A wholly positive DM feedback from my first playtest of D&D Next



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I know for the most part that negative reviews are more interesting and more useful to game developers and critics, but I thought I would give my initial feedback even though it is nearly entirely positive.


 


Healing: One thing I really enjoyed was that healing spells are now available for level 1 characters across many different classes (Paladin, Ranger, Druid, Ranger and Cleric). As has been discussed a lot already, I think the whole ‘healer role / medic’ is a negative aspect of group play. In my group, I had a Ranger, Paladin, Druid, Wizard and Barbarian and they got along quite well for healing without a Cleric and this was a major bonus. I’ve never liked the whole ‘someone needs to be the cleric’ thing, and I thought this new set of rules opened up the game for players to be what they wanted rather than form the ‘proper’ team. This is a really good thing.


 


The short rest / long rest seemed a little overpowered at first, but since short rests require Hit Die and how much you heal remains random and PCs only get so many of them, I found I could shape things to keep it interesting by making it more difficult to achieve long rests.


 


Advantage / Disadvantage rule is very clean, fast, and interesting. I especially like how it can be brought about through story and roleplay as well as through rule mechanics. It also takes the place of a plethora of game rules / mechanics which were originally dealt with via math. Now, instead of counting bonuses, penalties and keeping a running number in mind, you simply take advantage or disadvantage.


 


Skill Die: I thought the skill die rule is a major improvement from previous editions. Rather than have a number crunching system that constantly inflates with leveling (requiring Difficulty Classes to inflate as well), skills are returned to what they were before: an increase in the chance of success. Every ability / skill attempt is a percentile toss within 100% masquerading as a d20 roll. Skills provide an additional percent bonus (d6 is a possible 10-60% bonus ) which remains a hefty but random bonus. Since every roll is open to failure within a d20 roll, I really like making skill bonuses random as well.


 


If a PC is going to roll poorly then this shouldn’t be undone by a high skill. If a PC thinks they are skilled enough to succeed outright, then why roll in the first place? In those cases a DM should allow an automatic success (taking the place of ‘taking 10’ or ‘taking 20’ and thus keeping skill checks simple but interesting).


 


This allows for the DM to avoid Difficulty Class inflation. That was one unnecessary complexity of pervious rules / other systems. Now a DC 20 task can remain what it is, instead of being turned into a DC 40 for higher level characters. I can understand how it would seem lousy coming from 3.X or Pathfinder because a PC seems weaker due to the randomness of a die roll whereas before they ‘had the power of a number’, but in the end I think it makes for great gameplay. Leaving it up to the random fall of the dice makes for interesting possibilities, I think.


 


I also really enjoyed that PCs choose only 4 skills and skill progression can be mapped in either increasing skill die proficiency or in adding more skills. Skills are still in the game, but they are not longer the WHOLE game, leaving things open to player innovation and roleplay. Now a player can think through a problem creatively rather than wonder ‘which skill do I roll’ in order to solve this problem; this works well to keep the game open to possibilities.


 


Spell slot separate from spell preparation is a really good improvement, giving spell casters a little more latitude without increasing their power too much.


 


Spell power via which spell slot is used is also a really great way to bring interesting power options for magic users (healing and offensive spells). I really like this because it gives the PC more options. I never enjoyed the metamagic feats and this provides a way for spell casters to be tactical in all their spells without feats.


 


The Cantrip powers for various classes worked well, giving certain magical attacks a flare even though they were a little weaker than normal attacks. I thought it worked well because it gave magical PCs a sense of magic, rather than just being a weaker unit who gets to blast a few sparks here and there.


 


Save versus Death system worked very well in my game. Two PCs were really close to dying and brought the room to a hush when they had to roll the tie breaker fifth and final death save and just barely made it. Things like this emphasise the game play rather than the rules which makes for terrific gaming experience. One PC died outright due to a lethal blow and although this was tragic, it really brought the tension to the game which everyone enjoyed, most of all the DM (me)!


 


The Barbarian resistances seemed a little overpowered but were balanced by the fact that he had to keep striking foes each turn. In the end I think it worked very well.


 


Character creation is well formulated and allows for players to create a unique and interesting character. Even if two players take the same class, there is still a large amount of variation which I really enjoyed as a DM. The whole business felt more like character creation was a chance to create something interesting rather than ‘unit function’ as it tends in other games / editions.


 


On the whole:


The thing I like the most about the playtest rules is that they provide an easy and light structure which does not limit the game play activities. This provides for complex possibilities and player choices (something that 3.X did really well) without the need for rule memorisation or a gargantuan character sheet (something that 3.X did poorly).


 


This is the thing I enjoyed the most as a DM: the world remained full of possibilities and very interesting from the simplest combat situation to the most complex social / roleplay moments. As the story unfolded, the PC reacted to the situation and the rules enhanced and added to their response actions rather than curbing it.


 


D&D Next set of rules sets the imagination free as opposed to formatting it to a specific structure and for that I say well done!



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It is nice to see positive feedback. One of the joys of this game is that it is easy for DM. If Next can encourage more people to DM then it will succeed.

Keep enjoying it. Cheers.

A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

I really agree with you and your feedback.  All my testing sessions have been lower level though, and my primary concern at this point is that character leveling looks rather lackluster, or even boring, for non magic users. 


There are lots of great character choices early on, but it seems like the choices really screech to a halt.  Hopefully this is due to the playtest nature of the playtest.  


But it's nice to see that I'm not the only DM out there enjoying the playtest rules and settings.      
I also agree with your assessment of the playtest and I wholeheartedly applaud some positive feedback.  I have been feeling frustrated with the sheer volume of negative bashing on these forums.  Any constructive feedback even if negative is worthwhile.  However the volume of straight up bashing without any substance than "I hate it, it sucks" is tiresome.  I feel many do not understand the term "Playtest"  maybe it should be called "Stress test".  The point a lot of the time (I think) is to present extremes and try to break the system so you can arrive at what works,does not, or has possibilities.  The framework or core seems to be settling closer into what does work as your summary nicely points out.  The recent Live streamed playtest and podcast after action debate, also shows that the team knows they are not there yet and are starting to think about working more on the math and fine tuning.
I agree.  I know I posed a playtest with my views but I do like most of the changes in the game.  Everyone likes the simplified fight mechanic (Attack with weapon vs. AC).  But like you said it is a playtest and I wanted to show some of the issues the players had with the system.  Overall I think there is a lot of positive in the changes for DnD Next.


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Skills provide an additional percent bonus (d6 is a possible 10-60% bonus ) which remains a hefty but random bonus. 



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Your math is a bit off-- d6 is a possible 5-30% bonus.  Not quite so hefty!  Other than that I agree with you.
Yeah, I've liked my experience with Next so far, overall. My first time being a GM and I've improved a lot since the first session.

My main quibbles have been a lack of detail on skills, spells, and monsters; but I don't find this surprising in a playtest packet. I've fallen back on my 3.5 books as needed, or google'd images of the relevant monster. 

 
Great feedback, and mostly in line with what I think. I reconsidered my views n the barbarian after reading your feedback. Not being able to hit drops rage. It's a rather elegant way to mitigate the resource, which has daily limits as it is. Excellent observation.
Does anyone else notice how the subforums that actually talk about playtests have mostly negative outlooks and the subforums that are about the game but not connected to the playtest have negative outlooks. Seems to me that most of the people who play the game actually like it because it's a fun system and they realize it's a work in progress whereas people who just read the packed search for ways to make the game bad.
The Oberoni fallacy only applies to broken rules, not rules you don't like. If a rule you don't like can be easily ignored, it should exist in the game for those who will enjoy it.
There do seem to be quite a few negative posts; but those are still useful, sometimes, to Wotc., if they at least state what they don't like--be that druids, or rangers, or shield bash.
The general discussion area seems to be a lot about axe-grinding and "I told you so." There are a ton of ideas that pop up there, many of them interesting. I think, in fact, that if someone scarfed up a great deal of the good ideas, they could create a nice little OGL variant of the game. For the most part, though, I wonder how many of them are playing the game at all. One, in particular, does a ton of bashing about the math, but I haven't seen one indication he's actually seen the math in action. It's like watching a college professor bash a certain author without bothering to read the works.
The general discussion area seems to be a lot about axe-grinding and "I told you so." There are a ton of ideas that pop up there, many of them interesting. I think, in fact, that if someone scarfed up a great deal of the good ideas, they could create a nice little OGL variant of the game. For the most part, though, I wonder how many of them are playing the game at all. One, in particular, does a ton of bashing about the math, but I haven't seen one indication he's actually seen the math in action. It's like watching a college professor bash a certain author without bothering to read the works.



Exactly! Reading the packet, it's very easy to find flaws but when you're actually playing the game most things run very smoothly and everyone I've played with has a blast. Not saying everything is perfect (I would love to see the higher level spells fleshed out more and for caster clerics to get more spells to compensate for their lack of armor) but the game is still being designed. I've had nothing but great sessions playing 5e during the playtest, and I can't wait to see the finished product. 
The Oberoni fallacy only applies to broken rules, not rules you don't like. If a rule you don't like can be easily ignored, it should exist in the game for those who will enjoy it.
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