D&D 5E Reflections on 5E -- Hopeful but uncertain

William Ronald

As a gamer for over 30 years, I have seen a lot of changes in my hobby. When I saw that WotC had rehired Monte Cook, I thought that a new edition might be announced in the relatively near future. I thought that it might come with the D&D Experience later this month, but it was a bit sooner. I certainly did NOT expect the announcement to be as big as it was with major media coverage.

During the past week, I took time to read what information on the new system that I could and read the reaction of several people so that I could try to have an informed opinion and some idea of the concerns of others. I find myself as guardedly optimistic about the future of a new edition, yet I am not sure that I will be a part of it. Like a number of other gamers, I really did not switch over to 4E.

For myself, I now mostly play Pathfinder after trying 4E a few times. I do not hate 4E, but I did not find that it really appealed to me. My attitude has been not to condemn any edition but to realize that we all have different preferences in games.

So, I am going to share some of my thoughts. Take them for as much worth (or as little) as you see in them. I hope that I do not come across as a naysayer or a pessimist. I think that a new edition has a lot of potential but I am not sure that it will be my game.

I can understand why WotC is moving to a new edition – as there has been a lot of evidence of 4E not performing as well as they wished in sales. In addition to the various measures of sales for the industry, some store owners I know have said that 4E has been selling very slowly for some time. What surprised me greatly about the announcements about a new edition is that people from WotC such as Mike Mearls stated that there have been problems with 4E in terms of sales and that the company made many mistakes in rolling out the game. I found those admissions to be surprising and refreshing – it is rare that companies will be as frank about not meeting their goals as WotC was in many recent statements.

I began gaming with AD&D over 3 decades ago, and have played various editions of Dungeons and Dragons along with many other games. I made the transition from 1E to 2E fairly seamlessly, not missing some things as weapon speed factors and some of the other cumbersome rules of 1st Edition. (I remember players actually groaning when someone’s character decided to grapple or pummel a foe or if there was psionic combat.) I was stunned when TSR stopped publishing during their crisis and I was pleased to see that Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR and the Dungeons and Dragons game would continue.

Yet, I find myself largely neutral or mildly positive about the announcement. There is not the excitement that I felt in learning about 3rd Edition or the curiosity that I felt on hearing of the release of 4th Edition. I am curious as to what a new edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game will look like, but I am not sure that I will be doing much with that edition.

When 4th Edition came out, I was not actively gaming. I went to a few events run by local hobby shops where I lived in Phoenix but was not really part of any active gaming groups. I enjoyed parts of the game, but I found the Players Handbook to be a dull read. I found combats took too long – for several events, we ran out of time because of long combats. Also, I did not find much that appealed to me in terms of role playing and did not understand some decisions such as making tieflings and dragonborn as core races to be introduced in the Player’s Handbook. I sat in on a Pathfinder game while I was out in Phoenix and liked what I saw.

When I moved back to the Chicago area, I picked up the Pathfinder Core Rule Book and enjoyed the book and found it appealed to me in ways that 4E had not. Since that time, I have become active in a local Pathfinder Society group, playing and running events. I have not purchased anything from WotC since 2008. It is not because I disliked WotC but that 4E did not particularly appeal to me. (I did have a fun session with a friend, where there was good role playing – so I believe that you can have role playing with 4E or any rules set.)

I believe that WotC’s intentions, as stated by Mike Mearls, to reunify the base and provide something for players of all editions is a good idea. My hope is that a new edition would be successful and perhaps draw in some new people into gaming and bring some people back into our hobby. However, while I am confident that WotC has a good team of people working on the new edition, I do not think that it is likely that WotC will be the sole player in D20 based games. Over the past few years, many players have moved to other systems such as Pathfinder, Dragon Age, and Castles and Crusades. Unless a new Dungeons and Dragons edition is incredibly successful, I do not see those games fading away. I suspect the base will be divided. There will no doubt be some people who play the new edition and other games – I would not be opposed to doing so myself if it turns out that I like the new rules. It is just that I am not certain what would be enough to make me want to adopt a new set of rules in addition to one that I am playing now.

Also, from reading various threads about what people want and do not want in a game, I wonder if WotC can please so many different demands. I have read threads where people praised and criticized Vancian magic, hit points, skills and feats. While a new edition may be customizable, I am not sure if you will be able to truly satisfy someone who wants to run a 1st Edition style wizard, a 2nd Edition style cleric, a 3rd Edition style rogue and a 4th Edition style fighter all at the same table.

I do agree that one of WotC’s weaknesses has been in consistently creating great adventures – indeed Paizo and Green Ronin got a lot of praise for their work. So, I would like to see an OGL or GSL that would allow companies to be more comfortable creating third party products than happened after 4th Edition was introduced. (I am not sure if all the companies that once produced third party products for Dungeons and Dragons would want to do so. For the past few years, several have been working with their own gaming systems.)

So, I think that there is a lot of potential in the new edition. I think that the marketing of the new edition, complete with stories from CNN, Forbes and the New York Times, is better than some of what I saw during the transition to 4E. I am not sure how I will feel about a new system until I learn more – not just from web sites and interviews but from people I know. So, I am going to hope that WotC creates a game that is successful – which I believe would be good for our hobby – and can satisfy a very diverse group of gamers while bringing some new people into gaming.

I would hope that we can talk about all issues related to the new edition with respect. Regardless of what we play, we all have a love of our hobby. We have more in common, I suspect, than many of the critics of any edition or rules system may initially think. Ultimately, I think that we are united by a love of gaming, of bringing people together and using our imaginations to have some fun. So, regardless of what you play or what you think of the new edition, I hope that we will respect each other and take some joy that we all enjoy role playing games. To outsiders, edition wars must seem a bit absurd -- kind of how I might view an argument about a sport where I neither know the rules or care about the game.

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William Ronald

I figured that I would take some time to process my thoughts on this. As it has been more than a week, what do YOU think know that all of us have had some time to learn a little more about the new iteration of the game.


First Post
That I'm not very different from you, William.

My biggest issue was my professional life. In the past 10 years, it has become very stressful and it fills up most moments. In truth, some part of me is always thinking about some part of my work. And this is what split me away from D&D originally.

Like you, I did try out 4E when it came out. Sounds like I put more effort in, though, as I tried it repeatedly for about 6 months with 3 different groups of people. I could see it was a good game, but it just didn't spark my interest. Still sad about that.

This time around? I'm actually feeling very positive. Whether the Next Edition works for me or not, it's definitely time to try unifying all of "us." Doesn't mean we shouldn't continue playing other games or even (in my case) doing other things (sigh -- it'll be work, in my case). I definitely don't want to see Pathfinder or Castles & Crusades, to name only two of a LOT of great games, go away.

But I would love to be able to sit down at a gaming table, even once, and play a game of D&D with stalwarts of every edition there ever was -- definitely including 4E.

Think about it. What a game that would be.:lol:


First Post
I also am extreemly happy for the anouncment as niether 4th nor Pathfinder 'floats my boat'
If 5th gives me the following things I will prob switch
HP more like 3rd
No Healing surges
vancian magic
3rd saves not 4ths static.
good low level play possibilities

William Ronald

One thing that I think might be a good idea for a new edition is an introductory set designed for non-gamers. Something that could easily make its way into major retail stores.

So, while I started this thread to list some of my own thoughts after processing all the news, your thoughts are important as well. Now that we have seen more news and more discussion about a new iteration of Dungeons and Dragons, what are some of your thoughts?

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