I’ve made no secret of the fact that the new “D&D Next” isn’t doing much for me. I’ve been asked what I would do if I were in charge of D&D at WOTC several times over the past year. Here’s my answer.
First, I’d hire a couple of D&D 4e experts to go over the 4e material and finalize the system (between the original 4e material, the later 4e material and the Essentials), and write a definitive Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and GM Guide. I’ll call this line “D&D Tactics” and publish new material for it through the current online system. Yes, I personally loathe 4e, it stresses everything I dislike about D&D while downplaying just about everything I do like about D&D. However, it has a current following and works well for non-traditional-campaign and competitive play. It should also be the basis for some great tactical computer games and boardgames. There’s no reason to kill it off, just steamline it by finally deciding how it works and rename it to “D&D Tactics”.
Second, I would take the D&D Rules Cyclopedia from the early 1990s and clean it up with the fan errata (see here). I’d make no other changes to the current text, but I would add three additional appendixes. The first would provide rules for separating race from class (adding around 6 t 8 pages). The second would provide ascending AC combat rules (adding 2 to 4 pages). The third would provide advanced (grid-based) combat rules, basically a form of the 3.x rules streamlined a bit (adding 10 to 20 pages). I’d replace the art and reformat the layout as needed and publish a nice hardback book — everything you need to play D&D in one book. When this was published, I’d release a slightly updated version of the red box Basic set as free PDFs online long with free PDFs of B1 and B2. Give away the basic version of the game as a way to sell the full D&D game. I’d support this game by selling PDFs of the old BECMI modules, gazetteers, and supplements online at reasonable prices. I’d also release several new adventure modules a supplements a year. I’d also have a liberal license that encouraged third parties to publish adventures, campaigns, monster books, treasure books and the like and D&D needs strong third party support.
To that end, I’d try to get Piazo to resume publication of Dungeon and Dragon magazines with the right to support all editions of D&D (except 4e would would be handled online by WOTC as it is now) and other D20 games — including Pathfinder. I’d be willing to be very liberal with the license as getting magazines out is good advertisement for the games. If Piazo was not interested, I’d try to find someone else who was. In house publication would probably be out as magazines are simply not profitable enough for the Hasbro bean counters.
Finally, I’d also make everything TSR and WOTC had published for D&D (0e through 3.5) available as PDFs and via POD. And I’d formally reprint the core books (corrected for errata) of each version, probably one edition a year, as “classic”/collector’s editions”.
There’s really no need for a “D&D Next” — all it will do is fragment the D&D player base yet again.