So the cat is out of the bag… Not that I was hiding the cat in the bag, because I didn’t know anything, but the cat’s out of the bag. There’s a new D&D in the works, and an open playtest will help chart its course.
So what do we know about this new D&D? Well, since it is still early, there’s not much to tell. I’ll share this with you though: Last month I was invited to Seattle by Wizards of the Coast to participate in what was billed as an “organized play conference”, but I had to turn it down due to a scheduling conflict. [EDIT: I'm told that there indeed was an OP conference on that date, along with the new edition stuff.]
That’s where certain bloggers and members of the press were invited to participate in a playtest/demo of the new D&D. From all accounts, everybody seems to think that the rules they have so far are fun. Combat was described by the Forbes reporter as quick. I am excited, and a little upset that I couldn’t make it. Such is life. :)
So as a guy that built a website devoted to 4e, how do I feel about this announcement just 4 years after the launch of the edition of the game that brought me back to D&D? I’m optimistic and excited. It’s no news to regular readers of my blog that 4e ran its course for my home players some time ago. While I still run an online 4e game, my home group lost faith in 4e and never looked back, and we moved on to Dragon Age. But you know what? They miss D&D, they just won’t play 4e. Perhaps this next version of D&D will do the trick and bring them back, lets see what it looks like and what it brings to the table. I have my wish list of what I’d like to see, and I also wrote a post last year predicting what a new D&D may look like.
My wishes for what a new D&D would include are relatively simple. For one, I’d like to keep the ease of DM prep that 4e brought to the game, along with the advancements in design it introduced (I mean things like monster stat blocks for example). I’d also like combat to move fast. Really, really fast. I’d enjoy a grid less experience if I wanted to resolve a fast enough combat. For players, I’d want a real multiclass system, and a move away from powers. Also, bring Vancian spell casting back, as that’s a big part of D&D for me. Give me the flavor that D&D has in some of the old 2nd Ed. books for example, not just pages and pages of mechanics. Give me a sense of exploration, not just set pieces showcasing shiny rules. 4e has moved in a great direction in this respect so far, so I’d love for the trend to continue from the launch of the new edition.
What am I expecting? Well, like I said I wrote an article not too long ago predicting what I expected the new game to be. I’m going to cherry pick quotes from various news sources from today’s coordinated media release and compare to my prediction post.
Combat was quick and satisfying; we got through most of an adventure in just a few hours.
And I get the sense that fifth edition will bring back some of the good complexity of previous versions, allowing players to create unique characters and new worlds.
Most of all, it feels like D&D, not a console video game, or an MMO, or a card game. That’s the first step towards bringing old players home.
Mike quickly got the party investigating a lost relic, and after three hours of adventuring we quickly discussed what we liked and didn’t like about what we played. It’s a compliment to the new rules that I was rarely aware of them. It might have been Mike’s expertise as a DM, but the new D&D does feel like a pleasant amalgam of every edition and the elegance of the rules allowed us to concentrate on the adventure’s plot.
“We hope to create a system that allows players to use much of their existing content, regardless of the edition. Our goal is to make sure we are on course for a game that hits the broad spectrum of D&D,” Mearls said.
I did get an opportunity to playtest some of the materials… it felt, in many ways, very retro. The new edition will be designed as a basic rules set which can be expanded upon with stack on rules to suit the tastes of mechanics complexity to suite the players and DMs.
…since the designers are trying to bring forward the best parts of every edition of D&D, expect this edition to be very DM-friendly.
So those are a few of the early reports, and I’m pretty excited by what they’ve had to say. Here’s what I predicted in my post:
So what do I expect this “Ultimate 40th Anniversary D&D” to look like? I’m seeing a game that combines both old school mechanics, with newer game design theories. I’m seeing a game that can be both grid based, or gridless, depending on your style. I’m seeing less focus on encounters, and more focus on roleplaying and story, while still easily enabling a heavy tactical nature to it for those players that enjoy it. I’m seeing conversion documents for easily translating older AD&D adventures to the “Ultimate” format. Adventures that, of course, will be available for purchase on their site as pdf’s….
…. So to close this out, I’ll restate my prediction: Dungeons & Dragons Ultimate Edition, released in 2014. It will incorporate rules for both abstract, and tactical combat, it will be heavily influenced by early D&D, and it will be made to hopefully appeal to old school players, as well as current players of the game. It will be announced in 2013, and is currently in development. It will bring back the sale of older pdf’s to the market, as it will be made to easily use that material with some easy conversion work by the players.
Only time will tell what this game will look like, but I can tell you that I am excited as hell. I’ve been very close at times to walking away from D&D, but I have to admit that the allure of beholders, illithids and displacer beasts is too strong.
I have confidence in Mike Mearls, he’s a guy that knows what makes D&D what it is, and with him at the helm, at the very least I know he’d at least give an honest effort in bridging the gap and bringing D&D back to what it can be, and should be, as a cultural icon. Of this I have no doubt.
So a new D&D? I’m on board for the ride. Roll for initiative.