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D&D Next Playtest

Keep Borderland

So last week I downloaded my copy of the D&D Next playtest and I’ve been reading it on and off since then. We are planning to start a playtest this week and I’m very keen to see how the rules hold up in actual play. I’ll be posting setting recap summaries as normal so you can follow the action almost live!

After a read through (or two), though, I’m happy to say that my overall view of the system as it stands is overwhelmingly positive. I’m delighted at the overall tone of the document which seems to harken back to an early style of play – one that is descriptive, fluid and simple! I also love that the document seems to be giving lots more power back  to the Dungeon Master – in several places it is written that “the DM decides.” I think that’s great and I also think that over the last ten years or so we’ve somewhat lost sight of the fact that the DM is actually in charge of the game.

Random things I love from my initial reading of the rules:

Electrum coins are back – and they have a cool backstory!

Magic is described as so rare and costly that (with the exception of scrolls and potions) it is very rarely bought and sold. My loathing of the magic shop phenomena is well known and I’m particularly happy about this design choice as I think it gives us a pretty big hint about the style of the core rules (and indeed the possible default setting).

The amount a backpack, sack and other containers can carry is noted. (I know this is deeply sad of me, you don’t need to point it out).

Combat seems to be very streamlined and quick to run. I like the economy of actions (you can do one move, another noteworthy action and other minor stuff as determined by the DM). A lack of attacks of opportunity and the ability to split your move up so you move before and after your other action is sure to make for interesting, mobile battles.

D&D Next already has GREYHAWK references in it! Don’t believe me? Take a look at the named orc tribes in the Bestiary part of the playtest packet.

It’s not all peachy, though:

I really don’t like the mechanic of the long rest – I understand that it’s there to facilitate play and suchlike, but I think it’s too unrealistic (and yes I am aware of the irony in my statement).

I don’t like at-will powers. I know they are essentially the same as cantrips and orisons in Pathfinder, but I dislike the idea of spellcasters being able to cast (essentially) an unlimited amount of magic. (In Pathfinder we’ve house ruled this to a number of cantrips or orisons equal to 4+ spellcasting ability modifier a day; with this system no one has ever run our of such minor magics, but at least it means that the PCs aren’t searching for magic every time they enter a new area or that occasionally the wizard actually has to draw his dagger.)

So that’s my initial, quick summary. I’ll have more thoughts later this week once we’ve had a crack at actually using the rules in play!

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Surely giving wizards et al a few at-will powers is a good thing? Don't you remember the bad old days when the poor old 1e wizard cast his one 1st level spell and then had to spend the rest of the day skulking at the back behind the cleric?

At-will spells like magic missile were one of the best things in 4e - glad they're sticking around, as it doesn't look like much else is :(

My favourite class was wizard in the Bad/Good Olde Days and I loved the resource management part of the class. But my main issue with at will powers (in D&D and Pathfinder) is that they really jar with me thematically. It makes magic way more commonplace - which I'm not a huge fan of.

I don't get why (in D&D Next) a wizard would ever use his dagger or quarterstaff given magic missile always hits.

I think there is a happy medium between one spell and spells + at wills. In Pathfinder we've kept cantrips and orisons (which are essentally at will powers) and simply limited people to 4+spellcasting stat modifier castings per day. Thus they still get loads of castings but don't detect magic every 5 ft. of the dungeon.

This is what really concerns me. I am very happy with at will magic and more abstract healing. I'm not sure D and D Next can make us both happy. I hope they can. Oh I also like the magic item shop, but I agree it doesn't belong in everyone's game.

I still hold out hope for their modular approach to the game, in that you can add or subtract stuff you don't like. Hopefully, they'll have "gritty" and "super-hero" versions!

But, you are right that it will be very hard to make everyone happy.

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