Friday, January 27, 2012

Fantasy Friday: Thoughts on 5E...

Good Afternoon, All:

It's time for another installment of Fantasy Fridays, and today I'd like to talk about the new kid on the block, D&D Next aka D&D 5E. I suspect that there will be some similarities between 5E and my own creation, MyD20 Lite. Both are based on the concept of integrating elements from all editions to create a game that is considered by its designers to be the best of all worlds. While MyD20 Lite is a lot more static than the modular approach presented by 5E, it may come to pass that I can play a 5E game that is very similar to MyD20 Lite in terms of complexity and play experience, simply by choosing which modules I implement in my games. If that happens, I won't be upset by that at all. If it doesn't, I still have MyD20 Lite, so I'm not that worried about it.

When I consider the role of modularity that has been proposed for 5E, a number of things come to mind. From a game design perspective, almost all of the differences between editions in terms of characters boils down to using different names and different mechanics to represent one concept: character abilities. Whether it is the special abilities of a character class, race, kit or theme, as well as feats, powers or spells, they are all just different types of character abilities. (In MyD20 Lite, I call these talents and spells.) I can easily imagine that 5E will capture character abilities in one or two basic formats, making it easier to consistently present them to the players. I don't know what Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) will call these abilities, and they may make different subsets for different modules. I'm sure that calling them by the name associated with a specific edition will alienate those who do not like that edition while potentially gaining some traction with those who do support that edition. Thus, I wouldn't be surprised if we see class substitution levels, racial substitution levels, skills, feats, spells and powers, all listed as different modules yet operating under the same kind of underlying game mechanic. That way, no matter what we may call it to soothe its integration into the game, it is still the same game mechanic underneath.

Beyond that, I can imagine taking either the 3E or 4E engine as the basis for the core system, and streamlining it to cover the bare basics of game play: combat, task resolution, character creation, basic magic items, and the like. Really, at its core, D&D is about using a d20 with modifiers to equal or exceed some target number, and if successful, good stuff happens. The rest is simply well-structured window dressing. What we call the whole gaming experience is really the result of how good the DM is, how well the players click with one another, and how much structure the window dressing provides. The twin mechanics of Ascending AC/Descending AC found in Swords & Wizardry shows us that we can include both approaches to satisfy either desired approach. Assuredly, there are other means by which the math can be juggled to provide reasonably similar experiences for the various approaches used by different editions, although task resolution using d6s, d20s and d% make that goal a bit more complicated. That being said, I really expect the core system for 5E to be easily expressed in under 32 pages, excluding character creation, monsters and any encyclopedia-like collection of character abilities.

This weekend is DDXP 2012, which will be the first time that the common gamer will experience the current draft version of 5E. By the end of this weekend, we should have a better idea of the direction things are currently going. The gaming community will likely be abuzz with the ideas they like, the things they hate and uninformed opinions born of knee-jerk reactions. The more vocal minority, often the extremists of any group, will rattle their swords, eager to be heard over the clangor of their peers. I only hope that WOTC finds a balance between all of the disparate opinions, perhaps with a multi-modular approach, so that I can get the game I'd like to see, without a lot of extra stuff getting in my way. (There's a reason I don't play Pathfinder, although I did give it a go. Pathfinder is just a more complex version of v3.5.)

I am making every effort to remain open-minded to the concepts we've heard so far about 5E. I did the same thing for 4E; this time around, I hope that I'm not disappointed by that choice. So, what are your thoughts regarding the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons?

With Regards,

1 comment:

Broad Street Bully in Texas said...


Thanks for your two cents re: 5E, I was going to ask you what you thought. Personally, I think WOTC has realized that making a tabletop version of WoW has failed.

As for Pathfinder, being more immersed in it, it's more like 3.6 or 3.7; it can also be as complex as you want it to be so I prefer to keep it closer to the foundation of 3.5 before it drowned in too many supplements.

Keep up your work, it's nice to see you progressing.

Steve M