I haven’t and won’t be posting much during these very busy last few days of school.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. The new Player’s Handbook is releasing at Gen Con this year.
Fifth edition is a revamp of the system that is getting back to the “classic” roots of AD&D in the 80s and 90s. The min-maxing, power-gaming, 3.5 and Pathfinder fans are going to hate it. And I’m glad.
If you aren’t a min-maxer, 3rd edition was definitely not for you. I played it a lot. I did so before I really nailed down my RPG gamer “mentality”. Since then I’ve learned how much I hate number-focused games. It is not numbers and advancement that make a game a role-playing game. That is certainly a component for a lot of people. By definition, a role-playing game involves you playing a role. You are a character in a story. And memorable games have memorable stories. I can’t count the number of 3rd and 4th edition games that I don’t remember because they consisted largely of characters with big numbers trying to out-number the NPCs and monsters. Play video games if that’s your thing.
Fifth edition is looking to be a lot different. One of the key features is number “caps” in which characters never get above a certain number range that they can attain. This is good because it will make min-maxing next to impossible and will keep even “low level” enemies like goblins as a threat to all level characters.
The magic system is like 2nd edition in that you will have the freedom to cast spell’s at higher levels if you use higher spell slots. There will still be at-will spells from 4th edition, one of the most important mechanical features of that edition. There is nothing more useless than a wizard who is “out” of useful spells for the day. Silly.
Finally, the game will use a rough advantage/disadvantage system that will greatly simplify when characters have a good or bad situation to contend with.
The combat in this system reminds me a lot of Savage Worlds, one of my favorite RPGs. Combat is bare-bones, no-nonsense and quick. You trade hours counting stats for hours with investigative role-playing, having conversations with NPCs, exploring the world, and crafting a story. It is what role-playing should be.
I’m not saying that you can’t craft a good story in a mechanics-focused game. The problem is cultural. Players that favor mechanics-based role-playing gravitate to mechanics-focused games. They descend on them en masse and they usually very stubbornly resist not smashing something with a dice roll. If that’s your thing, more power to you. You just aren’t really role-playing.