Monday, January 9, 2012

Well, well, well, let's see, what's in the news today? Nothing of importance, I'm sure.

Oh, wait.

I guess there's this: http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/01/sowhat-would-we-like-to-talk-about.html 

It's already been addressed ad infinitum all over the blogosphere: the announcement of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. Needless to say, like half the old school community, I signed up for the open playtest. I'll give it a shot. As much as I abhor 4th edition, it wasn't enough to make me swear off Wizards in disgust or anything. If anything, I've been waiting for them to decide it was time to try again.

My only concern is this: I wonder if they have any idea at all what kind of headache to which they are opening themselves? WotC has been the big dog in the pound for so long that they've been kind of locked in a bubble. Their decisions over the past decade or so have held an increasingly strong scent of "corporate," and they've been largely immune to what's going on in the industry, the trends, the thoughts and opinions of common gamers, etc.

That is, until 4th edition came out and failed.

By "failed," keep in mind, I'm talking about "by D&D standards." That Pathfinder is actually outselling D&D now speaks volumes to 4th edition's failure, and I think WotC is in their way copping to that with the announcement of what Zack over at D&D w/Porn Stars is likely going to call "Type V."

However, my point is this: the D&D community has never been as fractured, fragmented, or straight-up polarized as it is right now. This playtest is, without a doubt, going to turn into a dirty, hard-fought, all-out war between the "everything after second edition is CRAP; if they don't admit failure and just re-publish first edition, they're idiots who don't care," crowd, and the "4e is God's gift to gaming, and HOW DARE THEY change it to appease some old farts?" crowd. It's going to get bloody, mark my words.

That being said, here's my thoughts on an ideal approach.

Go back to a D&D/AD&D model.  This will take a large step towards appeasing both of your crowds.

Hear me out, now.  The way to approach this, however, is not to have two different games.  Rather, it's a basic game with advanced "add on" rules.  Thus, put out something like Troll Lord Games' Castles & Crusades as your basic game.  All the core bits are there--the system is there, but it's wildly simple and open to interpretation.  There's not a miniature or tactical movement rule to be seen. It's imaginative, pure and simple, but it's also very raw and made for house ruling.  Include static saves a la 4e or Star Wars Saga edition. There's your basic game.  Very few rules needed to play, perfect as a gateway drug for new players.  For God's sake, get rid of at will, encounter, and daily powers and bring back Vancian magic.  Also get rid of resource management requirements for non-magic-using classes.  Let me play a fighter or rogue that doesn't require me to track power usage--that's the reason I enjoy playing combat-type characters; I don't have to maintain spell lists.

D&D goes to level 10 or 12.  Think of it as B/X D&D in that sense.

Finally, keep it under 200 pages.  Short and sweet.

Then you release AD&D.  AD&D includes everything the current rules-heavy tactical crowd loves, in easy-to-digest bolt-on subsystems.  You include feats.  You include talent trees.  You include two different skill systems--the 3.5 one and the 4.0 one.  You include miniatures-based, tactical combat rules.  Pop in variable saves.  You include different magic systems--power-based, point-based, and skill-based. You include rules for taking the game beyond level 10 or 12, to level 20, 25, or even 30. You include mass combat and domain management rules. If you must, then here's where you include stuff like skill challenges, though I'd be ecstatic to never hear anything about those again. Worst. Idea. EVER.

Here's the catch, however; AD&D must remain at least 95% compatible with D&D.  This saves you from competing against yourself. It needs to be easy to go from one to the other.

Anyway, just some thoughts from your friendly neighborhood Elf.  Looking forward to seeing how this project shapes up.

3 comments:

  1. I said pretty much the same thing: the core rules should be truly core. And I found at least one other blogger saying that, too. Looks like we have the start of a whole new movement: Hard Core D&D!

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  2. I hope they follow this line of thought. It could do a lot to unify the hobby.

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  3. I am not holding my breath. But I hope you'll keep us posted on the playtesting.

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