I am sure everyone has heard the big announcement by now. 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is on the way, probably a summer 2013 release date.
Personally I think 4E is a great system, very robust, balanced and near perfect for combat. Designing monsters has never been more fun. But all that said, it does have a number of flaws:
- Rules Bloat: I think in particular the individual classes REALLY take up far too much space. I do however, think I have solved this problem below.
- Lack of Identity for the higher Tiers: The higher tiers are just more of the same with more math, when they needed to add elements like mass combat, running a stronghold, gigantic monsters, politics, running a country, becoming a religion/immortal. I go into more details on this in The Ten Commandments of Epic article.
- The Game System License: Slightly improved now, but the initial GSL for 4E really isolated the third party companies and caused the schism that is Pathfinder.
- Too Combat Centric: Don’t get me wrong, I love RPG combat/tactical play and 4E is the best system for that. But after reading Revenge of the Iron Lich it was clear that other 4E products (adventures in particular) really ignored the exploration and puzzle side of the game.
- Underwhelming Products: While 4E had its share of gems (Dungeon Delves, Open Grave, Draconomicon, Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting among others) too many of the books were all too familiar and pretty lacklustre efforts. I can’t remember the last time I really got excited by a 4E release.
The Rules Bloat
This problem is particularly important because it works against any expansion of the game (in particular any 4E Immortal Tier expansion). In 4th Edition, the Fighter class entry takes up about 14 pages (1 page of illustration & fluff text, 10 pages of Powers and Utilities, 3 pages devoted to Paragon Paths). Note that this doesn’t even count feats or Epic Destinies. So you are probably talking about 16 pages of material for each and every class…and remember that each of the main classes was also expanded with more powers and utilities, more feats and more Paragon Paths in multiple books. Its too much to remember, it really is.
4E ‘Lite’: The Fighter Class
So I don’t know what direction 5E will take, but here is an idea for how to represent all of a classes powers within about a half a page of text. The benefits of this approach are in my opinion MASSIVE:
- Flexibility: Gives people the ability to create (and name) their own powers.
- Simplicity: Less text means its MUCH less daunting for casual gamers.
- Space Saving: Detailing all of a classes powers in less than a page. You could even, easily now fit ALL the powers for the entire class on a character sheet.
- Variety: Retains ALL the variety of the 4E powers…in fact if anything it expands the number of powers.
- Expansion: Makes expanding classes simple…all you do is add a new power modifier. Thats ONE line of text.
- Transparency: Shows how the system works allowing DMs and gamers to experiment for themselves.
- Multi-classing: By making multi-classing in itself a power modifier you do away with the need for multi-classing feats.
- Eradicates Repetition: Going over the Fighter powers in 4E and you’d be amazed how many times almost identical powers are repeated…and remember that each new power is about another 10 lines of text.
Anyway without further ado, here is the idea.