A look at tabletop RPGs that try to predict the future design of Dungeons & Dragons 6th Edition, or just wildly experiment with D&D's core rules.
The 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons has been around for nearly seven years - time enough for fans to start speculating about a potential future 6th edition of D&D and how it might shake up the conventions of the world's oldest roleplaying game. Some of the following tabletop RPGs draw on current trends in tabletop game design to create fantasy roleplaying systems that do what D&D does best while still mitigating the flaws of 5th edition. The other RPGs described in this article use the label of "6e" as a catalyst for experimentation, enthusiastically dismantling and rebuilding the core rules of Dungeons & Dragons in new, surprising ways.
The Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game has gone through many permutations and transformations since its genesis on the battered tables of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. The original box set of Dungeons & Dragons, published in 1974, was quickly replaced in 1977 with two different 1st editions: the Basic D&D Box with beginner-friendly rules, and an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons compendium of books with more complex rules for hardcore gamers and Dungeon Masters. The 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, published in 1989, tried to introduce more heroic fantasy themes to D&D in response to panic from "moral guardians" at the time.
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At the same time, fans of D&D and roleplaying in general have expressed interest in seeing certain parts of the 5th edition rules refined or expanded, like the presence of more character classes with Intelligence as a primary attribute, re-working the role of "fantasy races" in character creation to be less restrictive and laden with unfortunate implications, and upgrading the Ranger class to make it more viable (to name a few). Some of the tabletop RPGs below are made by people who loved the dungeon-crawling fantasy heroics of D&D and wanted to create rules that would strike a better balance between 5th edition's core pillars of "Combat, Exploration, and Social Interaction." The other RPGs treat the core notions of D&D as something to be analyzed, questioned, and tinkered with in interesting ways.
The 6E tabletop roleplaying game, designed by Jared Sinclair, is currently available on itch.io and stands out for trying to boil down the Dungeons & Dragons experiences into 11 pages worth of concise rules. The gameplay mechanics of 6E by Jared Sinclair are a simplified version of the "Powered By the Apocalypse" rules seen in the Dungeon World fantasy RPG; players roll two six-sided dice whenever their characters do something "risky or dangerous," then use the result to determine if their character triumphs, botches the action, or succeeds at a cost.
6E by Jared Sinclair has character playbooks for the four most iconic classes of D&D - the holy magic-using Cleric, the martial Fighter, the nimble Thief, and the arcane magic-using Wizard. Each playbook has class-specific moves, special improvement options, and prompts that let players create their own new rules and features; they also each have a certain number of "gear bubbles" players can check off to retroactively declare they had a certain item all along.
Batts, the auteur game designer behind the .Dungeon MMO-themed tabletop RPG, also published a "6th edition" themed roleplaying game on itch.io. The rules summary for 6e starts out with character creation advice familiar to veterans of D&D; roll 3 six-sided dice six times and assign the resulting numbers to the "Stats" of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. The rest of the character creation process takes place over the course of a 6e game session. Whenever a player character uses one of their stats to perform a difficult action, the player rolls a twenty-sided die and succeeds if they roll under their stat's total.
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Upon success, they then rename their stat to describe the action their PC just attempted (the Strength stat, for instance, may become the Swordfighting stat after the player uses it to fight with a sword). Additionally, players unlock new Skills/Saving Throws whenever their character rolls poorly for certain actions and can spend experience points to literally break the rules of their game. From a certain point of view, 6e is less an RPG and more a system for hacking or making one's own RPG on the fly, starting out with a Dungeons & Dragons paradigm and rapidly diverging into new, original territory that could work well for a 6th edition of D&D.
Five Torches Deep, according to its website, is a tabletop roleplaying game that tries to blend basic rules of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition with the straightforward simplicity and gameplay modes of old-school D&D and the "Old School Revival" games it inspired. Compared to D&D 5e, player characters in Five Torches Deep generally have lower attribute bonuses, less hit points, and special abilities described with minimal word count. According to the developers of Five Torches Deep, this minimalistic approach to PC design is meant to encourage players to overcome challenges through creativity and out-of-the-box thinking rather than just brute-forcing a solution with magical superpowers.
Aside from classic "OSR" RPG rules for scenarios like scavenging for provisions, frightening enemies into retreating, or traveling across the countryside, Five Torches Deep also has rules for navigating poorly lit areas and consuming finite supplies such as torches or lantern oil. A number of supplements for Five Torches Deep contain more elaborate optional rules for scenarios such as dueling or managing a settlement. The Five Torches Deep: Origins supplement is particularly noteworthy thanks to its interesting rules that reject the "bioessentialist" character race rules of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition in favor of designing custom ancestries and cultures of origin for each player character.
The 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, released in 2000 after Wizards of the Coast acquired the D&D trademark, streamlined the rules of D&D by making the twenty-sided die core to all ability checks and saving throws while also introducing an open license version of the D&D ruleset other game studios could make content for. Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, which introduced a standardized template for designing the powers and abilities of player characters, was controversial in its day but is viewed more favorably in the present by tabletop gamers who appreciate its well-balanced rules for tactical combat. It will be interesting to see what a 6th edition of Dungeons & Dragons can learn from the above RPGs.
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Sources: itch.io – 6E By Jared Sinclair, itch.io – 6e, Five Torches Deep
A Chicago-based Writer, Author and freelance translator. Looking to prep his readers for the next renaissance or apocalypse, whichever comes first. Write and publishes web fiction under the pseudonym Aldo Salt on Inkshares.com.