(This guest post was written by our very own Dman!)

It has come to my knowledge that D&D is looking at a new fifth edition and this along with some of the recent discussions of gaming on this site have made me think quite a bit about what I would want from a new edition of D&D. But first I should talk about where I stand with D&D before giving my opinions on where the new edition should go.

To me, fourth edition was an epic failure. They did very little right and removed most of the things that made D&D good. Now, to be fair, I never looked beyond the Player’s Handbook because of my dislike, so maybe some of this was addressed in later books. Still, the two main things they did right was create a first level character for each class that felt powerful and not a waste of a level and second they balanced out the power levels of each class so that a wizard of first level was the equal of a fighter of first level and, in reverse, a fighter of tenth level was the equal of a wizard of tenth level. But this came by sacrificing pretty much all uniqueness of the classes. There was almost no variation to what you could do with each class. All thieves had sly flourish, all wizards had magic missile, etc. Also the feats were so toned down that it almost did not matter which ones you selected because you would not even remember you had them once play started. Then there was the new feel of the game. For some reason Wizard’s of the Coast though that they should make a game that was like an MMO on your computer, instead of making the game an alternative to those things. They did this through things like the at-will encounter and daily powers. I will never forget a comment from Jaybird the first time he played a thief, “So, why would I ever just stab a person when I have sly flourish… and why do the monsters always fall for it?” It is a very good question, why does everyone, always fall for the rogues feint? Why can’t any other class feint too? Why does only the ranger get to have bow abilities? Etc. The next area was through the use of healing surges and automatically healing to full after an extended rest. I realize this was to try and extend the adventure time between rests and it definitely does that, but it sacrifices enough realism to pull me out of the game. Finally, there was the move away from real units of measurements. Now things are just in squares. Not a big deal, but it still helps pull me away the game. All of this is stuff the MMOs use and if I wanted to play an MMO, I would do one on my computer.

The best D&D edition was 3.5. It gave you a ton of variety and let the power gamers mix, match and create some crazy class combinations and the prestige classes were always fun. Each character felt different to me and I had multiple character progressions that were fun to play. The bad thing about the edition was that most people started campaign at third to fifth level because first level was pathetic. Next, there was a power discrepancy between the classes. A low level fighter is much more powerful than a low level mage, but a high level mage is much more powerful than a high level fighter. Third, feats, classes, spells, and prestige classes were scattered though way too many books and it was very daunting for new players to get into, but once you do… the fun really begins.

I have also played Pathfinder and that does some things well, but it does enough that I dislike to not be my favorite edition of D&D. It did a better job of making the classes more powerful at lower levels and to make the weaker classes better at the unbalanced levels mentioned above with 3.5, but it did not do enough of this so the discrepancies remained. Also they wanted to move away from multi-classing and prestige classes and that is a big part of the fun for me and made the classes more generic to me. They also completely unbalanced the Paladin. His new smite power and the versatility of the weapon bonding made them insanely powerful and the only balancing there was for the class is the ridged alignment. This is enough for me not to think it is better than 3.5 D&D.

I think this is enough for one post, but I would love to hear from each of you about your favorite D&D edition and why. I will work up another one on my ideas for fifth edition a little later.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com


  1. Given that 4th Edition is the first edition that I’ve gotten to use a character more than once? I’d have to say “4th”.

    One thing that I do think that 4th Edition messed up was the whole “Final Fantasyization” (if you will) of the game… I mean, my thief, if he got combat advantage, was able to do a little over 30 points of damage if the dice rolls were perfect.

    Pretty sweet, right?

    This was *ALMOST* enough to kill a goblin.

    • Yes, they upped the power scale on everything. Still, it did make your characters feel stronger and thay could survive a couple of bad roles at first level. It is disappointing that you feel powerful, but still cannot kill a kobold in one hit.

      Of course, 4E tried to do something about that with the minons rule. Where the kobold was same as the other kobolds, but they had a single hit point. When you were facing a bunch of these, your felt cool when you could hit most of them with some area of effect spell.

  2. One of the problems for me with the 4e powers naturally follows from Jaybird’s question of “why would I ever NOT sly flourish?” When you are looking at a nice handfull of well-described powers that do previously-determined amounts of damage, why would you ever think to do something completely different? There’s no “power” for “pull the curtain over his head” or whatever. That’s not to say that anything prevents you from role-playing, it’s just that the emphasis on powers leads you to think of them as your only options.

    I like the feel and aesthetic of basic D&D and AD&D–I would, since that’s what I grew up playing. I like being able to roll up a character in 5 minutes. I like the idea that not everything is laid out neatly. I like gold for experience rather than killing monsters. Despite experiences to the contrary, I don’t really like TPKs, but I do like the idea that adventuring is dangerous, life is cheap, and sometimes you just gotta run away. I like things to be kind of messy and weird, and I feel like 4e has made things predictably weird.

    • “…adventuring is dangerous, life is cheap, and sometimes you just gotta run away.”

      Wouldn’t this look AWESOME on a t-shirt?

    • Your are right about being predictable. Very thief had Sly Florish (well 90%) and you used it over, and over again. Especially at low levels. It feels like a rut.

    • Sigh, I can’t believe I will disagree. While I think dungeon bastard is right that you should play what you have fun with and not make fun of people that play something different, going to a new edition is different and talking about what you would like to see in the new editions will be tempered by which systems you like.

      I will not come back and tell someone that they are crazy for playing X edition. I will tell you how I feel about the editions and this will lead into my views on where 5E should go.

      • Yes! It’s fine and fun to talk about editions in terms of what works and what doesn’t for you and what you prefer. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what you hope for in 5e.

        I just think back to a conversation I had at the comics store downtown. I had a Sonic the Hedgehog comic in my box, and the guy at the desk said something that he was afraid I’d take the wrong way, like he was making fun of me. I said “Don’t worry, grown-ass men who read comic books have no grounds for making fun of each other.” It’s reasonable and natural to have preferences, but when people start foaming at the mouth about editions (which you obviously aren’t, Dman), it’s time to remember that it’s a game where we pretend to be wizards and dwarves and stuff. If the game or the argument is fun, awesome. If not, time to do something else for a while.

  3. 1st edition plus house rules worked fine. Never saw the need; if I wanted a different system, I’d play Palladium or GURPS.

    • I loved 1st and 2nd editions. I did not see much difference between them. My groups stayed in 2nd for a very long time after 3E came.

      I am curious, why did you like 1st over 2nd. Also, what house rules did you have?

      • I played 1st edition from 3rd grade into high school (1979-1989). AD&D 2nd edition came out in 1989… by then we were either playing Champions or GURPS (something specific) or toying around with some other RPG systems in one-offs.

        In college and afterwards, I got separated from most of the guys I played with in grade & high school, although we still get together now and again.

        So it wasn’t so much a matter of preferring 1st to 2nd as “Jesus I’ve spent over a thousand dollars on all these rulebooks and it’s probably time to spend more of my money on beer and women… I have plenty of rulebooks should I ever surround myself with a tribe again.”

        House rules: well, I have Dragon Magazine issues ~70-something to 180 or so, and we pulled various bits and pieces out of those issues. I think I mentioned a bunch of the house rules on a comment on some other thread somewhere around here, I should probably write up a whole post.

        When I get done writing about Hegel and Locke (tonight! Gonna happen!) I’ll see if I can get that worked out afore Friday.

  4. 2nd edition because I sunk more money into that than 3rd (books were a gift) and 4th (lol buy). Plus there’s a little thing called house rules.

    I remember when I got my 4E cherry popped at Feldy’s place. Dumbstruck, “How come Sly Flourish does more than a regular attack?” Got really boring and a little embarassing saying “I sly flourish” over and over again.

    One thing I’ve heard bandied about on the intertubes is that 4E is built so it can’t be raped. Hogwash and balderdash! My second interlude with 4E had me with a 3rd level rogue build, a 3rd level paladin build opposite two 3rd level prestige classes. The girl is playing a catfolk who can effectively create a black hole sucking people into an abyss. The other guy is dwarf fighter type who can teleport EACH TIME he makes a kill. Since he min-maxed he’s bouncing all over the place. Me? I have something where I can move my charisma bonus once a day after I make a kill.

    I prefer generic systems like Savage Worlds, GURPS and HERO. Everybody gets to make their own powers, tailor them and come out unique everytime instead of just rearranging the pieces on Mr. Potato Head to make him look a little different while remaining Mr. Potato Head.

    P.S. Color Spray FTW

    • If Min-Maxing is a sore point, GURPS and HERO aren’t exactly the answer.

      • B-b-but at least you can be creative at it instead of following some template from the internet like Pun-Pun!!!

        • Agreed, and this is a big deal in my mind. From the start in the Player’s Handbook, the players need to feel that uniqueness of their characters and not feel like they have a generic character. 4E did soooooo much to make you feel generic. Same stats (what rogue did not have a 18-20 DEX, wizard 18-20 INT), same progression chart as every other class, same three prestige classess at 10th level, same At-Will powers (well, you could have one different since you picked two out of three). Every elf was good with a bow, every halfling was good at dodging, etc.

    • The main reason I have no issue with min-maxing is that this is a game where you have a referee. He can talk to the players and let them know what will work for his campaign. I know this can lead to some issues as well, but if you set these standards from the beginning, each player should know how to act with the group or decide not to play.

      Heck, WOC should want the ability to min-max in their system because that is attractive to some of the fan base and you want these people to buy the new edition. It is up to the group and GM to allow it in their games.

    • Gumby systems are just that — lacking structure. It is quite possible to have Damn Fine systems that ain’t gumby, that make unique builds not only possible, but nearly mandatory (racial skills/hobbies/classes & backgrounds)

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