We’ll be seeing the latest iteration of D&D hit the shops fairly soon (15th July for the starter set) and I have to say I’m quite excited. I’ve been playing D&D for about 20 years (starting with the old boxset D&D, then progressing through AD&D 2nd edition, 3rd edition and 4th edition) and I have to say that the new edition sounds like it might well be the best yet (at least for me… naturally it won’t suit everyone).
Here’s what I’m hoping we’ll see… and from what I’ve seen of the playtest and heard in podcasts, I’m cautiously optimistic:
1) A return to 2nd edition playstyle
In terms of playstyle, 2nd edition was the sweet spot for me; I liked the fact that characters were a lot more basic, so you had to come up with your own solutions to problems, rather than just look at your character sheet and go, “Oh, I have a power for this.” I also liked the fact that death was a distinct possibility in this edition, moreso than the later ones. Monte Cook wrote a recent post on smart play (When boring is good) and I really hope the new edition encourages this style of gameplay.
2) Mechanics that fall somewhere between 2nd and 3rd edition
2nd edition had a lot of issues with the consistency of the basic mechanics (sometimes you rolled high, sometimes low, sometimes percentiles), which 3rd edition fixed by going to the standard d20 system. However, 3rd edition’s feat chains and multiclassing made for overly complex characters that often had to be planned from level 1 (I don’t mind a certain element of system mastery being needed, but not to that extent). I hope that the new edition is a lot more streamlined and takes the best of both.
[Note: I’ve not mentioned 4th edition here. I actually really like 4th edition from a mechanics point of view, but it’s been done and I don’t think we need to see it again. If anyone ever made a really faithful computer game based on 4th edition, with turn based combat, I would buy it in a heartbeat.]
3) Character classes that are equally fun, but not necessarily perfectly balanced
Obviously I don’t want to see character classes that are horrifically imbalanced, but I don’t feel that characters have to be equally viable in all situations (particularly combat), which is where 4th edition tried to take things. I am quite happy for the thief to be pretty weak in combat, but great in non-combat situations; for the wizard to outshine everyone, but only a small number of times a day; for the fighter to be a workhorse, who quietly stands at the centre of every combat. However, while all characters shouldn’t be perfectly balanced, they should all be equally fun; for example, I don’t need the fighter to be as flashy as the wizard, but I also don’t want to return to the fighter simply making one or more attacks per turn and nothing else.
I’ll be buying this edition anyway, just to add to the collection, but if Wizards of the Coast can deliver on all the points above, it might well become my favourite edition (assuming I can find the time to play it).