Hullo, Gentle Readers. As I’m sure you’re all aware, the good folks at Wizards of the Coast have entered the public playtest phase of gearing up for what everyone’s calling D&D Next. I got to participate a bit in the D&D Next playtest by running 2 games of it at PAX East (as previously related), so I already had a pretty strong idea of what I would see when I downloaded the updated playtest packet.
Now, as I said before, I enjoyed the playtest. I feel like the new version of the game is solid, contains a lot of what makes D&D the game I love, and is fast and easy to play.
So I find myself considering why I’m not exploding to run more of it. My friends want to play it. I want to give them what they want, but I just find myself saying “Yeah, we’ll have to do that sometime.”
Part of it is simple reality. I’m an incredibly busy person. Beyond my normal weekly games, I’ve been doing a full time job, helping to run a LARP, helping to write a Ren Faire, working on a novel, etc. Add to that a social life and a love of travel, and you may understand why I’m not leaping up to run more games.
But there’s more to it than that, and I want to take a look at what it might be.
I Love 4E
When the announcement for 4E came, I sighed in relief. I was years into my 3/3.5 game at that point, and the game was bogging down. I knew it had flaws, and, although I was still enjoying my campaign, I looked forward to something to something new.
This is a different situation. I’m 1.5 years into my 4E campaign and having an absolute blast. I love 4E, and I don’t feel the same burning need to get away from running it that I did when I was running 3. I’m gaming with people I really enjoy gaming with. The group has great chemistry. All of these things are contributing to my lack of enthusiasm.
I Want my Tactical Rules
The current version of the D&D Next Playtest is the “Core”, the rules that various “rules modules” can be attached to in order to make it as complex or as simple as you want. They’re great rules…very solid, but so fast and easy that you can run a fight without a single mini, grid, or terrain prop.
And I LOVE minis, grids, and terrain props.
I have it on good authority that there is a more “Tactical” oriented version of the rules in the works…a version that needs a grid, that deals with facing, attacks of opportunity, and the like.
While I’m all in favor of supporting players who want to play in the “Theater of the Mind” style, I want my tactics. I want an excuse to pull out grids, maps, miniatures, 3-D terrain, props, and so on. Until I have access to that, I won’t really have a version of D&D that feels like D&D the way I have most enjoyed playing it.
I Want More Than the Basics
Right now, the playtest consists of a handful of classes and races. I won’t say what they are (since I’m not sure what does and does not violate my NDA), but if you know D&D, you can probably guess. Even the playtest we played at PAX East included sample characters than included races and classes outside of these, so I’m not sure why WotC is holding back on this.
And in a way, part of me loved the crazy class/race proliferation of 4E. I may be slightly biased since my campaign has a rather eclectic mix of races (including shifter, minotaur, and shardmind) and classes (including warlock, warden, and psion). None of them feel like they don’t belong in my world. I want options; I don’t want my options curtailed. I *like* the Seeker and the Runepriest. And while people may feel they didn’t get a lot of love in terms of downloadable content, they’re very playable classes right out of the PHB3.
Now, without getting specific, there are hints in the PAX East playtest packet of some of the more exotic classes…references to uncommon and rarer classes with some of them named. Races, however…well…not much mention of that.
I want to see robust and interesting choices and options for this game. Those choices and options are what made it possible for me to take my friend Sam’s request to play a robot warrior-wizard and hand her a Warforged Warlock that she loved playing. Right now, the D&D Next playtest feels more like D&D Basic or the original White Box D&D, rather than the AD&D that I grew up with and loved. It’s an odd feeling to me, and it puts me off a little.
To Sum Up
I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m not excited for D&D Next. I absolutely am. What I’m feeling a little uncertain of is my excitement over the playtest process. Yes, I want to be a part of it, and it seems like, from the changes I’m hearing about, other fans of 4E are making their voices heard…more options for fighters in combat, healing not taking the place of your attack action, and so on. I just wish there were more substance to what we’re being invited to playtest. I know this isn’t the complete game, but it feels so incomplete at this point that it’s hard for me to be enthusiastic.
Of course, having written this article, I may have gotten that off my chest and changed my own mind.
Hmm. Maybe I need to schedule a playtest session soon…
Have you participated in the playtest yet? Without being too specific, what did you think? Are you feeling the same way I am, or am I off my rocker? Let us all know.