I finally got around to listening to some of the panel recordings from last weekend’s Gen Con (thanks, The Tome Show!). And something that was said during one of them really struck me. The “thing” in question was said by Jeremy Crawford about 40 minutes into the D&D Next Creating the Core panel. Here’s what he said:
The danger of following a notion of balance too dogmatically is that balance very quickly, if you’re not careful, morphs not into balance, but into symmetry, which isn’t actually the same thing; and that kind of balance, at its worst, makes everything identical. And you’ll see this sometimes in games, where it’s like, “Well, the name of what my wizard is doing is different from the name of what the fighter is doing, but if I look at the effects, they’re exactly the same thing.”
We feel that in a class-based game, a class should actually have something that it does that other classes don’t do, because that is a part of the genius of class-based design that has been in D&D from the beginning; and that is, when you pick a class, in a way you’re picking a new game experience. We want it to be so that, when you’re playing a cleric, you feel like you’re playing a slightly different game than when you’re playing a rogue.
While he doesn’t come out directly and say “This was the problem with 4E,” I think he was definitely implying it. And it’s a great articulation of what I and many others felt was a problem with the edition — why it “felt like an MMORPG” or “didn’t feel like D&D” — but much better articulated in game design terms. I’m going to keep this statement in mind the next time I see people complaining that D&D Next has done away with the AEDU Powers system.