Articles abound these days about the buzz that is DnD Next. From analysis of the core rules to speculations about the future, every play-tester has their opinion and each one is valid in its own right. Yes, I truly believe that. Wizards of the Coast’s modular approach to this iteration of the most popular roleplaying game in history shoots to please as many fans as possible. Wow – that’s a hefty goal, especially in this incredibly heterogeneous hobby of ours. What I don’t want to examine is the current rules or plans for DnD Next; how could I? I don’t have 20+ years of experience in game design, so I won’t tweak or nitpick where my nose doesn’t belong. Rather, I’d like to look into DnD Next only so far as it’s impact on me and then zoom out to provide some insight into how these circumstances might translate to play-test groups across the world.
When the play-test was first released, I scrambled alongside many others in that day of online madness to get my hands on the materials and read them over. At the time I was, and still am, running an online 4th Edition campaign. My group was invested in that campaign at the time, which was still in its early stages and I had no player indications nor personal desire to put it on hold only to play-test an unfinished game. But I did want to play-test. My anxiety of joining the twitter conversations surrounding DnD Next was put at ease when I received the monthly newsletter from my local games store in West Chester, Pennsylvania, The Games Keep. In that email I was told a DnD Next play-test group was forming and they were looking for players. I was in. The DM, James, who is very close friends with the store owner, Karl, was the one organizing this opportunity. On the first day that I had the chance to playtest, forum conversations had already begun heating up, the shit-flinging was starting and more than a few statistical articles had already been written. Needless to say, I was ready to roll with advantage and get messy.
Look around the table. There’s a certain type of D&D player here, and I want to point this out. What has been drawn together are groups with the highest standard deviation of D&D players: the most devoted, the most invested, and simply the ones who just enjoy it the most. The same goes, I would say, for every other play-test group that’s been called to arms. Whether or not DnD Next can please each fan is not what matters as people are going to play the game they want to play, the way they want to play it. What matters is that this play-test is uniting players from different generations, fueling a productive conversation, and creating a web to hold our fragmented community together. I’m not in the boat of those thinking it may tear it apart.
Our DM James has been playing D&D for a long time. He rolls dice on his iPhone and a signed Gary Gygax 3rd edition book is his claim to fame. “I know,” he said, “who asks Gary Gygax to sign a 3rd edition book? But it was all I had with me at the time.” However, that 3rd edition book may be the only one signed by Gary Gygax, who knows? Another player, Tim, is a classic grognard. His D&D lore is immense and he’s the type of player that discusses the moral grounds of slaying goblins simply because they’re goblins. When we approached the bear’s cave in the Caves of Chaos, he didn’t want to storm in and slaughter the sleeping beast like most 4E players would. I can say that because I’m one of them. Instead, he began explaining how fast those dangerous bears can run, how tough they are, and what they were like in AD&D. He wanted to reevaluate the situation, look for other entrances, take his time. Now this is important because it simulates a different kind of role-playing than I was used to. Instead of assuming my way was right, I began to learn different tactics, and my role playing horizon had broadened. I can only imagine the same is occurring for other players as well.
The last player in our group is Warren, who is THE MAN (because he sold me a bunch of miniatures for cheap!) However, we aren’t using miniatures for the play-test until the tactical module is published. This has been my first entirely TotM campaign, so the notorious caves have been delved entirely in the theatre of our minds, and I’ve been loving that. It’s the most immersed I’ve ever been in a game world because I’m forced to picture each detail and the options I have when interacting with them. When players from different editions get together, a new hybrid of game-play evolves from that. And that’s what DnD Next is (or at least, that’s what the play-test is).
It’s worth noting that I’ve been playing the pre-gen who some have dubbed “The Laser Cleric,” because of his at-will radiant lance power, which is basically a wonderful blast of Pelor’s light at a +6 to hit. I want to talk about him a bit, since he’s the one I’ve had the most experience with. In my group we’ve taken to calling him the “Nudy Bomb Cleric.” Why? Well, I roleplayed him as an elderly man who couldn’t see very well. In our latest session we leveled up to 2 and I gained a close burst radiant power that I can use alongside turn undead up to four times per day. Basically it turns the cleric into a human bomb, as he has to run into close combat to hit a bunch of enemies surrounding him. I described this as the elderly cleric running blindly into the midst of the fray, and peeling back his robes to reveal the wrinkled glow of the divine sun, if you catch my drift. That was a funny image. In order to use this attack to its best effect, cast shield of faith on yourself primarily or keep the Cleric of Moradin at your heels. That will give enemies disadvantage on their attacks against you, but that’s as far as I’ll get into mechanics for now.
To reiterate, the DnD Next playtest has sparked a constructive conversation about what we want from WotC, but more importantly it’s drawn the community together, young and old, 1st edition players to 4th edition. We’re all at the table, napkin tucked in, fork at the ready, waiting to dig into the next release. Bring it on…
About the Contributor
Rob types fluff and rolls dice. Those two hobbies sparked the immeasurably original nickname, The Typing Dice. When he’s not as his desk job, he’s prepping for his insanely fun 4E Forgotten Realms campaign. But even when he is at his desk job, he’s sneaking time to do the same, and daydreaming about building the best game room ever – a lifelong goal. One day he will design a tabletop game for the gods, and when they roll dice the world will hear thunder. You can find him on Twitter @TheTypingDice or email at TheTypingDice@gmail.com.