So I'm trying to get a handle on what D&D Next does. How it's going to work, what the mechanics might be like, and I'm beginning to see a trend. Some time ago I wrote about the fact that options are the players friend. Players love lots of options for their PCs. Many come to the gaming table with a definite concept in mind. A thief that teleports, a sort of necromantic fighter type, an elemental gadgeteer or what have you. Then they get frustrated because we are always saying you can't this or you can't that. And while some players understand there are often genre limitations, what they don;t understand is being told no when it makes no sense other than the GM says so.
Next seems to be working themes in such a way as to provide player options and flexibility while keeping overall power levels manageable. So you can take a fighter, and give him a warlock theme for your necromantic fighter--as a stupid example. And so far, from what I can tell, it's a little clunky. But hey, they are just starting out. When it hit me.
GURPS already does this. And much more elegantly I might add.
When second edition AD&D came around the trick was to consolidate and expand. Well, okay I don't know if they planned an expansion or not, but the game became mammoth. Not quite as mammoth as 3.5 ended up being, but still quite large. And look at the options that were added. Skills expanded like never before. The foundation of feats were laid therein, point buy systems became common and combat maneuvers and mechanics abounded.
I've often wondered why 2e took these directions after the fact. At the time I knew little about most of them as I was still playing 1e. But looking back I surmise that it was an attempt to incorporate options, often drawn from other systems. Systems like GURPS, which were popular in their own way back in the day as well. When I first thought this, I kind of pitied the designers. I mean there they were trying to scramble to squeeze everything into their game so as to appeal to as many people as possible. Into a game that really wasn't designed for all those options. It made kind of a mess actually, and 2e overall met with failure as a game.
Ouch! There will be those that don't like that last statement--oops. Allow me then to clarify. Some people loved 2e. And there were some innovations that actually were good ideas. I personally liked the d10 for initiative, the cleric domains and the magic schools. But the edition came at the dying end of TSR and couldn't do what was needed to really pull it out. I suppose part of the blame lays in bad management and poor business practices too.
My point here is that 2e kept trying to become a game it wasn't designed to be. I think 3e tried to remedy alot of this, and managed to a great extent. 4e became a different game altogether, more limited but more efficient. And now, here we are at Next. Trying to be everything to everyone. Sound familiar?