Saturday, May 26, 2012

RPG Thoughts: D&D Next Playtest Stuff

RPG Thoughts; D&D Next Playtest Stuff

As I have mentioned, I got the D&D Next Playtest stuff. Took me awhile to look through and figure out what I needed to so here's what I wanted;

  "Notwithstanding the foregoing, you may publicly discuss your thoughts regarding the D&D Next Playtest Materials and your playtesting experience." 
-From the Playtest Agreement

That's what I needed to hear. That means I get to talk to all of you fine readers about my thoughts on it. Now, make no mistake, I can't stand 4th Edition. I hate it, and I make no bones about it. As I've said, its a fine RPG, but it ain't D&D. D&D Next seems at first glance exactly what they were looking to do, mesh all of the editions into a game that appeals to the majority of players. However, over at the WotC forums, all the 4th Ed players hate it-so I'm liking it for no other reason so far. So let me get a bit more indepth, and these are just my first impressions after reading the materials and just slaughtering my kids in two encounters. I am going to talk about this in depth in a couple different categories.

The Playtest Materials.
1. First off, they were hard to get to. While they were released on Thursday, due to bad servers and demand, I got 404 errors until Friday morning. This seems to have resolved itself, mainly due to demand dying down, but it was a raw deal. When doing an open play test like this, you should expect TONS of demand.
2. The set up. The packet itself was a .zip with a bunch of files in it. Overall it was around 125 pages of material. Me, being, me, I had them printed at Fedex office (AKA Kinkos), though it seems they raised their prices, and it cost me nearly 15 bucks to print it all. I can read rules off the computer screen, but actually running an adventure, I need to have something tangible in front of me. 
3. While it was bare bones, it was neatly presented, and the info was relatively easy to find with a little flipping. While I am not too enthused over the way that some of the info was presented, it wasn't a deal breaker. 
4. B-2! While it is missing the 'Keep' part of 'The Keep on the Borderlands' it is an old school adventure. That's some classic game there. It makes me happy that it came back. It is just the 'Caves of Chaos' it was a nice nod to those of us who have been playing forever. 

The Characters.
1.  The playtest packet only contained the four basic classes (Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, and Cleric). However, they did have two different character builds for clerics. Now, there were NO character creation rules, and all the characters were pre-generated. I suspect that there will be a character creation play test at some later point.
2. The character sheets were good...sort of. There were a lot of places that are still behind the curtain, so to speak, so there were things that weren't properly explained. Just going off what is on the sheet, there were some things (like damage modifiers) that I couldn't fathom how they got to. There seems to be a Base Attack Bonus or To Hit Armor Class Zero in there somewhere, but it wasn't specifically called out, or explained. 
3. While each sheet described how to level each character, there was no choice in the matter. I think this goes back to this is the 'combat' or 'monster' playtest, not the character one.
4. Hit Points are set instead of random. However, you can take a ten minute break and use your hit dice to regain some hit points. Its a nice change, it rather splits the difference between the no self healing of previous editions and the 'healing surges' of 4th.
5. Cantrips and Orisons (Sp?) are now at will spells. That's awesome, except for the fact that magic missile like it existed in 1-3.X is at will. WTF? Seriously a group that spammed wizards would be nigh-unstoppable. Seriously, if you have four wizards, that's 8 damage minimum guaranteed to hit every round with a max of 20. That's hardcore. 

The Rules.
Before Listing things, I want to talk a bit about the rules. There weren't very many of them, and many of them are basically slight variations of the same things that are in every edition. So I wanted to mainly talk about those things that are either A) Entirely New or B) New to Me.
1. Advantage/Disadvantage. This is one of the simplest yet most effective game mechanics I've ever come across. Basically, you roll 2d20, and if you are at an advantage, you take the higher, and if you are at disadvantage, you take the lower. It's simple, its clean, and its easy for everyone to get after about two tries. 
2. Long Rest. If you take a long rest of 8 hours (IE go to sleep), you regain all of your hit points and magic back. Now, this upset some people, but I disagree. While I have not house ruled this, my PCs basically have always practiced this. Go fight, get hurt, return to base, heal. Get up, heal again if necessary, if not at full compliment of spells, take the day off. Get up, go back to fighting with full HP and full magic. This basically takes that extra day or two out of the equation. I have a feeling that many people probably already house-ruled this, OR their PCs were doing the same things mine were. In this edition whenever a PC goes to sleep I'm going to do the Do-do-duedue-DUE from Final Fantasy. There's fluff that basically states that your HP is not actual wounds, but your exhaustion from battle or whatnot, but really it doesn't need to be justified. 
3. Themes and Backgrounds. These I believe are being brought from 4th ed, and I actually kind of like it. Background is nice, its basically an in-game back story that gives you an actually crunch thing. Themes though, I'm slightly wary of. Right now, it seems like a nod to 4th where everyone has a set party role (Defender, Striker, er, other stuff). I'm not a fan of the set party role. Without more character stuff, I'm not sure what this is really going to be like.
4. Simplify by diversification. Ability modifiers are MUCH more important in this game. There's no specific saving throws, its all by ability modifier. Then there is no scaling in the Difficulty Class for saves dependent on level. Then skills are all set at a certain rank. Skill rank+ability modifer+d20 is what you roll, that being said, I don't think that the DCs of skill tests are going to get ridiculously high.
5. No More Hand Holding. There's no sliding scale of appropriate encounters like there was in 3.X and 4. There are monsters, and you will not be able to beat them all. Run away. This is very old school. Each Monster has XP, no indication of what threat level they are. Learn quick.
6. Death Threshold. I really like this change. It went from -10 to Con+level. The stabilization rules are also more streamlined, and include a penalty for not succeeding. The flip side of that is that healing magic ignores those negative hit points, which is kinda dumb given how easy it is to get back up to full HP.

My Issues.
Again, I want to stress this is a playtest, and there's a bunch I'm missing, but I still think I need to talk about this stuff.
1. Armor As Treasure. There's a ton of armor as treasure in this adventure. Especially like platemail (Room 27, 16). In previous editions it was handled one of two ways. In 1st and 2nd it was clearly spelled out that to use heavy armor like that, it had to be made to order. In third edition it was good for a particular body shape (elf, or dwarf). In this case, which is it? The availability of those heavy armors could be a huge difference in the game, especially since it is better armor then what the PCs have to start with.
2. Where's pick pocket? The Rogue has a 'stealth' skill, but that seems more like being sneaky rather then dipping your hand into someone else's coin purse.
3. The kobolds in the module do 1d4+2 damage with a dagger, but in the bestiary they do 1d4-2 damage with a dagger. Which one is the typo?  An argument could be made for either type.
4. Light. The rules for light were simplified down to bright light, shadowy, and dark, the game really does not go into how much of a difference that makes. Shadowy seems to exist as a way to allow Rogues to hide in shadows, but there really aren't any more penalties for it. It says that it makes everything 'lightly obscured' but there is no real definition for what 'lightly obscured' means. Does it mean I can't target something in shadows with magic missile or what? I like only having three light levels, it makes it simpler, but there needs to be some clearer rules for what those light levels mean.
5. Technically, to play this, you MUST sign up for the playtest. This is a pain in my ass. I tried to get my eldest kid signed up to make it all kosher, but to sign up, I would have needed to send in a parental approval thing by snall mail or fax. What? C'mon! Let me sign the damn thing online, especially since I am a member myself! Stupid.

Well, that's all I got so far. I'll probably have more as I go along.

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