Trevor Kidd: Tell us a little about yourself Jeff.
Jeff Greiner: I am a 32 year old, middle school teacher, father of two, podcaster (www.thetomeshow.com) and blogger (www.temporaryhitpoints.com). But more important (for this profile) than any of that I'm a gamer who, more than anything, likes to sit down with good people, play games, and tell stories.
Trevor: Any details you want to share about your gaming background?
Jeff: I have been gaming since I was 8 years old and my first game was AD&D (2e). I had a family that was part of the anti-D&D religious movement but the genre called to me through the haze of the ridiculous. I played many games over the years, but continually came back to the one who first brought me to the table. I really hit a gaming stride when I was in college and found a group playing Al Qadim, a setting I was previously unfamiliar with, and then the next year the 3e tent rolled into town (there was literally a tent on campus where they were doing demos of 3e) and I made the conversion whole hog. When 4e came out I approached it like I do anything, I figured I'd give it a try and see for myself what I thought of it and I really like it. My group formed in Raleigh, NC 2 weeks after the 4e books came out and after I moved into town (the books came out the same day I moved) and my group has been playing it ever since. In fact, we just finished the campaign that we started all those years ago the other week, having run the gamut from 1st through 30th levels. Along the way we've been playtesting, and now that the major campaign is over we're likely to do even more playtesting for D&D Next because, for the most part, we are all pretty interested in seeing where it's going and how it plays. As it all played out I've also had the pleasure to introduce the game to young people both as a teacher of middle school students and with my eldest child.
Trevor: How about your current gaming group? What does that look like?
Jeff: My gaming group includes a fairly wide variety of players: young and old, experienced and newbies, professionals and students. Our eldest player started playing D&D with 1e, then stopped playing all together until 4e brought him back to the table. Our youngest are the three college aged (or just out of college) guys one of which came to us with 3e experience and two of which had their first RPG experience with D&D 4e. They all want very different things out of their game. We have the guy who plays LFR and Encounters every week, the guy who plays with us twice a month and with a Pathfinder group regularly, and several guys who just play with us. We have a few (like myself) who keep up with the online community in meaningful ways, while some dive into the local gaming community only, some who only care about the people at our table, and a smattering in between. Yet, despite these differences, we have been able to build a culture at our game table where we all have a good time telling a story and bashing baddies.
Trevor: What's your favorite thing that you're seeing in the D&D Next playtest?
Jeff: I've really enjoyed the process. The game has its strengths and weaknesses at this point, but I really enjoy watching the evolution. Having seen a few versions of the rules it's fun to see how things have changed and how the feedback that the playtesters and community have shaped the development over time. I hear from some segments of the community that they don't feel like they are being listened to, but I can see first-hand that that is false. Your feedback may not always be reflected, but there have been a ton of great changes that coincide directly with the feedback I hear from my group and others.
Trevor: What elements would you like to see changed in future playtests?
Jeff: More regular updates. It's hard to ask for because on one hand I want the developers and designers to have the time to do the best job they can…but man, getting new stuff to play with, test out, and try at the table is always crazy exciting and the more we see it the more we start to see what this edition of D&D is going to really look like when it's fully baked.
Trevor: Is there anything you just didn't like in the current playtest?
Jeff: There's plenty I don't like about the current playtest rules/packets, but that's okay, because it's a playtest. This isn't a finished product…if it was, I'd be concerned, but it's not so I'm willing to play it, provide my feedback, and see where it goes. Every change that's been made in the process so far has shown a positive direction, in my opinion, and I'm willing to go with it.
If I had to look to one thing (if you're gonna twist my arm about it) the lack of clarity in some areas of the current playtest rules bother me. Sometimes I'm not sure how something is supposed to work, or the specific detail we need isn't in the place we need it to be to find it, or it's just the stat blocks (the abbreviated ones don't have nearly the information you need to use them in the system and they don't match up with what's in the full monster entry), or it's a lack of a skill having at least a partial skill list to work from.
Trevor: What's your overall feel of the D&D Next playtest so far?
Jeff: I've had fun with it. I started a sort of side-campaign just to playtest with and we're having a blast with that, and I think so long as we take our time, keep testing out ideas and listening to feedback like we have so far I'm going to be very pleased with where this game ends up.
Trevor: What are you really looking forward to seeing in a future playtest?
Jeff: I'm looking forward to seeing some of the complexity options get fully fleshed out (to please some of my 4e-based players) but more than that, as a DM, I'm looking forward to more monsters/rules on monster design. The Caves of Chaos adventure provided with the playtest is getting old already and I can see other stuff I can do…but lack the monster support to really pull it off. My group has been gung ho about converting some of the older modules we have into D&D Next…but to do that we needs stuff to clash with!
Trevor: Are there any specific monsters you’d like to see in the next packet?
Jeff: My desire for specific monsters stems from my desire to convert old modules to run in D&D Next. I am specifically thinking of converting the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil so…you know, go through that and give me some things to work with.
But also, other than just having a wider range of general monsters available I'd love to see some ability to customize specific creatures that already exist as well. Take the orc and turn it into battlerager, and a shaman, etc. Take a human and make a wizard, archer, warrior…and on and on.
Trevor: What one thing does the playtest need to have or do to be successful?
Jeff: Take it's time, really listen to the community, and explain the decisions they make. So far that's all going well, although it'll be interesting to see if the demand for the end of the process starts shaking that as time goes on. Plus, as more playtest packets come out I think the challenge will be in explaining themselves. It's a hard balance to find. On one hand the community wants to know what's going on and why things hare happening the way they're going and should know these things. On the other hand, the designers can't design by committee, not everyone will like or agree with what is going on, and sometimes it's not good to know how the sausage is made and some people would enjoy the game more without the behind the scenes look.