Monday, January 14, 2013

The recognizable elements of D&D?

What are the recognizable elements of D&D?  Dice?  Hit Points?  The four classes?  Dragons?  I just finished reading Mike Mearls' articles D&D Next Goals, Part One & Part Two.  What the heck is he talking about when he says " So, the first big picture goal is to make a version of D&D that speaks to the recognizable elements of the game", and how distinct is that from last year's goal at about the same time of year "We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game."

Sorry, but one year later I don't see them one bit closer to their goal.  To be honest I'm having a hard time telling one article from the other without looking up the publication date on them.  For example this text "What that actually means will be covered in part two, but the design implication is that D&D Next should deliver the primary strengths that each edition brings to the table."  Hadn't they gotten over this "all in one goal" by about July last year?

They want one core rule set to provide the simple and the complex, and they want a smooth transition between the two on top of it all.  In my opinion that is impossible.  At least impossible with one core rule set based on the d20 system.

Take for example hit points.  A nice abstraction back in the day and very functional today in many OSR games.  But put the whole skill, feats and extra frosting on top of that and the system begins to break down.  Aren't we counting skill twice?  Once as a rise in hit points (it's harder to get hit and killed) and again as that skill that makes your character once again "harder to hit and kill"?

If you've been reading the posts by Mike Mearls last year you've probably heard all the ideas regarding healing surges and what to do with the cleric.  All that would go away if clerics didn't have to heal so much.  That would be so if hit points didn't rise so much and characters were simply harder to hit out of pure skill.

The original D&D rules are great and the abstraction simplifies gaming a lot.  As players add more rules and more detail (classes, powers, skills, feats, etc.)  The abstraction in the game is put to test and it doesn't fare too well.

What I'm about to say may sound like blasphemy to many, and if so I apologize.  It's my strong belief that D&D needs to be rewritten from the ground up, a grass roots change that takes the d20 system from its inside and replaces it with something better.  The Next best thing, pun intended.  Then maybe from those rules derive a simpler and more familiar D&D Basic.

Building on the current d20 mechanics hasn't gotten Mike's team any closer to their goal.  Read last year's publication and read today's.  They're still beating the same ol' dead horse.  WotC needs a new Gygax, or at least someone willing to take the risk with a whole new system built from the ground up to satisfy the Next 40 years of D&D.
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