Dungeons & Dragons is deep in the midsts of a renaissance period, and we players are having many grand adventures with the 5th edition. We have the previous 4th edition to thank for much of this resurgence.
The Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition launched in 2008, and is greatly responsible for all the D&D live streams and actual plays on Twitch, Youtube, and in audio podcasts. However, aside from having the honor of kickstarting the current cultural tabletop flurry, D&D4E stands on its own as being a top quality RPG. This is not to say it’s the best version of D&D ever, because edition wars are simply disgusting and despicable, and will not abide here. But, despite any and all negativity you may have heard, D&D4E is a beautiful and hella fun to play RPG that should not be missed. Here are a few reasons why you should still be playing D&D4E, or why you should play it for the first time.
The 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons is likewise a splendid RPG, with many positives and negatives going for and against it. One of the 3E aspects that holds firmly onto being both positive and negative is the breadth and scope of the rules. On one hand, they are well thought out, and for the most part, make absolute sense. On the other hand, they are a direct lesson in death by detail, being written with so much explanation that they became overly complex.
In comparison, 4E was masterfully written in such a concise way as to overcome and eliminate rules complexity and still get the rules to play out as desired. Take a look at the following example:
The above image shows the written rules for Opportunity Attacks, with 3E on the left, 4E on the right. Note that the 3E side only shows about half of the rules column as they were written on the page, while the 4E side shows the total rules as written.
Again, this is meaning to show comparison, not criticism. I’ve played my share of 3E, and had much fun with it – most of the time, The times it wasn’t fun were times when we had to read and attempt to decipher such wordy rules as written above. In contrast, I’ve never had such non-fun times while playing 4E.
I love how much effort was put into 4E to get it to entice gamers of all ages to play it. That effort included writing it with us veteran D&D and RPG players in mind, as well as for those playing for the first time.
To me, 4E does two things extremely well, that help make it such an awesome RPG: it has a focus on strategy that I feel hearkens back to its wargame roots (Chainmail), while also using strategy to speak to current avid video gamers, for which battle strategy and tactics are often of prime concern.
D&D4E uses character Roles (Leader, Controller, Striker, Defender) to finally set in writing an aspect of itself that has existed from the very beginning. Creatures also have roles assigned, which include Main Roles such as Skirmisher, Soldier, and Brute, and Specialty Roles such as Standard, Elite, and Minion. Its focus on using a gaming grid (5’ squares) to emphasize individual and group positioning for combat tactics is another homage to its wargaming roots.
I played my first video game (Pong arcade version) in 1977. I began playing tabletop wargames and D&D in 1980. I grew up playing all the games in tandem, never thinking one was better than the other. D&D4E is written to attract an immense gaming audience, and I seem to perfectly fit in there. I bet there’s a good chance you can also relate.
I count 153 types of creatures in the 5E Monster Manual. A few of those have a couple of variant creatures included. I don’t have it yet, but I would guess there’s about the same number of creatures in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. If so, that’s a total of about 300 creatures available for 5E.
Know how many creatures are available for 4E? Try over 5,000.
The Dungeons & Dragons Compendium gives you “access to the rules text for 4th Edition races, classes, paragon paths, epic destinies, skills, feats, powers, items, rituals and more”, including the entire list of creatures created for 4E.
So the next time you see your players getting bored with having to face yet another same old boring undead skeleton, reach out to 4E and throw them a new spicier version of skeleton they’re not expecting. In fact, with all the 4E content out there just looking for a new home, there’s no reason not to use it as a prime resource for your 5E adventures.
If money is a big factor when it comes to feeding your gaming habit, here’s something to consider.
D&D5E core manuals via Amazon = $90.05
D&D4E core manuals via Dungeon Masters Guild = $29.97
You really want to play D&D, but you also just don’t have almost $100 to spare to get the latest version. No problem, when you can get 4E for a third of the cost of 5E.
There are of course many more reasons I think D&D4E is a fantastic edition of my favorite fantasy RPG, too many that can be written about here. If you’re interested in knowing more reasons, please watch “Using 4E to make 5E Combat more fun! Running the Game #31” by the excellent Matthew Colville. I have had this article in mind to write for some long time now, and this video sparked me to finally do it.
Do you play D&D4E? What are your favorite and not-so-favorite things about it? Does 4E have any appeal to you as a first time D&D player? Tell us in the Comments below!
Featured Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast
Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast, Jim Moreno (Screencaps from Amazon and Dungeon Masters Guild)