Review: D&D Gameday August 6, 2011
Let's start with the admission that I am NOT a fan of 4th Edition in general. I love roleplaying because you get to tell a story and take on a persona, developing a character and really allowing the story to unwind before you. That was the appeal of White Wolf when I lived in Atlanta, and it was the major appeal of D&D 3.0 and 3.5 there, as well. I would spend hours writing elaborate character histories, determining motivations, and determining how my character would respond to various characters or in various circumstances.
D&D 4.0 has largely diminished the roleplay aspects of the game, requiring a set number of successes in the "noncombat" segments of the game, and having a codified system that reminds me more of a computer game with the "I use this attack" "This is the result" pattern.
That being said, I had more fun with Neverwinter than I had with any previous demo of 4th edition. Partially, I like the character templates. They at least hint at the idea that a character history, and by extension character development, might be forthcoming. I played a healer who had a guardian ability to touch another player and shift them once per combat. I also had a healing ability I could use on anyone within 5 steps as I did something else. I discovered there was quite a bit to choosing how to use what I had, sometimes physically healing one person, while I used the ability on a second. Suddenly even movement became something strategic, and I was surprised by how much that opened up what the character could do. I still want to see more performance and roleplay in the noncombat portions, but this event gave me the first glimmer of hope that a good DM might be able to take the system and turn it into something with enough roleplay to make the game fun.