Yesterday I wrote about what The Future of Dungeons & Dragons might look like by considering what the present edition of Dungeons & Dragons offers us as players in order to get a sense of what might lie ahead for the game. The ongoing Legends & Lore series by Mike Mearls provides some insight into what the designers are thinking about and they are clearly looking to the player base for feedback. Why else would Mike be writing his column? In short, the fine folks at Wizards of the Coast want to create a gaming experience that we, the players, want to play. Pretty simple really.
But in fact it’s not going to be simple at all. The reality is that everyone wants something slightly different from the game. We all play it a little differently. Go from one group to the next and you’ll encounter a new house rule or certain source books that are off limits. So designing a game we will all enjoy is a tougher prospect than it might originally seem.
With all of this being said I have decided to offer my considerable wisdom and experience on the subject matter. Yes, I have decided to enter the debate on what would make D&D great. The things I would love to see in the edition of the game.
A Return To 20 Levels
The three tiers of play that we have in 4e are great. They are clearly defined and each adds a level of complexity to the game and assists in telling the story. However, as we all know combat can slow down in 4e. Epic level combat can really slow down even with experienced players. Simply look at the level of material and support that there is for epic level play and you realize there is a clear argument for scaling the game back to 20 levels. WotC knows what level our characters are through Character Builder, they know how few of us have attained epic level.
In the next edition of D&D I wouldn’t be surprised to see a return to 20 levels of play. Within two or three years of the games release an Epic Level Sourcebook would be provided to support play beyond level 20. Just like they did with 3.5e D&D. I think this just make sense. It allows the developers to devot more space in any book with lighter elements that flesh out the gaming experience. It also allows them to publish a book down the line that will generate further revenue.
A Modular Game Experience
This is a subject that Mike Mearls has recently discussed in the Legends & Lore column (The Rules). The basic premise is that the complexity of the game could be scaled. As character complexity and therefore power level increases the DM would have certain tools available to increase the challenge that monsters and traps would present. I’m a fan of this idea as it allows players to customize their gaming experience.
New players to the game won’t be overwhelmed by options, they can start slow and add layers to their characters as they grow in knowledge about the game. Once again this also allows WotC to release different source material to support these ideas. All that is required is to create a system that will allow new elements to be added to it with subsequent releases. We have already seen something akin to this with the release of the PHB3 and the psionic power point system. You could argue that the release of Essentials also builds on this idea. Expect 5e D&D to build on this idea further, in fact expect it to be a central feature of the game.
A Multi-Gaming Experience
What exactly do I mean by this? With the release of 4e WotC really dropped the ball on the D&D Insider. Items were released buggy, late or not at all. In short they lost out on an awesome opportunity. Expect them to get it right, out of the gate, with 5e.
One thing that I would like WotC to embrace is the digital age. There is only so much of a market for physical books. Now, guys like Ameron are still going to buy every release, but people like me aren’t. Not when I’m paying for the content monthly through a subscription. Fewer people are unfortunately in local gaming shops, and while programs like D&D Encounters help offset this, purchasing digitally just makes sense. Put your hand up if you order your books through Amazon and take advantage of some significant discounts. It’s a fact of life.
What I would like to see with 5e at release is a fully functional DDI. Equipped with Character Builder, Dungeon & Dragon magazines, the Compendium, a Dungeon tool, and monster creator. Really the things we have now and that are in beta. But I’m not done there. I’d like to see a video game release to support 5e at release. WotC is owned by Hasboro, which owns Atari so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Perhaps even a simple flash based games, which can be incredibly complex. In short anything that can drive more people to play a great game. I guess I want them to release any new edition with all cylinders firing.
The finaly element of any new edition of the game that I would like to see is a smaller amount of character classes. I normally play once a week, it is a sheer impossibility for me to even dream of playing a dozen of the 45 classes available to me in any level of depth. I would rather see the options become available throught Paragon Paths or the equivalent.
Well there you have it. My wish list on what a new edition might look like. No doubt as time passes my wishes will change and morph. Most likely I’ll just add to the list. What about you? If you could see one thing either remain constant from 4e to 5e D&D or be added what would it be?