It's taking me longer than I anticipated to read back over my Monster Manual posts, so I thought I'd write about something else instead. You might have noticed that, as that series progressed, I was spending less and less time coming up with rationalisations for the changes being made to monsters from book to book. You could chalk that up to laziness (you wouldn't be far wrong), or perhaps to a desire to get through the Monster Manual as quickly as possible (you would also be not far wrong), but the real reason is this: when and if I ever get around to running the Ultimate Sandbox, I no longer want to alter the rules as I go.
When I started, what I really wanted was to begin with pure OD&D, and gradually change the rules in a fashion that emulated the changes D&D made from edition to edition. I'm not quite so keen on that anymore. Not only is it far more trouble than it's worth, but finding players willing to go through the whole process would be difficult. The guys I play with are pretty happy to find a system that works and stick with it, and I doubt they'd be too keen on having to change things up every year or so.
So that plan is out the window. The Ultimate Sandbox will be not so much focused on the progression of rules, but on the integration of every nook and cranny of the D&D books in terms of setting, the creation of one enormous sandbox setting that includes all of the D&D worlds with guidance and reference for what can be found wherever the PCs decide to go. It's still an enormous, Sisyphean labour, but now a slightly more manageable one.
So what am I doing with the rules? That's another Sisyphean labour to add to the list. I've been dissatisfied with 3rd edition for a while, and 4th edition was far from the solution that I was looking for. I waited for 5th edition, hoping that might be what I wanted. It was a step in the right direction, but again, it wasn't what I wanted. The only thing left to do, and a conclusion that I should have come to at least a decade ago, is to house-rule my own version of D&D. I started this at one point, in the early days of the blog, but never followed through. Whatever I come up with will probably be a cross between the uniformity and comprehensiveness of 3e with the power-scale of 1e, all stripped back so that it's easier to run at the table.
I don't intend to drop "rules progression" aspect entirely, though. While I don't want to change the rules as I go, I have no problems with starting small and adding to them. So, for example, I'll begin by simulating OD&D, using only the elements present in those rules. So the only classes will be Fighter, Cleric and Magic-User, and the only races Men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits. Gradually the rest will be introduced, in the order they first appeared in the books, but without being altered mechanically.
Some of the rules I'll be tinkering with have been outlined in the blog before. I wrote about Skills here, about starting level for new characters here, and a method for mitigating save or die effects here. (I probably won't use that last one.) I may post some of my house rules from time to time as I develop them, but for the moment my focus is on the Ultimate Sandbox. I may even start introducing those house rules in my current, sporadic 3rd edition campaign. I have some thoughts about spicing up combat that could prove to be fun, but those are for another post.