Getting to spend the weekend at DDXP was an absolute blast. I was lucky enough to play great games, hang out with awesome people, and generally have a good time. I had so many individual experiences that were great that to try and do them justice here would be a losing proposition. So, I’ve settled on what I think where three of the high points of the convention.
1. D&D Next
At the top of my list was the chance I had to play D&D Next. Now, to get to play this in-the-works system, I had to sign an NDA, which means that I won’t be able to talk about any specific mechanics that haven’t already been talked about by Wizards of the Coast. That having been said, there were three seminars about D&D Next over the course of the weekend, and I live-tweeted them all. You can coast back through my Twitter feed if you want, or you can do the easy thing and read through the transcriptions of the seminars over at ENWorld.
Now that your brain is inundated with information, let me tell you about my experience with D&D Next.
In short, I loved it.
There is emphasis that is being placed on using ability scores as the expression of what the character really is. By using the ability scores to determine how the character can interact with the world, you stop being penned in by the skills that you’ve got. You can really try anything. You always could do that, I know, but the system seemed to encourage you to try whatever it seemed like your character would do in a given situation.
This focus seemed to accomplish what the design team talked about in the 3rd seminar: empower the players. I had some folks on Twitter who were worried about that when they read that bit yesterday. From my fingers to your eyes: don’t be. The thing that empowered me as a play was the character and the mechanics behind that character. My character was fully realized, had a fleshed-out background, a lot of stuff that he was good at, and seeing those things made me feel empowered to try and use them. I played into my own mechanical weaknesses (i.e. low ability scores, not mechanical flaws) and I had a fantastic time. I had a very clear understanding of who my character was, how his ability scores represented what he was good at, and bad at, and that gave me the power as a play that I needed to do some amazingly cool stuff in the narrative.
Oh, the narrative. The design team has said that they think the core of D&D is found in the interactions between players and the DM. This was completely true in my experience. One of the goals of the design team is to empower DMs, and to show them how to be better DMs. It seems like the seeds are there to see that happening.
I love game sessions driven by narrative, and I love feeling like I can truly express my character within the confines of both the system and the roleplay of a given session. I got that in my playtest. If you’re a fan of a particular brand of D&D, do not think that any of what I have said means that you won’t be able to play the game your way. If you want to focus totally on mechanics and optimization, and throw a tactical combat movement module into the works so you’ve got something that you can play like D&D 4e, I have every faith that you will be able so to do. This really could end up being a D&D for everyone. If the design team sticks to their goals, I think we’ll see that happen.
Lords of Waterdeep
I’m not usually what I consider to be a board game kind of guy. I don’t dislike them, but if given the option with a group of interested friends, I’ll take an RPG over a board game. So, it surprised me when I fell in love with Lords of Waterdeep. It’s not out yet (about a month or so away), but I hope to secure a copy for review purposes here on TiMG.
The game is gorgeous. It depicts a map of the city of Waterdeep, which feels like it could be used in a roleplaying session somehow, if you were of a mind to do so. The mechanics are easy to grok, as is the strategy, which is important for me. It has Euro-style game leanings, and in similar games, I usually don’t get hold of a strategy until at least 2/3 of the way through the game. I act on instinct. In Lords, that served me well, as I won two of the three games of it that I got to play.
I don’t want to gush about it tooo much, as that would leave me little to review, but suffice it to say that this RPG nerd was stunned by how fun that game was.
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
I know what you’re thinking: Marvel? A Cortex-based game at DDXP? Well, we all have varied interests, and the esteemed Dave Chalker had done work on Marvel Heroic, so he offered to run it for us. Much like with D&D Next, the game’s not out yet, so I can’t delve into the mechanics, but what I can say is this: I felt like a freaking super hero. I was able to undertake any action that I thought would be narratively appropriate, and the mechanics backed me up in full. It flowed well, and I was excited during the session in ways that I’ve never been excited during games of Mutants & Masterminds. Both are great games, but where M&M astounded me technically, Marvel sang to me and won me over. I’m super-excited for Marvel’s upcoming release.
That Wraps It Up!
I want to close with a few points, specifically about D&D Next. This thing is a new edition, yes. It seems like it can accommodate the play styles of almost any kind of D&D player. Yet, I understand completely the fear and even anger that might be prompted by not just the release itself, but the content that has been seen and talked about so far.
I urge you, when you’re talking about D&D Next (or anything online, really), please do two things for me:
1. Stop, and think about how whatever you read makes you feel. Really. Think for a few minutes, especially if your reaction is huge and emotional.
2. Don’t attack anyone or anything with your words. State your dislike, or your fears all you want. But if you move from “this worries me because…” to “this is an abomination because…” then you’ve crossed the line into trolldom, and you need to check yourself.
This goes for the comments here. They’re going to be heavily moderated, and if all you have is defensive, wounded vitriol, we’re not interested. I’m feeling very positive about what I have heard, and I hope you are, too.
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. I write about RPGs like it's my job (man, I wish it were), and I am working on a campaign setting called Shadows of the Collegium. Also, I design games. You can find out more about me on Twitter, and about Shadows of the Collegium and my other games at sandandsteam.net.