Jan 13, 2012

Pleasing all of the people all of the time?

All across the intertubes news of 5th edition has spread, from no less a luminary source than the New York Times to the humble Grognardia blog and everything in between. It is quite surprising to me that news of an update to a little hobby game from 1974 should receive such attention in 2012. The year of doom. The dead rising from the grave!… Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria! and 5th edition!

This announcement should be no surprise to those who noticed that Monte Cook went back to work at Wizards. I really enjoy his writing and design work, so am pleased as punch to hear this. There is also some excitement that Robert Schwalb has joined the 5e design team as well. I'm less familiar with his work, but this does sound promising from what I have read.

The biggest news, for those of us who care, is that Wizards is sending out all the right signals that this edition will be a game designed with the intention of uniting the various factions of D&D players. I am very happy to hear the plans to make 5e more modal with a basic system, and branching out to service individual niches. It sounds like a return to form. I don't think any system can ever pull together the disparate forces that comprise the D&D fan base. Monte Cook is certainly a good choice for the task though.

Robert Schwalb
As you have no doubt read, our primary goal is to produce a rules set that speaks to every incarnation of D&D. So if you are a diehard BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia enthusiast or have embraced 4th edition, loved 2nd edition, 3rd edition, or never moved on from 1st edition, we’re creating this game for you. Imagine a game where you can play the version of D&D you love best. And then imagine everyone plays at the same table, in the same adventure. We aim to make a universal game system that lets you play the game in whatever way, whatever style, with whatever focus you want
A noble goal indeed! But I can't help but think they are trying to build the ultimate Swiss Army knife. The product that does everything!

Perhaps a better analogy is the spork. The spork is intended as a system to be faster and less cumbersome than it's fork and spoon predecessors. Thus it is demonstrably better, mechanically, than previous utensils. Right?

Whatever happens, I really do wish Wizards all the success in the world. Because the success of D&D directly affects the hobby gaming business in general. None of us likes seeing local game stores closing down, we much prefer them to be vibrant and funded well enough to maintain a place where we can go play some games and see new games physically in person before purchasing.