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istar
2009-08-07, 06:18 PM
Greetings, fellow playmates! I am seeking intellectual feedback from experienced players of the Tabletop community on their personal opinions of D&D 3.5e and 4e. First off, let me preface this with a few rules:

1) I need input from those who've been playing D&D for at least over two years

2) Please keep your information factual, though not necessarily unbiased.

3) Do not debate anything with others in the thread, this is not a thread for debates or logic arguments. Please post here, I will contact you for further information.

I am trying to gather data for a new weekly article for an online gaming site that I will be writing, and my first subject is going to be player's opinions of D&D 3.5e and 4e. Should I be interested in utilizing your input, I will contact you about referencing you directly, but please be informed up front that by posting in this thread you are giving me permission to refer to your opinion indirectly as an anonymous source.

In the event that I select you as a direct reference, I will contact you and arrange how you wish to be cited. In the event that I do not contact you, you shall be referenced indirectly as an anonymous gamer or fellow forum member. The article will be posted next Wednesday, and so I will take all submissions up until Tuesday.

Thank you ahead of time :D

Pharaoh's Fist
2009-08-07, 06:40 PM
You won't find many people who have been playing 4e for two years.

Insight is "TirRalTalSol" iirc.

Umael
2009-08-07, 06:41 PM
Do you want us to post our opinions in this thread, PM you our opinions, or PM you that we are willing to have our opinions used?

wykydtron
2009-08-07, 06:44 PM
You won't find many people who have been playing 4e for two years.

Insight is "TirRalTalSol" iirc.

I'm pretty sure he meant a totaly of two years. I don't think 4e has even been out 2 years, has it?

Claudius Maximus
2009-08-07, 07:12 PM
You won't find many people who have been playing 4e for two years.

Insight is "TirRalTalSol" iirc.

RalTirTalSol, actually.

AstralFire
2009-08-07, 07:14 PM
Given that he does not want this thread to become a debate, I would suggest PMing him your thoughts.

sofawall
2009-08-07, 08:05 PM
Diablo 2 is found everywhere...

istar
2009-08-07, 08:32 PM
1) I mean playing D&D in general for two years. 4e hasn't even been out that long.

2) Feel free to post here.

3) [email protected] reference, that game was great win.

Elfin
2009-08-07, 08:36 PM
I PMed you this, but I'll post it here as well:

I think 3.5 is excellent; although many classes are clearly superior to others, that doesn't bother me at all- in fact, it seems more realistic. There's a huge wealth of options and sources out there (although that isn't quite fair to 4e, as they haven't had as much time to pump out new products), and more than that, I just like the mechanics and overall feel to 3.5 more.
To me, playing the 3.5 system feels more like I'm creating a fantasy story, as opposed to 4e, which makes me feel like I'm playing World of Warcraft.
Not that 4e is necessarily bad; for some people it's the best fantasy roleplaying game out there- but at least for my taste, it's a little too focused on combat and a little too much like an MMORPG.
The baseline is that 4e is very, very different from any of the earlier editions, which were basically just improvements on the same concept- 4e is a different game, and so what it really comes down to which style you prefer. For me it's the original system, but for others it's 4th edition.

The only thing that annoys me is how Wizards have abandoned 3.5 completely for 4e. 3e is just a better version of 2e, but the same is not true of 3.5 and 4e. In my opinion WotC should continue both equally.

istar
2009-08-07, 08:39 PM
I PMed you this, but I'll post it here as well:

I think 3.5 is excellent; although many classes are clearly superior to others, that doesn't bother me at all- in fact, it seems more realistic. There's a huge wealth of options and sources out there (although that isn't quite fair to 4e, as they haven't had as much time to pump out new products), and more than that, I just like the mechanics and overall feel to 3.5 more.
To me, playing the 3.5 system feels more like I'm creating a fantasy story, as opposed to 4e, which makes me feel like I'm playing World of Warcraft.
Not that 4e is necessarily bad; for some people it's the best fantasy roleplaying game out there- but at least for my taste, it's a little too focused on combat and a little too much like an MMORPG.
The baseline is that 4e is very, very different from any of the earlier editions, which were basically just improvements on the same concept- 4e is a different game, and so what it really comes down to which style you prefer. For me it's the original system, but for others it's 4th edition.

The only thing that annoys me is how Wizards have abandoned 3.5 completely for 4e. 3e is just a better version of 2e, but the same is not true of 3.5 and 4e. In my opinion WotC should continue both equally.
Yes, I did receive that and replied in kind. Feel free to continue our conversation at the pm-level now that you have posted here.

erikun
2009-08-07, 09:51 PM
Well, I've been running my digital mouth over in the other thread, so it would seem odd for me not to come over here too. :smallbiggrin:

I've been playing D&D for around 15 years, through 2nd edition to 3rd edition, to 3.5e and now 4e. I've both played and DMed all but 4th edition (have only played 4e) and I've played a few other RPG systems as well. Feel free to PM me if you'd like.

Break
2009-08-07, 10:15 PM
PMed with a request to contribute.

I've played 3E for a few years now - say, five or so? - and have been playing 4E pretty much ever since it came out, though my experience is limited to the player side of things.

AKA_Bait
2009-08-07, 10:40 PM
Ok, here are my two cents:

I've been playing consistently for around eight years and played off an on for another eight to ten before that with various systems. I prefer to DM but am as often as not a player. I worked for a little while with Victorious Press when I had the time and am still in the process of adding the final section to the stickied DM guide here on GitP. I'd consider myself to be a strong fan of the hobby but it is, realistically, just a hobby for me and as such doesn't take priority over more important areas of my life. But enough about me:

3.x is an excellent system. It is very rules heavy and has accumulated over its print run an enormous breath and depth coverage of ideas. The sheer number of official publications, third party publications and forum posted homebrew makes it a system where if you are willing to look hard enough for an idea you can find it finished for you already (or at worst some homebrewer interested in doing it for you). Players who have played it long enough to become familiar with the system tend to in short order become reasonably proficient with it. It makes a pretty good attempt at being simulationist without going crazy. Up until recently, it was certainly my preferred system of all the ones I have played. It's depth is also one of its major downsides. It is difficult to find a 3.5 game these days where only the core books are being used. This is a problem for two reasons.

The first is balance. 3.x has significant balance issues both between classes and between proficiency levels of the players. As the system expanded this became an increasingly large problem. In some cases because the adding of new spells made already overpowered classes even more powerful. For example Clerics and Druids became more versatile and powerful with each and every supplement released since they pretty much all added a handful of new divine spells and those classes automatically know them all. In other cases because the additional source material made a huge difference in optimization levels between the characters of players with different collections of books. A player with access to only the core books will simply not be able to create as powerful a character as one with access to core, the completes, the bovd and boed. This is not because of lack of ingenuity but because of lack of source material.

Of course, with a DM limiting what is available to everyone and how things will fly can solve those (and any) issues. However, that leads me to the second problem. 3.5 is very time preparation intensive to DM. The wide variety of material makes it very rough for a DM just by itself. For most of us, even if we own the book in which the broken spell or feat etc. is in, we don't have it memorized and we may not have even thought of it as a problem before. In fact, without combination with other books, it might not have been a problem at all! Quite a few of the highly broken combos out there require material from at least 3 additional source books beyond core.

4e is now my favorite system. It does not have the same wealth of material out there as 3.5 (although WotC is certainly doing a job trying to catch up) but the other benefits of the system far outweigh the lack of prefab stuff at this juncture. I have found the system both as a player and a DM to be better balanced and easier to use than 3.5 was. Additionally, the electronic tools are frankly fantastic and the DDI subscription would be worth it's annual price for the Character Builder, Monster Builder, and Compendium alone. That you get electronic versions of Dungeon and Dragon magazines to boot is just icing. With the Monster Builder (even in it's beta form) homebrewing a monster takes around a quarter of the time creating one in 3.5 did. Preplanning interesting encounters is also signifigantly easier. Also, I have found combat to be far more dynamic and less frequently interrupted by rules debate both of which I think were intentional design goals.

The main mechanical/practical downsides of 4e that I see are ones that I think will fix themselves over time. For one, the system is relatively shallow in terms of idea coverage in published material at the moment. This I think will get solved by WotC releasing more books and players becoming more familiar with the system itself. Creating new powers or modifications to fit an idea but remain balanced in 4e is, in my view, just as quick and easy as in 3.5 if not more so. The very 'sameness of mechanics' that proponents of 3.5 dislike is what allows for the modularity and balance that makes the system so much easier to use for me.

I also hear that 4e plays like an MMORPG. I wouldn't know as I have never played an MMORPG unless some MUDs in the late nineties count. I don't really see how tabletop gaming could feel signifigantly like an MMORPG in it's dynamic (which is more about a few humans in a room than any particular rule set when you get right down to it) but if it does in fact play that way then I suspect I don't mind those mechanics.

The primary thing about 4e that I dislike is the fluff. The fluff does seem to be generally aimed at an age group I am no longer part of and can feel, for lack of a better word, cartoonish. Were I not the kind of player who is perfectly happy to ignore all the flavor associated with a class, monster, power etc. then I would probably dislike 4e, perhaps enough to walk away. However, since I am perfectly willing to strip the fluff and replace it with my own, it doesn't even bother me.

Overall, both systems are very good systems. I think 4e is a better system in the end but I still play 3.5 too.

istar
2009-08-08, 02:34 PM
I sent out pms to most of the people who've responded to this thread. I feel like I have a lot of great insight so far, but a few more pieces to the puzzle might be nice. I want honest opinions put forth in a structured manner, which all of you have done so far. Thanks ahead, I will pm anyone whom I reference in the article a link so they can view the work they helped contribute to!

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-08-08, 06:31 PM
Here ya go.

---------------------------------------

I play D&D primarily, though I've played a game or two of most of the other RPGs out there, so I consider myself somewhat of a "D&D expert" when it comes to D&D's history and feel. I started playing in 2nd grade at the tail end of 2e, playing 1e and 2e at various times depending on what my friend's dad wanted to run, then transitioned to 3e in, oh, 2002 or thereabouts, so I think I've got a pretty good handle on how all the editions of D&D compare.

I feel 3e is an excellent system, building on 2e and keeping its feel as much as it possibly can while unifying the core mechanic and turning all the weird rules and corner cases into skills and feats and such. Its strengths are many, from its modularity and support for subsystems--allowing pretty much anything you can think of to be added to the game without changing too drastically, as later 3e products like Tome of Magic show--to its increasing emphasis on portraying a full fantasy world--allowing you to stat out pretty much anything you can imagine. This trend began in 1e and 2e, with Gygax's strong emphasis on providing background details, monster ecology, rationale for dungeon inhabitants, and so on, and 3e is simply the logical continuation of that trend. D&D is good at being "that weird fantasy game" and handling a wide variety of sub-genres; where games like Riddle of Steel and Conan focus on realistic combat, games like Mage and Ars Magica focus on the magic aspect, and so on, D&D can handle (mostly-)realistic combat, varying levels of magic, and other aspects, plus its own beholder- and mind-flayer filled wacky campaigns.

There is no denying 3e has its problems, the most well-known being its balance issues. First, let me say that while 3e's propensity for overpowered characters is often derided on the internet, it's very possible for an experienced DM to handle supposedly game-breaking classes and combos. I started playing with the Immortals set and with Planescape's high-powered planehopping campaigns, so I like running high-power games and when my players pull out their half-illithid half-dragon gray elf wizards with Int 50 and three bazillion spells per day, I'm still able to challenge them. The real balance issue is the lower end of the spectrum--martial characters simply can't keep up with the casters. Why that's the case has been rehashed many times, so I'll skip that, but I will talk about the reason for the imbalance, as it comes from 2e.

In the 2e to 3e transition, many things were dropped in the name of streamlining things--the round structure was made much more straightforward, initiative and weapon speeds were changed or removed, and so on--and many things were introduced to clean up the system--skills being the best example--and in that transition many of the things that made martial characters competitive (such as acting before casters, making saves on a 2 and above, and such) were removed along with many of the things that made casters weaker (aging, losing spells when hit, and so on). The developers' lack of understanding of 2e lead almost directly to the imbalance in 3e.

Why do I bring this up? Because 4e was pitched as a game that would fix all of the balance problems in 3e...which were put there by the same people claiming to fix them. Don't misunderstand, 4e has many excellent ideas, and were they introduced in 2e or 3e they would be great improvements (witness the popularity of the late-3e books that were covert 4e playtests). However, the overall implementation of 4e wasn't nearly as good as it could have been, mostly because it diverged too far from the older editions. Yes, yes, everyone is saying "4e is still D&D!" but I'm not saying it isn't, simply that it's too far from the rest of them.

Many people who enjoy 4e (and many who enjoy 3e) have responded to questions like "what is D&D to you?" with answers along the lines of "it's a really good fantasy game." Which is true, but it's so much more. 4e removed so much of what made older editions of D&D great and unique. Vancian casting is gone. The Great Wheel is gone. Alignment exists in name only and has been effectively gutted. The broad spectrum of ideas, mechanics, and playstyles are gone. These and more are what make D&D, not just having a 4-person party in a dungeon. So many people complain on 4e-centric boards about Vancian magic and alignment and how they should have been tossed as sacred cows years ago...yet, they somehow managed to play D&D with them for years. People are cheering that D&D is finally getting modernized and catching up to other games...yet if that's what D&D players wanted they would have switched to playing those other games long ago. If you don't want Vancian casting and alignment and the Wheel, there are literally several dozen other fantasy RPGs to play; removing what makes D&D unique was not the way to go for 4e.

If 4e had been released as a standalone fantasy game with "mages" and "priests" and "thieves" and such, with no reference to D&D, every single D&D player I know personally--which includes the 14 of us in my own 2e/3e group--would play it on the side along with D&D without a single reservation...well, maybe the few mechanical screwups like skill challenges would cause some reservations, but we'd gladly play it. However, when we play D&D, we play it for what we had in 1e, 2e, and 3e. The quirks of Vancian casting which 4e has removed, the "obsolete" level system whose importance 4e has reduced, the "straitjacketed" alignment system which 4e has diminished, the "illogical" Great Wheel which has been relegated to a single paragraph in 4e Manual of the Planes...all these things are what separate D&D from the rest, and without them, we'll be sticking with older editions.

Now, in case it hasn't been clear from the above, I wish to reiterate that aside from more than a few instances of botched math and such, I have nothing against 4e as a system: the power system is perfectly workable, the classes are well-themed, the separation of combat and noncombat magic is a good idea, and the contraction of power levels is an admirable goal. It just isn't what my group and I want from our D&D games. Some of the system's underlying assumptions (such as the large power boost at early levels and repeated stressing of the concept that PCs are special and heroes from the outset, which inhibit allowing PCs to work their way up from normal people) are contrary to the playstyle we've developed since we started playing, and there are other quirks such as the issue of whether PCs and NPCs should use the same system that deserve a several-page essay in their own right.

To sum up, if you filed off the serial numbers and presented it as an entirely separate game, my group and I would have dropped our biweekly side game of various other RPGs for a long-running campaign of [whatever 4e would be called in that case]. As a new edition of D&D, however, at least for our group it feels like a kender trying to follow in a gold dragon's footsteps.

The New Bruceski
2009-08-09, 02:21 AM
Pair o'Dice, you only touched on it briefly, but I think one 2e to 3e change that needs mentioning is XP to level. In 2e speed of levelling was one of the big ways different power levels of classes were addressed, with Rogue being the fastest and Wizard being the slowest. Removing those in 3rd was a boost to bookkeeping, but also one of the main holdbacks on casters. Not the only thing, by any means, but one of the major cogs.

As for the main topic, I'll rule myself unfit to comment. I enjoyed 3rd edition until I encountered firsthand the power disparity and a DM unwilling to control some players breaking the game over their knee, to the loss of the less willing or able. It tainted my entire view of the system from then on.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-08-09, 11:06 AM
Pair o'Dice, you only touched on it briefly, but I think one 2e to 3e change that needs mentioning is XP to level. In 2e speed of levelling was one of the big ways different power levels of classes were addressed, with Rogue being the fastest and Wizard being the slowest. Removing those in 3rd was a boost to bookkeeping, but also one of the main holdbacks on casters. Not the only thing, by any means, but one of the major cogs.

That plus the removal of level draining (and no, these newfangled "negative levels" aren't real level drains! :smallwink:) are, when put together, one of the major weaknesses of casters that were dropped--if you can lose in 10 seconds what it took you two years to get, but the fighter only uses two months' worth of experience, you're not going to do the "buff buff buff kill" routine like you do now, you're going to stay back and let the fighter do his job of guarding in the hopes that level-draining monsters die before they get to you.

Umael
2009-08-09, 04:49 PM
I have been involved in RPGs for more than 30 years. I started on D&D, then moved on to Champions, then the Storyteller system. By the time 3rd edition came around, I was throughly sick of D&D. The system in both 1st and 2nd edition was cold and clunky to me, and I was left with many questions about the mechanics and the fluff which left a bad taste in my mouth. Why can't a dwarf be a wizard? What was the point of having a 14 Strength compared to, say, an 11?

For someone who once loved the game, the gradual decrease in interest until it became something distasteful was a little disillusioning to me. When I got my hands on 3rd edition, it revived my interest in D&D again. I could make a dwarf wizard or bard, but I knew why it was better that I was a fighter. A 14 Strength meant something because it actually gave an advantage in melee - I didn't need 18/00 and why is Strength the only stat that gets 18/00, and why are humans the only one who can get that high?

There were problems with the game, problems that became more exasperated as time went on and more splatbooks were issued. Once again, just like in 1st and 2nd edition, wizards became all powerful at higher levels, while fighters became inconsequential. Big races became geared for melee, small races became geared for magic. This seem to settle into an imbalance.

I turned to other systems, d20 systems, that restored my faith some. Rokugan with its rigid social hierarchy and lack of arcane spellcasters put the samurai bushi as the movers and shakers. Iron Hero, with its chaotic and dangerous take on magic made the fighting man more important than the spell-slinger.

Then we got 4th edition.

While I love 3rd edition, I found that I was completely intrigued with 4th edition. It has balance, it simplified the combat, it was a more tactical game... my gaming group wasn't a tactical group. People complained about the lack of fluff. Combat wasn't as important to others as story was.

It's disappointing, really. I want to play 4th edition, I like the game... but until I can tell that people are going to play it with me, I'm not going to put the money into buying more books. I have the core three and PHB II... and that will probably be it.

I also have a bunch of the new minatures, but WotC decided to stop producing those it seems... a business decision I am not happy about.

So it looks like I will go back to 3.5 for now, out of constraints outside the gaming system.

Tyrrell
2009-08-09, 09:31 PM
One thing that psychological experiments have shown pretty conclusively is that humans are remarkably bad at figuring out why they like what they like. When given identical items to choose from people manufacture reasons to pick one from the others. The way items are introduced has been shown to make a fantastically large difference in how people react to them, but people when asked seem completely unaware of this in relation to their own personal opinion.

So when getting opinions on 3.5 vs. 4E be aware that there is a really good chance that people's opinions may have more to do with weather they are emotionally attached to 3.5 and/or their pile of books or weather they are the sort of people who easily enchanted by the next big thing than it has to do with the reasons that they give for choosing one over the other because people are not good at knowing why they like what they like.

istar
2009-08-17, 04:47 PM
Hey all, I'm really sorry it has taken me so long to get this to you, but my article was pushed back until today for release: http://www.theel33tist.com/ My article is the headline article so it's impossible to miss. Thanks again to all those mentioned at the end of the article!

Elfin
2009-08-17, 05:11 PM
Nice article, mate.

erikun
2009-08-17, 05:22 PM
Very nice, I was hoping we'd get a chance to see the completed article.