|5e Playtest - well, as much as I can show you legally.|
I looked around and said:
"Hey, I've got D&D Next in the trunk of my car."
I tried to keep a straight face, but failed. The statement was met with raucous laughter. You probably had to be there.
I said it as a joke, but I also said it to gauge the reaction to 5e at the Con. Most of the people I talked to had no interest in Fifth Edition D&D. Well, many had signed up for the playtest, but the interest waned there, and they ignored the pdf package when it was released. There were some, though, who actually participated. Interestingly enough, they universally liked it.
That's not scientific polling or anything, but it is food for thought.
I've run 5e twice. The first was a 'meet and greet' with the rules. I ran The Boy through a dungeon that I made up on the fly so I could get the mechanics down before rolling out the playtest proper. If I can't run a game system by pulling an adventure out of my ass, then it's dead to me already.
The boy picked two characters to run with - the Human Cleric and the Dwarf Fighter.
The pre-game ran really well - I liked the mechanics from what I saw. My big issue was with the characters themselves. The cleric was a laser cleric - pyu-pyu-pyu-ing all over the place. Okay, it's a different kind of cleric than in *my* D&D, I get that. Still, it felt funny.
What I REALLY did not like was the fact that the fighter could not miss. The fighter's Reaper feat meant that even with a miss, the fighter still did it's ability score modifier in damage - 3 hp in this case. That's melee AND ranged.
No. Nuh-uh. That is so wrong on so many levels. Do I really need to spell it out to WOTC? Do I need to explain how ridiculous that is?
Interestingly, those that I mentioned it to at the con had not noticed that little feature of the fighter.
One thing about DMing 4e for over two years taught me is to pay close attention to the rules. I mean, how can you bitch about something properly if you don't know what you are bitching about? :)
The Boy, however, absolutely LOVED the Laser Cleric and the Never-Missing Fighter.
So, the night before I attended a Con dedicated to old school gaming, I ran the D&D Next playtest. That, in itself, ishilarious. Well, to me, anyway.
Crazy-Ass Tim has detailed the adventure on his blog here. Go read. I'll wait.
Okay, we're back.
|4e Caves of Chaos - Pretty embarrassing eh?|
The Advantages/Disadvantages mechanic was fun and simple to implement. It was a little hard to think with, because for three decades, I've been translating what is going on at the table into percentages in my head - kind of like Neo does with swirly green characters in the Matrix. Calculating percentages with the 2d20 thing in Next is something I still haven't got down yet.
I play 'theater of the mind,' but movement needs to be looked at, I think. Being able to move before and after an action is great. It allows for wonderful sniping. But the absence of an opportunity attack leaves a lot of holes. I am not a big fan of the opportunity attack in 4e, mind you, but the characters have free range over the battlefield and can rush forward, attack, and rush back out of melee range time and time again. It's kind of an annoying little dance. I don't know what the solution for it is, though. Perhaps Disengage as a full action? I don't know.
I think one of the most surprising things is how Crazy-Ass Tim's fiancee reacted in the game. She's never played an RPG before. It frustrated her. Not the game mechanics. She got those right off the bat. She was frustrated with the other players themselves. I'm paraphrasing here, but she said something to the effect of "You guys are complete idiots who cannot think tactically on the battlefield to save your lives."
And she was right.
The halfling was too busy stealing stuff during combat to be useful. The wizard ran up to AN OGRE to get into melee range so that he could deliver a shock grasp - then was summarily pounded into the ground. Players stood motionless in the doorways of rooms full of archer goblins that were hiding behind overturned tables.
Two players were brought down under zero hit points. In OD&D, they would be flat out dead, and most likely, the whole thing would have been a TPK.
D&D Next is far more forgiving. Now whether that is a problem or not is a very subjective matter. But the hp inflation is not too bad, (I'm comparing to 4e) so making it more deadly would be a pretty simple house rule on the Death and Dying mechanics. So I don't see it as a problem. And, from what I've heard, WOTC is reworking hit points, so hopefully they'll reduce the safety net a bit more. Well, I would hope.
The at-will spells were a bit much for me too. I don't necessarily think that the low level magicians and clerics should be more combat effective, or even equal to, the fighters. Their power should be in having bizarre spells that create strange effect so that they have to use their imaginations to come up with nifty solutions to wacky problems. Not until they reach higher levels should they be as combat effective - casting spells like Remiehneppo's Thermonuclear Blast. Sorry, that's just how I roll.
Having four days of old school gaming right after than has let me contrast and compare a lot. Especially since I played OD&D with Tim Kask on Saturday. Comparing 5e with some real, honest to goodness 0e from the horse's mouth (or whatever part of the horse Tim represents,) has been enlightening. there is a lot to argue about, but I think that it all comes down to the point that the mechanics should not get in the way of the kind of game you want to play. If they do, then the game is broken - FOR YOU. It's a highly personal thing. You can fix it, or move on.
For me, the make-break for D&D Next will probably lie in character creation and ability advancement - specifically the Themes mechanic, and how spells are handled. Those are some pretty damn contentious areas. We'll see what happens.
So, after the session was over, I was packing up my things and thinking about the next game I'd be running in the same timeslot - Champions. Suddenly the players asked me a question.
"So when are we going to play this next?"
I was taken aback. We already had a whole host of things in our 'gaming queue' to get to. Gamer ADD is a harsh mistress.
"Well, okay then, we can just continue with the Caves of Chaos in this same slot then," I chuckled.
Crap - I hope WOTC starts releasing playtest material faster. Otherwise, I just might have to pull out Labyrinth Lord. ;)