Hundreds of thousands of words are spilling across the internet about the announcement today, and that’s not even counting message boards. I’m not going to echo the many things that have already been said, but no self-respecting game site can just ignore this. It’s big news! So big that it made a bunch of mainstream news sites. You can read more at the New York Times, Forbes, and CNN. You can find word from the Wizards of the Coast mothership, too.
Maybe it’s the journalism nerd in me, but the thing I’m most curious about is how Wizards and their PR company orchestrated this. Let’s be honest, in the grand scheme of things, a new edition of D&D a tiny morsel of pop culture flotsam. Yet several major media outlets are covering it, and all on the same day. Interesting.
There are some very cool things to be excited about this 5E announcement:
- Modular design. I love modular stuff. Use the pieces you want. Add exactly the amount of complexity you need.
- Open playtest process. This worked for Pathfinder. It didn’t work for 4E (probably because they ignored all the feedback from outside playtest sessions). Wizards has a lot of creative, insightful people on staff (the ones they didn’t lay off right before Christmas, anyway). But they have access to a literal army of experienced, enthusiastic RPGers. Maybe this time we won’t have to errata the stealth rules immediately.
The one thing I’m a little concerned about is talk of unifying the various D&D factions. That’s hugely important and an admirable task, but the path is littered with landmines. Part of me thinks the smartest (and evillest) thing Wizards could do would be to steal D&D back from Pathfinder by simply releasing an updated version of 3.5. In general terms, I think “unification” means finding the elements of all the various editions that people love and working to fit them together. Modular design means the thing about AD&D that some group in Sheboygan loves doesn’t have to be part of my campaign if I hate it. The language of the announcement also suggests that the campaign worlds are going to be less tied to specific events and timelines — 4E Dark Sun seemed to show that they’d learned this lesson, and access to various eras of the Forgotten Realms is something a lot of people will enjoy.
With no reservations, snark, sarcasm or irony, I can say I’m really excited about D&D 5E. They’ve got a really talented team of game designers working on it. They’ve got a really great attitude about how to approach it. I’m going in with full optimism that it can and will be something great.