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What I'd Love from the Next Iteration of D&D

by Mike on 15 August 2022

I love 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. Many have complaints, some justified, and some making mountains out of mole hills. But none can ignore how successful D&D 5th edition has been over the past eight years. This, no doubt, is due to many factors but the solidity of 5th edition as a ruleset certainly made it both accessible and continually interesting for millions of players all over the world. 5th edition hits the sweet spot of being both easy enough to learn and offers enough interesting options to keep people playing for years.

It is from my love of this game that I offer these desires for the next iteration of D&D. I recognize that my own desires come from just one of millions of people who love this game. I make no sweeping statements that my opinions are any more valid than any other fan of this game.

I humbly offer my requests none the less.

Make 5.5 Fully 5e Compatible

I want the next iteration to be as fully compatible with 5th edition as it can. There are millions of 5th edition books in the world — more than any other version of D&D. What an incredible waste it would be if those books become obsolete. I want Monsters of the Multiverse to work with the new version of D&D. I want Tasha's Cauldron of Everything to work with it. I want Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel to work with it. Keep 5.5 fully backward compatible. When an adventure calls for a veteran, I want a compatible veteran coming out of the new Monster Manual and know it still works just fine.

Include Easier Encounter Building

Encounter building in the current 5th edition Dungeon Master's Guide is both complex and inaccurate. The two-table system of experience point values and multipliers for the number of monsters creates a constantly tweaking system that doesn't provide an accurate measure of an easy, medium, hard, or deadly encounter when done and is simply too hard to do.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything includes a much improved chart-based system but still one too complex to easily figure out and one that doesn't provide a clear picture of combat difficulty.

Better, faster, easier, and looser encounter building guidelines could help DMs quickly measure encounters built either before or during the game. Building a reasonably balanced encounter should be easy and fun.

Include "Theater of the Mind" Guidelines for Combat

The Dungeon Master's Guide and Xanathar's Guide to Everything includes pages of optional rules for gridded play and hardly any guidelines for running games using the theater of the mind or an abstract map for combat. Yet some of the most popular streaming game DMs, including games run by Wizards of the Coast dungeon masters run combat the "theater of the mind". While shared experiences among DMs in the community can help, clear guidance and suggestions in the core books could offer DMs a wider range of ways to run combat.

I certainly don't see this as a replacement to gridded play but instead an alternative option — a widening of the options to support lots of styles of play. Including guidelines for both gridded combat and theater of the mind combat further improves the accessibility of the game for both those with trouble visualizing combat in their heads (aphantasia) and those who physically cannot see a battle map (sight-limited or blindness).

Strengthen High-CR Monsters

High CR monsters are often weak for their challenge rating when compared to lower CR monsters. They often don't do enough damage to threaten high level characters.

WOTC's CR calculations overweight abilities high CR monsters require to challenge high level characters. This ends up reducing their effective damage at their CR.

A wolf at level 1 is significantly more dangerous than a balor at level 19. Recent attempts to increase the threat of higher CR monsters in Monsters of the Multiverse wasn't enough. While mid-CR monsters in MotM often increased their damage output, this didn't keep up at higher CRs.

Make balors as deadly as wolves.

Fix Certain Spells and Abilities

Certain spells and abilities prove problematic in play. Spells like force cage circumvent a legendary monster's ability to hold its own against high level characters. Spells like banish and polymorph can instantly remove most non-legendary threats from the game with a single casting, resulting in the equivalent of hundreds of points of damage with a single cast. The poison immunity of Heroes feast reduces the effective difficulty of a huge swath of monsters for everyone in a group for a whole day. Replace spells like conjure animals with the much-improved summon spells from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything so such spells don't give one player nine turns in a round.

Rebalance spells and abilities to ensure no single one changes how a DM needs to run the game.

Include Tasha Upgrades

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything includes many excellent quality-of-life changes such as flexibile attribute allocation, replacing abilities on level-ups, and more. I hope and expect many of these changes make their way into 5.5.

Provide Less Problematic Race Descriptions

It wouldn't surprise me if one of the main reasons for a refresh of 5th edition is to cover problematic race descriptions like the racial essentialism of goblins and orcs in the Monster Manual. Other fans offer much better advice on this than I and I support such changes for a wider, richer, more interesting, and more inclusive game.

Update the System Resource Document under the Open Gaming License

As a producer of 5th edition material, the Open Gaming License helps me publish material any DM can use to make their game better. While I can still publish under the current 5th edition System Resource Document (SRD) (and will do so should it not be updated), a new SRD would help further connect the widespread community of 5th edition publishers to this new edition of D&D. The OGL and SRD helps bring D&D to the whole community and ensure it lasts the ages. Please update the SRD with new changes and continue to support third party publishers who love this game as much as you do.

Leave the Rest Be

I see posts all the time asking for radical changes. No classes! No more ability scores! No spells! No vancian casting! It goes on and on. A game trying to meet these big changes isn't D&D. Such desires are fine — there are so many awesome RPGs out there, but D&D isn't D&D if you strip everything out of it that made it D&D.

Whatever changes you make to D&D, remember its core roots and embrace how successful 5th edition has been so far. Very little needs changing to make the game enjoyable and successful for another ten years as it has for the past eight.

Last Week's Lazy D&D Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

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This work includes material taken from by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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