Saturday, May 26, 2012

D&D Next: D&D is Back!

I was very excited to get my copy of the D&D play-test material. The roller coaster that was 2e to 3.5e to 4e was about to end, and I was very interested to see what the captains of D&D have in mind.

Well, it looks like they had this in mind:

The booklet reads like old-school D&D while taking the best of all the editions out there. You can see 2e's one-line monster stats right next to 4e at-will cantrips. You can see Basic D&D "Vancian" spell-casting next to a slightly modified version of the healing-surges system found in 4e.

Another great idea was the inclusion of character backgrounds and themes as a way to create unique, 3.5e like PCs as opposed to the cookie cutter approach found in 4e. The play-test material gave us the most archetypical heroes, but I can easily see how the system will be expanded and extended to support great character customization.

So in my opinion, D&D is now back to being D&D. The core of it - in the form presented in the play-test material - will be probably tweaked and modified, but it looks solid enough and D&D enough to my personal taste.

Taking a look at the included adventure, I was shocked at how much it reminded me of all those old, pre 3rd edition adventure module I still own. It even looks like I could run those old modules with little or no modification. In addition, it looks like the fine-tuned encounters found in 4e are out of the window, with rooms with "up to 40" kobolds in them.  The monsters stat blocks are mostly one or two liners, a thing I was really happy about - until I saw the "Special Traits" entry for each monster in the monster booklet.

I never liked the way monsters in 3.5e played out. In addition to the clearly stated melee and ranged attacks, they had this section in which tons of special abilities were listed. During the excitement of combat I usually forgot all about them, which was really annoying. Even more annoying was the fact that some of the special abilities encapsulated several traits that I needed to take into account. For example, 3.5e incorporeal means immunity from all non-magical attacks, but they are effected by supernatural attacks. And then the game was halted to look at the books to see what supernatural meant. So in that sense, I really hope that Wizards use the traits section wisely, giving just a few, self-explanatory, "classic" traits and move all other "cool stuff the monster can do" to an appropriate section (attacks, defenses etc).

To be completely honest, I really look forward to play-test D&D Next, and I really hope that Wizard's plan of providing a solid core that is easily expanded with rules modules will actually work. If they decide to revive the old Mistara campaign setting (or create a brand new old-school setting) I will be thrilled.

After all, it looks like D&D is built with an eye to its original roots, roots which I discovered when I was just a little over 6 years old, almost 30 years ago...

Hey, you know what? Proofreading my post I just realized that I unintentionally dropped the "Next" out of D&D Next in the last sentence. Yes, it feels like D&D. Not 2e, not 3e and not 4e or 5e.

Just D&D.

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