Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What I Want From 5E/D&D Next

Now that we're a few months past the Big Announcement and the fire has (to a great extent) died down, I thought I'd chip in with my input into what I want from 5E.  Not that one more person's input will change things. But here is my spare change:

Better Multiclassing
Of all the editions of D&D so far, I think 3E was closest to getting it right. Splitting your XP in 2E made your character less than half as effective as most of the rest of the party. Spending Feats to borrow powers from other classes in 4E effectively made multiclassing a waste of time and XP.  Adding levels like 3E did worked, but it had some issues - for example, taking a single level of Fighter instantly gave you the ability to use all non-exotic weapons and wear any armor without penalty.

I'd like to see 5E move closer to 3E on this front - but nerf it slightly. You first level in a new class, you get half of some benefits. Half the skill points, a limited number of Weapon and/or Armor Proficiency Feats, a reduced number of spells.

Honestly, I'd create two versions of the first level of each class - "Base Class" and "Multiclass."  If I'm a Fighter who takes a class of Wizard, I get the Multiclass version of Wizard instead of the Base Class version. For that first level.

A Better Skill System
3E had this about right. There was a set skill list and each class gained a certain number of points to spend on the skills. I'd increase the number of skills, though, and put them into categories. Fighters might gain six Combat Skills and three General Skill Points. It's a step closer to 2E's Weapon Proficiency/Non-Weapon Proficiency divide, but it allows for truly different characters (one of 3E's strengths).

In my opinion, FEATS should highlight what's already there or accent pre-existing abilities. Much like many of the 4E FEATS - "You have a hammer? Great! Now you do +2 Damage with that hammer!"

XP for Non-Combat Interaction
This, for me, is a huge deal. I'd like to be rewarded for outwitting the dragon and getting out alive.  I'd like the system to encourage players to avoid combat sometimes, and experience is a good way to do this.

More Story Control for Players
Maybe I've been spoiled by all the Indie games I've been reading. Or my FUDGE game history. I just like the idea of players being able to influence the story. It's not a new idea - look at James Bond 007 for a relatively old example.

Give players a limited number of Plot Points - you can even call them Action Points (and award them similarly to how they are currently awarded). Spending a point lets the player influence the story in some way.  Maybe that store does have the potion you're looking for. Maybe the librarian doesn't have the tome, but he knows where you can find it. Maybe you know that bandit - the third one on the left - and so you won't necessarily have to kill all of the bandits just to get through their roadblock.

Less Black & White, More Shades of Grey
I really dislike D&D's alignment system. I always have. It seemed arbitrary and weird. Even the improved 4E alignments (which remind me more and more of Palladium's alignments) are odd to me.

Why not use a system that's more like King Arthur Pendragon uses for Virtues? Fading Suns used a similar system, and it worked very well.  You can easily give each class a set of "highlight" Virtues - Paladins, for example, would probably tend to be Just and Merciful, whereas rogues will be Greedy and Selfish.  Not only does it give more definition to the character, it also gives the GM another story hook to use ... "Roll a Wisdom check against a difficulty of your Greed to sneak out of the Dragon's Den without filling your pockets with gold and angering the dragon." And it gives PC's another way to earn XP for good role-playing (or earn those story control points I mentioned earlier).

Conversion Notes from Earlier Editions
When 3E came out, Wizards of the Coast published a conversion book that allowed players to take the 2E characters they'd been playing for years and continue to use them.  It wasn't perfect, but it worked. No such booklet appeared for 4E.

I'm not looking for a step-by-step breakdown, but there aren't even basic guidelines to go from 3E to 4E. Unless you consider fan-created conversion notes. And there aren't a lot of those, either.

Class Creation Guidelines
Let's be honest - 5E will probably be class-and-level-based. That's not necessarily a bad thing - Legend of the Five Rings RPG is one of my favorite RPGs, and it is the strictest class-based system I know of. And it has a level-based system that makes sense, even if it only extended for five levels.

When I bought 4E, I was disappointed when they left out the Bard class (one of my favorites to play). Had there been some sort of class construction guideline, I could have made my own Bard glass and been satisfied. In fact, no matter what classes they include, there will be others which are excluded. Many of them will have fans.  A full set of rules isn't necessary, here, either - just guidelines. With an example class so we can see how it works.

My list is probably different from most other lists out there. In fact, I'd be shocked if my wants/needs matched anyone else's.  I'm sure there are things on my list that overlap those of others out there.

But that's where I stand on 5E.

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