What the Playtest of D&D Next Means for You

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I've managed to look at the rules, and it's very, very simple. There is basically no advancement for characters as you level up besides hit points. Casters get spells, you DO get a class feature (though most are pretty lame), but fighters are completely bland. Mind you, they only released on fighter build to use, up to level 3, but they keep promising to give more options later. The problem is, you can't playtest the interesting options and stuff if they don't give them to you.

The forum is pretty much filled with "It's too much like 4E" and "It's not enough like 4E", with occasional spats of logic and reason.

It has a LONG way to go, and even then I might just stick with Pathfinder anyway. At least that games has Psionics in it, without feeling like just another mage.

Having started on 4th ed and taken a look at the new rules I can definitely say I like where this is going. Probably gonna get a group of newbies (Friend, Cousin, and Sister most likely) over and try and run a game.

Chronologist:
I've managed to look at the rules, and it's very, very simple. There is basically no advancement for characters as you level up besides hit points.

... that sounds weirdly like my "Survival Horror d20" system.

It was basically 3.5, but you didn't level up. You were eternally at about 2nd level. When you gained experience, you used it to buy additional skill ranks (not limited by level) or feats. You could also find items that would increase your max HP by 1 here and there. Other than that, the players were 2nd level forever.

The idea was that survival horror is about being sucky in a world where you need to run away and everything is going to murder you if you get in a stand-up fight with it. So, while you could improve a little, you'd always have crap HP and crap saves.

Of course, since it was still 3.5/Call of Cthuhlu d20/d20 Modern, there were plenty of customization options to choose from. Also guns. And the occasional bat with a nail in it.

If you're already registered for the playtest, but you're having problems with wizard's servers, there are other places you could look. Just saying.

Also, from checking the rules it does feel like a streamlined 3.5. Still there's something really cool, packaging skills and feats into thematic and background packages, thus encouraging sensical character building rather than minmaxing.

Another neat bit. A survivor from the 4e, cantrips are at will spells. Here's to hoping there's a way to get more at will spells. If something still grinds my gears about 3.5 e besides feats it's the spellcasting limitations. I grew with Final Fantasy style magic, dammit!

I like the new Magic Missle. All the way from AD&D it's been my favourite spell. Boring, yes, but extremely practical. Its nerf in 4E saddened me. This new one seems pretty awesome. :)

Loethlin:
I like the new Magic Missle. All the way from AD&D it's been my favourite spell. Boring, yes, but extremely practical. Its nerf in 4E saddened me. This new one seems pretty awesome. :)

The new one is essentially the same as 3rd...

What it means to me is that WotC is learning, if slowly.

"Paizo's Pathfinder products are outselling us handily, even though we hold the original intellectual property? Hmm, Paizo involves its players in extensive playtests instead of dropping books out twice a month (in the 3.5 era) or forcing all characters to be pretty much identical (the 4e game)."

What else could Wizards' learn?

1) Fluff matters.

TSR was a train wreck, but it wrote solid fluff and actually cared about its settings. Quick, think over settings you might like to play. Settings you might care about. Eberron, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, PlaneScape, Dragon Lance, Greyhawk, SpellJammer, Dark Sun. Notice something?

TSR published over a dozen settings. Some were complete duds, but others are icons, and they took creative steps forward. Wizards, in fifteen years, has released one setting and rehashed other people's far better ideas. Usually, WotC pushed out the owners of those original ideas and the results were a disaster.

All of the other games on the top five are fluff-heavy. When you pick up a Dark Heresy or ShadowRun book, whatever you think of the setting, its tone and feel come off the page immediately. You see designers who knew a lot about how to make you feel something. Then pick up a 4e book. Hey, look, more samey-samey powers.

Anything pure crunch can do, a computer does faster and cheaper.

2) Playtest matters.

They rarely playtested anything in the 3.5e era, releasing two books a month which broke the game. I believe this may have been due to Hasbro. Then, suddenly, with 4e everything is identical with barely any deviation between various classes. Yawn. Good idea to playtest.

Glad you decided to imitate someone else's business model.

3) Crunch matters, but less than you think.

Dark Heresy's ruleset is an unholy mess which would make Tzeentch beg for a no-book-barred RIFTS crossover. It's selling briskly. Paizo's has only released a small handful of core rulebooks and has taken the top slot. 4e's mechanics are downright elegant, but the game has been pushed from the hill by a spin-off product.

Players can live with easy mechanics or bad mechanics if those mechanics let them do and feel like what they're fantasizing about being. Good mechanics which fail to fulfill that fantasy are, well, pointless.

Edit: And here's the Playtest packet. Fingers crossed, expectations...low.

Edit 2: The only good thing to say is they added fluff back to monster descriptions so you can see what a creature does in the world. Other than that, the playtest barely gives you an idea how the classes or concepts fit together, barely lets you see a level or four of each class, and so on. It looks a lot more like an attempt to recapture what Paizo does than anything else, with a lot less panache.

Means literally nothing to me. I still play AD&D and am happy with it. So... Meh.

llyrnion:
"We want to get the playtest out to as many people as possible, so..."

... we make them register before they can download the playtest packet.

Way to go, I guess...

The packet is 100% free, you can download it elsewhere if you dont want to register.

Dungeons & Dragons sat on a wall, Dungeons & Dragons a great fall.
All the wizards along all of the coast, couldn't put Dungeons & Dragons together again.

But that certainly won't stop them trying!

castlewise:
So I've been reading through the rules of the new system. Seems like they basically ditched the majority of the combat and power system from 4 and replaced them with more class specific rules. Now everyone can move and take an action on their turn. The action can be anything from pushing over a barrel, to swinging a sword, to hiding, to casting a spell. There isn't any move-minor-standard stuff, though. As far as classes, everyone can attack with a weapon but only wizards and clerics can use spells. Rogues can sneak attack, hide and disarm traps and fighters don't do anything but attack. No more grids or tokens, the sample adventure just comes with one map of the entire area. It all seems very old school. My guess is that they are trying to woo back the 3.5 crowd.

P.S. I was going to say something about how they didn't compromise at all, but completely abandoned 4th edition to appease the "core" crowd. But then I was reading a post on an enworld forum about how this new edition still reeks of 4th and doesn't go far enough. :P I suppose you know its a compromise when everyone is unhappy, but I don't know how good that will be for sales.

I would be one of those 3.5 players. I tried 4e and I hated it but I play it because my friends all want to. I like a lot of the changes I've seen. They seem to have remembered that this is a game that should feel fun. To me everything in 4e felt very much like a bare bones game mechanic not like something that made sense in an actual magical world. In this new one, the mechanics seem to hide the gaminess more and it feels more organic. For instance it doesn't feel like something happens and the only reasons is "game mechanic". They also brought back more of the randomness feel that I liked from older versions. Like the Advantage vs Disadvantage stuff; that feels more fun then +2 or -2.

Chronologist:
I've managed to look at the rules, and it's very, very simple. There is basically no advancement for characters as you level up besides hit points. Casters get spells, you DO get a class feature (though most are pretty lame), but fighters are completely bland. Mind you, they only released on fighter build to use, up to level 3, but they keep promising to give more options later. The problem is, you can't playtest the interesting options and stuff if they don't give them to you.

The forum is pretty much filled with "It's too much like 4E" and "It's not enough like 4E", with occasional spats of logic and reason.

It has a LONG way to go, and even then I might just stick with Pathfinder anyway. At least that games has Psionics in it, without feeling like just another mage.

I'll grant the fighter could be slightly more interesting (and a better selection of feats will fix that) but I noticed so far the fighter has gotten a feat or the equivalent of a feat at every level. I know two of them are listed a class features, Weapon Focus and Fighter's Surge but in previous additions these would have been feats you would take, now they're baked in which is ok I guess. At 3rd level they get yet another feat (this one actually chosen by the player) but since this is a per made it's already chosen as cleave. If this progression continues the fighter would become very powerful with all of their feats. If they come out with some very nice general and fighter specific feats the fighter could be fun to play IMO.

I honestly like this much more then 4e's very silly method of giving fighters spells (they're not called spells of course but they are almost identical in function to spells in 4e). Having a character based around feats (like the fighter was in previous additions) feels much less game mechanicy then just giving everyone spells and calling it a day.

drizztmainsword:
The new one is essentially the same as 3rd...

Thank you, captain obvious. Now if you could tell me why is it a bad thing?

Wow, finally got to take a look at it, and Fighters seem even more boring than in 3.5, since they don't even get bonus feats anymore. Speaking of, do feats even exist at all now, or have they been replaced by background / theme / class features?

Say what you will about the 4e power system (I know most people seemed to hate it), but it made fighter-types much more interesting, varied, and fun. Seems like this edition is a return to "melee class = basic attack," and unless the finished ruleset allows fighters to choose from a list of class features as they level up, every fighter will be exactly the same except for their background/theme, and the equipment they carry.

For the most part, this seems like a step backwards from 4e, not forward.

Edit: On the plus side, I really do enjoy the (dis)advantage mechanic.

Edit2: My mistake, feats do seem to exist, although this doesn't add any more to melee classes than they did in previous editions.

Dudeman325:
Wow, finally got to take a look at it, and Fighters seem even more boring than in 3.5, since they don't even get bonus feats anymore. Speaking of, do feats even exist at all now, or have they been replaced by background / theme / class features?

Say what you will about the 4e power system (I know most people seemed to hate it), but it made fighter-types much more interesting, varied, and fun. Seems like this edition is a return to "melee class = basic attack," and unless the finished ruleset allows fighters to choose from a list of class features as they level up, every fighter will be exactly the same except for their background/theme, and the equipment they carry.

For the most part, this seems like a step backwards from 4e, not forward.

Edit: On the plus side, I really do enjoy the (dis)advantage mechanic.

Edit2: My mistake, feats do seem to exist, although this doesn't add any more to melee classes than they did in previous editions.

Exactly right. Fighters are incredibly boring. The justifications are twofold:

1) They aren't finished yet, the fun stuff will come in a few weeks. (If they are not finished, why are we playtesting them? It's been months guys. At least give us something to work with.)

2) They get feats and cool powers. (They do get feats, but no cool powers yet, and the power level of their feats is actually LOWER than that of mages. A fighter gets Cleave at 3rd level, sometimes getting a second attack in combat. A Cleric gets Maximized healing for spells AND potions AND resting. I sense a disconnect).

Overall, the system itself is BROKEN. It's worse than Gamma World, which didn't let you make your own character, he/she/it was generated randomly. At least in that game it was the presence of certain rules, not the absence of them.

thedoclc:

...

Players can live with easy mechanics or bad mechanics if those mechanics let them do and feel like what they're fantasizing about being. Good mechanics which fail to fulfill that fantasy are, well, pointless.

...

EXACTLY. There is a fundamental disconnect / tug-of-war at play on the forums right now, between the people who want no-holds-barred Gygax-style gameplay where every other object is an instant-kill object (saves? what saves?), and the people like me who want be able to survive past 1st level and, I don't know, play the freaking game.

The fantasy of D&D is to become a skilled warrior, a sneaky thief, a pious cleric, or a powerful mage. As long as the game mechanics make playing your character FUN, then the game will succeed. If playing means bringing 10 character sheets to every game, never leveling up, and the DM cackling maniacally as you die once again to a "Surprise Medusa", as I like to call it (essentially a first-round coin-flip for instant petrification), then the player is not having fun.

You can have a challenging game where the players play powerful characters. Just look at mid-level Pathfinder and Scion.

Chronologist:

thedoclc:

...

Players can live with easy mechanics or bad mechanics if those mechanics let them do and feel like what they're fantasizing about being. Good mechanics which fail to fulfill that fantasy are, well, pointless.

...

EXACTLY. There is a fundamental disconnect / tug-of-war at play on the forums right now, between the people who want no-holds-barred Gygax-style gameplay where every other object is an instant-kill object (saves? what saves?), and the people like me who want be able to survive past 1st level and, I don't know, play the freaking game.

The fantasy of D&D is to become a skilled warrior, a sneaky thief, a pious cleric, or a powerful mage. As long as the game mechanics make playing your character FUN, then the game will succeed. If playing means bringing 10 character sheets to every game, never leveling up, and the DM cackling maniacally as you die once again to a "Surprise Medusa", as I like to call it (essentially a first-round coin-flip for instant petrification), then the player is not having fun.

You can have a challenging game where the players play powerful characters. Just look at mid-level Pathfinder and Scion.

While I agree with your points, I'd say "Surprise Medusa" GM is a terrible GM, regardless of the system. A system might encourage or discourage that, but the Killer GM sucks regardless of the ruleset he/she is using.

The Killer GM is not serving to entertain his/her players. (S)he's getting joy from opposing the players. Unless it's a game of Paranoia, that's bad GMing. End statement.

Player fun is the metric for success. A GM who enjoys making players miserable should pass the seat off to someone else. Unfortunately, a very bad tendency is that the "Killer GM" wants to GM because their power fantasy is just that. One caveat: there are a few settings which openly tell you their default tone is that PC's die like rabbits.

I also have to say you're absolutely right about most games. But there are very fun games which do make you bring ten character sheets, never level, and so on. However, these games explicitly set up that expectation in either a horror-craptastic universe (ex: Call of Cthulhu, Dark Heresy), or else do it for pure schadenfreude comic relief (like Paranoia). (Warhammer Fantasy can be this, but it does so as a deconstruction of high fantasy tropes as popularized by most fantasy RPGs.) All those games pit pathetic PCs against overwhelming foes for dramatic horror or for black comedy.

Most well-designed games, however, use both fluff and crunch to mechanically and thematically create those roles. My opinion is that D&D 4E did that very, very poorly. If anyone disagrees, I'd just say, "That's cool. If your group is having fun, don't change a thing."

Loethlin:

drizztmainsword:
The new one is essentially the same as 3rd...

Thank you, captain obvious. Now if you could tell me why is it a bad thing?

Nothing wrong with the spell, but you just were making it sound like the spell was "new and improved." No worries.

@thedocic

I can fully corroborate that. A bad DM can ruin everything. I once had a DM (3.5 ed) that liked to throw level 20 mages at us (a group of 12th level characters), because he just wanted to kill us. We had to muchkin our characters like crazy and argue every single rule possible to simply survive. It was atrocious.

What it means for me is I will start working on lots of homebrew for 4e. I hate the Next rules with a burning passion. Its a massive step back to the "let's just make stuff up" era of previous editions. That is fine and good but then its not really a game is it?

My biggest gripe has to be the Fighter. Sure you can do all these super cool things with his 'attack action' like kick over barrels or other things like that. But then so can the Wizard, he can just do it from range with Magic Missile.

Now I will be taking the "challenge" system over to my 4e game, that is actually a very useful tool.

cyvaris:
What it means for me is I will start working on lots of homebrew for 4e. I hate the Next rules with a burning passion. Its a massive step back to the "let's just make stuff up" era of previous editions. That is fine and good but then its not really a game is it?

My biggest gripe has to be the Fighter. Sure you can do all these super cool things with his 'attack action' like kick over barrels or other things like that. But then so can the Wizard, he can just do it from range with Magic Missile.

Now I will be taking the "challenge" system over to my 4e game, that is actually a very useful tool.

I found fourth edition to be much more along the lines of "let's just make stuff up" in comparison to 3.5. In the previous edition, it was generally clear what real-world mechanic or interaction the designers were looking to represent in the game systems that we saw. Fourth edition lost a lot of that by making every character play by the same, completely arbitrary, rules.

That said, I think the reason Fighter looks to be so boring right now is that: A - we're not seeing the whole progression / feat tree that a player could play with, B - Fighter was always one of the simplest classes out of the base array (at least through level 3), and especially C - the fighting system is abstracted too far away from actual combat. There's a lot of nuance and fun to be had in fighting, but DnD has abstracted it all away to a single dice roll and some numbers. That's why focussing on fighting is boring.

drizztmainsword:

I found fourth edition to be much more along the lines of "let's just make stuff up" in comparison to 3.5. In the previous edition, it was generally clear what real-world mechanic or interaction the designers were looking to represent in the game systems that we saw. Fourth edition lost a lot of that by making every character play by the same, completely arbitrary, rules.

That said, I think the reason Fighter looks to be so boring right now is that: A - we're not seeing the whole progression / feat tree that a player could play with, B - Fighter was always one of the simplest classes out of the base array (at least through level 3), and especially C - the fighting system is abstracted too far away from actual combat. There's a lot of nuance and fun to be had in fighting, but DnD has abstracted it all away to a single dice roll and some numbers. That's why focussing on fighting is boring.

Fourth Edition encouraged more of the "Roleplay" to be made up. But the actual combat? Everything there was laid out for you. 4e gave you the rules to run a combat game, and then you built the roleplay in the way you wanted it. 3/3.5 were overly cluttered "simulations" that bogged down the fun/game part of the game with a whole host of rules that no one bothered with anyway.

Also when you look at it, while each class had the same AEDU power structure they were all very different and more importantly played differently. Each class had a specific goal in mind in combat, and did things its own way. 3.0/3.5....yeah most any melee class either played "hit it with my sword" or "ridiculous feat combo". None of them were fun the way 4e classes are. Also the "same arbitrary rule" made 4e easy to teach, unlike the complete clusterf*** that was trying to teach 3e to someone.

Why must the Fighter always be the "Simpler" class? Why can't we have a simple Wizard? A simple Cleric? Oh wait because spamming a single attack is not FUN. Simple Wizard would get Magic Missle....hurray? Oh but wait your not seeing the FEATS you can take to make Magic Missle cool!

If a class cannot stand on its own(IE no feats/options outside of the base class itself) it is failed design. The 5e Fighter has nothing personally interesting to do besides "take feats" and petition the DM to let it do stuff. Now look at the 4e Fighter. Right out of the gate its exciting, marks, pushing/sliding etc. From level one the 4e Fighters is a blast to play. The 5e Fighter is not.

cyvaris:

Fourth Edition encouraged more of the "Roleplay" to be made up. But the actual combat? Everything there was laid out for you. 4e gave you the rules to run a combat game, and then you built the roleplay in the way you wanted it. 3/3.5 were overly cluttered "simulations" that bogged down the fun/game part of the game with a whole host of rules that no one bothered with anyway.

Also when you look at it, while each class had the same AEDU power structure they were all very different and more importantly played differently. Each class had a specific goal in mind in combat, and did things its own way. 3.0/3.5....yeah most any melee class either played "hit it with my sword" or "ridiculous feat combo". None of them were fun the way 4e classes are. Also the "same arbitrary rule" made 4e easy to teach, unlike the complete clusterf*** that was trying to teach 3e to someone.

Why must the Fighter always be the "Simpler" class? Why can't we have a simple Wizard? A simple Cleric? Oh wait because spamming a single attack is not FUN. Simple Wizard would get Magic Missle....hurray? Oh but wait your not seeing the FEATS you can take to make Magic Missle cool!

If a class cannot stand on its own(IE no feats/options outside of the base class itself) it is failed design. The 5e Fighter has nothing personally interesting to do besides "take feats" and petition the DM to let it do stuff. Now look at the 4e Fighter. Right out of the gate its exciting, marks, pushing/sliding etc. From level one the 4e Fighters is a blast to play. The 5e Fighter is not.

Ignoring the feats involved in character advancement is a mistake. They're there for a reason. Actually, I find the best kind of character progression is one in which there are no "classes" but instead a series of "feats" with prerequisites.

The pushing and sliding mechanics in 4e were interesting, but I thought completely arbitrary. They were a strangely simplified Bull Rush or Grapple mechanic that didn't have any actual root in real combat. The simulation aspects of 3.5e were to its benefit.

Also, I'm by no means defending 3rd edition or any of its companions (Pathfinder, etc). I don't like how they play and how strangely abstracted their systems are. It's just that fourth edition is even worse.

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