Even if you live in a cave on a desert island, there’s likely some neck-bearded castaway next to you predicting and complaining about a 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. We’ve heard it for five years and we’ll hear it for five more, regardless of what new games are released. Most recently, 3rd edition veteran Monte Cook returned to the R&D team of Wizards of the Coast, launching all sorts of new speculation.
For the most part, such speculation seems like a waste to me. We can pontificate all we want about what Wizards might do with a new edition, how it will be perceived, or when it will be released. None of that helps us run great D&D games today. Still, as I think about it, there is a short list of things I’d like to see in a new edition, things I can’t really fix with simple house rules. So today I give you this short wish list in the hopes that, somehow, these items get addressed in some future iteration of the game I love.
Better Solo Monsters
I love solo monsters. I’ve spent the past three years building and running solo monsters for my group. I love that we finally have a way to differentiate between a dragon and an ogre in something other than level. I love the idea of a single creature able to challenge a group of five PCs.
Unfortunately, few solos do that. Above level 10, solo monsters find themselves in a severe disadvantage when compared to a group of five monsters. No matter how many hit points they have or how much potential damage they deal, they are still a single monster.
Designers give solos a host of abilities to help offset this disadvantage. Unfortunately this makes solo monsters complicated to run at the table. A large number of their powers are built strictly to avoid getting pinned down and killed too easily.
I’m not exactly sure how a new edition could improve solo monsters. Some built-in immunities to certain effects might help. A different set of actions for solos (three standards, for example) might also help. I think there are a hand-full of good solos already in 4e to use as a model.
Regardless, solo monsters are a great addition to D&D and something I hope to see more of in the future.
No Action-Stealing Status Effects
There are few effects hated more by both players and dungeon masters than effects that steal actions. Daze, stun, and dominate are the biggest offenders but certain paralyzing terrain effects and zones can be equally bad. People want to actually play when their turn comes up, whether they’re a DM or a player.
There are a few house rules we might put in place to for alternatives to daze, stun, and dominate but better is an entirely new status effect system that ensures there are enough variables for combat but doesn’t limit a players turn. Whatever combat effects we might see in a new system, hopefully they don’t steal away valuable actions from either the player or the DM.
Optional Complexity In Character Creation, Simplicity At the Table
Players like to have a lot of options available. They want to custom build a character, either based on a particular character they have in mind, to optimize their abilities, or something in between. Others prefer simpler characters they can generate quickly and have fun with at the table. Any future version of D&D should offer enough complexity so that players who enjoy tweaking characters can do so while players who just want a stock character can generate one quickly.
Both types of characters should be fast and simple to run at the table. I’ve written before about the glut of potential choices for higher level PCs. A system that moves complexity to character creation but keeps choices fast and simple at the table results in a quicker game and more time for each player to see what they’re character can do. And this leads in to my next wish:
The long duration of combat has been a topic much discussed and debated. Some see combat length as a feature, not a bug, while others, myself included, want clear options for faster smaller battles from time to time. I want to see an easy to run 30 minute battle that can still challenge PCs. I want to see ten to fifteen rounds of combat in under an hour. Sure, epic fights might include extra levels of complexity, but right now even a fight against five normal monsters can go over an hour if you don’t have the DM hitting players with a taser to move things along.
Long ago attributes were based on 3d6 rolled for each attribute. Even in 1st edition there were optional rules to change that. No one wants to play a wizard with an intelligence of 6. Currently the point-buy system has nearly become the default. Yet, aside from some bonus hit points, the score itself doesn’t matter. Only the bonus matters. So if we’re only paying attention to the bonus, why have a score at all?
The attribute score is a relic that is ready to push back into history. Instead, I wish to see a bonus-based attribute system that puts the attention where it should be, on the bonus itself instead of an arbitrary score.
This Won’t Be Enough
Of course, fixing some of the rough edges of 4e won’t be enough for a new edition. There will have to be some other new feature, some other gimmick, that makes us all wonder how we ever managed to play up until now without it. 3.5 had feats and a d20 system that made a lot more sense. 4th edition had powers and a flatter power scale from level 1 to 30. What will 5e bring to the table that changes the game we play? Only time will tell.