Neither of these dates is exact, but they each represent a middle point of a process of change. There are plenty of intentional throwbacks after, some unintentional look-forwards before. But in general, games have evolved (devolved?) toward:
|I have to roll a 6 to get out? What?|
The AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide removed much of death's sting through a "death's door" rule covering survival from zero and negative hit points (not at all evident in the earlier Player's Handbook). Save-or-die poison took longer to go, being finally purged for good in 3rd Edition. Computer games have shown a similar exorcism of frustration, moving from no saving of game state, to save points, to continual saving. State-of-the art design today for many casual games even gives progress for failed attempts, so that eventually the game will be defeated. Time is the commodity here, as always, but the message is "you didn't succeed" not "you failed."
|"Activate Mrs. White's Rolling Pin Flurry!"|
The origin of feats and the like in tabletop gaming can probably be traced to the prevalence of special character moves in fighting console games, and to increasing modularity and customization in the gaming world under the influence of collectible card games.
On to the present day.
D&D Next, as much as it draws from the old school, also has strong representation from these two concerns in the system. It's obvious that hit points are numerous, the margin of safety for low-level characters is great, and healing remains as available as in 4th edition. It's also obvious that classes, races, and "paths" each come with an addition to a suite of powers that can leave a 3rd level character looking at 3-5 different combat traits and moves.
And now my confession: My campaign players expect these features to some extent, steeped as they are in MMOs. And so on both counts I have gone about half the way that D&D Next appears to have done. I used a "death & dismemberment" system at 0 hit points or below that is scary, but in practice merciful. Save or die poison is a bridge we haven't had to cross, but I'm inclined to offer multiple saves on poison (one to be seriously incapacitated and one to die.) Meanwhile, class powers and fighting feats in my game are running about half the count of D&D Next, but still give enough of a sense of things to do.
To put it shortly: In order to compete with my homebrew, D&D 5th Edition is going to have to give me the option to cut down on the bones it throws to millennium-era gaming, and let me run a game at my desired level of "old world charm and new world convenience."