What the Playtest of D&D Next Means for You

Greg Tito | 24 May 2012 21:30
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Mike Mearls
Mike Mearls

Greg Tito: What is an example of a rule you've changed based solely on player feedback so far?

Mike Mearls: Funny enough, we added Hit Dice precisely because we had a lot of people frustrated with the lack of healing in the initial draft. We weren't planning on using such a mechanic, so it will be very interesting to see where it goes.

Greg Tito: At the risk of alienating the fans who haven't yet read the rules, let's get into the nitty-gritty of why you made some design decisions with D&D Next. The rules introduce themes like "noble" or "pub crawler" that define your character in more ways than just your class like fighter or wizard. The themes have been my favorite addition because of how they inform roleplay more than mechanics. Was that intentional? How have they played out in the playtest so far?

Mike Mearls: It was very intentional that themes, and backgrounds, inform how you portray your character. We felt that too many of the character customization options in D&D exist only as mechanics. They don't say anything about who your character is or what he/she has done in the past. We wanted an easy way for a player to connect the dots between what's on a character sheet and what's going on at the table.

Greg Tito: I've found that players are frustrated when Javelin of Flame (a Wizard at-will spell) or Charm doesn't work as often as they'd like because of failing against a high roll the DM makes. Why were opposed rolls made more frequent in the game? Has that slowed down play for you or made players feel bad?

Mike Mearls: We've actually removed that rule, for precisely the reasons you cite. Some people liked it, but most players felt it slowed things down. Making the game move faster, while still keeping it fun and interesting, is one of our big goals.

Greg Tito: In D&D Next, your starting hit point total is the same as your Constitution score. Why was Constitution made the standard for hit point totals, when a Goblin with a con of 10 has 3 HP? Dissociated mechanics didn't go well in 4th, why was this change made?

Mike Mearls: Hit points are probably the biggest issue in the game right now. As I mentioned above, we got a lot of feedback on healing and are trying the Hit Die mechanic to solve that. On top of that, we decided to err in the early going on the side of giving out more hit points rather than fewer. At this stage, if characters have it too easy people are at least playing a lot and giving us feedback on the core rules. We already have plans to roll back hit point totals, but we'll also see how the playtests go before making a final decision.

Chances are, you'll see hit points and damage both go down, so the game's overall lethality might not change much but the math is simpler and damage expressions simpler.

Greg Tito: What's more important for this new iteration: selling more books or protecting the legacy of D&D?

Mike Mearls: Without the legacy of D&D, you can't sell books. In many ways, it's an organic process. If the game feels like D&D, preserves what makes RPGs and D&D unique, and does that in a way that people can pick up, I think you end up doing both.

One thing I think we learned over the past 10 years is that adding lots of mechanics to the game is a bad idea over the long run. The game doesn't really need new spells, new feats, and so on.


Mearls and the rest of the Wizards team have been hard at work to deliver this public playtest of D&D Next to the fans. Now's the time to download the rules, pthrow some dice with your gaming group and let the designers know what you think.

Download the playtest rules for D&D Next here.

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