Greg and Shelly welcome you to the show and take care of the introductions. Later, Shelly welcomes back author and professor of philosophy, Terrance MacMullan for a brand new edition of How To DM. This week, Terrance...
Once again, it’s time to sound off with your thoughts on D&D.
Last time, we asked you to tell us which classic D&D settings, character concepts, and character races you want to see updated. Not surprisingly, it turns out that a lot of people cared about these topics, and we had one of our biggest turnouts ever for a survey. So what did we learn?
The popularity of settings in the survey fell into three distinct clusters. Not surprisingly, our most popular settings from prior editions landed at the top of the rankings, with Eberron, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Planescape, and the Forgotten Realms all proving equally popular. Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer all shared a similar level of second-tier popularity, followed by a fairly steep drop-off to the rest of the settings. My sense is that Spelljammer has often lagged behind the broad popularity of other settings, falling into love-it-or-hate-it status depending on personal tastes. Greyhawk and Dragonlance hew fairly close to the assumptions we used in creating the fifth edition rulebooks, making them much easier to run with material from past editions. Of the top five settings, four require significant new material to function and the fifth is by far our most popular world.
(A few people asked about Al-Qadim in the comments field, since it wasn’t included in the survey. The reason for that is because we think of that setting as part of the Forgotten Realms. Why did Kara-Tur end up on the list, then? Because I make mistakes!)
Before addressing the character types question, it’s important to focus on how we look at this question. The word “type,” as opposed to “class,” is a key part of the query. The concepts embodied by a warden or runepriest could be character classes, or they could be subtypes within a class. For any character type, we’ll try out a few design approaches and see which one works best.
The artificer, the shaman, and the alchemist finished well in front in the survey. The alchemist is particularly interesting because we’ve never presented that as a class in a Player’s Handbook before. The crazy game designer in me thinks that all three of those character types could be represented in a single class (imagine a shaman who binds spirits by creating talismans). But that might just be all the caffeine I’ve consumed today talking.
Most of the remaining options formed a cluster about 10 to 15 points below those leading three. My sense is that the samurai is a pretty good example of how we’ll handle those types, making them most likely to show up as options for existing classes. For instance, a samurai could fall under a fighter archetype that I would tentatively call the devoted defender—a character whose obedience to a code of conduct and unbreakable loyalty makes her an implacable force in battle.
Races fell into three tiers of popularity, with the thri-kreen, the goblin, and the aasimar at the top—an interesting mix. In my own campaigns, I’ve seen people play goblins for comedic value. Thri-kreen are pretty tough to model using our existing races, but are key to the Dark Sun setting. Aasimar would be a lot of fun to work on. Personally, I’d want them to be as interesting and compelling as tieflings. My personal bias might be showing (since aasimars are my favorite race), but it’s easy to make good guys kind of boring and lame. I’d love to recast the aasimar a little bit, giving the race a few unique traits and a visual appearance attuned to a holy avenger out to kick ass.
The next most popular tier of races includes catfolk, devas, githyanki, githzerai, gnolls, half-giants, hobgoblins, kender, kobolds, lizardfolk, pixies, and revenants. Personally, I’d love to pick up Mystara’s rakasta as our catfolk race, but all these options have strong legacies to build on. The less-popular races are by no means off the table, but they’re likely at the back of the R&D queue—and might run the risk of other races beyond those addressed in this survey cutting in line ahead of them.
The Latest Survey
This month, our survey looks at the mystic character class and our first draft of psionics rules for fifth edition. Your input is an invaluable tool that helps shape how we develop new material for D&D. If you love the rules, hate them, or have a specific issue you want to address, let us know.