Tag Archives: D&D Next

D&D Next Early Thoughts – It Works But It’s Boring

DD-Next-Image-660x499As I’m sure you know, the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, branded as “D&D Next,”  is in open playtest. I brought you stunning coverage of the 4e debacle and resulting edition wars, so surely I need to chime in here! Here’s my take on Next.

I liked and have played Basic, 1e, 2e, 3e, 3.5e, and Pathfinder in their turn. I hate 4e and eschew it. I said earlier what I’d like to see in 5e – moving back to a really stripped down core more at 2e levels of complexity. And it sounds like they’re doing that.

The D&D Next rules seem fine to me. I welcome a more light approach and removing a lot of the minmax frenzy from 3e+.  When 3e came out I was really excited and migrated from 2e but now in retrospect the rule bloat, christmas tree syndrome, legalism, and min-maxing made me sad and I like what I see in the D&D Next rules per se. Not everything is how I’d design it, but it’s well within the scope of “rules that will work for D&D.”

However, they are committing the cardinal sin of game design – it’s boring.

I can barely make myself read through the playtest packets. I think they’ve miscalculated badly in having no art, no layout, no fluff in there. I’m sure they’d say that’s by design (ignoring how much of a positive impact that had with the Pathfinder playtest – to this day Paizo makes sure to put all playtest docs through layout). But even without that, the text just has no voice.  It could – Savage Worlds, for example, presents a ruleset about the same size with some flair and savoir faire – but reading the Next playtests is like reading a really boring car manual.

Maybe that’ll all be in there when it launches – maybe.  Maybe Aleena the cleric gets whacked by Bargle again and gives us a hate hard-on for him and pulls us into the action. Maybe the art will be inspired and not just aping Pathfinder or using the current “I airbrushed this on my van” art style they seem to like. But even just the writing style does not say “Adventure!” to me, it says “Technical manual!”

Part of a playtest should be to whip up enthusiasm, but like many of my friends, I downloaded and eagerly read packet #1, I downloaded and skimmed #2, I downloaded and didn’t bother opening #3, I didn’t bother downloading #4 at all… It’s not the rules’ fault, and I’m sure if I playtested it my group of good roleplayers would have a grand old time. We know how to add “zazz” on top of any system you put before us.  But if I gave it to some 12 year olds who haven’t played an RPG before? Are they going to bother to finish reading even the reasonable and short page count? Will their imaginations be fired up by what they read – because mine’s not being?

Guys – lean doesn’t have to mean boring.  Someone at WotC, please force the Next design team into a room at gunpoint and tell them they can’t come out until they can tell you the most badass D&D story ever, and then make them write the rules around that story.

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Monte Cook Leaves Wizards/D&D 5e Design Team

In surprising news on his Livejournal, Monte Cook has announced he’s leaving the D&D Next design team. He says it’s not a disagreement with his fellow designers, but with the company.

This is bad news, very bad news, for D&D Next.  Monte was providing external credibility, as someone who had worked on Pathfinder and has been outside the WotC/Hasbro echo chamber, to the process. Mike Mearls has been talking all old school but he’s been in charge of 4e for a long time and many of its missteps belong directly at his feet. I was willing to believe the combined team, I’m not so sure I’m willing to believe “Now it’ll be even better!’ backpedaling/spin from the same old characters.

I wonder what ‘corporate disagreement’ is in this case. Did they not want to pay him enough?  Or did he see the business plan and think “this is crap on toast?” The Examiner has some speculation. Mearls’ post does have a little bit of a lightly disguised slap-back in it so I’m not sure the “company not the designers” thing is entirely forthcoming.

I guess we’ll see; Wizards took the opportunity to announce that the 5e playtest will start on May 24. Maybe we’ll see something good… But the person with the most experience working with actual players and getting playtest information on products just left. And I’m worried that they’ll just show off some core mechanic that will seem fine…  When I did my initial 4e PHB readthrough, the core mechanic itself seemed fine, it was what they did on top of it that (IMNSHO) ruined the game.

Well, good luck to Monte, and good luck to the 5e team.  (The latter needs it!)

More Kids in Gaming Thoughts, The Future, and 5e

I ranted a bit about the myopic approach of WotC and the rest of the gaming industry to RPGs in My Little Pony: The RPG. Well, I am part of the large peer group of gamers with ~10 year old kids now (a 9 year old girl in my case).  I was out at the Broken Spoke last night with my friend Kevin, who has been getting his 11 year old boy into gaming, and as we talked I had some realizations that 5e needs some major direction change to not just be for the 40 year old grognards.

Simplicity

His observation is that both 4e and Pathfinder are too damn complicated.  It turns the kids off. Even with their basic boxes, the problem is that you run out of adventures and content very quickly. They are seen as very limited time intros whose goal is to convince you that you certainly want to read a 575 page rulebook now. Not! Basic D&D (BECMI) had loads of support but was 600% simpler than any of these current versions.

Weren’t around then or your fond memories clouding facts? Here’s a basic D&D stat block.

Giant Centipedes (8): AC 9; HD 1/2; hp 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1; MV 60′ (20′); #AT 1; D poison; Save NM; ML 7; AL N. (Courtesy B5, The Horror On The Hill)

Here’s an AD&D stat block.

Four normal crocodiles: AC 5; MV 6″//12″; HD 3; hp 13 each; #AT 2; D2-8/1-12 (Courtesy U3, The Final Enemy)

Here’s a Pathfinder stat block. After I remove many of the extraneous parts.

CENTIPEDE, GIANT    CR 1
Male Centipede, Giant
NN Medium Vermin
Init +2; Senses Darkvision (60 feet); Perception +4
DEFENSE
AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12   (+2 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 5 (1d8+1)
Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +0
Immune mind-affecting
OFFENSE
Spd 40 ft., Climbing (40 feet)
Melee Bite (Centipede, Giant) +2 (1d6-1/20/x2) and
Unarmed Strike +2 (1d3-1/20/x2)
Special Attacks Poison: Bite – injury (DC 13)
STATISTICS
Str 9,  Dex 15,  Con 12,  Int -,  Wis 10,  Cha 2
Base Atk +0; CMB -1; CMD 11 (can’t be Tripped)
Feats Weapon Finesse
Skills Climb +10, Perception +4, Stealth +10, Swim +2
(Courtesy Hero Lab, because who has the patience for modern stat blocks?)

I like Pathfinder; I play Pathfinder.  How much *more* fun is Pathfinder than Basic and AD&D were?  0%.  How much more complex is it? Uh, about 600%, roughly.

The line they’re laying down for 5e is that it’ll be simple and there can be “rules modules” on top to make it more complex.  Which will be fine, as long as they start at REAL SIMPLE.  As in Mentzer Basic simple. You can always layer stuff on to make it more complicated, but making something simpler is very hard. Many relevant lessons from the software industry come to mind here. Everyone says they want something with every feature – but then when they see something that achieves the core feature that is easy to use, they forget about all that.  It’s why e.g. Dropbox is kicking the ass of all the other more complex file sharing methods out there. Microsoft Office is collapsing under its weight as people realize “I don’t use 99% of the crap in here, but I’m paying for it and having to load it on my hard drive and making my simple doc editing a lot slower because of it…” Take a hint.

Support

So that naturally segues into the next topic, game support. Basic D&D was a whole game line unto itself, not necessarily a limited time “intro”.  Kev’s busily trying to hunt down all the adventures (which lucky for me I still have) – for Basic, the B and X series (and the less well conceived CM and M series), and for Advanced the many wonderful series (A, T, GDQ, I, etc…).  Because really all you need is the basic set and then a bunch of stuff to do.

Paizo has made their millions tuning in to the simple truth of what it is that made 1e and Basic the high point of D&D play.  It’s the adventures, stupid! 2e and 3e and 4e kept doing “Silver anniversary of the return to the return to the Keep on the Borderlands” because all the good adventure content was from the 1e and Basic versions.  That’s what catapulted third party companies like Green Ronin to real companyhood with the OGL in 3e – for them it was their Death in Freeport modules. At Gen Con 2000 I bought the 3e PHB and then every single module (we called them modules back in the day) I could get my hands on.

People like to say “Oh, but that’s why D&D failed; I heard it’s that adventures aren’t lucrative…”  No it’s not.  D&D in the 1980s was bigger than 4e + Pathfinder added together and multiplied by 10. And it’s hard to disprove when you look at Paizo and Green Ronin and all those other 3pps – they all bootstrapped themselves as startups on adventures, to where they can now put out multiple game lines and whatnot as proper companies.

My content observation is that kids love manga nowadays.  My daughter and all her friends are all into Full Metal Alchemist, D.Grey Man, and a bunch of stuff like that. Guardians of Order kinda tried to do this back in the day, but a RPG with the same light mechanics coming out for each one of those would be a big seller (and potentially internationally!).  Japan loved D&D too.

IMO this approach could scale down to even very young kids.  I conceived of a Dora the Explorer game when my daughter was much younger, where you adopt their simple quest structure and your “explorers” have to surmount 3 obstacles, which are minigames or arts and crafts assignments or whatever, to proceed. Probably dice aren’t even required.

Here’s where, though, I’m w0rried about the 5e “ultimate toolkit” approach.  How do you make adventures for that? It was easy enough to juggle Basic and Advanced back in the ’80’s, that was a simple strata that made sense.  Now, you’re writing something for a group that may or may not be using big hunks of the rules?  It worries me that the adventures will be a big ol’ mess of “if/then” wasted page count.

Anyway, in my opinion simplicity and support are the keys to making a good base game that will be adopted by a new generation. And if the game’s adopted by a new generation, then money will be thrown into it and I can feel safe knowing there will also be fringe products catering to an old guy like me – just 10% of a large healthy market instead of 90% of an old dying one.

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.

All Inclusive D&D 5e?

Well, as you heard recently, D&D 5e (or “D&D Next,” as they are styling it) has been announced. There were hints about how it would be some kind of “includes every version everywhere RPG toolkit!” and Monte Cook confirms both that he’s been working on 5e and that that’s their intent.

The thing is, there’s ways in which I think that’s possible and ways in which I think it’s not. On the one hand, if they return to publishing real content in setting books and adventures, that is somewhat “cross editions” – one of the main weaknesses of the 4e products was that they were useless for anyone not playing 4e, whereas editions 1-3 tend to freely exchange adventures, setting info books, etc.

It is also possible to have different levels of complexity of the same rules.  I actually played around with a game system with three levels of granularity called “The Third Degree” a while back, it was inspired actually by the action movie RPG Feng Shui.  There you had cascaded stats – like you might have Body 5, but below that Str, Con, Mov, and Tgh of varying amounts. For mooks their stat blocks would just say “Bod 5,” and you would use 5 for any sub-stats that came up.  I realized you could maybe please everyone if you had three degrees of complexity of each mechanic. Where it fell down is that you essentially needed technology to be able to print a custom RPG book for each player in the game so that they’d know what level of everything a given campaign was using!

I mean, earlier D&Ds had all kinds of optional rules and also rules not marked as optional but that were so fiddly everyone ignored them (weapon speeds, weapon types vs. armor, declaring actions, and other such lameness). So that sounds difficult but not impossible.

What is impossible is actually unifying 1e, 2e, 3e, PF, and 4e as they stand into a single rules framework.  It just won’t work. There’s too much crufty little crap that is not just “levels of complexity” but “different.” And I think they know this; in Monte’s article he uses circumlocutions like “your 3E-style game”. In fact, he says a 1e-loving player can play in your 3e-style game and ignore the options they don’t like – I think that’s probably overreaching; just having the level of granularity be the campaign is probably about as much that’s achievable. And the GM is going to have to have control.  “You are all starving!” “I ignore the starvation rules, they don’t come in till 3e!” But the real question is, will this really bring the players back in?  “Here, you can play at this level that’s 1e…ish?”

I also worry that their attempt to pander to all versions will make them not really innovate with this game. If all they do is try to glue all the old versions together in some demented Multiverser kind of way, in the end is that compelling? Shouldn’t such a game include a new “5e” as well which is an actual improvement on the game?

Here’s a secret.  We grognards don’t love Pathfinder, and 2e, and 1e (in my preferred order) because they are perfect. There’s a lot of BS and cruft in them. Except for the total nostalgia whores who demand everything be as Gygax originally spit it out because they are into that, the reason we like those old games is the level of hassle they give or don’t give us and the mode of gameplay they promote.

Here’s what I like and dislike about all the editions, let’s see if they can include all the good and remove all the bad.

  • Basic D&D – low hassle, low rules, low character customization (side note – comparing this new toolkit plan to BECMI is largely incorrect;  in BECMI you got newer higher levels added on and a couple rules, but the ruleset didn’t transform or anything.) Lightly handled all styles of play really. I just lump 0e into here because I can’t understand how anyone actually does still like 0e. Very rules light and dungeon/exploration focused.
    I love this edition because it gives you the basics and then gets out of your way and lets you go adventuring.
    I hate this edition because once you’ve played it a while you tend to “want more” though.
  • 1e AD&D – somewhat crufty and arcane, but usually not during combat itself. Low powered, you had to fight hard to stay alive, no level appropriate kid gloves. Exploration focus still. Not much character customization supported by the rules, mainly by personality plus whatever mutation White Plume Mountain inflicted on you. The golden age of the adventure module.
    I love this edition because it is very easy to write a diverse set of adventures for and to house rule.
    I hate this edition because there’s a charming level of wonkiness to the rules, but it’s underlaid by a not charming at all level of cruftiness you need to house rule away.
  • 2e AD&D – not all that different, more of a streamlined 1e (I like it better than 1e), but the supplements and adventures that came out for it promoted more of a storytelling and roleplaying experience. Not as much focus on the dungeon, but kinda like Basic had nods to wilderness, dungeon, city, planar, etc. You were a fraction tougher than in 1e but still weren’t a superhero. Lots more character customization via kits etc. (Those who say kits were unbalanced haven’t played subsequent games – “Oh lordy he gets a +1 to something!” was a big deal back then, but nowadays they all seem like short bus prestige classes.) NWPs provide a very, very loose skill system. (I actually added Perception and Luck stats to my 2e games.) The golden age of the boxed set. TSR adventures were not that good and were often retreads.
    I love this edition because it hits a great midpoint of rules complexity – it has the more rules content of 1e but via THAC0 and other streamlining, makes it less work than 1e to play, but more satisfying over a long time than Basic.
    I hate this edition – well, mainly for historical reasons.  Death of TSR, Lorraine Williams, giant space hamsters, Castle Greyhawk, bad adventures.
  • 3e AD&D – you start off a Billy Badass. 3.5e and Pathfinder cranked that up even more. Lots of character customization, arguably too much. Lots of helpful slash painful rules for everything.  3.0 core I actually really love, but am more ambivalent when you say 3.5 or PF with all the splatbooks. You stopped being able to house rule as much in this version because of how many rules they were and how much they interacted – you kinda had to just allow/disallow things and maybe if you spent a lot of time balancing it, introduce a new prestige class or whatever. Balance became a lot more of a concern in this edition, mainly because with the customization you could have wildly varying power levels at the same character level. More of a combat focus than 2e, especially with all the minis-requiring flanking/AoO/etc rules. The golden age of the adventure module come again, but from all those third party OGL folks. WotC adventures were not that good and often retreads.
    I love this edition because it lets you craft much more detailed and realistic characters, with the multiclassing and feats and all.
    I hate this edition because there are all these damn rules, and your players think it’s their place to grouse when you don’t use them or change them.
  • 4e AD&D – purely tactical combat. Less character customization choice but highly balanced. “I just like moving minis around and playing a board game.” There are actual good changes to the core ruleset in there, but then they layer goofy stuff all over it so that combats are a four hour long exercise in marking tokens with other tokens.
    I hate this edition because it removes nearly everything I enjoy in roleplaying.
    I love this edition because its flat reception has caused Wizards to pull their heads out of their asses and reassess what it is people liked out of D&D in the first place.

D&D 5e is Coming!

It’s official! It was obvious from all the Mearls/Cook noise from over there in WotC land, but now the New York Times is reporting that Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is planned to be announced by WotC today! They cite the MMO pressure and the split to Pathfinder and muse – as do we all – about whether WotC can bring D&D back together again.

If nothing else, despite its “dwindling market” it’s good news that the NYT considers this part of all the news that’s fit to print!

For those who consider this to be dubious news and part of the Great Media Conspiracy, Mike Mearls has responded on wizards.com to say it’s true and that they’re going to take a big hint from Paizo and do an open playtest of the new rules! You can sign up at that link.

This isn’t really surprising for those who have been watching. The Escapist recently published three articles on D&D’s past, present, & future that inform the landscape behind it very well.

Well, this is good news I think.  I’m one of the many who told WotC from the first steps of 4e that they were about to really mess up and fragment the hobby, and look, that’s exactly what happened. This is a big chance, and Mike Mearls and Monte Cook might be the right people, to un-screw up Wizards and D&D.  This is a hard task  given their corporate setup; here’s an interesting article on ENWorld from insider Ryan Dancey about how the Hasbro financial reporting structure and internal politics has really smacked D&D down hard and basically drove them to their ill-considered “let’s make it all depend on DDI and then not deliver” strategy.

Also, I like the open playtest idea.  Now, there are problems with open playtests – with Pathfinder, they got a lot of flack from some folks from not being willing to change too much despite fan feedback. D&D could fall into this trap too, and consider 4e (or 3e, depending how much they’re willing to admit their mistakes) too much of a must-have baseline. But if they take too much “fan input,” you get something designed by committee, which always sucks more than something designed by a small set of skilled artists. But the open playtest is no longer a rarity – Paizo has made sure of that; Goodman Games is using it for their Dungeon Crawl Classics, 6d6 does it routinely, and even those not doing truly open playtests seem to be doing more closed playtests (if the number of invites I get for such things is any guide).

ENWorld has three articles on the new edition: WotC Seeks Unity With a New Edition, The Day Wizards Showed Me 5th Edition, and Bet You Wish Your Workplace Looked Like Wizards of the Coast (this last is the most unlikely, unless you love being laid off). They are also keeping up a 5e Info Page with all reveals to date. Best quote so far is from former D&D Brand Manager Scott Rouse – “4e is broken as a game and business and it needs to go away.” The weirdest thing is all the news coverage it’s getting- from the Huffington Post to PerezHilton.com to HispanicBusiness.com.

Also, there’s an article on Forbes from a playtester – he got to play in an early draft of 5e and liked it.

The blogosphere results are in and there’s a lot of dubiousness.  GeekDad from Wired’s article on the new edition is probably a good representative response. I have to admit I’m dubious but hopeful.  If they could carry off Pathfinder compatibility, that would be a coup. WotC needs to realize they’re not the 900 lb gorilla any more, Paizo’s been eating their lunch in sales for a year now and is expanding into novels, comics, minis, MMOs… If they could come up with some plan to merge the two instead of leaving them divided, then BOOM goes the dynamite! If they don’t… 5e would have to be super amazingly good to sway me from Pathfinder, and I don’t just mean the rules – all the good content people have (usually after being laid off my Wizards) gone to Paizo, which is why the 4e adventures have reportedly been largely tripe. We’ll see if they can really swallow their pride and unify…

Many people are chiming in with what they want 5e to be like but frankly most strike me as confused and sucky. I really like Zak’s (before the announcement!) ideas on what 5e should be like though…

Minimalist D&D 5e?

Mike Mearls makes another good Legends & Lore post, in which he discusses a stripped-down D&D that just uses the ability scores and doesn’t fret with as many other mechanics. It’s interesting reading especially given the obvious lead-up to a D&D 5e in the offing.

I laud thinking about stripping down D&D more.  3.5e/Pathfinder is too complex IMO. The more books they put out for it the more disgruntled I get, especially as a DM. And 4e sucks; they tried to fix the problems in the exact wrong way. I keep going back to 2e as the happy medium between the more rules light like Basic and the later stuff.  Even 3e with just the PHB/DMG was OK, but it went crazy fast. And yeah, a lot of it was going to the open ended “infinite plusses vs a DC” model rather than the closed “stat rolls against itself” model.

The only problem with his pure-stats approach, though, is that ability scores are one of the most min-maxable attributes out there.  In early D&D, ability scores didn’t mean much, so everyone just rolled them.  As they got more and more of a part of the action – that high STR doubles your damage now instead of just adding 10% – we went to point buy and stat fiddling became de rigeur.  Going to “all stat,” unless it’s joined to “pure rolling” (which I wouldn’t mind, it’s retro) or “standard array” (which is unacceptable, but I fear would be the 4e+ way) will result in more of the colossal min-maxing we see today.

Maybe.  I mean, it does work for GURPS and such, but they have more careful stat balancing in general and tend to not promote “all combat monsters” as characters.  With D&D, now that everyone has to be a damage dealer (so the game theory goes) it becomes an exercise in high STR, except for the one guy with the abusively high CHA who automatically gets 40+ Bluff checks…

I’m not against the concept of getting rid of a lot of the rules cruft and just using stats as the base – but I have trouble believing they’d implement that right.  The temptation to layer yet more cruft on top in the new computer-gamer-uber-power world is too much.  Oh sure, I just roll DEX for archery or to avoid a fireball… But I add my level and half my buddy’s aura and feat bonuses and synergy and +2 for my class and +1 from magic and and…  Even if you managed to go back and limit stats to 3-18 instead of to 362 or whatever they go to nowadays (and then how do you reflect giants etc…?), then a simple +2 in cheese bonuses makes you auto succeed right? You would have to be very, very disciplined about removing nearly all bonuses and not letting things stack.  GURPS has this discipline – see my high level duelist character, he is very very experienced and very focused on fencing but a 16 is the very best he can do on an attack roll ever. Can D&D have this discipline, when everyone’s used to the “+3 sword?” Unlikely.

I would like to see a simple, OPEN, stripped down D&D core that removes a lot of the pain that 3e/4e have given us. Rules Cyclopedia/2e level of complexity max. That’d get me into a 5e…