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D&D 5E My first look at D&D Next

bpauls

Explorer
Following the announcement of 5e earlier this month, I convinced a couple of friends to make the haul out to Ft. Wayne for DDXP this past weekend.

All three of us got to participate in the "D&D Next" playtest. My conclusion, following our "look under the hood," is that the developers are making good progress toward their primary goal of building a system that channels the "soul of D&D."

The playtest felt like what I remember as the best parts of playing D&D under both B/X and 1e. One of my companions identified certain elements that felt like 3e to him.

Playing through a real adventure was extremely helpful. What happens in actual play is the best way to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the system you are using.

I have prepared a full write-up of what I can report, within the boundaries of the NDA.

The most important take-away, however, is that WotC appears to be going slow, giving their design decisions a lot of thought, and working hard to get it right. What I saw at DDXP gives me confidence that D&D Next will be a system to watch.

Like a lot of other folks, I am eagerly looking forward to the public Beta.
 
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mudbunny

Community Supporter
Awesome. I will definitely be including this in my weekly report to WotC. Could you PM me with how you want it attributed or if there are any comments you would like added that you didn't feel comfortable posting on your blog?

Thanks
 


Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I'm jealous! I had decided on making the same run -- 700 miles -- but my wife had already made plans for the weekend and we had noone with whom to stash the kids.

Also, of note: your reasoning for sticking to your NDA has very much softened my attitude to the whole business -- I initially felt very much that WotC was simply yanking chains as a marketting move with the NDA thing, but your explanation has made me rethink that. Thanks.
 

bryce0lynch

Explorer
These are my own DDXP/5E experiences, with some commentary on 4E.


I just returned from DDXP.

ObBackground: I started with Holmes & 1E over 20 years ago and like a free-form BASIC best. My wife likes 3E best and started in the 2E era.

The play-tests were NDA and I'm not playing Paper & Paychecks in order to be killed by an Ancient Red WOTC. I was reasonably happy, but then again my session was run by a VERY good DM. He made 4E Ravenloft fun last year and he made the play-test game fun. A good DM transcends game systems, however I don't think he had to work very hard. It's hard to judge an early draft of a game system, hence the 'reasonably happy' statement. I played D&D and I liked it and enjoyed myself. My wife played D&D and liked it and enjoyed herself.

The real test of 5E will come with the rules modules/subsystems. This portion was not included in the play test to my knowledge, so I'm going to talk freely about it, given what they've said about it at the seminars and my own thinking in the last few days.


The rest of this post has NOTHING to do with 5e. This is NOT a *nudge* *nudge* *wink* *wink* statement.

Modularity:
I'm pretty sure that Supplement 1: Greyhawk, was just a booklet of optional rules. The same for Unearthed Arcana? Most versions have a statement to the effect of: if you don't like something then throw it out, or change it. And yet … we don't? Oh, we house-rule the crap out of certain sections, but there's a tendency to use what's presented in the books as the gospel. "I don't like skills so I don't like 3E." Then don't use the skills, geez! Wanna play OD&D? Remove all classes except the Fighter, Wizard, and Cleric and get rid of skills and feats. Bang! OD&D. Want a more variable combat system? Allow the defender to roll a d20 and add his bonuses instead of taking 10 on his defense every time. Want group init? Then do it. We all house-rule the rule like crazy, and yet we complain endlessly about The Rules. 5E will be successful, in my eyes, if they can present the CORE of the game and then everything else as options. For example:

Combat Option 1: d20+bonus vs defenders d20+bonuses.
Combat Option 2: d20+bonuses vs defender "Take 10"+bonuses.
Combat Option 3: "Take 10"+bonuses vs defender d20+bonuses.
All 3 have different flavors. Option 2 is OD&D. Option 1 is more swingy. Option 3 might be more cinematic.

Group init or individual init. (with the advice that group speeds play and individual is more tactical.) Maybe group the options, so there's a 'tactical' set and a "fast play" set, and a "cinematic" set.

If they can design a game that FINALLY gets the gamer community to drop and house-rule, as a way of life, then they may be able to accomplish their goal of unifying everyone under "one" set of rules.



The public play-test got me thinking a lot about game design, and I finally 'got' 4E. It makes sense as a natural evolution of D&D and I stopped hating it. It just should have never been released. I'd like to talk about 2 mechanics in 4E: the At-will, Encounter, Daily and the STAT vs DEFENSE combat mechanic.


At Will, Encounters and Dailies have always been in D&D. Your at-will was an attack, swinging your sword or some such. A thief may have had an encounter power, like backstab, and Vancian spells can certainly be thought of as a daily. What 4E did was to recognize what the earlier versions of D&D were doing and codify that. Now backstab was explicitly listed as an encounter. No ambiguity as to when you could use it.

A sword blow was always (ok, AMOST always) STR vs AC. Missile were DEX vs AC. Feats in 3E made melee attacks DEX vs AC. Spells in 3E sometimes attacked FORT, or REF. If we stretch we can also say that earlier version included this mechanic: dwarves get better FORT bonuses in 1e … err, I mean poison saves. 4E recognized what was already naturally going on and simply codified it. It took the ambiguity out with the result being a much cleaner rule system. Both of these represent a natural evolution of the D&D system, evolving from idiosyncratic mechanisms (d6 init, low AC/THAC0, % thief skills and d6 open door rolls) in to a core system that makes sense in 3E and 4E. No more multiple die types for many rolls, just a d20+ bonus … and you could take 10 on many of those rolls.

For example: a martial attack is d20+bonus vs AC. AC is 10+ bonuses. In essence, you take 10 on a defense roll all the time. For spells in 3E the attacker set the DC by adding a bonus to 10, with the defender making a save by rolling a d20+bonus. This was the exact opposite of how a martial attack worked, but both are really a sub-case of a single rule: you roll a d20+bonus and try to roll higher than a d20+bonus. In some cases you can take 10 on the roll. That's amazing and I can't believe I just now picked up on it.

I have a hard time believing ANY player of ANY version of D&D, from OD&D to 4E can take exception with those two mechanics, and their evolution. The 'Breath Weapon' saves and descending AC might be treasured from a nostalgia standpoint but I can't see how anyone could defend them as specifically supporting a certain play style, unless it was the OBFUSCATING style. (But, I am willing to listen to you if you can articulate it.)


In other thoughts: 4E gimped the exploration element of the game by removing resource management as a game play element. Exploration always has a timer attached. Wandering monsters. Lair reinforcements and new traps. Etc. By removing a timed element you gimp the Cause & effect play of explorations. Your actions no longer have consequences if you don't have to worry about resources. This is why tracking light and food is so important, as if the healing rate and wandering monster checks. The longer you spend in a dungeon the greater the chance you're gonna die from a wandering monster, or your light will run out, or so on.

All in all, I think 4E made at least one critical sin and maybe two or three. First: it put the game design RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. DAILY. ENCOUNTER. AT WILL. SURGE. STR VS DEX. INT vs WILL. This is something that only an SPI game designer could love. It looked like board game rules. The fluff surrounding the rules were terrible, or just ignored completely. This overly regimented rule system extended to the character sheets, where you had page after page of powers, poorly laid out, with mountains of text for eve the most simple of things. This slavish devotion to form and the 4E writers style guide turned the game in to "hunt for the power" instead of Doing Cool Things. This horrible layout & rules style was reinforced by the official products. Modules & Encounters had the same mechanistic layout and style. It was hammered in that this was the right way to play the game. And people left this over-powered mechanistic version for the OSR, or Pathfinder.

This concludes my random thoughts on game design theory and modularity.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
All in all, I think 4E made at least one critical sin and maybe two or three. First: it put the game design RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. DAILY. ENCOUNTER. AT WILL. SURGE. STR VS DEX. INT vs WILL. This is something that only an SPI game designer could love. It looked like board game rules. The fluff surrounding the rules were terrible, or just ignored completely. This overly regimented rule system extended to the character sheets, where you had page after page of powers, poorly laid out, with mountains of text for eve the most simple of things. This slavish devotion to form and the 4E writers style guide turned the game in to "hunt for the power" instead of Doing Cool Things. This horrible layout & rules style was reinforced by the official products. Modules & Encounters had the same mechanistic layout and style. It was hammered in that this was the right way to play the game. And people left this over-powered mechanistic version for the OSR, or Pathfinder.

This concludes my random thoughts on game design theory and modularity.

Well said. I like 4th ed but there is is certainly truth in what you say here. At one level I appreciate that 4th was up front about these game elements, but as you say they can rob the game of mystery and lead to a sheer hunt for power. They also prioritize certain play styles.

That said I still did cool things in 4th ed - in fact I have done and seen cooler things done in 4th that in previous edition. I cant help but feel (reading on these forums) that some of the mechanistic elements you point to stopped people from thinking about using them in cool ways. In this sense any system can be used imaginatively given the right DM and group.
 

bpauls

Explorer
Also, of note: your reasoning for sticking to your NDA has very much softened my attitude to the whole business -- I initially felt very much that WotC was simply yanking chains as a marketting move with the NDA thing, but your explanation has made me rethink that. Thanks.

I really appreciate your kind words about where I am coming from on the NDA.

I know different people have different perspectives on this, but for the most part, everyone has been cool about the fact that I can't talk details...

I'm really anticipating the public playtest--I want to get some other perspectives on what I saw over the weekend.
 

DMKastmaria

First Post
I have a hard time believing ANY player of ANY version of D&D, from OD&D to 4E can take exception with those two mechanics, and their evolution. The 'Breath Weapon' saves and descending AC might be treasured from a nostalgia standpoint but I can't see how anyone could defend them as specifically supporting a certain play style, unless it was the OBFUSCATING style. (But, I am willing to listen to you if you can articulate it.)

Saves.

Here's my go-to example. Let's look at a Poison Save, caused by a spider-bite. In 1e, the narration of a poison save didn't have to be tied to CON.

A Fighter might indeed shrug it off, physically.

A Thief, might have quickly snatched himself out of harms way, the HP damage, being now considered as non-physical.

A Cleric, might get by on sheer faith. Like St. Paul, at Patmos.

An MU might scratch a sigil into the dirt and call upon the demon lord of spiders to negate the poison.

3e style saves were too narrow, for my tastes. Interestingly enough, the direction 5e is heading would allow for the narrative freedom, I would prefer.
 

Hussar

Legend
Saves.

Here's my go-to example. Let's look at a Poison Save, caused by a spider-bite. In 1e, the narration of a poison save didn't have to be tied to CON.

A Fighter might indeed shrug it off, physically.

A Thief, might have quickly snatched himself out of harms way, the HP damage, being now considered as non-physical.

A Cleric, might get by on sheer faith. Like St. Paul, at Patmos.

An MU might scratch a sigil into the dirt and call upon the demon lord of spiders to negate the poison.

3e style saves were too narrow, for my tastes. Interestingly enough, the direction 5e is heading would allow for the narrative freedom, I would prefer.

Joke

But... But... This is Schroedinger's Saving Throws...

/Joke
 


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