Thursday, May 24, 2012

Executive Summary, Top-Level, First-Impression of DnD Next

Takeaway: If you like 3.x, you're going to like DnD Next.

This game is an incredibly obvious response to the success of Pathfinder, and a repudiation of 4E (not that I think that's necessarily a Bad Thing). I'm not seeing a lot of mechanical throwbacks to 1E (or 0E, for that matter), but the "background" and "theme" things for the characters are evocative of character kits from 2E. There is a goodly amount of OSR "feel" to the books, though, that's hard to put my finger on. With rules sections in the DM book with headings like "Ignoring the Dice", and instructions to the effect that the DM is responsible for setting the DC for most actions, I get a good feeling, at least on that level.

Stat checks with Difficulty Class (DC) are literally the first rule in the playtest rulebook. Skills predominate, and from what I can tell classes and races are simply skill bundles that overlap with one another. Again, not necessarily a Bad Thing, but definitely more 3.x than 1E/2E. (Although people familiar with Dangerous Journeys/Mythus will find the concept quite familiar.)

One thing I'm a little queasy about is the notion that every character can potentially find and remove traps, pick locks, etc. What's a thief left to do, other than hide in shadows and backstab? I like the idea that the thief (ugh... okay... rogue) is a specialist with a specific role in dealing with traps and other barriers, rather than just being a "sneaky fighter". But that, as I understand it, is a 3.x re-interpretation of the rogue. So be it.

You don't die at 0 hit points (yay!). Rather, once you're at 0 or under, you make a saving throw (yes, there are saving throws-- yay again!); failure means you take an additional 1d6 h.p. damage. You reach a negative h.p. total equal to your CON plus your level, you're not only merely dead, you're really most sincerely dead.

There are rules for social interactions, allowing players who aren't quite at home talking in character to roll dice instead. I have no problem with that, and in fact did something similar with ADD.

I don't really see the mechanics that, as promised early on in the design process, allow the "rules heavy" player to play alongside the "rules light" player seamlessly. Perhaps that's just because this is an admittedly rudimentary and fragmentary version of the rules, but for me that was one of the chief design features, and I find myself still keenly wondering how they're going to pull it off. Unless it's been set aside.

One bit of awesomeness: PIG FACED ORCS!

On the whole, I'm not disappointed. It's certainly not the train-wreck that 4E was, from my point of view. I'll look forward to actually taking it for a spin at the table to get a better feel for the thing.

102 Places for Free Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Online

While you're waiting for the Wizards of the Coast servers to recover from their self-inflicted DoS attack, you might want to peruse this list of 102 places for free science fiction and fantasy books online. And they're all legal, apparently. Wowzers!

DnD Next Playtest Begins

I'll have a more in-depth review of the materials once I've had a chance to digest them, but one piece of good news is that there is (explicitly) no NDA. Indeed, the confidentiality portions of the NDA that first-round playtesters had to sign is now rescinded.