D&D 5E Exegeting the D&D-Next Quotes


We are probably expecting too much from D&D-Next, not because it will fail on its promises, but because we may have a different understanding of what D&D-Next is actually promising us. There seems to be an impression that D&D-Next is offering "Everything for Everyone!" as I heard one skeptic on this forum say. But is D&D-Next actually promising that? So how about we take a look more closely, calmly, and rationally at what the Design Goals and Mechanics are actually saying? I propose we analyze - predictably to the point of absurd semantics - what has been said so far.

"...to create a rule set that enables players of all types and styles to play a D&D game together by taking the best of each edition and getting at the soul of what D&D is." - Mike Mearls.
I see two parts to this statement, each with a different, though related, thrust. The bold is a declaration of the goal, which wants to bring together "players of all types and styles to play a D&D game together." The extent of what "all types and styles," is of course debatable, and I see this as more of a generalized recognition of our different playstyles. The orange is the instrumental of the first clause, as it indicates how D&D-Next intends to address the bold. The orange is in part where "Everything for everyone!" (mis)understanding may be coming from. The orange, as I understand it, is not promising everything that we want from every edition to be an option. Instead, Mearls is basically suggesting a form of "D&D Essentialism" (note: not a new product line) where there is some sort of "essence" or "soul" of what D&D is, which can somehow be assembled from the best aspects of Editions 1-4. Alarm bells should be going off right about now, and I can't blame you. After all, who is to say what constitutes the "best of each edition"? As the New Horizons sub-forum demonstrates, we do not see eye-to-eye on what's "best of each edition."

With fourth edition, there was a huge focus on mechanics. The story was still there, but a lot of our customers were having trouble getting to it. In some ways, it was like we told people, ‘The right way to play guitar is to play thrash metal,’ But there’s other ways to play guitar.” - Mike Mearls.
De-emphasize the mechanics for the sake of the story and greater freedom for different DM/player styles.

"The new edition is being conceived of as a modular, flexible system, easily customized to individual preferences. Just like a player makes his character, the Dungeon Master can make his ruleset. He might say ‘I’m going to run a military campaign, it’s going to be a lot of fighting’… so he’d use the combat chapter, drop in miniatures rules, and include the martial arts optional rules.” - Mike Mearls.
And here is the other quote that seems to form our perhaps misplaced expectations. Each point of the bold statement gives us reason to ask "How modular? How flexible? And how easily customizable to my preferences?" We don't know. Mearls then compares DM ruleset customization to character creation. It's not a radical idea: DMs have been doing it for years. Mearls then provides an example where a particular type of campaign (i.e. military) can then have a set of modular options that include the "miniatures rules" and the martial arts optional rules. If I'm reading this correctly, then there are a variety of different combat rulesets, but miniatures rules is not a series of different rulesets, but one of the combat rulesets. This reading leads me to believe that we are not getting "everything for everyone" or variations within variations of rules, at least not to the extent seemingly expected.

"Working on a game that's almost 40 years old now, we've seen the complex end. And what happened with each edition of D&D is it got more complex and we need to go back to the original D&D." - Mike Mearls.
This statement seems fairly straightforward. D&D has increasingly become more complex. That's undoubtedly debatable, but it has become more rules heavy. He makes the appeal, however, "to go back to the original D&D." (It's basically a rhetorical appeal to the ancestors.) Mearls seems to indicate a desire to simplify and streamline the rules, likely for the sake of increased accessibility for new players. Whether or not this means that there will be "layers of complexity" options in the modules, as is generally assumed, remains to be seen.

"Playtesting in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. My dwarf just slew a lurker with a well-timed crit to save the swallowed paladin." - Monte Cook.
"Playtested in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. My cleric burned several downed trolls before they could finish off the unconscious paladin." - Bruce Cordell.
Both of these quotes seem to indicate that the paladin is obviously dead weight to their party. But I'm looking forward to more "Heroic things I did while the paladin almost died" updates from them. :)

I will add more of the other quotes that seem indicative of their design philosophy later, but I need to do other things. In the meantime, how do you interpret the official quotes of D&D Next?

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I'll ignore any announcements of what they'll do and only look at actual rules suggestions they put out. If the last edition updates taught me anything, it will turn out different than wild mass guessing suggests anyway, so I don't want to waste my time on it.

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