Like most, I was worried. I mean, it’s the new edition. It could swing either way on the terrible-amazing pendulum. And much of anyone’s opinion on the system lies on personal preference of course. The word is that the DnD community forums are rife with outrage, but I wasn’t willing to poke the hornet nest. Let me explain my own feelings on the matter.
First of all, I’d like to say that I’m easy. I don’t ‘rage’. Even now, I am sitting in an armchair and listening to smooth jazz. Am a generally relaxed person. And that’s the approach I brought in when I was reading the playtest. I will admit – I like it. There’s some things that still worry me – but I do like it.
The most attractive part in the new system for me is DM empowerment. What is this? Well, empowerment, in roleplaying, is a term that denotes who has a stronger command of the game, the players or the DM. In 4th edition, players held empowerment through a heavily structured system where rules answered most questions. Any time a DM made a decision, he could be challenged by a player stating that “that’s not what the rules say”, or “you can’t do that, that’s not in the rules.” DnD Next favors DM empowerment, presenting a less structured approach and letting the adjudicator be the decision maker. Some will hate this, I know. Some people will fear the return of killer DMs – if you have one, please stop playing with him – that’s not what roleplaying is about. I believe that roleplaying is a communal, social storytelling experience, where the players and DMs contribute equally and share a symbiotic relationship, coupled with the rules of a tabletop game. In this situation a DM is an adjudicator, but he is also a friend. He knows what he’s doing (hopefully) and he needs the subtle shift in power to make sure he can keep the game in check. A few times I had players that must have suffered some DM abuse – their mental scars were still showing. They would cry out, “that’s not fair, you’re gunning for my character.” I guess there will always be players like that, using that statement as their “Get out of a dungeon untouched and unscathed” card. I wonder how DnD Next will work out for them (sidenote: most of my players are not scarred by DM abuse and are cheerful outgoing people that like a challenge).
The character creation seems simple. Whilst we don’t have the rules for it, the pregen character sheets speak for themselves. I especially like how backgrounds and themes work. Backgrounds effectively give you skill training, whilst themes give your character a role. That way we end up with a Dwarf Cleric whose theme is a Defender. Why not? I imagine that will open up some pretty interesting character concepts. The only thing that worries me in character creation is healing and hit dice. Gone are the days of healing surges, mostly because HP and damage seem to be at the core of the game (rather than to hit bonuses). What I’m afraid of is structuring issues, but hey, the game isn’t supposed to be so structured. I know my thoughts are a bit scattered here, but it’s mostly because I haven’t had a chance to run a DnD Next game yet. I imagine I’ll have a better understanding of how healing works after I do (on Monday!)
Improvise is a type of action – gotta love it!
It is only when you start to read through the adventure that things start falling into place. There are encounters with 25+ monsters. There are ones with 40+!! How do you defeat that? You don’t. There is no combat situation where a group of 5 level 1 adventurers can survive this. You have to think outside the box. The dungeon is alive, and ‘rooms’ can be influenced. You can set a trap and draw half the monsters out. You can stride in and demand to talk to the chief, seeking an alliance. You can start a fire and pick the monsters off one by one as they run out. The adventure is no longer shackled by the rigid structure of balanced encounter progression. DnD Next is your game – make it what you want it to be.
I won’t delve deeper into the rules. Why bother? Anyone can download them and read through them – and if you haven’t – you should! http://www.wizards.com/dnd/DnDNext.aspx