The Half-Edition Shuffle

The next edition of Dungeons & Dragons is finally on the horizon, but it's not here just yet. So when do publishers makes the shift?

thehalfeditionshuffle.png

A Historical Model​

D&D has been through several editions in recent memory, but few match the recent transition between two compatible editions. Although backwards compatibility is often promised, it's rarely delivered. And there's also the consideration of the thousands of small press publishers created through the Open Game License movement, which didn't exist before Third Edition. Of all the edition shifts, the 3.0 to 3.5 transition seems closest to what D&D is going through right now, so it's a good place to start this thought experiment.

Compatible, Sort Of​

Fifth Edition's transition to Sixth involves tweaks to the game. Those tweaks seemed largely cosmetic, at first. With the release of Mordenkainen's Monsters of the Multiverse, it's clear that the spellcasting section of monsters is going to be significantly changed. In short, while players may find their characters compatible with the latest edition of D&D, DMs may find their monsters aren't. And that's a problem for publishers. But mechanically, all of these issues can be addressed. What really matters is what customers think. And that's often shaped by branding.

What a Half-Edition Means​

The transition between Third Edition and 3.5 was more significant than many publishers were expecting. You can see a list on RPG Stack Exchange, which shows just how much the new edition changed the game.

This did not go unnoticed by consumers. The OGL movement was still developing but it caught many publishers by surprise, including the company I wrote for at the time, Monkeygod Publishing (they're no longer in business). When we released my hardcover book Frost & Fur, the only identifier was the D20 System logo. Little did we know that it was imperative to identify the book as 3.5-compatible (which it was), because stores wouldn't carry it and consumers wouldn't buy it if it wasn't.

There wasn't nearly as much communication from WIzards of the Coast back then as to how to prepare for the edition change, much less columns from the company explaining their strategy. More communication about the upcoming edition may mitigate its impact on third-party publishers.

Between the DM's Guild and DriveThruRPG, there is now an ecosystem that can more readily update itself without taking up shelf space or clogging up inventory. Digital products can be changed, covers can be rebranded, and newsletters can announce the update. Wizards of the Coast has also given considerable lead time on the coming changes by announcing the edition well in advance and updating books piecemeal so developers can see what changed. But there's still one important piece of the puzzle.

What Do Consumers Think?​

One of the ongoing concerns for supporting publishers of Third Edition was how the Open Game License would be updated and, at least as important, how to identify that compatibility.

Updating the OGL enables publishers to ensure their products are compatible. The OGL doesn't specify stat block structure, so it may not even be necessary to update the license much if at all.

Identifying compatibility will be even more critical. At some point, publishers will start identifying their products as Sixth Edition compatible. And that will happen when consumers shift their spending habits.

The Changeover​

But first, WOTC has to declare that Sixth Edition has officially arrived. Wizards was hesitant to put a number on Fifth Edition, preferring instead to indicate it was simply D&D to potentially head off edition controversy. Failure to do that in a timely fashion (or worse, failure to recognize a new edition at all and continue calling it Fifth Edition) will cause potential confusion in the marketplace, with both consumers and publishers.

At some point the tide will turn and consumers will expect compatibility with the new edition. That change is complicated by the fact that Sixth Edition should be largely compatible with Fifth Edition. But only consumers can decide that for sure; if they don't feel it is, there will be a sharp drop off in Fifth Edition buying habits. For smaller publishers, they'll stay close to the market to determine when that shift is happening and how to transition smoothly without harming their business model.

Getting it right can be lucrative. Getting it wrong can sink a company. The market convulsed massively when 3.5 came out, wiping out publishers and game store stock that were unprepared for the change. Here's hoping with enough foresight and planning, we don't have a repeat of the 3.0 transition.
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That was the post you quoted:

And they probably are.
And still if you can say: just take x from the old edition and divide it by 2 to get the value y for the next version, it is backwards compatible, because the function is easily applied even on the fly
(At least for most 4th graders... ).
If you played played a 3.0 adventure and they told you that 3/4 cover gives +7 AC now only gives +5 AC you deduct 2 and go on. Or if you are told to make a pick pocket check, you know that you now have to make a sleight of hand check. Or when you take your character that had chosen tough and skill focus, you can keep that character but now have to add level - 2 hp and 1 to the relevant skill check. Or if you have improved critical and a magic weapon that improves the critical range, you don't add it anymore.
You could also say, leave your character as is, it is roughly the same.
If that is not compatible for you, that is a pretty narrow definition. My opinion strongly differs from yours.

So I thought your post was an answer to this post. I now understood that you meant my suggestion from an earlier post. So I apologize if that was not obvious to me.
It's a conversation and the last few posts all are part of the context. We were discussing the feats thing and then you brought in more stuff with this last post. Things like you mention above that are lateral and make no real difference are okay, and I said that in my first response to you. To be backwards compatible the changes have to be lateral, not improvements to effectiveness.

The initial post by you where new characters would have feats added to backgrounds is an improvement of PC effectiveness, though. The PCs with the feats will be significantly better than the old ones without those feats. That's not backwards compatibility, because in order for the older PCs to be roughly equal with the new ones, they would have to be converted to the new rules.

Edit: and thanks for the apology. I also apologize if I misunderstood you. :)
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
The initial post by you where new characters would have feats added to backgrounds is an improvement of PC effectiveness, though. The PCs with the feats will be significantly better than the old ones without those feats. That's not backwards compatibility, because in order for the older PCs to be roughly equal with the new ones, they would have to be converted to the new rules.
A free feat at level 1 already exists in 5e. I characterize it as a "setting feat", such as a divine gift (Theros), dark gift (Ravenloft), and presumably a psionic talent (Dark Sun).

A free feat relating to background can fit in, albeit implies a setting that focuses on backgrounds and ongoing vocational goals. The players would access these feats by opting into a setting that features them.
 

HammerMan

Legend
A free feat at level 1 already exists in 5e. I characterize it as a "setting feat", such as a divine gift (Theros), dark gift (Ravenloft), and presumably a psionic talent (Dark Sun).

A free feat relating to background can fit in, albeit implies a setting that focuses on backgrounds and ongoing vocational goals. The players would access these feats by opting into a setting that features them.
add strixhaven to this... they have a background that adds like 12 levels of spells to your spells known AND gives you a feat...

I keep joking about "Can I just take this background" every game because it is so over the top more powerful... but it is now in the game
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
add strixhaven to this... they have a background that adds like 12 levels of spells to your spells known AND gives you a feat...

I keep joking about "Can I just take this background" every game because it is so over the top more powerful... but it is now in the game
Yeah that one too!


I love 5e setting feats. The levels of the apprentice tier are weak and vulnerable. An extra feat makes it feel more normal.

From a DMs perspective, the feeling of a free feat is a great incentive to get the players to buy into, grock, and have fun with the premise of a new setting.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
A free feat at level 1 already exists in 5e. I characterize it as a "setting feat", such as a divine gift (Theros), dark gift (Ravenloft), and presumably a psionic talent (Dark Sun).

A free feat relating to background can fit in, albeit implies a setting that focuses on backgrounds and ongoing vocational goals. The players would access these feats by opting into a setting that features them.
The return of themes as another layer of PC character could help.

Some themes could give a feat. Others proficiencies, Others magic. Others a bonded magic item. And you sort them out by setting and magic leveland suggest which theme goes with which background.
 

ctorus

Explorer
They did "say" that, but I don't agree with them. And it doesn't make their argument accurate.
I was literally replying to someone who challenged that anyone had ever said that. Whether the point is correct or not is a separate issue.

Honestly this whole discussion is so unnecessarily fractious. I think it's useful to consider what worked well in previous editions when considering what one would like to see in a new edition, and 4e should be part of that discussion in an unproblematic way. I think that's something most of us would agree with.

I'll hold my hand up and admit I have baggage too. As someone who liked 4e and still plays it, I felt then and still feel that it got unfairly maligned, and when 5e was presented as somehow 'righting the wrong' of 4e that alienated me. But I also accept that we have to move on. I still have my books and can still enjoy playing them. I did try 5e initially but didn't like it. It's been frustrating seeing everything coming out for it, and all the online stuff being developed, and thinking what could have been..

I know it's unlikely, but if 6e was something that could bring me back, perhaps by including some of the things that I felt 4e did well, that would be really great.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Honestly this whole discussion is so unnecessarily fractious. I think it's useful to consider what worked well in previous editions when considering what one would like to see in a new edition, and 4e should be part of that discussion in an unproblematic way. I think that's something most of us would agree with.
IMO, 4e being a part of the discussion isn't what was problematic. It was comments from both sides such as "4e failed" or "people disliked 4e because of presentation despite those people not actually saying or agreeing with that" that were the problem.

I'll hold my hand up and admit I have baggage too. As someone who liked 4e and still plays it, I felt then and still feel that it got unfairly maligned,
What does unfairly maligned mean? IMO it means that you feel people either incorrectly or invalidly criticized 4e. Personally, I think that's a weak position in this case, yet despite that it's a valid belief. But, IMO it's a belief that is only ever going to lead to the fractiousness you referenced earlier because the belief rests on dismissing other peoples stated criticisms.

and when 5e was presented as somehow 'righting the wrong' of 4e that alienated me.
If one disliked certain aspects of 4e that 5e moved away from then that idea of 'righting the wrong' seems understandable. Perhaps a bit too universal of a feeling but still understandable.

But I also accept that we have to move on. I still have my books and can still enjoy playing them. I did try 5e initially but didn't like it. It's been frustrating seeing everything coming out for it, and all the online stuff being developed, and thinking what could have been..
I think this is important - notice how 5e fans aren't telling you that you are unfairly maligning 5e because of whatever reasons you dislike it. They aren't saying you would like it if it had a more 4e presentation.

I know it's unlikely, but if 6e was something that could bring me back, perhaps by including some of the things that I felt 4e did well, that would be really great.
Maybe. I'd be interested in hearing what you think 6e could do more like 4e that would make it overall better.
 


Maybe. I'd be interested in hearing what you think 6e could do more like 4e that would make it overall better.

I am not the one adressed, but what springs to my head immediately:

- Hit dice for more than healing and for limiting/adding to certain healing abilities

- Rituals that can be partaken by several people and do more than classic spell stuff

- more unified progression, so you can mix and match different subclasses

- paragon paths
 



FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I am not the one adressed, but what springs to my head immediately:

- Hit dice for more than healing and for limiting/adding to certain healing abilities
I don’t recall healing surges being used for more than healing. Maybe you can elaborate here?

- Rituals that can be partaken by several people and do more than classic spell stuff
That sounds cool

- more unified progression, so you can mix and match different subclasses
I personally see more cons than pros there.

- paragon paths
Not sure what these would look like in 5e to you?
 

I don’t recall healing surges being used for more than healing. Maybe you can elaborate here?

I thought there were some rituals where you could spend them... But probably I could be wrong.

To paragon paths:
I really liked the Idea of different classes being able to share abilities with different classes. Having another decision point and maybe finding a new purpose.
This may serve as an alternate to cross class subclasses.
 

Voadam

Legend
Can you provide a brief summary of the differences for us lay people?
Under the OGL when you comply with the license you can use designated open content (such as the SRD which in 3e contained most of the core rules and mechanical elements of the PH, DMG, and MM, plus psionics, and a few other WotC bits) to make your own products. This is an irrevocable license to use the mechanics of OGL material.

Most 3e, Pathfinder, and OSR stuff is OGL.
A lot of 5e stuff is OGL, although DM's Guild is a different non-OGL license and has a ton of stuff too.

Under the 4e GSL it was a license to use some 4e limited references and indicate compatibility with official D&D. You could make a module or a new bestiary but not reprint stats for the core monsters. It is not an irrevocable license, does not include all of the core mechanics and stat blocks, and had a number of specific restrictions if you agree to the license.

the 4e GSL had a provision (Section 6) about agreeing to abandon any OGL publication if the publisher converted that material to the 4e GSL. The 4e GSL also prohibited turning any GSL material into an OGL product.

So If the Tome of Horrors with versions under 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, Swords & Wizardry, and 5e under the OGL were converted to 4e and published under the 4e GSL those other system ones would have to be abandoned and no longer published or sold. Similarly if Frog God wished to make a 4e bestiary they were prohibited under the license from also making a Pathfinder or Swords and Wizardry or 5e version of the new bestiary.

Under Section 7 WotC had content and quality standards that they could invoke to cancel a GSL product.

Under Section 10.3 on protection of WotC proprietary rights the GSL licensee agrees to help WotC to protect its IP and agrees not to institute any lawsuits or take any action regarding WotC's IP and agree not to do anything to bring disrepute upon the IP or WotC.

Under Section 11 WotC could terminate the license and stop GSL products from being further published or sold.

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ctorus

Explorer
IMO, 4e being a part of the discussion isn't what was problematic. It was comments from both sides such as "4e failed" or "people disliked 4e because of presentation despite those people not actually saying or agreeing with that" that were the problem.


What does unfairly maligned mean? IMO it means that you feel people either incorrectly or invalidly criticized 4e. Personally, I think that's a weak position in this case, yet despite that it's a valid belief. But, IMO it's a belief that is only ever going to lead to the fractiousness you referenced earlier because the belief rests on dismissing other peoples stated criticisms.


If one disliked certain aspects of 4e that 5e moved away from then that idea of 'righting the wrong' seems understandable. Perhaps a bit too universal of a feeling but still understandable.


I think this is important - notice how 5e fans aren't telling you that you are unfairly maligning 5e because of whatever reasons you dislike it. They aren't saying you would like it if it had a more 4e presentation.


Maybe. I'd be interested in hearing what you think 6e could do more like 4e that would make it overall better.
I don't really follow the point of disagreement here. I am not dismissing all criticisms of 4e as invalid, or based solely on presentation, and I don't think anyone else here is. Hopefully that's clear. I even have several criticisms of 4e myself. I do maintain there was quite a lot of prominent uninformed criticism back then, but am trying to move on and view that as water under the bridge.

FWIW, I think I would like 5e better if it had a more 4e presentation, particularly if, as some have maintained, there are lots of 4e ideas under the hood that I have missed. As I said above I think presentation matters a lot.

I mentioned one thing I would love in my ideal 6e, which is the option to bring back tactical combat - perhaps a grid, or perhaps zonal (but sufficient to enable things like flanking and opportunity attacks), and for this to be supported by other aspects of the game such as powers and abilities. If this could be such that some combats could be done this way and others more abstractly, within a session, that would be great.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
but am trying to move on and view that as water under the bridge.
Sounds good, let's do that!

FWIW, I think I would like 5e better if it had a more 4e presentation, particularly if, as some have maintained, there are lots of 4e ideas under the hood that I have missed. As I said above I think presentation matters a lot.
Are you saying that if 5e had a presentation more like 4e you would go from disliking it to liking it or are you saying you would go from disliking it to disliking it less?

I mentioned one thing I would love in my ideal 6e, which is the option to bring back tactical combat - perhaps a grid, or perhaps zonal (but sufficient to enable things like flanking and opportunity attacks), and for this to be supported by other aspects of the game such as powers and abilities. If this could be such that some combats could be done this way and others more abstractly, within a session, that would be great.
I think that would be cool. I think they wanted to do this. I think when attempting it they found doing those things were a bit mutually exclusive. Either you have a game built around tactical combat where abilities all reference the grid and interact with the tactical aspects or you have a game that you can play TOTM, where grid based tactical considerations can't really come up and so abilities don't reference them.

IMO It's partially why so little of the game actually ended up modular as they stated was their initial intent.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I mentioned one thing I would love in my ideal 6e, which is the option to bring back tactical combat - perhaps a grid, or perhaps zonal (but sufficient to enable things like flanking and opportunity attacks), and for this to be supported by other aspects of the game such as powers and abilities. If this could be such that some combats could be done this way and others more abstractly, within a session, that would be great.
My ideal is:

The core rules are strictly for theater of the mind, without grids, minis, or micromeasurements.

At the same time, a supplement is available that fully develops tactical grid combat, including class features, spells, and feats that refer to grid combat.

It would be helpful if this supplement also handles mass combat for armies, and somehow has mechanics that can manage the actions of individual characters as well as the abstractions of the actions of large groups.

With regard to theater of the mind, all distances should simplify into the following ballpark distances:

upto 3 feet (1 m): engage melee
upto 10 feet (3m): reach
upto 30 feet (10 m): close move/throw
upto 100 feet (30 m): lightningbolt
upto 300 feet (100 m): bowshot
 
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The return of themes as another layer of PC character could help.

Some themes could give a feat. Others proficiencies, Others magic. Others a bonded magic item. And you sort them out by setting and magic leveland suggest which theme goes with which background.
a layer of class agnostic choice could be a good fit.
 

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