By - January 14, 2008 - 7 Comments

D&D 4E review: Overview of the preview books

I read the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition previews Races & Classes, and Worlds & Monsters last week and a few things jumped out right away:

  • Dungeons & Dragons still feels like Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The Wizards staff working on 4E seems to be very respectful of D&D enthusiasts.
  • WotC spent a lot of time on this new edition.
  • Why should anyone buy these books – they’re only previews, right?

D&D still feels like D&D

The world is still medieval and fantastic. Wizards still blow things up. Dragons still rule. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Sprinkled throughout the preview books are mentions of this new D&D – still the same gaming experience but with an increased cool factor.

The Wizards staff working on 4E seems to be respectful of D&D enthusiasts

There are a couple reason why I say that through the 4th edition development WotC has been respectful of the hardcore D&D gamer. First of all, throughout the preview books, they share the design views, the development guidelines, their thought process and even some concepts that didn’t make it into the new edition. Secondly, the online D&D community seems to have influenced the 4th edition heavily – especially when it comes to classes, races, and character building. WotC noticed that some concepts from the 3E core rulebooks were not widely used while some supplements concepts were. That was taken into account in 4E development.

WotC spent a lot of time on this new edition

They date the early design work in 2005. Over 3 years working on a new edition. It seems like a lot of work to me. The impression that I get is that they didn’t work on only 3 core rulebooks (now scheduled to be released at the same time in June 08). They worked on the D&D experience as a whole, including mechanics and concepts that won’t be featured in the core books. I am confident that the supplements of 4E will be well balanced, for easy inclusion in your D&D game.

Who should buy or read these books

If you’re interested in game design, the preview books will definitely be fascinating. Otherwise you might want to grab one of these books out of curiosity. They’re broken down into independant sections and are fun and quick to read.

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Leave a comment (7 comments so far) »

  1. Maikl says:

    First of all, I am not going to buy preview books. Maybe I am not big enough D&D geek, but for me, this is just another way for WotC to get more money for one product.
    Secondly, the sad thing is the time that takes a D&D book to be translated to some non-english language. At least half of year for mine (Polish).
    Finally, I am going to buy English 4E D&D core books, obviously.

  2. Dave T. Game says:

    Beat me to the punch, Yax :) Expect to see my review of Races and Classes soon, but I agree with a lot of what you say. I worry that the target audience for the books is really small, though.

  3. Alex H. says:

    Ah, but a lot of things have changed. The entire magic system has been revamped, so the line that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it does not quite work. While at the same time I do admit that there are some problems with the way 3e and 3.5e worked the magic system, 4e takes everything that was done from the previous editions and throws them out the window. Any product that a game player had bought in the past is essentially not worth having now (except as an auction item on ebay I guess) because of the dramatic shift of the way that magic works. Also, the initial playable races and classes are vastly different from the original way of D&D and AD&D. The game design has seem to show that there is a massive movement at WotC (Wizards of the Coast) for more powergaming than role-playing. Alas, change is good for a business and I do see that it is essential for a business to do it. Though i question the changing of the game three times over a eight or so year time period. Kind of brings to question whether the company is concerned with the game or concerned with the money that the game is bringing in. Which is better? Seems the answer is given.

  4. Ganre says:

    pardon me, but i don’t need WotC to tell me how to RP, i can do that part myself, and very few supplements could top my own imagination for my character’s personality, so i buy their books for their system, not the RP advice

  5. Zodd says:

    I was enthusiastic about getting the new books, and i’ve been playing the game avidly since the 1st edition.
    For the most part, i’ve given every edition a try, always approaching it as a new game and not as an improvement of the old. Its interesting that I always had a way to make it fun for me and my players. With all the system changes, I took it in stride and dove in to explore the possibilities.

    1st and 2nd had a feel to them, like a classic fantasy novel. It felt like true fantasy. I have fond memories of them.

    3rd edition and 3.5 didn’t have that feeling. The art was more flashy, the monster descriptions were more brief, and so on. SO, It was up to me to bring about that old-style feeling in play, and I was able to do it with a bit of work. A lot of times I even relied on 2nd edition material for detailing monster ecologies and things.

    I love 3rd, it’s wonderful, and it runs so nicely (though keeping a balanced game is harder).

    Half-way through the 4th edition book, I put it down. I didn’t even finish it. I mean, I WANT TO LIKE IT, but there seems to be no flexibility at all.

    So, every single rogue is a striker now? Every fighter is a defender? With abilities that they can use every round?

    But my biggest complaint is the spell-casting classes. I am accustomed to having virtually THOUSANDS of spells available to give my players, that do TONS of different and unique things. They could scry in a dungeon pool, reverse gravity, stop time, create invisible mansions on extrademensional planes of existence, ect.
    Seems now everything is for combat, which is only one part of a beautiful fantasy world to explore.

  1. [... I read the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition previews Races & Classes, and Worlds & Monsters last week and a few things jumped out right away: Dungeons & Dragons still feels ...]

  2. [... I read the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition previews Races & Classes, and Worlds & Monsters last week and a few things jumped out right away: Dungeons & Dragons still feels ...]

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