Uniting the Editions

Again with the new 5th Edition of D&D, D&D Next. (I’m pretty sure it’s more like 8th Edition, if you count all the forms of Original/Basic, and 3.5, but whatev.) Monte Cook’s been doing an interesting series on the countdown to 5th Edition in his Legends & Lore column; a pair of early design docs so far, reinforcing D&D Next’s stated goal of being the perfect edition for every D&D gamer. As always, they’re interesting, if just the tip of the iceberg—these are big topics that need more than the short blog columns on Wizards.

Needless to say, I like the ideas set forth in them—a modular approach would overcome most, if not all, the issues I brought up previously. Which would make the real challenge attracting all the former D&D gamers, OSR gamers, and Pathfinder gamers back to the original brand line before they get too entrenched in other systems. Also, with a modular approach, I can see some people joining games expecting to use Rules X-Z when the GM’s using Rules 1, 2, and 5. Making D&D everybody’s game might not kill off the edition wars entirely; they’d just turn into a Balkanized core product rather than hostile sub-groups.

Oddly, this reminds me of the ’90s—a lot of players hated the 2e AD&D changes, more in tone than of rules, and wandered off to buy Palladium, White Wolf, Deadlands, Star Wars d6, and others, and a large part of the 3.x build-up was scanning competitor products to make D&D the dominant brand again. I remember the statistics showing the 1999/2000 breakdown in gaming popularity; I just wish I could find them.

Of course, as much as I love those fantastic claims of Monte’s, I’ll believe them when they’ve had cold, hard, tangible implementations. Again, it reminds me of the glorious claims of 4th Edition’s electronic connectivity: e-books, e-tools, virtual tabletops, constant stream of real-time errata and updates and services. The e-books died pretty soon in the 4e run, and while the other e-tool packages are still around—D&D Insider, the monster builder, GM helpers—the much-vaunted virtual tabletop was horrid, obsolete compared to the VTs from a decade before, and the “constant stream of updates” turned into the Essentials line, itself a micro-edition war inside the macro-level one. With the switch to Kindles and Nooks, iTunes and Netfix, we’re seeing the growing trend of technical literacy and electronic connectivity come to the forefront; Wizards can’t afford to half-ass that branch again.

Anyways, at the very least, I’m intrigued by the concepts and am looking forward to seeing some direct implementation of them in the open-beta-like-thing. Also intriguing is the high vote percentage for story in games over simplicity (Savage Worlds) and simulation (Gygaxian Naturalism); it sounds like we’re leaning towards a 2nd Edition level of story and world-building with the tactical and character customization complexity of 3.5 and 4th. Which would certainly be interesting.

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