It's the weekend & I'm the only one awake, so I'm going to continue to babble about the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons! First, my gut reaction: I think this will get screwed up. I am not paying a lick of attention to the boards & posts of those who have already beta tested the Fifth Edition, but the fact that a beta test exists already doesn't fill me with a lot of high expectations. I get the feeling that the corporate umbrella is really constraining their options. That being said...when I think about it for a bit, when I listen to Mike Mearls talk about a flexible & modular system...I get a little excited! My blue sky best & worst case are that either Wizards of the Coasts will pull a rabbit out of their little pointy hat & make an amazing new edition...or they'll screw it up so bad that Hasbro just wants to get rid of the property & sell it off to Paizo. I guess those are two best cases, actually-- I'm the eternal optimist!
The thing that bothers me most about the discussions the developers have been having regarding the new edition is that...they just keep talking about fighting! Now, I know that I'm a bit weird in that regard-- that my games can tend to be fairly "low combat," even for beatnik "New Wave" gamers. Let me see...in the current campaign the last fight was...oh, three sessions ago. When Radarless plays with us I script vaguely for a little more combat, but without him I'm content to sort matters out with games & parties. My concern, however, is that Fourth Edition was utterly combat focused. It is like they saw that & included "Utility Powers" to balance that out...but then, most of the Utility Powers ended up being combat focused, too! I said for a long while that a "Book of Non-Combat Options" could be a decent bandage for those issues, but well...here we are, talking about a Fifth Edition, instead. The developers are saying you don't need minis to play, if you don't want to-- miniatures aren't my problem! It is a deeper design philosophy that I am concerned with.
At some level, I almost just want to see an incredibly stripped down version of the game. Something that Old School gamers would like, something that New Wave players would like, something you could even get kids to play. You know-- maybe use "rolling under" Statistics, with Skills granting rerolls? I know I'm crazy to bring up my ideas of Character Traits-- especially since I can't even articulate what I mean, yet-- but that could be a neat way of making alignment, race & class valid. Actually, huh. That is kind of all you need. Then again, I just sort of went the long way around towards inventing an "Attribute plus Skill" system, which is a very post-DnD mechanical innovation. I just think scalable complexity is the way to go: make a system that you can get eleven year olds to play. Make a system I can teach to people in five minutes when they decide on a lark they want to see what this "roleplaying thing" is all about. Then when you hook people, you can let them start adding more complicated building block to the game.