Friday, January 13, 2012

D&D Next/5E - some thoughts

So unless you've been locked in a dungeon all week, you've probably heard that WotC announced the next edition of D&D was coming. Borrowing a page from Paizo's playbook, they were going to go to the gaming community for feedback, an open beta if you will.

The reason for this is that WotC alienated a large portion of the D&D player base with 4E, to the point that Paizo's iteration of 3.5 began outselling 4E. That made me think, what rubbed me the wrong way about 4E and caused me to give up my habit of buying D&D products?

So that you don't think this is just some Edition Wars rant, there were things that 4E got right. The math under the engine was balanced and easy to understand, putting together encounters was a snap for GMs, and monster stat blocks became easy to use.

So what didn't I like?

One of the first things that struck me was that WotC was going to scatter the "core" classes and races across 3 PHBs to make room for their own "new" classes and races. It felt like they were sacrificing the core game on the altars of establishing their own IP and forcing us to commit to buying the PHBs to get what we had before. I looked at dragonborn and tieflings as intruders that only existed to give 4E art a distinctive appearance, the warlord and the various new classes in PHB2 as interlopers that pushed out bards, druids and monks.

I didn't like that there were no more "simple" classes, as fighters took up just as much space as wizards with all of the power entries, while casters seemed dumbed down. The whole whiz-bang videogame feel felt wrong. Casters no longer had to worry about getting interrupted, targets were knocked about like soccer balls, and it seemed like everyone ended up with fairly similar powers.

The game lost its organic feel, become a game of structured encounters instead of stories. As a GM I hated the notion of a 16th level monster with 1 hit point, I never used the concept of giving players a wish list for their magic items, and I tossed out treasure parcels.

Fights, while balanced, took way too long. Combat over-relied on powers that forced movement on the grid, a grid that I almost never used.

What am I looking for from D&D Next? Give us back our core game with an organic world. Speed up fights and remove the reliance on movement inducing powers. Fights should feel like dramatic events, not entering an instance. Put some mystery back into magic. Quit trying to prove that D&D is your IP by flooding it with new classes and races.

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