Wizards of the Coast is starting the new year with a bang, not only are previews for Dark Ascension up, they have officially announced that a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons is on the Horizon. Not only that, but they are saying that the consumers will be much more involved with the product, attempting to “…build a set of D&D rules that incorporate the wants and desires of D&D gamers around the world.” But what does that mean for you?

If you read the statement WoTC put out it is likely that you are very excited, especially if you’re someone who is playing D&D currently. Every role-playing game has problematic rules and many, especially current and past editions of D&D have brilliant bits of mechanics. The opportunity to decide what to toss and what to bring back in order to build the perfect game is an incredible prospect. One that I think appeals to all current gamers at a fundamental level. I know it certainly appeals to me. So as you start gathering your thoughts on what needs to stay and what needs to go I only have five words of advice.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

No, I’m not saying that 5th edition, or whatever they end up calling it, won’t be great, I’m saying you shouldn’t get your hopes up about the amount of input you will have.

Quote-Type box sequence Activate!

We have begun obtaining feedback from a limited Friends & Family playtest consisting of internal employees and their gaming groups and soon we will be expanding that group to consist of members from our existing body of playtesters. Then at the D&D Experience convention in late January, Wizards of the Coast will conduct a special playtest of ideas currently in development.

look closely at that statement.
The basics of the game are already decided, so if your suggestion was going to be something like “Ditch the D20” or “attacks should be automatic and only defense should be rolled” or God forbid “Bring back THAC0” that ship has already sailed. In fact there are probably going to be a lot of little things that will be immutable. My guess is the way that skills work will stay roughly the same, for example.
Here’s how I figure it will go: The designers and developers will come up with a framework for the game, along with a few bells and whistles. Then that stuff will be given to the community to playtest. They will take suggestions and work out bugs and go from there. My feeling is this whole process will be more like an open beta than a cooperative design experience.
Is that a bad thing? No, in a way they’re already doing it with their online content. Things usually float through Dragon Magazine before they make it to the printed books. But I think that people who are hoping for a massive overhaul or to see that awesome rule they created make it to the next edition of D&D are in for a bit of a disappointment.

Signs of a Bright Future…

Instead, the place where I predict the community will have the strongest voice will be in creating the stuff that clicks onto the framework of the game itself. For example I have heard a lot of people complain that they don’t like how 4th edition does magic and that they miss their spell lists, well this new edition will likely come with a port where you can plug in your 3e wizard-style spells, while simultaneously allowing for 4e like powers as well. Now, that doesn’t mean that the spells will be the same as 3rd edition. They will not. They will have their own formula that works within 5th edition’s framework.

And a Darkness Yet to Come…

My greatest concern about this new edition is that D&D is trying very hard to be everything to everyone, and that is simply impossible. We saw that with the implementation of “Essentials” to 4th edition, as they simultaneously tried to simplify things for new players AND switch classes around for old players, all while attempting to maintain cohesion with 4th ed. proper. The result was a mixed bag at best. Now, it is likely that taking that approach from the beginning will yield better results, but only time will tell.


The Author



Nobody really knows what Rodrigo's deal is. He is a perpetual enigma, an unknown quantity, the X factor. He's the new kid in school, the unlisted number, the person all your friends talk about, but you've never met. How can one person be so mysterious, you ask? THAT IS ALSO TOTALLY A MYSTERY! You can try to keep tabs on him on twitter by following @fearsomecritter, but that probably won't help.

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  1. January 10, 2012 at 11:08 am — Reply

    they brought in Monte Cook that’s a good sign..
    if they start putting out hardcovers before putting 2 years into development and testing, I will be put out at the idea of having to buy new hardcovers so soon.

    time will tell.

  2. Ryan
    January 10, 2012 at 11:59 am — Reply

    WHAT THE FRICK?! 5e already??? NO. I refuse to buy it. They snagged me with the new system and got me back into D&D and I ended up buying so many friggin’ 4e books it almost got me divorced (not really). I won’t buy another handbook or resource or campaign setting book ever again if they’re just gonna replace it with some 5e essentials garbage or heck, even 6e within another 3-4 years. Wizards is getting even more greedy, and I don’t like being seen as a ‘mindless consumer’ who’s gonna just gobble up whatever they throw in front of me.

    • January 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm — Reply

      Wizards is getting even more greedy, and I don’t like being seen as a ‘mindless consumer’ who’s gonna just gobble up whatever they throw in front of me.

      This is the company that perfected the Ponzi scheme that is collectible card games…

  3. Frank
    January 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm — Reply

    D&D lost me when the ‘core’ books can’t be counted on one hand. Give me a simple system like AD&D V1 and I’m happy.

    • b003
      January 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm — Reply

      So true I miss TSR.

    • January 21, 2012 at 10:19 pm — Reply

      Give me a simple system like AD&D V1 and I’m happy.

      Well… they’re re-releasing the AD&D core books to raise money for a statue in Gygax’s honour…

  4. Belmont
    January 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm — Reply

    Thanks for the update Rodrigo. I just here recently bought the red box D&D and monster vault. I was getting back into D&D after some 20+ years. Mainly due to watching the D&D cartoon from the 80’s and the Critical Hit you’ve been running. Weirdly this always happens to me I buy into a system and now the company is talking about a version 5. With that going on I’m going to leery about picking up anymore D&D books if that’s the case..

    • January 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm — Reply

      But that is one of the great things about the version you have (or Advanced D&D, or 3.5 or Essentials) you can continue to play the version you love until the world ends, and it will be THE system for you. If you aren’t satisfied with your current system, then the next version may be the one that will work for you.

      • Belmont
        January 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm — Reply

        Thanks Stephen, for the information, again I’m just restarting back into D&D, so with learning what’s new, and figuring aspects of the game, and again getting help from you guys on Critical Hit not just Rodrigo being the GM imparting his knowledge but also the episodes where you Stephen did your own adventure or GM Workshop really helped out. I know here not to long I maybe a GM to a group of players also starting out so I am getting everything that I can get a hold of. So I will be able to have a game and have all my stuff together as well.
        Thanks again to everyone on Critical Hit and Major Spoilers.

    • Praion
      January 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm — Reply

      just play Burning Wheel – well that isn’t the awnser i guess. Still DO IT

      • Belmont
        January 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm — Reply

        I’ll look into it thanks for the info.

  5. January 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    My great worry is that Community Involvement will mean the same thing it did in Marvel Vs. DC, where the battles made not a whit of sense…

    • January 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm — Reply

      Agreed. Those battles made no sense. Especially Lobo vs Wolverine. This is also the crossover responsible off all that “Wolverine and Batman are the same” nonsense.

  6. January 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm — Reply

    I really don’t care what they do with D&D anymore as long as I have Pathfinder. I just wish WotC wasn’t so stingy with their settings and let Paizo have the Forgotten Realms that was before they f’ed it up.

    In fact, since I’m wishing for thing that will never happen, I’ll add Birthright, Planescape, Ravenloft, Kara-Tur & Maztica to the list.

    • Mark
      February 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm — Reply

      Planescape was awesome. Oh, how I miss Sigil.

  7. Sam B
    January 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm — Reply

    As a 4e DM, it they can find ways to encourage players to use skills in combat more often, that would be an improvement. I am wondering if they might provide modular skill sets, so players can still work from a limited selection of skills, but there could be a wide array of skills to be slotted into campaigns. Also, modular spells, like in Oblivion, might be interesting, where spell casters could create balanced multi-effect powers.

    My biggest question is will they provide a new Open Gaming License for 5e?

    • January 15, 2012 at 12:28 pm — Reply

      Agreed, miss being able to use bluff to feint.

  8. joe
    January 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm — Reply

    Yeah. I tend to agree with the sentiment that this is a money grab. Like a lot of folks here, I played 2e when I was a kid and glommed onto 4e because of Critical Hit. I bought the core set maybe 2 years ago, and then a TON of books when Borders closed a few months back.
    Maybe it’s because I was younger and measured time differently, but 2e seemed to work fine, and it was in print for a long time. To go from 2e to 3 to 3.5 to 4 to essentials to 5 in 10 years seems like they are just trying to sell books.
    I picked up the Pathfinder core book on closeout, and I got the beginner box over the holidays, so I may just switch to that.
    (AND I liked THAC0. It was a shorthand that stood in place for a complicated formula. Simple!)

    Actually just tell WOTC that I’ll buy whatever you guys feature on Critical Hit. That’s most likely true.

  9. Sam B
    January 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm — Reply

    Don’t forget. This is the beginning of their DEVELOPMENT process. We might not see new 5e books until late 2014. 4e has a lot of life left in it.

    The problem with their business model is that they can publish a new edition, print books to cover their various settings (Realms, Dark Sun, Eberron, Gamma World), print books to cover extra professions (psionic, shadow), and then what? Game modules for five years?

    The developers must get itching to work on new mechanics. They talk about playing lots of German-style board games. I think it is a mixture of wanting to do something new while continuing to have a revenue stream. If they stopped with 4e, they might as well close shop. Part of their motivation is to turn a profit, after all, but I wouldn’t accuse them of announcing 5e, now, to rake in cash. What they are doing is a gamble. They are choosing to let a larger group of experienced role players (even if it isn’t the whole community) have input into the development process at the risk of players waiting to buy new books until 5e comes out.

    I’m betting that they are going to be working for even more web integration, and with the twilight of Silverlight, 5e may coincide with a web interface overhaul.

    • ~wyntermute~
      January 11, 2012 at 5:26 am — Reply

      German-style board games
      I think I’m the only person on Earth who -doesn’t- like these @#$% things. I am averse to “Settlers”, and have yet to find any of these hipster boardgames that really piques my interest enough to play. So if “RPG Devs play them and want to emulate them” is the reason why I don’t like D&D after 3rd/3.5 edition… I guess it kinda makes sense.

      In other thoughts, maybe this “RPG Cycle” is just the old-fashioned version of the modern MMORPG-cycle.. Game is popular, game gets tinkered with, game loses appeal, NEW GAME is popular, rinse, repeat?

  10. Gers
    January 12, 2012 at 7:35 am — Reply

    I just hope that they un-F-up the lore (which I doubt is possible). I don’t mind 4e’s mechanics so much, compared to how they eviscerated Realmslore with a dull, rusty butcherknife.

  11. January 12, 2012 at 8:32 am — Reply

    I should hope they return to the older editions such as 3rd, where you actually could multiclass. Maybe just make it simpler and make fighters more useful.

  12. Decman
    January 12, 2012 at 8:52 am — Reply

    my concern is that they will stop covering content on insider, which is the only thing allowing me to play D&D right now, seeing as i moved away from my friends and play over Skype. i will probably not buy it, having spent 200+ dollars on 4e books. it will be interesting to see how they execute it though…

    • January 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm — Reply

      Pretty sure the 4e stuff they print will still be on the insider. Once 5E comes out, they will stop posting content for 4E and start printing content for the 5E stuff.

  13. Law
    January 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm — Reply

    I don’t see WotC waiting that long before releasing D&D Next. Since they have been working on 5e for the last 4-6 months, I would estimate that release would be on or near GenCon 2013. The D&D XP will be the first play test and GenCon 2012 will be a playtest of the cleaned up rules from D&D XP. Next, they’ll hammer out the bugs through winter 2012 and go to the printers spring/summer 2013. A final product will be sold on or before GenCon 2013.
    Why the rush? Well, they can’t really sell that many 4e products now that Next is coming. Many fans don’t want to waste money on a defunct game and rules neutral books are not WotC’s forte. I don’t think the Magic sales will be enough to keep D&D afloat, even with the Dungeon Tiles and few minis they will be releasing.
    For the next 18 months or so WotC will be working hard to still make money off D&D while not making any crunch books. They do this each time they gear up for a new edition. In time you will get used to it, too.

  14. January 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm — Reply

    Good write up, Rodrigo. I agree, they probably have the the rule set already worked up, and all the community is going to get to do is make suggestions to change those rules, and to work out bugs. Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s what Paizo did with Pathfinder, and that system is pretty solid. I will reluctantly pay for the core books, but I’m kind of curious and excited to see whats to come.

  15. Cristafaro
    January 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm — Reply

    If you haven’t already, check out wotc’s d&d website. It’s pretty funny to see how people are reacting to the open call for input. One person will say something to the extent that “in order to survive D&D must be online!” Then the next post will be another guy saying “if D&D goes online I will hang myself!” Then someone says “for it to work it has to have tons of fluff!” Next another person says “cut the fluff or I’ll hang myself!” Matthew made a good point on the podcast talking about how input is great but people are generally stupid and have bad ideas.

  16. arbmouser
    April 2, 2012 at 9:48 am — Reply

    I can’t believe WotC is still around, or that anyone plays D&D anymore! There are tons of great and ingenious indie games out there that blow away the crap WotC has been putting out. And they’re either cheap or free! If you are stuck on playing a particular setting, just port the setting over to your game. I will never pump a dime into anything WotC again.

    • Sam B
      April 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm — Reply

      Obviously not a listener to Critical Hit, eh, arbmouser?

      One of the many advantages to a big, globally played RPG like D&D is the common lexicon it provides and a baseline ruleset that you can take with you even if you move and still find people that speak that language and play by those rules.

      A second advantage is the thorough play testing to find a good balance between variety, power level, and fun-factor-predictability

      It sounds like 5e will be aiming for an even wider appeal by providing a very basic set of rules that would work with many different game groups. Changing who you play with would only mean understanding some minor add-ons to those rules.

      Anyone have links to new information, if we are reanimating this dead thread?

      • Decman
        April 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm — Reply

        I can see merits to both of your opinions. D&D is a great game with an even greater community. i moved, but i can still play encounters even though i am halfway across the country. however, my friend picked up a copy of Everway (great game by the way, check it out) for five bucks at a garage sale, and we had just as much fun with that game as we do D&D.

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