Having been a DM and player of old-school tabletop games as long as I can remember, I was excited when WOTC announced their plans for D&D Next. IMHO, the debacle that was 4E was one of the reasons that Wizards have to get their act together this time. I closely followed D&D Next’s updates and here’s some of my personal observations…
D&D Next. Is it the next big thing?
I received 2 packets of the D&D Next playtest. Sadly, due to time and schedule conflicts, me and my gaming group weren’t able to test. But I’ve browsed through some of the material, read through Mike Mearls’ blog posts and here’s what’s currently going on for the game.
Basic Core rules and then some – part of the plan was to have “Basic Rules”. These rules were the core of the system and was meant to ” make the game easy to pick up and play, with fast character creation and classes that default to simple but effective options. Like basic D&D, the rules are more freeform, with DMs encouraged to use the core mechanics to adjudicate corner cases as they come up.” wrote WOTC boss, Mearls. My take? Players and DMs have been doing this for years. Maybe with a simplified version of either D&D basic set or ver 3.0 or 3.5 and then, with the aid of hundreds of supplemental books and material, pick things which they like. IMHO, it was 4th ed that ended this “compatibility”. A thing that has spurred geek-debates across countless forums and social media.
Making the core classes do what they’re supposed to do – through the years, Magic-users (yep, that’s what we call ‘em back in the good-ol-days) hurled Fireballs and can’t wear armor or even wield a weapon except for a dagger or a staff. I mean, Fighters fight, Clerics heal, Thieves detected traps and backstabbed. That was then. D&D Next aims to bring back these “iconic” games and fulfill their roles to the hilt but at the same time, offer enough personalization to make a character really your own.
4th Ed took this idea and threw it out of the window. It was, for me, a simulation of MMORPGs and not the traditional tabletop everyone knew and loved. Of course, the MMORPG generation loved it and the old-school vets hated it. If you look at it, 4E was no more than counting the number of “dailies” or “per encounter” powers each class can do. Battles took hours to simulate due to healing surges (which I am not a fan of) and countless other additions. I’m in favor of what D&D Next is bringing back to the table but WOTC also has to understand that individuals DO LIKE personalizing their own characters. Want your Wiz to wield a Bastard Sword??? go ahead! But there should be some trade-offs or defining lines so as to avoid “imbalance.”
But in retrospect, there really isn’t such a thing as “tabletop RPG imbalance”. Let’s face it, a DM (human) controls EVERYTHING in the world. Compare that to a video game or an online where everything is controlled by a set of algorithms, you do know where I’m getting at, yes?
Lastly, I applaud “Next” for having the community playtest the game and get feedback. Hopefully, this translates to something which (debates and hipsters aside) a lot of gamers WILL WANT TO PLAY.
I think that D&D Next will still take around a couple of years to finish. But if it needs that time to “modernize” the grand-daddy of all role-playing games, I’m willing to wait and willing to get my hands on a copy.
Tread on Mike and WOTC! May the dice gods be good!