Thanks for these responses. Of course one game is not necessarily better than another, as it depends on the style of play that one prefers. In part, this was what I was trying to discern. Also, as @Thopthes pointed out, either game can be played in a variety of ways.
I was struck, though, by the similarity between my experience of 4.0 and the Pathfinder session we played last week. And I was curious about how these two systems (now updated to 5.0 for D&D) compared. Not that I intend to invest in either one at the moment (if anything I’m likely to purchase either Numenara or The Strange). What I could not experience in a single session, I suppose, is the flexibility and nuance that Pathfinder allows for character development. Also, playing pre-gens it is harder to feel a deep affinity for one’s character. I noticed that Siobhan seemed most invested in her character, it had a life, a rich backstory because she built the character. @Icewind did a great job, though, staying in character for a Paladin, refusing to let my sorcerer “steal” the dagger.
I imagine that over the course of a longer campaign the differences between the two systems would become more clear. At the same time, both worlds feel very similar: high fantasy, a band of adventurers, magic, and monsters. The session of Warhammer FRP we played the previous week, for instance, felt very different–a darker, grimmer world. I wonder, though, if that was just me recalling that game from about 30 years ago.
I prefer a more character and story-driven style game in which player agency features highly to a system driven game (hence my interest in the Monte Cook games). Role play versus Roll play, I guess one could call it. So I imagine that Pathfinder, built to allow character customization, might allow for more of that.
My sense from lurking for the past 6 months or so is that most of the campaigns people organize are 5th edition campaigns, and I wondered if that was simply a matter of convenience–most people are familiar with that system, own the books, etc…–or if it was a true preference for the system itself.
Be happy to hear what others think as well!