(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.