So. 5th Edition is upon the horizon. And, most of us have known (or feared) that for some time now, but at last it has been announced. What does this mean, and how will it effect us all?
Previous Edition Changes
Well, I don't know that! Not yet, anyhow. Some feel excited, and seeing they are either involved in its design, or have tested out the early game, that is reassuring. But all I know is that I'm still feeling a little annoyed.
I've been around for two edition changes now, and they were quite different experiences. 2e had slowed down, TSR had passed it on, and everyone knew that 3e was coming. It promised new and exciting things, such as more mingling with classes, feats, and skills; as well as the removal of THAC0. It was looked forward to, and we eagerly awaited our DM's approval to switch the campaign over to the new system.
The end of 3e, however, was different. It didn't feel tired, it didn't feel that it needed a change. And I personally was awaiting my order of six books to arrive when I heard the announcement. That hurt.
I was DMing a long-term campaign in 3e, and we played it out (with a few quickening steps, to tie things up a little faster). Still, we entered 4e about two years into it, and yet continued to feel that there was more to be done with 3e. Now - don't get me wrong: I love 4e, and I don't want to go back to 3e (or Pathfinder). The changes made were for the better, in my opinion, and I am all for playing what you like: I like 4e. But there were still books I had purchased that I hadn't used...and that looks to be the case here, too.
I received a few new books for my birthday, and though I have read through *some* of them over the last few months, I have yet to use them. I know that another couple of books (Heroes of the Feywild, for example) that I was thinking about purchasing have now been crossed off my list. Why should I purchase any more books for 4e, if they are about to end it all?
Sure, I could go on playing...but unlike with 3e, 4e's online presence is strictly governed by WotC. The Compendium is great, but what will WotC do when 5e is released? The split in fans to 4e and Pathfinder resolves around the fact that the d20 system was free to use; if WotC leave the Compendium up, won't that encourage or allow folk to continue to play 4e and not move over? Will the continued sale of DnDi make up for lost sales of 5e? Would they even understand what a reasonable price for DnDi would be, if it comes without the current magazines? Ending support for what we currently play is rough enough, without being forced into the next edition. Yes, forced: they have done well with the Compendium, it is now like a drug - I can't play DnD without it! :)
But it's not only the removal of support, but the gaps where they haven't done things. The DMG3 that never was: help for the epic tier. The "Class Compendium" write-ups for the PHB1 classes (a finalised Wizard (Arcanist)?). So much of the new things they have introduced, but have not yet been properly used. Those races that never received the love they should have. Or classes (poor artificer! forgotten runepriest! ) that never gained ample care. There is still so much left that could be done for 4e before we left it behind.
My Wishes for what's "Next"
Since this is my thoughts, what are my wishes for DnD's future? Ultimately, I can sum it up by saying: please let us continue to use the Compendium; and please take your time!
Time is not just a delaying tactic. Paizo spent time developing Pathfinder, and with that, things were smoothed before its release. With extra time, the earlier books in 4e could have been a lot smoother, and less errata. I definitely have to agree with Rolling20s, in that there has been way too much errata. Ultimately, the problem isn't the errata, but that the system was needing such changes in the first place. Sure, patches to computer games may happen more frequently, but until WotC either moves totally to electronic media, or hands out free pdf's (which they update with the changes) of books along with purchased hard copies, the errata needs to be less.
Books shouldn't be delegated to the shelf, and forgotten, after five rounds of changes and updates have made them more wrong than right! The first books should be the core, and they should be great - able to stand for the rest of the life of the edition, not replaced with 'essentials' as a new start! Even if they released things in tiers (PHB1 being Heroic, for example), this would allow for the released game to be balanced and not needing updates; future PHBs could then bring in higher level games, which have had more time to balance / playtest.
The second point ties in to Rolling20s first point. The Compendium is great, but it doesn't cover everything. It makes a DM's life so much easier, and I am scared as to what finishing my 4e games would be like, if I didn't have access to it. So I definitely want to have that! (Maybe a final year's payment for a downloadable version of the compendium / character builder? It won't need any more updates, so it shouldn't take any further work?) [update] WotC has tweeted about the tools remaining online. (note "plan to", not "will") I wonder what the cost is... they cannot expect full price for tools that will no longer gain new content (through books released or Dragon / Dungeon magazines).
From my time DMing on DnD Online Games, I have found the ease and speed of looking up any power, any feat, any item in seconds to be such an amazing tool. The same task in 3e would take forever, as I had to reference different physical books, search for where I thought a spell or feat was, and often give up looking and wait for someone to point me there (which, when you are playing by post, can be a while!). I'd definitely want the same online tools for 5e, but moreso, there needs to be more openness with it.
The tight, strict levels of copyright really hurt when playing 4e online, whilst the 3e folks join games without paying anything, and test the water out. WotC: if you want the curious to give your game a go, allow low level things to be free! The initial character builder, which allowed anyone to build a character up to level 3, was a great idea (and the current one should do something similar). Freely accessing some rules (stripped down is fine, as long as it gets people into the game) is necessary to keep bringing in new players, and keep the hobby alive.
Now, they are my two main thoughts, my overall wishes for "what is next". As things come more sharply into focus, I will hopefully able to work out just where things stand, and how roughly WotC is planning on treating us...