Okay before the torches are lit, the effigies built and the pitch forks sharpened hear me out. I promise I will not resist afterwards, but I ask that at the moment those kegs of boiling tar and bags of feathers are kept on the sidelines.
Yes fourth edition id a lot of things to sour fans of the long running grand-daddy of roleplaying games. Mechanically the system was ... not right and between the restrictive GSL and WOTC's own spotty releases the entire endeavor seemed doomed.
However, while mechanically blundered a lot of the fluff for the system was downright amazing and that coupled with some genius marketing moves really did endear the entire thing to me.
1. Encounters - Before fourth edition organized public play was a whispered dream. Something from Cons and those pockets of the Living societies. For a a guy like me stuck in an area where Magic is king and roleplaying games are something seemingly scoffed at the introduction of Encounters was brilliant. for 2 years every Wednesday night was a gaming dream. Short enough to fit in after dinner but before work modular enough to let people dip in and out as they pleased and with enough story and roleplay options to sate the old guys thinking of returning to the fold.
2. Points of Light - While WotC seemed to be doing everything in its power to destroy the realms and relegate Eberron to the back burner the shadowy default setting "Points of Light" was a delight to behold. Detailed enough to be a foundation while at the same time not over burdening a DM with history and lore. The setting really hit its stride around the time of the Abyssal Plague with support for novels, Encounters, monster stats (I remember seeing a plague beast in the Ghost Tower Encounters series and being delighted that I knew what this thing was (my character, the poor dwarf did not)). Even after 4e was no longer a system I even thought to use the Points of Light setting remained the new default go to for my short lived Swords & Wizardry game with Winterhaven being the hub (hell Winterhaven replaced Grimmsgate).
3. The Raven Queen - Just read the wikipedia entry to know why this was an excellent addition. The Raven Queen who, for the characters at least, is the most amorphous of the gods in the default setting. The symbol of the raven and all it means both in game and in rel life easily proved to be an interesting thing to throw at players. I hope she makes the transition to Next when it released in August ... and if not I'm dragging her with me!
4. The Astral Sea - Hey ... hey I said put the pitchforks down until I finished. Okay ... now then ... First don't get me wrong, I enjoy the traditional set-up for the planes, however, the old Earl Flynn swashbuckler in me simply delights in the idea of the astral sea. That's about it.
5. Minions - The one thing from a mechanical point-of-view that I liked about 4e was the introduction of minion monsters. Mid-range AC 1 hp creatures that helped fill a combat encounter and made a fight with kobolds seem heavy and dangerous while still not being completely hopeless. Surround a Dragon Shield with a bunch of minions and the players still had a good fight on their hands while making them feel as if they weren't babes thrown to the wolves.