However, vacations are just a little less awesome when a playtest download you’ve been waiting on since it’s announcement is scheduled to hit the internet on the day you leave on vacation. Of course, I’m speaking of the DnDNext Public Playtest which was released on May 24th, to those that signed up to receive it (you can still sign up to do the Playtest).
I managed to get the documents printed out (which included a player document, a DM document, an adventure module, “Caves of Chaos”, a monster document, and 5 pre-generated character record sheets), but I was unable to do much reading on it until recently. What follows is a basic first glance at the material and my initial impressions. Of course, the Playtest agreement prohibits me from quoting directly from these documents, so I’ll try to keep my statements as generic as possible. If you have signed up for the Public Playtest of DnDNext yourself, please feel free to follow along.
THE GOOD STUFF
The document is fairly brief for a game that can be fairly complex. I’ve spoken with folks that were involved in the Friends & Family Playtest, and it seems that it’s probably a quarter of the size of that original document. I know that part of the reason for that is that the public document didn’t have any character creation rules included. No worries there, but for now, I’m glad the document was fairly short. Easy to download and access.
The grognard in me is really keen to read the module, “The Caves of Chaos”. I remember this adventure from when I was in Junior High. It’s a dungeon crawl, but it’s varied enough that the encounters can change their nature every time you play. I have to say it’s a pretty good choice for play testing.
The new advantage/disadvantage mechanic. Roll an extra d20 regardless of which condition applies. Use higher roll if you have advantage, you lower roll if you have disadvantage. It’s a new mechanic (although the Avenger uses a similar one in 4e), so I’m really interested in seeing how it works out in game play. Others have done some hard math. I understand that depending on the DC of the challenge you’re rolling against, advantage/disadvantage gives you up to a +5/-5 swing (as opposed to +2/-2 the 4e advantage/disadvantage rules).
A “back to the basics” approach with pre-generated characters that represent the 4 basic races/classes in the game. Dwarf Fighter, Dwarf Cleric, Human Cleric, Halfling Rogue, & Human Wizard. Two clerics are included because they want to try to different approaches to the Cleric.
Ability scores are king. Everything is tied directly to ability scores now. I like this. Ability scores have always been a core part of the game, and it looks like these rules are specifically designed to function off those magical 6 abilities. The result is that each score really means something in terms of what your character can do. I like this.
Monsters look pretty interesting. While there are not a lot of what I would call really “exotic” creatures (the monster list only contains those monsters found in the Caves of Chaos adventure), I really like how they’ve combined a short stat block with a more lengthy explanation of what the monster is like. They’ve moved away from the laundry list of powers that made up the large blocks in 4e. Only game play will determine how that actually works out in reality, but I like what I see so far.
THE STUFF THAT MIGHT NOT BE SO GOOD
I’m using pretty forgiving of WotC, but I am having a hard time understanding why virtual playtesting isn’t allowed by the rules. Many game groups who wanted to participate in the Playtest now cannot, and I’m certain that is a great source of frustration. I particularly puzzling when (as I understand it) the Friends & Family Playtest had no such restrictions. I’m really hoping that WotC’s (Hasbro’s) legal department changes this rule.
I’m not sure I’m happy with the healing rules. Apparently, you take as many short rests as you’d like, assuming you have the hit dice to expend on healing. This seems excessive, but again, I haven’t tried this out in actual game play, so I don’t know why I feel like this is too much healing. Yeah, I know. It’s a vague “feeling”, I’ll report more on this when I know more.
Turn Undead seems incomplete. I’m not crazy about it being a spell, but that’s probably the grognard in me as well. There seems to be some confusion as to under what conditions the spell actually destroys undead, as the spell description seems to say it can in come cases.
I’m kind of glad that latter section is a short list. Again, this is a brief glance, and these were the things that stood out for me. I’m sure there are other problematic things in the various spells & monsters that won’t come to light until actual play. Of course, this is exactly what a playtest is about.
As the playtest continues, look for more updates on how things are going.
My name is Randall Walker and This Is My Game.
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.