So now that WOTC has publically announced the next iteration of D&D, I have been having friends, chums, cronies, acquaintances, colleagues, sympathizers, compadres, associates, contemporaries and well-wishers asking for me to spill the beans about everything in what they hope will be the greatest version of D&D ever. Well, I can't. NDAs can be that way. That said, I can tell you one thing in particular.
I had known it was coming for a few months, but was pleased to get the invite to come visit Seattle on the company dime for a conference that actually had several purposes, but the one of which that we could mention publically at that time was look at WOTC's Organized Play and thinking about what we might do to improve it in the future. So that's what I told people: "OP conference, going to go see what WOTC wants to do in the future and talk about what has and hasn't worked in the past." While that it one of the things we were doing, I don't think many people believed me.
So I got on a plane and looked over the emails I had been given during when we were planning the trip. They were sent to an interesting mix of people: OP insiders, big convention organizers, retailers, and bloggers; nearly all of who I recognized by name if not personally acquainted with. There was an itinerary, which immediately caught my eye, along with some questions to spur discussion. Yup, there it was, right at the top. Looking at the title and the people talking, the first presentation was clearly going to be the big announcement, and later on there was an afternoon set off for us to game. Just for those who were worried, there were also lots of OP discussions on the schedule as well, so we would actually talk about OP in the D&DNext world. This is something I might discuss in a future blog post.
The first thing I notice about Seattle: is its darn cold. Now I am from Wisconsin, but I am from a Wisconsin where it is currently January the 11th and 51 degrees right now, so apparently someone didn't give Seattle the memo that we were supposed to be having an unusually warm winter cause all the shorts I packed (like those I wear when it’s a balmy 50) where likely not going to be as useful in Seattle. A Seattle friend of mine like to call Seattle the Grey Lady, well your lady is downright frigid. Either way, I decided there is no choice but to soldier on, get picked up at the airport by the ever helpful Chris Tulach, chauffer extraordinaire, and go out for the evening with various gaming industry friends and conference attendees so I can be properly prepared for the next morning. If you know anything about gamers, you know there is a stereotype that we are introverted folks who can't get out of mom's basement. Sure there are plenty of introverts in gaming (like any hobby), but the ones that get into OP like the RPGA often tend to be the opposite. D&D is a social game after all, so it is no surprise that the loud, boisterous extroverts tend to be in mix perhaps a bit more than average. So it is every time these folks get together from around the country.
Cut to the next morning following a hearty breakfast, and I am sitting in the meeting where Mike Mearls is telling us about the next D&D, why we should do it, and how it would be done. He starts to tell us about developing a universal rules system that takes from the best of every edition and gets at the soul of what D&D is, how WOTC is going to heavily involve the fans, how there will be public playtesting in the Spring and similar things. He tells us that about the way mechanics will be done combined with story and world building. He and others begin to tell specifics about the new system and it really begins to hit me. These guys are actually getting it right. They know what they are doing.
Now, if you've played with me (and I encourage you to do so, I'm sort of awesome when I'm in the mood), you might have an idea of what kind of gamer I am. I guess the best way is to say hardcore. I love LOTs of role-playing and I often have at least a short back story for my PC along with having worked out one or two quirks that my PC has so I have a shtick to role-play when we get going. I also like a detailed world so I know my place in it and I can make plans for my PC's future. I also can't help min-maxing. If there is clearly an advantage to a particular set of numbers, why not take them, unless you have a good role-playing reason not too; in which case I take the set that min-maxes within my back story. I love complicated: whether its story, puzzles, or details for my PC or my world. I love elegant and streamlined so those complicated rules are very easy to implement. I guess only a scientist (like me) could say they like really complicated things that make a simple kind of sense, but it's how I roll. So when you tell me that we should have an edition of D&D that lets you have it all; as easy or complicated, detailed or simple as you want, and still all play together; be all things to all people and the way they are talking about doing actually makes sense, well I am hooked.
So let's play this thing. I sit down at a table mixed with some OP folks, a retailer (whom I played a few times with during the LG days) and one of the bloggers. Greg Bilsland was running us through an adapted version of Sunless Citadel. He told us that the way the work right now, it's very easy to adapt old material and it seemed like he did a lot of it on the fly and quite seamlessly. Either way he was an excellent DM. Within the first 20 minutes I realized that what edition you play doesn't really matter because we were role-playing our little hearts out so much, that which rules you use don't really matter; from Dave Christ's stupid fighter (a role he plays well) to my cleric whom I had decided worshipped the sun god Butterscotch (and indeed I rewarded other players with candy when they did particularly awesome things). There is something about charging undead while screaming "For the Glory of Butterscotch!" that did seem to have the other tables looking over their shoulders at us, but hey, we were having a blast. Indeed, Greg eventually had to cut us off so we could actually start playing the real adventure part of the mod, rather than role-playing amongst ourselves. Conveniently about this time, Monty Cook stopped by to watch us and to answer questions as we went along and it was very handy to get his input as well as we played.
As we played, I noticed things that I can say felt like 1e, or 2e, or 3e, or 4e or where completely new, but all of them blended very well. Both Monty and Greg stressed that nothing was set in stone and absolutely everything was still on the block to be revamped or cut completely. They were also very open to listen to our feedback and did indeed make notes about what we found during play or had to say. I'm told it was the same at the other tables. Either way, it felt like D&D to me.
So I guess that's what I want to tell you most. It felt like D&D, and I was happy. There were details, but it was simple. There was enough flexibility that you could be as complex, wacky, or simple as you wanted. Everyone should be happy and excited. That's the one thing I want to tell you. It was D&D.