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Sixth Edition D&D — Visions of the future

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Dungeons & Dragons has had a long life with many iterations and there is no reason to believe the trend will end with fifth edition D&D. When a new team comes in, they will inevitably have a different vision than what was handed to them. Nerdarchists Dave and Ted have been speculating on what sixth edition D&D might look like, whether it will become a more modular system or something different entirely. While I don’t have a vested interest in a new edition, it can be fun to examine what we have and what it might lead to. My prediction relies on two variables: the form and success of Pathfinder Second Edition and if the current trend continues or turns around.

sixth edition D&D Mordenkainen Greyhawk
The archmage Mordenkainen does a bit of scrying, getting visions of the future of his own perhaps, on the cover to Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk. [Art by Michael Komarck]

Sixth edition D&D by way of Pathfinder Second Edition

Fifth edition is a much more mechanically simple game than we have seen in a mainstream tabletop RPG release in a long time. My suspicion is this was no accident. Responding to the bloat and sheer weight that came to be known as 3.5, Wizards of the Coast wanted to make a system that brought the game back to its roots. The system needed to shake off all the rust that had shown up on those old systems in the modern age while being true to the spirit of play.

They did a pretty good job and showed there was a market for a modern, slimmer D&D. With Paizo back on the rise, will this effect the community? If Pathfinder Second Edition bucks the mainstream right now and gives something to the large amount of players looking for a modern but more complex system, will the trend turn towards complexity?

If this is the case and Paizo’s new system is successful, we might see a turn back towards a crunchier system when sixth edition D&D goes into development. Fourth edition D&D was a response to the growing popularity of MMORPGs and Pathfinder was a response to the market gap created by 4E. This strike and riposte we’ve been seeing over the last 20 years is the sign of a healthy market.

But what if D&D continues down this line of simplicity and removing the shackles of tradition where it no longer has a place? We’ve already thrown out some core tenets of Vancian magic and the alignment system is merely a passing nod. If we continue this trend, we might see classes all but disappear. We could instead have an a la carte character building section that warps 5E archetypes into just picking a certain tree or block of abilities at certain levels, merging multiclassing into the foundation of the game, much like prestige classes got melted down into the core.

Whatever awaits us in the future, always remember one of the greatest aspects of the hobby is that the edition you love can never be taken from you. When sixth edition D&D finally comes, if you love 5E, there is nothing stopping you from playing it all the way through seventh, eighth and even ninth. Here’s to the glorious past and the shoulders we stand on and to the future of better gaming I hope to share with you.

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Follow Jacob Kosman:
Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn't separating planes.

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