What do all these editions have in common? I've played them all and enjoyed them when I did.
I started playing D&D with 4th ed. It had some great benefits to it. The biggest one was that it was balanced. It did have many bad points though:
- More Splat Books means More Errata – The more splat books produced, the more broken options that crept into the game. As someone playing LFR this affected my tables directly. When WotC eventually did create errata designed to address the worst of it, they frequently nerfed the wrong element allowing the problem to continue or remove a fairly good power/item from the game.
- Class Specific Powers – As someone who has PHB1, PHB2, PHB3, Martial Power, Martial Power 2, Divine Power, Arcane Power and Primal Power, the power bloat quickly became an issue. 4th ed only existed for a couple of years, but we had hundreds of powers in addition to hundreds of feats in addition to hundreds of items.
The more powers that were produced, the more variations of the same basic mechanic we saw. It quickly became apparent that many of the powers were largely the same with only minor changes.
- Core Math was Broken – The game was balanced, but the math used to produce this balance created battles that became a chore. I've read that a common house rule was to halve monster HP, double monster damage. This actually did help rectify this problem. Alas our group implemented it far too late in the cycle.
- Magic Items Required – Until DMG2 came ou, magic items were baked into the core math. This limited the type of games you could play and was reminicent of 3.5e's problems.
I played with two gaming groups. One group went to Pathfinder and so I followed them (while still continuing my 4th ed games with the other group). There I had a game that was highly enjoyable and quite refreshing. There was some errata (1st printing Paladin I'm looking at you), but it was a far sight better than WotC's monthly outputs. Furthermore much of the design space used by powers now existed in feats in the forms of Vital Strike (2[W] damage, 3[W] damage, etc).
Alas sooner or later, the problems in Pathfinder would quickly become apparent. Where a couple of minor things in the Core Rulebook needed to be banned for balance (magic item creation feats were banned by our group) later books required more bans such as an entire class (Summoner) and a couple of options from the Advanced Player's Guide. The more books that were released the more aspects that needed to be banned.
Even with liberal banning it became unmanageable for me to DM a group with all of the synergies they could use with spells, class features, magic items and feats. The game's imbalance quickly became apparent and Adventure Paths became unusable without a fair amount of changes to increase the power levels.
And so I find myself moving to 2nd edition. Thus far we're enjoying ourselves. But everything's new and already I can see problems in the future. Fighters will quickly be outmatched in power by wizards, the benefit of humans will quickly be seen as a non-feature for the majority of the game (and if the game continues in levels 14+ I'll be impressed). I'm running the game as written to see what happens, but already I've got an eye at looking to balance it better.
I believe the design goals of 4th ed were good and not ill thought out. In my opinion these design goals were to:
- Provide a multitude of classes that can perform similar roles.
- Allow character customisation options without needing system mastery.
- Provide a balanced game that's fun for all to play.
I do believe some of the ways in which 4th ed went about this were heavy handed and in retrospect not the best possible tool. As such I'm looking at taking 2nd edition, a game whose rules are so simple that I can easily houserule and homebrew for it, and updating it with these design goals in mind.
I'm calling the project Spells & Swords and I'll be posting up my efforts here as I go along. I'd like to generate a discussion of what I'm doing, how those goals are being achieved and discuss possible ways in which to improve the project and ways to include the aspects or feel of later editions.
What do people think? To me this sure beats complaining about the lack of 4th ed in D&D Next.