Dungeons & Dragons

Hopes for a New Edition

A few weeks ago, Mike Shea posted his five wishes for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition at Critical Hits:

  1. Better Solo Monsters
  2. No Action-Stealing Status Effects
  3. Optional Complexity in Character Creation, Simplicity at the Table
  4. Faster Combat
  5. Bonus-Based Attributes

While I’d be happy to see all of those except #2, I realized that my list of 5 things I want to see in the next edition of D&D is much different. Here are my top 5 hopes for the next edition of D&D:

Items that are More Magical

Magic items are one of the parts of 4E that I’ve been most disappointed with. While it sounds like Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium has made some progress in this area (I unfortunately haven’t managed to get a copy yet), I would love to see the next edition drastically overhaul magical items. I’d like to see an end of +X weapons and armor and instead shift the focus to abilities of the items that are more evocative and interesting rather than how 4E requires the enhancement bonus and generally has only a single daily power. I also hope to see 4E’s masterwork armor mechanics vanish – they are an ugly band-aid on the system’s math rather than a cool way to add to the game.

More Tier Differentiation

I think the idea of tiers of play is great, but the implementation in 4E hasn’t handled it as well as I’d like. While the tiers are supposed to represent widening scopes of influence for the characters, the game really seems to be geared towards room-by-room dungeon delving no matter the level of play. I’d really love to see the next edition try to differentiate the tiers from one another by including options for things like leadership positions, influencing the fate of nations, political power, and other means for characters to have a direct impact outside of the dungeon.

Adventure Balance Rather Than Encounter Balance

I’ve felt that D&D 4E has the most balanced combat math out of any edition I’ve played. Unfortunately, I think the focus on balance in combat has had some negative side effects. For example, monsters that have historically been resistant or immune to spells have largely lost those abilities because they could make certain characters (spellcasters in this case) less useful during an encounter. While this change was made with good intentions of ensuring that no player gets stuck on the sidelines, I think it contributes to making fights less interesting. I hope to see some of these monster abilities return in the next edition alongside advice for DMs to help avoid sidelining players by repetitively using monsters who are strong against a certain character in their party.

Class-Subclass Structure From The Start

The class-subclass structure of recent Essentials-style classes is something that I hope is used in the next edition from the start. I think this allows a small number of iconic classes (fighter, rogue, wizard, cleric, druid, etc) while using subclasses to introduce mechanical options that have previously resulted in less iconic and generally under-supported classes such as the Seeker or Runepriest.

Keep What 4E Did Right

Perhaps most importantly, I hope that the next edition keeps many of the innovations that make 4E my favorite D&D edition to date: The mechanics for minions, elites, and solos have allowed for better monster balance. Making characters more heroic at level 1 rather than needing a few levels before you get interesting abilities. Classification of abilities into power sources. The streamlined 4E core setting. More interesting and meaningful character races with racial powers and options.

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

2 replies on “Hopes for a New Edition”

More Tier Differentiation is a good one. In every version before this, rules for gaining followers, cohorts and building strongholds have been a facet. It’s a strong indicator of how far the characters have advanced in the world.

Paragon Tier worked to the extent of it started to replace powers instead of adding on many new ones. I think Epic tier has a place, but it should be completely removed from the original set and given an add on afterwards, similar to how 3E handled it. When you read through that book, you knew the stakes had just been raised. In 4E, epic tier presents itself as a linear advancement, not the sudden jump in power that makes people excited.

Which is where I think your first 3 points lie- there’s no jump or sudden explosion in 4E to make things suddenly exciting. That usually happens because of chaos and a lack of balance. 4E being so balanced keeps that in check. On the other hand, it also stops people from abusing the system nearly as much.

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