This past year has proved that I am indeed a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition! Quite a few of my rambling posts involve D&D as do quite a few of my reviews, to be honest. But hey, it’s always been a favorite topic of mine since I first discovered the game as a wee lad in ’95 (’94?). Granted, I was extremely young and didn’t understand what was going on. The few times I played AD&D, i was hooked! Then 3e rolled around and it was cemented as a part of my life! But, we’re not here to talk about my history with the game. And as much as I want to talk about Games Master Appreciation Month (which is certainly something all GMs deserve for hours of volunteer service, haha), I’m gonna talk about my experience with the current game so far, bits of news (or lack of there for), and other hubbub involving the game! Now, this is in part because there aren’t any new movies, games, or whatever that fit the bill of this blog. And if there are, I don’t know about them yet! (So by all means, flood me with ideas!) In the meantime, pull up a chair and grab some funny shaped dice, because there’s tons of geeky rambling after the jump.
For starters, I think most of us can agree that the launch through core release of 5th Edition has been a success. While it didn’t generate the trumpeting fanfare in the past, it certainly hasn’t garnered much negativity. In fact, apathy seems to be the most negative response I’ve seen for the most part (aside from the typical misguided attempts as “edition warring”.) In terms of the many worlds of D&D, it seems like a blurry mystery. Following countless fiascoes with detail leaks (that Wizards themselves have suffered through several times), I don’t blame the Nintendo-levels of secrecy. The most we’ve gotten is a taste from the core rule books; pantheons in the PHB/DMG, monsters spanning all walks of reality, blurbs from famous characters in various realms, and so on and so forth. We’ve had tons of rumors floating about; Chris Perkins’ private Arthurian-inspired project, reintroduction of Eberron/Dragonlance/Greyhawk, genre/motif focused books tied to vanilla adventures and even more “Forgotten Realms” content of course. But, from what I gather it seems we’ll continue to be hit with the flood of “Forgotten Realms” products the same way Greyhawk was used as a generic base during the 3rd edition era; as well as 4e’s Nentir vale, if you count that as much of anything.
And even then, none of the upcoming products really feel “Forgotten Realms.” So far, we have a two-part adventure that feels more welcome in the Dragonlance world of Krynn, as well as an adventure that doesn’t even try to mask its origins in Greyhawk/Oerth. For people like me who (used to) love Realmslore, it’s a tad disappointing. The last 2 years proved to be an exciting time! This era known as “THE SUNDERING” was supposed to patch up all the stupidity brought upon by the “Spellplague” era and make the setting feel closer to its roots. Instead, we get 5 pretty good books and little detail on what the world is actually like. Also, the Shade are pretty much wiped out too…. Hurray!? Afterwards, all we get are very vanilla adventures. While they’re not bad, they don’t supply the world with anything new or interesting. In the end, they feel like “Realms Shattering Events” that Wizards promised to avoid continuing. However, they’re allowing the players to take the roles of the movers and shakers, as the Sundering Adventure feedback seemed to indicate. So, this gives the players (the illusion) of controlling the setting within the canon, at least. But as I said, I wish these adventures really allowed me to witness the changes that this turbulent time has wrought upon the lands! The spellplague and its dreadful effects have gone, the Gods have returned, civil unrest has lead to new battles and full fledged war throughout Abeir-Toril! Let’s see more of the action implied within the above, eh?
That said, before I finished this mishmosh of opinions, Wizards was kind enough to convert some of the basics for the Eberron campaign setting. While it looks like this is a beta test for 5E Eberron, I’m more than psyched! If anything, it shows Wizards of the Coast is following through on their promise to deliver for almost any kind of game. Plus, today marks the return of “Unearthed Arcana”, where alternate playstyles are given some recognition from the head honchos themselves! If the Dungeon Master’s Guide marked the start of something wonderful, this is a continuation of that modular beauty. If I want to change up 5e to be a ultra-epic fantasy supers game (kinda like the playstyle in 4th), I can do it! If I want to run Dark Souls & Dying Worlds, I can do that too! (Because, an Anor Lando Campaign setting would actually be quite awesome.) So, things are looking pretty good on the player’s side of things. But, what exactly is going on with Mearls & Co?
While WizBro is no stranger to post-Christmas layoffs, they seem REALLY short staffed. Sure, well known veterans seem to vanish all the time from their ranks, but I can’t help but feel a tad dismayed. I’m not sure if this is just like the bullshit that happens in the video game market, where you’re canned after a big project is finished. In a sense, I guess this is more so a criticism of corporate America, where permanency is replaced with temps needed for a big project. Either that or downsizing until another big thing happens. But, I digress, this might slow down the process of books even further. I’m all for quality, but I won’t deny my impatience when it comes to long breaks without updates.
In the end, maybe Wizards is still hanging onto their D&D license, even if the amount of content per year seems pretty slim. Now, I’m not asking for a heavy crunch book, but I’m always open to fluff-centric books like Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms and Menzoberanzan. One could label them as transitional products between 4E and 5E, due to the lore advancing beyond spellplague era, while keeping it mostly edition/setting neutral when it came to FR. As long as Ed and countless other greats would be on board for it, that would be a fantastic way to get people into the countless realms of the D&D multiverse. If my hunch about Unearthed Arcana is correct, you wouldn’t really need mechanics anyways, leaving more room for really expanding upon the world in an approachable manner while providing tons of new lore for long term fans. Despite information being slightly sparse, we’ll all have to wait and see. For countless fans like me, 5e has a lot of work ahead of it to stay as consistently awesome as the core book set.