Surely this is one of the signs of an an impending apocalypse, no?
Seriously, I had fun. The occasion was the monthly meet of The Austin Dungeon & Dragons Meetup Group. Nobody else volunteered to run anything, so a friendly gent named Christian volunteered to run a short game using 2nd level characters. Many of us didn't come with characters in hand, and a few of us had no practical experience playing 4e, so the pregens he had were a great help.
Now, I can't call this an adventure. We played for roughly five hours and that was enough time to almost finish two combats. Keep in mind, however, that some of us were very new to the game, and there were nine (!!!) players that poor Christian had to run a game for. So it's certainly not his fault things moved so slowly. I can understand why they say 4e is optimized for parties of five to six. Luckily, I got to sit next to a very knowledgeable and friendly gent who was glad to share with me the tricks of getting the most from my eladrin ranger.
And I'm extremely thankful for his help, because otherwise, I was utterly lost. This was not D&D as I've known it. Keep in mind, this was just a bit of combat versus kobolds and then dragons. We really didn't have time for an adventure per se. Just some fights. So I'm certain that colored my experience.
That said, let me give you an example. At one point, my ranger was claw-claw-gored by a very young blue dragon. This took me to -12 hit points, but that's not enough to kill you in 4e. Thanks to the quick help of a cleric, I was back up to +13 hit points next round. If I'd grabbed my bow and jumped to my feet, I couldn't shoot arrows because I was face-to-face still with the monster. However, I could use one of my At-Will powers, Nimble Strike, to shift a square away from the dragon before attacking with my bow. Shifting was important, because if I'd just moved, I would have incurred an attack-of-opportunity. However, the guy helping me figured out that if, instead of standing up and moving, I just used my eladrin teleport power to bampf myself upright and five squares away, I would be able to invoke my Twin Strike power, allowing me to attack twice instead of just once that round.
I've had conversations about stuff like this all the time when playing a wargame. My brief flirtation with Warhammer 40k was chock full of this sort of thing. But I can't remember ever discussing things like this when playing D&D before. The emphasis in 4e is clearly on the G of RPG. I'm not sure that getting to play through a skill challenge would have changed this impression, because those seem to be a lot of the same thing: looking to the rules of the game, rather than the setting and situation, as both a source for challenges as well as the means for overcoming them.
Don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying this is bad or wrong or even badwrong fun. It's just not what I'm thinking about when I'm looking to play D&D. A lot of this stems, I'm sure, from starting the game with Moldvay's Basic. The dice were evil in that game. Every time you rolled for initiative, chances were very, very good that a PC was going to die. That's just the way the game was built back then. And we, knowing that, did everything we could to avoid rolling the dice. The mechanics were what we turned to in those odd moments when they were needed. They were not the bulk of play, even when we were in a dungeon. And when we did get into combat, it was only after lengthy preparations to make sure all the advantages were with us. We didn't roll dice or use the rules to set up our trip-wires, dig our pits, or block doorways with chairs or tables or various dungeon detritus. So this straight-up, charge in with swords swinging and arrows flying was bizarre enough for me without wondering how many standard or move actions my attack would use.
Would I play again? Yep, I had fun. The group was great too, lots of friendly folks, ready to lend a hand or answer a question. (And I understand that not everyone in the group is all about 4e, and that older versions are also played from time-to-time.) But 4e isn't likely to become my go-to game for fantasy RPGs. It's just doesn't mesh with my preferences. I'm not surprised, either.
I also ran into a very old friend who had almost as much influence on how I game today as Ed Greenwood. He's running 3.5e and just had an opening appear in his group. I'm very curious to see how that game compares to 4e, since I gave up on 3e back before 3.5 was released.