I got asked this today, and I didn’t have time to provide a complete answer.
My answer at the time was “a little bit of every edition all rolled into one,” which, I guess is technically right.
But truth be told, my ideal D&D is a Frankengame of about a dozen different sources. Let’s see:
- A MicroLite20/DCC class structure (simple, evocative mechanics without a lot of fiddly bits) with Pathfinder levels of variety. Without the 3.x/PF/4E levels of required CharOp/Build Mastery.
- Backgrounds from 13th Age instead of set skill lists.
- Backgrounds from D&D Next.
- A cross between D&D Next Expertise Dice and (simple, gridless) combat powers for martial classes.
- Racial Classes from ACKS, expanded to infinity (At least five classes each—a racial-specific variant on Fighter/Cleric/Wizard/Thief/Psion—for every race you can think of; more encouraged).
- OSR-style fast combat.
- 4E-style at-will spells. Because fuck it, it’s a good idea.
- 4E-style Scene Powers (again, simplified).
- 4E-style monster building, with 13th Age set damages.
- Skill Challenges, done right—like this.
- Morale and Disposition.
- Six tiers: Commoner (DCC-style Funnel), Adventurer (1E-style dungeon delves), Heroic (3.x-style plot-driven play), Paragon (4E-style superheroics), Regency (BECMI-style worldbuilding), and Epic (Deities & Demigods-style re-defining the Cosmos-level shit)
- Meaningful play style changes at each tier.
- Optional add-ons depending on my mood—Weapon Mastery (again, simplified to all get-out), Hirelings, Fate/Luck points.
This is my dream D&D while staying in the realm of what is conventionally called D&D. If we’re moving outside of that:
- Freeform magic from the SAGA System.
- Aspects/Fate Points/Compels.
- Pendragon’s Winter Phase (augmented by the Book of the Manor).
- Social Combat.
- XP tied to Xbox-style achievements.
So there you have it. I hope that answers your question.