Why don’t you start off by telling me 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 Chris. I live in northwest Florida with my beautiful wife and two sons. I am a small business owner, woodworker, amateur author, artist, and total RPG enthusiast.
My history with D&D goes back to 1st edition AD&D in 1986. I was 10 years old and, after having looked through a friend's Player's Handbook, was instantly hooked. I was an avid player until 1989, when 2nd edition was released, at which point I took my first stab at DMing. Since that time I have primarily DMd the various editions of D&D.
Right now I DM a weekly 2nd edition game at home, a weekly 4th edition game at my FLGS, and a weekly playtest game at home. I also DM a play-by-post game of the DDN playtest and play in a BECMI play-by-post game.
What do you think of the D&D Next playtest so far?
So far the playtest material has me genuinely excited. It incorporates facets of every edition into what is, so far, a smooth-flowing gaming experience. I feel it appropriately captures the feel of classic editions while also sampling aspects of 4th edition. I know what we have seen so far is only a miniscule portion of the completed product, but I have no doubt that if it continues along the path it is currently on it will be a welcome addition to the D&D legacy of games.
I realize that one of the goals of D&D Next is to help bring the fan base back together. As long as the developers can learn from the stumbles of the past and deliver a reasonably balanced, modular-based system that captures the essence of what made D&D great while looking ahead to inventive, innovative ideas, then I have no doubt that the fans will react positively to their efforts.
That being said, I feel there are a few issues that could still be ironed out even more so than they currently are. People want non-Vancian options for wizards. They want fluff, but they want it as separated from the crunch as possible. I, personally, would like to see the skill list expanded, as well as more backgrounds and specialties. I would like to see fluid, working multiclass rules. I would also like a detailed description of the monster-creation process.
I feel all of these things are entirely possible, and their inclusions into the game would be major draw-points for older fans that might have strayed and new players alike. Overall I am pleased with what I have seen of D&D Next so far, and am waiting (not so) patiently for future material to incorporate into my sessions.
We've seen some recent information from Mearls about specialist wizards possibly having a mechanic that allows them to regain some spells between combats. What did you think about this idea? Do you think this helps out the non-vancian casting crowd a bit?
I fear the die-hard non-Vancian crowd will be displeased with anything remotely resembling Vancian spellcasting. I feel D&D Next should appeal to as large a fan base as possible and not specifically cater to either end of the spellcasting spectrum. If modular rules can be included that give the non-Vancian fans exactly what they want, then that's wonderful. If it simply can't be done for whatever reason, then just slapping something together to placate them isn't really doing anyone any favors. Catering the extreme ends is a sure-fire way to alienate those of us who fall somewhere in the middle. I think Mike's idea of regaining spells between battles is fine, but then I'm not a die-hard supporter of one spellcasting system or another. I'm flexible enough to realize the benefits of numerous spellcasting systems, and capable of altering whatever system the game ends up implementing to better suit my needs.
What else would you like to see for those who want a non-vancian wizard? Is there a specific mechanic you like best?
A spell-point system for the wizard would be fine, not to mention extremely simple to implement. The AEDU system is often referenced as a non-Vancian system, though in actuality it is not (any system with daily spells is, at least in part, Vancian). As to what system I like best, I would go with the spell-point system proposed in 2nd edition AD&D's Spells & Magic book, which was part of the Player's Options series. I found it easy to use, intuitively progressive with levels, and simple to add as a template to any kind of spellcaster.
In this week's L&L, Mike also touched on the multiclassing plans for D&D Next. What did you think of all that? Is there anything that stuck out as something you liked or something you would want to change?
Multiclassing has always been a sensitive subject for D&D. Some players want the freedom to dabble to their heart's content, possibly dipping into 5 or 6 different classes to fulfill their character concept. This is, of course, a quick way to throw any semblance of balance right out the window, especially if the classes are all front-loaded with features.
The article left me a bit torn. I grimaced at the thought of 3E multiclassing being the base inspiration, but by stating that it was entirely optional went a distance to calm me back down. I feel multiclassing is an important part of the game, but it is also one of the easiest parts to abuse.
While I don't want a full return to 2E's dual-classing rules (where you needed extreme ability scores to do it to begin with, and once you picked up the new class you gained no more XP in the original), I don't really want to see the seemingly unlimited combinations of 3.X multiclassing, either. There has to be a decent middle ground. 4E's hybrid rules were good. I wouldn't mind seeing them used as the base for D&D Next's multiclassing, but it seems that decision has already been made. As long as they try to keep some semblance of balance with the multiclass rules, I think they will do just fine. Learn by mistakes of the past, implement the achievements made along the way, and don't be afraid to put caps on things that have the potential for abuse.
Beyond the vancian spellcasting topic, are there any rules or features in the the current playtest that you would change?
Skill Mastery. I think this is one of the more talked-about rules going around the forums and in real play. I like that rogues get bonuses for skills. I mean, they're slated as the skill-monkeys, and I'm okay with that. My issue is that the SM feature seems to be too much. I would think that giving them automatic Advantage on skills would be preferable to the SM feature. As it stands, the DCs needed to actually challenge the rogue would be so high that other classes simply wouldn't have a chance to succeed at them.
It makes it seem as though having a rogue in the party would set the DC curve at a level so high that a group would have an easier time without one in the party, just so more than 1 PC can contribute to skill checks. My suggestion would be simply allowing rogues to have Advantage on skill checks as opposed to the very skewed Skill Mastery mechanic.
What class or rules elements are you really hoping to see in a future playtest update?
More melee classes. As it stands now, the playtest classes are magic-user heavy. The Ranger and Barbarian would be good to see. Perhaps a little throwback to the Cavalier or Acrobat. Maybe an Assassin class, if it can be made unique enough to separate it from the Rogue.
I'd also like to see more Backgrounds and Specialties as well. Expanding the skill list beyond the 25 we currently have (13 of which are Lore skills) would be very welcome.
As a DM primarily, I'd love to see rules for monster creation.
Do you have any words of wisdom to offer up to other playtesters?
Try to keep in mind that it is a playtest. It's not a finished product, nor is it set in stone. Be generous with feedback, especially for items you don't agree with. This is an amazing opportunity for the D&D fan base to help shape the game. Don't take that opportunity for granted. If we give enough feedback, I have no doubt that we can all help sculpt D&D into a game we can agree on...at least as much as D&D players can agree, that is.