When they announced One D&D, the next edition that is beyond editions, I was skeptical. I started calling it 5.5e, because it was supposed to be “backward compatible.” However, now seeing the playtests, and the directions they are wanting it to go, it already does not seem to be backwards compatible, because of the different bonuses from races, backgrounds, how abilities work, etc. In that case, let’s just make the game the Sixth Edition, and be willing to change more.
This is the first part, just the Player’s Handbook, with two more articles to follow.
I love the limiting of stat bonuses based on Race, and a focus on inherent biological abilities, like the Dragonborn’s Breath Weapon.
Otherwise, D&D needs to solve the question, “is Race an Ethnicity or a Species?” I approached the topic in another article, but essentially they need to realize that some people see the difference between Elves and Dwarves like the difference between a Horse and a Zebra, while others see it like the difference between a French person and a German person. Of course no one thinks that between a Giant and a Hobgoblin. So once you make that distinction, then you need to decide where Orcs, Goblins, and other “monsters” fall on that line. It’s a tricky question, but one that is causing unneeded strife in the D&D community.
Background should come next, as it is what defines your character before they chose their class. Things like the Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws, as well as the idea of Debts and Regrets, from Eberron, and Secrets from Icewind Dale.
Then, there should be a mechanical reason to use these aspects of your character. Other TtRPGs will give experience based on using your roleplay, but as we are moving toward a more milestone system, I don’t think that’ll work. Perhaps, since the game wants to dive into Inspiration more, you can start the next session with extra Inspiration for each aspect of your character’s roleplay details you used in the previous session.
Ability Scores need to be simplified. Right now, people roll for Ability Scores, and the full range goes 1-30, which then you translate that score to a modifier.
First, I think we should get rid of the initial Ability Score entirely, and just run the game on modifiers, because it doesn’t make sense. Explaining to a new character that you have a score, that only matters for finding your actual score, is just clunky and awkward.
Then, I think Standard Array should be the default option, with Point Buy and then Rolling for stats being optional, because again, for new players, you want to feel like you are just as valuable at the table as your friends, and put your scores how you want them to match your character concept.
However, for those people who still want to roll, instead of 3d6, or 4d6 drop the lowest, if we are only doing modifiers, you can instead roll 1d6-1d4. This gives a range of (-3) to (+5), with the average being (+1). If you did that 7 times and drop the lowest, I think the stats would come to be very similar as they do now.
By and large, I don’t have a strong opinion on which classes be in the game, or what features they include, aside from whatever I might say on the Playtest packet reviews. Some people get really into the weeds with mechanics, and that’s great for them, but it’s not for me.
Instead, my biggest opinion is that classes should stop at Level 15. Few groups play through 20 levels, and not only that, but it’s hard to have a campaign with a recurring theme for all 20 levels. Even if you do, it is famously difficult for DMs to create challenging encounters at that level, especially with current monster design.
If we stopped at Level 15, that would also give DMs a much clearer 3-Act structure, having 3 Tiers of Play. Right now, if you look at the class progression, not every class gets a cool feature every level. Some do, like the Barbarian, Fighter, and Rogue, but some classes, like the Druid and Wizard, only get new features for 12 of their 20 levels, if you don’t include “More Spell Slots.” There could be a “Level 0,” a way to gamify Character Creation, and a sample of “Epic Levels” with those Boons and fighting the Gods, but overall we can bring it down.
This is my biggest change I want to see, because I am so tired of the “Vancian” style of magic, with Spell Slots. It’s time to retire them. There are so few parts of the game that are the same or similar as they were in 1e, and Spell Slots are one of them. There’s no currently popular fantasy that supports this idea, I don’t think anyone roleplays themselves preparing spells as they go to bed each night, it just isn’t the core fantasy we want to experience.
There are a lot of ways they could change it, like Mana points is a popular option I’ve heard, but if this is my wishlist, then I want a Harry Potter style of magic. Harry Potter, I think, has the biggest cultural footprint as far as fantasy spellcasting goes. Having a style modeled after this fantasy does not, for the record, reflect a support of the authors views.
For this to work, you do not have a limited amount of spells you can cast in a day, but spells do still range in difficulty. In order for you to cast a spell, it works similar to an Ability Check, probably Arcana and your Spellcasting Ability, where each spell has a DC, that you must roll in order to cast it. Then, as a spellcaster, as your level goes up, so too does your Arcana score, so that at certain levels, you can cast lower level spells without failing.
Also, either Spell Levels need to change to match what Class Level you unlock them at, or change their name. Below I just call them Ranks, so there are 9 Spell Ranks, among 20 Class Levels.
These numbers have not been tested, and are merely an example.
|Rank 1||DC 10|
|Rank 2||DC 13|
|Rank 3||DC 16|
|Rank 4||DC 19|
|Rank 5||DC 22|
|Rank 6||DC 25|
|Rank 7||DC 28|
|Rank 8||DC 31|
|Rank 9||DC 34|
You still can only unlock the next Rank of spells when you get to the appropriate Class Level as it stands now.
So the way I’d want it to work, is that when you are Level 1, casting a Rank 1 Spell, you have the same chance of success as a Fighter’s Bounded Accuracy. However, unlike Martial attacks, when you fail, I want some kind of consequence. Remember that scene where Ron attempts to make Malfoy eat slugs, but because he had a broken wand, it backfired and he was the one vomiting slugs for the rest of the day? I want that, somehow, in the game. I want magic to feel dangerous to do, and without the bookkeeping.
While this won’t do much to stop Casters from becoming more powerful than Martials, it will add a level of self-danger to being a Caster that will force them to be more cautious with their magic, but then be big and bombastic when the moment calls for it.
Also, something that I think could be interesting, is since Ritual spells can be cast without using a spell slot (if you spend 10 minutes casting), I think it would be neat if not only all spellcasting classes could cast them, but also classes that don’t have any spell slots could cast Ritual spells in the same way as well. Turn casting a Ritual into something that anyone could do, if they know how. Perhaps whatever is your Arcana Skill, that’s what level Ritual spell you can cast.
Same with using a Spell Scroll. Another way is perhaps you have to roll an Arcana check to see if you successfully cast it, and the scroll is used regardless whether or not you succeed, but to me, the whole point of a Spell Scroll is that the power needed is in the scroll, and therefore doesn’t have to come from the caster. So anyone can cast from a Spell Scroll. It would make it a much more interesting magic item. Also, adventures would be more careful in determining what spell is on said scroll. So when I mention in the Playtest Packet reviews that I want Barbarians, Fighters, Monks, Rangers, and Rogues to not be “Spellcasters” at all, there is an exception for Rituals and Spell Scrolls.
I still want equipment in the book, but skip things like Mounts and Vehicles, Trade Goods, and Expenses, and leave all that in the DMG, because players don’t care, unless the DM makes them care.
In their place, I want Magic Items in the Player’s Handbook, stuff that they are likely to interact with during their adventures. So Common, Uncommon, Rare, and maybe Legendary as things they’ve heard of in legends and stories in their world. Of course, we’d leave out the cursed items for the Dungeon Master.
Lets also take a look at equipment prices. If you crunch the numbers, it is clear that 1 copper piece is supposed to equal $1USD, but in an attempt of “realism” some items are priced way higher. The reason is that “with medieval technology, this item would be very difficult to produce” but while that might be true, it isn’t interesting. It doesn’t add to the fun. I understand that the glass bending for a spyglass would be hard to manage, but making it cost $100,000 USD is just stupid.
Also, we need to distinguish weapons a bit more. Maybe we can be a bit more comfortable with changing a weapon for 1d8 to 2d4 if it’s a more reliable weapon. My favorite method is giving weapons maneuvers, but that’s only because I don’t have a Battle Master Fighter at my table, so I can give those out without stepping on anyone’s toes.
I don’t really talk about combat here, because I’m cheating and putting that in my article about the Monster Manual, because otherwise I don’t have that much to say about monsters.