"What's the single biggest lesson you've learned about D&D's design and development since the start of 4e, and how are you applying that info?
I chatted with some of my coworkers, and opinions vary. But here's one that I think about a lot, and my colleagues generally agree with me: We have too many powers that are too similar. Listing powers under specific classes might have helped organize the Player's Handbook for the specific task of character creation, but it launched us on a design and development path where we created many similar powers whose only substantive difference is the class those powers appear under. If I told you "I'm thinking of a 2[W] power that dazes for 1 round—which class does that power belong to?" you couldn't begin to guess. Almost anybody might have that power.
In earlier editions, some spells were allowed to appear on multiple class lists. We considered this a moderate nuisance in 3rd Edition, because it was strange that you couldn't describe hold person as a 2nd-level spell—for the wizard, it wasn't. I have belatedly come to realize that overlapping spell lists are a good thing, because they give spells like hold person anddispel magic unique identities in the game. When I play 4e, I don't recognize most of the powers that my fellow players are using, and that's a shame. In retrospect, I wish we'd just created a Powers Appendix of iconic, diverse effects (including martial powers, of course), and granted each class access to different subsets of those powers. The game would be better with a smaller number of iconic and memorable powers even if classes overlapped a bit more.
That ship's sailed, but we are looking at ways to be more conservative with the creation of new powers (or classes requiring entire power sets) in the current environment. Certainly the Essentials versions of the fighter, rogue, and ranger offered different ways to play functional characters with fewer powers. Introducing builds instead of classes is another way to create greater overlap in power selection. Upcoming products showcase more examples of both these approaches, which we now think are a little better for the game as a whole."
This is very interesting. I have been wracking my brain trying to quantify what has changed between 3rd and 4th Edition D&D to make the game feel different. I have dug through the mechanics and found the only mechanic that really makes things work differently is how all combat is a war of HP attrition (when previously spellcasters could end fights earlier with "save or dies" or "save or might as well be deads"). While I do not consider this change to be a bad one, I can recognize how it changes the feel of the game.
The books themselves were written in more gamist language, which makes the game more balanced but does sort of pull you out of the role; measuring with squares, rather than an actual unit of measurement, saps the verisimilitude of the game. Just look at how a sci fi game's use of meters changes the feel of the game vs. a fantasy game's use of feet.
But Mr. Baker's post brings up something I hadn't realized until now: the new class based power system took away some of D&D's heritage. Bull's Strength isn't gone, but now it only belongs to the Battlemind.
Perhaps that means something.
I have always strived to alter the game to my own liking, even when it may be easier to start fresh and just make my own system. I left D&D for a period and played Mutants and Masterminds instead, but something drew me right back to D&D (it was Essentials actually). So even a massive house rule undertaking does not daunt me; in 3E, I rewrote the entire OGL spell selection to utilize power points like 3.5 psionics.
My proposal is thus:
- Take the 3E OGL spell selection and convert them to 4E attack powers, utility powers, and rituals.
- Make power selection largely a function of power source, rather than class, and have a class's own unique abilities define their role.
I do not know how much Wizards is listening to us. I feel 5E in the ground, its heavy footsteps rumbling in some tester's warehouse up in Seatle. I hope they're listening.