A Possible Way Forward for D&D (And a design pitch for WotC!)

Balesir

Adventurer
Those all look like good considerations for a much more "exploration-based" style of game, Greg_K - but why should they be options for a game that, fundamentally, doesn't do what you want in a fantasy rpg? Wouldn't it be better to have a complete core system, using the same setting details, gentre and tropes as D&D but made for the 'exploratory' approach? It could still be based on d20 and funny dice for effects, but it would have no hit points, no 'experience points', no (fixed ladder of) 'character levels', a 'common world' basis for DCs, maybe even a working economic model and more "realistic" character base abilities. Would that not suit your purposes better than options for a basic system that has issues for you?
 

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Greg K

Legend
Would that not suit your purposes better than options for a basic system that has issues for you?

Possibly. However, in thirty years of gaming, there are only three systems where I don't have major issues with the basic system: Savage Worlds, Mutants and Masterminds 2e, and True20.

Savage Worlds, which I just discovered last year, is my go to game for non-supers. It edged out True20 by being non-class/level based. I do have a couple of quibbles with certain skills being too broad and see Gamble as unnecessary, but so far that has been the only complaint

True20 Revised is my d20 class/level of choice. However, I have an issue with the power system (wish it used skill points like Psychic's Handbook which was the basis) and a couple of feats are a little fiddly.

Mutants and Masterminds 2e: like True20 a couple of feats are too fiddly or my tastes.

So, basically, I have issues with most rpg systems including D&D 3e in which 90%of my pre-3e questionarie wants were implemented

With 3e my issues were
1. Level Drain

2. XP costs for casting certain spells and creating items

3. The power disaparity at higher levels between casters and non-casters (Well, I was never a fan of high level play anyway)

4. too many absolutes

5. non-biolgical aspects of race were still part of the write-up

6. mutliclassing
a. training is a variant not a default
b. allows players to circumvent the feats for armor proficiencies, weapon proficiencies, and at least one of the save feat

7. Clerics:
a. deity's domains not playing more of a role in shaping a divne character's spell list by default (the DMG had variant for DM tailoring spell lists).
b. not being a spontaneous caster
c. Save progression based on class rather than the deity served
d. Armor proficiency based on class rather than the deity served
e. power boosted to be more attractive

8. Druid
a. Animal Companion
b. Wild Shape

9. Monks not having the same level of customization as a fighter

10. Wizard
a. many of the balancing mechanisms were removed, neutered, or made a DMG variant
b. Specialist wizards with bonus spells rather than using some of the better options from 2e supplements.

11. System Mastery built into feats

12. No Hero Point option in core

13. Vancian Magic

14. issues with various spells

15. "Christmas Tree"

16. No ritual magic until Unearthed Arcana

17. much of the new PHB equipment

18. WOTC Supplements
a. Too much focus on Prestige classes rather than the PHB character customization until 3.5 and Unearthed Arcana and the Cityscape enhancement for wilderness/urban skill trade offs.

b. The race and class book format (which is still an issue for me with 4e).

c. The implementation of new classes, prestiges, and mechanics


My solution was to house rule (as I have done with nearly every rpg going back to AD&D 1e), incorporate some of the DMG variants, variants from Unearthed Arcana, and some third party products to shape the game.

4e fixes several of my issues, but introduces new ones or implements some fixes in a manner I do not like. There is very much a push/pull reaction when I look at it. Several people I know feel the same way. Or as one person, recently, phrased it, 3e was a toolbox. The DM was encouraged to modify and shape the game and given tools to do it. 4e more or less tells you to play a certain way, because it doesn't give you the options to change specific parts of the system.

Based on my own experience over the years, I think returning to the toolbox might be more useful.
 

Solvarn

First Post
ESPECIALLY if WotC does the smart thing and offers to work with Paizo, having them playtest and help design, plus working out a cooperative OGL-style license from the get-go. To think, if WotC had gotten its sh** together on the legal front and made a friendlier GSL in the fall of 2007, Paizo might actually have published 8 adventure paths for 4th edition!

I suspect that it wasn't a matter of them not having their act together, but more that they don't really understand the interaction of the market forces involved with 3PP and their company; at least the executives higher up don't.

Possibly poor analogy:

Let's say you are a Chinese restaurant all alone in the food court. You will have huge fans of the restaurant that really like the food and eat there at every opportunity. Once in awhile they may get a bad meal, but their enthusiasm will keep them coming back. These fans will also get their friends to come with them. Eventually though, some of these people might want to try a different place. They may get the huge fan to come along as well. They might leave the food court and go somewhere else, or they might even abandon eating out altogether and pack lunches more.

Some people won't go to the food court at all because there is only one restaurant. If there were more than one, they might occasionally eat at your place because a special looked appealing, but they like to have a plethora of choices. These people may never get exposure to the food in the food court because they know only one restaurant is serving food up. They may have heard its not good or they may not like Chinese food.

Now, as the only restaurant in the food court, someone that lacked vision might assume that allowing other restaurants to run in the food court would hurt their business. They think that they might have to split their business with the other people in the food court. There may be some restaurants putting out some real garbage but that is a problem with mall management that can easily be remedied. Management can elect to not have their lease renewed, or the food will suck and the bad restaurant will just go out of business. At any rate, in order to be a restaurant in the food court management can make special rules that all restaurants need to follow.

People will come to places with more choices, because consumers like choices. The food court is great because although I might hate Chinese food, I can eat at the food court with my friend and I can get pizza at the Italian place. I might even change my mind about the Chinese if my friend's keeps looking so appealing. It will also help develop the habit of coming to the food court.

Because of lack of vision and poor understanding, WotC really shot themselves in the foot with the 4E third party publishers. They forced Paizo to open their own food court on the other side of the mall, rather than open a restaurant next store. So now people that eat lunch at food courts have two choices and those that go to one get little to no exposure to the other.

It's a sad situation for both parties and I think having more than nominal success with 5E will predicate them attracting more third party publishers. If they do not they will see their numbers skew downward more quickly on sales of product from core release to supplement, and this trend will likely continue the more editions that they spawn.
 

Balesir

Adventurer
My solution was to house rule (as I have done with nearly every rpg going back to AD&D 1e), incorporate some of the DMG variants, variants from Unearthed Arcana, and some third party products to shape the game.
Yeah, been there, done that ;) By the time you have 'fixed' all that (long) list, though, you are essentially playing a different game. Nothing wrong with that in itself whatsoever, but the fact that this has been the de-facto standard for D&D has led to a confused situation where, in the minds of many gamers, D&D = FRP. That cuts in two directions:

1) Many players don't/didn't try systems other than ones based on D&D, despite the fact that D&D is clearly not what they want, given the amount of houseruling they do, and

2) The term "D&D" has tended to lose much of its meaning. It isn't a game, as such, it's a whole collection of games sharing - what? - a vague theme or genre and a few base mechanics, I suppose.

4e fixes several of my issues, but introduces new ones or implements some fixes in a manner I do not like. There is very much a push/pull reaction when I look at it. Several people I know feel the same way. Or as one person, recently, phrased it, 3e was a toolbox. The DM was encouraged to modify and shape the game and given tools to do it. 4e more or less tells you to play a certain way, because it doesn't give you the options to change specific parts of the system.

Based on my own experience over the years, I think returning to the toolbox might be more useful.
OK. What my experiences are telling me - especially my recent ones playing D&D 4E - is that I already have a shelf (or six) full of "toolboxes", "smorgasboards" and "books of ideas". What I want these days is an actual game, playable out the box, with or without supplemental books, that hangs together well and achieves a coherent design goal entertainingly. If I actually get several of these, so much the better - especially if they meet subtly different design goals.
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
My counter suggestion to the two OP options:

WotC should develop 5E gradually, as an online-only, semi-pubic beta (i.e. with some downloadable PDF pieces, such as GM advice). Expand the online tools to handle it as it develops, and where warranted. Essentially, let anyone willing to subscribe to DDI get in on the ground floor and beat the heck out it.

When it gets good enough (i.e. beta tester acclaim hits a critical mass or reputation drives DDI subscriptions through the roof because people want to play it), then organize the best pieces and print them, with 3 or 4 books in a grand launch, and steady but slow followup thereafter of the rest of the best.

This changes the goal of the printed portions subtlely, such that they should be able to design without the need to pad books (with feats or powers or kits or whatever the 5E equivalent excuse is). That should be a better designed game. The printed books aren't the main profit center. They are a near sure profit addition aimed at those customers that want nothing to do with DDI.

If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you want to make DDI the driving force of a great edition of D&D, do it.
 

Holy Bovine

First Post
descent.jpg

My board game group is starting a new campaign of this tonight!!

Love the Road to Legend expansion - you get a (light) RPG without any work!
 

Greg K

Legend
Yeah, been there, done that ;) By the time you have 'fixed' all that (long) list, though, you are essentially playing a different game. Nothing wrong with that in itself whatsoever, but the fact that this has been the de-facto standard for D&D has led to a confused situation where, in the minds of many gamers, D&D = FRP. That cuts in two directions:

1) Many players don't/didn't try systems other than ones based on D&D, despite the fact that D&D is clearly not what they want, given the amount of houseruling they do, and


2) The term "D&D" has tended to lose much of its meaning. It isn't a game, as such, it's a whole collection of games sharing - what? - a vague theme or genre and a few base mechanics, I suppose.

Well, it is all experience and opinon. In my opionin, it has not lost much of its meaning. There was never single way to play D&D (except when Gary was trying to build the RPGA or define for tournament). There was also never a real consensus as to what D&D is

In terms of mechanics, house rules were just as much a part as the rulebooks among the people I know or met. Hell, the designers, themselves, never seemed to play by the book or were always ignoring rules or making changes for their homebrew campaigns. The only mechanics that defined it for the people I knew were
1. 6 attributes
2. Classes and levels
3. Hit points (many would be happy to see this go or just have a set amount)
4. Armor Class (most I met would be happy to see this go)
5. Saving Throws (the use of and not the number of categories)
6. Use of polyhedral dice with a d20 to hit
7. Vancian Magic (until Dragon and 2e introduced alternative mechanics)

Beyond those 7 things, it was simply a fantasy game whose identity was based upon the IP (e.g., Demogorgon, Drow, beholders) (whether used or not), the settings, and the brand name on the products.

And, then to what D&D is thematically? There were people claiming that Darksun, Ravenloft, Al Quadim, etc were not D&D, because they were not pseudo medieval settings ignoring that the S3 module introduced robots, spaceships, and ray guns. For other people, the game is either killing things and taking their stuff or fantasy ":):):):)ing" Vietnam while others assume you have to have a party of fighter, cleric, magic-user, thiefs despite discussion of single class campaigns going back at least to AD&D 2e.

Given the above, I disagree that a long list of house rules meant that they did not want to play D&D and were, necessarily, playing a different game. Outside of tournament play or organized play, the game was about making it your own and house rules were/are the way to do it. Much of what D&D is/was was determined by whom you played with. Of course, this is just my experience and those of yourself and others may differ.
 

Chainsaw Mage

First Post
ILet's say you are a Chinese restaurant all alone in the food court.

Uh, if there's only one restaurant, is that really a "food court"?

(I spent way too much time puzzling over your analogy before I realized that there was only one restaurant in this "food court" LOL).

:hmm:
 

Chainsaw Mage

First Post
My board game group is starting a new campaign of this tonight!!

Love the Road to Legend expansion - you get a (light) RPG without any work!

Well, I wouldn't say there isn't *any* work. I mean, you've got to set up the fifty million pieces and learn a ton of rules. But compared with running 4e it's definitely easy, though.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A few thoughts, in no real order...
I still say we're likely to get a major announcement from WOTC about the future of D&D at Gen Con this summer. If it is '5E' (and if it is a true RPG and not a type of boardgame) I definitely think it will have a strong 1E influence.
If so, I'd give it a long hard look; even more so if the rules were presented largely as guidelines (a la 1e) rather than hard rules. And if they actually have a prototype at GenCon I'll try it there.
Crazy Jerome said:
WotC should develop 5E gradually, as an online-only, semi-pubic beta (i.e. with some downloadable PDF pieces, such as GM advice). Expand the online tools to handle it as it develops, and where warranted. Essentially, let anyone willing to subscribe to DDI get in on the ground floor and beat the heck out it.
This is exactly where I do NOT want to see the game going: online only. So many of you seem to see the DDI as the game's future; I'd prefer it be at best a support tool with nothing in it not also available in actual hard-copy print. Yes, this would destroy the subscription model. Good.
Greg K said:
In terms of mechanics, house rules were just as much a part as the rulebooks among the people I know or met. Hell, the designers, themselves, never seemed to play by the book or were always ignoring rules or making changes for their homebrew campaigns. The only mechanics that defined it for the people I knew were
1. 6 attributes
2. Classes and levels
3. Hit points (many would be happy to see this go or just have a set amount)
4. Armor Class (most I met would be happy to see this go)
5. Saving Throws (the use of and not the number of categories)
6. Use of polyhedral dice with a d20 to hit
7. Vancian Magic (until Dragon and 2e introduced alternative mechanics)
This is the first I've heard of anyone wanting to see hit points and armour class disappear. We must run with different crowds or something. :)

That said, if one uses these seven things as the foundation for a new edition what more do you really need? And keeping it this basic and simple allows the game to handle all different types of play - hardcore dungeon crawl, sandbox exploration, thespian night, etc., etc. The only real issue is how to handle combat, and that's something each edition has tried and sort-of failed; flexibility to handle any group is what we're after. I'd say a simplified version of 1e is probably the most flexible as a base; then just give provision for DMs to add in minis rules, slide-shift effects, turn-based vs. free-form action resolution, and so forth.

A secondary issue is how important to make character build in the mechanical sense - my own preference would be to make it as basic as possible, with character development coming through roleplay rather than mechanics; but I know there's many who disagree with me on this. That said, if character building in any new edition is complex enough to support a char-ops system, I'm out.

Lan-"if I didn't have any hit points I'd be......dead"-efan
 

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