If you haven't been following on Twitter, it's official as of January 9th: work begins apace on a new iteration of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast refuses as of yet to call it "5th Edition", but instead use the hashtag #dndnext.
The current 4th Edition has been controversial, to say the least. I didn't join the bandwagon for the primary reason that I was impressed with the major remodeling in version 3.0/3.5 (still not perfect of course, but what is?) and their Open Gaming License that unleashed the creativity of third-party publishers. Truth be told, it was hard enough to get my friends to try that game instead of the old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition which my generation of gamers has practically memorized.
When I thumbed through the 4E Players Handbook, I honestly did not like what I saw. I already had a cohesive gameworld written up from years of play, and I wasn't ready to add Half-Dragons as a standard race for players. Also, characters had "healing surges" (the equivalent of jumping up and saying "just a flesh wound!") which made Clerics far less important. The consensus among detractors is that it tries too hard to emulate online games like World of Warcraft, and tries too hard to balance out the powers of all player types. Others say 4e de-emphasizes the non-combat aspects of roleplaying to the point where it appeals more to wargamers. There has been a gradual inflation of powers over the editions, to the point that some complain it's harder than ever to actually challenge the players. To the point, there's a subgenre called #fourthcore (organized by @saveversusdeath) that specializes in ultra-deadly dungeons in the style of Tomb of Horrors.
WotC must have known they had a problem on their hands when Pazio's game Pathfinder, which is based off the 3.5 engine, won more awards than 4e. Add to that the growing popularity of the Old School Renaissance, a collection of gamers who seek to keep the older versions of D&D alive with retro-clones such as Basic Fantasy, Lords & Labyrinths, OSRIC and Lamentations of the Silver Princess. Dungeon Crawler Classics takes a wide left turn from the retro-clones, as I mentioned earlier.
A phenomenon that intrigues me as of late are the FLAILSNAILS Conventions. A sort of Brotherhood of Old-School Gamers With Cams. I watched an online game recently. With hyperlinked editable maps, character sheets, even dice-rolling programs, everyone was having fun. All we were missing was the pizza, junk food and soda!
I've volunteered to become a FLAILSNAILS Dungeon Master. I'm available most nights at 10pm EST (that's 7pm SLT for my virtual world friends) and would love to run a group of players through some of my old adventures!
Special thanks to @DreadGazeebo for hosting an online discussion on recent gaming events and the forces behind them. And yes, I will try 4e if you DM. I think an Artificer will do the trick...
As always, civil discourse is welcome below.