The Action Point’s 5E Wishlist

I’m sure the gaming interwebs are ridiculously full of shrieking and howling regarding the announced D&D 5e, but I want put up, for posterity, the things about 4E that I like and the things I hope WotC either goes back to or puts int he upcoming edition.

5) Stay away from “I hit it with my sword. I hit it again. I hit it again.” One of the things I love most about 4E is that it has gotten away from the boringness of melee characters–especially at high level. The AEDU power structure might not be perfect–or even particularly elegant, really– but what it does do very well is give everybody a chance to do something cool and contribute to the fight every round. Even the At-Will powers tend to be something decent besides just dealing damage. As a guy who really likes playing melee characters, this is a godsend. Keep it.

4) Monster Ability Mashup. One of the things that I loved about AD&D but loathed about 3.X is that once an experienced player memorized the monster subtypes and some of the more common spell descriptions, the mystery factor in most monsters just went out the window. If you know that demons have these inherent abilities and those resistances and that they usually come able to use these spells… well a lot of the fear of monsters and/or the “oh, wow– it did WHAT?” factor totally disappears. Each monster in 4E has a discrete, easily-read set of abilities and swapping them from one to another is SUPER easy. The monster building utilities have done the same thing in making monsters easy to build and easy to use. Keep that modularity and that the monsters are UNIQUE, and effectively unknowable. And the unknown is SCARY. Monsters shouldn’t play by the same rules as a PC. They’re onscreen for a microsecond in comparison, and don’t need to be that complex– or that predictable.

3) Keep D&D Encounters and Lair Assault. I think that with the flagging sales of 4E, the Organized Play of 4E is one of the biggest draws for it. Being able to sit down with a known rule set and pick up dice and learn to play in less than an hour is beautiful, and I think ‘its in this arena that 4E really shines. I also think that if they have a “walk in and try it” way of doing things at the beginning of 5E, they might attract a lot more sales for it as well.

2) OGL or Bust. There’s been a lot–and I mean a LOT– of talk about Pathfinder outselling 4E, and I think there’s some merit in that, but I do not think that the ruleset alone is the cause. Simply put, Pathfinder is a clone of a system with some very ugly flaws that does a little bit to correct them, but not really enough. The main selling point of Pathfinder is twofold. First, the adventures and setting material put out for it are utterly top-notch. This, however, is kind of the rub– most people who want to play in Golarion  buy the PF rulebooks because they want to play in Golarion, not because they really like the PF rules. It’s a case of correlation not being the same thing as causation. Golarion and the setting material–especially adventures– put out by Paizo are utterly without peer, and most gamers will buy and play the ruleset because they want to use those materials and don’t want to convert. Second, the OGL means that anybody who wants to play in their own sandbox or make their own game and home publish or use something similar or look around for 3PP items is going to use Pathfinder because it’s the only thing out there. I really truly believe that if 4E had been OGL instead of the crap-and-broken GSL, we wouldn’t be seeing 5E on the horizon for another 5 years or so. If 5E has any semblance of backwards-compatibility, it MUST be under the OGL. Period, end of story. If 5E is not OGL, it will be the last version of D&D that WotC will ever make, mark my words. Without the 3PP and Open Community support, it will do what 4E has done and be good, but not GREAT because all the awesome fan ideas will go elsewhere–like Pathfinder.

1) DMs Got Their Lives Back. When 4E came out, one of the things I IMMEDIATELY noticed was that, along with #4 above, the Encounter building setup made DM prep so much easier than 3.x or AD&D. The first time I built an adventure–not an encounter, mind you, an entire ADVENTURE– in less than the time it took me to create a single monster using monster subtypes, hit dice, templates and class levels in 3.X… I think I literally sat down in my chair and laughed hysterically until I cried a little. The burden of encounter building and adventure creation in 4E is so drastically much less than it has been in previous editions that it’s almost absurd. The time I have saved in preparing encounters for 4E is, quite literally, what allows me to have the time to write this blog. Otherwise I’d be bogged up in the math of previous editions and doing college algebra in order to make monsters with accurate, by-the-rules numbers. Switching to 4E literally gave me a huge chunk of my life back, and because of that, this is my biggest requirement for the new edition. If the GM prep time for 5E goes back to what it was… I don’t think I can justify playing it. I have a fiancee, and a soon-to-be stepson and my biological son who I could better devote that time to. This is my single most important factor in grading the new edition. I hope it lives up.

What things do you want to see in 5E? I know you’ve got an opinion.

This entry was posted in GM Advice, Random Shenanigans, Rules. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Action Point’s 5E Wishlist

  1. kantru says:

    I suspect OGL will be avoided. I think the warts on 3.x stem from unintended consequences of the OGL. The massive scale out of 3.x with too many independent publishers contributing to the power creep seems something that WotC wants to avoid. I agree 3PP support is important, but think that 3PP works best when it contributes to the settings, adventues (paths or one-shots), and other fluff. 3PP written character options, rules and other crunch will be another mess.

  2. Paul says:

    Absolutely agree 100%. You’ve nailed all the things that make 4e great.

  3. Timothy says:

    OGL means copy-paste to my adventure doc. Even if I didn’t like PF rules (which I really do), that’s enough reason for me to run it. There are a lot of things I like about 4e, but the accessibility of PF was a really easy sell. I just can’t carry around that many MB of illicitly downloaded, unsearchable PDFs when the PF SRD is RIGHT THERE.

    • 1) I either never knew or totally forgot that you read my blog, old friend. Thanks to you.
      2) That’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about. If 5E really wants to be a serious competitor, it MUST be completely OGL. They’re starting out by shooting themselves in the foot if they don’t.
      3) You up for maybe being a player hen I’m home for good?

      • Timothy says:

        Oh yeah, read most of ’em. Don’t always get around to commenting. I can’t promise the high-level tactical combat, you’re used to, but that sounds pretty awesome.

      • No worries about the tactical stuff. Keep in mind I’m used to GMing for military– have been for most of a decade now. When I ran D&D Encounters for a while at Tabletop Game & Hobby on Metcalf, I had to readjust my style. No problem there (there’s a blog post in that, methinks…); I’d REALLY like to drop you into the political/social morass that is my campaign setting and see what comes of that, frankly. Yes. That could be a LOT of fun.

      • Timothy says:

        Oh, I’ll certainly bring the RP to the game, mark my words.

  4. unmademan says:

    I agree with you 100% on the OGL business, that what drew me from 3.X over to White Wolf’s World of Warcraft RPG, though it was set in a pretty much fully hashed out world sanctioned by blizzard, it was still OGL and the majority of content was player created a la piazza’s forum as well as the wow rpg forums. And that is what drew me to really enjoy being a DM.

  5. I agree with #1 and #4 sooo much. If they can keep the DM side of things (monsters and encounter design) as streamlined and fun as 4e, but make the player side of things as customizable (with classes that have mechanical uniqueness) as 3e, then I think 5e might be my favorite edition yet.

  6. Pingback: 5 Issues from 4E to NOT Include in D&D Next | The Action Point

  7. Malthol says:

    I’m with Timothy in really, honestly liking the PF rules. Also, the fact that they offered all their books in PDF format, along with a PF SRD site is a huge bonus. I also don’t think Golarion as a world is that much of a draw. I mean, did we really need yet another fantasy world with too much mismatched stuff in it? Yes, their writing is wonderful, but I feel like creating a whole new world is a marketing money-grab, especially when source books include things like additional feats or spells.

    I am intrigued about what you say about DM prep time in 4E, that sounds wonderful. I am glad to see Monte Cook is back with WotC, and one of the major designers for 5E.

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