Regardless of ones opinion on 4th ed it would seem it has been struggling for some time for various reasons. Most of the initial 4th ed developers are gone from WoTC and the early hints on 5th ed seem to be about it being modular.
For some on this board being modular implies a return to a 3.5 based D&D system. Pathfinder is basically a 3.5 clone and seems to be doing well almost 12 years after the release of 3.0 back in 2000. However I do not believe WoTC is going to reskin 3.5 and try and beat Pathfinder. Put bluntly it is a battle they probably can’t win unless they can beat Paizo at supporting their own creation. One factor which has lead to the demise of 4th ed I believe was Paizo can consistently make good adventures and support their campaign world of Golarion. 4th ed in effect destroyed the old great wheel D&D cosmology and revised the Forgotten Realms into something that alienated fans of that setting. Compounding this was the failure of 4th ed to replace them with a new campaign setting.
Anyway as for myself I joined these forums over a decade ago just after the launch of 3.0. I miss the 3.5 forums more than 3.5 itself mostly because they were less toxic. As to what edition I am loyal to here is what I guesstimate I have spent on them.
2nd Ed. $2000-$3000 estimate.
3rd ed. IDK Several thousand dollars. Books minis, novels etc. Probably 5k+.
4th ed $300
Star Wars d20. $100
Star Wars Saga. $1000 (difficult due to high price of books and currency conversion).
The main edition I am loyal to is probably the d20 system itself. I did not really like 4th ed that much but I did not hate it and I did not switch to Pathfinder or keep playing 3.5. I also got over my Magic the Gathering addiction which means WoTC now receives around about $0 from me. For the most part my gaming dollars have not gone elsewhere although I do play a single MMO called World of Tanks.
Anyway the main thing I disliked about 4th ed was its relative rigidity of the class and role system. It got better as 4th ed went on but the initial PHB more or less restricted fighters to two types of fighter. Whenever they wanted introduce another type of fighter they would have to create a new subtype of fighter complete with powers, paragon path and probably an epic destiny. 3.5 would release a handful of feats, Star Wars Saga some feats, a new talent tree or two of maybe 5-10 options. A prestige class may also have been created although their were a lot less of them than in 3.5- maybe 3-4 of them in every 2nd SWSE rulebook.
Some of you here are probably aware that my personal belief was that Star Wars Saga was the best d20 game WoTC had managed to produce due to its modularity and ease of use in character creation. Its quicker than 4th ed to make a character and it is almost as elegant as the original D&D with most of your information that can fit on a single page. This compares well IMHO to 4th ed characters which would be 5-6 pages if you printed them out from the character builder. 3.5 had this problem in stat blocks for monster and NPCs with Kyuss for example being a 3-4 page stat block IIRC.
Now I don’t want 5th ed to be D&D Saga edition although I suspect I would like that more than 3.5 or 4th ed if it was an option. Although 4th ed may have been a failure as such they did manage to hit on a lot of gold. I have no real complaints about the DMG, or DMG2, the minions concept was great, the guts of the skill system was good if used poorly, and like Saga it was easier to run than 3.5. My main problem was finding players for 4th ed which lead me to drop my DDI subscription last October after 3 years. In dropping 4th ed I hope they retain elements that I thought were great and that could be plugged into any d20 game.
Enough waffle anyway. By modular I do not think of 5th ed being a retro clone of 3.5 and I hope it is not. However I think it will be a d20 based system with hopefully the best features of 3rd ed and 4th ed and it will be good enough to capture the feel of 1st and 2nd ed even though the mechanics may be different. I think the AEDU class and role structure of 4th ed will be gone- thrown on the trash heap of history so to speak as they are not really very modular.
3.5, Star Wars Saga and 4th ed all had powers of some description one could use. Rather than design a class around them however like they done in both of those systems I think it will be more modular. Perhaps 5th ed will return to some form of Vancian casting for the wizards with at will options via class features or feats. In 3.5 spellcasters were broken due to the utility and power of various spells. Limited spellcasters like the Warmage, Healer and Beguiler were generally considered far from being broken. They may be able to salvage Vancian casting to some extent and 4th ed retained elements of it in any case with daily powers. Anyway I think some form of powers will be used in the core 5th ed system even if probably nerfed Vancian spellcasters come back.
The point of my ramble is that I suspect the 5th ed fighter may resemble the Star Wars Saga soldier in application. A soldier in star wars was kind of similar to the 3.5 fighter with a feat every second level, and armor and weapon options. However the fighter talent could select options similar to 4th ed powers and if the soldier was force sensitive (a feat) one could select force powers (encounter powers basically) by spending more feats. A player with a different concept could spend those feats on different options and build a fighter pilot soldier or demolitions expert, or sniper or heavy weapon assault soldier etc. 5th ed could duplicate this by having the various fighter styles unlocked so to speak by feats. 4th ed already has feats with powers linked to them and if the 5th ed fighter gains class abilities one could do something similar.
As for the 4th ed players and fans there is nothing really that would stop 4th ed concepts being divorced from specific roles. The leader and striker mechanics could be unlocked via class or feat selection. 4th ed already does this with striker like builds of the fighter and wizard for example being doable, 5th ed could just take this one step further. A multiclass 5th ed fighter could easily have a secondary role of striker, leader, or defender etc depending on the choices on makes. One could take options that duplicate a 4th ed power structure while a 3.5 player who hates powers could build a 3.5 fighter by ignoring any class option that had powers linked to them or he could take 1-2 options he may not find to silly such as being able to push an opponent back with a large hit but that may be the only one he wants. Fighter 2 just wants to deal lotsa damage so he takes a striker like option and spends all his feats/talents/options/whatever on extra damage options and no powers.
Anyway I hope 5th ed is a good system and I look forward to how they do the modularity bit. If it interests me more than 4th ed, and is easy to run as 4th ed/Saga and without the crazy broken spellcaster BS of 3.5 WoTC may get my gaming $$$ back again.
on Jan 18, 2012 - 01:00PM
Reducing a character to a list of dice rolls and modifiers is not role playing*
*pg 30, AD&D 2nd Ed DMG, 1989.