Playtester Profile with Kalex the Omen
Why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about you and your history with D&D, what you're playing now, and anything else you want people to know about you?
My name is Alex Karaczun. I am 45 and live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with my brilliant and lovely wife, and our incredibly cute pup Zoe. I work in Information Technology, though my schooling is in English and Creative Writing. I’ve been playing D&D since 1979, and have played virtually every edition since the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (6th Printing). I’ve played over a hundred different systems by other companies. Everything from Champions (Hero System) and Traveller (the other two of the original three RPGs), to FASAs Star Trek, Star Wars d6, Strombringer, Call of Cthulhu, G.U.R.P.S., and Amber diceless, The list literally goes on, and on. Since the early to mid-80s, my friends and I have tried our hands at system design with varying degrees of success. Our current project is looking more and more like it will see the light of day (shameless plug). I have been almost exclusively a Dungeon Master for the past 30 years. I currently am running a 4e campaign set in the Nentir Vale, and using mostly published modules (The Slaying Stone, Reavers of Harkenwold, Cairn of the Winter King, Madness at Gardmore Abbey, and then on into the Chris Perkins “Giants” remakes). I have been designing a new campaign world for a couple of years now called Vaereth, and a setting in the world tentatively called “The Twelve Kingdoms.” I am waiting to see if I will want to develop it for 5th Edition/Next.
What do you think of the D&D Next playtest so far?
I am very heartened by the deliberate and patient approach that the development team is taking so far. It appears that they are listening to the community without giving away their ownership of the design process, which I think is very important. I’ve really enjoyed deconstructing the playtest materials, and running a few playtest sessions to see how it plays.
The newest updates to the playtest introduced the Sorcerer and the Warlock. What do you think of how they're shaping up?
I like them as alternatives to the standard Wizard. As a big fan of the Vancian casting, low hit point, Magic-User of days past; I think it is important to keep that aspect of the game alive. For me resource management is fun. For those who don’t like that aspect of casters, I think the Sorcerer and Warlock will present viable alternatives with a bit more development.
Is there something in the current playtest that you just don't feel is working right? How would you change for a future playtest update?
I still don’t think the hit points are quite right yet. Packet one was probably one extreme, but packet two has swung too far in the direction of the other extreme. Somewhere in the middle would probably be just about right.
From a DM perspective, what do you think about the monsters in the playtest so far? Anything you'd change, or any monsters you're really looking forward to?
The monsters are just okay at this point. I’m really glad that they are easy to run and combat is speedy, but I’d like to see things go even more in the direction of 4e monsters. I think, with all its flaws, monsters were something 4e got right. I want to be able to scale monsters with the same kind of ease I found in 4e, and I want monster creation to be a snap. One thing I hated (I cannot stress enough the loathing I had for this) about 3e monsters was the very long time it took to create something unique. You had to build them like characters all the way up to the level you wanted, and make sure they had all the prerequisites for the feats you wanted them to be able to perform. Arghhh! I get stressed just remembering it. I think the playtest is on the right track though, we can see the station, but were not there yet. What monsters am I looking forward to? Well dragons of course, and I’d love to see the resurrection of some old monsters like the aspis (from perhaps my favorite D&D module of all time, A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity), and iconic D&D monsters like the beholder.
What other things are you noticing from the DM side of the screen?
Combat is quick! This too is something I cannot stress enough. While I am a huge proponent of tactical or grid combat (we have been playing on a grid with miniatures since around 1981), combats with each new edition have been taking steadily longer. 4e was the biggest culprit in this. I also notice that with the return of definite flavor in class entries there has been more excitement about playing classes (even ones a player usually avoids), and more role-playing of that flavor in and out of combat. While I tend to agree that mechanically enforced flavor is not for everyone, I do like to see it as long as any mechanical aspects are easily removed and balance inconsequential. In fact, the flavor is inspiring me to make tweaks to my developing campaign world/setting I mentioned above.
Is there a particular class you're looking forward to in a future packet?
Avenger! Well at least I hope classes like that will eventually make their way into the new edition. Actually all through my early years as a player I was a big Magic-User kind of guy. So I am quite happy to see that the Vancian caster is back.
Any words of wisdom you want to leave for other playtesters?
Just to keep feedback positive, and brief. I’m sure the developers don’t have time to go through every 1,000+ post thread looking for pearls of wisdom. Have fun, and enjoy!