The Next Iteration of D&D

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 10, 2012

By now everyone in the D&D gaming community has heard the big news: Wizards is developing the next iteration of D&D, and is looking to the legions of D&D fans to help shape the future of the game along with them. I don’t think this really came as a surprise to anyone, especially those who follow the weekly Legends & Lore column. I think the big news was the level to which Wizards is asking for player input.

In December Wizard flew me out to Seattle to visit their head office and participate in a D&D conference. One of the things discussed was the development of this new iteration of D&D. However, I have been (and still am) bound by an NDA and sworn to secrecy. There are a few things that I can now comment on because Wizards has made some details public; however, there are a lot of other things I cannot talk about. This makes things tricky when it comes to writing about any changes that might be forthcoming, but here’s what I can say.

  • Wizard wants to end edition wars and bring all people who play D&D together again. Their goal is to find a way to keep the best aspects of D&D intact and develop a base or core rule set that can then be expanded depending on which aspects of which edition you like or want to use. In order to make sure they get it right they want input and feedback from the players. So for everyone whose blasted Wizards or criticized any aspect of D&D, this is your chance to weigh in and help them get it right.
  • Wizards is looking for people to play-test the new iteration of D&D as it’s being developed. Again this is a way that you can get involved and make sure that your voice is heard. If you like or dislike something about D&D this is the best way to let them know early enough in the process that they can act on that feedback and do something about it. Visit the Wizard of the Coast website today and sign up to participate in the play-testing.
  • Based on my existing relationship with Wizard I was pre-selected to participate in the play-testing that begins this spring. In fact I’ve already had an opportunity to try out a very early iteration of what’s in development. I can’t say too much but I will tell you that it was everything I expected from D&D. It was fast paced, it was a lot of fun, and it felt like they were definitely on the right track.

At this point this is pretty much all I can say. I welcome your comments and speculation on what might be forthcoming but it’s unlikely I’ll be able to respond to direct questions because of the NDA.

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1 froth January 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

so i guess you guys will be dumping 4th like the other blogs?

2 Adam Ford January 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Froth, you’ve been making negative comments on every post about D&D vNext that I’ve read. Is that really necessary?

3 froth January 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

im just wondering if any blogs will stay 4e or if everything is switching to 5e. ive read this blog since it started and its a fair question to ask

4 Adam Ford January 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm

A little premature to make that decision, considering there is no information about the rules available to the public, eh?

In addition, if WotC succeeds with their goal for the next iteration of D&D, it won’t even matter. 🙂

5 Norcross January 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Hmm… using massive player input to guide the development of a new and better version of D&D… sounds like a great idea!

Maybe they could save time and just buy Paizo 🙂

6 Sentack January 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

From what I’ve read, Gamma World is a good point of reference for what they are achieving but I could be completely off base. The idea is that you can buy the main box, and the rules for that are simple and should work as a main point of reference but very playable. (Think, classic Red Box). Then you buy later boxes to upgrade the game to what you want. So Wizards gets up to buy multiple boxes to build the game we want. That seems… interesting but I’ll wait and see.

7 William January 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Froth, if you’re so concerned about 4th Edition content coming out, why not start your own blog? You’re obviously very invested in 4th, and from what we’ve seen you’re a rabid Edition Warrior. That best way to keep that alive when you are faced with DnDNext is to keep propagating that content yourself.

As too the new system of our favourite RPG… I’m excited. Really really excited. I signed up for the playtest as soon as the headlines about it started filling my news feed. Before I even read the announcement. 4th is the first game I’ve taken a campaign all the way through (1-30, twice total) but there are obvious problems in higher tiers and with certain classes. I plan to switch one of my groups over to playtest as soon as I get the rules in hand, and submit lots of feedback. This is our chance to see things that were fan made but still amazing developments (Fourthcore as an an example) become fully supported and produced by Wizards. I can’t see how anyone who has ever homebrewed could be against what we’ve heard from people.

8 froth January 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I already have a 4e blog, and @adam fourthcore already announced they are leaving 4e behind so it isn’t all that premature

9 Alphastream January 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Derek, it was great to meet you in person. I think it is indicative of the good job that Wizards is doing in gathering feedback that they brought in someone like you that has so carefully analyzed Encounters and 4E. It is a really good sign for the future of the process.

Relax, Froth! You are at your best when you are constructive, not destructive. 4E is the best it has ever been right now. Those of us enjoying it will continue to enjoy it. As a 4E playtester and periodic DDI contributor I can’t tell you how excited I am about things coming out for 4E soon. But, we’ll also be playtesting “D&D Next”. Most gamers don’t play just one game. We play a variety of D&D versions, RPGs, board games, etc. Each edition of the game has added something, not just to those that love the new edition, but to the rich history of RPGs and to the collective consciousness of RPG designers.

10 Alton January 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I cannot wait for the new edition to come out. I have had way too many arguments within all editions, pros, cons, idiocies. hmmmm.
Glad you got to go out to Seattle Derek. Sounded awesome.
Keep us posted.

11 Feeroper January 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Yeah I’m very excited about this, and am really pleased they are doing such a major open beta for it.

I think right now we will still hear alot of grumbling that is just tandard Edition War fodder, but once the ball gets rolling I expect the community will dive right into it, to help shape it into what they want. You may see alot of naysayers right now claiming they wont bother with this new iteration of the game, or even give it a cursory glance, but I think we all know just about everyone will be following this development quite closely.

I really like The focus on pulling it all together. The whole “Its all D&D” mantra is really promising and really conjures up visions of a system where it is all relevant, but it is also new. A very exciting time indeed!

12 Adam Ford January 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

@froth: Unless D&D vNext ends up not widely adopted (like 4E was), 90% of what are currently D&D 4E blogs will likely covert. Sersa is just going out and saying it.

13 Philo Pharynx January 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Actually, 4e’s popularity depends on what happens with DDI. If DDI goes away, a lot of 4e players can’t play. 1) Many people didn’t buy a lot of books because the information was in DDI. 2) The books people do have have been errata’d multiple times and it’s hard to use them as books. 3) Even if you have all the books, all the errata, and all of the dragon and dungeon magazine articles, then it’s going to be a heck of a chore to index this and find all of the options available to your character.

I really like 4e, but I’m not sure how much I’d play without DDI. I hope they either keep it or sell the compendium on CD or something. If they don’t, it will likely become a very small niche in the gaming community.

Obviously it’s probably more than a year before they release 5e, and they will likely keep the 4e tools for a while after that. But we just started a 4e Zeitgeist campaign that will likely take another three years or more to complete. I’m doubtful that they’ll still have the 4e tools in the same form in three years.

Ameron, if you could ask your new buddies over at WotC, that would be great. I don’t expect that they’ll have an answer yet (or be willing to give it if they do have it). But if people talk about it, maybe it will get enough visibility that they give 4e a good send off that keeps it playable.

14 B.J. January 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I’m both excited and annoyed by this development. I’m hungry for D&D because I’m new to the game. I’ve been playing right around six months. There’s still a lot of mileage for me in 4e. However, being new and excited about the game meant that I bought a bunch of 4e material that now may be obsolete. I kind of feel wasteful having purchased this stuff.

15 Ameron (Derek Myers) January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Until there is a new, definitive, non-4e version of D&D released, Dungeon’s Master will continue to focus on 4e as we have all along. However, at this time I can’t say (because we haven’t really given it much thought) whether or not we’ll continue to write about 4e after the next iteration of D&D is released. I don’t think it’s something we have to really worry about until Wizards provides us with firm release dates. However, once we decide one way or the other we’ll be sure to inform all of our readers.

16 Lahrs January 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm

I have been through multiple editions and play 4e because I like it the most and enjoy the Wizards 4e programs that are out. Hearing a new edition is coming, and if it arrives in 1-2 years it means 4e had a 4-5 year run as the current system, is not surprising. Even without the Legends of Lore columns, just knowing the progress machine is always running with companies, it was inevitable that something was on the horizon.

I am curious to how they plan on fixing 4e, or D&D in general as that is the vibe I am picking up from multiple vague blogs. I like 4e, but recognize it isn’t without faults, and I am always willing to try something new. My biggest concern boils down to money. I do not know if I can afford to invest in a new system. Initial DM investment in 4e was $120 retail (for the three main books), which I probably could swing, but you start piling on additional Player’s Handbooks, Monster Manuals, campaign guides and so forth, and D&D becomes an investment. Fortunately, unless something completely radical is introduced, I am sure my large collection of mini’s, which is its own small fortune, would easily work across any edition.

One positive that has already come from the announcement is my groups discussion on what works and does not work in 4e. A few good points have already been made about broken mechanics (or at least ones we do not care for) and I am hoping for an even bigger discussion on Saturday during our LFR session. The nice thing about any D&D edition is you can change whatever you do not like. It may not always work, but you can change it.

From day 1, I saw how dangerous Insider was, I also saw the necessity. It is super easy to find and download .PDFs of all the books, and many downloads equal lost sales. The way to combat this is to offer a digital service such as Insider, and digital services are the norm these days. But, for $71 a year through Insider, I no longer need to buy any books and have the benefit of always having up to date rules. With 4e, I purchased 20+ books and every box set out, I just have that book mentality, but besides the new Rules Compendium which we occasionally use for a quick rule look up, the books go largely untouched. If I were to invest in 5e and an online option were available, I honestly would probably forgo buying books, save for a rules compendium.

@ B.J. – I understand the feeling of buying a product, only to have a newer one announced shortly after, but there three things to take into consideration. First, a new edition is still a long way off, a year, probably more. Still plenty of time to get a lot of mileage out of your current books. Second, just because a new edition comes out, doesn’t mean your 4e books are all of a sudden invalid. There are huge numbers of D&Ders still playing 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Yes, less (or no) new content is being published, but so much information is already out that you can easily continue having a full gaming experience. And third, 4e books become super cheap. Particularly with 3e since Ebay and the like were now established, but once 4e was announced, Ebay and Amazon were flooded with cheap copies of source material as people prepared to jump ship.

17 Bob Cain January 11, 2012 at 9:46 am

I have enjoyed all editions of DnD. I view DnD as a role playing, fantasy game. So the outline or the rules if you will were just a guide for my imagination to flourish! I have really enjoyed 4th edition and look forward to seeing what the next edition has in store for us.

18 Camelot January 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

I’d say it’s likely that many blogs will change to being about D&D Next instead of 4e. Some will stay behind, just like some blogs stayed behind with 3e when 4e came out. It’s exciting and new, so it would be no surprise. However, if what they’re saying is true, you can use old material with D&D Next. This implies that some of the new stuff they’ll make could have backwards compatibility. I’m sure it won’t be perfect, but many 4e blogs could potentially be both 4e and Next at the same time.

19 Lahrs January 11, 2012 at 11:48 am

I plan on staying, even if Dungeonsmaster (not dungeonmasters, found that out the hard way at work) moves to the next edition. Obviously, if this site follows the same edition I play, the better, but Ameron and co. have great D&D articles, many D&D specific rather than 4e specific.

20 Kiel Chenier January 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I’m looking forward to this new edition. Whatever it may be.

Read about my hopes and ideas here:

21 adamjford January 12, 2012 at 1:02 am

How can you decide whether you’re going to want to play a game or not when you know NOTHING about it? So weird. :/

22 Lahrs January 12, 2012 at 11:29 am

Not weird at all. I know I want to see the next Star Trek movie, even though I do not know anything about it save the cast will be back. I know what D&D (and PnP RPG’s in general) is about and I am excited to try the next iteration.

23 donalbain January 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Man, I can’t wait. I’ve been playing nothing but 2e D&D. I can’t wait to see what they take from us, the people who love this game. The excitement about D&D is so great, especially now since I’m just leaving 2nd edition behind.

24 Sunyaku January 13, 2012 at 2:50 am

I’m looking forward to playtesting. One of my goals for 2012 was to produce more content that was timeless, and edition agnostic, and I think this move toward a “unified DnD” will certainly encourage that effort.

25 LordOcampo January 14, 2012 at 10:39 am

As a DM I’m sticking to 4e for a while longer. I strongly believe this edition is just starting to show its best ideas and it is unfair to send it down the sink out of pure commercial interests.

On the other hand, my players have the final word. But I’ve invested around 500 bucks in 4e so I’m not giving it away that easily.

Have you guys taken a look at “Madness at Gardmore Abbey”? It’s wonderful stuff.

26 Gaming Tonic January 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Hey Derek,
Sorry that we didn’t get to meet at the summit but I was with the journalists and I am assuming you were with the other group that was the bloggers. I was excited by what I played and the information that WotC shared that day. There is no reason for anyone to stop playing 4E if that is what you enjoy. The open playtest is just beginning so the it will be quite awhile until the new edition hits the shelves. I do encourage all the fans to participate in the playtest as that may answer a lot of questions and silence the negativity about something that only a handful of us have seen. I wrote a blog on my site about what I want and do not want, selecting one item from each previous edition of D&D. I hope everybody gives this next edition a chance before being negative.

27 Darth Bingo January 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I consider myself friends with Ameron IRL, having played with him at public events…and I think he’s doing a great job with his blog and with the new edition plug.

That being said, I’m cautiously optimistic about the next edition. I was a 4e fanboi, but definitely saw this coming. WOTC tries to downplay edition wars, but the reality is that they created edition wars themselves, by directly applying Hasbro’s strong sales approach to their RPG business model. After all…for years with TSR we had vanilla DnD and Advanced DnD. Then 2nd edition many years after. Then the license was picked up with WOTC, and we saw 3e, then 3.5, then 4e, then Essentials. Will it ever end? When RPG sales for edition x eventually peter out, they need to upgrade, continually, to keep the sales up. They need to really put themselves into the consumer mindset in this edition to get it right this time.

The elephant in the room here is simply this… like most, as a consumer I really hate how the planned obsolescence business model always pans out in the RPG market. There needs to be a better, more sustainable business model than this, because each time a new edition comes out, it erodes a portion of the fanbase who just aren’t interested in refreshing their DnD library every 4-5 years so they can keep playing with their friends.

I have a whole library of 4e books that I’ll likely need to pawn off now, when the next edition comes out, seeing as I’ll have no significant use for them anymore. There may be a select group of individuals who continue with 4e, but I suspect it won’t be enough to justify my books not collecting dust. The average gamer can’t always afford to stay on top of all the new publications, and it really leaves a sour taste in the mouth of consumers who demonstrated brand loyalty through the last edition.

The other thing, I seem to distinctly remember a “teaser trailer” many gencons ago before 4e came out where an actor boldly proclaimed…”There may be changes to this edition (in reference to 4e), but the game will remain the same. The game will remain the same” (he repeated it twice). In my mind, hindsight is always 20/20 but this is still regarded as a marketing failure IMO, along with a string of failed 4e products like the character designer and the 3d game table. WOTC would earn a significant amount of customer goodwill from myself if they fessed up openly to this.

So WOTC, I’m calling you out directly on this…it’s 5e or bust. Get it right this time, and I’ll purchase a couple of books to start off and see how things go. But this is the last edition I’ll honestly consider investing in…sincerely…a dedicated DnD fan.

28 LordOcampo January 21, 2012 at 9:36 pm

They should make 5e compatible with 4e, that way we won’t feel scammed.

29 Alphastream January 23, 2012 at 11:30 am

Darth Bingo, I disagree that this is a WotC thing. It is common to all of D&D and all RPGs. We can find people online that argue over whether the Greyhawk and Blackmoor supplements to the original D&D white box are necessary and that “true OD&D” excludes them. AD&D and Basic were released the same year, with Basic seeing multiple versions using different approaches. I don’t think it is fair to say it is planned obsolescence. Instead, I think it is because RPG creators genuinely want to improve the game over time. Sure, all RPG companies are a business and new editions are critical financially, but it isn’t a forced situation. I think the companies genuinely want to create new editions. For 4E, if it released in 2013 or 2014, I think that would make a lot of sense in terms of it being time for new creativity.

I also don’t think it makes sense to sell your 4E books. I’ve been actually buying older 4E I skipped (such as adventures) as well as AD&D and other older material. I love using older edition content in my games. A great adventure like Gardmore or Pharaoh (from AD&D) is a great starting point for any edition. When I create custom items or powers or feats I love looking at old sourcebooks like Sword and Fist. Now, if you don’t use old stuff that’s fine, but I would suggest checking to make sure you aren’t missing out on value by getting rid of them when they could be really cool parts of your current play.

30 Darth Bingo January 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

@Alphastream – when I use the term “planned obsolescence” I use it as a Marketing 101 term much in the same way that Sony upgrades their Playstation consoles every few years as technology evolves. I don’t imply that it was a conscious business decision on their part; it just happened that way. It is true that all RPGs are constantly undergoing edition changes, and this isn’t just a problem with DnD. That being said, I feel that 4e was an excellent product that could have been evolved and refined further beyond what WOTC did with the Essentials line. I would have preferred this business model or approach rather than evolving to a completely different ruleset, which invalidates my gaming library (again), some 4-5 years after a new ruleset was introduced into the market. Too soon, IMO, and I think they’re going to upset a portion of players in doing so.

I used to work in marketing for the music industry as a professional background, and I was exposed to the CD sales industry and the negative market influences of piracy, as well as evolution to digital media. My observation was that if corporations learn to adapt under changing influences, they can survive external market changes, but unfortunately they cannot persist for much longer under the old world rules, since they no longer apply. I daresay in this economic climate, disposable income for hobbies might become a bit tighter, so what’s safer for DnD? Changing your library completely? I believe that DnD will always have a niche market, but unfortunately I predict some market erosion here, not sure if WOTC will accomplish all they intend to do. Perhaps they could continue limited support for 4e and market it as “DnD Basic” and publish an Advanced Version if they saw fit? Just a thought.

You’re also right – I could hang onto my books for reference and inspiration for future editions…but the reality is that they do take up considerable physical space, and weigh a ton. So likely in with the new, and out with the old, right? I would consider keeping the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun guides primarily since these have story content usable in any edition. In this digital age, I would prefer to archive digital copies for posterity, unfortunately this was another product feature in announced in 2007 which WOTC had to reneg on, and I cannot condone piracy on moral grounds, so we have no real option here.

The fact still remains that 4e was originally advertised and touted as an edition which would undergo refinement and evolution, but the ruleset would essentially remain the same. See: and slide over to 3:47 and ask yourself truthfully if WOTC lived up the expectation they originally marketed in 2007?

I do wish that WOTC invested more into the digital aspect of 4e DnD, since this would have set it up for a reliable source of continuous income, if done correctly. They have door a mediocre job at implementing their electronic gaming platforms, and IMO even more poorly at marketing it. DDi didn’t have half the meat they originally promised. There is huge potential for crossover in the video gaming market nowadays for DnD, and it seems the bulk of WOTC marketing funds is still being poured into convention play and retailer support, which is a safe bet for them. Granted, there is some risk here in that crossover, but I think that since this is essentially the fantasy line that was a springboard for a ton of video games, they need to take some calculated risk to see more payoff.

Just my two cents, again…I respect your opinion, as well as all the support you’ve provided to WOTC through your work. Cheers…DB

31 LordOcampo January 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

Darth Bingo is right: there will be market erosion because those who recently joined 4e and invested and books and adventures, will feel angry at a perceived as money-grabbing maneuver from Wizards. If this happens, 5e may have an even smaller market than 4e ever reached.

What’s worse, now with Gardmore Abbey released, taking 4e out seems like a waste. They are barely scratching the surface of potential here, and now a new edition is announced? Forget it, I’ve invested more than 600 bucks on 4e and I’m NOT throwing that away only to jump into the “oh cool new edition” hype. Particularly because Wizards hasn’t earned the merit to deserve further investment. If 4e is given time to become a mature product, with more good stuff like Gardmore and Neverwinter, then there will be expectation.

32 Alphastream January 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Thanks, Darth Bingo! I have enjoyed your posts in the past as well!

It’s a tough call. We all lack proper info and probably the info at WotC is only but so good. For example, my local gaming store has seen an absolute boom (hiring more staff, expanding, etc.) during these tough years. There is research that shows some products (including entertainment) are inversely elastic when having less income. But, I doubt anyone knows for sure with RPGs and we all know another store that closed during the same time. Still, I think if you look at most gamers saying “I don’t have the money for this D&D book”, they do buy something else equally geeky (such as a video game). That means you need to tinker with the appeal if your products aren’t hitting target numbers. Wizards has done enough with 4E and Essentials to make it very likely that the numbers aren’t good enough and that D&D Next is a better financial move, in addition to being sound creatively.

Wizards being the biggest company is good and bad. Good because they can try outrageous projects like DDI and Gleemax (shudder), bad because they then need to make up the investment and hit high sales figures. I am confident any other RPG would love to have the 2011 sales that Wizards probably internally considers to be below what they want (this is just my guess, no insider knowledge).

The timing for a new edition is tough. 4E is clearly at its best, but you also don’t want to start creating a new edition when an edition is at its worst. If in retrospect we see that they started when 4E was at a peak, and then release D&D Next when 4E interest is waning, isn’t that perfect? With 3E, many players were absolutely sick and tired of 3E by the time 4E came out… I would argue they should have started earlier. One nice bit is that this is a playtest period, and perhaps can be lengthened or shortened based on the appeal of D&D Next vs. fervent love for 4E. But, to be honest, I’m seeing far more interest in Next than in holding onto 4E (other than Froth 😉

My main point is that the industry is tough on everyone, there is no history of “do this and succeed”, and everyone is trying and in some way failing. Wizards gets the bulls-eye, but they don’t really deserve it. They have higher standards and we then hold them to even higher standards, but push aside those revenue standards and they are a bunch of passionate gamers doing the best they can. I do believe in being critical, but also reasonable given the history of the game. There will be a 6E, and when it comes the timing will feel just right to some and terrible to others. Given that, I think this has been handled pretty well.

LordOcampo, that’s always true, and your thoughts are very valid. For every edition. I’m sure if we had an internet in ’75 we would have heard the same thing back then, because someone had just bought the white box and now their investment was ruined. But, you don’t have to throw anything away. D&D Next may end up modular enough that you can use your 4E in great ways. Or, it may have a place alongside 4E, the way many of us play L5R and Eclipse Phase or Pathfinder along with D&D. Gardmore and Neverwinter won’t stop being great products. I have yet to do anything for Ashes of Athas or my own 4E Dark Sun campaign that didn’t involve several trips to my shelves to pour through the awesome AD&D Dark Sun books. The information can be valuable way beyond that initial edition. And, hey, you may just not like D&D Next, in which case you will be all the smarter for holding on to your old material. But I honestly think Gardmore will be a prized possession when we all are playing 8E.

33 Carbonadam February 18, 2012 at 11:28 am

If 5e does what they are pushing for won’t all previous editions work with the new rule set? If so that will be great because there are many great modules that would be fun to play from old and new D&D, as well as other non D&D games. As far as the negative people go, well the Internet is rife with them. You could hand them the gold key to WotC and let them run the show and they’d still complain.

34 Philo Pharynx February 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm

@Carbonadam, From the early results, it doesn’t look like you can use old material without some sort of conversion. For one thing, the new game will either have negative or positive AC. I don’t think conversion will be very difficult. You’ll need to reality check everything, but that’s needed with all conversions.

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