**Note 2 - This is my blog, my post, and my personal opinion. I am not writing this to try to change your mind, to brainwash, feeblemind, or geis you into liking and playing 4e. I am writing it in order to try to explain my personal opinion so that others who come here will understand (not necessarily agree with) my point of view. In light of that, I ask anyone who decides to comment to be respectful, as always, of the author and other commentators.
What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Is 4e still D&D?
I'm going to start by answering the second question. Yes. I feel that Dungeons and Dragons, in it's current incarnation, is Dungeons and Dragons. But to understand the rest of the answer I have to tell you what Dungeons and Dragons is to ME.
Dungeons and Dragons is, at it's heart, a fantasy role playing game. But what does that mean? It's a game, where people take on aspects/characters/avatars of fighters and wizards, of elves and dwarves, and they take these characters fantastic places. Locations like floating cities and dark dungeons, and even other planes of existence. These characters then encounter fantastic creatures like goblins, werewolves, and the titular Dragons! They interact with these creatures, and through this the players and the DM forge a story. The events of this story are often determined by the roll of dice. The dice used must include a d20. It's about getting together with friends to have a good time.
I got into Dungeons and Dragons via the game HeroQuest, which lead me to the black box intro game. After that I got several of the other boxed games (Dragon's Den, Haunted Tower, Goblin's Lair), all of which included gridded map sheets, fold up cardboard characters and monsters, and I think 3 adventures. After that I got the Rules Cyclopedia, and then later I transitioned into AD&D2e. But I started with a very basic GAME that came with tokens and a board. We didn't always use them. A majority of the time we didn't use them, especially once I got the RC. But that's where I started. That's where the answer to "what is D&D?" was formed.
Between my Basic D&D days we passed through the Rules Cyclopedia and Thunder Rift, stayed for a time in 2nd edition. Moved to 3rd edition, stopped playing shortly after 3.5 was released and took up wargaming. Thus we come to the release of 4th edition. It is a new game, with a new engine. Some sacred cows were slaughtered. Others were feed only the best organic feed and allowed to wander freely in their new meadow. But when I read the game, when I play the game, this is what I see: Fantastic characters, in fantastic locations, interacting with fantastic creatures. We roll d20s, we fight goblins at first level, and they can be deadly, all while sitting around our table with our character sheets, and thinking about raiding that dragon's hoard. When I play 4e, it feels like D&D to me, just like it did when I was 11.
So by my definition, what is D&D? Everything produced by TSR and WotC is D&D. The retroclones based on the SRD (S&W, OSRIC, Dark Dungeons, Labyrinth Lord, etc.) are D&D. M20, M74, M75 are D&D. I haven't read or played Castles and Crusades, but it sounds like D&D. Pathfinder seems to be D&D3.75.
What isn't D&D? If you aren't rolling a d20 to hit something, with higher being better, than it isn't D&D. If you can't play a fighter, wizard, elf, dwarf, etc. It isn't D&D. If there aren't dungeons and dragons than it isn't D&D. If a game uses the d20 system, it does not necessarily equal D&D - for instance d20 modern or future are not D&D.
The focus of 4e is different than that of the previous incarnations. It's much more about the game experience, and less about trying to "realistically" portray the happenings in the game. It is designed for those of use who don't have tons of time to play, and want to spend our couple of hours of live game time doing something awesome and fun.
Is 4e the perfect game? No. Probably not even close. But it is fun, and sitting around the table with my friends, kicking down doors, slaying goblins and taking their stuff.... I'm playing D&D.