The Mad Professor pretty much nailed all the major changes.
However, let me say a few things I like about it. For one, it's easier to pick up at the beginning. Your character has basically only a handful of things to do in the early stages, and that's it.
Yes, for us experienced players, this perhaps represents a regression in abilities we are used to. However, for new people, it is far less daunting. The game is trying to draw in NEW players, and NEW blood. A younger crowd who learned PC games, before table top games & board games. How else would you approach these kids with shorter atetntion spans? With 3 large books of rules with wrods they may not be familair with? Or a simple pamphlet style of quick-start rules, borrowing generic terminology they are already familar with?
Could we perhaps calls WotC, Wizard$ of the Coa$t? Probably. But a company not in business to make money, is not in business for long.
The 2nd thing I like about it, is the focus on the character themselves, and not the goodies you can collect and carry. In older versions, frequently I had characters carrying tons of magical gear. The plethora of choices sometimes pearlyzing players decisions. Now, you can use 1 item a day, or more as you reach certain points. I like the shift from "What do I have that can get the job done?" to "What can I do to get the job done?"
Lastly, I like the balancing of the characters. I loved playing wizards at high levels in the older versions. They were vastly overpowered compared to say melee character, like fighters, or rangers. In 3.5 this got a little better, with prestige classes, and abilies that got better for each class. Pure spellcasters still had a bit of an edge, but less so.
Now in 4e, each class seems to be at a closer balance. A 10th level fighter, and 10th level wizard are a lot closer in overall skill and power, than from before. The division of power source, and roles, has been around since the AD&D, but it was just never spoken of, in these terms before. Defender, Controller, Striker, Leader. You can't tell me that back in the old PHB, you could not see these roles easily for each class.
Let me sum up with one last thing:
I've been playing D&D for almost 30 years. I learned the Red Box first, then moved onto AD&D, then 2nd edition, 3.0, 3.5, and finally 4e.
I have nearly all my original items (except for the red box stuff) for each version.
This past summer, I started teaching D&D to my son, who is 10. The same age as I when I began to learn D&D.
I'm teaching him 4e.
Answered By: Mellar1969 - 10/1/2009