What with PAX East seminars and and a rush of blogs its been a busy time in DnD Next land. That of course launches a cascade on comment in the blogosphere! 🙂
Actually I’m beginning to think WOTC have made a bit of a rod for their own back with perhaps too early an announcement of DnD Next and the playtest programme: they’re now being criticised for seeking feedback without opening it up to playtest – when clearly they’re nowhere near ready for that. To have any sort of meaningful testing, they’ve got to have a system, and it seems they’re a long way from that yet. However, this in turn implies that despite what many are saying, they are seemingly using the various polls and columns as genuine input, rather than just as ‘leaking’ decisions already made.
I think a lot of people out there are comparing the situation (unfavourably normally…) to the Pazio Pathfinder RPG play-test programme – without remembering that this was a upgrade to an already well-known product i.e D&D 3.5!!
There was a recent Legends and Lore column by Mike Mearls that presented the original DnD Next goals. This was interesting to read, but to me made it pretty clear that the aims are more about combating market fragmentation than feeling this is anything fundamentally wrong with the 4E ruleset. This is clearly a valid target for a commercial company, but it does make me wonder. A large part of the fragmentation happened with 4E and Pathfinder RPG … And with the momentum of Paizo’s product it’s hard to see that reversing. And then there is the OSR market, where it seems to me that a large part of the attraction is playing with the actual original rulesets – so is a DnD Next system, however closely it achieves the ‘feel’ goal, really going to change the situation?
Another interesting post by Rob Schwalb touched on a proposed concept of themes and backgrounds being used to choose skills and feats – almost packaged up like fast food … but still allowing for more discrete choices if desired. I’m not against this concept – what I do find strange though is the interweb angst that it generates, and why this is such a big issue for DnD Next. To me, character choices aren’t rules, they’re content … rules determine how a power (or a skill, or a feat, or a combat tactic, or a spell/attack) works in the game … what powers (etc …) a character has is content!! I realise this might be my DM bias (as I’ve mentioned before …), but I still think it a valid point! 🙂
Then came a very interesting post about ‘the Grid‘ i.e. the range of combat options between full imagination to full grid based tactical combat. Again, this generated a lot of comment/blog inches … and is a topic I might explore further in another post!
In summary, some interesting information out there recently, and on the whole I think the direction is still positive … but I can’t help thinking that everything they’re looking to do could be achieved essentially with the 4E game engine … again, a concept I might explore further…
And lastly, its great to see that even though lots of people are thinking (and stressing…??) about DnD Next, there is still plenty to look forward to on the 4E content front. The last few 4E releases (e.g. Heroes of the Feywild) have been top notch, and I’m really looking forward to the Dungeon Survival Handbook. I’ve been a big fan of the Underdark ever since the original Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (which unfortunately I no longer have my copy of …).
Following all this up with the ‘Rise of the Underdark‘ set of products and tie-ins should make for an interesting summer!