I think it’s no surprise to anyone that WotC has burned every bit of their credibility with me over 4e. And I am a little dubious about the “multiple coexisting levels of complexity” plan they have espoused for 5e.
But so far what I’m hearing about the specific for 5e are really positive. At DDXP they had some seminars, let’s evaluate what they’re saying!
- Taking Vancian magic back to casters from everyone – in other words, removing “dailies” and crap from fighters
- Not using so much “jargon” like the power keywords in favor of natural language (thank you!!!)
- Quick chargen
- Power not escalating as quickly, for example the fighter BAB not going up so fast, instead just getting more other options, so iconic monsters like ogres are interesting longer
- No mandatory magic item economy!!! YAY!
- Including all the PHB1 classes from all editions, 1-4
- Easy 3e style multiclassing, which obviates the need for too many variant classes that should just be multiclassing (like every gish ever).
- Although they are talking about balancing classes not strictly on DPS, which is great – like if the bard does 70% of the damage of a fighter, they get charm and stuff as compensation – but those sample percentages still seem to say that everyone needs to be a combat guy. That’s not very 1e.
- Nothing? I have to admit except for me being dubious about the true effectiveness of mixing various complexity levels in one game I don’t see anything here that makes me crap myself in rage, which is more than any 2 pages of the 4e PHB can say.
- Removing rolls in favor of “yeah, your stat is high enough, you’re good”
- Use of stat checks for saves
- 4d6 drop lowest as basic stat gen method
- skills as smaller tweaks to ability scores
- interaction first, checks come second
- No set skill list, something can give you +2 to opening jars
- non-adventuring skills sound like they work kinda like 2e NWPs, which is good
- Bringing the Great Wheel cosmology back
- Maybe stat boosting magic, but with caps
- Silver standard
- Wider categories of weapon specialization (e.g. axes, not “battleaxe”)
- Less scaling while leveling
- Quick prep
- More power to the DM
- grittier low levels (not quite 1e, but not superheroes like 4e)
- skill challenges should “die in a fire” because they mess up the narrative
- grid-based combat optional in core books
- Both race and class give you a stat bump, which is fine in the abstract but I worry about it feeding the bad, below.
- Themes. They seem to be focusing a lot on these new themes, which is fine, kinda like 2e kits which I liked – but I worry they’re going to put too much power in them (some 2e kits were quite unbalanced too). But later they talk about them limiting class sprawl which is nice.
- I’m worried about the intense stat dependency. Stat min-maxing wasn’t so important in 1e but it’s all super important in 3e and that sucks. It makes people cry about rolling stats and makes them too min-maxable as they stack their race/class/point buy/etc on top to give themselves +5 to hit and 20 dps at first level.
- NPCs not being built like PCs. That’s 4e-ism and it sucks.
- Still talking about their “virtual table” and hedging about PDFs. Sigh. They’ll never write good software but they need to wake up and join the 2000’s in terms of digital content.
So… Awesome? Bringing simulation back to the game? Making sure you can do iconic 1e things? I have to admit, I am not convinced they can wean themselves off rules-heavy and take it to more of a 2e-ish approach. But I like 90% of what they’re saying! If they can restrain their impulse to write 500 pages of fucking rules, and keep the stat dependency in check so there’s not the big hassle of min-maxing and stat dumping, this has potential. Maybe even potential to be better than Pathfinder – I love Pathfinder, their flavor and art and everything is nice, but it suffers from its 3.5e legacy of being so rules heavy – people try “cap at level six” variants like E6 to try to avoid the worst of the power inflation and craziness. Will 5e be the best yet? I still am not to the point where I’d bet money on it, but it seems like WotC has learned the lesson that Microsoft learned with Windows Vista – giving people what you want them to have instead of what they want never works out well for you.