Tobold's Blog
Friday, May 23, 2014
Does the world need another edition of D&D?

Ardwulf used to write about MMORPGs, and these days writes about pen & paper roleplaying games. Now who does that remind me of? ;) Anyway, he wrote a post on the upcoming 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Which is well worth reading, and I agree with many points of that post. What I don't agree with is this statement:
Some have questioned “whether we need a new edition of D&D.” The answer is obviously that “we” don’t. “We” are by definition the existing audience, with a plethora of different incarnations of D&D rules to choose from already. Some of us have been happily playing a favored edition for years or even decades. There’s no reason for someone in such a position to buy into a new edition. There never has been. But the world needs a new edition of D&D, and always does.
Why would the world need a new edition of D&D?

As I see it, 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons is a great game, but would ideally not have been called Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, but rather "Dungeons & Dragons Tactics" or something similar. So now WotC is releasing a 5th edition which is basically pretending that 4th edition never happened. It tries to solve some of the inherent problems of editions 1 to 3.5, but without performing the same rupture that 4th edition did. So while one could argue that the world needed "Dungeons & Dragons Tactics - mistakenly named 4E" because it is a new game, I would say that the world does not need yet another badly patched version of 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

I believe the world does need an affordable and accessible mass market pen & paper roleplaying game. Unfortunately there is just no edition of Dungeons & Dragons that was produced this century that fits that description. I don't share Ardwulf's hope that the $20 starter set of 5E will play this role, because WotC doesn't have a good track record with starter sets. They frequently end up being a hobbled version of the game, limited to low levels, and not actually very good at explaining what a pen & paper roleplaying game is. But editions 3.5 (and Pathfinder), 4, and 5, are all editions of ADVANCED Dungeons & Dragons. The BASIC editions of Dungeons & Dragons have not been produced or seen new editions since 2000. What the world needed would have been a new version of the Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game, basic D&D in a box, for the price of a board game.

4th edition is not a particular good game for total beginners, not even after they made it slightly more newbie-friendly with the Essentials edition. But neither was 3.5, and neither will be 5th edition. 5E is full of bad rules that already were bad rules in 1st edition AD&D, and that WotC doesn't dare to touch due to the protests they had to endure from hardcore fans when they released 4th edition. 5E doesn't simplify anything, it just tries to fix inherent imbalances of earlier editions by adding additional complex rules layers on top. They just announced that character creation in 5th edition was so complicated, that they wouldn't include it in the starter set, but put it online instead.

A large amount of rules is inherently hostile to creativity and roleplaying. What we need is a game with extremely simple rules which teaches people how to roleplay. We need to go back to basic D&D, where an elf was a character class, and all weapons did 1d6 of damage. Having lots of different race/class combinations and skills and backgrounds and all that to choose from is all very nice for veteran players, but it just won't do to teach new players how to play a roleplaying game. 5th edition, just like 4E and 3.5, is basically unplayable unless you have an experienced player teaching you the game. That is not how a new dawn of a next era of roleplaying looks.

The world does not need a new edition of ADVANCED Dungeons & Dragons. It needs a very different product to get young people away from their screens.

I like 95% of what 4th edition D&D did, and find it very sad that it's going off into the sunset without having produced a single proper computer game using its ruleset. Neverwinter came the closest, but that's not very close at all. Any real-time conversion isn't likely to truly represent the game. I wish somebody had been allowed/able to produce a proper turn-based combat game around the license. But I realize that in 2014, this is not something you can viably try to sell to the mass market. I just finished playing Blackguards, and it reminded me of how fun a well thought out turned-based tactical system can still be. Unfortunately, judging by the incomplete state of its Wiki and the sparseness of its forums, I don't think the game sold very well.

What's ironic about this is that when 4e launched, it was criticized for selling out some of its traditions for a more computer-friendly implementation! One might have then expected a new generation of D&D CRPGs was going to result. Yet the very opposite has happened.
As one of the old dudes still playing D&D who is not obsessed with retrogaming I definitely want a new edition of D&D, if only because I like to shake things up every few years and a new edition does exactly that.

I also agree, D&D 4E could have been called "D&D Tactics" and marketed as its own core brand RPG/tactical hybrid and it would have been excellent. I'd probably still be able to get people to play, just as long as they didn't feel like it "replaced" the "real deal" in their minds. Sigh.
Looks like you weren't too far off:
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool