Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: D&D Next (Sept. 2012 packet)

 Okay, so I've had the packet for a while now but was too lazy to actually read it.  Overall I'm satisfied with what they've presented.  My take is that they simplified 3E and then added a couple nice bits of 4E.  Would I play it?  Sure, but since to me it's just a simplified, augmented form of 3E I'm not super-excited about it.  If I switched from Pathfinder it would be due to crunch fatigue.  I love the crunchy aspects of 3E/Pathfinder, but the older I get the harder it is to find the time and energy to really absorb it all--and since I usually DM, that's an issue.  And if I was to chuck all that crunch it would be for something much, much simpler (like Old School Hack).  But since I usually approach RPGs from the perspective of a DM I also have to seriously consider whether my players would go for it; if they're not interested there's not much point in my buying it.  But anyway, here are some random comments on the latest (last) playtest packet:

These are optional--which is interesting.  I'm assuming they are optional to keep the basic game simple and also lure the square-wheeler grognards back, most of whom seem to rail against skills and feats.

Backgrounds and Skills
Like that backgrounds are included--and that you need one to get skill proficiencies.  As a DM I'm so tired of players making up characters with no background of any kind.  The PC just sort of materializes in the tavern fully-fledged, apparently as the result of spontaneous divine creation or something.  You want skills? Then you need to pick a background.

Like this part a lot.  Glad to see that each race (except the always boring humans) has two variations to choose from.  Very happy they included the "Unusual Races" of dragonborn, drow, gnome (including a fun tinker type), half-elf, half-orc, kender, and tiefling (but why no aasimar if including tiefling?).  I prefer a fantasy game to have plenty of non-human ("non-boring") races to choose from.  Again, I'm sure these were carefully slipped into a separate category to make the early-edition types happy.

Character Sheet
- Very happy that they have a fillable PDF character sheet right with the game; so many games today still have ones which you can only print off and fill by hand.  This is the 21st century people--fillable PDFs should be standard everywhere!

- Glad to see they're including the full range of barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, mage, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue right from the start rather than putting some/most into later supplements as in 4E (which was understandable from a marketing standpoint but still obnoxious).
- Like the quick creation option for each class: very handy for new players.
- Like that each class has two or more paths/colleges/traditions/etc. to add some variation; I'm assuming they plan more of these in supplements to be sold later.
- Like that as you level up you have the option of taking an average number of HP (e.g., 5 for a d8) instead of rolling; it's quicker and makes doing NPCs a bit easier.
- A bit unclear on the domain spells for clerics (which is the coolest class in the game, thanks for noticing); apparently in D&D Next you get two domain spells per caster level and each day both(?) are automatically prepared instead of you choosing one?  Interesting that they seem to have cut back on the number of spells clerics know at each level, which I like over 3.5/Pathfinder where clerics automatically gain access to a huge new list each level.  Of course I'm still in favor of each deity/pantheon having its own separate, more limited custom spell list.
- Wizards get a bonus for using a magic focus--like it. When you prepare a spell of  a certain level you can cast it as many times as you have slots at that level, rather like the sorcerer in Pathfincer/3.5.  Also, you can finally regain some spell energy during short rests, not just after a full 8 hours of sleep.
- Like how the barbarian raging bonus does not include +STR and +CON like in Pathfinder, where you have to work out what all your bonuses, HP, etc. are with the new stats.
- Paladin Detect Evil is now detection of celestials, fiends, or undead--but still unlimited uses per day.  I find this ability to be very powerful in roleplay and would prefer to see it limited, perhaps to a number of times per day equal to the paladin's CHA bonus.
- Rangers have several fighting styles to choose from, which is better than the old choice of ranged weapon or two-weapon.


  1. Come now, no reason to be disparaging the grognards over skills and feats. As I understand it, the typical grognard issues with skills and feats are that 1) the propagation of skill systems encourages rolling for things which don't really need rolled for, 2) extra complexity in character generation is both fertile ground for powergaming and irritating to have to go back through when you die, and 3) when you have rules of the form "I have this thing on my character sheet, therefore I can do X", you run into trouble handling the case of "I don't have the feat or skill, but I want to do X in a reasonable, plausible way for someone untrained." If you permit untrained use, the skill or feat is devalued, but if you don't, your game becomes illogical and inconsistent. If you want to avoid those two fates, then you resign yourself to accreting houserules and addenda about when certain things can or cannot be used untrained. The grognard prefers to cut out the skill system in the middle and jump straight to the houseruling, since that was where they were going to end up anyway.

  2. Have you read Radiance? If so, how does it compare to the Next material?