2015-10: If existing users have had trouble logging in or posting, this should now be fixed. Sorry! --Morbus.
Some thoughts on this as I've been reading the 4e core books:
You really can't judge it based on the PHB. When reading through the PHB, I liked it, but I wasn't really excited about it, and there were definitely things I didn't care for. To get a real sense of 4e, you need to read the DMG. That's where the potential of the system lies, and it's definitely my favorite book of the three (in contrast to 3.5's, which was like Hell's Book Club).
So, yeah, check out the DMG before you judge. The PHB is definitely the worst of the 3 (Monster Manual has more pictures, yay!).
Having gotten my books finally, I've just sifted through them.
As was said, the organization of the MM seems horrible and I find some things strange (finding the magic items in the PHB) and or/annoying (the statement that D&D miniatures are REQUIRED for play).
However, I found the discussion of play- (and player) styles a welcome addition and I am still just starting my read-through. I might just read the DMG first and the PHB second.
Do you mean any minis or the official WOTC D&D line?
It's any minis, Gazgurk, but they do point out that they have the official WotC line. Yeah, I agree, zip, I did find that annoying, but it was really implicit in 3.5 anyway. Now they're just actually saying it. However, it is fairly obvious that having minis would make things much easier if not just making them possible. 4e has gone very tactical in combat, which I actually like. I prefer the minis to not. It just makes things easier. All the claims that it limits imagination have never made sense to me. What it limits is abuse. I can use minis and still imagine my character sliding his sword into the orcs gut, driving it in to the hilt, twisting and cutting his way out. Or just chopping off his head.
One thing on the minis, though: for how much Wizards puts into the them, they can be incredibly stupid in their marketing. For instance, putting in monsters no one will ever use. Like that frakking Ibixian. Some bipedal goat holding an axe, what the hell!!? It made me so mad when I got that. I'm just fine with collectable minis (my games are not dragon-slaying fests - I prefer NPCs to monster crawls), but they should at least make the minis useful for something OTHER than the stupid minis game. Ibixians!!! When are we gonna use that? Why can't they make elven fighter minis that are commons, or dwarf paladins or whatever. No, all the elven fighters have to be rares. The worse thing, though, is just how stupid they are sometimes. For instance, the new 4th ed minis. 4th edition introduces a new race, the dragonborn, so it only makes sense that Wizards would try to release a bunch of dragonborn minis, right? wrong. Not a single dragonborn mini in the new set. How retarded is that? They want us to use the minis, but then they won't make useful minis. It's just ridiculous.
Ok, rant over. The Monster Manual actually isn't too bad. I mean, they have the table of contents and we'll get used to it over time. Like we did with the old books. I like the organization of the PHB, too, in that most everything you need for Rogues is right there with the class, instead of off in another book under some obscure heading of some random chapter. It does suffer from the problems all D&D books suffer from however - putting the rules after the classes and such. It's better than 3.5, though, where you were already in Chapter 5 and still had no idea what was going on.
Tzuriel and Gazgurk, they do specifically talk about D&D miniatures (including how useful the stat cards are...), but it's not very prominent in the rest of the book. Don't even get me started on the collectible side of them...
So far, I've read about half the DMG and while there is a lot of emphasis in combat as the main encounter type (which may have been implicit in 3.5), there is a lot of good discussion on "behind the scenes" issues such as encounter, adventure and campaign design, which I don't remember seeing the the 3.5 DMG. The addition of skill challenges is welcome, too, although I'd have been happy to have even more examples.
Agreed on the examples, but I think they're moving in the right direction. Course, I'm not going to reward my players (in this next game, anyway) for encounters but just for quests. Despite what people have said, it's an excellent way to do it, not to mention that quests can change. They don't have to remain the same. And characters set their own goals. There is more discussion about those issues, more time spent on themes (though the best themes discussion is def in WoD) and such. If they keep moving in this direction, it'll be good.
I feel that 4e is a reversed engineered MMORPG with less options then 1st edition...instead of dealing with the issues of 3.5 and improving upon them they completely remaid the game and alot of the good things that made DnD different from RPGs they removed.
I looked at the PHB and i have to admit that the layout of the book was alot easier to get through, which always is nice and they have made it so the language is concise and unchanging so there will be no more rules lawyering but i feel that the key audience is alot younger then previous editions...my older gamer friends feel completely alienated from this edition of the game.
I mean I dont mean to just bitch and all but i am frusterated with the system, but you know what i have sucked it up and i will stick with what i like playing and thats 3.5
4e definitely does move for an earlier gaming age, which I also find annoying. Most of that, however, is flavor text. Stuff like not mentioning the social stigma that half-elves receive, etc. Heh, I took one look at that when I was getting my little siblings into a D&D game and said, "Bullcrap. Half-elves aren't 'universally liked.' There's a social stigma against them, as they are only half in either world. Some half-elves are very liked, but some are abused and treated poorly." Things like this are very infuriating, like replacing the very interesting half-orc with the paladin-off-the-shelf Dragonborn. Though I do like certain aspects of the dragonborn (darker, as is my style), I'm going to make a half-orc race because they were really cool. I loved the social tension with the half-races (IMHO, it was really the only reason to play them - stats weren't so great, but roleplaying was awesome). 4e does prescribe to a younger audience, but, as stated previously, that's all flavor text. The rules are good, and they make sense. Change the flavor text and make things your own way. Emphasize the darker nature of all the races, and the social drawbacks of playing them. That's one element of Wizards new philosophy that I entirely disagree with. There should be penalties for playing a particular thing. Not absolutely ridiculous penalties, but they should reflect the advantages and disadvantages of playing that race. I liked that element of 3.5. So, I'm just going to reflect that in a social setting, perhaps even emphasize it, as the campaign directs.
Oh man I can't agree with you more on the official D&D minis.
I hated the blister pack format. And how the minis game
made some creatures rare and others common, so that
a (somewhat) commonly used monster like a dragon
could cost twice as much as some dumb aberration
like the carrior crawler, EVEN though they use the exact same
amount of plastic!