I really wasn’t that impressed with 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. To be fair, I’d pretty much stopped playing by the time it was released, and only got to play a few fitful sessions. I spent more time playing 3rd Edition (and 3.5), but no where near as much time as I spent playing 2nd Edition AD&D.
The MMO origins in 4th Edition were clearly evident, and the intent to ‘gamify’ the game to make it appeal to MMO players was both interesting and also frustrating. It become more mechanical than 3rd Edition without any major advantage and utterly obscured the roleplaying aspect behind book-keeping. Not everyone will agree, naturally.
When I heard about D&D Next, or 5th Edition I wasn’t really that excited. We didn’t have time to play anyway, the friends we played with had mostly moved away, and I’d become a bit disillusioned. Spending a good number of hours to prepare for a game you only played two or three times a year was hard and not doing enough prep meant the games weren’t as enjoyable for anyone as they should be. We tried Warhammer FRP, we tried Call of Cthulhu and we tried D&D 4th Edition, but nothing had stuck, so 5th Edition seemed like it had come too late.
However, I read the freely released PDF’s when I got around to it – and they’re exciting. They’re exciting because they garner a feeling in me similar to that when I read the original Dungeons & Dragons Basic (red) and Expert (blue) books. Here was a light set of rules, that supported play, but encouraged roleplay.
Gone are mandatory 5 foot squares and military precision during combat, back is the option for purely narrative combat, but with the added light-weight structure if you want or need it.
At the same time, a friend introduced us to Roll20 (http://www.roll20.net), which doesn’t look perfect, but looks good enough to actually do some roleplaying without needing to be in the same room as all of the other players.
So for the first time in a long time I’m excited about roleplaying and I’m especially excited about it being Dungeons & Dragons, which is how I got into this hobby in the first place.