I’m eager to see what the design team on 5E puts together. In addition to being fantastic people (seriously, Monte, Bruce, and Miranda have been nothing short of wonderful in the years I’ve known them, and Rob Schwalb struck me as incredibly generous – and this at the tail end of Gen Con!), this really is a design dream team.
Naturally, the frothing-rage contingent of the internet will never be happy with what they put together, but then that’s the same contingent that indulges in the never-ending Edition Wars. There will be those who pick at the work and declare it fundamentally broken. Others will harp on particular design decisions and declare that the team doesn’t know what it’s doing, is pandering to a lowest common denominator, is destroying the game that they knew and loved. I know this, because I have been following D&D and its various iterations for over thirty years now, and truly, there is nothing new under the sun… and that includes reaction to change, especially change for something that fills such an important imaginative space.
So here are the simple facts: Whatever this team produces is bound to be good. Note that “good” does not necessarily equate to “the flavor a particular gamer desires”; it is literally impossible for them to create a work that will please everyone. Rather, I mean that the quality of their work is bound to be high, with particular thought and care behind each design decision. Each of the designers brings a particular skillset to the table, complementing and improving on the others’ work.
Will they leave some loopholes? Of course they will. The more complex any system becomes, the more interrelated its parts must necessarily be. A small change in one seemingly independent section of the rules may throw a whole section out of balance, requiring a complete restructuring or dismantling. For a system as large and complex as Dungeons & Dragons, it is simply out of the question for them to imagine every contingency. The open playtest should help to mitigate some of that, and so the more people who participate in that playtest, the better the system will be. Thus, those who are prepared who complain the loudest should also be the ones who playtest most extensively.
Change can be scary. I grant that. But this is an opportunity to remake the game, to attract more gamers to a hobby that is undeniably shrunken from its peak, and to showcase the vast creativity all of us have. That’s worth making an effort for.