Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 7:02 AM
... is that I still haven't gotten to play because I can't seem to get a group together. It also doesn't help that we're all adults and have and jobs and other stuff that seems to always get in the way. I think we'll have the next batch of playtest material out before I actually get to play the darn thing. Anyway, moving on ...
I didn't see anything in this blog post that I was against. I think it did a good job of summing up a composite Ranger made up of little parts of each edition. I am constantly amazed how much influence 2nd Ed seems to have on this whole process, I wasn't expecting that. Anyway, the Ranger is not a class I've spent any time playing and when I did my list of favorite classes some posts ago it didn't make the list. At least, I don't remember it making the list. That's the Ranger's problem (for me) is that the class doesn't seem very memorable. I always forget about it. That's probably just me as I've never been looking to play an archetype that the Ranger class can fulfill, but for the sake of those who do play Rangers I hope Next's is something special.
Once again I'm struck with 2E's long shadow as the 2E monster stat block appearently tickles Mearl's fancy. I'm okay with that as I spent more time in my life playing 2E than any other edition and in someways It'll always have a place in my heart. So while I'm a big BECMI guy now, I understand the appeal of 2nd and I think it's kind of cool that's an edition whose rep hasn't always been good is getting some love.
As for the monster design goals themselves, I was pretty happy with them. They seem like they are moving in a good direction and I like the idea of a good, clean stat block that is small enough to fit right in the module text. That's how it should be. I also like that they are willing to put in non-combat items (in the longer write-up) and that monsters each seem to have some "gimmick" things they can do. That was one of the things I did like in 4E. Overall, pretty cool. Now if I could just get everyone to sit down so we could play the thing ...
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Sunday, May 27, 2012, 8:04 PM
This post won't be super long, but I wanted to get something up here so people don't think I'm dead. I finally got around to reading the whole playtest packet (except for the adventure which I'll get to shortly) and I have some initial impressions.
1) I like it. So far, so good. For the most part I thought everything sounded pretty good though there are some small things that bother me like ...
2) Too many hit points. I thought the hit point values were way too high for first level characters, but I've already seen in interviews Mike Mearls has done that those numbers will probably be adjusted downward.
3) Hit dice. I'm torn on whether I like these or not. I'm saving judgement until we actually play before I give a final verdict.
4) It's too hard to die. Besides all the hit points I'm not in love with the death mechanic - CON plus Level is just rediculous. Who is going to be threatened by that? You'd have to being laying at the bottom of a pit by yourself for days to die at high level. That's just too nerfed for me. Make death mean something for crying out loud.
Now for some good stuff ...
5) Advantage and Disadvantage. I love this concept. It's way easier than keeping track of bonuses and penalties.
6) I enjoyed the take on searching, hiding, and perception. This is a good way to go. I'm not sure about the whole auto success when an ability is 5 higher than the DC - I like the concept, but I thought it was going to be when an ability was equal or greater than the DC. I keep thinking the 5 will be forgotten.
7) Themes and Backgrounds. They were okay in this implementation and I see potential there, but some of them (Guardian in particular) seemed too combat focused which is not what I thought they would do. On the other hand, I like the Guardian feature and the fact that you opt-in to defending instead of just getting stuck with it.
I had a few more quibbles, like the speeds for climbing and swimming (and a bunch of other movement types) that cost an extra 5 feet per 5 feet moved. Too me you should just say that it halves your speed and be done with it. That's minor however and overall I really enjoyed what I read and I can't wait to play it.
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Monday, May 14, 2012, 1:40 PM
We're ten days out from the public playtest and I'm still pretty excited about what I'm reading. Here's hoping that playing will be as good as I think it will be. There really hasn't been much to talk about lately even though we have been given more L&L class discussion and nice D&D Blog post about goblins and axes. I guess I'm just feeling pretty good about this and am really getting excited for the playtest.
Once the playtest is on and the current version of rules is in our hands I'm sure I'll have much more to say. Until then, keep gaming.
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Sunday, May 6, 2012, 8:18 AM
What I Want is a Dodge Challenger
What does that have to do with D&D? I don't know if you've seen the new version of the Dodge Challenger, but it's pretty awesome. Is it an exact clone of the original? No, but it looks the way you expect a Challenger to look. It has the big V8 you expect a Challenger to have. It has the horsepower (470 or so) that you expect a Challenger to have. In other words, you're not embarrassed to call it a Challenger (unlike that 4-door family sedan maquerading as a Charger).
So back to the question of what this has to do with D&D. This is what I'm hoping D&D Next (whose name I hope ends up just being "D&D") will be. Something that is not an exact clone of any particular version of D&D, but that feels, looks, and acts like D&D and that we're not embarrassed to call D&D. I've seen people on forums (not necessarily here on Wizards) who want D&D Next to be something completely different and new from what's come before and I don't understand that thinking at all. What you are saying, IMHO, is that you want D&D as long as it's nothing like D&D. There's been alot of talk about what D&D is lately, and you'll find every kind of opinion on this issue, but for me D&D is a combination of everything that it's ever been up to this point. It's the story, fluff elements that describe the "world" of D&D (I'm going to talk core for now leaving various campaign setting to the side), and the rules mechanics that define the physics of the game. More importantly it's the feel of rules at the table. This is why I say it doesn't have to be an exact clone - I already have BECMI, 1E, etc. - but I do want it to feel like it belongs in the D&D family. When I play I want it to feel like I'm playing D&D and not RuneQuest or Savage Worlds. I don't want a D&D that works like the FATE system, I already have a system that does that - it's called FATE. I don't know how else to say it, but to go back to my original analogy of the Challenger - something new that feels like it belongs with the older stuff.
Also, I actually do want a 2012 Dodge Challenger so if you have $30,000 you would like to donate let me know.
Avoiding Choice Traps and Wizards with a License to Kill
I enjoyed the "Wizards with a License to Kill" article although I didn't get anything out of it that I didn't already know (or felt I knew). It did clarify somethings about using different backgrounds with the various classes and what doing that would mean compared to Multiclassing. I was guessing that's how it all would work so I wasn't surprised by the article, but it is nice to see it in words to confirm.
I was not excited by the "Avoiding Choice Traps" article at all. It was the first article that actually made me dread a possible design decision. I don't want traits, I just don't. I was happy with the Backgrounds and Themes and I don't want a third item thrown in there for no other reason than to say that they addressed all three pillars. If Traits are for "roleplaying purposes" will they have mechanical weight or are they just something you put on your character sheet? If there is no mechanical weight then what is the point? Do you need an option out of the book to say your Elf Wizard is left handed? Why can't you just write that on your character sheet without it coming from a book? I'm not sure if Traits will address handedness but you get the point. If Traits are to be just "roleplaying notes" they don't need to be a rule or a system. Put a list of roleplaying character gimmicks in an appendix and be done with it. The more widgets you tack on to character creation the more complicated you make it. If you give Traits mechanical weight then you make it harder to ignore them as an option. Wizard's has already said that if you leave out Backgrounds and Themes that your characters will be slightly less powerful (compared to characters using them), won't adding a third choice just worsen the situation?
I'm flat out against Traits unless Wizards can come up with something really clever to convince me.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012, 2:10 PM
I'm all for heroes having some form of self healing, but I'm not super supportive of the Healing Surges model. It works I suppose, but there's something about it that sticks in my craw. It feels a tab bit video gamey, but then I suppose you could argue that about anything in D&D. I'd like to see them come up with something else so that's what I picked in the poll. I wish I had some ideas but I don't really. I suppose you could always fall back on the classic Healing Potion model, but I think that would leave a bunch of people unhappy.
D&D Next Playtest Date Announced
Yeaaaaah! I'm really looking forward to seeing this thing and taking it out for a test drive. I hope you're all looking forward to it too.
Tone and Edition
I support the idea of breaking the races (and possibly) classes into catagories to make it easier for the DM, but I think the choice of terms used to describe them is not the best. Using terms like Common, Uncommon, and Rare makes people think of Magic the Gathering or other CCG. It implies things about the races that I don't think WotC intended - for instance, I saw in the comments section that some people were like "What if I don't want dwarves? Do I have to have them in my game because you say they are common?" - and while I don't think of that as a problem myself (I'd just ignore races I don't want no matter what their designation) I can see how it might effect people's thought process. What I think they need is a different set of terms to use though I'm not sure what those would be. I suppose you could use just about anything up to and including simply calling them Class A, Class B, and Class C. I can just see this terminology being something that just rubs too many people the wrong way, right or wrong, and I'm not sure you want that when trying to unite the fan base. I don't want to sound negative toward the fanbase or internet forums in general, but this seems like one of those things people could get stuck on even though it's not that big a deal.
I've seen more conspiracy theories thrown about in the last few days about why Monte Cook left WotC that it makes my head dizzy. The unfounded speculation about it is an example of why I'm writing a blog instead of participating in the forums. It just drives me nuts. I don't normally want to contribute to the whole thing, but some of the stuff I've seen compells me to throw out my own thoughts on the matter - my apologies to Mr. Cook if I'm wrong about this.
I think Monte Cook just doesn't like punching the corporate time-clock. I don't think he has a problem with the Design Team or with the game itself. I think his issue is just with working in a corporate environment. That's my guess, and just that - a guess.
Do I think it will negatively affect the design of the game? No. I think Mearls and Cook have a similar vision for the game and I think that will still come through in the end.
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Saturday, April 21, 2012, 1:57 PM
Wow, they are really cranking these D&DN blog posts out lately. Clearly they don't have a seven week old in house! Anyway, on with my thoughts which are brought to you due to a diminishing number of requests.
Monsters, Monsters everywhere ...
Tom LaPille asks us to look at monsters, not any particular monster, but how monsters in general are presented. Once again we are presented with the (seeming) conflict between clarity (e.g. 4E's stat block) and flavor (e.g. the more traditional 2E & 3E flavor paragraphs). I say "seeming" because I think it's something of a false conflict, but there does tend to be a dividing line amongst fans on the issue so I'll go with it. I'm a bit torn on the best way to present a monster - on one hand I mostly came into the game with 2E (I knew people who owned the 1E books but I never had them) and so I'm used to the binder approach. On the other hand, I like that 4E does give you everything in a nice little package with every monster having at least one "gimmick move" (a special attack or trick they can do). On the other, other hand, I'm not sure that 4E did a good job with flavor text at least up to the Monster Vault releases which did a much better job of fleshing out creatures. One of my all time favorite creature books has to be the Monsternomicon from Privateer Press. It really did a great job of providing flavor and art while providing the usual 3E stat block (I think, it's been awhile since I owned a copy). If Next can provide something like a Monsternomicon with 4E stat blocks I'd be pretty happy.
Paladins and Clerics
I've spent zip amount of time playing either of these classes so in a way I'm unconcerned, but then again my best friend has played almost nothing but Clerics in D&D so if I plan on playing with him (which I do) then Clerics need to be good. Actually, I want D&DN to be the best game it can be so they'd both have to be good anyway, but I digress. I understand the point about there being cross over between the two camps and I can understand wanting to do something about that. I was good with most of Cook's ideas except mounted combat (which in my experience never really works out well as a specialty) and the "crazytown" (his word) abilities. Super crazy over the top abilities tend to be tricky to pull off and they provide a good opportunity to break the system. WotC needs to tread carefully on this one ...
Background and Themes
I liked what I read here, and I have to say that I'm feeling better and better about the whole concept. When they first mentioned them and said that you wouldn't have to use them I thought "that's me, I'll never use these things". The more I hear about them the more I like the concept. It seems to me based on what I read that they have more work put into Backgrounds than Themes, but I could be wrong. It just seems like Themes get a more vague treatment then Backgrounds do. Or maybe he just had more to say about Backgrounds ...
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Monday, April 16, 2012, 12:42 PM
I've come to really appreciate moral checks over the years. To me it makes sense that not all monsters will fight to the death. The question then becomes who decides if / when they run? You could do so yourself, just picking which fights end early and which don't, but I'd rather let the dice do it for me. For one thing I like randomness (as I've stated before) and for another I know me well enough to know I won't feel like making that decision most of the time or I won't care one way or the other. I say let the dice sort it out.
Imagination, the Grid, and Points Between
I don't hate the grid. I hate needing the grid. I like to be able to run with the minimal amount of product necessary - e.g. my love of the Rules Cyclopedia. Not that I wouldn't use the grid, but I like knowing it's an option and not a requirement. If WoTC take an approach where you can select how much or how little grid you get in your game then I'm cool with that. That's what I want in a game.
In reference to something brought up in the blog post - yes, I strongly feel that using the grid breaks the flow of the game. One minute we are roleplaying and the next we're doing a miniture wargame. That's exactly how it feels. I guess I came up in the "theatre of the mind" school of thought and I still feel that's the right way for me.
Overall - PAX,etc.
I really liked what I heard in the PAX East Q&A video. Overall, I'm very happy with Next's direction so far, and I can't wait for the open playtest. I even like the stuff I never thought of before now like Themes. Just totally digging the whole thing so far. Good work WoTC, keep it up and let's get on with the public playtest!
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Saturday, April 7, 2012, 1:17 PM
It's been awhile since I've done a blog post, and that's partly because of my new born and partly because I'm trying to decide what to blog about next. I've been distracted by my "real" life lately and haven't spent the time I would normally spend thinking about D&D. I do however have some random thoughts to share.
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Sunday, April 1, 2012, 10:42 AM
I've already mentioned back on March 2nd that I'd like the Core Rules of D&DN to be One Complete Package (community.wizards.com/michael_klein/blog...), but there are some other things I'd like as well. One of the biggest is that I don't want it too "bulky". For me the Core Rules should be relatively short and to the point. They should contain the essential mechanical guts of D&D with some iconic flavor (some "story" elements if you will), some monsters, some treasure, some DM advice, and maybe a starting adventure. The adventure part's optional. Then, in my opion, the rule modules would be their own separate products (some would have to be in the Core, but many wouldn't). I know what you're thinking - Mike, doesn't that sound like GURPS? Or BRP? Or even the much maligned Amazing Engine? Yeah, it sort of does. I have to admit liking the concept behind those systems very much. Though of the three of them BRP is the only one I'd probably run/play. I've never been a GURPS guy and while I have a soft spot for Amazing Engine that most people don't I've never played it. So why would I want D&DN to do something that already exists in other game systems?
First, those other systems were intended to be generic. There is no default GURPS setting or genre as for as I know. I know that BRP originally assumed low fantasy as a genre (it gave you swords but didn't include a magic system for instance), but the more recent version is full-on generic. Even in it's early form though it was clear BRP was meant for more than fantasy as witnessed by Call of Cthulhu and Worlds of Wonder (which included a fantasy, sci-fi, and super hero settings). Amazing Engine was TSR's attempt at GURPS and it was pretty much a diasaster, but for purposes of this discussion it was also generic. The core book offered no setting or genre. You couldn't just pick up one of these game systems and start playing using only the core rules without making up your own setting. BRP, for instance, has a clear low fantasy genre but offers no setting of any kind - you'd have to invent everything. Or buy a setting book, which was the point. This is a big difference from how I'd want / envision D&DN to be.
I would expect the "implied setting" of D&D to carry over. Things like the Barrier Peaks, the Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, Dragon Mountain (I love the module), Blackrazor, Bargle, and anything else you can throw in there. I want spell names like Melf's Acid Arrow because it says something about the shared world of D&D. That combined with the stuff I mention above like throwing in an iconic monster and treasure section and you've got a nice base package. You got a set of Core Rules that can both be it's own game and the basis for different variations.
I understand that my dream version is a Marketing Department nightmare, because it leads to the possibility of people buying the Core Rules and never buying anything else. I get that. I just think in today's RPG market you need to offer that kind of product. There's too much competition for the type of gamer who would buy such a product to not offer the one shot solution. It's an approach many OSR retro-clones use - offer a one-stop-shop core book followed by suppliments that are actually supplimental. There are many who don't want to climb back on the never-ending splatbook/suppliment treadmill myself included. I'd think it'd be better to sell at least one book to those folks than none. I mean, as soon as you plan on a release schedule that includes a new PHB every year you've lost me. I don't have the time or money to care about chasing down the newest optimal character option.
There was a time that when you bought a game everything you needed to play was "in the box". That's what I want. Anything else is like buying Monopoly and discovering that you have to purchase the play money and tokens separate. It just sucks. Now if you offer me a complete Monopoly game and then later offer separate upgraded tokens, that'd I consider. The racecar token would have to be pretty badass though or I'm passing ...
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 7:21 PM
EDITION #4 - 6: OD&D, 1E, 2E
It may seem strange to lump these three editions together, but I do so for one simple reason - I don't have a lot to say about them. I missed most of 1E, I never owned any of the books for instance though I knew people who did, and OD&D was so distant that I didn't even really know about it until much later. I did play a lot of 2E in high school and afterward, but I never gained a real strong attachment to any particular classes. I mostly stuck with Thieves and Fighters though there was a period where I found the Psionicist very attractive, but that may have been influenced by the fact that it was totally broken as a class. The Psionicist benefited from TSR being wishy-washy on whether or not magic could cancel or defend against it. I think they eventually addressed that somewhere (Tome of Magic?), but by then the belief that Psionics made you god was set-in-stone in my group. So I'll change this up a bit and talk a little about the classes I did like and a little about the classes I didn't.
CLASSES I LIKED (all 2E):
Not a lot to say here as anything that applies to my time as a 2E thief was probably said under BECMI. For me the "play experience" of the Thief didn't change all that much between Basic and Advanced. You still slinked around in the darkness looking to Backstab people, had the same percentile skills (though I percentiles may have been different, I'll have to look that up), and generally took it in the rump mechanically. That never stopped me from being a front line fighter (at least in Minneapolis) even if it wasn't the best idea. Then again the party consisted of three characters, none of which was a Cleric. Instead we had a Bard, a Fighter, and my Thief. Sometimes we also had Booray the Sorcerer and guy who wanted to play a Tailor. No you didn't read that wrong. Still wouldn't trade being a Thief for anything.
There's some joy in simply hitting stuff and not having to worry about anything else. I don't play a Fighter a lot, but I always found it a good way to get use to a new group. You see, the Wizard has to make some important decisions in spell selection and deployment. The Cleric needs to be good at rationing the healing and managing his spell slots. The Fighter only has to worry about hitting bad guys when they show up, and keeping them off the squisher team members. In other words, even if you don't know the group dynamic you know what you are supposed to do for the group. Fighting always comes in handy. That's what's most important to me about the Fighter and hope that makes it to 5E.
Totally broken. Way over powered depending on how you have it interact with magic. And yet strangely appealing. I never played one (though I had the splatbook), but my friend Scott did. I don't remember all his Psionic characters just the 9 y.o. boy who wouldn't tell the other party members he was a Psionicist nor would he do anything that would give away his secret when using his powers (other than staring). This led to the arguement of why the rest of the party would hang around with a 9 y.o. who didn't (seem) to contribute anything to the group. Good times ...
Never played one of these either, but the concept seemed pretty cool. I love random, chart-driven effects so this was up my alley.
CLASSES I DIDN'T LIKE:
Sometimes I'm a Fighter, and sometimes I'm a Wizard. But I'm not both! At least not at the same time, I'm not. I understand that Gary intended D&D to be Human centric and used level limits to discourage demi-human use, and I also understand that OD&D assumed you'd be using Chainmail's combat system which used character type to determine hit probability. Being both a Wizard and a Fighting-Man (Hero) would have caused problems under that system, and the utility boost would have made Elves more attractive than Gary wanted. It still sucks.
I've just never seen the point. Plus over the course of the various editions there's seems to be some indecision about what this class is supposed to be archetype-wise. None of the Bards I've ever played with seemed to work well mechanically, but I've never seen 4E's in action so maybe it's fine.
That's it. Next I move on to what I want in 5E. Or I'll just ramble. One of the two anyway ...
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