Monday, January 9, 2012

Nerdpocalypse Now

Here I had planned to post some nice fluffy little thing today, but noooo! Wizards of the Coast just had to go and make "an announcement". In a single, pre-emptive strike, the company brought about the only inevitable conclusion to the edition wars that have been raging between fans of 3rd and 4th edition D&D (with the occasional "back in my day, you were lucky to see second level!" input of OD&D grognards.) Of course, that inevitable conclusion is the mutually assured destruction that is 5th EDITION!

Now, to qualify the above histrionics, I am not making a preemptive judgment on the quality of the edition to be. I am, rather, making a prediction... a prophecy even... that no matter how well thought out and put together the new game ends up being, there are going to be a lot of upset gamers on both sides of the 3e/4e conflict. For there is no font for self-righteous indignation like a gamer with access to the internet. 

Lemme elaborate. WOTC included an announcement within their announcement that is as admirable as it is futile--they are soliciting the feedback of D&D players to help ensure that their next generation game best meets their needs. They clearly view 5th edition like the 5th element. It's love! Don't you get it!? By listening to everyone, they will stop the evil asteroid ball from killing Bruce Willis! er... I mean, move beyond the edition wars. But, there's the rub... because of the diverse and sometimes contradictory preferences of tabletop RPGers, making a product that will satisfy everyone is almost certainly an impossibility.

As someone who solicits input from outside stakeholders writing for public consumption, I deal with this on a regular basis (and I'm sure the folks working on the next D&D do too.) People love it when you solicit their input in good faith. However, often that input is delivered as "you need to include x" rather than, "hey, I would love to see x in your thing." As such, after the project is completed, you wind up fielding and/or fending off accusations of deliberately neglecting or misrepresenting certain vitally important minutiae. It can be bad enough when creating a new product, but is much worse when adapting an existing product, which carries existing expectations. For evidence of that, I give you exhibit Facebook and Minecraft patch day.

Anyway, 5e was bound to show up at some point, and it sounds like the folks at Wizards are really considering the needs of their fans even if I am dubious that those fans will recognize this in the end. So, here are a couple things that I would like to see included in 5e if they fit.

  • Return to spells rather than rituals. It's semantics! Don't change the name just to avoid your Tolkienian roots.
  • Same goes for the core races. Dragonborn and Warforged are cool and all, but your not making Final Fantasy.
  • Recognize that tabletop RPGs are not videogames and do not need to have a videogame feel. 
  • Skill challenges have some merit, though they should not be structured as an excuse for not roleplaying. Otherwise, I liked them.
  • Revise the social interaction skills to nerf diplomancers. Also, skills like intimidate shouldn't be based solely on Charisma. By that metric, halflings tend to be more intimidating than orcs.
  • Keep moving towards simplified stat blocks. The 4e blocks were way easier to read than 3e
  • Differentiate between wizards and sorcerers again. The learned academic v. unpredictable wildling was a font of inspiration.


  1. I just wish they would keep printing the older versions. People still like them! There is room in the universe for multiple D&D rules systems!

    3.5 is the best though, srsly ;)

  2. I agree, in an ideal world not driven by economics, that would work. Unfortunately, if they broaden their publications, they potentially reduce the number of people buying each edition while pumping up their own production costs. Running multiple editions simultaneously would also make it much more difficult for newcomers to figure out where to start.

  3. My hopes for 5th edition:

    - Get rid of the majority of the math.
    - Get rid of the dice. Replace it with Jenga.
    - Homoginize each class into one major class.
    - Give more feats.
    - Remove character sheets.
    - Basically be Jenga.

    So basically can you guys come over and we can play some Jenga?

  4. One master class and one master race? Jenga = Nazis.


Follow by Email