Sunday, July 18, 2021

D&D 6e Predictions

Ok, it’s really too early to be talking about this.  Barring a precipitous drop in sales, 6e is probably still at least two years away.  At least.  And the cultural landscape around D&D will likely change between now and then. 


However, there’s been a lot of chatter about what people want to see in 6e over in the AV end of the D&D blog-o-sphere.  And of course I have thoughts.


However, these are not the things I want to see.  These are the things I expect to see.  Keeping in mind that “harebrained speculation” is not a synonym for “data,” let’s dive in to the nightmare-fueled world that is Trollsmyth’s predictions for 6e!


The Low-hanging Fruit

First, the easy stuff.  The word “race” is replaced with something like “ancestry”.  Frankly, I’d fall on the ground and nearly die from fits of laughter if they use “folk” instead.  But I wouldn’t be terribly surprised, either.


Alignment is seriously nerfed.  The nine-fold is gone.  It might just be reduced to the old Order-Neutrality-Chaos spectrum.  It might go completely, but I doubt it.


The GURPS-ification of D&D

There’s going to be a lot more build-your-own in 6e, along the lines of the race-building stuff in Tasha’s.  This may (and likely will) extend to classes, looking a bit like 4e’s trees of abilities stuff for both race and class. 


Remember, Mearls is out.  His mantra of simplification has probably gone with him.  The new crew will likely feel that 5e was too simple.  They’ll try to make the game more robust.  That means more than two pages on multiclassing and a LOT more options for character customization.  Don’t be surprised if the levels listed in the PHB go up to 36 or so now.


The Digital-ification of D&D

Mearls was replaced by Ray Winninger.  Winninger has a long and storied history in the gaming industry.  He’s best known to me for being the executive producer of Golem Arcana, a tabletop minis game that came with a digital app to manage the rules for you.


This might be how they counter charges of making the game more complicated.  Yes, it is, but now you have a digital app to help you manage your character.  The bare-bones will be free, but we will likely see the return of the subscription service to D&D here.  There probably won’t be a brand-new virtual tabletop, but there probably will be direct integration with Roll20, and possibly other virtual tabletops.


The Critical Role-ification of D&D

Of course, about the time it launches, the biggest live-play troupes will be paid to run at least some sessions, if not an entire campaign, with 6e.  And there will almost certainly be features included to make that sort of thing easier.  I’m expecting a full-on stunt system in 6e, akin Green Ronin’s AGE system, but probably a lot more flexible.  We’ll likely also see 5e’s action economy replaced with something more flexible, like Pathfinder 2e’s three generic actions.


I’m also expecting pets to be a fully integrated part of the game for nearly all classes.  Expect a full-court press on these things, with adorable plushies and Drizzt’s Guenhwyvar everywhere.  (Frankly, this more than anything will be what tempts me to play 6e.) 


The Return of the Splatbook Flood  

WotC’s model still revolves around selling books.  There will be strong pressure on WotC to create the sort of sales numbers 5e had with 6e.  The smart money says it won’t (much of 5e’s success can be laid at the feet of Mearl’s being willing to break with conventional wisdom as well as the surprise popularity of Critical Role).   


So I doubt the subscription service alone will reach those numbers. Whether WotC thinks it’s a bad idea or not, we will, sooner or later, see a flood of splatbooks for 6e.  This will lead to power-creep.  Smart money says 6e doesn’t last much longer than four years. 


Ruprecht said...

I don't disagree with your predictions except I think that will be 5.5 so they can continue to milk the current products for longer. Then if they face kickback on anything they can have a clean slate with 6.0.

There some talk of Wizard creating their own version of Roll20 or something? I suspect that will be baked into things a bit more. Perhaps character generation built in to help with the massive number of classes or more detailed 4E style combat or something.

trollsmyth said...

I wouldn't be too surprised by a .5 or "Next" attempt to avoid numbers, though if I'm correct, the changes will be too great to take that sort of thing seriously.

Honestly, other than the pets thing, and maybe the three-actions thing, I hope I'm not correct.

Their own version of Roll20? That would mean a full-on return to to 4e's Gleemax nonsense. And that ended in a murder-suicide. But I suppose it'd be just like WotC to jump back into this fire.

Roger G-S said...

This is a matter of identifying the flaws in the game they are not willing to live with. There may of course be some rebalancing of classes, CRs, etc., but that will interest only real min-maxers. Possibly a system of identifying skill challenges where the variation is all external, to avoid silly consequences of the swingy d20 like 8 STR + 19 roll opening a door that 18 STR + 4 roll cannot.

They have a meta-system that ensures stability for the core game - "yes, this may be a problem, but here's this unplaytested optional rule so you can have it your way!" That will be taken as cover for most of my major beefs such as uselessness of treasure, nerfing of environment challenges, "easy mode" design decisions, and so on.

Cas said...

I think there are great opportunities with getting rid of the notion of race in D&D. A lot of what traditionally has been packaged with races is just background information that would allow for more character flexibility if it was pulled out of the race bucket and added to a more robust background system. I think you could also have some notion of learned abilities that depend on your background or act as a new background (culture, locale, etc.) but get added as characters advance.

I also don't see much advantage in keeping stat bonuses and/or penalties in a race bucket. People should be able to make characters against type if they have a differing concept. And bonuses should serve character concept and not dictate it (such as people choosing a race just because it optimizes their abilities and not because they actually want to play a certain type of character).

That leaves the mechanics of race as a much smaller subset of what it is now, and calling that "ancestry" or "heritage" or "bloodlines" or whatever seems like a more inclusive approach. And you could add options by having multiple ancestry options for types that are now grouped under a single race category. You could still have background packages that include race, especially for beginners or other quick character creation options.

Alignment has always been a troublesome concept that is way too subjective for people to agree, but also too narrow to serve as a useful guideline for character behavior. (I basically ignore it at my table and have for decades.) By all means, keep mechanics to protect against evil creatures like undead, demons and devils, and so on. But alignment should be an optional system at most.

So I would actually call these changes something to look forward to.

Pets, on the other hand, are kind of annoying as a default thing. But implemented broadly, you would essentially be bringing back a modern take on the OD&D/AD&D notion of henchmen and hirelings. I would be curious to hear more about what you expect there.

JB said...


Janich said...

And Mr. Becker nails the comment.

trollsmyth said...

Roger G-S: while I totally agree that the uselessness of treasure is an issue, I doubt WotC agrees. The big problem they'll be trying to solve is flagging sales, and since there's tons of bad conventional wisdom flying about, I suspect they'll focus on digital play aids (which would, at least, make WotC financially interested in people playing more than buying books) and promoting Critical Role type shows. And since many folks consider the swinginess of the d20 to be a feature rather than a bug, I doubt that's going anywhere.

trollsmyth said...

Cas: we've seen this movie before, especially at the transition from 2e to 3e. Part of the problem of the build-your-own thing is the complexity. D&D strives to be the gateway to RPGs, and so it needs to be simple for newcomers to pick up. Pre-built packages, like class and race, make character creation manageable, and allow new players, who have no idea yet what the numbers mean, make decisions based on how they already feel about elves and dwarves before they even sit down to the game.

So I'm fairly certain we'll see races back in their boxes (even if they change the label). There might be a note in the DMG about build-your-own, but that's likely to be all.

5e has already divorced the protection spells from alignment. Now it's even more vestigial than Charisma was in 2e. I suspect alignment will still be considered too much of a sacred cow to jettison completely, but they'll toss out the Good-to-Evil axis (saving them all those evil race headaches) and consider that close enough to having their cake and eating it too.

(This also opens the door to tossing the Great Wheel cosmology, as it's heavily based on the nine-point alignment system. I doubt we'll see that right away, but might be something to keep an eye on for 8th edition or the like.)

I wish I had a clever idea for handling pets well. They effectively give a PC extra actions at the table, which will slow down combat. I suspect they'll just endure that, and limit your number of pets/henchies based on your Charisma, just like the good ol' days. ;)