D&D: Next (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hack)

Wizards of the Coast just released a sneak preview of a page from the 5th edition Gear section and Spells section. Each time they mention D&D Next, there’s a small part of me that wonders if I’m missing something for not getting into it. So I thought I’d compare a bit with my new High Fantasy setting: Hackmaster.

Here’s what they’ve got on these pages. I won’t be listing name-for-name for brevity’s sake (also copyright jargon):

Mounts and Other Animals:
3 Options

Tack and Harness:
4 Entries, 6 Options (i.e. different kinds of saddlebags)

Food, Drink, and Lodging
4 Entries, 16 Options (i.e. what sort of opulence are you paying for?)

Not bad, not bad. Seems on par with what you’ve usually put out, WoTC. Looks like you’ve expanded the conditions of lodging. Give yourself a gold star.

How about the spells?

Cleric spells: five 0-Level, nine 1st level, eight 2nd level, and six 3rd level= 28 in total.
Wizard spells: six 0-level, ten 1st level, nine 2nd level, and five 3rd level= 30 in total.
58 in total.

Quite the cut from your last editions, WotC.

Then I cracked open my Hackmaster Player’s Handbook. And here’s what they have. To keep it fair, I’ve only listed what they’ve got in the same, related categories:

Daily Food and Lodging:
16 Entries, 23 options (several different foods and luxury levels)

Alcohol/Beverages (because it’s a different table entirely separate from Food and Lodging):
27 Entries (all different types of ales, lagers, and liquors)

Livestock (Including Mounts and Beasts of Burden):
41 Entries, 48 Options (several horse types, dog types, and ELEPHANT types)

Tack and Harness:
11 Entries, 19 Options (Various horse armors, saddles, saddle bags, and yokes)

Whew…all right. That’s a bit of a difference. But maybe the spells might look equal?

Unfortunately this will take some explaining. See, in D&D a Wizard/Cleric gains levels of spells at a different rate than his actual levels. So a level 6 wizard/cleric is probably capable of casting at most 3rd level spells. Where experience levels cap out at 20th, spell levels cap out around 9th level. A little wonky to be honest.

Hackmaster, however, levels their spells on par with experience levels. So a 2nd level wizard/cleric knows 1st and 2nd level spells. A 5th level wizard/cleric knows 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level spells. And so on and so forth.

In the long run, what that means is that Hackmaster wizards and clerics know six tiers of spells at 6th level where 6th level D&D wizards and clerics would only know up to 3rd level.

So let’s make this fair. I’ll only count Hackmaster’s spells for wizards and clerics (a single faith’s list, that is) levels 1-3.

Wizards: twelve 1st level, twelve 2nd level, twelve 3rd level= 36 in total.
Clerics: twelve 1st level, twelve 2nd level, twelve 3rd level= 36 in total.
72 in total.

Now again, there’s a disparity in levels here. These Hackmaster numbers are based on a 3rd level character. If I were to have a Hackmaster wizard at a ‘D&D appropriate’ level for 3rd level spells, he would have access to six levels (not counting Journeyman and Apprentice level spells, of course)

Twelve 1st level, twelve 2nd level, twelve 3rd level, twelve 4th level, ten 5th level, ten sixth level.
68 spells in total.

A single class in Hackmaster has more spells in their repertoire than the two classes in D&D at an equivalent level.

I think that explains a lot.

What’s the matter, Wizards? Can’t use your vast influence and money to put a little more effort into one of the greatest and long-lastingest role-playing systems of all time? Bet that bottom line looks nice but your product is lacking. There are people out there who care about this stuff and are willing to make the effort to REALLY flesh out their setting and system. I think I’ll go hang out with them.

And as I close my Hackmaster book, those doubts about not getting into the mainstream disappear like a Level 1 Cleric of the Cathedral of Light in a horde of brain-eating zombies.

(Now I recognize these picture leaks are for the D&D Next starter set. Perhaps they’ll have many more spells in the future. But for now, I’m not sold on this new iteration.)

I hope this has been enlightening, enjoyable, etc, etc.

At the very least, thanks for reading.