he hatched in an amulet around his neck.”

Next, Gamer Bling observes that both 3.5 and 4e give roughly equal treatment to the chapters on combat (10%) and adventuring (3%). The sole difference is that in 4e, the chapter on adventuring comes before combat, while in 3.5 combat comes first. But of course adventures should be more important, right? Because adventures lead to combat, but not vice versa, right? So which version pushes adventuring to the rear? Why, 3.5.

Skills and feats get more or less equal attention, although Gamer Bling will point out that skills and feats have less import in 4e than they do in 3.5, because the class abilities are so much more flexible and impactful.

The equipment chapter in 4e is longer, because it has magic items. So call that a wash.

Finally, the last 40% of the 3.5 PHB is devoted purely to spells. That’s over one third of the book devoted to effects that 4 out of the 11 base classes cannot use. Worse yet, another 3 out of those 11 can’t use nearly all of the spells, being restricted in level to 6 (bard) or 4 (paladin, ranger). That’s an awful lot of the book devoted to a few classes.

This fact requires barbarians, fighters, monks, and rogues to employ feats to develop an identity. But that’s an argument for another day.

In conclusion, Gamer Bling presents another fun Deathmatch table:

Gives a sample dialog for a roleplaying session: 4e
Has a section named “Roleplaying”: 4e
Presents description before game stats: 4e
Gives roleplaying reasons to play a race: 4e
Sample characters are descriptive, not stat blocks: 4e
Adventuring is presented before combat: 4e
Is the version Gamer Bling sold off on eBay: 3.5

So remind Gamer Bling… which version stresses role-playing?

 
Player Avatar
5
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Advanced Grader
Knight
8
22 of 33 gamers found this helpful
“This ain't your daddy's D&D ... or maybe it is.”

I can’t really argue that D&D 3.x is better or worse than D&D 4 because they are different games for different types of gamers.

D&D 4 returns to the D&D roots with a focus more on tabletop battle simulation. With 3rd Edition, a battle map was useful, but not strictly necessary for combat. With D&D 4 you will find combat vastly simpler and less confusing if you have a battle map and tokens. If you don’t want to spring for the nice adventure tiles and monster tokens, grid paper with a 1″ grid and LEGO Minifigs work well as replacements.

The mechanics of battle are also, in many ways, streamlined and simpler than third edition as well, with a selection of Powers usable each encounter.

Character creation is also more categorized, with each class’s role in the party well defined.

 
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3
Gamer - Level 3
Noble
8
17 of 26 gamers found this helpful
“DND”

Dungeons and Dragons is an ever-evolving game. I’m going to keep this short.
I like this new edition of DND and I do not. I started with AD&D, and loved it, but was sometimes lost without the guidance of those who knew the system better.
This system is not one that loses a new player as easily.
One thing that I do not like about it is the additions to combat like attack of opportunity and bloodied. Those things make sense to some degree, but also add a lot of complexity to a game that can really confuse new players and DM’s.
Overall, I like the new powers, and character creation is relatively simple.
I have found, however, that leveling up can be confusing. There are a variety of new powers, but sometimes which powers you are allowed to choose is confusing.
I had bought the fourth edition starter box. It came with a few map tiles, a set of dice, and a few tokens. The rules really are built to be used with more grid maps and miniatures, but they are not included with the game. Those are expansions that you have to buy of course.
The miniatures are no longer in production, but can still be easily obtained.
Now, to find some more players!

 

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