D&DNext: Questions, Questions, Questions.

Lingering Shadows

Continuing from where I left off yesterday (decided to make this a two parter), I’m going to delve into the few things here that have bugged me. A recent article by Mike Mearls addressed some of my concerns with how much they are focusing on the math right now, and trying to solve people’s problems before they even arise, if they arise – which is great. I don’t really buy into the 5 minute work day though, as it was never a problem in my games. What was a problem was resting restoring PC’s to full health and basically ridding them of any negative effects aside from a few diseases. Diseases in 4e were about as virulent as the common cold.

However I still can’t help but find a few bits that leave me worried. Particularly the words “a rogue’s ability to be stealthy needs to be matched up against the invisibility spell.” Does it? This is the kind of “everyone should be able to do things just as good as everyone else” mentality that I feel is siphoned fun and uniqueness from 4e, and it bugs me so much. Stealth shouldn’t be nearly as powerful as invisibility, there are a lot of pros and cons to both of these mechanics and I hope they aren’t trying to bleed them together into some ubiquitous bolded fucking keyword.

There’s also a handful of abilities within the playtest documents that just seem extremely overpowered/broken to me. I understand that this is possibly just due to the lack of playtesting or refinement and that this is our job to give feedback on these sorts of things. Maybe it’s also just because every class needs a few “whammy” spells/abilities to really give them something to brag about. I’m totally cool with that, I just can’t help but have this lingering thought in the back of my head that somehow, through all of these playtest iterations and feedback that D&DNext PC’s will wind up with their safetey net diapers and godlike attributes. I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and keep assuring myself that I’m worrying over nothing when it comes to this stuff.

Getting Nostalic About Yesterday

No I’m not about to go on a rant about the 3e reprints, don’t worry. I’m going to reflect on 4e’s merits and modern elements of  design. It was sleek and optimized, a real clean cut way to handle a lot of in-game situations and made jumping into the game as a player or a DM absurdly easy. I’d call 4e an innovator in a lot of categories, it is an elegant system no matter how many people get all “this isn’t the D&D I remember!” about it. I’m not sure about you, but I get sick of playing the same game over and over – hello Assassin’s Creed, Halo, and every other AAA title video game out there. I understand that these are aimed to sell, and not to innovate, because innovation is often a gamble in the gaming industry and people sure do like having paychecks.

So 4e did what other editions didn’t and innovated quite boldly, it took a gamble. Did it succeed? Who’s to say, really. No matter though, if you really look back, haven’t all of the editions been innovators in one way or another? We glean information that wouldn’t be possible to obtain in any other way by doing this. The real question is are we learning to eventually hone our games into a razor sharp blades of fun, or are we driving them into the ground so badly that we hope they stay buried forever? I love seeing 4e elements in the playtest, but so far aside from the monster stat blocks, most of those 4e bits I’ve seen haven’t been the ones I’m very fond of.

The Road Ahead

Is this is D&D’s final hour? I hope simply rehasing ideas from old editions isn’t the only new hat we can muster. I’m sure that’s not the case, because so far the innovation seems high, the game is in good hands, and the open playtesting model seems to be a successful one – but I can’t help but shake these few nagging feelings. Am I hyper analyzing here? Paranoid? Probably. I just hope that the “gamers are dumb, we should hold their hands through this entire experience” undertones have been completely scrubbed from the drawing boards of  D&D’s intrepid designers.

I remain in good faith though, in the closing of Mike’s article he states: “Our job as designers is not to tell you how to play, but to give you the ability to run a game that matches what you want out of D&D.” So it seems like the mission of 5e is still holding true, it’s good to hear and the mentality behind the game’s design is like a breath of fresh air. Though I’ll admit I’m a bit torn on the idea of making a game for everyone, versus making one that is D&D. I like my games like I like my friends, I’d rather have them scream “Hey, this is who I am, take it or leave it!” with a dash of adaptability/humility, than one that tries to be everything to everyone – because we all know how that turns out. That sounds like a blog post for another day though!

Speaking of which, tomorrow I’ve got a tough decision to make, and I’ll be taking all the advice I can get before making it so stay tuned – I’ll be calling on my readers for some honest to goodness advice. Thanks for reading, I’ll talk to you all then.

14 Comments

  1. I really do agree with your statement about “This is the kind of “everyone should be able to do things just as good as everyone else” mentality that I feel is siphoned from 4e that gets to me so much.”, especially the point of natural ability stealth and invisibility are not the same. The magical and fantastical should be better then an ability or skill. Plus, I really like distinct abilities between characters and classes. I feel that is something else that gives me another angle into my role playing and I can play up the strengths and weaknesses of my character as they relate to the party or task at hand. “Hey, we need to climb this mountain to get to the cave to find that tome the wizard is paying us to retrieve”. “Yeah, I better not climb. I fell a lot as a child.”

    • Right! This is why the skill system in D&DNext really excites me, having unique ones instead of a finite list is great, it detracts from the ‘sameness’ that D&D characters have had for a long time now and adds in real personality IMO.

      • My issue with freform skills is that it takes more communication to make sure that the players and the DM are on the same page. In 3e and 4e, you know exactly what a skill covers. In DDN, you have to make that call more often. What is the difference between a bonus to acrobatics and one to athletics? Most people would see some overlap, but no two people are going to agree on where they differ. As a GM I don’t want to spend time on this kind of thing. I want the rules to be clear and I can spend my time fleshing out the world.

        • True, and I see where you’re coming from there. It’s all a matter of clarity vs adaptability. Hopefully there will be options for this to swing both ways.

    • No worries about self promoting, that’s why we’re all bloggers right? Cool read. Diseases in 4e were truly disgraceful, I made a ton of custom ones myself – you know, so they actually had an effect on PC’s?

  2. The stealth/invisibility thing seems more related to the idea the wizard shouldn’t be able to cast one spell and be better at what a class is supposed to be good at. We don’t want the wizard casting Knock or Invisibility and replacing the rogue, Haste or Polymorph and replacing the fighter, etc. An invisible wizard who built their character around being stealthy should be comparable to a hidden rogue who also built their character around being stealthy.

    With the current tone we really might be looking at D&D Last. The devout 4e fanbase has a strong sense of entitlement. They were a large and vocal minority and had an edition that catered directly to their playstyle and a metric sh*ttonne of content (mostly crunch) rapidly produced.
    Now they’re just one audience out of many and the content has slowed down, soon to stop. Which is upsetting.And they’re unswayed at best (and frequently openly hostile) to “nostalgic design”.

    • It does seem that way doesn’t it. I think the volume factor on some of these individuals drowns out their actual numbers here. I was a huge 4e advocate, and still am when I feel that the time and place is right, but I’ve grown so much over the past few years and learned what I like and what I don’t.

      It’s not that I don’t like 4e or I want some retro clone game, I just want this game to truly be the blendable adaptable thing they are touting. I hope they pull it off, and I hope these detractors can settle down and at least give the game an honest final judgement once it’s released.

  3. i think invisibility is obviously better than hiding in a bush and one shouldn’t have an effect on the other…its apples and oranges.

    do we want a shit invisibility spell because the rogues feelings are hurt..

    here is the real deal in real gameplay and practice…..invisibility is simply far weaker in the hands of a wizard than in the hands of a rogue. So…no. the wizard is not better than the rogue because he can go invisible. Wizard spells don’t get sneak attack damage.

    Although polymorph and knock can be killed dead for all I care. Those spells specifically aim to make other players feel outclassed.

    • Yeah I don’t want this “well this guy can do X, I can only do Y” mentality and then for WotC to actually attempt to appease these people.

  4. My thought regarding the new skill system is why even have skills… why not just leave the skill generic and say something like “+2 to all mythological based knowledge rolls” or in the case of a thief “trap master gain +2 in all dealings with traps”… this makes more sense to me then granting a list of things that resolve to a larger concept any way. Why not just state the larger concept and level it to the players and the GM?

    It seems to me that NEXT is having an identity crisis between a pulp based game and a true or traditional gamist game.

    To me it looks more like 2nd edition.

    In Age Past all knowledge based skills are derived into professions, that way when you select a profession your PC is assumed to know or have x skill in the profession entirely… otherwise you would need engineer to know how to make the trebuchet and then woodworking to actually be able to make it… with a profession it’s all included.

    Also I question if those designing NEXT understand that not everything from 4e should be tossed. 4e has taught the gaming world a great lesson. It seems that are forgetting what people liked, going back to a vancian style spells system doesn’t seem to be moving forward…

    • I agree to disagree here only because with the skill system that is basically what they have done. Are you a fisherman? Then you probably gain “Boating” and “Navigation” and some other skill, but you could acquire them individually if you wanted through other means somehow I’m sure – this also could be entirely determined by GM and players so it kind of seems like that’s what they are on track for.

      However I do agree with you on the identity crisis thing because it does feel a lot like 2e (which I love) but there’s also some bits of 3e (which I’m not fond of its min/max/tweaky-ness), and very little 4e. The 4e I do see though is great (monster stat blocks, some conditions, etc). Part of me wants this adaptable game, but the other part just wants them to make a game and say “This Is D&D, take it or leave it” because I’ll probably hack together whatever I want anyway. Always have, always will. Trying to be everything to everyone is hard, and damn near impossible. They seem to be making decent headway so far though.

      • it hard to compare apples and oranges. in Age Past if you want to be a fisherman than you would take Pathfinder and could use it for “hunting” but sailor would rely skill of operation of a ship. To get a few things you would take a few things and choose the focus. Also someone could design the “fisherman” profession which would combine sailor and pathfinder for fishing only.

        it just seems that pulp based games achieve better handling of skills (especially knowledge skills) and do it more efficiently than gamist type games.

        Like in pulp you don’t have hacking, electronics, communications, hardware, OS… instead you get electronics specialist which combine all those… seems to dot eh exact same thing just faster and more rewarding for the player.

  5. I love the 5e skill system, and honestly I didn’t realize until recently how close they are to Proficiencies of old. I played AD&D 2e way in the past, but had forgotten them, I guess.

    As far as 4e influence, I think what most people expect from 4e are the flashy parts – grids, AWED powers, etc, which are most likely not going to be part of the core game in the exact 4e format. You can still see some 4e influence in the core so far with their focus on the system math (something 4e never got completely right) and in background things like no racial ability penalties and unified attack/defense numbers rather than BAB, etc.

    Those are the things I would most like to see from 4e, anyway. I don’t much care what they do with tactical combat, but I would like to see 4e’s system improvements put into a game that supports other playstyles.

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