I used to play D&D when I was younger. I started with AD&D, which in the day had armor in the negative numbers and tons of calculations. As much as it catered to imagination, it was not designed for the younger folk. 3rd edition came out in 2000, then a year or so later, 3.5 followed. It simplified a ton of the rules and made the game truly accessible to the masses. I played that version with some friends and was pleasantly surprised at the options still available. That being said, characters scaled to crazy power by level 10, where they could have 6 attacks per round for some pretty crazy damage. This meant you threw a ton of dice and with some lucky rolls, tear through the most difficult boss. Hard to balance creatures when a good roll does 100 damage and bad roll does 10. Casters had a limited amount of spells they could use per day and you needed a healer to get anywhere.
In comes 4th edition in the fall of 2008. It removed the multiple attacks per round, modified the way feats work, gave everyone special powers that scale, casters have spells they can use many times and some that are daily and after every battle, people can heal to full. No more burning through all your skills in one fight and be pooched for the next one. They released some quick start rules and a basic adventure for people to get an idea of what’s changed.
I picked up the books (Player’s Handbook, GM Book and Monster Manual) and have been reading them since Sunday. Have to say, I am pleasantly surprised at the changes. Combat has been really simplified but feels more fun. You don’t just sit there and swing a weapon, you use new powers that have different effects. You can hit and move behind a target, slash a leg and jump over someone, freeze them in place or stun them with a smack on the head. And you can use all these skills multiple times in a single fight! No need to sleep 8 hours to use all your skills again (though some you do).
Once I get a better handle on the rules and whatnot, I’ll be sure to start up a game with the brother and some pals. Something nice and simple to get them started and then try a full campaign after that. Cool beans!