Well, stimulated by some good vibes about DnD Next on a number of blogs I follow (here being one key example), I downloaded the recent Playtest packet (April 1st!) for the first time since about August last year. Things have certainly moved on a bit! After a good read it’s clear aspects of the rules are taking firmer shape.
There is a lot to like about where the Playtest has got to. Advantage/Disadvantage for example is a new mechanic that seems to have stuck. It’s a neat way to provide a simple bonus for checks, and fits in nicely with game-play i.e. who doesn’t like to roll the dice 🙂 This will certainly suit my kids (at least when they have Advantage…) – I mean how often have they rolled low on a Daily power and begged to be allowed another roll?? 🙂
Specialties also look very promising, essentially a package of Feats that you obtain as you rise in level, and these being somewhat upgraded in Next to be more ‘substantial’ than the minor buffs in 4E. In essence, it looks like Feats are intended to allow access outside of class boundaries to some of the ‘flavour’ powers that help define your character. I like this, as it also gives a perfect mechanic for bringing campaign specific flavour into play. There has been a lot of reaction over the last couple of weeks following Mike Mearl’s columns on ‘Ability increases vs Feats’, but I won’t comment on this until more detail comes out!!
Backgrounds and skills also mesh nicely, and I like the mechanic that skills are simply Ability checks with an extra die – depending on the depth of the characters skill. Although the skills are fixed, I think there is an opportunity here for extension based on specific settings as well.
If there’s one thing I’m not yet sure about, it’s the Class structure. The most significant part of your character’s make-up is controlled by class, and the designers seems to have gone down the route of fairly fixed class abilities and powers. For example, the new Ranger class is assumed always to be a spell-casting hunter. Now clearly, you can use Specialties to give your Ranger extra options, or to give your Fighter ranged weapon skills and tracking abilities i.e. non-spellcasting Ranger flavour, but I’m not entirely sure whether this will stack up against the myriad of options in 4E for example. I realise there will be lots of people that think this is a great idea, but there will be just as many who think this is not!
I like the options presented for the Rogue, where over and above the core powers of the class, a ‘Scheme’ is used to give different packages of abilities based on the type of character you want to play. Clerics also get a lot of variability based on the deity choice, which again will dovetail neatly with the campaign setting. It will be interesting to see whether other classes will be treated in a similar way as the design iterates.
For the rest (e.g. combat rules, monsters, spells, magic items etc) the Playtest now has a fairly extensive set of material that seems more than enough to run a full campaign. It seems, especially with spells and magic items, to more aligned with older editions. To me that is not necessarily a bad thing as in these particular areas I felt a little of the ‘wonder’ was lost in 4E as everything was fitted into the ‘power’ structure.
So where next then? Well, I said a while back that I would be sticking to 4E while the DnD Next Playtest matured, and that is certainly still true for my main campaign, the Amber Tower. However, I’ve also been a bit frustrated with progress here, due to the few times the three of us actually get time to sit down and play! So I’ve considered running a little solo campaign in the Havenscoast with my son, and am toying with the idea of running this with DnD Next!
Hmm, decisions, decisions 🙂