As I noted yesterday, the big news in fantasy role-playing was the announcement of Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition and even early playtesting. I hope that gaming can still thrive, albeit with fewer fans than in the 1980s or early 2000s. Technology, rules systems, and playing styles have evolved, and I’ve enjoyed the social side of the hobby for almost 30 years.
My groups have been speculating about D&D5e for a few months now, and initial reactions among them and various bloggers were wary. Some people, who like D&D3.x and Pathfinder, hope that Wizards of the Coast can return to something like the D20 Open Game License rather than D&D4e’s more restrictive Game System License. We debated whether WotC should try to widen its audience and pursue younger gamers or whether it needs to win back lapsed role-players and those who stuck with earlier editions. It should try to do both as the industry leader.
Others, who like how D&D4e tried to be more balanced and streamlined, hope for a more modular approach to the complexity level of the rules as characters and monsters advance. I’d like D&D5e to offer more support for role-playing, world-building, and pickup and one-shot games. German designers and Lego have been successful with board games that are potential entry points into the hobby. Dungeons that you can drop a random group of players and characters into, evocative settings, and the potential for long-term story and character development are all important.
I think an introductory D&D5e boxed set is likely, with more focus on pregenerated elements and online character management. Tactical combat will continue to be important, but I think the “fantasy punk” flavor will be dialed back in an attempt to win back some people alienated by the massively multiplayer online (MMO) style of D&D4e. As I said yesterday, WotC will still need to prove that D&D5e is better than already available prior editions and competitors such as Pathfinder.
In addition to the rivalry among fans of D&D4e vs. those of Pathfinder, I’m also still following the development and debates around rules-light and retro-clone (or “old–school Renaissance“) games. I may not have minded memorizing the AD&D1 Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide about 25 years ago, but I now want to spend less time worrying about rules and be able to run fun games easily. For example, based on the success of the “Broken Chains” scenario during Byron’s visit, some of us are considering using FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre instead of Pathfinder for telecom fantasy games.