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The Launch: Fourth Edition vs Third Edition

posted Saturday, January 12th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNone of the Above

Someone recently asked on a forum if the fourth edition is anything like the launch of third edition in 2000. It seems that second edition players objected a lot less to buying the new edition in 2000 than the current edition players do now.

I think there are two major differences.

First, that the delay between 2ed and 3ed was exceptionally long, in RPG terms. When I first read 2ed AD&D it was 1995, and that was the revised printing released six years after the 1989 original. AD&D’s flaws had been picked and beaten for over a decade, and so a new edition was a godsend. It had been long enough for people to get bored of the game, then nostalgic for how it used to be. Players were hungry for a new, fresh Dungeons & Dragons, and third edition was a smash hit.

On the other hand, 3.5 was pretty much a disaster. It was too soon, like an early dinner after a late lunch – you could have stomached it, but it was too much too soon. The head chefs at Wizards of the coast impatiently pushed on to the second course, leaving everyone dissatisfied with the result: a rushed, undercooked serving that was far more than anyone really wanted.

Now they’re making a big deal out of doing a proper job with fourth edition, but after 3.5 everyone’s a little distrusting of Wizards. To a lot of people, it feels like yet another money-grabbing rushed edition. “We want more money, so hand in your old books. Surrender everything you like about third edition, and pay us for the privilege!”

The second difference between 3e and 4e is the internet. Disgruntled voices carry a lot further here, and everyone is confirming each other’s paranoia. Look at how little has been said of the new rules, and already the masses are declaring that this edition will be awful, they’ll never buy these new books. Players are coming together on the internet, and the mass of like-minded people has them feeling like they can fight this thing together. (Although not as violent in its result, I strongly suspect this is the same vein of thinking that is how riots start.)

Comments

  1. Phased Weasel

    January 12th, 2008

    I agree pretty much that the Internet allows paranoia and negative feelings to multiply. However, everyone I know IRL is very excited about fourth edition, and most online posters or bloggers who are excited simply don’t have much to say, so they’re quiet. You get the same effect in WoW and the official forums, where the vocal minority is usually angry. Quiet optimism here!

  2. Aiwanei

    January 12th, 2008

    I agree with Phased Weasel and you by association. All my DnD friends are really excited about 4th edition though just as reserved with going from 3.xE to 4E as they were from 2E to 3E(changing editions can be daunting if you are were to move a campaign over instead of starting fresh). Though your characterization of 3.5E I don’t exactly agree with. While they did rush it, and instead of fixing 3e put out new books with only modified rules instead of anything that couldn’t have been fixed with errata, I do not think 3.5e was a failure as a whole. What really ended up destroying 3.5e was the amount of splat books. Most of the splat books made me feel they had a good idea for maybe 1/3rd of it and then they tried to fill the other 2/3rds. Also since they had so many it really broke the system in that I have seen some crazy class/spell/feat combos that make the character more then godly. Classes like the Duskblade, Warlock and Beguiler were great interesting classes, but they were not enough to stem the tide of broken feats/classes that were introduced.

  3. Contention

    January 13th, 2008

    Quiet optimism indeed. Although I’m afraid the art director has “ruined” the look of one of my favourite races (Tiefling), I’m still positive about 4E as a whole.

    There’s a definite danger in releasing 4E when people aren’t quite done with 3.5E yet, especially combining that with the delay in opening up the licensing to third parties. 3.5 could easily trundle along for some time! However, I think that in practice there is *some* demand for a new system (if only because of the known flaws), and the “new product = better” mentality will win out.

  4. Jay

    January 15th, 2008

    Personally everyone I know in real life and the vast majority of the people that I have talked to about 4e are enraged and are not going to buy a single book. I personally will not be buying it. I am sticking to my modified version of 3.5 rules. Not enought time or space to go into detail on what my rules are for my games. Everyone I talked to at three different local game store here said they are annoyed because they feel Wizards is pulling a money grub. If 4th edition had come out oh say in 2010 or 2011 then I think most of my group would have been my approving of it. I know I would have been. I have spent thousand’s of dollars on 3e and I am creative enough with my games that I don’t need to have a new edition to tell me how to play the game. Maybe in 2014 when 5th edition comes out I will consider a change but until then I will stick to my enjoyable 3e games.

  5. Branitar

    January 16th, 2008

    I think I’ll have to get some opinions and reviews first before I decide whether I’ll buy it or not…
    One question though: what do you do with the old books after an “update” to newer editions?

  6. Jonathan Drain

    January 18th, 2008

    I still have my 2nd edition books, and I’ve actually bought PDFs of others. Old Dungeon Master’s Guides are good for the advice alone, and other sourcebooks are still excellent sources of inspiration.

    Not all 3e books are as big keepers, though. You have a lot of splatbooks that feel as if are only there to beef up your character rather than provide inspiration for new ideas, and that’s a shame. I sold off my copies of Complete Arcane and Book of Exalted Deeds, for example, but I’m keeping my Dungeon Master’s Guide.

  7. Yax

    January 20th, 2008

    I like book that aren’t geared toward characters. I feel that the core rulebook give 100s of options. However I am a big fan of DMing books like Cityscape and I will keep using them for ideas and inspiration through 4th and 5th edition of D&D.

  8. Dungeon Scout

    January 21st, 2008

    Whether or not I buy the new edition will be completely dependent on whether those I play with migrate to the new edition. I would still be playing 1st edition if I hadn’t started playing with a new group that used 3rd (they told me they used 2nd and I went out and bought a used player’s handbook, but the DM had gone out and upgraded to 3rd before the first game). If it still works and you’re having fun, there’s no reason to change. On the other hand, if the new stuff is good, there’s no reason not to upgrade other than the cost.

    The local library tends to get D&D manuals, so I can probably take the player’s handbook out and see the rules before I make any decisions on whether Wizards screwed up. I reserve judgment until then.

  9. Branitar

    January 21st, 2008

    What I didn’t like about the 3.x Ed. PHBs was the fact that they didn’t have an actual “walkthrough” for character creation. Most other systems PHBs have chapters just for “do this first then compute that value” etc. For someone that doesn’t already know the rules en detail it’s incredibly hard to create a character in his or her own…

  10. darkbhudda

    January 31st, 2008

    Some of the 4th ed stuff is exciting. Other parts, it’s a feeling of deja vu because I recognise the original source. The OGL was the best thing WotC did. Gave them plenty of free material for their splat books.

    3.5 wasn’t different enough. But it was different enough to be confusing about what had changed.

    My former group is just about to kick off Iron Heroes, so I suspect they won’t be upgrading for a while.

  11. 21yrDMandRUNNING

    February 2nd, 2008

    if ever there was a trueness to anything it ti that every dungeoun master has a small to large form of control of his “characters” this control spills over into the rl more often than not. how many times have you gone to your dungeon master after a game because hes a”good listener” or “give great advice”? the simple fact is 4rth eddition will be bought and procreate the world as we know it fight it if u want but there will be dm’s that will embrace it because unless u modify the rules 3.5 gave all the power to the players. that is unless uve forgotten your training. i digress. i say all hail the prolonged life of what has to be the greatest game ever to hit the face of our pathetic little world we call home.

  12. Andy

    May 20th, 2008

    I got hold of some of the promo stuff for 4th, and it looks like they made an RPG out of World of Warcraft and then themed it to resemble the D&D world – specifically eberron
    it doesn’t feel like a new version of D&D, it feels like a different game that they called the same thing. this wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t mean discontinuation of D&D 3.5 as a product line

  13. Jonathan Drain

    May 21st, 2008

    Andy: I haven’t seen it yet. What elements do you think make it resemble World of Warcraft and the Eberron setting?

  14. evermarsh

    November 3rd, 2008

    I’ve been playing DnD since 1978 and It took me a long time to upgrade to 3.5 wich I thought was allright. The 4th edition seems to me that it had to be done for them to remain competitive. Wow and all it’s clones have changed the landscape and what I liked about the game, Story, Roleplay was gutted quite a while ago. It seems to me that it’s all about combat and leveling up. I guess I’ll stick with my first edition and ocassionaly 3.5 wich I’ve integrated with the 1st and my group and I will stay in the past and enjoy good old DnD another 30 years. (hopefully) sorry to be so long winded but, its a cool site and I think 4th edition is just a way to stay in competition with WoW.

  15. Deputy Plow

    November 18th, 2008

    I really feel that the jump between 2nd edition and 3rd edition was to far of a jump. It would have been better for the game if it went the route of the players options guide. This to me has been great. You still get the feeling that each level has a noticable change but you don’t get the loose gameplay that 3 and 3.5 have. To me 4th edition is just a way for wizards to say look we screwed up everybody likes the MMO games so we will make a table top version. They continue to get farther and farther away from the role playing part and go straight to the game part.

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