Unless you’re just logging on to the Internet for the first time today, you’ve likely already seen the buzz about D&D. WotC is expected to announce a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons today. They’re looking for fan input this time around, and are planning on doing open playtesting. You can find info about the announcement here.
For what it’s worth, here’s my take on things.
I was excited about 4e when it first came out. I had played a lot of 3/3.5 with a group of friends, and when 4e was on the horizon, we all started talking about it, and decided to play again. In fact, my first GMing experience ever came in 4e. A few months into the game, through no fault of the system, I started to get burned out on GMing. (Turns out it was the make-up of the group, not the system).
When it came time to run a new campaign for a new group, I went back to 3.5, because I knew it so much better. Eventually, that group changed to Pathfinder, which I currently not only run, but when I am using to develop a campaign setting for commercial sale.
I’ve got nothing against 4e, in fact I’d play in it, or run it, if I had a group interested in such things. I don’t, so I’ve not played the system much at all (comparatively speaking) in the last three years. I do want to see D&D succeed, and so here’s what I want to see from the development of this new edition.
- Openness. Not just in development, but also in licensing. The game industry has come a long damn way since the initial release of the OGL, and I think companies have learned from the mistakes of the glut of 3rd edition content, much of which sucked. Pathfinder sees a lot of good extra content published for it because companies and individuals don’t have to jump through hoops to write stuff for the system. Ideally, I’d love to see them go so far as to use a Creative Commons license, but I suspect I’ll see a real, live dragon in person before that happens. OGL is good enough for me, so I hope they go back to that. I’d love to develop content for the biggest name in the game industry.
- A set, strong default campaign setting that hasn’t seen a glut of material produced over the last decade. In other words, not Forgotten Realms. Go back to Greyhawk. Or, make a brand new setting and hang our hat on it. Support the other settings that have fan love, but make something awesome that resonates, and can have multiple supplements released for it. I don’t know that the small setting books are doing it for people. I could be wrong, but that’s how I feel.
- Stop it, stop it stop it with all of the bloody errata. Yes, you sometimes mess up the rules in the first run. However, open playtesting should see a lot of those error exposed before you publish the game for the first time. Moves likes changing Magic Missile so many times? Not so cool.
- Get the best minds to work on this. Get great internal playtesters, tap really good groups for public playtesting, and playtest a lot. Demand specific notes, and keep great people like Monte Cook and Mike Mearles around. The more smart minds you’ve got, and the more organized your process, the better the game will be.
That’s what I’ve got, for now. I’m lucky enough to have scheduled a session with R&D folks from WotC at DDXP in a few weeks, and I have a feeling I’ll be getting a taste of the new system. I’ll make sure to report back on what I see and hear. If they let me, I’ll record the audio of the session as well.
I want D&D to succeed. I want it to be fantastic. I want my friend to want to play it again. I want to be able to develop for it without having to neuter my own ideas. Mostly, I want even more people to play it. That’s what I really want.
EDIT: Now, with more dragons pictures! (One more, but still…)
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. I write about RPGs like it's my job (man, I wish it were), and I am working on a campaign setting called Shadows of the Collegium. Also, I design games. You can find out more about me on Twitter, and about Shadows of the Collegium and my other games at sandandsteam.net.