D&D 5e Coming Along… Nicely?

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!

Class Design

The Good

  • 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).

The Questionable

  • 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.

The Bad

  • 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.

Skills & Ability Scores

The Good

  • 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

The Questionable

  • 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.

The Bad

  • 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.

Summary

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.

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23 responses to “D&D 5e Coming Along… Nicely?

  1. “NPCs not being built like PCs. That’s 4e-ism and it sucks.” Of course, this was common in in 0E, AD&D 1e and 2e, B/X, BECMI, etc. — pretty much every edition but 3.x.

    • Hm? Monsters weren’t built like PCs, but NPCs were… I mean, some were zero level, but then again we had zero level PC rules (ah, my favorite…).

      • The flaw with NPCs built like PCs that I’ve always found is that unless they totally outclass (i.e. outlevel) your party, they go down much too quickly when the party focuses fire on them in combat. And if we’re talking about expert NPCs, I don’t see why you need any system for them since you can just say that the NPC knows something/can do something or they can’t. NPC enemies that participate in combat need a little buffing to not deal with party focus fire. It’s why bosses exist in videogames and I don’t have an issue with it as long as the total HPs drop in 5E.

  2. Could you expand more on the “silver standard”? Do you mean that most things will cost silver instead of gold and gold will be like platinum is now? Also interaction first and skill check second? I guess I just don’t understand what that point means.

    • Feel free and follow the provided links for more info on what they were saying. To answer your two questions, the silver standard means things costing silver primarily and gold being rarer. Interaction first and skill check second means that the preferred method of interaction is to really do it/roleplay it, and skill checks are there as a backup for the more incapable players. Viz:

      Monte: Player/DM interactions is the most important thing. Interact first, go to making checks second. Yeah, the DM rules would focus on a few things. First you would look at the character and the situation and if it all fits, you don’t have to look at the ability score or the dice. If it’s not clear at that point though, then the next step would be looking at the appropriate stat and comparing it to the DC.

  3. “Geek’s Dream Girl” has a play report from DDXP. Among other things, she says: “There was a LOT of talk at the table. In character at times!”

    That makes me happy, I guess, but it makes me so sad that it’s apparently a novel sensation for many D&D players.

  4. The Bad: Vancian magic. Kill it. Kill it with fire.

    Hopefully they’ll provide an alternative casting type among the base classes if they’re set on returning the Wizard to a Vancian system. They don’t have to get rid of Vancian magic completely, but I spent two decades hating it before they finally got rid of it in 4E.

    • I’m fine with Vancian Magic as long as they still have the equivalent of at-wills that AREN’T Vancian. Giving the wizard to always throw magic missle or always throw a mini-fireball (Scorching Burst) is cool, but mages miss the kablooie-effect of a memorized spell that goes away when it’s used, even considering daily spells in 4E. 4E spells were too balanced and that often takes the shine off wizards.

  5. Sounds promising! I was having trouble imagining how they could improve on Pathfinder, but a leaner system could be the ticket. The only criticism my players have had of Pathfinder yet is just being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content–huge lists of spells and feats and classes et al.

    Of course, there’s sort of an inevitable paradox there… Designers like creating content, because they get paid, and players like getting content, because it gives them more to play with. Add a few years into any game system, and I don’t see how to avoid bloat.

  6. Afternoon. I found your blog today while surfing for more current Alternity stuff (most of it is of 2005 vintage or older). You have an awesome blog here, and a new follower. This is a great breakdown of 5e. I’ve been in this hobby since Ford was president and I’ve become a little jaded with new editions. Your breakdown gives me a glimmer of hope, though. I loved LOVED your comment:
    “skill challenges should “die in a fire” . . .”
    Keep up the good work!

    • Hey so important point – “Skill challenges should die in a fire” isn’t my editorializing, it is an exact quote from Robert Schwalb in the seminar!

      But otherwise, thanks man, and welcome to the blog.

  7. Also on the WotC forums, they have implemented specific guidelines and have threatened the ban-hammer on non-constructive criticism. They’ve been very specific that they’re trying to purge themselves of the “edition wars” and don’t want people to just crap on each other. Saying that they don’t like X, Y or Z about whatever edition is fine, but saying “4E is the worst and people who like it are idiots who should die in a fire” is crossing a line :)

  8. Pingback: My D&D Next — The Seven-Sided Die

  9. Reblogged this on Role-Playing Theory and commented:
    Some interesting information about the next edition of D&D, which appears to be a major backpedal from 4e (yay!)

  10. Sounds like there are elements from all editions of D&D in “Next”. I’m glad that they’re keeping the split between “heroic”, “paragon” and “epic”, since there should be some division between low-level, mid-level and high-level. I hope they keep simple monster manual entries but I want more fluff behind the monsters (more like previously published editions). My suggestion is to pay attention to the “Legends & Lore” column on the WotC website on Mondays. They’re doing surveys about what things you like about previous editions and may influence future decisions.

    I know, I know, as a 4E DM I should just tell all of you Pathfinder/3.5 people to die in a fire… but I’m not like that and the more people who contribute to this edition and possibly enjoy it, the easier it will be for many people to find a group to game with.

  11. When 3E came out I knew virtually no one who was truly up-in-arms about it. Pretty much all the old-school players I knew were actually excited about it (myself included, and I started with AD&D). Why? Because conceptually it looked enough like the previous edition that people still recognized it easily as D&D. Our classes were there, our races were there, our spells were there, etc. Sure, there were mechanical issues that eventually got under some people’s skin, but the game was still D&D.

    4E is when things really changed, and why Pathfinder was able to become so successful (using 3.5 as their model). 4E gutted the classes, introduced new nonsensical ones, changed the races for no good reason, completely homogenized the power acquisition/spell system (the most boring power system I have ever played). In short, 4E crapped on literally everybody who liked the concepts from earlier editions, and the reaction from the players I knew was extremely negative across the board. It was a disaster of epic proportions, which is why it collapsed so quickly.

    The irony is that WotC already had a great formula in-house for making a modern version of D&D that a lot of people could get behind: Star Wars Saga Edition. Instead of homogenizing the classes and powers, Saga provided the MARVELOUS talent tree system, allowing people to make exactly the flavor of characters that they wanted. It provided a great deal of choice and diversity (more so than 3E, and very much more so than 4E), and yet at the same time it was MUCH more balanced mechanically than 3E. It was quite literally the best of both worlds… and as close as WotC would ever get to achieving smart, modern game design. Why they didn’t use that same model for 4E is utterly baffling.

    And so now, just a few years later, they are trying again with 5E (D&D “Next”), and they are making some of the same glaring mistakes that they made before. They are introducing awkward new mechanics that only divide the fan base further, like the EXTREMELY controversial “bounded accuracy” system, whereby to-hit bonuses don’t ever significantly improve, and instead damage is supposed to somehow make up for it. The problem is that these idiotic mechanics don’t work well at all, and we have already found about 10 different problems with them that are so bad they are laughable. Furthermore, WotC still refuses to adopt a modern talent tree system, and instead are making power/feat acquisition as clumsy and ineffective as it was before. The only thing that D&D Next seems to accomplish is that it angers everyone, even the 4E people. If this is WotC’s attempt to get the pre-4E fans back, then they really need to go back to the drawing board and start over.

    For all intents and purposes, D&D is done.

    • Agreed that no one was up in arms about 3e, that’s a dodge 4e’ers use to try to claim “people just fear change!”. I was at the 3e launch, had a galley proof sent to me early so we could run Living Greyhawk adventures at Gen Con the day it dropped, general tenor was really positive.
      On 5e, I have gotten “playtest fatigue,” It’s clear that the shape of the game is thrashing due to the “a billion people all want their favorite thing” syndrome and given their latest declarations I wouldn’t be surprised if what they release has little to do with the playtest anyway (not all that bad an idea), so I’ve been ignoring the latest packets. (I’d prefer “bounded damage” to “bounded accuracy” myself to avoid high level rocket tag syndrome, but auto-hit from high level monsters is a thing as well.)

  12. Pingback: D&D Next Early Thoughts – It Works But It’s Boring | Geek Related

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