We started up Pat's 4E campaign on Saturday night. I'd like to say I'm keeping an open mind about it, but I know I'm not 100% there. I'm biased against it, but I'm gonna at least give it a go. We're running through the "Keep on the Shadowfell" module, but I won't bore you all with details (or spoilers for those that might play through it).
Here are my initial impressions:
1. I had fun. Of course, with the guys I play with, system may not matter for that. But nothing about 4E cut into that.
2. On paper, characters look hearty, but not having looked through the Monster Manual, I didn't realize that monsters (at least non-minion ones) are equally hearty. Fighting kobolds was a challenge for our 1st level characters.
There's number inflation, so when you think about it, it would be akin to playing any TSR version with the listed hit points, but with weapons limited to 1-2 points of damage.
3. Crits are just max damage, rather than a multiplier. Simple, and no need for a confirmation roll.
4. We only played through 2 combat encounters and some town talking encounters, but I can see how encounters might be tedious in the future. Old versions suffer the problem of 'roll to hit, roll damage' but 4E looks to have the problem of 'I use my at-will, roll damage.'
5. Character creation was easier than 3E, but managing the character with the official sheet from the back of the book was tedious.
6. Pat let us roll 4d6 drop lowest for stats, and Josh and I got to roll two sets (Alex was fine with his first set), which meant we had ability scores above the norm, but then we only had 3 characters--I played a Dragonborn Cleric, Alex was a Human Wizard, and Josh was a Dwarf Fighter.
7. The battles were a bit tough with only 3 characters instead of the recommended 5, but we won both of them without anyone dropping to negative hit points. So while there is some number inflation off-set, healing surges and what not DO make the game much more survivable. The monsters didn't seem to have any healing powers among them.
8. If we can, we're gonna try and get two more guys to join us next time, otherwise Alex and I might run 2 characters each... That should slow the game down considerably.
9. We spent about an hour BSing and talking about what we'd all play, about an hour making characters, and 3 hours playing. For 5 hours of play, we only had 2 battles, and talked to some folks in town.
10. Healing potions in this edition don't heal you, they let you use one of your own healing surges for the day. WTF?