So in case you’ve been asleep the last 24 hours or so, Wizards of the Coast announced that they are working on a new edition of D&D. Now, unlike about 90% of the blog posts I’ve read concerning this, I actually really liked 4th edition D&D. I would say it’s not only my favorite edition of D&D, but really my favorite overall RPG (if I were forced to choose!), and that’s saying a fair bit since I own and have played dozens of them.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think 4th edition is without its flaws. I just think they are a bit less structural or extreme than many of the other bloggers out there. So with that in mind, here are 5 things I’d like to see from the 5th edition of D&D:
- Less Reliance on Magic Items: Others have said it, and I will too. I don’t want receiving magic items to feel like fulfilling a boring power curve. I don’t want to hit level 6 and have to start wondering where my +2 sword is already. I think the key to making magic items cool and magical and not intimately connected to the overall balance of the game is to remove the enhancement bonuses entirely (or restrict them to only a +1) and give them other cool qualities. So maybe I can get a cool flaming sword that lets me do fire damage or a piece of armor that let’s me negate damage once per encounter. These types of qualities could be quite powerful, and I am fine with the game assuming that you should tend to have, say, 3 magic items of X power by level 10, but I don’t want to feel like I HAVE to have them to keep up with the math as I level, and I do want to feel like they’re special, which probably also means fewer magic items overall. In short, it would be awesome if there were no “slot” that I absolutely felt required to fill.
- Faster Combats: I love the nitty gritty of choosing powers and optimizing my turns in combat. 4th edition combat is a blast in that regard. But it’s too damn long. 4+ hour combats are not uncommon, in my experience, which means an entire session can go by in one combat. I’ve made house rule changes in my games to lower monster HP and increase damage, which has helped speed up combat A LOT, and I would love to see something similar reflect in the rules of the next edition. At the same time, I don’t want to see the kill-fests of 3.5. I remember combats in 3.5 that took an hour or two to resolve and yet somehow were still over in the course of a couple of rounds. I think the ideal combat would be 5-10 rounds, present plenty of interesting tactical decisions, and be over in an hour or so. I would be open to something more radical, like a system for handling different types of combats: super fast combats that take 15 minutes or less to resolve (and yet still have a sense of danger) and longer “boss style” combat that take an hour or two and are reserved for climactic battles.
- Similar Flow Across Multiple Levels: I’ve seen a few comments that there should be a bigger distinction between the different tiers of play. I’m certainly in favor of that to some degree (though paragon tier certainly feels a lot different than heroic in most games I run, partly due to my DM style). However, what is important to me is that the game maintain a certain flow across multiple levels. In 4th edition, for example, monsters go down pretty fast at low levels. Anyone, even the lowly fighter, can have access to a decent ranged attack. Strikers, while powerful, don’t seem to totally overwhelm everyone else in damage. At higher levels, monsters turn into HP blocks that need to be chipped away at. Classes become so specialized that they fall pathetically behind in areas outside of the expertise (see aforementioned fighter ranged attack and the rocketing of striker damage compared to everyone else). Basically, I want to see the good stuff stay relatively consistent across levels; I don’t want to feel like combats are starting to drag, or my character is becoming useless, or some skill check is becoming trivial (or impossible) just because I’ve gained a few levels.
- Get Rid of Strikers: I love class roles. They are SUPER fun. I love being the tough knight that does a really good job of standing in the front lines and defending the party or the awesome healer that gives people bonuses and keeps people alive. But most of all, I love dealing tons and tons and tons of damage while the rest of the party stares on slack jawed at how bad-ass I am. And that is where the problem is; most people I game with feel the same way. Being a striker is TOO COOL. In short, every class role should be great at doing damage, perhaps in different ways, and the roles should focus on something else (support/healing, battlefield control, defense, mobility, different ways of attacking, etc.).
- Make Skills a Real Part of the Game: Skills in 4th edition are too wonky. They are not treated with the same respect as other parts of the game. For example, for the price of a background, I can get a +2 bonus to a skill. Imagine if the same background gave a bonus to ranged attacks! It would be amazingly powerful! If we want skills to matter in the game, then I probably shouldn’t be able to make a DC trivial by picking up an item or taking a single feat. Skills should be treated with the same (or almost as much) weight as an attack role. If we are both trained in a skill, and I have a +1 or +2 bonus on that skill, that should be a pretty big deal, just like if I had a similar edge in an attack roll. If skills approach that level of regularity then a skill challenge system can present the same intensity and balance of a fight. Or I can craft a social encounter and be able to set DCs for some important rolls (such as detecting that the lord is lying about the location of the bandits or convincing a soldier to join you on the mission) and not worry about whether the rolls will be totally trivial for one PC.
- Slightly Simpler: Make the game a little simpler at higher levels. Navigating literally 25+ powers on my turn can be kind of tough.
- Fewer Conditions: I’d like it if every monster and PC wasn’t under the effect of 3 different conditions by the 2nd or 3rd round of combat.
- Simpler XP: Okay, I’m a bit lazy, but a super simple system for determining XP would be fun!
- Don’t make me refuse the ice-cream: Paul did a post on this idea. Basically, when presented a build choice it shouldn’t be a decision between a crunchy combat ability (icecream) and a fluffy out of combat ability (vegetables) because I will choose the combat one nearly every time. Give me choices where my only options are out of combat abilities and there will be a lot more of them in the game!
- At-will, encounter, and daily powers: These add a really cool resource management effect to the game. When do I use my limited number of encounter powers in a battle? Is this battle tough enough to justify a daily? And so on!
- High HP at 1st level: I love that PCs have a good number of HPs at first level. Being slain in one or two hits by a goblin isn’t very fun, and it’s something that goes away by level 5 anyway.
- Attack rolls versus all defenses: Removing saving throws and making spells and other powers target different defenses was a nice straightforward improvement.
- Roles: Please don’t get rid of class roles. They help the game feel more cooperative and less competitive since I am not constantly comparing myself to the rest of the party. If I am the party defender, I tend to have maybe one other person to compare myself to (and often none), and that makes it easier for me to craft an interesting and distinctive build. Plus, class roles add a fun level of teamwork, where everyone is working together in different ways towards a common goal.