I, like all of the people I know that play Dungeons and Dragons, hate 4th Edition.
Except that I don’t. Not anymore.
Thanks to Matthew Colville on YouTube, I decided to give 4th Edition a good hard look and find out what it is that was so maligned about this version. You see, I never actually read it or played it. I had been told by others that 4th Edition was a cheap attempt to garner more players by making it more like a video game, and less like a traditional tabletop Role Playing Game.
Now that I’ve read it in depth, I can honestly say that those people were wrong. Some parts of the game that others had issues with, specifically things like “healing surges” and “powers”, are actually solid game mechanics. The decision to name abilities or actions “powers” may have been a poor decision, but it all just really boils down to semantics.
Here’s how my change of heart happened: I found a YouTube channel featuring a player and Dungeon Master named Matthew Colville. He has a playlist called “Running the Game”. Episode 27, “Using 4E to make 5E combat more fun!” pointed out things about 4E that I didn’t know about that can be used in 5th Edition to make encounters more fun and less of a drudge.
I was so interested in what he was talking about, I decided to throw out everything negative I had heard and approach it from a neutral viewpoint. I read the Players Handbooks 1-3 and the Dungeon Masters Guide, and I discovered that 4th Edition is actually really, really, good.
I haven’t played it yet, unfortunately. I haven’t played anything in several months, with our move to the west side of Oregon. That means I can’t speak to what it actually plays like. But I can say definitively that I was wrong about 4E. It has a lot of potential. In many ways it seems like it may actually be more fun to play than 5E. That’s saying a lot, as I still think 5E has the potential to be the best version of D&D to date.
If anything I’ve said here has sparked your interest in 4E, take a moment to understand how wording can change a whole paradigm. As I said before, using the term “powers” was an unfortunate choice. Think of it simply as a category of abilities. Also, if the whole “healing surges” debacle turned you against 4E, try to remember that 5E has a similar system. If you consider Hit Points something other than just a mark of physical damage, healing surges do make sense.
Here’s the link to that specific video playlist. Look for number 27. Watch it, and I’m sure you’ll also become a fan of Matt Colville!