Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Passing on 5th Edition

Yesterday my good friend and fellow Cypher System fan Lex Starwalker wrote a blog post called "Five Things I Love About D&D 5e."  It is a great article, and if you have the time, and are at all interested in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition I strongly suggest you give it a read.  Lex’s post covers some of the best reasons for anyone to love this new edition, from the updated magic system to the advantage/disadvantage mechanic.  Reading Lex’s post really got my gears turning and I started to wonder about my current position on 2015’s hottest gaming subject.  There truly are a lot of reasons out there for fans to love the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, however I still have no intention of purchasing the books anytime soon.

So just as Lex posted his own reasons for loving D&D 5e, I thought I’d share some of my reasons that I’m passing on purchasing those shiny new hardbacks.  

Reasons I’m Not Not Starting a 5th Edition Game


Okay, before I even get into the reasons that I’m staying off of the 5th Edition fan-bus, I want to be perfectly clear about my general position on 5th Edition, as well as my experience with the system:


  • I took part in the D&D Next Playtest during the early stages, in the fall and winter of 2012.
  • I've read the D&D Basic Rules that were released in the summer of 2014
  • I've read through the new Players Handbook, but have only glanced at the Monster Manual
  • Many of my friends have told me that the new Dungeon Master's Guide is crazy-good, and my friends are awesome, so I have to believe them


From what I’ve seen the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons is a fantastic game.  I could tell from the D&D Next playtest that this new direction was taking important steps back towards 2nd Edition (probably my favorite D&D system), while holding all of the best features from 3rd and 4th Edition.  The game design is elegant and easy to understand, while still having a ton of meaty features for those players who like to build specialized characters.  I hope and believe that D&D 5th Edition, in its current form, is going to bring a ton of new players into our hobby, get lapsed gamers back to the table, and in general be a great thing for the gaming industry.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is going to be awesome…

… and I’m still not interested in playing.  

I Really Enjoy the Games I’m Playing


In many ways, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, to me, is like a brand new car. It’s shiny, new, and full of features, both classic and state of the art.  While this is great, I feel like I already have several relatively new cars in my garage that I’m not tired of driving.  When I finally packed up my D&D 4th Edition books in 2012 I stepped out of my D&D shell and started trying out all of the other fantastic games on the market!

My first jaunt was into Savage Worlds, and I was instantly in love.  Please understand, that with the exception of a handful of Star Wars d20 and Deadlands Classic games, during the entirety of the period between 2001 and 2012 I was only playing Dungeons & Dragons.  Savage Worlds was a complete breath of fresh air!  It was so friggin’ cool to have a light and flexible system that could tackle multiple genres, while giving players plenty of interesting options to customize their characters.

While continuing to play Savage Worlds, in 2013 I found the Cypher System, first with Numenera and then The Strange.  These eccentric universes allowed me to expand the kinds of stories I told to my players, running adventures dealing with the weird concept of a future one billion years in the making, or alien dark matter networks capable of making any fiction a reality.  Most importantly, falling in love with the Cypher System, and getting to know the other Cypher fans and contributors, helped draw me into the gaming community.  I’ve said it before: without Numenera, I never would’ve started a blog or gone to Gen Con or been the cool, all-around geek that I am today.

Finally I have my OSR games that I’ve come to play, and there are certainly several on my list that I continue to enjoy. Basic Fantasy RPG, Adventures in the East Mark, and Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG all do a tremendous job scratching that "itch" I occasionally get for running a classic, old-school style dungeon crawl.  Now that I’ve invested some serious time in Dungeon Crawl Classics, I definitely see it as a game system that will take a seat up there next to Savage Worlds and the Cypher System for my regular gaming.

Coming back to my original point, I’m absolutely still in love with Savage Worlds, the Cypher System, and now DCC.  Each game system currently covers my "needs" as a game master and player, from the pulp adventure tales I can generate in Savage Worlds, to the unique stories I can craft in the Cypher System.

… and to be perfectly fair, the spellburning, corruption causing, mercurial magic system from Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG would destroy D&D 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th Edition’s magic system in a fight any day of the week.

I’m Haunted By My Savage Tower


Somewhat related to my first point, I have this little issue called "time."  I game a lot, probably more than many other role-players my age (35) especially considering that I have a family, and a job, and a very demanding goldendoodle.  I’ve been very fortunate to convince most of my family and friends to give tabletop RPG’ing a try (no luck with the dog yet) and I also run a local game club (the Norwin Game Knights) where I can spin one-shots whenever I desire.  Last year alone I took part in 125 individual RPG sessions, and yet I still have a lot of games on my shelf that I’ve never had the opportunity to play.

Over the holidays members of the the Savage Worlds communities on Google+ and Facebook posted pictures of their Savage Towers.  These amazing monstrosities of awesome were stacks of sourcebooks, adventures, and other publications showcasing individual Savages and their favorite system.  I posted a picture of my stack and quickly became intimidated…

… there were a lot of games that I hadn’t played yet, and I was really afraid that they were going to come after me!

Sundered Skies, Weird War II, Necessary Evil, 50 Fathoms, the list of Savage Worlds campaign books I still needed to dig into was very long.  But this… condition… that I have, where I buy books but don’t get a chance to play them, it isn’t limited to Savage Worlds.

Like many of you I own a lot of games that I would certainly love to play more, if only I had more time.  I bought the Firefly RPG last year, and still haven’t played it yet. It’s actually sitting on my bookshelf right next to the entire collection of Serenity RPG books that I never had the chance to play, which is next to my Alternity collection that hasn’t seen a game table since a one-shot in 2008.  My Mouse Guard Boxed Set is in pristine, unplayed condition, right next to my similarly unplayed ElfQuest RPG books.  

Talk about stacks… I have stacks upon stacks upon STACKS of classic 2nd Edition AD&D modules that I’d love to convert to the Cypher System, Savage Worlds, or DCC, and just haven’t had that one precious commodity: time.

Like my massive Steam library that my wife occasionally points to whenever I purchase a new computer game, my tabletop RPG library contains hours upon hours of entertainment value, just waiting to be revealed.  With previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons I’ve been quick to purchase the newest, the latest, and the greatest.  Maybe it’s a terrible sign that I’m actually starting to grow up, but I just don’t have the time for a new edition right now.

I’m Skeptical of Wizards of the Coasts’ Business Model


We come to my last point, and probably my only criticism that you’ll find on this post, although it has more to do with Wizards of the Coast than Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.  I was one of the people that fell in love quickly with 3rd Edition D&D.  After a decade of playing 2nd Edition AD&D, I enjoyed the newfound freedom of 3e: no level limits for race, more effective spellcasting at low levels, no more 18/75 strength, the list goes on and on.

Of course later in my life I’d come to miss some of the nostalgia from this period, but that’s another story.

But only a few years later a new edition came to market, D&D 3.5.  The new corebooks brought with them changes that were far beyond simple errata.  If anything, I’d say the changes were almost as dramatic as 1st Edition’s shift to 2nd Edition.  But I was a D&D fan, so I made the switch.  We all know where this story goes, though.  In 2008 the d20 system was handed over to Paizo and 4th Edition came out.  Again, I enjoyed the game, and as a fan purchased it.  But as time progressed the rules continued to change, with nearly continuous updates to the core rules via the D&D Insider character generator....

...which was absolutely REQUIRED to make a D&D 4th Edition character over 1st level in any appropriate amount of time... 

By 2011 the D&D Essentials line came out, a supposedly "evergreen" set of rules that captured the updates made through DDI and putting them in book form.  I’d go as far as saying these changes could be considered a D&D 4.2837th Edition.

Wizards of the Coast has proven three times since 2000 that their business model is the selling of new editions and all new splatbooks and all of the stuff that goes with it (DM screens, new miniatures rules, etc.)  At this rate we’ll see a D&D 5.5 in 2019, and 6th Edition in 2023.  When I bring up this point, many of the new fans of 5th edition are quick to tell me that there are assurances from Wizards of the Coast that this new edition is going to be different.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not sold.

Let the Festivities Begin!


I’m sure there may be some strong opinions on this topic, and I’d really love to hear them.

I promise!

If you’ve been skeptical, but have taken the leap into 5th Edition anyway, tell me why?

If you are still holding out, is it for similar reasons?

Do you agree that DCC’s magic system could obliterate the universe if it really wanted to?