I’ll be honest, with the announcement that they’re working on 5e, I feel that something beautiful and special has died. In no way am I so entrenched in 4e that I’m unwilling to give a new edition a fair shake. I’ve been through this process before. No, what bothers me about the way this went down is that none of the people involved seem to have any particular love for 4e or the concepts behind it.
Take this article in Forbes:
“I’m not a fan of fourth edition. I find the combat slow, the powers limiting, and the rules inhospitable to the kind of creative world-building, story-telling and problem-solving that make D&D great.”
That’s the words of someone that Wizards thought appropriate to invite to a super-secret 5e preview that they held in December. That’s someone that they thought would be an advocate for 5e… I haven’t been able to find anything from the other participants, but Ewalt makes it perfectly clear which edition he would prefer to play… and it bears no resemblance to 4e. In fact, Ewalt seems to be the media point man on 5e, based on his writing a book about the history of D&D.
Greg Tito, over at The Escapist has been writing about this as well. Go ahead and read his articles on the past, present and future of D&D. I dare you to find one positive word. He does, however, manage to get all his digs in (these are just a few):
Confidence in the official Dungeons & Dragons is at an all-time low. Players are split into various camps, viciously defending what they believe is the “true” D&D.
While 4th edition offered elegant tactical combat and an equanimity between classes never seen before in the game, many of the people who played Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons in the 70s and 80s didn’t understand why concepts they held to be sacred were axed.
“I think, at least from my initial observations, that 4E put too much emphasis on the battle grid and not enough emphasis on the world outside of combat. That, in combination with the sacred cow-killing, made it feel like a whole different game to a lot of people, including me,” added Erik Mona, publisher at Paizo, creators of Pathfinder.
Or, how about the words of R. A. Salvatore, quintessential grognard?
“I don’t know why you call an elf an eladrin and I don’t know why tieflings are there when they haven’t been there all along. I do have some problems with it as a writer,” said R.A. Salvatore, who writes novels set in D&D‘s Forgotten Realms. Salvatore has written more than thirty novels starring the dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden, many of them NY Times Bestsellers, arguably giving Salvatore the distinction of creating the world’s most valuable D&D character. “4th edition [D&D] is more like a card game. It’s a strategy game and there are a lot of things in there for the reason of class balancing, so from a mechanical standpoint, it’s a fabulous game. From a roleplaying standpoint, by that I mean a writing standpoint, it’s much harder.”
Look, I get that Hasbro brought down the hammer. I’ll even admit that Pathfinder might be eating 4e’s lunch. What I don’t accept is the notion that there’s nothing good about 4e, that it was a failed experiment that we should all put behind us as quickly as possible.
Enough kvetching. Here, however, is my (quick) list of what I don’t want to see in 5e:
- Attribute penalties for races.
- The return of “banding.” (Banding is where a class trades being weak and ineffective in one level of play for being dominant in another tier. To apply 4e terms to 3.5, Fighters and Rogues were dominant in the heroic tier, while Clerics, Druids and Wizards were dominant in the paragon tier.)
- Returning melee classes to not having meaningful action choices. “I swing my sword… again.” does not count.
- Forcing players to choose between combat abilities and non-combat abilities.
- Reinstating “save or die” or “save or be removed from the combat” powers.
- Pet or summoning classes that are able to flood the field (3.5 Druid, I’m looking at you!)