Fourth Edition D&D Long Term Test: But is it D&D?
One of the most frequent complaints against Fourth Edition D&D has been that it’s…. well, not D&D at all. Barely a week goes by that someone out there posts it as a comment on this or some other blog and to be honest, I wish they’d just stop. Enough already!
It’s not smart. It’s not clever. And it’s not true.
Yes, of course 4e D&D is Dungeons & Dragons. It has all the hallmarks of the D&D brand – class-based character progression, hit points, Armour Class and to-hit rolls, Orcs, Otyughs, Mind Flayers, magic and all the things that make D&D what it is. Yes, including Dungeons, and Dragons. Heck, it even says D&D on the cover.
The question though is whether it’s a version of D&D you want to play. I like it (though didn’t initially, I’ll confess) and whether you do too is entirely up to you, and that’s cool. Y’see one of the strengths of D&D as a whole is that there are many different editions of the game out there (about 11, by my count) and they all play slightly differently. From the purity of the original White Box set to the complexity of 2nd Edition AD&D and the Power system of 4e D&D they all have their strengths, and their supporters.
I’m pretty sure that when 2e AD&D came out there were detractors who claimed it wasn’t D&D any more – the lack of an ubiquitous internet made it difficult for them to be heard so vocally back then. I certainly remember the slavering hordes at the gate who hated Third Edition when that came out. I suspect that the majority of folks who claim that 4e isn’t D&D are people who got into game with Third Edition. 3e is “their” edition of D&D, and all others are clearly inferior. At the risk of sounding superior (I ain’t!), we gamers who have been around the block since the earliest days of Classic D&D know better. Or if we didn’t, we should.
Just as no one would claim that 2nd Edition AD&D “wasn’t D&D” now, it’s dumb to say the same thing about Fourth Edition. Dude, it’s all D&D. Embrace the choice!
But back to 4e. Leaving the Powers system to one side for the minute (don’t worry – we’ll get to it soon enough), Fourth Edition is one of the most streamlined versions of D&D ever made. The races are well put together, the classes are distinct and flavour-filled and there’s no class which is stronger or weaker than all the rest. The skill system “just works” and multi-classing at last differentiates between a Fighter/Rogue and a Rogue/Fighter – the two are completely different whereas in Third Edition the only difference was the number of skill points at first level. Only a fool would take Fighter as their 1st level class and bolt Rogue on afterwards. Now, you can pick the base class according to concept and style.
I’ve said it before – without the Powers system, 4e D&D is an utterly brilliant role-playing engine. It’s lean, sleak and gorgeously put together. Add the Powers system in, and it’s kickass when it comes to combat too.
Y’know what – I’ve said enough for now, so I’ll talk about Powers, next time.