The next iteration of D&D

As this NY Times article (and this announcement by WotC) makes clear, the next iteration of Dungeons and Dragons is under development.   I’ve known about this for a while (but was sworn to secrecy under threat of thumbscrews) and have been privy to some of the discussions (in a mostly minor, incidental way). But what I’ve seen has me very excited about the future of D&D.

I think it’s enormously wise of WotC to look to the D&D fan base — a huge population of smart, creative people — for input on the development.  The idea is to get at the core of D&D, the thing that has made it such a mainstay of tabletop RPGs for decades, and then develop a universal rules system around that core.  From what I’ve seen and heard already, I expect this will kick all kinds of ass.

Long and short:  I’m excited about it. I think there’s a real chance that what comes out of this process will be the best iteration of D&D to-date. As a player, I’m looking forward to sitting around the table with friends and rolling some bones.  As a writer, I’m looking forward to the creative possibilities.  Rock on.

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17 Comments

  1. PK, the latest iteration of D&D is a piece of crap. The 4th edition is made for simpletons and is way too watered down. The powers system is awful. So, unless they scrap the system and revamp it, I will stick with 3.5 rules through pathfinder that have some meat on the bone.
    Done with my rant now. Thanks for listening.

    • Oh, bullcrap. The powers system is just an easy way to format abilities so that the player can look through a plethora of options quickly, and make solid, informed decisions without already having a bunch of system mastery. If you think that’s a bad thing, or made for simpletons, then you’re being an elitist a-hole. Elitist a-holes can, and should, be dismissed out of hand.

      You could rewrite every single power in the game as a class feature. Literally every single one. The same could be done with previous ed spells, in fact. There is no good reason that fighters and rogues shouldn’t have interesting class abilities that allow them to do the kinds of things that heroes in mythology and stories like The Three Musketeers, Zorro or Conan can do. That’s what 4e allows. That’s why 4e is the best version of DnD so far.

  2. And I am one of those simpletons!

    • 3.5 had the capacity for alot of interaction out of combat, but from what I’ve seen of 4th (before i just quit due to lack of interest) all there was, was combat after combat.

      Some people probably figured out ways to enrich it, but still seemed bland to me.

      Storywise, 4th seemed very interesting.

  3. 4th ed has just as much out of combat material as any other edition, if the DM cares to use it. I have been running 4e games for 3 years now and have had many sessions without a single combat. I think people look at 4e and see how much work was put into the combat system in hopes of drawing in a different type of gamer and figure that it is nothing more than that.

  4. The reason pathfinder has done so well is because like 3rd edit D&D it was a natural evolution that fixed many of 3.5′s over complexities…this was and I feel still is fan driven so now HASBRO is trying to play catch up…..I hope they go back to basics to what the game was for most of its life………we’ll see..I feel this is the last roll of the dice for this grandaddy of RPG’s…….

  5. I started playing back in 1980 with the original first editions of 3 books. I did enjoy the d20 method in the later generation but I always really turn back to the old chart method lookup of the 1st edition. I have all of the oringal books and continue to DM this way. While I have incorporated our games story line into the current WOTC roles of the cataclysm we have stuck with the original rules. It’s what being a DM Is about. Creativity and carrying the story. I recall taking a 6′ sheet of plexiglass and painting it black and scoring a 1″x1″ grid on the back to have our games on. Used it for years before the mats came out. We still have days that we just paint minis too. I dont think it is as much about what rules you choose as it is about making the game come alive for your players as a DM. Its the story that makes the game.

  6. Again, trying to add variety and customization in the game is good – but doing it through the silly “power” system is ridiculous. The Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords was on the right track in terms of stances and maneuvers as a way to customize combat. Not every character needs/should have spell-like power lists that make every character look and feel the same.
    Bring back spell lists, and some of the core mechanics. Spell casters cast spells, not fighters who specialize in bastard swords for example. Reversely, Fighters should have multiple options for combat techniques, not magic users. Power lists can easily be converted to touch/combat spells or feats to assist mages in combat.
    Every gaming group in my local area has moved to Pathfinder, since the 3.5 rules are seamless now.
    I too believe this may be WotC’s last and best attempt at bringing the patriarch of the industry back.
    Once again, I sit back and wait to see what they accomplish. For now, it is 3.5 for me, and my converted Avenger class. ;-)

  7. I am a bit of a purists and still play using my original and second edition rules. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  8. So what does all this mean regarding the Forgotten Realms fiction? Is it simply a rule overhaul or are they going to introduce more worldwide events?

    • That’s the thing that scares me, to be honest. I feel that throughout the duration of 4th Edition, the Realms honestly haven’t gotten a lot of love (not including the novels), and I don’t think that poor Toril can take another huge RSE.

  9. Didn’t they have a universal rule system with D20/ open license that they decided to scrap out of greed? What is at the core of the success is allowing creativity of the players and GMs to build their fantasy gaming ideals. How much great material became available during the D20 heyday? Mix and match systems to your heart’s content. Attempts to attract new players has mostly failed because it irritated the fans by making it stupid. That might have worked for Microsoft Windows, but it will not work for D&D.

    • I hope they put the game back on the OGL, including the 4e material. If nothing else, that’ll make it easier for me and nearly every DnD player I know to stick with 4e if 5e is just a retro-clone throwback. :P

      If I wanted that, I’d play Old School Hack, which I do. Not as often as I play 4e, but still fairly often. It’s a really fun game.

      Seriously, though, I hope they go back to the idea of OGL.Maybe just use a Creative Commons license that allows third party stuff, but only allows commercial use under normal copyright rules. ie, you have to pay a royalty fee.

      I’m a lot more worried that martial classes will go back to being baggage carriers, etc. If they abandon balance as a primary part of the design paradigm, I’m out. I can’t go back to the horrendous mess of imbalance and needless subsystems that was 3.5. I’d rather stop playing DnD(keep playing 4e, which wouldn’t support or make money for wotc, after a while), as sad as that would make me.

      • Interesting, I do not find the martial classes in the Pathfinder 3.5 rules to be “baggage carriers” at all. In fact, my preference is the PF3.5 game out of all the options.
        I agree with going back to the OGL format. Makes all the sense in the world – which means they won’t!
        LOL

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  11. If WotC was smart, they would buy out Pathfinder and call that 5th edition. Alternately, they could conduct a large scale survey about what was best in each edition, glue those together, and call it 5th. My homebrew game is a combination of 2nd, 3rd, 3.5, and Pathfinder, but I can see how giving spellcasters one spell that they never run out of is a good thing (of course in 3rd it was “read magic” but it’s not a bad concept.) I have thought about implementing the concept through introduction of “eternal” wands that the Eberron Online MMORPG uses, as a low damage magic item isn’t really game breaking.

  12. Also, I think they would sell way more books if they did the following:

    1) Stop making it all about crunch. You lose the ability to use those when they change editions, which they are doing more and more frequently. Fluff books are usable no matter which edition you are using, and you can update them simply by advancing the storyline.

    2) Stop explaining edition changes with cataclysmic events in the Forgotten Realms. You don’t have to murder Mystra every time the edition changes. (That happened from 1st to 2nd edition and again from 3rd to 4th.) Advancing the storyline a hundred years was a good idea. The Spellplague was not. Bringing back Netheril was. Bringing “back” Abeir was not. There are lots of ways to change things up in an interesting way without destroying the world every couple of decades. I would love to be able to tie in existing realmslore without having to stash my players away on another world/plane while everything goes to hell.

    3) A return to how things work together would be appreciated. Everyone knows Kobolds suck, but if you read their tactics in the 2nd edition Monster Manual, you learn how they can actually be devastating to a party, even as high as 5th level. Never underestimate the value of knowing how tall, how fast, what materials are used. When my players ran the Sunless Citadel when we were new to 3rd edition, I was stunned that the developers had neglected to mention how the doors worked and which way they swung open. It’s not a video game. These things are important for verisimilitude, and I would gladly sacrifice a new feat or prestige class to gain these useful insights.

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