WARNING: the following review contains tedious amounts of abbreviations!  This is done for the sake of brevity, so please bear with!

Genre: role-playing game
Number of Players:  typical size 6 (five players and one gamemaster), but can vary
Objective: play the role of a hero (or villain) within a fantastical setting

 Coming from the success of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition, Wizards of the Coast decided to once again bring in a new edition of the game.  One of the main reasons for the change was help fight the rules-bloat (meaning that there became too many rules/game mechanics being introduced; some of which were redundant), but an obvious superficial reason is to make more money; let’s face it, they are a company and if they didn’t make money, then they’d simply fold under.  Also of note about the newest addition to DnD is the proximity to the release of Wizards’ Star Wars the Saga Edition, the latest revamping the Star Wars RPG;  this observation is important because of the some of the similarities between the game systems.

 As with DnD 3.5, DnD 4E is a level-based role-playing game.  Unlike DnD 3.5, the level cap is more limited to 30th level than anything else and a character’s level is set within one of three tiers: Heroic (1st-10th level characters), Paragon (11th-20th), and Epic (21st-30th).  Characters gain access to new feats and abilities at the different tiers.
Another major difference between 3.5 and 4E is multi-classing.  Multi-classing is a classical element of Dungeons and Dragons wherein a character enters into a class different from the one they started; in 3.5, this can happen when a character earns enough experience to gain a new level.  In 4E, the process takes longer and yields subtler results.  The characters now select a feat in order to start multi-classing; then they can select other feats in order to select powers from their selected class; finally, at the Paragon tier a character can opt to focus on gaining more powers from their secondary class.  This establishes a pattern that a 4E character will always be the class they select at first level and can only barely deviate from that class as they progress; the exception is the Bard class, but even then they still follow the pattern of the other classes.  The multi-classing in 4E sends a subtle message that characters cannot change.  While they may make some changes throughout their career, these are more to correct any errors that the player has made in their character and less about actual growth.

DnD 4E provides an easy to learn system for combat and a somewhat more challenging system for non-combat situations.  Combat has always been the biggest focus in DnD since its inception; however, it has not always been the easiest thing to handle, tedious and over-detailed at worse.   With 4E, everything is streamlined to facilitate fast-paced and easy flowing combat; the only thing to slow it down is the decision-process of the players/GM when it comes to their tactical choices.  However, there are some aspects that are not always adequately covered; for example, how does one disarm an opponent?  Or attack a weapon someone is holding?  Some of the easiest ways to handle this is with attack powers, but that lacks in realism.  DnD 4E also focuses on group dynamics and players fulfill roles within the team.  This pidgeon-holes characters into types and tends to keep them there, even with multi-classing branching the character out into other aspects.

Educationally, DnD 4E does reinforce the concepts of being a team player and working together with others.  However, what is lacking in these lessons is that groups form through common ground and bonding, not necessity; groups that only function because they have to, tend to fall apart quickly when that need is no longer there.

Next Week:  Vampire the Masquerade