I have been following the Legends and Lore articles, originally written by Mike Mearls and currently written by Monte Cooke, over at Wizards of the Coast’s website since their inception. The main thrust of the articles is to provide some kind of insight into the thinking and processes that the designers are going through with regards to the future direction of the game. One theme that keeps getting batted around is the concept of modularity and how it may factor into the next iteration of D&D.
So what is this modularity they speak of? Well it seems what they are talking about is having a basic rule set of D&D or chassis if you will, and then you the DM/play group have the option of adding these optional rule sets or modules to create the type of game experience you desire. This is generally couched in level of complexity terms, for example if you want a more complex simulation experience then keep adding modules until your happy and vice versa. My first thought was how much is that going to fucking cost me given that I will of course need to purchase the full monty so I don’t have to live with crippling feelings of inadequacy. I am sure it is going to be more than the equivalent PHB, DMG, MM from previous editions.
Then I had some other ideas (some of them albeit tangential and vaguely sexual which I‘ll not share) around what these modules might include. Now I could be wrong, as I frequently am, but one of the goals of the next edition has to be to reclaim a lot of cats that didn’t make the transition to fourth edition or tried it and jumped ship. What would entice these players back into the WoTC fold? I think one of the modules might just be the Vancian magic system. Is that even possible? I don’t know, I have absolutely no game design skill whatsoever (my modifier would be -15 to any checks) or business acumen (hence psychologist). The way I see it though, at the heart of some individuals rejection of 4th edition, aside from coming to early in order to keep the money machine rolling, is that it didn’t feel like good old D&D to them. This was primarily due to the removal of the Vancian system in favor of the power system and subsequent effect on character progression i.e. multi-classing and balance. So would it even be possible to have the 4th edition power system as a module alongside the Vancian magic system module for people to choose between and place over the basic game rule set? I have no idea whatsoever. All I can say is that Wizards is in a precarious position going forward as any significant change with the current system has the real risk of splitting the customer base yet again without bringing back significant numbers of lapsed players. Definitely between a rock and a hard place, it will be interesting to see what shakes out.