Let's face it, Dungeons and Dragons is becoming Magicized. It was inevitable, considering they are owned by Wizards of the Coast, a company that made its money selling a Card Game. I would like to see a fully card-based system for the next D&D. 4th Edition is halfway there, really. Powers, items, feats, everything comes in bite-sized chunks that fit easily on cards. As I made clear in the previous D&D the CCG post, I've been using custom-made cards for a year now, and they work great. I don't think the R&D guys were really ready to fully pull the plug on the character sheet, though, to make something truly revolutionary. Instead we have a bloated mess when it could be streamlined and elegant.
Ninety percent of the rules of Dungeons and Dragons are focused on combat. The other ten percent is about skills used outside of combat. (At-Will has a great series on this called Serious Skills, by the way). This has been the case with every edition of Dungeons and Dragons. There have never really been rules to govern role-playing at the table; it's always been an ad-hoc, back and forth kind of affair that will never be quantified well by dice rolls. 4E Skill Challenges, when done well, are actually a pretty decent way of stream-lining role-playing for groups of power-gamers. So really, most of the rules that we need concern combat. There is the Core Mechanic: roll a d20, add the requisite modifier, and try to beat a target score. That's the basic rule of the game. That rule is trumped by a number of specific rules for specific situations.
All of those are things that can be represented very easily on cards. If you as a player don't have the card, you don't need to worry about the rule. If you're the DM, the rule is right there on the card the player is using.
Eliminate Levels. Yeah, that's right, I said it. Screw levels. Change it to an "earn and spend to train" experience point system to gain ranks in certain aspects of your character, a la "Dragonquest". Simple and easy to quantify for any given power or skill on a card.
Eliminate Classes. Yeah, that's right, I said it. Screw classes too. Pick one of the power sources: Martial, Arcane, Divine, Primal, Shadow. You select your features and powers from any that are available inside any one given power source. A certain amount of overlap is okay.
Hit Points become basically static. This will increase the possibility for character death, and in another post I'll talk about why I think this is a good idea.
Keep, but simplify, Races. Boil them down to basic physical information (speed, vision, size) and whatever their cool power is. Drop attribute bonuses.
Keep the attributes. Strength, Dexterity, Consititution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, all these are core to the game. Everyone gets a standard array of 18, 16, 14, 14, 12, 10. This incorporates the two +2s the races typically get to their scores and gives the player the ability to put it in any stat, so its easier to make a decent halfling barbarian.
Keep the 4E skill set. Everyone starts with training in 5 skills, with ranks to be bought and trained with experience points.
Keep and expand upon the 4E combat powers. Start with 3 at-will powers, 2 encounter powers, and 2 daily powers (or some other combination... probably make it part of the initial point expenditure, along with skills). These powers can increase in strength with training (by spending experience points on them) or more can be trained (by spending experience).
So your "character sheet" would be a two sided card with your attributes, defenses, and hit points on one side and skills on the other. You have a race card. You have 8-12 cards for combat powers. You put a sleeve on the power cards so you can write your rank on them.
I think this system will allow players to create a truly unique character, while at the same time allowing for the more traditional Fighter, Cleric, Wizard and Thief to prosper.
WotC could sell the core decks all for about $100. Say each power source comes in its own sealed deck (like a starter deck of magic cards), 60 cards for $15, and include a good chunk of powers from that source, half a dozen races, and a few "character sheet cards". So that would be 5 different decks at $15 bucks a pop for the core character creation cards, which comes to $105, about the same price as the three current Player's Handbooks.
Do the same for the DM. At this point all he needs are Monster and NPC cards, and magic items and treasure to give out. Sell core decks of those. Sell booster packs of everything.
Next post in this series, we'll start taking a closer look at some actual mechanics.
Any thoughts, questions, suggestions or remarks? Comments are most welcome!