Recently I was given some interview questions for an article about the next edition of D&D for the CNN geek blog. I really enjoyed answering them and put a lot of thought into them, considering today’s news I thought I should share my full transcript just to see how you guys felt about the whole thing. I feel it is relevant, and rather than writing an entirely new piece I do believe it sums up things rather well. Agree or disagree, I’d like to see how your thoughts compare to mine. Below is our full exchange, along with my plea to the community.
How would you describe 4th edition D&D to a non-player.
Assuming that non-player had some working knowledge of at least how a video game RPG’s worked I’d say something along the lines of “Do you like playing [insert game name here]? Well what if you could play that game with virtually no boundaries, contraints, or invisible walls? That’s D&D.” If I were approaching someone with 0 knowledge of RPG’s I’d ask them if they liked stories, particularly the “choose your own adventure” types and present the game like an interactive story book that never has to have an ending, and with endless amount of “if you want to do this, turn to page X” options.
(If this answer isn’t sufficient, or not really what you are looking for, I’ve given this second answer to be more 4e specific)
4e D&D is a role playing game unlike any other, it really focuses on the “cool” factor of RPG’s and tends to leave out all the tables that help you determine wind direction and foliage density. It cuts straight to the chase of unravelling mysteries, epic battles, lost lore, clashing steel and zapping monsters with magic. Gone are the days of “well, I’m all out of spells for the day” and THAC0.
Do you currently play 4e D&D?
Yes, about once every other week with my wife and our group of close friends. We also play at family gatherings and basically any other time the opportunity presents itself.
How long have you been playing?
I’ve been playing 4th edition for the past 2 years now, but I’ve been playing D&D as a whole for about 12 years.
Are you a fan of Monte Cooks Legend and Lore Colum?
What do you like / dislike about it?
I enjoy the fact that he is openly exploring reflections of D&D design over the years, and most likely using it to help shape the future of the game. As a wannabe game designer myself I find it particularly interesting to get a sort of inside-scoop on how the game was built, and all the directions it can possibly go.
I do believe that you have to know where you’ve been, to know where you’re going and D&D is no exception so it’s really insightful to hear these things coming from someone who’s been such a huge part of the games development over the years. Though gaming fundamentals and mechanics are often discussed in his column, Monte manages to do so in a very conversational tone that even amateurs such as myself can absorb.
The polls that make up the ends of the articles are always fun to answer, and equally interesting to see the results on. I can’t help but think of the L&L articles as a design diary for upcoming improvements/additions to the game, perhaps even 5th edition.
What would be your reaction to a WotC announcement of a new edition of D&D?
I can honestly say that I would shocked, but not surprised, if that makes any sense. Not surprised because I don’t suppose WotC hired famous game designer Monte Cook to just write a weekly column or brought back greats like Chris Sims just so they could hang around the WotC offices and make smalltalk. They’re up to something, and whatever it is, it’s going to be big. I would be shocked however, because I’m afraid a ‘new edition’ of the game would be coming too soon. As with previous versions that had too quick a turnaround it would likely further fracture their fan base and the community who effectively writes their paychecks.
What is the top thing you would like WotC to change / fix in a new edition of the game?
I should say first that I really like 4e D&D, I don’t stress this enough through all of my ramblings and nitpicks of the game, but nothing is perfect. I’d really just like to see a return to the more narrative nature of older editions’ spells and abilities. I’d like to see a harmonious mix of DM and Player control in a new edition. The “DM adjudicates everything” (1st & 2nd edition) and “the rules adjudicate everything” (3rd & 4th edition) mentalities should get together and have produce an offspring of pure gaming gold. The bad part is that I honestly only think that 4e fell short of this, due to the way it presents itself in writing. The initial launch of 4e seemed to largely focus on mechanical bits and less on narrative, only to have recently changed that tone.
Aside from that I’d like to see more distinction between the classes and abilities, modelling the game to focus on balance seems to lead to an overwhelming feeling of ‘sameness’. The current edition of the game only requires each class basically only excel at 1 or 2 of their ability scores, which further detracts from the experience and beauty of the games rules. The standard array of conditions imposed seem to be in a constant shuffle and the ability for every monster and character to be able to pull, push, slide, daze, stun, etc. gets boring very fast.
I’m a fan of variety, and if a new edition of D&D were to bring back about the feeling that each of the character classes possessed its own truly unique strengths & weaknesses, I’d surely be one of the first standing in line to get my copy. Also, no Shardminds please, stop making wacky races no one plays.
What do you think the D&D /RPG “community’s” reaction will be if they announce a new edition of D&D.
Initially? Polarizing, as with basically anything WotC announces. There will be vitriol and dissonance and another general division of the game’s fan base. The thing about gamers is we are a passionate bunch who are extremely vocal and ready to give our most blunt opinions about things at the drop of a hat. The thing about those opinions is we often double back to take a second look at things after we have cool off, so if a new edition were to be launched I think the community would need some time to regain its composure before forming truly fair opinions.
The split that divides the community each time a new edition is announced seems to only widen with each instance, making D&D one those products capable of devouring itself. We invest hundreds of dollars and hours to these books and products, feeling obligated to go out and re-buy and re-learn it all is extremely disheartening, especially so if the product feels like it could have been changed or tweaked for the better without requiring the release of completely new one.
If WotC releases a new edition of D&D what should they call it?
Technically no edition of D&D has ever had a version number attached to the title, so regardless of what they called it, most likely just “Dungeons & Dragons” people would attach “5e” to that title. Though there is goodspeculationonline that points to it possibly being touted as an “Anniversary Edition” or perhaps a return of the ‘Advanced’ prefix making it “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”, once again. My personal guess would be one of the ladder two.
You could ask for 1 thing and be assured for it to make it in to a new edition of D&D what would it be and why?
A simplified combat system, even if it were only a subset of optional rules. Most gamers love combat, myself included, but it doesn’t need to be wargame-level intricate. Combat makes up a good portion of some gaming sessions and its never fun to feel like your game is being played in slow motion due to fiddly combat mechanics.
I think they could probably pull this off by restructuring, decreasing, or omitting the use of player power cards in some way. Analysis paralysis can be half the battle when it comes to the slow combat, but this on player by player basis. As with everything I’ve suggested here, YMMV and there is no such thing as one size fits all game, especially for something as dynamic as D&D.
Anything else you want to say or that I missed?
Thank you very much for your time, and this awesome opportunity to spread the good word of 4e D&D! I’d just like to say that D&D has truly enriched my life, and my family’s because there are many many great opportunities for so much more than ‘gaming’ when you are sitting around a table with your closest friends. I think everyone, should give the game a shot at least once and not worry about the nerdyness or bad stigma it has been plagued with over the years.
I urge all of us to look upon this next edition of D&D with open eyes, and realize that we have the power to help shape the game we hold so dearly. Please retract your venomous tongues and stow your weapons, and let us make D&D our game once again, truly embrace the capabilities of what role playing games can evoke.
Let us do the hobby we hold so dearly a favor and help breathe life back into the game that created it, making it something grand and compelling once again. Make the world take second look at D&D, a thing people actually know about and look upon with intrigue and wonderment.
We are helping carry the flag now, it is time to firmly plant it in a solid foundation of community and fellowship. We are rebuilding a nearly 40 year old citadel from the ground up build up with blood, sweat, and tears. We have the opportunity to help shape a new golden era of gaming!