My crude visual renditions have generated a small measure of controversy. So...win. I'm also going to respond to it, since what I'm going to say here likely cannot be confined to a mere comment.
I find it odd that a blog labeling itself as a Revised Edition resurgent would pay any heed to a blog that almost universally talks about 4th Edition (I also review digital games, apparently). Buuut, he does have me on his blogroll. So...win?
Katallos doesnt like that 4th Edition refers to each class's powers as, well, powers. Its a kind of global label that encompasses the majority of what a class offers (and what makes them unique). To him, the word power just doesnt grok with the fantasy genre. I dont really care since in the narrative people dont refer to them as such, and some classes might not refer to them by their "source name" (exploits, spells, prayers, etc).
I suppose there might be another label for this game mechanic that would work better, but I'd say this is more of a nitpick than anything: his second point is much more interesting.
Often I see this stated as something like, "its like mashing a couple of buttons over and over again," but I'm glad that Katallos is willing to at least make the concession that 3rd Edition had this as well. I'm just going to take it a step further and say that 3rd Edition had it a lot worse.
See, in 3rd Edition many classes, especially those without spells, were basically relegated to a routine of roll to attack, and roll to damage if you hit. Thats it. No kicker effect, few if any conditions (and those were often extremely limited), and not combat dynamics. Once you got your character in melee, be prepared to just stand there and trade blows til someone runs out of hit points. Fighters, low-level rangers, monks, paladins, and more spent almost all of their time making a nondescript attack roll over and over and over.
His complaint? That 4th Edition does basically the same thing. I would agree, except this is false. Well, I suppose its not entirely false since to be fair most of the time in combat you will be repeating one of 3-5 different things over and over. Not necessary in subsequent rounds, but I mean you'll probably end up using something like reaping strike at least twice in the same encounter. At least until you get a few levels under your belt and start getting access to multiple encounter powers. Those do a good job of reducing the time combat lasts and how many times you'll fallback on the at-will stuff.
By the rules, a 3rd Edition fighter can only make an attack roll for damage if he hits. Sure, there are a few other combat actions you can take like grapple or disarm, but those are generally incredibly difficult to reliably use, and even then you would want to burn feats to give it a snowball's chance in hell. The other stuff Katallos mentions can only be done if he takes some feats, allowing you to switch into different modes that dont do anything except subtract from his attack roll in order to increase AC or damage. In the end, he still makes an attack roll to deal basic damage. How does this compare to 4th Edition? Well...
Every fighter in 4E has at least three attack options in a given round without resorting to the use of special actions (grab, bull rush, etc) or feats. Those extra combat actions? Much more reliable and you dont have to burn a feat to avoid getting whacked for your troubles. You get two at-will powers by virtue of being alive, and you can also opt out to use a basic melee attack, which is mechanically identical to 3rd Editions melee attack except that at level 21 the damage dice are doubled (helping to keep it somewhat useful).
Again, not quite the same. At all.
He also claims that in 3rd Edition you could use description in your attacks, such as by making a jump check to leap at an opponent before attacking. You can still do this in 4th Edition with Athletics, so...I fail to see the difference. He also mentions that if he rolled well enough, he could sometimes get a damage bonus, which is a houserule and fairly abusable. By allowing a player to make a non-penalized roll to randomly determine a benefit, you have just created incentive for the player to always make the attempt because there is absolutely no drawback. Just make jump checks all the time and see if you get a little extra. Bad, baaad mechanic! *swat* It would be like letting wizards make Arcana checks to see if they can boost their spell save DC: they'd do it all the fucking time.
Going back to combat narrative, if you think that the at-will fighter exploits somehow detract from it, then just continually use melee basic attack. Its the exact same fucking thing from 3rd Edition. Not that you cant dynamically describe existing exploits in various ways. The existing flair does not discourage, but merely provides a default description that mostly helps explain how the power does what it does. Its just fluff. You can use it or invent your own. Just because they started dropping descriptions in 3rd Edition books for spells doesnt mean that I was forced to use them, just like I dont always describe monsters, magic items, equipment, or locations the way they are in the books.
This I can somewhat agree on, at least for new players. Yes, many powers generate conditions or modifiers. Yes, they can and do change on a round-by-round basis. I think that this adds a dynamic layer to combat that helps make it fun and interesting without overtly penalizing players for the long term with stuff like ability damage/drain and level drain. Honestly if you forget a modifier here and there (and people will do this in all games), its not going to break anything.
Out of his entire post, this is the only point that makes sense to me.
Ah, the good ol', "everyone is a spellcaster" argument. Easy-sauce.
What Wizards of the coast did is make all characters follow the same resolution mechanic. This is good for precisely the reasons that you preferred it in the past: system mastery is bad. Players should not have to become heavily invested in the game in order to "unlock" certain elements. If a player wants to play a wizard, why should it be any more difficult or convoluted than playing a fighter? If they are into fantasy and really enjoy magic, its not going to be fun if they have to memorize additional rules and resolution mechanics.
Besides, I never really liked that wizards were only wizards for an hour of each day.
I disagree on your claim that classes play the same. Having played many of the classes and seen other players try them out, I can say with confidence that even classes with the same role do not run the same way: you cannot play a fighter like you play a paladin, and you dont play a druid like you play a wizard. Hell, you dont even necessarily play a ranger the same way you play a rogue, and they are both martial strikers!
When I played a cleric, I mostly hung back and used my prayers to blast monsters and bolster my allies. When I gave the artificer a shot (another leader), I instead relied upon a combination of melee and ranged attacks to grant my allies bonuses and also create constructs and barriers. When I played a warlord, I was up in the thick of melee inspiring people and providing tactical advice. All leaders, none of them the same.
Shazbot is familiar with rangers and rogues, and he can feel free to pipe in on his experiences with both.