I realized there is a gaping hole in my coverage. I've never really talked about D&D 4e. I mentioned it in a post on 5e, but that's it. Now, this may seem perfectly natural, given my many poetical waxings on old school nostalgia. D&D 4e is widely regarded as the least D&D of all additions, which by extension should leave it far outside the orbit of old school aficionados.
I want to go on record here and now as saying, I love 4e. Take that assertion with my usual caveat: I do not have a play group, either f2f or online, so I don't actively participate in any 4e games. Perhaps I would be more accurate in saying that I love how it reads and inspires my imagination.
I have far often been frustrated by characters, both my NPCs and PCs, that aren't supported by mechanics. Put down the torches and pitchforks. I know I'm not the only one that has played a fighter that is conceived of as being this hard-hitting northman with a big axe and bigger attitude. Yet, when the dice hit the table, the thief has a better damage output. Nobody's fault, just the way the dice fall. The thief's player is using a long sword and consistently rolls 7s and 8s for damage while I roll 3s and 4s mostly.
I realize that there is more to being the badass fighter in the party than meting out damage. The fighter has more hit points (or should) and can wear heavier armor. I know those are meaningful benefits, but damnit, fighters should be killing things, not functioning as party meat shields.
So, that is one thing I really like. The powers structure makes your character not simply occupy his niche, he OWNS that niche.
And about the powers mechanic: I love how it makes wizards so much more like their Chainmail progenitors. In Chainmail wizards could become invisible at will and throw either Fireball or Lightning Bolt every turn. BAM!
Sometimes my mood is on low powered, zero-to-hero stuff. I still love that style and it still has a place in my gamespace. Sometimes, though, I want something more heroic, where the characters are mechanically destined for greatness and where the villains are more than dirt-eating cultists.
One of the things that I love about Chainmail that has never translated to well to D&D is the divide between the mundane and the heroic. In the Chainmail fantasy supplement, a character can't even engage with a true monster, like an ogre, unless they have heroic status. This sort of bakes the role of adventurers in society right into the rules. No version of D&D really captures this. I think, though, that the power structure and mechanics of 4e gives PCs a status and capability far beyond the common inhabitants of the campaign world and could simulate that commoner/hero dichotomy.
That's a smattering of what I like about 4e, at least conceptually.