Monday, January 9, 2012

Here Comes 5th Edition!

As I discussed before, I've felt that certain actions on the part of Wizards of the Coast (not least of which was the re-hiring of Monte Cook) presaged a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons coming down the pike, and lo! and behold I am once more proven correct:

Charting the Course for D&D

To those who doubted that I was right in saying that 5E was coming sooner rather than later, I will reply with a stately and dignified "neener, neener, neener". However, there are some interesting tidbits. FTFA:
"...starting in Spring 2012, we will be taking this process one step further and conducting ongoing open playtests with the gaming community to gather feedback on the new iteration of the game as we develop it. With your feedback and involvement, we can make D&D better than ever.

"We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire. We want a game that is unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become your D&D, the game that you want to run and play.

"Then at the D&D Experience convention in late January, Wizards of the Coast will conduct a special playtest of ideas currently in development."

There's also a New York Times article covering the story (free registration required to read). They add a few more things, including this critical piece that flies in the face of those who predict that tabletop gaming is dead and should move over to MMORPGs:
Still, a new edition could backfire, if the changes requested by hard-core fans can’t be reconciled or if players believe the company is merely paying lip service to their concerns. Nonetheless the company remains “absolutely committed” to the core tabletop game-play, Ms. Schuh said. “People want that face-to-face experience.”
Also, this year's D&D Experience convention later this month has an interesting slate of seminars:
Charting the Course: An Edition for all Editions (Thursday)
Join Mike Mearls, Monte Cook, and Jeremy Crawford as they discuss the origin for the idea to create an edition of Dungeons & Dragons that encompasses all previous editions. The designers discuss the challenges in creating compatibility and balance, as well as the exciting possibilities such a system creates. Seminar to be followed by a Q&A session.

Class Design: From Assassins to Wizards (Friday)
Designers Monte Cook, Bruce Cordell, and Robert Schwalb discuss their approach to class design, including the difficulties in creating iconic versions of the classes that speak to players of all editions. Should the cleric be more martial or more healer? Does the default ranger have an animal companion? What level of complexity should the fighter have? Seminar to be followed by a Q&A session.

Future Products and Q&A (Saturday)
Mike Mearls presents upcoming D&D products for 2012, as well as a vision for the future of Dungeons & Dragons. Seminar is followed by a Q&A session. Other members of R&D on hand to answer questions as well.

Reimagining Skills and Ability Scores (Sunday)
The role of skills has fluctuated throughout the life of Dungeons & Dragons, and ability scores have been of varying importance in each edition. Find out what the design team has done to reimagine these aspects of the game, and how they arrived at a system to marry the two concepts more closely together. Seminar includes Monte Cook, Bruce Cordell, and Robert Schwalb, and will be followed by a Q&A session.

Takeaways from all this: 5E has been "in development" for some time, now. To the point that they'll actually have something ready for public exposure three weeks from now. They're following in the footsteps of Paizo and doing an open playtest, and it looks like they're aware that tabletop gaming is still their core competency, and aren't going to go 100% digital. Good.

I will say this again: I gave 4E a fair chance, read the rules and actually played the game, and made an informed decision that it wasn't what I was looking for. I will give 5E the same benefit of the doubt, and I am honestly and actually hoping it turns out to be something a committed old-school grognard such as myself can embrace. If they ask for input from me, I will be happy to oblige. I'm not optimistic, but I am open-minded.

EDIT: There is some more in-depth information over at EnWorld here and here. (Well, as in-depth as it can be, given that they have been asked not to disclose any specifics about the system, but they're a fun read if you're interested in 5E.)