Here's the scenario: A bigwig at Hasbro is browsing the EN World forums and is impressed by your insights into the world's most hallowed roleplaying game. You get a call offering you complete control of Dungeons & Dragons for at least five years, with no intervention (within reason) from either Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro. You, of course, agree and shortly thereafter a helicopter appears in your backyard and you are whisked off to Renton, WA...
What would you do? You have at least five years, maybe more depending upon how things go. You can take whatever approach you want - you can try to maximize profits, move quickly to 5E, apply all of your house rules, kill 4E and take its stuff, or whatever you dream.
So what would I do? It's actually a pretty interesting question. There's a couple of different factions in the D&D world, and it seems like people who love 3e/4e are the biggest chunk. To try and "woo" them would probably be the most reasonable course for the financial success of D&D, following the conventional wisdom that you need to feed people what they're already used to because it's impossible for people to discover new things or change as a person. Or something. I don't work in marketing, ok?
So simply as a thought experiment, what would likely appeal to people that play 3e/4e would be:
- Highly compartmentalized system: Everything has its place, there's a rule for every situation, including a rule that anything that doesn't normally have rules has a rule. No more DM unfairness! FINALLY!
- Universal Mechanic: You only ever make a single d20 roll when you do stuff. There's a base 1/2 chance to succeed, modified by whatever skills you have, like attack rolls and Jump and Speak French or whatever. If you don't have a skill, you still get a 1/2 chance to succeed because apparently 3e/4e is about playing heroic heroes who usually win.
- Extensive character building: Instead of having the game end at a certain point, character levels go up to one hundred. It'll have the 3ism of choosing where to put each level, with the 4gasm of choosing 2-3 powers from a list of 5 or 6 each level. So it'll finally be possible to build a Cleric 3/Fighter 2/ Duskblade 1/Paladin 1/ Druid 1 with exactly the powers you want! The best part is: You have 100 levels to make your character exactly how you want it!
- 10 separate tiers: Every ten levels, your character goes up a Tier. Each Tier gives you a Tier Class, in addition to the regular classes you'd normally get. Levels 1-10 is the Puny Tier. Levels 11-20 is the Mighty Tier. 21-30 is the Epic Tier. 31-40: Superhuman. 41-50: Demigod. Each Tier will have its own separate three Monster Manuals, Player's Handbooks, and Dungeon Master's Guides, so you only have to buy the books for the segments you're willing to play!
This isn't your grandfather's quick-playing, easy to adjucate D&D any more, kids!
*The prior text was a work of satire.