Saturday, June 9, 2012

Playtesting DnD Next

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." 
- Semisonic, Closing Time

 I apologize for my lack of blogging in the past two months.  Since April began, I've been going back and forth with Wizards on an article I'm trying to get published, so my writing efforts have been more about the article than anything else.  

That being said, I have also got to experience the joy of being a DnD Next playtester.  My e-mail arrived, and I happily went and printed out my packet to take a look.  Just from reading the rules, I was already stoked about playing.  The rules seemed much cooler, and everything seem more streamlined and more supportive of exploring and interaction.

I started playing DnD two years ago with 4E, sometimes delving into older source books to see what the hype about 3.5 was.  I've always DMed 4E, and nobody has ever asked me to play anything else, so while my experience of editions is limited, I know the kinds of games/storybuilding I enjoy, so I've always tried to apply that to 4E, and really wanted to apply that to my new games.  So far, it's been great.

The playtest came with an adventure, but as I only had two other friends who had signed up for playtesting and were available, we decided to improvise a bit (as is the nature of DnD products).  What we decided was to take an encounter from the adventure and create our own map/background for it.  The adventures didn't connect, they were just something to try out.  With three people, we were able to get through about 3 encounters in an hour an a half.  They all felt fast and interactive, and I was always engaged.  My fellow playtesters agreed as well.  One commented that 4E sometimes bogs down in combat (which has been said before), and this seemed to flow fluidly.

That being said, let's discuss our encounters.  Our playtesters were me, Peachey, and Paul.

Encounter 1: Goblin Warrens (DMed by me).  Peachey: Elf Wizard. Paul: Dwarf Fighter

The goblins shoot their bows from the stairs.  The one lying down is asleep.
In this encounter, I had the players (Dwarf Fighter and Elf Wizard), going through the warrens of a goblin lair.  They walked through rooms, exploring and rolling perception and asking questions/exploring.  For every 30 feet (6 squares) they moved, I rolled the percentile dice.  They had a 50% chance of encountering a goblin raiding party of 6.  This was a sentence that was really cool to read in the adventure.  For a player like me, it felt more old school, and seemed to give the dungeon a realistic approach.  I chose to keep it for my adventure.

When the goblins were finally encountered, the battle began.  The goblins were pretty much minions to the dwarf, and the wizard got to cast some cool spells (like sleep).  Sleep was much cooler in the playtest than in 4E, and the spells felt like they had more variety instead of 4d6 fire damage, 4d6 cold damage, etc.

My friends were very excited after this first round.  Peachey said the wizard actually felt like a wizard, having low hit points but being able to cast lots of cool spells.  Paul loved the fighter, as he was simplistic in playing, yet did a lot of damage, just like what he wanted from a fighter.  I was surprised how easy the monsters were to run, and how fast combat seemed to flow.  It was a lot easier to keep combat flowing, and the players seemed to be more excited to describe their actions in combat, other than just rolling dice.

Encounter 2: Orc Watchtower (DMed by Peachey). Me: Goblin Rogue. Paul: Dwarf Fighter

The orcs are surprised.
Despite my character sheet saving halfling, I asked Peachey if it was ok that I pretended to be a goblin, as that's the character I've been trying to play since I started DnD.  He agreed.  One of the first things that I noticed was that despite my sheet being for a halfling, it was really easy to re-flavor this as a goblin.  For some reason, it seemed easier than 4E.  Maybe I've just become more open to taking the rules into my own hands.

I thought the rogue was a blast to play.  The advantage/disadvantage system is much more fun that having to calculate bonuses.  I think Wizards is on to something with the "roll two dice and take the higher one" rule.  The rules for hiding and lighting was much simpler.  I also like how skills are handled by ability modifiers; Peachey said it was a lot easier than trying to remember which orc had higher perception than others due to a stat block.  All one has to do is use a Wisdom modifier.

Encounter 3: The Orc Cheiftain (DMed by Paul). Me: Goblin Rogue. Peachey: Human Cleric (of Pelor)

The Chief and his guards
This was another interesting battle, as we got to see the cleric use his magic.  Paul, a relatively new DM, did awesome.  He described the action of the enemies in a really good way.  I could tell that he was getting into the game and for Peachey and I, we were just as excited.  In the end, my goblin killed the chief, but was knocked unconscious in the orc's death throw.  Good thing I was hanging with a cleric.

All in all, I'm extremely satisfied with the new system, and will continuing experimenting.  We all agreed that the monsters were very easy to run, and it seemed that this format encourages DM's to participate.  It was also cool to see that a party of two characters had a chance of surviving.  The mundane gear and items the characters carried on their person seemed to play a lot bigger role than they ever did in 4E, something I was extremely happy to see.

I really like the background section on the character sheet.  It seems that some classes will get training in certain skills (which seems to be a +3 bonus), while background gives you training in certain skills.  There also doesn't seem to be a skill list; skills seem to be however you want to describe what your character is good at and you write it from there.  This makes me excited as a DM, as this means it would be pretty exciting to sit with a group and come up with your backgrounds/skill sets.  In my campaign, this could be something like Genkarian History +3.

I'm stoked for this next edition and future playtests.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting a write up of your play test. I found it very interesting how you almost ran the DandD Next like you would run a 4E adventure. You might want to try just having a map with some empty rooms with a couple encounters. Exploration is one of the facets of the older game that is sometimes lost when playing the published 4E content. And one of the things I believe they are trying to recapture in the next version of the game.

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    1. You're most welcome for the post. I want to discuss what I've experienced so far.

      Our group didn't have a lot of time to sit down and play, so we decided to break it up DMing so everybody could get a chance to experience different parts of the new rules. Combat was the main thing we wanted to try out first, so that's what happened.

      It's interesting that you said I ran this like 4E. All we did was create empty rooms and fill them with an encounter from the adventure. Maybe it was like 4th in the sense that we just fought stuff, but we all kind of knew that going into it.

      We'll continue to playtest as we get more time. I just wanted to share our first session and my thoughts. Thanks for your comment! Hope you enjoyed reading.

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