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Uniting the Editions, Part 2
Legends and Lore
Monte Cook

L ast week, I talked about why we might be interested in uniting the editions, and how we might look at the tones and play styles of those editions to capture what we seek to have in D&D. To be clear, we're not talking about creating a bridge so that you can play 1E and 4E at the same time. Instead, we're allowing you to play a 1E-style game or a 4E-style game with the same rules. Also, players at the table can choose the style of character they want to play. In short, let's talk about style and D&D.

The way we want to accomplish handling the style of play is with a modular approach. If 3E style is about character customization and a tactical view of combat, options should allow you to customize characters with feats and skills, plus play with a grid and miniatures (and have rules that support threatened areas, attacks of opportunity, and so forth). But in a 2E-style game, some or all of these options would not be desirable. Because of this truly modular approach, it means you don't have to pick an edition style. You can have the simple, fast combat of 1E with the character customizing skills of 3E, or any other combination.

But where do you start? For this to work, there needs to be a basic core to the game upon which you layer these options. That's where distilling D&D down to its essence comes in. What are the things that you'd expect to overhear at a table of people playing D&D if you didn't know which version they were playing?

That's something that we're working on right now. But some of the answers are obvious. Six ability scores ranging from 3 to 18. Fighters, clerics, wizards, and rogues. (Or, if you prefer, fighting-men, clerics, magic-users, and thieves.) Character levels. Experience points. Rolling a d20 to attack. Magic missiles. Fireballs. Hold person. And so on.

In effect, what you end up with is a fully playable game with its own style. Think of it this way: It would be wrong to say that there is no inherent D&D style that carries across the nearly forty-year lifespan of the game. What you really end up with, in this approach, is a game that ends up looking—not coincidentally—like original D&D. Not entirely, of course, and not precisely, but close. It's a game that captures the feel of OD&D.

From there, with that excellent foundation, we can build upward and outward.

I know you have a lot of questions, and frankly, so do I. That's what the public playtest is about—finding the answers together. The next big question you might have, however, is that with everything being so customizable, who makes the decisions?

I think some of the answers are player-provided answers, and some are DM-provided. This is tied in very closely with my philosophy of the game overall. Players should play the characters they want to play (with DM input), and DMs should run the games they want to run (with player input).

Some choices then—such as whether a character has a long list of skills and feats; or skills, feats, and powers; or just ability scores, hit points, Armor Class, and an attack bonus—are up to the player. Some choices are up to the DM. If miniatures and a grid are used, that's a DM choice. If the adventures are going to be about grinding through a dungeon to get enough coppers to pay for tomorrow's meal or an epic quest across the planes to save the universe(s), that's a DM choice. (That latter choice might seem like flavor only, but it can determine which rules options are taken.)

So, the game is actually a matrix of these choices, with some made by the DM and some by the players, which will end up determining the feel of the overall game and might allow the group to "emulate" a prior edition. More importantly, though, these choices allow people to play what they want to play. In effect, the group can make their own edition of D&D. And that's really the most exciting part of it, I think.

Last Week's Polls

What's your favorite play style for your D&D games? Rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "not at all important" and 5 being "vital to the game."

Fast and simple
1 104 4.2%
2 327 13.3%
3 879 35.8%
4 695 28.3%
5 451 18.4%
Total 2456 100.0%

1 69 2.8%
2 113 4.6%
3 380 15.5%
4 840 34.4%
5 1042 42.6%
Total 2444 100.0%

Tactical combat
1 174 7.1%
2 398 16.3%
3 775 31.8%
4 738 30.3%
5 353 14.5%
Total 2438 100.0%

1 426 17.7%
2 637 26.4%
3 750 31.1%
4 435 18.0%
5 164 6.8%
Total 2412 100.0%

Heroic and high action
1 95 3.9%
2 228 9.4%
3 496 20.4%
4 835 34.3%
5 781 32.1%
Total 2435 100.0%

If you could have only one of the following, which would you choose?
Story-based 1033 39.3%
Heroic and high action 734 27.9%
Fast and simple 440 16.7%
Tactical combat 272 10.4%
Simulationist 149 5.7%
Total 2628 100.0%

This Week's Poll

Poll: When it comes to D&D, rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "not at all important" and 5 being "vital to the game."

 Playing the game the way I want to play  

 Professional game designers providing what they think works best  

 DMs having a say in character options  

 Players having a say in the campaign and game overall  

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