09 Jan 2012

Dungeons & Dragons… Next

Blog 52 Comments

And here we are in the announcement’s warm afterglow. By now, I think the word about the next iteration of D&D has reached every corner of the tubes, and there’s not much to say beyond what the NY Times, CNN, the Escapist, ENworld, and scads of other sites have said today. You might have noticed I’ve been quiet the last few months and now you know why. I just have a bit more to say before I dive back into the land of work.

I’ve written this paragraph a dozen times and deleted each one. Here’s the deal: I could go on and on about how excited I am to be on the design team, how this is a dream come true, and that sort of thing, but all that should be evident from my previous posts on D&D and my work on the game so far. Working with Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell (and everyone else involved in the game’s design and development) has been the best experience in my career and I’m excited beyond words about what we’re doing now and what will come in the months ahead.

As you have no doubt read, our primary goal is to produce a rules set that speaks to every incarnation of D&D. So if you are a diehard BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia enthusiast or have embraced 4th edition, loved 2nd edition, 3rd edition, or never moved on from 1st edition, we’re creating this game for you. Imagine a game where you can play the version of D&D you love best. And then imagine everyone plays at the same table, in the same adventure. We aim to make a universal game system that lets you play the game in whatever way, whatever style, with whatever focus you want, whether you want to kick down doors and kill monsters, engage in high intrigue, intense roleplaying, or simply to immerse yourself in a shared world. We’re creating a game where the mechanics can be as complex or as light as you want them. We’re creating the game you want to play.

We can’t do this without you, however. The open play test is crucial. You have a chance to contribute, to help us achieve our goals. So go over to www.wizards.com/dndnext and sign up. This is our game. So let’s make it the best ever, yeah?


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52 Responses to “Dungeons & Dragons… Next”

  1. Chris Tulach says:

    In fact, it’s probably a dream within a dream within a dream come true for Rob…


  2. OnlineDM says:

    I’m glad you’re so deeply involved, Rob. That bodes well for dndnext. Have fun with it!

  3. Stuart says:

    Imagine a game where you can play the version of D&D you love best. And then imagine everyone plays at the same table, in the same adventure.

    I’m interested in learning more about what this means, particularly for things like the combat system. Some players use miniatures and some don’t?

  4. Rey Ooze says:

    Im a huge Dnd 4e Fan and For the First time I will embrace a new edition (it is a new edition?) without leaving the previous. And knowing that you are behind the design and have teammed with Monte Cook, just spell greatness!!

    Count on us!

  5. wlkeR says:

    Congratulations on being on the team! Now the game just can’t end up not being awesome.

    Personally, I’m happy that no “insider” ever called this endeavor D&D 5E. D&D Next is an awesome title. A promising title saying that this isn’t actually a step further (one that many gamers loathe), but a step up to see the good things and let them overshadow the bad.

  6. James Lewis says:

    “Yeah, indeed – a thousand times, yeah.”

    I started to read the comments following Mearls’ Legends & Lore column, but after the same guy posted twice (or more – I didn’t get past the second) demanding information on support for 4e tools, etc., I just replied that I’d bet he’ll have ‘em, not to panic – and certainly not so soon – then suggested that he just breathe…and I called it good on the perusal of comments for now.

    Point being, I’m stoked about the news, and as I referenced on FB this morning, it sure would be great to be able to bring about to the gaming populace as a whole, one big, collective, everybody stfu now hug-fest.
    Ah, but then, without missing a beat, BY GOD WHAT ABOUT MY 4E TOOLS – TELL ME NOW!!!

    Oh well! That’s what we get for including humans, so eff it – I’m ready for some Dungeons & Dragons Ultimate!
    (or whatever the official moniker is chosen)
    \m/ >_< \m/

  7. Claudio Pozas says:

    How long before Bor Bwalsh joins the ranks of other iconic D&D mages?

  8. CrowOfPyke says:

    I loved your work on the Psionic Powers book for 4th Edition. This comes from someone who HATED psionics in EVERY previous edition of DND; broken, hard to use, etc. You did a great job with the Psionic Powers book, and it was one of the best 4th Edition books made – it was well balanced, well thought out, and worked really, really, really well. So well, I actually became a fan of the Psionic classes in 4th edition despite my initial “oh god, I hate psionics” reaction when the book was announced for 4th Edition.

    I am not saying that past performance of an author is a guarantee of future success, but in the case of 5th Edition DND with you on board for rules, I’d hedge my bets that way. :) I am looking forward to seeing what comes of 5th edition.

    One request: PLEASE for the love all that is holy about RPG’s, do NOT make 5th Edition DND “collectible” in the way that Gamma World was… TERRIBLE idea.

  9. greywulf says:

    I’m just darned pleased as punch you’re on the team. Congratulations!

    The dream D&D design team? Quite possibly.

  10. newbiedm says:

    Rob, I’m glad you are on board the next version of D&D.
    I’ve always considered you one of -if not my favorite- dnd designer.
    I’m very excited about what you guys have in store.

  11. Icosahedrophilia says:

    Stuart asked: “Some players use miniatures and some don’t?”

    I would think/hope it would be more like “some tables use miniatures and some don’t.” It would be terribly confusing for the use of miniatures to differ from player to player at the same table. But if some groups use them and some don’t … well, that’s white books through 2e and maybe even 3e.

  12. Stuart says:

    @Icosahedrophilia That’s what I’m hoping for as well. I like the idea (very much) of the group being able to customize the game to their liking. I’m not sure about the idea of letting individual players do so at the same table. I guess we’ll find out more soon. :)

  13. froth says:

    im a fan of yours but im not about to start this whole kumbayah dance on 4es grave. very very disappointed and the l&l columns are some of the worst garbage ive ever read. i thought the 4e bloggers would at least be a bit wistful about 4e being thrown in the trash but i guess a plane ticket to seattle cures those ills

  14. Jason says:

    Congratulations, Rob. They couldn’t have picked a better designer to work on it. As a fellow Tennessean, I congratulate you double.

  15. Alphastream says:

    Congrats, Rob. There are few people that qualify for this task as you do… I mean, I’m sure I can think of others, sure….

    I look forward to seeing more of your work and D&D Next!

  16. James Martin says:

    Umm, I am playing the version of D&D I love best. It’s called “Pathfinder.”

    But thanks anyway and good luck with that new D&D thing!

  17. Popesixtus says:

    Echoing everyone else here, finally! This is exactly what I’ve been wanting – D&D for my hardcore optimizing friends, and D&D for my junior high school kids who don’t know an immediate interrupt from a hole in the wall, and don’t care! Thank you.

  18. Alphastream says:

    James Martin, I’ll be sure to head over to the Pathfinder forums and tell everyone how much I like Eclipse Phase, Shadowrun, Spycraft, etc. Or would that not be a good idea?

    We all love playing games, let’s celebrate that!

  19. James Martin says:

    Alphastream, sure, go right ahead! That’s why they have a section in the forums for other games!

  20. Alphastream says:

    I think you know what I mean… but I’ll say I’m very glad Pathfinder exists. It is another excellent game. There are more than a few designers that have worked on both D&D and Pathfinder, and we fans should treat all games with respect.

  21. James Martin says:

    Alphastream, at what point did I treat anyone with disrespect? I think you’re projecting your own suspicions on me here.

    Schwalb wrote: So if you are a diehard BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia enthusiast or have embraced 4th edition, loved 2nd edition, 3rd edition, or never moved on from 1st edition, we’re creating this game for you. Imagine a game where you can play the version of D&D you love best.

    Some of us already have the edition that we love the best. It’s admirable that they’re listening to the fans, but for some fans the answer they’ll get is a polite ‘No, thank you.’

  22. Stuart says:

    It’s very possible that you’ll be able to keep playing Pathfinder (or another edition of D&D) and still find the new material useful.

    Wouldn’t *that* be a nice change of pace? :)

  23. Richard Green says:

    Congratulations Rob, really glad you’re working on 5e!

  24. David Schwarm says:

    Epic! This is going to be so much fun.

  25. Sjap says:


    (I’m excited and 200% sure you guys are going to make the ultimate version!!!!).

  26. ERJHolton says:

    It’s a lofty (and risky) set of design goals. I really hope you and the rest of the team can pull it off.

    So good luck and I look forward to your success.

  27. Bronn says:

    Between his work on some excellent 4E books and his past work on my beloved Warhammer FRPG, I have nothing but confidence now that this will be excellent. Seeing Robert’s name on the Design Team, even with the other big names on it, has taken me from cautiously optimistic to definitely excited. I can’t wait to playtest this new iteration now.

  28. Alan Kellogg says:

    Yes, I am a contrary soul.

    For God’s sake don’t try to please everybody, you’ll end up pleasing nobody. Focus, and give people a set of rules they can use. Some people don’t like it, some people don’t like it. You can’t please everybody, so why bother?

    The first question to answer is, what do you do in D&D?

    You have adventures. You play a character living in an imaginary world and he gets involved in adventures. Provide a simple mechanic for interaction with the world and gave examples of how that mechanic applies in particular situations.

    The trick is to give the players the opportunity to participate as they choose to participate. If their goal is combat, then it’s combat. If their goal is politics and socializing, then it’s politics and socializing. But never force the players into any behavior they’re uncomfortable with.

    But above all, never assume you can make a game everybody is going to enjoy. Make a game people can get into quickly and easily, a game people can get involved in. Most importantly of all, make sure the players have the tools for a variety of activities, not just a few.

    One final thing. Recently Robin Laws referred to RPGs as story making games. You don’t play them to tell stories, you play them to make stories. D&D from the very beginning has been a story making game, and when run well and played well has provided some very good stories. So remember the words, story making and make that easy on the players.

    Okay, I’m wandering now, so I’ll leave you with this; keep it simple, don’t try to please everybody, and provide guidelines for the DM to help him present adventures for his players. Good luck with the project, and may the dice roll true.

  29. Nathan says:

    Cool blog post. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from people who go to DDXP to let us know how it plays at this stage.

    My one request: Could we have a game with less of a harsh transition between combat mode and exploration mode, dialogue mode or skill challenge mode? Something where you go with the narrative flow and use the system as you need it rather than entering and exiting hard coded game modes? That would be awesome.

  30. Mark says:

    I am going to echo what others have already said: we’re so glad to hear that you are involved in the development of this edition. Congratulations. Half the battle of developing a good RPG is finding the right designers for the job, and it’s clear that the new team exhibits the right philosophical chops for such a tough assignment. My hope is that the forthcoming edition not only has a great rules set, but also has a well-thought out life cycle that projects four, five, and even six years after the launch what products should be hitting the shelves — and how those products will mesh with those released on day one.

    Oh, and don’t screw this up. We know where you blog.

  31. D&D 5… | NathanRussell.net says:

    [...] Dungeons & Dragons… next (Robert J. Schwalb’s blog) [...]

  32. drow says:

    congrats, best wishes, and remember: kill the trolls with fire.

  33. Death Metal Nightmare says:

    all i care is that the designers remember that table top role playing games before 3E onward were based upon shared scaffolding building through imagination (something like improvisational jazz comes to mind).

    all the talk of mechanics, rethinking the classes (which just seems like a “balance” issue. not interested.) and ability scores, etc… is all great, but that hardly gets to the root of what was “wrong” (hey, if thats the game you enjoy, great) with the “modern” game.

    where did the imagination go? spells of old where the magic-user could creatively think of ways to use her spells were reduced to combat powers that you just announce and then check to see where the AOE potentially lands. vast scenes that immerse you into the story never erupt. movement and actions became robotic rigid boundaries. where did exploration go? instead of asking the DM questions to build the scene around you as you traverse through a dungeon, you now have a battle mat laid out with no mystery of what topography is coming and little concern of what it entails… the D&D of old would ask a plethora of questions – what the ground is made of, is it wet, dry, how high are ceilings, etc, etc… no need for a PERCEPTION check because you were already exploring with your mind’s eye.

    some of the greatest “arts” of the game have been completely inverted and replaced with cold/dry mechanics (i get that it makes you more of a “designer” by reducing things to more numbers… at least that is how its perceived). sure, there needs to be mechanics but they shouldnt be THEE infrastructure to the game. the infrastructure should be imagination and mechanics supplement it.

    its time the gaming community starts thinking more like artists again instead of calculators.

    if you bring that ethos back to D&D, it’ll be a far more rich and rewarding experience. the power-gaming man-children might see their numeric empire vanish a bit… oh well.

  34. Raven Crowking says:

    OGL or GSL?

    OGL? I may be interested. GSL? I am not interested. I’d rather play a game that will outlive this particular edition, if I should so choose to continue.

    If I sign up for your playtests you exclusively own all of my comments, and I cannot use what you choose not to? No thank you, not interested.

    Fix those things, and we’ll talk.


  35. Steve Townshend says:

    Whenever anyone asks me “what I think 5e will be” I’m just going to link this blog post.

  36. D&Dnext Playtest Report « Knowledge Checks – A D&D 4e Blog says:

    [...] to be a big part of D&Dnext, perhaps moreso than the previous two editions. Robert Schwalb has said on his blog that “…our primary goal is to produce a rules set that speaks to every incarnation of [...]

  37. Sakari O. Lahti says:

    Hum, I wonder how it will be possible to please the fans of every edition. I, for example, enjoy 4th edition. To me, its class balance and the fact that you get to choose something new for your character every level (at least before Essentials) are a must now. But how do you reconcile that with the guy who wants magic users to be more powerful than fighters and the guy who doesn’t like pouring through all the feats and powers every time when leveling up? The Essentials approach of making martial classes simple doesn’t work for me since then I am forced to play casters only if I want to make all those character build choices myself.

    That being said, I would like the option to play without grid and miniatures, and the combats should be faster when necessary. I would like the occasional random encounter to be playable in less than 30 minutes and without grid, but that hasn’t been really possible in 4e.

  38. metaDM says:

    Congratulations! You were born to do this. From what I’ve read of the next iteration, the challenge is going to be not offering too many choices. If you throw out too many rules and let the DM piecemeal the ruleset, you could end up with players confused about his to play at every table. Or even worse, requiring new players to invest more time to learn the play then previous editions required. I trust you, Schwalb. Don’t let them fuck this up.

  39. Colin says:

    “Imagine a game where you can play the version of D&D you love best. And then imagine everyone plays at the same table, in the same adventure.”

    Is the idea here to design a system that is modular, one that will fit the group, or the individuals playing? Color me a bit confused.

  40. Remo says:

    This modular approach seems to be quite an ambitious goal, and I am very curious about the shape that its execution will take.

    I just hope that 4E’s balance isn’t thrown with the bath water, though. If I choose “sword” instead of “wand and pointy hat” I don’t want to be penalized for it, like Monte’s 3rd edition used to do. If I had to choose between a “dry” fighter or monk that *works* and a beautifully fluffed, oh-so-immersive fighter or monk that’s useless, I’d take the former any day. Because while I’m not mathematics-savvy enough to concoct a well-balanced rules set, I’m creative enough to come up with fluff at my table anytime.

  41. Alex says:

    I’ve heard comments that the open beta for Pathfinder was pretty much lip-service. So if you want a good model of a beta influencing game design, have a look at the forums for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Joe Goodman has done a great job of taking on-board the feedback and changing the design significantly in response to it. That’s how it needs to be for D&D 5e/Next.

    As for the tool-kit idea, have a look in the back of the BRP “Big Gold Book” to see how they created a check-list where you can define the rules you’re going to use.

  42. Alan Kellogg says:

    Stray Advice

    Give people more to do than just combat.

    Reward innovation and initiative. (Get a copy of GURPS Social Engineering for ideas.)

    Don’t limit the game.

    Encourage third party settings, and make sure the publishers can claim compatibility with D&DNext.

    Think of it as story making, and encourage play aimed in that direction.

    You play the game to have adventures, never forget that.

  43. Goken says:

    Congrats Rob. Lots of folks in the community put you at the top of their lists for “who should be in charge of the world”, so this new edition has all of those folks as fans already.

    For my money, Rob saying “playing at the same table” is the first time I’ve had hope for this new edition. If there are too many decisions to make on behalf of the group, then everyone’s D&D will be wildly different and the community will fragment. But if the decisions are more to do with building a character, like the Essentials vs. AEDU class decision, that sounds viable. 1Eish characters side-by-side with 4Eish characters, balanced by level. Let’s see it!

  44. D&D 5th Edition is Coming! « Leonine Roar says:

    [...] can read the full announcement by Rob over at his blog site.  Plus here’s Mearls’ official announcement on the D&D [...]

  45. DnD 5, AD&D-Reprint und DnD-Minis « Greifenklaue’s Blog says:

    [...] Aber hört selbst (ab Minute 47)! Argamae hat außerdem etwas zum Design von DnD 5 von Co-Designer Robert J. Schwalb übersetzt, dass findet man hier. auch Monte Cook hat sich zu Wort gemeldet mit seinem neuesten [...]

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  47. Tomo 4ᵉ » Blog Archive » Regras e Mecânicas says:

    [...] “Nosso principal objetivo é produzir um conjunto de regras que fala a cada encarnação de D&D. Então, se você é um fissurado em BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia, entusiasta ou adotaram 4 ª edição, amada 2 ª edição, 3 ª edição, ou nunca transferiu-se de 1 ª edição, estamos criando este jogo para você. Imagine um jogo onde você pode jogar a versão do D&D você acha melhor. E então imagine todo mundo joga na mesma mesa, na mesma aventura. Nosso objetivo é fazer um sistema de jogo universal que lhe permite jogar o jogo de qualquer maneira, seja qual for o estilo, com o que você quer se concentrar, se você quer chutar portas e matar monstros, se envolver em alta intrigas, intensa interpretação, ou simplesmente para mergulhar se em um mundo compartilhado. Estamos criando um jogo onde a mecânica pode ser tão complexa e tão leve quanto você quiser. Estamos criando o jogo que você quer jogar.” – Robert Schwalb. [...]

  48. Bazar do Bizarro: D&D Next | Terceira Terra says:

    [...] Texto do Marcelo sobre o assunto no NTT. • Matéria do The New York Times sobre D&D. • Anúncio que o Robert J. Schwalb está trabalhando no D&D Next. • Coluna do Monte Cook no site da Wizards of the Coast. • História do D&D com o pessoal [...]

  49. crossmr says:

    I think one of the points here is that WotC made a huge misstep with 4E, on a number of levels. it wasn’t simply in changing the rules significantly, but in all the other things they changed as a result. 3.0-3.5E was a very rich product because of the OGL and SRD. There were tons of companies creating lots of great material for D&D. I think it was doing a great job of rejuvenating the hobby and giving gamers a lot of choices. Rather than having every company with their own competing system you suddenly had dozens all creating material that could be used together. A lot of companies that were doing that ended up disappearing when 4E came out, because they could no longer do exactly what they were doing before and with the big daddy moving on, suddenly their market was going to get a lot smaller.

    Luckily a lot of that material is compatible with some modification with pathfinder, but the same can’t be said about D&D. Perhaps with the new 5E, there will be a way to convert that wealth of material satisfactorily but there may not be.

    When designing and talking about the future of D&D one has to face the reality of what has happened. It is obvious that the decisions of WotC have driven away players and damaged the industry. The sales reports on pathfinder alone are enough to support that. What the players seemed to want was not what WotC was cooking. The companies that once were and no longer are are further proof of that. It might be on them for not being agile enough, but when your entire business model is about integrating with a third party product and that product is discontinued, it’s not easy to just turn around and make a whole new business model. If Pathfinder had come around sooner and gained traction sooner some of those companies might have been able to carry on.

    Even if WotC were to go back to the way things are. Put 5E under the OGL with a usable SRD and start to court third party publishers again to create material, I don’t think they’d get the response that they did before. Once bitten, twice shy. I certainly don’t know that I could trust them.

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