With a new, crowd sourced version of everyone’s favorite whipping game coming out, it seems everyone’s rethinking the core rules of the game. As you might expect from someone with a blog, I have a few opinions on it. To keep things under control I’ll break opinions up into a few posts.
First off, I understand and support that game companies need to make money. To that end, many companies now keep a feverish pace of books, often publishing two books a month, one for class building and options, another for a setting that includes new monsters and other GM tools (sometimes with a weak effort at flavor). This has resulted in options piled upon options for classes lined up and endless combinations that often result in powerfully unintended consequences. This is power creep, each new book must motivate players to buy it, so each new book must offer better options than the ones before it.
I think technology has given us a better option. No longer do we need to buy hardcover books to have the information we want. I, for one, would much rather pay a small monthly fee (say, in the $10 range) for access to a website that provides high quality information, fiction, and commentaries. That way the company creating the content can release less, higher quality rules, but could also put out settings, and bolstered by fiction, could reinforce the mood in that setting.
WotC is currently set up to do that, and I sank way more money into their service than any 4E books. Paizo runs a website similar to this, except they are (probably, contractually required to) offer their rules for free. They make money by crafting very high quality adventures. Both are a good model for the future.
So, here’s my first wish for the next revolution of games: web-access high quality, low publish rate of rules that includes settings and flavor-defining fiction.
One of the great successes of D&D is the ‘ding’. Being able to ring that bell and write higher numbers all over a character sheet is enormously gratifying. I think this is the one reason that D&D outsold the ever loving crap out of GURPS, despite GURPS being a super awesome system. So, when thinking about how a character goes from fresh-off-the-farm to hobnobbing-with-kings that ding needs to be preserved. That said, my second wish for next revolution of games: restore asynchronous leveling.
In very old systems, rogue was a cool class because they leveled so much earlier than any other class. One of the hardest to level was Elf (a class back then) but they could fight with weapons and spells. I think a rogue was something like level 4 or 5 by the time an elf reaches level 2. This is one reason elves didn’t take over the world despite their advanced age: humans level so damn fast. I like this, and we may even be able to take it another step.
We can preserve that ding-for-all with an HP, to-hit, save boost for all classes each time they reach the same spot on that XP pole. Powers, however, are dolled out based on the power for each class. So, each class gets their HP and whatnot at the same time, but the rogue’s ability to backstab goes up at a different time the clerics get that next spell level. For that matter, when the pally gets a new smite attack it’s a different spot on the XP pole from where the pally get their divine grace (or whatever). In this way, nearly every game session brings a new power to someone, and more importantly, it heads off this mad balance act, where fighters, rogues, and wizards all have to be roughly equal at equal levels.