More thoughts on D&D Next

D&D Next The D&D playtest rules have been out for a while, and there are a lot of heated discussions everywhere on the internet. What didn’t surprise me at all is the fact that most fans of 4E hate the new edition. This is actually no surprise because there’s almost nothing of 4E left in the current playtest rules. You can easily get the impression that WotC is throwing its current fans under the bus in order to appease its former fans. I may be one of those since I am one of the people that played a lot of D&D 3.0/3.5 back in the day, but stopped playing long before Pathfinder came out.

From what I’ve seen so far I like what WotC has done with D&D Next. The rules look a bit old-school but especially backgrounds and themes set it apart from the OD&D retro-clones out there. Some of the mechanics like advantage/disadvantage are pretty neat in my opinion and it looks like a game I would play. But having said that, my excitement of the first few days has already waned.

I don’t know whether it’s my fear that we only saw the tip of the iceberg and that the rest of the game may be a mess after all, or that the ongoing heated discussion has already burned me out. At least they recently changed the official FAQ to allow online playtests using Hangout, Skype etc.

I still might look for an online playtest group, but the longer I think about it, I wonder why I actually should be excited about D&D Next. I could easily take my favorite retro-clone, add in a few stuff myself and adopt the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. I don’t need to wait for the D&D Next release to play such a game. This way I can also avoid every 4E-isms that might creep into the game over time.

I am pretty sure that the D&D Next books will be great-looking (like most recent WotC stuff), and the current playtest rules don’t look too bad, but I am still not entirely sold. I am about to start playing Legend (Mongoose’s latest Runequest game) and from what I’ve seen so far, it might fit my preferences much better than any edition of D&D. But since D&D is the grand-daddy of all other RPGs out there, I’ll probably keep an eye on it after all.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

10 thoughts on “More thoughts on D&D Next”

  1. I agree, the playtest rules don’t look much like 4E, and as someone that preferred 3.5 over 4, I don’t really mind. I am feeling somewhat burnt out by the “discussions” (ahem) on the new edition, and have decided that beyond posting my own playtest reports and making the occasional check for updates, I am now going to steer clear of anything that looks like a passionate debate on this topic. At least until i see a bit more of the new game.
    I have also been thinking about “why should I bother”, but the answer is the fact it is the “official” DnD. And we gamers (or is it just me?) love the official stuff.

  2. I love 4e.
    Its my go to game of choice.
    Just because 5e is different in its approach to D&D doesn’t mean that im Not excited by the new game. What if is has No 4e elements in its construction. What if when I play I find nothing from the previous edition?
    Why should it, why look for a new game if all its going to do is Clone the last one. So what if there are returning rules from older editions. I for one have very little memory of rules previously used, only because someone on the net says “oh, I remember that from *editions.
    Its no big thing. As long its a game I understand and have a inclination that it will be enjoyable then im ready to give it a go and from first play tests it is Fun. Like all RPGs say at the very front of every book.
    FUN it’s all that matters.

    So be it edition one or edition four. I’m ready to give it a go because im ready for a great game I can enjoy with family and friends.
    EDITION FIVE! I want what you’ve got.

  3. It’s inaccurate to say that “most fans of 4E hate the new edition”. In my experience, that’s just plain untrue.

    I would say that most 4e fans are pretty reasonable folk who recognise the D&D Next playtest for what it is – a stripped down core on which more advanced rules can be built. This will include many elements that are a part of Fourth Edition D&D including tactical battlemat play and powers (or something very similar).

    There’s already 4e goodness in ‘Next – the healing system, Rituals, the Fighter’s damager on a miss to name a few – and I’m sure more will come as the playtest continues. Personally, I like the stripped down core and hope it doesn’t become too bloated just to appeal to all players of the game. do that with modules, not with the core.

    Don’t be fooled by the vocal minority or twitter who repeat crap just because they like the attention they get. 4e gamers aren’t all against D&D Next.

    Far from it.

    1. Hmm, perhaps I should have said that the most vocal 4E fans. Sorry, about that.

      And I really hope that what you call “4E goodness” is totally optional, because that’s exactly what I didn’t enjoy. I don’t mind the healing system and the rituals, but especially that fighter feat you mentioned is what makes me shake my head.

      But then again, there are a lot of other games out there (and in my collection) that I can play.

  4. I have to agree with Greywulf. Dndnext is probably as much a departure from 4e as it is an evolution. It’s less about moving forward or Retro but about finding its way in an ever changing market.

  5. I have to agree with Michael somewhat in as far as that my original excitement has died down a little bit. Perhaps thankfully (because of work mostly) I’ve been away from the “discussion” out there. I plan to finally give the playtest rules a spin this coming Sunday. I like what I see, and I am willing to give them a chance, and want to participate in the playtest so I can give feedback. I know I will get the rules when they come out; I want to see what the final product looks like.
    That said, D&D Next would have to offer a vastly different experience from what other games provide me (like Pathfinder, Mutants & Masterminds and Savage Worlds, my 3 current games of choice) to get me back to playing D&D full time. There was a time way back when I made the argument that supporting the gaming industry meant supporting D&D its flagship brand, but since I stopped playing D&D 4th ed. I’ve come to believe that is not the case.
    I remain interested in the development of D&D Next, and maybe the next iteration of the playtest may have that indescribable thing that gets me to say “I’m in all the way”. I am cautiously optimistic.

  6. I’m surprised by how many people like the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. To me the one advantage is that it’s simple to say and reference. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t allow flexibility in how much bonus it gives. It always gives a high bonus to people who need to hit average numbers and a low bonus to people who need high or low values. Personally I like giving +/-2 for small effects and +/-5 for bigger effects. Beyond that, it’s auto success/autofailure territory.

    Other than that, I’m still waiting to see about DDN. There are some things I like, some I don’t. At this point I’m meh, but I realize that I’m only seeing a small percentage of the finished game.

  7. It would have been almost impossible to make 4e fit togerher with any other version of D&D – it was it’s own completely different game. I’m glad that they tried to take the things that worked in all of the prior editions and combine them with fresh ideas to make a new (arguably better) game.

    The biggest problem to me is that it looks like a watered-down version of 3.5/Pathfinder with a few details thrown in (for example, the background options are nice, but they could easily have been an add-on for 3.5 like Traits were for Pathfinder)

    The biggest problem is, if this is going to be a watered-down/newbie-friendly version of 3.5/Pathfinder, we already have fully-functional versions. There’s just not enough new content yet to make it worth changing over. About the only new mechanic is the advantage/disadvantage thing, which is a nice idea but implemented in a rather simplistic way, and I wouldn’t go through the trouble of swapping versions just for that.

  8. After the discussion that took place during the switch from 3 to 4 I stopped participating in any on-line RPG debates. The fans (the internet fans) are mean spiteful people who hate you if you don’t agree with them. It seems that some believe that D&D exists to just please them. It is a business. If you do not like the current edition don’t play it. Look at all the remarkable choices we have nowadays.
    I like some of what I am seeing and not liking others, but that has been true of every iteration of D&D ever. No game is perfect for everyone. I love the advantage/disadvantage system. The +2/-2 thing from 3 was okay but judging how big a bonus each thing gave was a little strange. It all came down to the GM’s opinion. One time an awesome plan or action would garner a +2, while the next another similar idea would gain a +8. And, +2 in 3 and 3.5 never seemed that big. It was never something I shot for; while in this new edition I find myself plotting, scheming, and trying everything I can to gain an advantage.

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