When D&D Fourth Edition was released, there was a huge backlash from the player community. The game that they had known and played for years had been changed completely, and there was no denying that it shared a lot mechanically with modern video games. In an attempt to gain new players, Wizards had alienated a portion of their player base; never a good idea in the niche hobby market. Paizo Publishing – a former partner of WotC – even went so far as to continue adding rules and modules for D&D 3.5 under the name Pathfinder, and it’s still one of the most popular RPGs being played today.
But as I went to bed that night, so very alone, I couldn’t help but think that D&D Next might bring a lot of those die-hard 3.5ers back into the fold while keeping their 4th edition audience as well. Is WotC having their cake and eating it too?
After the jump, more food metaphors
I woke the next morning to a knocking on my room door. I opened it to find James on the other side.
“Uh, hey,” he whispered. “Um… Audrey is nice.”
“What?” I almost choked out. “Oh. Ohhh. Seriously?”
“Back off, we’re consenting adults. Besides, you can’t criticize. Remember PAX East two years ago?”
Yikes. PAX East 2010. Imagine The Hangover, only like five hundred times nerdier. Okay, now unimagine The Hangover. No one’s life is really like that, and when someone says “It was like The Hangover” they’re being a filthy liar. Now imagine I made out with a girl dressed as an anime – that’s way closer to the reality of the situation.
“I do, and I’ll kindly remind you to not bring that up again,” I sighed. “It’s fine. Let’s go to IHOP, we can get a Rooty-Tooty-Fresh-and-Fruity.”
When your name is Rudy, it’s a great novelty when anyone/thing shares your name (or is even close) so I eat at IHOP embarassingly often. As we waited for our breakfasts, we talked about Next and where we thought it could go, uh, next.
“Overall, I think the new approach to combat is great. When you play D&D, you want to experience the history of the game; getting bogged down in a two hour fight is always when I’m having the least fun.”
“It was neat not using the battle map.”
“It was,” James agreed. “But Wizards of the Coast want to add really intense rules for tactical battles – complicated stuff, like taking the direction your character is facing into account. Again, it falls under the ‘you now have options on how you want to play’ philosophy they’re really pushing.”
“I guess the trade-off to an open system is that there are less abilities in combat,” I said, distracted by the arrival of my Rooty-Tooty.
“The opposite, actually. One of the things I liked in 4th edition was they kept the amount of powers and spells in check; as you leveled, you had to replace old encounter and daily powers with new ones. With D&D Next, you’ll be overflowing with spells and maneuvers at higher levels. At least for now – they’ve been blogging about adding three completely different magic systems, including one that is identical to 4E’s!” he was getting really excited and loud. People were starting to stare.
“Calm down, eat your food,” I told him, giving an everything-is-fine smile to a nearby family. “So they have a lot of new ideas in store?”
“Yeah! I mean, what we played is already pretty solid, and we barely got into the materials. For example, magical items are way more rare and useful. You won’t be trading out your +1 longsword for a +2 longsword because that plus doesn’t relate to critical hits anymore. They’re going to add rules for followers too.
“The way I see it is this,” James concluded, motioning towards iHops three signature syrups. “Ten years ago, everyone was used to plain old maple syrup. Delicious, sure, but after a while you want something new. That’s when Wizards introduced blueberry syrup, which was awesome for some people, but unattractive for others. So now Wizards is taking some of this,” he poured out some of the maple on his pancakes, “some of this,” some blueberry, “and a little bit of something new” he put a dash of strawberry on last, “and what we do have?”
“A disgusting mess?” I suggested.
“No,” he countered, eating some of his pancakes. I could see in his face it tasted terrible, but he was committed to making his point. “Deliciousness.”
“Here, you could use some more new mechanics,” I offered, pouring more strawberry syrup on his pancakes.
“Yes,” James grimaced. “Yum.”
Rudy Basso, an accountant with an English degree, is living proof that your major really doesn’t matter that much. You can read his previous series, Farming Vader, starting here.