Version Wars: The DNDnext generation

A few months back I blogged about the Version wars of D&D. At that time 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, 5e or DNDnext as it has become known, was merely a news item that hadn’t really reached a tipping point as it were, or reached a general audience.

Hats off to Wizards of the Coast for the publicity storm they have created since. Not long after they ran the first DNDnext test games at conventions (complete with Non-Disclosure Agreements or NDAs), the RPG forums across the internet hit a critical mass.

Given that Wizards were planning to consult the gaming community, the publicity they’ve been getting for DNDnext is something else – rumour and speculation or suggestion and confirmation, they’re certainly getting people to voice an opinion. I’ve pretty much been through the editions as a player, and a DM to a lesser extent – but I’m finding the sheer volume of material to be quite daunting: I’ve heard that there’s possibly card-based combat, that 1e randomness will make a comeback, that the game will be more flexible

I’m quite looking forward to the DNDnext playtest packs that are supposed to be coming out soon (May 24th) as a result. Here’s what I’m hoping to see.

  • The return of Hit Dice and HD-based XP for monsters. In 2e AD&D this provided a great way of making a monster individual without taxing the DM’s mental arithmetic. It also provided a decent basis for replacing CR – which is pretty pointless anyway and seems to be off-balance anyway. CR also means that some players call foul when a monster more powerful than the entire party kicks their butts. Sometimes it is wise to choose your battles 🙂
  • Less DM “advice” – a novice DM can pick up 95% of what he needs from gaming sites on the net. The 4e DM guide was little more than fluff text, and a waste of cash.
  • Reducing the Powers and Feats in DNDnext to a single element system that is not wholly combat-related  or battle-grid dependent.
  • Reduce the Skills to simple  Trained or Untrained. No ranks or bonuses, except if you are Trained.
  • The ability to play a character with weak physical stats yet have some survivability.
  • A decent piece of software like the AD&D Core Rules CDs that allows DMs and players to generate PCs, monsters, magic items, etc. as well providing a list of free digital versions of the books (both the rulebooks and PLAYERS OPTION books). You could use it offline and export specific items for others to use – and was far better than the buggy eTools or DDI.
  • Treat Pathfinder as the basis for what worked in 3.5.
  • Make the game playable without allowing certain players min/max or to work the system so that, for example, they can use a weapon and shield in the same hand.
  • Remove the point-based system and encourage the random rolling of dice and individual characters.
  1. I think they key thing is that (probably other than the Pathfinder one 😉 ), there’s no reason that all of the rules/mechanics based things here can’t be available as modules if you want to use them. I’d guess that most of them wont be the core assumptions of the game, but the whole point of the modularity they keep banging on about is that people can play what they want to.

    The struggle, of course, is how they make sure things interact smoothly when everyone starts adding different combinations of modules together. That’s why the biggest thing I’m hoping for is a solid core which scales smoothly and reacts predictably to additions and changes. I actually think 4th Ed does this really well (although WotC don’t show this off enough, since most of their published material runs pretty much the same way).

    But I’ll certainly be looking at what goes up on the 24th, and I’ll be hoping to run some stuff with it…

  2. Yeah, they definitely need a more structured approach to expanding the rules – I’ve a suspicion that they may go back to the Basic Set, Expert set, etc. style series similar to the D&D set of the 1980s.