There are many players currently enjoying D&D 5E. Fortunately, those players haven’t played the 4th edition of the game. Many have asked the question, “Why did no one play DnD 4E?” Well, there’s a reason.
No one played DnD 4E because of the growth pains when this version of the game first came out. From the Player Handbook being a nightmare to bad adventure design, there were a lot of elements that were non-intuitive at best.
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Is There a D&D 4E?
No, there is not currently a D&D 4E, although there was.
Before we get into the deeper dive into what D&D 4E is all about, let’s first quickly go through the history of this version of Dungeons and Dragons.
The 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons was published by Wizards of the Coast in 2008 and ran until 2013. It replaced the previous version of the game, D&D 3.5. Interestingly, it was the first version of the game that introduced the following:
- A paid digital subscription service
- D&D Insider
- More introductory D&D Essentials product line
Many players were excited about this version of the game at first, and sales numbers of D&D’s Player’s Handbooks were great at first, but they quickly died down until 2014, when D&D 5E was introduced.
So, let’s talk about why it came about.
The 4th edition of D&D was created as a clean slate. Over the years, and multiple iterations of the game, D&D had become filled with mechanics and random details that grew into a huge headache for many players. A lot of these mechanics/game details felt outdated at best, and game-breaking at the worst.
After some quick research, here was the consensus: D&D players thoroughly enjoyed combat and epic stories and hated annoying features (specific, sometimes conflicting mechanics, random bookkeeping, endless prep on the DM’s end, etc.). Essentially, players were much less concerned with the logistics of the game, like tracking down how many supplies they had.
Really, the trend was more than that. Players were simply more intrigued in embracing epic stories and adventures, instead of recreating the real world in a fantasy setting.
Top that all off with the fact that many players, and even DMs, were hesitant to buy new materials for their games. Wizards of the Coast noticed this and decided to make an adjustment (because this was a company hoping to make money, and the primary revenue driver was book sales).
All of this led to the primary driver behind the new iteration of the game. Wizards of the Coast focused on two things:
- Balancing the game and mechanics
- Making it easier to have new material
In an attempt to do so, every book was now labeled “core”. On top of that, a player should be able to take a character made in any of the published book and easily transplant that into any D&D table and be just fine.
So, with all that in mind, Wizards of the Coast did something risky: They made a lot of changes to the game.
Here are just a few examples of the differences between D&D 3.5 and 4E:
- Streamlined classes
- The idea of using ‘powers’ was introduced, essentially summing up everything a character could do in the form of actions
- Roles were now explicitly laid out in the core rules of the game
- Roles were less fluid, with rules preventing classes from mingling with the roles of others
- In 4E, there was an emphasis on infinite growth (literally focusing on becoming god-like)
- If a detail wasn’t relevant to combat it was either left to discretion or completely ignored
- If there were rules that mattered, it had to do with combat
- Simply, Wizards of the Coast gutted a ton of mechanics, many of which were considered something that should have never been touched by the player base
Was D&D 4E a Failure/Why do people not like D&D 4th Edition?
As you can imagine just based on the bullet list above, going from 3.5 to 4E wasn’t just a jump. Honestly, it wasn’t even a leap. The two versions of the game looked and felt completely different.
Basically, in an attempt to please the entire player base and start from scratch, Wizards of the Coast effectively made it so every single D&D table had something to hate about DnD 4E.
On top of the creation of completely new rules, as well as gutting rules that shouldn’t have been touched, D&D 4E was so ambiguous about anything outside of combat that players felt like the game was only for combat. Essentially, there was so much new guidance and rule changes specifically focused on combat, and nothing provided for out-of-combat, that players felt like they shouldn’t be involved with play outside of battle.
And here’s the problem with that: Some of the best moments in DnD happen in roleplay outside of combat.
Because of that, the player-base fractured. Many players simply stuck with 3.5, some played different versions altogether, and some decided to grin and bear it while hoping for updates.
So, how long did 4th edition last?
Again, DnD 4E was around from 2008-2013. It’s an interesting question, though. Because while the 4th edition of D&D lasted about 5 years, it’s difficult to gauge if it was ever fully played (based on how many players chose different versions of the game).
Why is D&D 4E Good?
There is a specific type of table top player who enjoys combat. There are even table top “sandbox” games that exclusively focus on combat at a high level.
D&D 4E is good for players who thoroughly enjoy roleplaying games that focus on combat. Because, again, combat became the primary focus in the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Basically, DnD 4E excelled in the area of combat, because it was easy to create fun and interesting battle scenarios that resulted in success for the players.
Is D&D 4E Balanced?
In some ways, D&D 4E attempted to re-balance. At least, that was the whole idea. The problem, however, is that an entire new type of game was introduced and, to an extent, the pendulum swung way too far to one direction (the combat side of things).
What’s the Difference Between 4E and 5E?
There are a surprising amount of differences between D&D 4E and 5E.
The 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons was, essentially, the attempt by Wizards of the Coast to reconnect the player base. Here are the differences between 4E and 5E:
- Instead of everything being uniform, a modular design was promised – every D&D table can tailor the game the way they want
- A lot of the rules/mechanics that were gutted in 4E have been reintroduced
- DMs were again given the role of facilitator, being able to run sessions at their discretion
- D&D 4E set up the DM and players for campaign success, but that’s not necessarily the case in 5E
- Having said that, combat is much simpler (maybe even easier) in 5E but also potentially less epic or memorable
- Tier-focus is not a thing; essentially, your character should worry about death at any point and will probably never feel or get to the point of being god-like
- There is a much bigger focus on out-of-combat roleplaying
A lot of the information above came from this resource.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 3.5 E or 5E Better?
The general consensus is that 3.5E is better than 5E. The primary reason having to do with the simplification of character creation and combat. 5E takes everything 3.5 did and streamlined it into a system that’s easier to understand and more intuitive to use.
When did D&D 5th Edition Come Out?
The 5th edition of D&D has been out since 2013.
Will there be a D&D 5.5 E?
Yes, Wizards of the Coast is planning on releasing D&D 5.5E in 2024.
What’s the Best Edition of Dungeons and Dragons?
I would say it depends. At the end of the day, the version of D&D that people enjoy more is the best edition for them. While many players prefer the current version, there are a lot of players who started playing D&D during the 4th edition and favor it.
Hey there, I’m Alexander King and I’ve been playing video games and RPGs for years!
While playing, I found that there’s so much information that’s difficult to find in this space; I created The Daily RPG to make that information a click away. So follow along for RPG guides, tips and walkthroughs, product recommendations, and more!