Thursday, May 24, 2012

DnD Next Playtest Begins

Wizards began their Dungeons and Dragons Next open playtest today.  I just signed up and am eagerly awaiting the e-mail that will give me a download link to get my materials.

I'm honestly not sure if/when I'll be able to actually try out the game.  My "group," which was a family thing, has gone well in some ways and not well in others.  I'm unsure about whether I'll be continuing it for reasons that I don't really want to get into.  My feeling is that it is probably done for a while.  It's a shame, because I really enjoyed DMing.  I think it's likely that I'll be able to play some day in the future.  But for now, it just gets in the way of other things I should be doing...not worth it.

In the meantime, though, I am going to read through everything and offer a few thoughts on the contents.  I've been following the DnD Next discussions on the Wizards blogs and am interested in what they have in mind.  There is a real emphasis on faster play, which I think is a good idea.  I'm also pretty happy with the discussion of how character themes as a way of packaging feats together, and providing backstory for a character at the same time.  

But other times, I think they're ignoring some important innovations that DnD 4e brought to the table. 

For example, in his recent Legends and Lore article, Mearls discussed a "new" role for hit dice.  Apparently, they are going to be used during short rests to allow you to regain hit points.  And then, if you take an extended rest, you can regain those hit dice.  ...  sounds familiar?  Sounds a lot like healing surges to me, but with a bit more randomness to them.  I'm not complaining, really--I really like the healing surge mechanic, and how it, along with the second wind, reduces the need to have a healing class in the party and extends the party's lasting power through multiple dungeons.  

Also, while I'll know more when I get my e-mail and actually read the rules, I've seen more and more discussion of saving throws in a way that sounds much more like the 3e mechanic than how they work in fourth edition.  I really like the 4e system of rolling against one of four defenses (AC, Reflex, Constitution, Fortitude), as it allows for much more consistency in how the game works and increases the perceived value of non-AC defenses.  It may ultimately not matter a lot in terms of the math, but I dig the simplicity of it.

I've also recently been seeing discussion of whether opportunity attacks will remain in the core rules.  Angry had a great blog post about this last week, and I'd basically echo his thoughts: attacks of opportunity do a variety of things to enhance the importance of melee classes, and to enhance the costs of gaining ideal positioning (and thus the feats/powers that allow one to overcome opportunity attacks).  Without them, I think the game suffers.  The Facebook DnD game is a case in point: there's no point to including a fighter, as fighters can't do much to defend weaker party members without attacks of opportunity to keep enemies from sidestepping them.

I'm also a little hesitant about the reversion to "Vancian" magic for the wizard and cleric.  I actually really liked the 4e power system of at-will, encounter, and daily powers for most of the classes, especially as implemented in the Essentials classes.  I don't think there's a need for a zillion choices, at least in terms of how many things one character can do at a table.  For wizards, at least, it sounds like they're going to a hybrid system of at-will spells (cantrips) plus "Vancian" magic.  Cantrips would be enhanced to have actual value as at-will abilities.  I think this can work--I don't want to go back to the days of the wizard spending his/her time shooting crossbows.  

In any case, that's enough hand waving for now.  I'll have more to say once I get my hands on the rules! 

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