Tuesday, January 31, 2012

DnD next

Wizards has announced that it is working on big changes to DnD.  What isn't clear to me is the nature of the new thing that will come out; clearly it is big but I don't know if they are going whole hog with a new edition or simply going for DnD 4.5.  They have noticed that the DnD world has split into two very antagonistic factions, one of which adopted 4th ed. and one which is sticking with older editions.  This is particularly problematic for them because those people who stick with the older editions are mostly buying Pathfinder instead of Wizards products.  This happened with earlier edition changes but to a much lesser extent because the game changed much less in the transition to 2nd, 3rd, 3.5, etc.  It was fairly straightforward to bring an old character into the new edition until 4th hit the ground; at that point you pretty much had to give up and start anew.

If Wizards does opt for a 4.5 sort of target where they pretty much keep going with 4th edition but try to get more of the old rules into the game I think they are on target for failure.  Those people who stuck by the old editions aren't going to be satisfied with anything that is 4th edition compatible as it is just too far from the old ways and those who bought all their 4th edition books will be ticked off that they need to buy new material.  Going all in and starting a 5th edition would be a much wiser move to my mind, if they have to pick between the two.  Everybody would still be pissed about buying new books and such all over again but at least they could start fresh and do it right.  (Ha!  In my dreams...)

I started thinking about what I would do to try to build a new edition of DnD presuming I am not allowed to innovate as much as I do with SkyRPG.  I have some real reservations about the encounter power / daily power system but if given a choice between 3rd edition (Fighter hits the monster) and 4rd edition (Everybody has interesting options) I would go with 4th every time in that regard.  One thing I think I would do differently from 4th edition though is skills.  I don't like the 4th edition skills, in particular that there is minimal customization and you pretty much never make a choice again after level 1.  Pathfinder did skills much better than DnD ever did and I would go with their system for sure.  It is much simpler than the 3rd edition and much more customizable than 4th.

I would change some other things too, like the intense reliance on magic item acquisition for scaling.  It is very difficult to make a world feel right to me when every character can expect to go through 50+ magic items in their career, often more like 100.  How are those items going to feel special or unique, particularly when everybody uses powdered magic item residue as cash?  The system in 4th is built around the core concept of magic items being ubiquitous and I don't like that.  The pluses need to be toned down so that magic items aren't as necessary for proper scaling and so that high magic and low magic campaigns can both use the same monster and encounter designs.  If magic items change your core numbers less than you can much more easily vary the magic in the world as the DM without having to rewrite the whole system to accommodate.

Generally I think you could characterize my 'ideal but realistic' DnD Next wishes as 4th edition but with different magic items and different skills.  Most of the rest works well enough that I don't see a critical need for redesign.  Obviously individual things like Expertise feats and such need to be scrapped but that is the sort of thing that is included in the package of 'new edition' and getting the math right is clearly a priority this time around.

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