Fourth edition's failings are... a controversial topic, to say the least.Evidently, there's no argument about what happened
- the facts
are simple - 4th edition failed to keep the D&D brand at the top level, and Pathfinder moved in in what was an unprecedent move in RPG history.However, ..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true">why this happened is much harder to acertain.
We have little "hard evidence" to create arguments. At best, we may guess about the probable factor that lead to the outcome we know. The point most people disagree (and hence, the controversial aspect of the discussion) is on what factors were fundamental to our current situation.
Some believe that 4th edition was an inherently bad system that failed to cater to the greater D&D audience. Its mechanics failed to deliver a "true D&D", and a smarter company created a better system to appeal to hardcore players of Dungeons & Dragons. The matter was only coumpounded by Wizards editorial and managements mistakes along the editions' run.
Others believe that 4th editions was not inherently bad. The system itself was ok or even, the best iteration to date of Dungeons & Dragons mechanics. However, bad marketing and management of the IP eventually lead to the decline and failure of 4th edition. Pathfinder merely took advantage of this "management mistakes" and created a new system that catered to all people who were unwilling to even read about 4th edition from the get go.
And of course, we have a lot of people in between such views.
When discussing D&D Next and the direction of D&D, the issues above create a visible tension in opinions. People who believe 4th edition and its management were inherently inferior versions of D&D will, evidently, that repeating any ideas coming from that era will just end in another fiasco for the D&D brand. Those who believe 4th idea was a great idea tarnished by WotCs inability to handle it will, of course, disagree.
It doesn't help that people with the former view usually don't like 4e and people with the latter view are generally 4th edition fans...
Thus, our conundrum.
Moving back to topic.
Personally, I'm of the latter view - I think 4th edition is a great system, the best iteration of D&D to date, but was took down by bad management and decisions outside the purview of its mechanics. Choosing to let go of Greyhawk in the core books, nuking the Realms, overprioritizing mechanics over fluff - these are decisions not inherent to the mechanics that I think were fundamental to its controversial status from the get go. Wizards' GSL fiasco and Paizo's creation of Pathfinder were another strong factor. And finally, Wizards consistent dubious decisions along the line - the marketing of the Essentials, eliminating the off-line software, abandoning the PDFs - were also fundamental in making 4e sink.
However, as I have stated before, we have little in the way of "hard evidence". We have some statistics and bits of info here and there that can let each construct our own "views" about the "whys" and the "factors", but not enough evidence to support any of our fancies as factual truth :P.
Therefore, while I defend the opinion above, I know it to be merely such - an opinion. It weighs just as much as any person who takes the opposite view - that 4e was a bad system and a bad D&D, and that's the main or only reason behind its fall.
I offer the whole text above not as an argument about this particular view, but merely as a remind that the reason
why 4th edition failed is... not factually determined. We all know and agree that it failed, we disagree why
The relevance of all this to D&D Next?
As I said, I know that the reasons I believe 4e failed are in debate. What I can state however is that, should I be able to acertain the exact reasons why 4e failed, I would certainly
avoid them in D&D Next - whatever those might be.
At this juncture, we have seen enough of D&D Next (and the designer comments) that they view such topic (the reason 4e failed) closer to the first opinion I proposed - 4e failed mainly
because of its mechanics and general idea, not Wizard's management of it.
means that, at least initially, 5e is not for me. I am a 4e fan that likes
its system. Moving 5e away
from it makes my interest wanes and we can easily say that my
like are not a priority at the current design juncture.
I don't think this is necessarily a negative thing - as I have stated in another thread, if
what I like is bad for D&D, then my preferences should not take precedence over what will be best for the D&D brand. I'm willing to wait - perhaps even for 6e.
So, essentially, what we have seen in the thread is a 4e fan disheartened by a game system that has been markedly unwilling to cater to his group (4e fans). Nothing new here. But overpassionate as the OP may be, there are
some points that he makes that should be brought to the front - even if the way he puts may be upsetting to a more moderate discussion...
Since Dungeons & Dragons
became Wizard's IP, its editions have benefited from one thing - focused design.
D&D 1e and 2e were created in the time where game design as we know it was still in its earlier stages. Gygax and Dave didn't not only invented D&D and RPGs, but also, invented how
to invent them. They were pioneers in a whole new facet of game design - RPG game design...
Third and Fourth editions were created in a time where "game design" is a much better stabilished area of knowledge than it was back in the 70s. It greatly benefited such editions. They weren't merely "putting things together and seeing how it went", they had clear
3e aimed to simplify the AD&D game, doing away with the "different versions of D&D" (no more Basic D&D and Advanced D&D), unifying the plethora of modifiable subsystems that have been created so far and create an easily expandable game system for the future.
4e edition was very similar in that regard. It intented to modernize the aging "D20 chassis", bringing its design closer to today's standards in game design and further simplifying D&D to a wider audience.
Whatever edition you may prefer, 3e and 4e had similar goals with its design - modernize the game, bring a wider audience to the fold. One can be considered a catastrophic failure to the brand, while other will be hailed by many as the "graal of the sucessful D&D" - to an extent that it perhaps was even the reason
for the other's failure.
And what is the goal of D&D Next? What is the main drive behind its design? Simplification and appealing to a wider audience is still on the board (even though these same aspects were much maligned in 4e's time) but now, the main design is not aiming to modernizing or updating D&D mechanics, its aiming to "be true D&D", "to feel like D&D", so that it can unite all players...
And that simple fact can have dire repercussions to the game...
---True Dungeons & Dragons...
Can anyone claim to know or grasp true D&D? I can say that anyone who says "yes" to that question is either an arrogant or naive...
The main drive behind the current design is not to "modernize D&D". Analyzing and balacing the mechanics are secondary to achieveing "the true feel of D&D"...
Does everyone who likes Next think this is achievable? And even if it is, do you think this will be easy? Do you think this will be able to unify the majority
of the fanbase?
I take a doubtful stance to the designers' goal of achieveng "the feel of D&D" when the "feel of D&D" seems so much like "achieving the aesthethics of older Dungeons & Dragons editions". Suddenly, the older D&D gets, the much closer it becomes to "true D&D", or to the "feel of D&D".
And before I continue, for the love of god - I have nothing against 1e, 2e, 3e players! I myself played 2e and 3e. I had excellent experiences with both systems. My interest in "older D&D" is as high as it ever was. My preferred adventure modules are from the AD&D 1st era. I'm not saying older editions aren't cool - or that their players are "playing wrong", "stuck in the past" or any such nonsense some new players may say...
But I ask honestly - is OD&D "True D&D"? Is AD&D? Is Moldav's box? Are Gygax campaign notes?
Who gets to decide what kind of D&D is the "right feel of D&D"? Me? You? The designers? The majority of its players?
Think about it...
Let me provide some more food for thought...
In my way of seeing 4e's downfall (which I have previously stated, is merely my opinion based on my limited perception of the events), the Essentials were a "key" marker on the sinking ship.
You see, 4e proposed some very defined idead in its beginning - "Dungeons & Dragons will be like this now". Some didn't like it. Some liked it. For many who jumped in the bandwagon, one of the chief reasons for doing so was because they liked
this new face of D&D.
However, seeing the rise of Pathfinder, Wizard's decided that the fans flocking to the new game should also be playing 4e... And so they snuck in the "Essentials". First marketed as an "introduction to new players", it became much more as they release date approached. The forums were once again divided and the quintessential chord of that discussion was this...
seemed to much like a step back towards earlier design. Many of the design directions proposed in 4e's launch were abadoned in these new products. Which wouldn't be problematic per se, if not for the notion that these (older) design tenets would now become the main design direction of 4th edition.
To me, this was the coup de grace. The move backfired on Wizards. Their "4e fanbase" was now divided in the people who decided to continue with it, using both Classic (as we call it) 4e and Essentials 4e, the people who stopped buying new products after the Essential move and the people who would only
buy Essentials stuff from now on... The expected influx of "3e fans" never came and thus, 4e took a turn for the worse.
Evidently, 3e and Pathfinder fans may have a different take in the subject. To some of them, 4e was failing by the time Wizards decided to pull off the Essentials. Instead of being a move to "grab more players because they want more", it was more like "grab more players because they don't have enough".
Whatever your personal take your personal take on the Essentials introduction is (in itself, another controversial topic), let's, for the sake of these final paragraphs, assume that this move to appeal to the audience of older editions merely managed to split their current fanbase at the time...D&D Next's goals of unifying the fanbase notwithstanding, if the current design goal of finding "True D&D" manages to produce a 3rd edition "retroclone", would you buy it?
Assume such a clone would be marginally better than Paizo's take on the 3rd edition chassis. If 5e is "3.95", would you buy it?
Would Pathfinder and Paizo's fans abandon their new home to come back to D&D?What if, 5e becomes like a true "retroclone"? A Dungeons & Dragons modern game designed to resemble 1e or 2e? Would you buy it?
Would the veterans of 1e and 2e abandon their current favorites to play D&D Next?Would any of the above systems unify the fanbase?
Because from what I see, the design is marching decidely to something akin to the options above, and I do not think the answers above would be very favorable towards Wizards. The only
hope lies in the "much touted but never shown" modularity of D&D Next.
A bit of rambling and overpassion of my own here, but some points and questions to keep in mind anyway. D&D Next must become its own thing, rather than merely being a changeling beast capable of emulating whatever D&D one prefers (if even possible to achieve such adaptability).
The current design direction for the game is leaning heavily towards creating some kind of "previous edition clone" and perhaps not even capable of easily emulating whatever D&D one prefers. That almost guarantees