Flynn asked “What are your three most favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why? Also, what are your three least favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why?”
I've been stewing over this post for, well, about a month now! Part of the problem I've been having writing it, is that I've again been working on my megadungeon, and haven't been working with 4e very much. However, I have thought about it, and here's what I've come up with.
My favorite innovations for 4e would have to be the balance they've achieved. Granted, I've only got the first round of releases, so I don't have any experience with PHBII or III or MMII or III. I know there was some cleanup that was needed from the first round, and the FAQ came out really quickly, but still, the level of progression from 1-30 is pretty even across all the classes. In previous editions, and 3.x especially there was little reason not to play a spellcasting class. Batman wizards, clericzillas, and druids were the go to classes for power gamers. A lot of that was taken away with 4e, and I like that.
I also really enjoy the way that monsters are designed to work in mixed groups, and how different monsters have different roles to play in encounters. I personally always enjoyed mixing up the opponents my players faced, as it made for a more interesting time for everyone. 4e makes that the official way to do things.
The 3rd mechanical innovation that I really like is the chart on page 42 of the DMG. Ok, yes, I know they revised it, but with the PHB and that page you can run a D&D game.
My least favorite mechanical aspects of 4e are the skill challenge, the necessity of picking certain feats, and standard array ability scores.
Skill challenges seem like a really neat way to handle a variety of situations, but the presentation is awkward, and I didn't enjoy trying to run it with my players. I do feel that with a good example, I might be willing to change my mind on this.
Feats - this 3.x holdover is a neat way to customize your character, make it a little different from the standard. Unfortunately, there are a few feats with such clear mechanical advantage that they are automatically taken.
Ability scores are random in every edition, except this one. The degree of randomness changes, but there is always a chance that you'll roll a whole bunch of 1s or a bunch of 6s. I kinda miss that, though I think that having the option of taking a standard array isn't a bad one, but only as an alternate option. Give my my d6's!