The Now 400 Pound Gorilla Has Awoken

…and it’s looking to put on a few hundred pounds.

Today, Wizards of the Coasts announced that they are working on the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. They are going to be conducting ongoing open playtests for the next iteration.

The goals we have set for ourselves are by no means trivial or easy. By involving you in this process, we can build a set of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D 📖) rules that incorporate the wants and desires of D&D gamers around the world. We want to create a flexible game, rich with options for players and Dungeon Masters (DMs 📖) to embrace or reject as they see fit, a game that brings D&D fans together rather than serves as one more category to splinter us apart.

Mike Mearls

Superficially, this mirrors Paizos’ open playtest for their Pathfinder Role Playing Game (RPG). The Pathfinder RPG exists, in part, as a response to 4th Edition’s bungled third-party licensing process. The Pathfinder RPG is solidly rooted in the 3rd Edition of D&D – Thank you . It was further developed, and modified, through an extensive open playtest. And by some accounts, Pathfinder sales were tied in 2010 and eventually outstripped D&D sales in 2011.

D&D was once the 800 pound gorilla shed much of it’s weight by not providing a clear path from 3rd Edition to 4th Edition, both for players and for vendors.

So today, D&D is again the nerdy kid looking in at the cool kids with their open playtesting, dreaming what every geek dreams…to be invited to the game table.

I have abandoned Dungeons and Dragons: Fourth Edition (4E 📖), because frankly, it doesn’t do it for me. The classes are far too similar. The game is so very well balanced that it is boring. Every combat had so much going on and was so meaningful, which, ultimately reminds me of one of the great lines in the Incredibles:

Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Personally, I want to see D&D succeed. D&D is more than a game, it is an icon. I can say to people “I play role-playing games” and they give me a blank stare. I can say “I play games like D&D” and they understand.

If this new design direction works to incorporate all flavors of the game…Great. If it also aids in translating older adventures to the newer format…Great. If it truly is a modular game that allows me to drop in sub-systems I’m interested in…Great.

And most importantly if it is not released via the Open Game License (OGL 📖) or comparable license…It can wither on the vine…because the OGL is what brings everyone to the table. It is, in my opinion, why Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition (3E 📖) are and were wildly successful. Having forsaken the OGL, it is why the once 800 pound gorilla has been on starvation rations and looks hungry as hell.