Jason Panella

D&D Next

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I could very well be typing to myself with this, but Wizards of the Coast announced a few months ago that they were planning the next edition (the fifth) of Dungeons & Dragons. They're calling it D&D Next.

I'm really interested in the development of this. If you haven't been keeping up on D&D in the past decade or so, here's my synopsis: D&D 3E changed the game's rules up quite a bit in the late '90s, and made the game even more popular. That said, it also lost some of the old-school fans. WotC then debuted D&D 4E a few years ago, and that was even more different than 3E. (Many gamers complained that the new edition was geared toward winning new fans instead of keeping old ones, as the game's core mechanics became a little bit more video game-like.) Scores of D&D fans left 4E behind and started "clones" of older editions of D&D. So many left, in fact, that a modified version of D&D 3E — called Pathfinder — has been regularly outselling anything from WotC over the past few years.

So it seems like with D&D Next, the design teams is asking gamers — old and new, alienated or fanboy — what they think should happen with the next edition. More and more, it looks like WotC is planning making a tool-box style game, one that will actually involve mix and match elements from all previous edition (even the earlier Gary Gygax white/blue box versions). Want a more heroic game? You can add these things. Want a more powers-based game, like 4E? You can add this or that.

I don't know if this tool-box approach will be the final result, but letting people weigh in on decisions for the entire process like this has never really been done before in the gaming world, at least to this degree.

Here's a link to one of the key blog posts they made.

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Link to our thread on 'Gary Gygax, co-creator of "Dungeons & Dragons", is dead' (Mar 2008 - May 2009).

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AV Club critic Todd VanDerWerff started a new monthly column today about all of the geeky things he missed growing up, things he is now investigating as an adult. First up: Dungeons & Dragons. I think it might be one of the finest pieces of writing to come out of the site, so it's worth a read even if you have no interest in tabletop gaming.

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Great article. His discussion of his Christian background, and the tension that he experienced when it came to Dungeons & Dragons, is something very — and sadly — familiar to me.

Oh, and bonus points for the Carmen references. There was a time when "The Witches Invitation" was pretty much the coolest thing ever.

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Some guy wants to make a movie based on Dark Dungeons, the anti-RPG comic Jack Chick produced in the 1980s.

I saw this when you posted it, Tyler, but I wanted to add a belated "thank you." This is comedy gold.

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Covers, release dates, and more information revealed about the fifth edition material. I'm a fan. I was kind of worried the core rulebooks would cost a lot and, well, they do. Still, I'm pretty excited, especially after playing some of the playtest versions of this edition.

 

More info here.

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Started playing 4e with some people recently. I'm more familiar with 2e, so I think I just like that version more because of the familiarity. However, I'm finding everyone having a swath of abilities is kinda ridiculous and can get super time-consuming in battles, especially for newer players who don't always understand what their abilities do. Pretty much no one ever does a basic attack.I can get how they want to make every player feel like they can do cool stuff, but it just makes some of the combat a real slog sometimes, especially if everyone starts planning bad roles. The group does recognize this problem and we're trying to streamline it, like making players get to rolling to hit as soon as possible so we don't spend 5 minutes discussing something only to have the person role a 1. 

 

I wonder if Next will alleviate that problem at all. I've not read much about it.

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Started playing 4e with some people recently. I'm more familiar with 2e, so I think I just like that version more because of the familiarity. However, I'm finding everyone having a swath of abilities is kinda ridiculous and can get super time-consuming in battles, especially for newer players who don't always understand what their abilities do. Pretty much no one ever does a basic attack.I can get how they want to make every player feel like they can do cool stuff, but it just makes some of the combat a real slog sometimes, especially if everyone starts planning bad roles. The group does recognize this problem and we're trying to streamline it, like making players get to rolling to hit as soon as possible so we don't spend 5 minutes discussing something only to have the person role a 1. 

 

I wonder if Next will alleviate that problem at all. I've not read much about it.

 

4E combat can become a slog, though I think it's still less complex than some of the spreadsheet/abacus-necessary rulesets out there. I do agree, though—everyone has crazy abilities, even the most mundane classes (many of which are, mechanically, identical to other powers from other classes). But on the flipside, I really didn't like how D&D 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder handled combat.

 

As for the new version (which is just being called "Dungeons & Dragons," I guess?), it really simplifies things. It's kind of a blend of several of the previous editions, and it simplifies combat a bit while still making it flavorful. Plus, I love how it handles bonuses from abilities like Bless; they used to be a static amount, but now it's randomized by a die. 

Edited by Jason Panella

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I've got most of my D&D experience from the old video games based on D&D and once they transition over to 3.5 system, I think there's a steady drop in quality, although I haven't played any of Temple of Elemental Evil yet.

 

Making a character in 3.5 also seemed like way too much of a pain. In 4e I felt like they dropped the absurd amount of options you had that quickly became overwhelming. I might be remembering it wrong, though. 2e just felt like each character had a clear role and position in the party and while not every class was as glamorous and had as many options, combat flowed much better.

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I've got most of my D&D experience from the old video games based on D&D and once they transition over to 3.5 system, I think there's a steady drop in quality, although I haven't played any of Temple of Elemental Evil yet.

 

Making a character in 3.5 also seemed like way too much of a pain. In 4e I felt like they dropped the absurd amount of options you had that quickly became overwhelming. I might be remembering it wrong, though. 2e just felt like each character had a clear role and position in the party and while not every class was as glamorous and had as many options, combat flowed much better.

 

Yeah, most of my initial D&D experience was also from video games: the original Eye of the Beholder Trilogy, Dungeon Hack, and eventually Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. One of the reasons the 3.5-based games didn't work is because they're just poorly written, honestly. 

 

Combat does flow better in 4E, but I think that's partially because 4E is basically a tactical miniature ruleset and not much else. As far as options, I think it's the complexity has just shifted laterally. 3.5 had a lot of room to make characters unique, which I appreciate--slavish adherence to the "trinity" (tank, damage, healing) drives me crazy sometimes. But combat did flow better in 4E, probably because they cut out the stupid "make more attacks as you level up" rule. My favorite independent take on D&D third edition was a game called Fantasy Craft, which kept all of the subtle aspects I liked from 3.0 and added a whole bunch of tool-box elements (the game could be as simple or complex as you wanted). Of course, no one played it.

 

I think another thing I didn't like about 4E was how WotC shoehorned all of their new fantasy races into things. As as result, NO ONE wanted to play humans or half-elves. Most of the games I played were full of dragonborn, animated suits of armor, and vampires. It just seemed way over the top.

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Yea, we have a Goliath, Dragonborn and Genasi, but we also have a few humans and a half-elf. I forget what race our Warlock is. I do like that each player seems to have invested in their abilities and characters and it does give everyone personality. 

 

I've played through all the Infinity Engine games and bits of both Neverwinter Night games.Haven't tried Temple of Elemental Evil yet, which I hear is heavy in the 3.5 combat system. Apparently, Icewind Dale II was a rather lite treatment of 3e because it was something they were told to update mid-development.

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The Escapist has had some nice coverage of the release of the new edition, including this nice piece

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Lead game designer Mike Mearls announced that the basic rules for the new edition will be completely free. He compares this Basic D&D ruleset to the classic Rules Cyclopedia, and the free PDF will include info for some basic classes, races, and level advancement. 

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I saw that this morning. I think that's a smart move to try to get new and old people into it that might be skeptical or maybe aren't interested in making the financial investment without knowing what they're getting into. It's also good for people who plan to buy in because having a pdf will make it easier for people who might not want to lug around a rulebook to a game.

 

If you could have the basic rules on your phone/tablet that would make the game easier for people who plan to buy in anyway. I know in my group a couple people just have the books on their electronic devices, which I'm not sure why they haven't released them that way. I'd much rather have a digital copy than have to buy a big hardback physical book.

 

I figure my group will stick with 4e for a while and everyone is pretty deeply invested in their characters right now. I think for the kind of people we have it might be better for the group, but I might try to see if we can at least try next at some point to see what it's like if we want to make new characters at some point. 

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If you could have the basic rules on your phone/tablet that would make the game easier for people who plan to buy in anyway. I know in my group a couple people just have the books on their electronic devices, which I'm not sure why they haven't released them that way. I'd much rather have a digital copy than have to buy a big hardback physical book.

 

 

Wizards of the Coast has been releasing PDFs of their books on DriveThruRPG for a little while now!

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Ooo, thanks for the tip. Much rather pick up what I need this way. Maybe I'm missing it, but it doesn't look like it has the base player's manual, which is what I want the most.

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Wizards of the Coast released the basic ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition today, which I wasn't expecting. Totally free. I thought it was going to be, like, 20 pages. Nope. Book-length!

 

You can get it here.

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I downloaded it but haven't had a change to read through it. After playing 4e last weekend and having people spend way too long to decide their moves in combat, I'm really hoping 5e fixes that flow. However, there's no way I think my group would be willing to switch over since it doesn't yet support a lot of the races/classes our group has.

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I was able to skim through most of the rules. It feels like a greatest hits collection of the game's previous incarnations. It seems to take the stuff I liked about the previous two editions and cut out most of the frustrating bits. I also love how WotC has moved away from the "minis are required!" mindset of Fourth; it works fine, but in my heart I've always been a "theater of the mind's eye" kind of player. 

 

My friend is going to be running the adventure that comes with the Starter Set that's coming out really soon, so I'll get some first-hand exposure and report back.

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This past Saturday, I got to play a sizable chunk of the adventure included in the new fifth edition Starter Set. I loved it. I decided to play against my usual type of characters and just go with one of the pregenerated characters in the box, so I got a halfling rogue. The Starter Set does a nice job of tying the pregens' stories into main plot. My good friend from work was GMing, and the rest of the players were 13- or 14-year-olds (my friend's son and his friends). A few of the kids had that look in their eye. You know the look. It made me giddy. Something magic was happening, and I don't mean in a Jack Chick/Dark Dungeons sort of way either.

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The more I look at 5e, the more I think it will solve the combat fatigue our group gets in some of our 4e battles. I want to try to convert our group over to it at some point. Problem is that I think we'd at least have one player who wouldn't fit well into the new edition with his character. I might talk to the DM and see if we could houserule something. It might also be hard for our group to level up without a program. We use the Character Creator for 4e right now. In any case, we'd have to wait for the player's handbook to come out since we'd need the info on classes like Bard and Warlock to convert our group. 

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The more I look at 5e, the more I think it will solve the combat fatigue our group gets in some of our 4e battles. I want to try to convert our group over to it at some point. Problem is that I think we'd at least have one player who wouldn't fit well into the new edition with his character. I might talk to the DM and see if we could houserule something. It might also be hard for our group to level up without a program. We use the Character Creator for 4e right now. In any case, we'd have to wait for the player's handbook to come out since we'd need the info on classes like Bard and Warlock to convert our group. 

 

My friend and his son are beta-testing the new character creation app (code named Morningstar). I guess I can't say much about it other than it works wonderfully, much better than the 4E Creator. 

 

One of the things I like about the 5E combat is that there's no clear one way. 4E was purely tactical; if you didn't have a grid, you couldn't play. 3E initially left it up in the air, but started veering heavily toward grid-only style gameplay as it went to 3.5. 5E lets you do whatever you want. If you want to count squares and go crazy with combat options, you can. If you want to do things purely as Theater of the Mind's Eye, that's an option too. I think the fluidity will frustrate some people, especially in regards to organized play--some players are very gung ho for one style and will go into a nerd rage when they find out the GM is doing it the wrong way

 

My friend ran the Starter Set adventure as a nice compromise between the two. He sketched maps out on his grid, but didn't nitpick over exactly spacing and so on. It worked really well.

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I've been playing the new edition regularly for the past few months. I absolutely love it. This is the first time that I've consistently been involved with a group to play any sort of game, too, which is also exciting.

 

I'm meeting every other week to play D&D Adventurers League, the new organized play initiative from Wizards of the Coast. It's an ongoing campaign set in the same area of the Forgotten Realms setting. There are short, two-hour mini-adventures that people can play (called Encounters), longer four-hour adventures available all over (called Exhibitions), and huge events at some conventions (called Epics). It's a neat idea, and it seems like all of the events (and how players all over the country handle them) will lead to a new campaign in the spring. 

 

I love how simple the system is, but that doesn't mean it's not without complex choices. The new edition lacks the overwhelming choices that some previous editions had, but it still gives you enough choices in your advancement (with lots of nuances) to make things interesting. 

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I'm hoping to get my group to try this version at some point next year. While I dig some stuff about 4e, the combat can just be overwhelming some time. Our DM has found a pretty great balance between combat/puzzling/role-playing in 4e with our new campaign, so I think we'll be rolling with this one for a while, but I think both he and I are interested enough in 5e that we're going to rook our group into it at some point. 

 

Honestly, I think our biggest barrier will be the lack of a software character creator. Right now, I don't think most people would be down for manually writing up character sheets. (Heck, right now I wouldn't be down for that.)

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