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D&D 5E What will 5E's defining sub-system be?

Mercurius

Legend
It seems to me that over the last few editions of D&D, there has been a major sub-system (or two) for each that defined the game, both as different from its predecessor but also just as a game in and of itself. Let's take a look...

The major new sub-system in 3E was feats - sure, there were other innovations, from defenses to BAB to, of course, the basic d20 mechanic itself. But if there is one rules sub-system that truly characterized what made 3E different from the edition that came before (in this case, 2E) and exploited the potential of the system, then it was feats (IMO).

For 4E, I would say it was powers which, more than any other new aspect to 4E, defined the edition's distinctive quality.

Going back a bit, it is hard to say for 2E--especially considering that I haven't played it in 15 years--but I would say kits. We could also say non-weapon proficiencies but, if I remember correctly, they crept into the later years of 1E. 1E is a bit trickier; as a descendent of OD&D, which I've never played, I don't feel qualified to make a guess.

So what about 5E? My guess is that it will be themes. Yes, themes existed in 4E, but not in the same way or with the same edition-defining impact that it seems they will have in 5E. We could also say "modular options" but that would be too vague and isn't a specific sub-system but more of an overall design approach and, we could say, themes will exemplify the potential of the modular system by adding a third major defining factor in character creation (along with race and class).

So we have:
2E - kits
3E - feats
4E - powers
5E - themes

What do you think?
 

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Crazy Jerome

First Post
Themes might be it. OTOH, those might also be seen as a refinement of some of the holes in feats, skills, prestige classes, etc., and the thing that finally squares all the circles produced since NWP and kits first appeared.

If really well done, another candidate is whatever system they put in place to support the exploration leg of the stool. This has been disjointed thus far, in every edition.
 


Libramarian

Adventurer
Player - DM negotiation. Monte has said this is the "core mechanic", eh?

This of course occurs in D&D play in all editions, but it's never been identified as a thing like this before.

I'm pretty pumped about it.
 


Mark CMG

Creative Mountain Games
It seems to me that over the last few editions of D&D, there has been a major sub-system (or two) for each that defined the game, both as different from its predecessor but also just as a game in and of itself. Let's take a look...

The major new sub-system in 3E was feats - sure, there were other innovations, from defenses to BAB to, of course, the basic d20 mechanic itself. But if there is one rules sub-system that truly characterized what made 3E different from the edition that came before (in this case, 2E) and exploited the potential of the system, then it was feats (IMO).

For 4E, I would say it was powers which, more than any other new aspect to 4E, defined the edition's distinctive quality.

Going back a bit, it is hard to say for 2E--especially considering that I haven't played it in 15 years--but I would say kits. We could also say non-weapon proficiencies but, if I remember correctly, they crept into the later years of 1E. 1E is a bit trickier; as a descendent of OD&D, which I've never played, I don't feel qualified to make a guess.

So what about 5E? My guess is that it will be themes. Yes, themes existed in 4E, but not in the same way or with the same edition-defining impact that it seems they will have in 5E. We could also say "modular options" but that would be too vague and isn't a specific sub-system but more of an overall design approach and, we could say, themes will exemplify the potential of the modular system by adding a third major defining factor in character creation (along with race and class).

So we have:
2E - kits
3E - feats
4E - powers
5E - themes

What do you think?


I think that's a pretty good summary, along with yourcaveat regarding non-weapon proficiencies and maybe the codified skills system for 3E and CJ's mention of prestige classes. 4E has a few other add-ons that I'd suggest some who DM it more regularly than I add to the list. It might be worthwhile mentioning some of the innovations from BD&D as well.
 

Mokona

First Post
Totally agree.
Seconded.

Add in skills as an innovation sitting sorta between 2e and 3e.

Didn't 1e have prestige classes with the old school bard or druid where you had to multiclass/dual-class first in order to make the prerequisites to get into the class?
 


Ichneumon

First Post
5E will be the edition where the opposed roll goes primetime.

They've existed in previous editions, but mostly as a way to resolve specific interactions (Bluff vs Insight/Sense Motive). In the next edition, you'll be seeing the opposed roll in every combat, so long as at least one participant is using magic.

It promises to give 5E gameplay its own distinctive feel.
 

AdmundfortGeographer

Getting lost in fantasy maps
Possible. But as soon as someone can tell me what a "theme" means like in 5e terms I'll be able to say better.

Maybe 5e's defining subsystem will be "modularity" . . . whatever that actually is.
 

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