Tuesday, July 7, 2015

D&D: 13 Things I’d like to see from 5e (Part 1)

The new edition of Dungeons and Dragons has been out for awhile now.  We’ve got all three core rulebooks, a super-high quality Starter Set to introduce new players to the game, and a small-but-growing collection of longer adventures for those looking to go deeper into the game’s core themes.  With the advent of the latest D&D poll from publisher Wizards of the Coast, however, we also seem to have an opportunity.  The poll asks the following:
Which of the following campaign settings would you like to see updated to fifth edition D&D rules?
Which of the following character types from prior editions would you like to see updated to fifth edition D&D rules?
Which of the following races from prior editions would you want to see updated to fifth edition rules?
There are a lot of choices.

1. Support for the Nentir Vale
I got started with this list because of a post on Tribality called Run a Nentir Vale Campaign for D&D 5th Edition.  In their words:
One of the biggest strengths of the Nentir Vale as a setting is the fact that there’s less material written about this setting itself than the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Greyhawk, Dragonlance and Dark Sun. This can be a major benefit, since a DM can learn all they need to know about the Vale setting quickly, without having to handle the baggage of countless campaign books, novels, comics and video games. Many of the details of the Nentir Vale are intentionally mysterious and vague, leaving tons of room for the DM to world build, filling in the blanks with their own ideas.
The Nentir Vale
This is my favorite thing about it as well.  In fact, one of the chief reasons I started building Wanderhaven is that I needed a generic setting of my own, but I then doubled down on the concept by using actual mythological gods in as a way of further decreasing barriers to entry.  WotC isn’t in a position to use true mythology because of the loss of potential intellectual property inherent in the decision, but the Nentir Vale is still an excellent answer to the question, “Where do I set this campaign idea?”
2. Gnolls as a Player-Character (PC) race
Gnolls are great.  They look cool, they eat carrion, and in the 4th edition they made excellent melee-based Warlocks because they got a natural bonus to Constitution and had a racial power that enhanced charging.  Couple this with Eldritch Strike, and you had an evocative, playable Hexblade who had a legitimate reason to worship demons and eat the dead.  If you added on some of the Spellscarred multi-class powers, you could enhance that theme even more.
Gnolls are traditionally bad guys, but for those of us who work a job, support a family, and work as part of our communities, playing the bad guy at the table can be a desirable thing.
3. The return of Devas as a PC race
I was not much into Devas until I read James Davis’s Circle of Skulls.  Davis’s book makes them fascinating, though, with his protagonist Jinn constantly suffering from flashbacks to his previous lives that he can almost make understand.  There’s a lot to work with there for the right kind of player, and indeed, I took the ideas and ran with them in one of my own campaigns later on.
4. The “Dreadfang” fighting style
This is the sword-and-hand-crossbow fighting style traditionally favored by the drow.  It got specific support in 4e, and I’ve always thought it was evocative that a race as weird as the drow are traditionally supposed to be also had their own unique style of martial combat.  Granted, not much has been done with the idea outside of this one specific piece of the 4e ruleset.
Swordmage by Richard Baker
5. A Swordmage class
I’ve talked about this before.  The Eldritch Knight is great, but the build is definitely a build for Fighters who can also cast a few spells.  A Swordmage is a close-combat wizard who survives by using burst- and blast-type attacks as well as a bit of sword work.  As it is, the Eldritch Knight has limited spells overall and no spells for making his sword magical.  That’s a bad oversight.  
At a minimum, I’d like to see a return of spells like Greenflame Blade and Black Blade of Disaster to give Eldritch Knights and martial Wizards some additional tools to use in the close fight.  Really, though, I think there’s room for a whole sub-class here.  Call it the School of Sword Magic.
6. Spelljammer and/or Planescape
Useful rule of thumb in publishing: “There’s always too much fantasy but never enough good sci fi.”  Well, Spelljammer and Planescape both offer D&D the opportunity to correct some of that problem strategically in way that enhances the value of the intellectual property (IP).  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  And yet here we are.  WotC should be putting out Spelljammer and/or Planescape novels yesterday and pushing the setting in their licensed property comics through IDW.  Honestly, I’d bring the ruleset in after that, having softened up the marketplace a little and given folks an idea of what to expect.
Spelljammer would really work if done right.
People sometimes wonder what would make a good D&D movie.  For my money, it’s a thing that captures the sheer weird imaginativeness of the game, and that’s not more stuff about the Nentir Vale.  I love the Vale, but we already have the Lord of the Rings.  What we need is something new and different and that’s this.
Next Week: We finish the list!

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