After having played and run D&D 5th Edition for a couple of months I think it’s time to have a look on what worked and what didn’t work quite as well.
Overall D&D 5th Edition is a very good game, much better than several predecessors, but it still has a couple of things that bother me. But before focusing on the things that didn’t work let’s praise what WotC did right.
D&D 5th Edition feels like D&D. There’s a strong focus on roleplaying which is supported by the new backgrounds introduced in this edition. Ruleswise the advantage/disadvantage mechanic is a stroke of genius and basically removes numbercrunching to an absolute minimum. I also love that classes are much more flexible than before without the need for too many additional rules. After being burned out on D&D 3.0/3.5 and having serious issues with 4th Edition, D&D 5th Edition felt like a welcome breeze of fresh air.
Alas there are still a couple of things that bother me. Armor class is still among the first things I’d throw out if I had to redesign D&D. It just doesn’t make any sense that heavy armor makes it less likely being hit. Armor should reduce the damage taken instead. Another thing I don’t like is that attribute values are still a thing. They are actually never used. It’s probably a tradition thing but mechanically it makes no sense.
But the biggest problem is that there are other more exciting games out there. D&D was the hot new thing in 1974 but nowadays it has become the baseline for what we expect from fantasy RPGs. It has become a trope, a genre in itself. And as long as you want to keep it recognizable as D&D you have to keep some elements alive like the aforementioned attribute values, AC, hit points, the classes, etc. Without these elements it’s just not D&D anymore.
One of the systems I fell in love with is Monte Cook’s Cypher System (which has been used in Numenera and The Strange). It still retains a couple of D&D-isms, but overall it takes fantasy roleplaying into a different direction. In my opinion it is a very elegantly designed system, easy to pick up and play and extremely easy to run. When I run D&D it still feels a bit more like work.
This summer Monte Cook Games will release a Cypher System Rulebook which includes a section on how to run standard fantasy settings using the Cypher System. I have to admit I am very tempted to convert my D&D game to this new system or start a new one from scratch in one of the genres supported by it.
D&D 5th Edition is still my favorite edition of D&D, but there are games out there which are – at least in my opinion – more fun to play and run.
Everyone is talking about the new edition of D&D right now. But as usual not everyone is happy about a new edition. But isn’t a new edition a good thing? It shows that there’s still interest in the game and the company behind it is driving things actively forward. Often clunky rules are fixed and things are streamlined, in other cases new options for players and GMs are made available. But alas it’s not always all sunshine and flowers.
More often than not, new editions come with a slew of problems. In some cases the old material becomes obsolete and you have to make the hard decision whether to stick to the old edition and stick with a system which is not supported anymore or you can embrace the new one, which usually means buying a lot of books again, just to get the updated versions of material you already have.
And the longer you wait, the more severe the problems become. In most cases old editions go out-of-print as soon as the new edition is announced. Some books quickly become pretty rare and people are paying ridiculous prices on eBay to get their hands on a copy. And if even the PDF version are removed from stores you either need to make the switch or grudingly pay vast sums just to get that one book you still needed.
Since I enjoyed the Shadowrun 3rd edition game a friend run for me recently, I decided to get a couple of 3rd Edition books for myself. But alas that’s easier said than done. I was able to track down used copy of the core rules (I decided to go with the German version this time, since that is what my friend uses), but most of the supplements are either extremely expensive or not to find anywhere. It’s even worse with the Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition, which is supposed by many to be the best version of Shadowrun available. I already own a PDF copy, but I also would love to have a print copy as well. Alas I had no luck tracking one down. For some people this is no big deal, especially when they picked up everything they wanted when the older edition was still widely available.
This is just an example what issues you could face if you decide to play an older edition of a game. So I can understand the concern of people who love D&D 4th Edition, or who prefer other games who were made obsolete by new editions. Of course it’s unreasonable to ask publishers to keep old editions in print indefinitely. In most cases at least being able to purchase old games as digital editions is a great help. So, what’s your stance on this subject? Please share your thoughts below!
The latest version of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), currently known has D&D Next, is Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC) latest attempt to reboot the worlds most popular tabletop role playing game. The game is currently in beta stages and WotC is receiving feedback from fans who have been testing out the new rules. WotC is trying to bat a home run with this game by trying to win back fans after the D&D 4th edition failure, while at the same time converting older fans who have been perfectly content playing older editions of the game.
While I was at PAX this year, I had a chance to play a demo of Dungeons & Dragons Next with an official representative of Wizards of the Coast. You can see a video of the game I was playing here. I really had an enjoyable time playing the game and after it was over, I was able to talk to our Dungeon Master and ask several questions about the new edition and how it was progressing. Unfortunately, I left the gaming table somewhat disappointed with the state of Dungeons & Dragons Next and I don’t expect the things I would need to buy the game to be addressed by it’s release sometime in 2014.
In a nutshell D&D Next is still too complex for my tastes. Please don’t get me wrong, I do think that the 5th edition of this game is a lot better than 4th edition. I figured that out just by looking at my character sheet. Gone are skill checks from your character sheet. Now if you want to do something outside the box that would be considered a skill you just use your Ability Score Modifiers and add them to your D20 roll to see if you accomplish your goal. This is a nice example of how the game has been cleaned up and streamlined. But the sad fact is that you are still doing a ton of math, adding all your extra points of damage from weapons or abilities, rolling extra dice for advantage and so on. I found this to not only be confusing, but also detracting and slowing down the story being played out in front of me.
I do understand and respect that there are gamers out in the world that enjoy the mathematical crunch of a good game mechanic. I am just not one one of those gamers. When I first looked at my printed off character sheet for a level one Cleric for 5th edition, I let out a sigh of disappointment. Already I knew that if I had to write out this character by hand that there was no way I could fit all the information I needed on the front and back of one character sheet. Which to me is very disappointing. To me when I think of a tabletop role playing game, I think pencil and paper. I feel like I should be able to write down everything I need with a pencil and one sheet of paper. I shouldn’t need to print off the character sheet from my computer or need several index cards to write down all the extra information my character has. That’s just not fun for me.
When D&D Next was first announced, I was feeling very optimistic about it. I recall early talks of this 5th edition by WotC being modular. Think three ring binder of sorts that would contain the rules for how to play D&D in its most basic form. Rules light if you will. Then, as you wanted to add eliminates from 2nd, 3rd, or 4th editions of the game, along with extra character options you could just by adding on packs or sheets and inserting them into your binder. D&D Next. The edition for everyone. I thought this was was a great idea and something I could see myself buying. But shortly after the first beta of the game was released for public testing, I knew that this great idea was no longer going to be an option for fans.
The truth of the matter is, I cut my teeth on D&D. I love the name of the game and I want to support it. But the reality is I have found that I enjoy gaming with a modern clone of the original D&D game called Swords & Wizardry. I would rather play a game called Dungeons & Dragons. I want to come back home to my roots and play and support the game that has been around since before I was born. I just don’t see that happening with D&D Next. But like any fan of the hobby, I will continue to hold out hope until the official rule books are released and and I can see for myself what WotC is asking me to buy.
A Roleplaying Games blog
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