D&D Next!


Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 09 January 2012

In case you haven't already heard, today Wizards of the Coast announced that they are developing the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons. The announcement has been covered on a number of sites, including CNN, EN World, NY Times, and Forbes. In fact, Forbes has a nice roundup of links if you are interested in reading even more.

While there are a lot more questions than answers at this point, one of the big things to note about this new iteration is that the goal is to provide an experience that all fans of D&D, regardless of when they started, will find familiar and comfortable. Now, I realize this is a lofty goal, but, to be honest, I don't think it's insurmountable.

As discussed in a variety of Legends & Lore columns (commonly abbreviated to L&L), a modular game system is key to this. This causes fear in some people, how can one game system cover so many game styles and preferences. But currently, don't we already have that with all the various editions of the game as it is? Don't people who like particular play styles tend to prefer particular editions over others? I know people who play 0e, others who play 2e, and many who play 3x and 4e. Currently, the edition is often the shorthand for the play style desired. But why keep it that way? Why not create language to help people communicate their preferences and provide tools to achieve those goals? As an added bonus, if most of this shares a common base, this means players, DMs, and designers don't have to remember 4+ different rules system when moving between play styles.

And if that is where Wizards of the Coast is going with this, I couldn't be happier. While I love 4e, I've often felt sad that many of my D&D playing friends didn't feel like they had a home in my edition. Hell, I've been mad on a number of occasions over the whole concept of the walls between editions. We have so much more in common than those differences would have us believe.

What I love even more than this new, inclusive vision of D&D is that they are gathering the thoughts and opinions of the fans through play tests, the Legends & Lore column, and other venues. This is relatively new ground for them and I'm really excited to see them try it out. Will there be some speed bumps along the way? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, I think we'll both get a better product out of it as well as an informed and supportive community.

Beyond that, why am I so excited? Well part of it is that I was fortunate enough to do a play test session of it in early December. I can't talk about specifics for a number of reasons, but even in that incredibly early play test I saw a lot in there that people had been asking for. So right away that told me that they are listening to their fans and trying to provide a game that will make as many people as possible happy while still being D&D.

If you are interested in working with Wizards of the Coast in creating something we can all call our D&D, add your name to the play test group. They also created a community group for D&D Next. If you are on twitter, many people are using the #dndnext hash tag to continue the discussion there.

So, without a ton of detail about the new game to talk about, that's where I'm at. How do you feel? What excites you about D&D Next? What do you want to see?

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Sarah, I see this: "I saw a lot in there that people had been asking for."

But how did you, as a 4th edition player, like this proto-5e? Did you enjoy it more than, less than, equal to 4e? Were there bits (and I'm not asking for details I know you can't give) that were jarring from 4e, or did it feel like a natural refinement of the game?

There's so much in flux and I didn't get to do more than play for a few hours, so it's hard to give a good answer to this. The best I can say is that it was different. It definitely felt like it hit many of the notes that makes D&D (in all its forms) special and it felt like there was still lots of room for groups to make the game their own. At no time did I feel lost and the game felt very comfortable to me.

I want to see a system that either de-emphasizes combat or re-emphasizes non-combat so the system doesn't feel so lopsided anymore--something where if you wanted to build a character who was good with their Skills you could play up that aspect every level.
I'd also like see either the full spectrum of Alignments brought back or Alignment eliminated all together, because I find the 4ed form too limited in its potential to express characters' natures.
I'm one of the players that was lost when the game went to 4th ed (sort of, I still play 4th Ed when that's what my group's playing, but as you say the edition is basically short-hand for what kind of game you want to play and I want 3.5)
I'll be involved in the development of 5th as much as I can, and watching to see what comes of it, but right now I'm not sure if Wizards can win my business back.

Last David A Ludwig's post:Nightgale 1/4

Like Sarah said so much is in flux right now. I did find myself having a wonderful time with the material and presentation. I can say that I like it better than 4th Edition (not that there is anything wrong with 4E). I can also say I asked Mike Mearls what he considers classic D&D and alignment was the first thing out of his mouth. So David you may just get your wish. Let Wizards know that a focus on alignment is important to you. You can see my thoughts on what I want in 5E loud and clear on my blog. Be positive gamers. http://gamingtonic.com/blog/2012/01/what-i-want-and-dont-want-in-5th-edi...

when you say you saw things players had been asking for, you mean pathfinder players right? i am kind of ashamed of all of the 4e bloggers being so thrilled to dance on 4es grave.

No actually, I mean players of 4e too. I love 4e. I wish 4e could continue to be the current game for years to come. With what they seem to be planning, this is kind of what will be happening but other people will get their game supported too.

I talked about this in my blog, but the biggest thing I want from this system is exactly what this post is about - an edition for everyone. I love this sentence: "We have so much more in common than those differences would have us believe." I've DMed 4e games for hardcore power gamers who sported 50 varieties of frostcheese, and for inner city junior high schoolers who don't know an opportunity attack from a hole in the wall. It's all 4e (with some serious houseruling), and I have fun in both cases. It would be awesome to have a system that can handle both. If the modular model is the way to go, bring it on!

Thanks Tracy! I also (re)entered D&D with 4e and love it. I guess what I am bummed about the most from the relatively short cycle of 4e is that I am heavily invested in 4e and I am wary about giving them more of my money. But I'm excited to have the chance to help them design the game I want to play. Can't wait to hear you and Jeff and your guests discuss it on the Tome Show.

I think that a lot of people are going to be wary about giving them more money for 4e at the moment. I was pretty much done with buying more 4e books. I have enough already to play and I don't have a DDI sub, so it's hard for me to say that I would stop buying 4e books and hard to gauge what others will do.

I think, however, that WotC probably (hopefully?) know what they are doing with what the long time to release of 5e (or whatever) and what it will do to 4e sales. I figure either they have seen such a drop in 4e sales already that it's not going to make much difference, or they are so sure of the new edition and the marketing strategy of the open play test that they are willing to take the short term hit. It might be that also they have market research to suggest that people will go out and buy up all the 4e books before they become unavailable.

My hope is that, whatever their reasoning, they haven't forgotten the LGS in all the excitement. In Australia we don't have D&D in big book or toy stores, you can pretty much find it in only specialty games and book stores. The D&D section in my local store is already smaller than either the Pathfinder or the White Wolf section. I hope they don't feel abandoned.

Last EnsignExpendable's post:Attitudes of Soldiers in your Campaign

I have been playing D&D since the BECMI days. I have played every edition and have always felt like each one brought something new to the table. While I have a soft spot for BECMI I have to say that 4e has probably been my favorite so far. I have very mixed feelings about the change. On one hand I am excited to see what is next and on the other, I am still enjoying 4e.

I hope that the designers are able to reconcile the various editions and deliver on the promise of a powerful, versatile and fun system. As someone who works at a game store, I spend quite a bit of time dealing with players of all stripes. From the wide eyed newbie who just wants to play, to the old hats who spend as much time complaining as they do playing, the community is varied to say the least.

To me, the part I am not looking forward to is when I go back to work. Some of my Pathfinder regulars are very anti 4e and I can look forward to a great deal of snark and smug comments. That is one of the down sides to working at a game store, some people spend a great deal of time running down what others enjoy. For my part I love picking up Pathfinder modules as they are easy to convert to 4e.

I can't wait to get stuck in with the playtesting. I have signed up and I am crossing my fingers. I look forward to having the chance to try out the new rules. I was one of those guys who ran games based on the ENworld 4e preview material back in 2008.

Oh, and I cannot tell you how jealous I am right now. Congratulations on your success and all the cool things it has allowed you to do. Not to worry, we don't all think you are a sell out.

I want a system that is modular like Microlite75 without becoming GURPS.

I want to be able to have a non-Vance-ian magic system that feels more like Harry Potter and less like a 6 year graduate school degree without wondering if I unbalanced the game.

I want to be able to have 2 paladins in the party without feeling like they are the Mario Twins.

I want to be able to be able to level up into the double digits without becoming a minor god-ling.

I want a system simple enough to allow me to have a character sheet designed by James Stowe at the table.

I want to be able to play D&D with my 5 and 6 year old kids without violating the suggested age on the cover.

That would be a good start.

I guess it is Microlite74 Extended not 75. I keep getting confused by the decreasing number.

I will keep an open mind and try to be as optimistic as you, Tracy. The fact that you like the early prototype is encouraging, at least.

What worries me is that their design goal of "one system for everyone" seems unfocused. I like unity and, if they can pull it off, great. But will a modular system, where every table has a different combination of rules, be much more unified than 4 different versions? Player feedback is good, in principle too. But, I hope this is not "design by committee", where the rules try to kludge together everybody's pet favorite ideas.

The good thing about 4E was that it had a clear design focus: get solid math into the game to balance it across levels and between classes, embrace roles so everyone was important instead of redundant, make less work for the DM (!), make combats more tactically interesting. There is plenty to say negative about 4E, but I think it was extremely successful with these goals.

I always liked the *concept* of D&D, have owned books from just about every edition, but I never *played* consistently until 4E (now in my late 30s). This will sound cheezy, but 4E was the version of D&D I waited my life for. The DM work and, for me, rather boring combats of previous editions just didn't do it for me - something I didn't realize until 4E came out.

As a lover of 4E, I was a bit shocked and distraught when I heard about D&D "Next" (awful name by the way). This is ironic since I always thought the anti-4E people were stodgy grousers who have a hard time with change. Now I'm feeling like one of them. 4E time has been short indeed.

If they can manage to preserve the strengths of 4E going forward, I will be happy. But I also worry that there are some "irreconcialable differences" between version preferences. I'm the wrong person to speak for the 3.5 crowd, but one complaint I seem to hear is they don't like 4E magic (see Inkhorn's comments above are good examples). I think many anti-4E people like how quirky and powerful magic has been in previous editions. A 4E person would say that it's unbalanced, that it makes magic users weak at early levels and too powerful at higher levels.

I can accept that people's tastes vary: a system where magic is more wonderful always risks being more unbalanced. I have a harder time seeing how a single version can appeal to disparate tastes. Here is a bad metaphor. If some people like sweet snacks and some like salty, what is the snack that works for everyone? You can give us a chocolate covered pretzel, but I would rather have a regular pretzel than scrape off the chocolate. ;)

You have a plain pretzel with various toppings you can choose to add yourself.

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