for non geeks still reading - try this real-world comparison. imagine baskin robbins went from thier current assortment of ice cream to five flavors, all of them just ice cream - vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee and mint. (no rocky road or mixed nuts or anything in the ice cream, no, i don't care how much you love it, or if that is what you like the most about ice cream ). then, imagine them trying to sell you this as a good thing, because it will be infinitely easier for them (as a company) to provide these flavors to you in a large variety of slickly packaged and officially branded mediums. in fact, they are going to sell you ice cream that can pretty much only be eaten with a baskin robbins spork. sure, other people may make cheaper knockoff versions of both the ice cream and sporks, but nobody can have ice cream at all now, unless it is in those five flavors!
there hasn't been a piece of shit with the dnd brand on it as rank as 4.0 is since the dnd movie, which is nearly potpourri like in comparison. if i wanted my entire rpg experience to be an expanded ruleset for dnd minis, guess what i would have invested in? they are trying to turn the dnd brand into the Magic the Gathering model. make as much money as possible by selling virtual product. i bet, within the next few years, they'll stop selling mini packs physically, but after you get a complete virtual set of them online, you can trade them in for a physical set. strip the rules down so they are easier to code, and introduce a roving line od dnd mmorpgs, where you can go from virtual gaming table to mmo and back effortlessly.
the phb is well written, very in-depth, and finally puts everything the players need (read: magic items) in one book. the artwork is good. the layout is well done.
beyond that, dnd has become an animated husk of what the game once was - most of the limbs are there, some of the digits, but the whole thing is a shambling rotting mess. the big tout has been improved gameplay and faster combat. no shit, when you gut 4/5ths of the rules and break them down into rules for miniatures, that is pretty easy to do!
gone are the intermingling of flavors that was character creation. gone is the truly unique options avaialble to every class and how they deal with challenges. everything is tied to "roles" now - a system which eliminated any class which didn't fit into a rigid model of utility in combat. i was actually insulted reading the dmg - telling me how to create strings of encounters into adventures, which twisted together into campaigns. there is twice as much spent on the powers, feats, and how to read the entruies as there are on how to create a character engagingly. gods? pantheons? lets trim that down to a handful. no need for pesky "racial gods" or anything which takes up more than two motherfucking pages. ooh, y'know what else, that whole alignment thing has always been such a hassle - lets take all the rough edges out of that. oh, yeah, and lets add in some half-dragons, which are like canned kickass, but keep them "balanced" so that they don't throw off the game too much. oh yeah, one more thing, lets completely destroy twenty-odd years of developing dnd cosmology, and replace it with three fishbowls balanced on a stick, sourrounded by starry soup. do not, on pain of rant, get me started on the fucking magic system.
i admit a bias here. dnd has always been about collaborative storytelling. as compelling, complex (and occasionally nonsensical) as the rules have been from time to time, they have always been the blueprints for the stage crew. important to how the show goes on, but not the end-all-be-all. i only ran a hack-and-slash campaign once, and it got boring after three sessions. i guess WOTC is trying to re-invest in a new generation, by appealing to powergamers, penis fencers, and 12 year olds who think that "plot" is what happens between fight scenes in a pokemon episode. if that was the target audience, get your flightsuits out: mission accomplished!
all the developer journals and wasted hours hoping that this would be a good thing. pah. i'm sticking with 3.5, and will probably migrate over to paizo's pathfinder. that is, until i can finish that project i set out to build 10 years ago, and never finished.
i'm going to do it this time.
i'm glad that gary gygax died before he got exposed to the inbred bastard that his idea has become.