Here Comes 5th Edition!

As I discussed before, I’ve felt that certain actions on the part of Wizards of the Coast (not least of which was the re-hiring of Monte Cook) presaged a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons coming down the pike, and lo! and behold I am once more proven correct:

Charting the Course for D&D

To those who doubted that I was right in saying that 5E was coming sooner rather than later, I will reply with a stately and dignified “neener, neener, neener”. However, there are some interesting tidbits. FTFA:

“…starting in Spring 2012, we will be taking this process one step further
and conducting ongoing open playtests with the gaming community to
gather feedback on the new iteration of the game as we develop it. With
your feedback and involvement, we can make D&D better than ever.



“We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign
settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of
D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a
game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on
combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire. We want a game that is
unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become
your D&D, the game that you want to run and play.

“Then at the D&D Experience convention in late January, Wizards of the Coast will conduct a special playtest of ideas currently in development.”

There’s also a New York Times article covering the story (free registration required to read). They add a few more things, including this critical piece that flies in the face of those who predict that tabletop gaming is dead and should move over to MMORPGs:

Still, a new edition could backfire, if the changes requested by
hard-core fans can’t be reconciled or if players believe the company is
merely paying lip service to their concerns. Nonetheless the company
remains “absolutely committed” to the core tabletop game-play, Ms. Schuh
said. “People want that face-to-face experience.”

Also, this year’s D&D Experience convention later this month has an interesting slate of seminars:

Charting the Course: An Edition for all Editions (Thursday)

Join Mike Mearls, Monte Cook, and Jeremy Crawford as they discuss the origin for the idea to create an edition of Dungeons & Dragons
that encompasses all previous editions. The designers discuss the
challenges in creating compatibility and balance, as well as the
exciting possibilities such a system creates. Seminar to be followed by a
Q&A session.

Class Design: From Assassins to Wizards (Friday)

Designers Monte Cook, Bruce Cordell, and Robert Schwalb
discuss their approach to class design, including the difficulties in
creating iconic versions of the classes that speak to players of all
editions. Should the cleric be more martial or more healer? Does the
default ranger have an animal companion? What level of complexity should
the fighter have? Seminar to be followed by a Q&A session.

Future Products and Q&A (Saturday)

Mike Mearls presents upcoming D&D products for 2012, as well as a vision for the future of Dungeons & Dragons. Seminar is followed by a Q&A session. Other members of R&D on hand to answer questions as well.

Reimagining Skills and Ability Scores (Sunday)

The role of skills has fluctuated throughout the life of Dungeons & Dragons,
and ability scores have been of varying importance in each edition.
Find out what the design team has done to reimagine these aspects of the
game, and how they arrived at a system to marry the two concepts more
closely together. Seminar includes Monte Cook, Bruce Cordell, and Robert
Schwalb, and will be followed by a Q&A session.

Takeaways from all this: 5E has been “in development” for some time, now. To the point that they’ll actually have something ready for public exposure three weeks from now. They’re following in the footsteps of Paizo and doing an open playtest, and it looks like they’re aware that tabletop gaming is still their core competency, and aren’t going to go 100% digital. Good.

I will say this again: I gave 4E a fair chance, read the rules and actually played the game, and made an informed decision that it wasn’t what I was looking for. I will give 5E the same benefit of the doubt, and I am honestly and actually hoping it turns out to be something a committed old-school grognard such as myself can embrace. If they ask for input from me, I will be happy to oblige. I’m not optimistic, but I am open-minded.

EDIT: There is some more in-depth information over at EnWorld here and here. (Well, as in-depth as it can be, given that they have been asked not to disclose any specifics about the system, but they’re a fun read if you’re interested in 5E.)

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

14 thoughts on “Here Comes 5th Edition!

  1. This happened sooner than I expected, even at my most cynical loathing of the current versions of D&D.

    It'll be interesting to see what comes of this as I've long ago realized that modern RPG's, for the most part, do not include me in their core audience. They speak to people with wholly different cultural, literary, cinematic, and etc. makeup than me and, presumably, most OSR adherents/members. I suspect that 5th edition will utterly do away with the concept of a "DM" and will instead by a randomly generated "dungeon" in which all players can explore and participate equally. The power and table dynamics of the original games no longer apeal to the younger gaming generations.

  2. I had not, dicecipher, thanks. I'm heartened by the very end:

    "But so far, the fifth edition rules show promise. They’re simple without being stupid, and efficient without being shallow. Combat was quick and satisfying; we got through most of an adventure in just a few hours. And I get the sense that fifth edition will bring back some of the good complexity of previous versions, allowing players to create unique characters and new worlds."

  3. As long as the 'strategy roleplayer' group is kept far, far away from the discussions, I could see this not sucking. I dread to think what it potentially could be though, if the more vociferous of that audience get their way. Sparkly Ninja Fairy most immediately springs to mind. *shudder*

    Still, eyes open, fingers crossed, ready to give it a try if there's a cheap 'introductory' way in, probably best describes my reaction to the news of a new edition. Certainly though, WotC will have to work tremendously hard to earn any real money from my group. I shall remain very wary and not prepared to drop for a full set of hardcovers until they pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

  4. @Hamlet. That's not a terrible idea for a non-hobby version of the game. If WOTC can develop a game that can appeal to a novice or intermittent player, that's a good thing. If those same rules have an expandibility to allow extensive character customization and DM tools to easily craft their own individual adventure visions, that sounds like winner. Especially if both versions have combat rules that play in a "quick and satisfying manner."

    Two issues I would look for. One, can the game be played without a board? Two, can I get a full, base version of the rules, without buying a shelf of books?

  5. Define "base version of the rules." Does that mean something that includes (for example) all the classes and races, but only goes to 4th level? Or something that goes to unlimited levels, but only has a subset of the total number of classes and races?

    Because I can tell you from personal experience, it's one or the other, or you're looking at big ol' book territory.

  6. @Joseph: If you're talking about 3e, 4e, or Adventures Deep and Dark, you're right. If you're talking about Microlite rules, then no. If you're a hobby gamer obsessed with levels and options, you need a bunch of books. If you just want to take the game out of the closet to play for evening, probably not.

  7. Now, I'm not big on 4th ed, yes it had potential but it wasn't Dungeons and Dragons, it was more of a game for minatures. Hopefully this 5th edition is more like 3.5, which is what I know most as I grew up with it, and though I have my doubts I will be playing the 5th edition in an attempt to get used to it. I'm not saying "Yay" or "Nay" I'm just saying I hope it pulls through and doesn't make a mess of things like 4th ed did.

    No offence intended or aimed at 4th edition lovers.

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