an outline of 5th edition : your mileage may vary

I previously posted about how I feel 5th edition won’t serve the consumer and that the game hasn’t been a GAME since 1st. It is now a product. As such, I don’t expect it to do anything it promises. At the end of the day, the people making it need to work and whatever Hasbro tells them to make, they will make.

I also haven’t played since 3.0 (minus a brief session of 3.75, which I barely even asked for rolls), so I really don’t care what they do with it.


That doesn’t stop me from writing up the top 10 things I would do to fix the game. Everyone knows what they would change, usually without reading a single design document or note on why AC works they way it does. But what I’ve written here are fundamental issues with the structure of a game that really should have been made by 2nd edition (all the even-numbered editions are bad).

So, here’s my laundry list of changes. I can guarantee not a single one of these changes will happen. They are just two sweeping. But. These are my notes and let me remind you they are just notes. I’m not interested in writing up a scholarly paper on each bullet point (numbers actually), albeit I could fill a couple of books on the first item…

1. Charisma is out. Gone. Dead. Banished. It is a worthless part of the game. I’m not interested in any conversations with people ever again about how it’s still useful for some classes. It is not. It is “artificially” useful for some classes because the designers can’t figure out how to make it useful for all classes. It is everyone’s dump stat. And if it’s not your dump stat, you are bad at math. I mean, trouble with long division kind of bad at math, not confused by factorials.

Wisdom takes over for any skills that might seem “interactive.”

2. Skill list of 12 skills. That’s it. I’ve written ad nauseum on the ridiculousness of a class-based game have 50 skills. It’s like someone doesn’t even understand the medium they are publishing books in. A fighter can pick up any weapon and kill you with it, even if he’s never seen it before, but he has a different skill for Listen, Spot, and Search. Inane.

Athletics (replaces Balance, Climb, Escape Artist, Jump, Swim, Tumble)
Craft (replaces Craft, Profession)
Disable Device (replaces Disable Device, Open Locks)
Knowledge (replaces all knowledge)
Notice (replaces Listen, Spot, Search — allows for Scent)
Religion (includes understanding and performing rites and rituals)
Ride (replaces Ride and Handle Animal)
Social (replaces Appraise, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Intimidate, Perform, Sense Motive)
Stealth (replaces Hide, Move Silently, Sleight of Hand)
Subterfuge (replaces Bluff, Decipher Script, Disguise, Forgery)
Survival (replaces Heal, Survival, Use Rope)
Theory (includes all non-ephemeral Knowledge; replaces Concentration, Spellcraft, Use Magic Device)

3. Resources instead of money. You can still roleplay “4 gold here, 8 gold here” but the lack of game balance with equipment lists and weapons vs. their gold cost makes keeping track of how much people spend annoying. Which brings me to…

4. Thematic equipment and weapons. Weapons gain traits like small, big, fast, deadly, etc. Each weapon has one trait. Characters can now fight with a dagger (because it looks cool) and still be useful in a fight. Equipment is the same with anything that helps in a fight.

5. Actual socialization rules. Appeal, Blackmail, Bribery, Charm, Coercion, Extortion, Intimidation, Solicitation, Subterfuge, Supplication. Each of these has it’s own rules OR it all obeys the same rules. Either way, there are steps. You can’t kill a dragon in one roll, why are you bribing a senator with one roll? Look to Torg for amazing rules on Dramatic Conflict Resolution.

6. Macro-gaming. There have never been good rules in d&d for running nations, guilds, and so on. At a certain level people want to run a castle, which should feel very different from killing orcs. Vampire does this extremely well, so we know it can be done here.

7. Rewards for things other than combat. Why is this still not in the game?

8. Actual tool for writing a story. Not just adventures with a plot you must “win.” But tools for building your epic. No. D&D had never done this. Along with those tools, we’ll have some juicy juicy charts. Like mother used to make in 1st edition. Find those guys who made all that great Judges’ Guild stuff and offer them knighthoods. Just photocopy the last 30 pages of the DMG.

9. Alignment. Gone. No one uses it. It means nothing to anyone except to Clerics. It’s archaic, cumbersome, and usually just reflects the ideology of the GM, anyway. Morality and ethics change from society to society. An alignment wheel is good for a small country and changes as soon as you enter another country. Does anyone study sociology anymore? Which brings me to my #1 complaint about d&d….

10. Why is a Cleric of the Death God using the same character class as a Priest of the Tree of Life? This is lazy, lazy, lazy design. It start in 2nd edition with cleric spheres and in 2000 someone phoned it in with spell focuses. Oh good. Evil priests can INFLICT light wounds. Good ones can HEAL. Well. That about sums up the difference betwen Luke and Vader. A different cleric class for each major THEME of religion: Animals, Chaos, Death, Earth, Life, Sea, Sun, Underworld, War. Make them in groups of five and now you can tie them to each of the stats. Wow. Marrying your game design ideas. Who would have thought?

Game on.

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