Yesterday and today, I played two different kinds of roleplaying games. Then I saw the news that 5th edition D&D will be announced. An announcement of an announcement, if you will.
Yesterday was a forth edition D&D game. A rather tough series of battles through a Goodman Games module that saw us taking on an average of 3 encounters back to back with no rests in-between. When we ran to the top of our collapsing tower and saw the shadow dragon before us, I thought we were screwed. Heck, I had already died once... before I luckily remembered that I had taken a second wind and actually couldn't get killed after all.
But I locked that dragon down with one hand and held on for dear life. Luckily, the brawler sub-class that I play is quite powerful against creatures of even draconic strength, and between the grab and our bonuses to hit and the dragon's penalties, we were able to make surprisingly short work of it. But the whole time I was thinking what a pain it was to remember every little condition, every aura, every save that must be made, and every bonus or penalty. I cheered with the rest of the group when we killed that dragon (we even did a three-man eiffel tower*), but basically, I came away from the experience thinking, once again, about what a pain it is to play type IV D&D. Goodman Games make it as fun as possible though.
On the other side of the spectrum, tonight saw my first Google+ online game, and it was brilliant. I was DMing a session of DCC beta, which is also put out by Goodman Games. We had a map that I used for referencing room dimensions every once in a while, but otherwise it was all theater-of-the-mind style. Things were so much simpler, the combat was over quickly yet dramatically. It's definitely my preferred style of play.
So what I hope is, that since Wizards has extended its hand to say, "hey, you guys will like us if we let you playtest, right?" They will listen to voices like mine. With my own RPG, I've tried to actually distil a few of the parts of 4e I like. There are no saves in my game, nor AC, but the three defenses in Kill It With Fire are inspired by 4e's approach to hurting things. I also like the powers-as-a-balancing-slash-engaging element of 4e that give everyone cool things to do, and some of that flavor makes it into abilities, though I try to have them be less tactical, less board game or video game-like.
Last year was, from my perspective, a major watershed in D&D, with the edition wars and retro-clones' prominence. We will see if D&D survives. I think it would be a shame if it died because it became economically inviable, but as long as someone out there still plays, its spirit will live on.
*I thought I would provide a link to an IT Crowd episode with a reference, but now I think I may have imagined the practice. My version of eiffel towering is to go for a high five and then hold the pose/hands in the air for an awkwardly long amount of time. Is that how the original episode did it?