Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In Which The Warlock Accepts a Journeyman Challenge...

Last entry, my good friend over at The Journeyman GM (also known as Will the ManMan, my compadre from Witt, who's been throwing down the bones with me for almost 4 years now), issued me a challenge.  After reading some ongoing rumors regarding Monte Cook's return to Wizards of the Coast, I put down my official prediction for the new edition of D&D.  Will challenged me to put down a few predictions for what I expect to see in said upcoming edition.  So, without further adieu...here goes!

One of the more popular changes for the role-playing games industry has come in the resurgence of the "boxed set" as a concept.  Fantasy Flight Games experienced great success with this in Warhammer Fantasy, as did Cubicle 7's Doctor Who:  Adventures in Time and Space, carrying over their tendency to include "fiddly-bits" from their massively successful board games.  WotC has tipped their hand in this regard, with most of their 2011 releases being produced in some form of boxed set, usually complete with an element that couldn't be packaged separately:  Madness at Gardmore Abbey, for instance, comes with the Deck of Many Things--a product that may not sell well individually, but when coupled with a mini-campaign-length adventure, makes for a positive price point.  I expect that 5e/Anniversary Edition will consist primarily of boxed rules, with "advanced" classes coming out via additional boxed sets.

"Who knows what the future for D&D holds?!"
Further, I'm finding that D&D--and rpgs in general--are starting to trend away from the tactical, rules-heavy concepts that have been in dominance since 3e D&D.  It's because of this, I believe, that WotC decided to discontinue their D&D minis line, as well as HeroScape--they simply weren't profitable, based on the numbers of miniatures being sold, when compared to the investment necessary to produce the minis.  Coupled with a general trend away from minis-heavy games--look again to Warhammer Fantasy--I expext that 5e/Anniversary Edition will provide only rudimentary rules for miniatures use, but include later conversion rules for a D&D-themed "Chainmail-esque" minis game....which will fail, repeating the cycle of minis-based D&D games all the way back to 2e.

Coupled with the shift away from rules-heavy, minis-necessary gameplay, I believe that streamlined concepts will be on the horizon.  As part of a modular-based, box-expansion style game, the base game itself must be kept simple enough to attract new players, while expansion boxes provide options for more experienced, "hooked" players.  One example of this, I believe, will manifest in the 'skills' system, which will seem like a bare-bones system at release, but then have substantial expansion in subsequent expansions.  However, I do see this skill system being more closely tied to abilities--numerous articles have posited the actual necessity of having skills, when the focus on ability scores or raw stats is so high.  Believe it or not, I think that D&D could take a lesson or two from ICONS, in terms of skill development--they greatly resemble 2e D&D's "proficiency" system in importance, and provide reference back to the all-important 6 scores, rather than cluttering a character sheet with more numbers and values.

A few other quick predictions:
  • No more powers.  I see a great return to class abilities--particularly ones that can be defined/explained in less than a sentence, and won't require an 8+ page character sheet.
  • No feats--at least not in the sense that we understand them now.  They'll be too much bookkeeping for a simple, dungeon-crawling game.  I see them creeping back in around Year 2.
  • Themes will be back, in a big way.  I see themes providing archetypal support beyond that found in the typical race/class combination, and the rules for them provide great modularity.  Plus, they were implemented towards the end of 4e's run, and the later themes have been much less rooted in 4e's design philosophy...
  • No more dragonborn.  For that matter, no tieflings, either.  I see a philosophical return to the classic quartet of human-elf-dwarf-halfling, with other races coming through expansion materials.
  • Additional settings with additional rules.  While I could only wish to see a resurrection of Planescape--which might not be out of the question, if Monte Cook is back running the show--I anticipate that we'll see Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Greyhawk and even Ravenloft (especially since the 4e version got cancelled).  Unfortunately, I don't see any new settings coming out any time soon.
  • A split convention prescence.  I mentioned above that I anticipate WotC putting out a concurrent minis game to accompany D&D, which I see providing a two-pronged attack for major gaming conventions.  The key, though, is to make the minis game appealing to the more "tactically minded gamer" while maintaining involvement on the role-playing side.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned as well, I don't see this going well.

All told, I really do think that a new edition will have quite a bit of merit, but I'll have to see how it hashes out before I invest in another round of D&D books.  Time will tell, I suppose!


  1. Anonymous11:27 PM

    Interesting predictions. I can't say I agree with all of them, but it's all speculation at this point. We'll have to revisit them in a few years.

    Here's a question: Wizards of the Coast already has a rules-lite pseudo-D&D in the form of Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon. Do you see elements from those influencing the future D&D 5e? Additionally, are there any elements from Gamma World that might also be ported over?

  2. I'd be interested in seeing what you think 5e might be like, brother...you always have a unique perspective on the gaming scene.

    I actually don't see Gamma World having much influence on 5e, primarily because it hasn't sold particularly well, and is built on portions of the 4e mechanic that are falling out of favor--power cards, unified class mechanics and the like.

    I do, however, see some carryover from the D&D board games into the minis-combat horizon. I wouldn't be surprised to see those being used as platforms to test rules for 5e's skirmish game.