Will D&D 5E Unite the Fold?

Wizards of the Coast caused quite a stir in the D&D community when they recently announced an upcoming complete overhaul of the game. It’s been less than 5 years since the original release of the last edition (D&D 4E), so you may be asking yourself why are they already changing things up? In his official announcement of the project, WoTC’s head of R&D, Mike Mearls says, “We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game.”

A brief look at the DnD forums will tell you that this is no small task. As is to be expected, there are some impassioned, even heated posts as players realize WoTC is actually listening to their voice for direction in the new edition. A major rift between players that WoTC hopes to bridge is between the pre-4th Edition crowd and the pro-4th Edition folks. A few of the issues stoking the fires include the following:

Character Class:

Individuality vs. Balance

  • Many Pre-4E supporters aren’t happy with prescribed party roles (defender, striker, etc.) and the powers mechanic which runs similarly across all classes. To them, these aspects make all the classes “feel the same”.
  • 4E supporters point out that this allows for much greater balance between classes and makes playing a warrior class more tactically interesting.

                                                    The Magic System

  • Pre-4E peeps say they miss the awe-inspiring wonder and open-endedness of playing a wizard or cleric with eventual access to tons of physics-altering, game changing spells. For instance, being able to easily fly their party away from danger or effectively charm NPC’s and PC’s.
  • Pro-4E folks do not want to go back to a time when wizards were so powerful, saying that many other class skills and abilities were rendered useless and that 4E rituals allow for cool non-combat spells without imbalance. They say it also makes DM-ing a lot easier.

Tactics vs. Immersion

  • Many feel that a sense of immersion is lost with powers that refer specifically to “squares” with phrases like shifting, pulling, sliding. To them, this makes a grid map necessary rather than just an option.
  • Pro-4E’ers say, “poppycock!” Battle Grids have always been a part of D&D and if you don’t want to use them, just read squares as feet. They say such specific powers and rules for line of sight and such in the PHB makes life easier for the DM with less “Mother May I?” scenarios.

Obviously, the vast scope of the D&D community cannot be boiled down to just those who hate 4E and those who love it. Most of us can find some aspects to like and dislike about every previous edition of D&D, but 4th edition was a major change that seems to have ostracized a significant number of former players, and according to the official forums, the above sticking points are just a few of the “deal breakers” for many players in the community.

According to Mearl, WoTC seeks “…to reach as many people as possible, from the gamer who just started with D&D last week to the gaming group that has been together since the early-1970s.” This is a glorious vision which I sincerely hope can be achieved. While we don’t know exactly what D&D will look like for this new edition, we can voice our thoughts at the D&D forums and sign up to playtest. In the meantime, I plan to keep my eyes open for new info and rules as they are released this spring.

One Reply to “Will D&D 5E Unite the Fold?”

  1. Great article Allen. I find myself fairly torn on most of these issues. I like how easy it is to balance in 4e and as a DM I enjoy the ease of creating encounters and adventures. I haven’t felt like my creativity gets squashed though as I simply do as I always have in every edition: If the rules don’t allow what I want to do story wise, I ignore them. I’ll create story based objects/creatures or use any of a myriad other techniques to make the story work the way I want it to.

    I hope they keep the battle map tactics, as I enjoy that aspect of the game and it makes things much more clear to everyone involved, and I hope they keep rituals.

    That said though I wouldn’t mind seeing magic made more “magical” again though as something about the current way it’s done just doesn’t feel completely right.

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