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?
I started playing about five years ago, in 3.5, and after moving found a new group interested in playing 4e, which I've had a blast playing. Most of my D&D nowadays happens on GameTable Online, which picked up the D&D Virtual Table.
But beyond D&D, I've been playing games of all kinds my entire life, running the whole spectrum. Video games of a variety of genres, board games, card games, I love them all.
What do you think of the D&D Next playtest so far?
So far, it's about what I expected. There are some really good parts and some less good parts. Not every idea is going to be brilliant and awesome right out of the gate - it's going to take some iteration and churn before we get to something really solid. But I'm totally on board with the goals and intent behind the playtest, as described both in the playtest announcement and the Legends & Lore articles last winter. Those matter far more than whatever individual mechanic or bit of text shows up in a packet, as those are easily changed or even scrapped entirely. I really do believe the goals are attainable, and I'm going to do my best to help us all achieve them.
What are some of those really good parts? Is there anything that you're really enjoying?
Advantage/Disadvantage, Combat Superiority, and the close parallels between the Wizard's and Sorcerer's casting systems are my big three in terms of mechanics. Advantage/Disadvantage can do some important things to the system math that no D&D edition has incorporated. Combat Superiority is one of my favorite ways of implementing an at-wil resource structure, one where I really think we've only scratched the barest hint of the surface of its potential. And the similarities between the two styles of casting leads me to hope that interchanging them among all casting classes might be something that's feasible to a much larger degree in Next than it has been historically.
All three of these speak to me about hidden depth. They're simple on the surface, but only through some digging do their true potential shine. And that is the sort of thing that goal for scalable complexity really encourages.
Now for those not so good parts. What don't you like and what kind of changes would you like to see made to fix things?
Well, there are some things that definitely feel clunky. Hit Dice and healing in general, most of the Rogue. Those have been identified, but the big standout thing I'm still looking for is much more general. So far, Next has done a great job of bringing fans of older styles on board, but there hasn't been much that speaks to 4e fans directly. I suspect this is partly due to 4e-style mechanics being much more complex and having more moving parts, and with the core system itself still being worked on I'm not at all surprised to not see too much of it yet. But it'd be really nice to start seeing some initial ideas about 4e-style gaming in Next.
We talk about 4E-style gaming in the community a lot, but I think some of us are thinking of different 4E elements when we do that. What makes a 4E-style game to you and what elements from 4E are you still hoping to see make their way in to D&D Next?
The biggest thing about 4e is that it's a big thing. There are a lot of moving parts, lots of things under the hood, lots of things that once were background interactions that were brought to full view of everyone. What this allows for is a remarkable amount of depth and complexity to the mechanics themselves. Just about any mechanical construct I could come up with can be represented using the structure 4e has developed. And, most importantly, using those structures gives a content creator a much simpler path toward maintaining balance - between classes, within a class itself, in relation to the monsters, over time as characters level up. Whether it's designing an encounter, an adventure, or homebrewing a new class or race, 4e makes it much easier to get the results you intend. I'd like to see that continue in Next.
The specific mechanics associated with 4e however don't necessarily have to be there for me. More important than the mechanic itself was what the mechanic was for. Healing Surges for example were great, but what was better was having a resource that all characters, even without a Cleric or other designated "healer" present, could use for healing. However, a lot of the fans of 4e definitely are fans of 4e because of the specific ways in which 4e accomplished those goals, and that should be recognized.
All of this leads to 4e being characterized by collaboration. Group teamwork independent of "which class is best." Closer standing between DM and player, where the DM may be creating the adventure but the players are an important part of that process as well. Everyone at the table is a contributor, no one is sidelined. That more than anything defines 4e to me.
In this week's Legends & Lore, Mike mentioned a few things the D&D Next team wanted to address based on feedback. What did you think of those elements? Anything you're happy to see changing, or anything you don't want them to mess with?
The "what went wrong" list is pretty close to mine, and I think they've done a great job identifying what needs to be improved. As far as not wanting them to mess with things, Combat Superiority comes to mind. Tweaks to the dice progression (how many, what size, at what level) are probably needed as we go along, but the core idea of it is really strong.
Do you have any favorite classes you're hoping to see in a future playtest update?
I hope every day will be the day we get another crack at the Soulknife, but I'm not exactly expecting that to make it into this stage of playtesting. I hold out hope for another book further down the line, though.
For the purposes of this playtest, I'm most interested in seeing the take on Druids. They're easily the most diverse class in the history of D&D, ranging from in-your-face melee combat to spellcasting masters. I'm very curious to see how they will fit into Next, particularly the possibility of a Wild Shape focused melee specialist.
Thanks much for taking the time to sit down with us Mand. Any last words for the D&D Next team or the playtesting community?
To the playtesting community: Keep providing feedback. They are listening, they are changing things based on our feedback. They want us to be happy as much as we do, if not more. But it has to be constructive - they have to be able to take your feedback and do something with it.
And thanks to you, Trevor. I'm honored to be asked to participate in the Playtester Profiles.