Well, it seems the vast majority of people have already started blogging about 5th edition of D&D, and how it is a make it or break it edition. This might be true. The thing is I expected a lot of vitriol. That doesn't seem to be happening. Maybe its because I don't read anything 4th ed, or maybe there is just a lot of hope in the air. Lots of people are seeming to have their own opinions on what 5th needs to be.
Right now, I've signed up for the playtest, and hopefully I'll be selected. If I am, I'll probably have to get an honest to god group together. Not kids, not a group for playing at work, but a real 'Let's get together and play group'.
The thing is that I need more information. Chances are the only thing that is currently on the table is; Roll a d20 to hit and maybe a class/level system. Those are the only two things that I can think of that have been in every edition. There's a simple elegance to that, though. At the end of the day though, I need more crunch. The rules cannot be evaluated until they've been seen. The thing is that everyone and their RPG playing mother is talking about is what kind of direction that 5th Edition needs to go in.
The majority of the talk is mainly about branding, product distribution, and other business like things. Those decisions won't come any time soon. They won't come until much later, and while I really like what some people are talking about, I have no idea if the development team will actually look at them. I am probably hindered in my views since I don't hang out at WOTC or read any 4th ed stuff.
What I am more interested in is the crunch. The development team has been silent about the crunch. There's no rules. There's nothing beyond an announcement. So I want to talk about what I think will probably be the sacrosanct, the stuff that won't go away.
1. Roll a d20. Let's face it 3.X has been called the d20 system for a reason. The D20 is as iconic to D&D as the unique shape of an American Football is to the NFL. You walk around with a D20 and everyone knows that you play RPGs and exactly which RPG you play.
2. Classes. I don't think that the class system will go away. What classes will there be? That's a great question, but I think that at the very least there will be the Four Archetypes- Warrior, Wizard, Priest, and Thief. Change the name, change the edition, they are the same four dudes. Even the other classes are more or less of the others blended together for a different combo (for example;Paladin= Warrior Priest).
3. Races. To be honest, there's quite a bit open when it comes to races. There are only three true races. Humans, elfs, and dwarfs. Hobbits, Gnomes, Tieflings, and Dragonborn (WTF?) are all optional. Some of them are downright silly (Dragonborn), but beyond the HED anything else is strictly optional.
4. Armor Class will still be Ascending instead of Descending. This is one of the stupidest arguments I've ever come across. People will blast me and state that I'm in favor of addition over subtraction, or some other such non-sense. At this point we have had two editions of Descending, and two of Ascending. I think that for sheer ease it will stay ascending. Especially since there was no cap on the ascending AC. Seriously, Neg Ten as the best? The only way that I could see Descending making a comeback is if ALL armor class was negative, and it was then a modifier to your roll. It would still be silly.
5 Signature Monsters will remain the signature monsters. Illithids, Beholders, Drow, and chromatic dragons will be part and parcel of the game. They are D&D- without them, it just isn't the same. Chances are given the way that the past few 'starter' sets have gone, it will be an abandoned mine with goblins, kobolds, and a few orcs with a hatchling chromatic dragon in charge. That's probably what the initial rules will contain.
Now, that's the only things that I will go to the bat with. I think those are going to be the things that remain. Now, if I were to speculate as to what was POSSIBLY going to be in 5th Edition, I think that the following will be there.
1. The Durations of 4th Ed. To be honest, this was about the only thing I liked about 4th Ed. The duration of stuff was through a single encounter, instant, day long, or permanent. That made sense. How often did you really need a particular spell to last beyond the encounter? Not often, hell, most of the time we ended a spell because the combat had ended. Not only that, but the minutes long durations of some spells were just dumb. Combat rarely lasts multiple minutes.
2. Miniatures. This is too big of a revenue stream to ignore. I'm sorry, but cheap plastic minis are here to stay. However, I do think that they will stop the random blister type thing, and go with a more established grouping.
3. Feats/Powers, these have now become part and parcel of the game. They are expected as the 'what cool thing can my character do?' part of the game. I do think that they will work a bit differently then in 3.X or 4th, how, I'm not sure, but they will be different.
4. The class/race min/max for a role in the group. This is something that had always kinda been around, but has been really reinforced by games like WoW. This was really apparent in 4th ed, and I think that it is here to stay (unfortunately). The fact that they are 'strikers, leaders, and artillery' makes them more like the HQ, Elite, and Heavy support of WH40K then a RPG. Should a group work together? Of course, but it should not be game breaking if everyone in the group decided to play a rogue.
5. Monster Builds. This started at the end of 3.5 and continued onto 4th, and it is something that I liked a lot. Instead of just having the 'basic' monster of the MM, there was a the footsoldier, the sergeant type, the chieftain type, and the shaman type. There was always a mention of something like that, for instance in 2nd it would be written as 'For evey 10 (X) encountered, one will have 3HD'. So instead of us having to do the brain work to figure out the stats for something like that, it was already provided to us. This made plug and play easier, since not everything had to be done over and over again.
6. Epic level gaming. Since it started with some real rules in 2nd Edition, epic level play has become more and more common. I don't think it will be going anywhere. As for it being in the main book like in 4th Ed, that I cannot say, but there will be something for it.
So those are the things that I think are very likely to appear in 5th Ed, but there's one last category that I want to talk about, the stuff that I think definitely will NOT appear in the new game.
2. Card based system. Saga was great for Marvel Super Heroes, but it failed utterly for DragonLance the 5th age.
3. Ability/skill/non-weapon proficiency checks where you have to roll UNDER your ability score. Those were just dumb and made the game weird. Works amazingly well for Alternity, not so much for D&D.
4. Adult Content rules. FATAL, anyone?
5. Some old school cash. I mean it. Some of the other 'not appearing' were jokes, but this one is totally serious. There's tons of people out there who already have lots of gaming material. Anyone who tells you that you must have more then the core three to play is lying. You can play a game with the core three infinitely. There are many of us out there who having been merrily playing whatever edition that they feel comfortable with for years, and have not and will not buy any more books. In my own case, unless they come out with the books for an affordable price around my birthday, I probably won't be buying them. Will I read them? Of course, but I'm probably not going to plunk down any hard earned money for them. I'm not the only one. The problem with books is that they are good forever as long as they are well taken care of. For many of us, there's just no need for them. It's not like many other games where you need the latest and the greatest rules to stay competitive (cough-40K-cough).
6. Greyhawk. I'm sorry to see this happen. Greyhawk was a fantastic world, one that I never played, or even delved that hard into, but I liked the concept of the 'Original D&D World'. I liked that, and I'm sorry to see it go away. 5th might revisit some of the old campaign settings, but I doubt that GH will be one of them.