Monday, September 2, 2013

DnD Previous: Once more back to 2nd Edition

So this happened:

Mearls said that subclasses are going to be the next big thing. It isn't really clear, however, what the subclasses for paladin, ranger, barbarian, monk or bard will be though because they really should be subclasses of fighter, rogue, cleric, or mage themselves.

My worst fear when they started bring this up was that they'd roll wizard, warlock, and sorcerer into one magic-user class. Why is this a bad idea? The classes have nothing in common other than using magic.

A wizard, by definition in the game, is a scholar-mage. A wizard gains power through studying and forcing his mind to comprehend and manipulate magic via practice and rote memorization. Anyone with enough intelligence and dedication can cast spells like a wizard. A wizard probably is knowledgeable about things like the planes of existence, spellcraft, magical beasts, or lost legends because he is studious.

A sorcerer, conversely, has been designed as someone who innately manipulates magic. No amount of study helps them, they just experience and practice and possibly attune their bloodline further. They are not dependent on intelligence at all. A sorcerer shouldn't have bonus knowledge skills related to magical things necessarily, but instead might be adept at hiding or obviating his powers, knowing folk lore and safe houses and knowing the sorts of things that a noble or peasant would know.

A warlock makes a pact with some entity who grants magical power. The warlock may need to be canny and smart, but dumb warlocks could also make a pact presumably. In which case perhaps being persuasive or magnetic would grant the warlock a patron's notice, but even that might not be required. A warlock might need a high constitution to withstand his patron's mighty touch. Like the sorcerer, a warlock doesn't need to know anything about how magic works to use his granted powers.

The three spellcasters described above, not to mention a runecaster or artificer or whatnot, don't even share a list of skills they might know. So it's not appropriate for the mage class to grant skills. All it would be granting is spellcasting style, which itself might grant more options (school specialties for wizards, bloodlines for sorcerers, pacts for warlocks). This doesn't seem like the right level of granularity. Wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers could still share a spell list (and should) if they are distinct classes.

This design decision seems like we're moving back to the world of second edition kits, and is going to be the new bloat in rules options. The raging nerd and grognard inside me wants to go back to second edition, add in ascending armor class, and change proficiencies a bit along with spell slots for the casters and call it 5th edition.

Perhaps I'll come to terms with this eventually, but I really hate a few of the implications or ramifications here. First, psion will be a type of mage. This feels wrong and not like D&D. Second, I really wish there were a shaman and mystic/shukenja option for clerics. Non-western religions should be included, not just a class drawn from western monotheism and classical paganism. This doesn't seem likely given the current version of the cleric. Third, as mentioned earlier, most of the classes are only classes now by weight of tradition. Barbarians, bards, druids, monks, paladins, and rangers are rather narrow archetypes compared to the big 4. I cannot imagine we would ever see as many bard or druid or paladin subclasses as we will fighter or rogue types.

This saddens me, because I did enjoy the playtest games I did this summer. I like the bounded accuracy/flatter math concept, which lets lower level creatures be used more often. I like advantage as a simple mechanic for bonuses and penalties. I enjoyed the feel of the game, even if a few things needed to be reworked.

I had been thinking that one of my next goals in life might be to publish a D&D article or adventure. But maybe it will be an OSR thing. I didn't like the direction Pathfinder took with classes (though I do like some aspects of that system too). I'm not sure I like how 5e is turning out with this announcement. I guess time will tell, maybe the next packet will give me something to be happier about.