Last week, I talked about why we might be interested in uniting the editions, and how we might look at the tones and play styles of those editions to capture what we seek to have in D&D. To be clear, we're not talking about creating a bridge so that you can play 1E and 4E at the same time (See, this shit was NOT fuckin’ clear!). Instead, we're allowing you to play a 1E-style game or a 4E-style game with the same rules (uhm... but I already have those rules, even 4e which I don’t even want to play. Why would I need a new set of rules to play D&D in a style that I already have. First damn paragraph and my head is hurting. Curse you Monte!). Also, players at the table can choose the style of character they want to play (Wait, how can the players choose a style for the PCs if you just said he needs to choose a style for the game oh my God it’s going in circles!). In short, let's talk about style and D&D.
The way we want to accomplish handling the style of play is with a modular approach. If 3E style is about character customization and a tactical view of combat, options should allow you to customize characters with feats and skills, plus play with a grid and miniatures (and have rules that support threatened areas, attacks of opportunity, and so forth). But in a 2E-style game, some or all of these options would not be desirable. Because of this truly modular approach, it means you don't have to pick an edition style. You can have the simple, fast combat of 1E with the character customizing skills of 3E, or any other combination (but if the 3e feats require 3e movement and 3e facing, your 1e “handwaving” ain’t gonna cut it).
But where do you start? For this to work, there needs to be a basic core to the game upon which you layer these options. That's where distilling D&D down to its essence comes in (yep, 3d6 in order 6 times... that was easy). What are the things that you'd expect to overhear at a table of people playing D&D if you didn't know which version they were playing?
That's something that we're working on right now. But some of the answers are obvious. Six ability scores ranging from 3 to 18. Fighters, clerics, wizards, and rogues. (Or, if you prefer, fighting-men, clerics, magic-users, and thieves.) Character levels. Experience points. Rolling a d20 to attack. Magic missiles. Fireballs. Hold person. And so on.
In effect, what you end up with is a fully playable game with its own style. Think of it this way: It would be wrong to say that there is no inherent D&D style that carries across the nearly forty-year lifespan of the game. What you really end up with, in this approach, is a game that ends up looking—not coincidentally—like original D&D. Not entirely, of course, and not precisely, but close. It's a game that captures the feel of OD&D (“feel” is a scary word, because it may feel like it, but it isnt it, and apparently won’t even be compatible with it. So if I really wanted to “feel” OD&D, I should play OD&D)
From there, with that excellent foundation, we can build upward and outward. (Wait, so they are saying that they striped 4e and 3e down to their Oe essential oils, and are building from that? Wouldn’t it make more sense to really build from 0e if that were the case?)
I know you have a lot of questions, and frankly, so do I (Huh!?! you’re the designer. if you still have a lot of questions, that aint good). That's what the public playtest is about—finding the answers together. The next big question you might have, however, is that with everything being so customizable, who makes the decisions (why yes, Monte. Who makes the decisions. Inquiring minds want to know)?
I think some of the answers are player-provided answers, and some are DM-provided. This is tied in very closely with my philosophy of the game overall. Players should play the characters they want to play (with DM input), and DMs should run the games they want to run (with player input) (that all sounds all fine and dandy, but if we are building upon 0e, and you aren’t empowering the DM, you’re gonna fail)
Some choices then—such as whether a character has a long list of skills and feats; or skills, feats, and powers; or just ability scores, hit points, Armor Class, and an attack bonus—are up to the player (no they are not. if I don’t want that shit in my 0e touchy feely game, they have no place in it. simple as that. this is why, if 5e fails, it will fail. You can’t run a 0e game with 4e feats, or a 4e game with 0e lack of feat... or what not). Some choices are up to the DM. If miniatures and a grid are used, that's a DM choice. If the adventures are going to be about grinding through a dungeon to get enough coppers to pay for tomorrow's meal or an epic quest across the planes to save the universe(s), that's a DM choice. (That latter choice might seem like flavor only, but it can determine which rules options are taken.)
So, the game is actually a matrix of these choices, with some made by the DM and some by the players, which will end up determining the feel of the overall game and might allow the group to "emulate" a prior edition (holy shit, talk about back tracking! now instead of getting a feel, you MIGHT emulate a certain edition). More importantly, though, these choices allow people to play what they want to play. In effect, the group can make their own edition of D&D. And that's really the most exciting part of it, I think.
Last Week's Polls
What's your favorite play style for your D&D games? Rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "not at all important" and 5 being "vital to the game."
(Let me summarize - Folks want “crunchy” but not too crunchy, heavily story based, with tactical options around those of 3e (but not 3.5e), no one is looking to be all that simulationist and in the end, they want heroic play. Story and heroic action beat simulationist and tactical hands down)
Fast and simple
Heroic and high action
If you could have only one of the following, which would you choose?
Heroic and high action
Fast and simple