What do I want the new edition to look like?

What a time to start a new blog! Not that I’m really expecting anyone to read this, but I may as well use this space to think out loud now that 5th edition has been more or less confirmed. Thanks to Robert J. Schwalb for his pointer to this article in his blog.

So, what would I like to see in this edition? In essence, I’d like to see the most portable and flexible D&D edition to date. Here in New York City, I’m something of a “have dice, will travel” DM. I’ll DM anywhere, for any group. I’ve DMed for hardcore powergamers who eek out every single mechanical benefit that they can possibly justify for the sake of maximum killing power. It can be a little bit of a headache, but I’ve had a lot of fun at those tables.

I’ve also DMed for a whole range of people who have never played D&D before, from drunken and/ or stoned artists in a studio to screaming junior high school kids in an inner city school. For those groups, I found that a bunch of rules really got in the way. Once I caught myself explaining an opportunity attack to an 11 year old, I knew I had to ditch most of the rules I knew, identify the absolute basic mechanics that they had to know about their characters (which I identified to be attributes, hit points, attack bonus, damage dice and bonus, and defenses), and just build off of there. In the artist game, there was a male elf wizard who was squaring off against a female version of himself (don’t ask). He didn’t want to kill it because it would be killing a part of himself. Instead, he wanted to use fey step to teleport inside of his other half and resolve his inner ego conflict. After I figured out what that meant, I said “sure! Roll an Arcana check!” Much more memorable than just casting an at-will power against it.

I probably prefer the more open-ended game, but I love me some mechanical crunch as well. Is it possible to craft an edition of D&D that satisfies both kinds of players, and everything in between? Maybe some kind of basic rules frame with modular pieces that either add or take away layers of complexity, depending on the group? I certainly hope so.

While I’m wishing for stuff with no one to stop me, I’d also like for the new edition to hold up at high levels. I don’t know enough about Pathfinder to say whether they solved the high level problem, but 3e at high levels was kind of a nightmare. 4e is much better, but the combats famously bog down and the players are generally too powerful compared to the poor monsters. High level play is where its at. Caravan duty is cool, but I’d much rather storm the gates of Mordor or slay Tiamat. If they find a way to make running high level games a pleasure for a DM (and not just because it makes their players happy, but an actual pleasure to run), I will love Mike Mearls, Monty Cook and co. forever.

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