D&D 5E My D&D Next Experience at DDXP

Osgood

Adventurer
Over the weekend, most of my gaming group and I traveled to Ft. Wayne to participate in the play test for D&D Next. Though I cannot reveal anything specific about the mechanics, I will attempt to relay our experience and impressions of the new game.

First a bit of background. Our group plays 4E (but not Essentials) currently, and while we really enjoy it, there are a number of things most agree could stand to be reworked (feat/power bloat, magic items, immediate actions, hit points). I started over 25 years ago with Basic D&D, moved to 1E, then 2E, drifted to other games for most of the 90's and returned to D&D in a big way with 3.0 and 3.5. Of the others in attendance, two had started playing with 2E, two others with 3E, and one with 4E. The announcement of D&D Next was met with a near equal measure of excitement and trepidation. Some in our group (including myself) were more optimistic, while others more pessimistic. Regardless, we were all eager to test the new system.

We sat down at the table and were very pleased to find out DM was Monte Cook. Characters were passed around, and most wound up playing a class they had played before and were familiar with. After a few minutes of reading over the character sheet and trying to get a general sense of our capabilities, Monte laid out the adventure.

Monte is an excellent DM and he made the adventure fun and engaging. We won the day, kicking a lot of orc butt through luck, bold tactics, and good ideas. That said, a good DM can make just about any system enjoyable, for a while at least. About mid-way through I started to get bored with my character (and I normally love rogues) and my mind wandered.

Combat was fast and deadly, but there are some oddly clunky mechanics that felt out of place to me. While I (who normally DMs) enjoyed that, there was a mixed response from the rest of the group. Not a single one of us was satisfied with how healing worked though. The mechanics are unusual and attempt to combine the approaches of a few editions, but it came off as a bit of a Frankenstein monster. One of us has a really good comment that nails it, but I think posting it would be at least bending the NDA... I'll say this much, it makes the adventuring day really feel like a work day.

Perhaps the most crestfallen in our group were the ladies playing the cleric and wizard. The cleric player has roots in 3E, while the wizard started with 4E. Both felt the mechanics of the spells were counter-intuitive and confusing, and I think most of us agreed. One happens to be a mathematician, and she feels that spellcasters are at a distinct statistical disadvantage using the mechanics presented.

Exploration was good, but it didn't feel particularly distinct from the way we currently play. This may be a result of my DMing style, were I encourage creativity. Monte kept trying to reinforce that we could do anything and not worry about what our character sheets said, but ultimately what we did we didn't particularly do well. In the end, compared to my home game I felt folks were more shackled by their ability scores rather than being free do whatever they wanted.

None of us were particularly satisfied, and I cannot imagine the game as presented would be especially fun for my group (though I am fully willing to acknowledge that has as much to do with my DMing and adventure design style as the system).

In fairness, we did play the base version of the game (and an obviously very early draft, given the occasionally contradictory information on the character sheets). I imagine several things will get cleaned up and/or altered by the time the open play test starts. The base game seems very targeted towards a particular group, and it is my hope that the designers make good on their promise that D&Dn will let everyone play the edition they want to play (mine would be a 4e/3E hybrid). I feel the game has a long way to go to satisfy all (or nearly all) of D&D players. I do have confidence that the design team is interested in making the best game possible and listening to feedback, so I am definitely looking forward to the open play test.
 

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
This is probably the most interesting feedback I've read so far about the DDXP playtests.

Ultimately, it seems like a lot of 4E fans seem to enjoy the new system the least...though given the strong background Osgood has, and the diverse backgrounds of his group, that doesn't seem to be quite as much of a factor as I thought it would be. Still, I have to wonder if 5E is going to end up pleasing no-one if it goes in the direction of being a 3E/4E hybrid.

Beyond that, man does reading the above make me wish I knew more about the mechanics (if only because I want to hear that summarizing comment)!
 

Dragonblade

Adventurer
Interesting thoughts, Thanks!

I think for certain things like healing they would be better off just developing separate standalone rules modules that groups can use instead of making some patchwork that no one will like.

You want to go whole hog on 4e style surges, use this module. If you want old school lethality and make healing a matter of magic and bed rest, use this module.

I can think of several ways I could make it work so I don't think its an impossible design challenge.
 

Sirot

First Post
Why did you get bored of your Rogue character (without breaking the NDA)? Was it a lack of options or were there a lot of options given, but they weren't very diverse? Do you feel that the direction they took the Rogue class was a bad one, or was it just a case of the mechanics not being polished yet?
 

Osgood

Adventurer
Why did you get bored of your Rogue character (without breaking the NDA)? Was it a lack of options or were there a lot of options given, but they weren't very diverse? Do you feel that the direction they took the Rogue class was a bad one, or was it just a case of the mechanics not being polished yet?

Both in combat and out of combat I felt like I was doing the same things over and over again. I tried to find creative ways to do it... but it was still the same thing again and again (until I said screw it and stole the big bad's weapon, and then went back to doing the same old same old). Moreover, I felt like all my options were a foregone conclusion. Some things seemed to have no chance at failure, other no chance at success; this skewed me to doing the same things over and over again. To me, the drama is in the middle ground.

As far as the rogue goes... it felt like a 1E thief. One of the things I liked most about the 3E rogue was that I felt I wasn't shoehorned into a particular role (sneaky, larcenous trapfinder); to me 4E took that even further--despite the formality of "roles"--by opening it up so anyone could at least attempt to find or disarm a trap.
 

RedShirtNo5.1

Explorer
Thanks muchly for the report. I have a question that hopefully isn't under the NDA - did you submit your concerns and how? Did you talk directly to Monte about the issues you saw? Fill out a form?
 

TwinBahamut

First Post
This is both really interesting and rather disappointing to hear. Your group sounds like it has opinions on 3E and 4E that are not very different from my own, so it weakens my enthusiasm a little...

I hope you had a chance to talk to Mr. Cook a bit about your feelings on the game after the session was over. I'm certain that kind of feedback would be really useful at this stage of the game's development.
 

bryce0lynch

Explorer
We filled out forms (one page) that collected some simple background info and had us list 3 things we liked and 3 things we didn't like.

We also had a discussion with our DM's, with the implicit understanding that they would be recapping their experiences.
 

Osgood

Adventurer
Thanks muchly for the report. I have a question that hopefully isn't under the NDA - did you submit your concerns and how? Did you talk directly to Monte about the issues you saw? Fill out a form?
We got to chat with Monte for close to a half hour after we wrapped up. He asked out thoughts, answered some questions, and seemed very interested in our opnions. In short, a real class act.

Beyond that everyone received a comment card that asked how long you had been playing, what your favorite editions was, and asked for the three things you liked best and least. wish there had been more space on the page and that I had more time to collect my thoughts, but I'm sure all of that will come with the open play test.
 

Sirot

First Post
Thank you for the Rogue information. Hopefully your criticisms were heard and noted by the designers.

Considering the numerous criticisms you had for D&Dn, what do you feel they did right? Even with your negative experience, is there a feeling of "almost there" where you can see this becoming an enjoyable system to play?
 

Osgood

Adventurer
This is both really interesting and rather disappointing to hear. Your group sounds like it has opinions on 3E and 4E that are not very different from my own, so it weakens my enthusiasm a little...

Keep the faith brother (or sister). While I was initially pretty discourage too, I remind myself that this was the base game. If (and its a big if) WotC can deliver rule modules that allow each group to craft their own version of D&D, I think it can work. To me the critical element is that the rule modules that allow the play styles of 3e/4E come out (preferably) with or at the same time as the core rules. I don't want to wait 6 months to play D&D my way...
 

Osgood

Adventurer
Considering the numerous criticisms you had for D&Dn, what do you feel they did right? Even with your negative experience, is there a feeling of "almost there" where you can see this becoming an enjoyable system to play?

Since they let this cat out of the bag at the seminars, I feel comfortable saying I really liked the way themes were included and what they did. The races felt right to me too.

As far as playability, that entirely depends on the rule modules. The the base game really tires to capture a 1E/2E feel; I left that style of play behind a long time ago, and have never really looked back. I think someone who prefers that style will be much happier with it (but its different enough that I don't know they would switch over). I could appreciate the old school feel coming from that background, but the younger members of my group who don't have those memories were horrified and off-put by it.
 

Oni

First Post
I think this question is probably general enough that you can answer it. Would the information on your character sheets have been able to easily fit on a note card?
 

Raith5

Adventurer
Interesting thoughts, Thanks!

I think for certain things like healing they would be better off just developing separate standalone rules modules that groups can use instead of making some patchwork that no one will like.

You want to go whole hog on 4e style surges, use this module. If you want old school lethality and make healing a matter of magic and bed rest, use this module.

I agree with this. The idea of having PCs with different mechanics at the same table just strikes me a crazy ambitious. It is also rolls against a table sharing/making a collective experience which includes some shared understanding of the level of lethality, the importance of combat vs roleplaying, etc.
 

BryonD

Hero
I have a non-NDA question. (I think)

There were some comments about a significant new mechanic that solved some problems.

Was there anything that jumped out as a clear new mechanic? (Clearly you saw a lot of "frankenstein") I'm not asking for any details, just can you confirm or deny such innovation? :)

I'm curious because that could be an important piece for everyone to withhold judgment about.

thanks
 

Blastin

First Post
Guess I'll chime in here with my report as well. I got to play two sessions, one as the cleric and one as the paladin.
My background: Been playing for 32 years, started with AD&D up through every version till current (4th) as well as Pathfinder and lots of other systems. I'm a fan of all the editions, including 4th, but probably have the most experience running second and 3rd.
Overall I had fun. The second session was a bit of a mixed bag, as the gm was creative and animated, but was unfamiliar with the rules. So, he was a good DM, but a crappy PLAYTEST DM.
There were a few mechanics that I thought were neat ideas and seemed to be newer approaches to the game. Then there were a fair amount of things that I felt were very familiar to me already. It didn't take much effort at all to figure out how most of the character ideas worked.
Of the two classes I played I liked the paladin the best, as it seemed to play well and I liked how the class mechanics worked.
To me, the cleric (and from what I saw, the wizard) both had some play issues. I had a particular familiar problem with the cleric that I haven't seen in a while.
I think the base that they presented has a LOT of potential. They reminded us often that what we were seeing was VERY rough/early. I think there is a VERY good chance that they can carve a version out of these rules that will make a great game and I look forward to seeing what happens next because I think it will be good.
 


Osgood

Adventurer
I think this question is probably general enough that you can answer it. Would the information on your character sheets have been able to easily fit on a note card?
Each character was on a double-sided sheet of paper, with the spell casters having an extra double-sided sheet for spells. The character sheets had a lot of class description info, but I think it would be easy enough to fit on an index card, not counting spells. Bear in mind these characters were 1st level, I'm not sure how much additional information higher levels will add.

I have a non-NDA question. (I think)

There were some comments about a significant new mechanic that solved some problems.

Was there anything that jumped out as a clear new mechanic? (Clearly you saw a lot of "frankenstein") I'm not asking for any details, just can you confirm or deny such innovation? :)

I think I know what you are referring to, but I don't think of it as a new or innovative mechanic as much as a new approach to an existing mechanic... almost a re-branding of said mechanic.

The Frankenstein was really one specific element related to healing/recovery. In general most mechanics seemed imported, more or less intact, from their edition of origin. I'll say this too: there was definitely an edition that seemed to be the "go to" edition for rules.
 


Rechan

Adventurer
I could appreciate the old school feel coming from that background, but the younger members of my group who don't have those memories were horrified and off-put by it.
The reaction of your younger members is starting to become my feelings, reading various info.

I'm glad you got to give Monte your feedback directly, and thanks for your report here.
 

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