Starting next week, I’m turning this column over to acclaimed game designer Monte Cook.
Monte has an unmatched design pedigree in the RPG field, and for that reason we’ve brought him on board to work with R&D in making D&D the greatest RPG the world has seen.
If you speculate that this is the lead-up to a new edition of D&D, I certainly couldn’t disagree with you. 2013 was even when I predicted the next edition would come out years ago.
However, I’m going to do what I almost never do an engage in some wild speculation here, with a good chance that I’m totally wrong and off-base. I think it’s an interesting idea, so I’m sharing it here. Keep in mind that I have no insider knowledge about this: this is solely my speculation based on public statements and the Gen Con seminars I attended.
So if it’s not just 5th edition, what else could it be? Well, we know that there has been this sentiment: making D&D a game that players of all editions can enjoy. Likewise, we know from various blog posts and such that the R&D team made a journey playing through all the different editions of D&D. (Even the D&D brand team was in on this, as evidenced by Shelly Mazzanoble’s column.) Likewise, there’s good money on there being an open playtest, which is being refined now through the new miniatures game and which had undeniable success in the Pathfinder launch.
My guess from all this is that we’ll see a product that I’m calling “Dungeons & Dragons: Anniversary Edition” that attempts to be the Grand Unified Game of D&D – not in the “this is the best edition ever” sense, but in the sense that it takes every edition of D&D made and puts it into one game. It would use a modular approach that allows you to combine aspects of each edition to make your own D&D, effectively, while also providing plenty of tools to hack whichever version of D&D you’re currently playing.
The closest analogue I can think of is the Vampire Translation Guide put out by White Wolf designed to bridge the gap between Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem. While that product covered many story concerns that I don’t think D&D: AE would cover, it would be something designed to bridge the gap between different rulesets. At the same time, I think it would have to be playable by itself, while also a manual that could be used with any existing D&D edition you’re already playing, while giving a menu of options for rules you want to tweak and change.
Such a manual (and it would almost have to become a whole game line in and of itself to support the amount of resources it would take) would certainly benefit from open playtesting, especially from people who play previous editions of D&D or have sworn off D&D entirely in favor of other alternatives.
And why would Monte Cook be an important element of this? Besides being a great designer in general (one of our favorites here at CH, in fact), he also underwent a similar D&D deconstruction when part of the team to build 3e, and who has continued to examine and tweak D&D in the years following. In fact, his company and Mike Mearls put out one of my all time favorite takes on D&D, Iron Heroes.
Now, I can’t speak to this being a great idea: while there is a large portion of the D&D community that loves to tinker, it remains to be seen if they would buy a product in such numbers to support the effort, or even if players of various editions would adopt the approach. Heck, I’m not sure if it’s something even I would play (though I’d certainly buy it.) It’s just a guess, but one I think is interesting. Have at it.