11 comments on “What’s Next: The Evil GMs playtest the crap out of Next

  1. Like you I wanted to like next, but in this first playtest I found many of the same problems – which I fed back at great length. I also did find things I liked. But I guess I also realised that I came with many different expectations (as did my players based on playing 4e) that meant I had not prepared myself or them adequately for what would make this better – it was after all just a alpha test.

    Having said that, maybe next time with a few more rules, and a bit more here and there (like more jazzed up PC’s who if you wanted to strip down to play simple could be, or the monsters being a little more than just bags of HP, with little in the way to distinguish one fight from another – save creative DMing – which I must confess I didn’t employ as well as I might – I like your scene setting by the way. I think by far the most exciting part of the caves is the cultists section which does allow for more potential interaction) Having said that, it was a shame as a first stab (alpha or not) that it felt like such a difficult step to implement as I haven’t DM’d a AD&D for years and this felt like that, which made it much harder to DM straight out of the box more so than I realised and maybe partly why my players didn’t enjoy it as much as our usual 4e campaign either. I can only hope our first experience won’t put them off playtesting further iterations (although I know many people had a blast with it as is, maybe its just me being a poor DM, or being less prepared for what makes Next work better!) but we’ll have to see. I do have confidence that because of the approach WOTC is taking this can be a great game, they have show evidence of taking onboard constructive criticism, of which this is a great well reasoned piece. I’d urge you, if you haven’t already to make sure you get your feedback in via the survey, do it all in one go as you can’t return to it later and make use of the little boxes that allow you to fill in comments, only be prepared to be succinct.

  2. Thanks for your review. I’ve read it, but I haven’t had a chance to run or play. I read someone else discussing how rogues could wear plate mail and still do as he wanted, because he’d have about the same (or better) Armor Class as he would in leather with Dex, and his Skill Mastery would prevent him from taking the penalty associated with the armor (Disadvantage).

    Seems like an epic fail, all around, which doesn’t surprise me.

    • Although surely that is the point of the beta test, to find out how these things do and clearly don’t work and to improve on them.

      • That’s my thinking. Some things, like the Rogue in plate mail, can be fixed. I’m more concerned about the thematic choices like relative agency and the level of abstraction in combat.

  3. Now I don’t know if this is down to group, but when we played it we found it very freeing to just do as we wished. We set up traps and lured monsters back into them so we could negate their advantage in numbers. In combat we did stuff like lead a hobgoblin around on a rope after impaling him with a grappling hook. We used some grid, and some theater of the mind. As a basic framework, I like most of what it does. Advantage is clean and concise. I like how healing/damage is gritty and death is a threat if you’re not careful. I also think that the ability to break up your movement is fantastic and can make fights very dynamic. Thinking of it as a PreAlpha I am not unhappy with the ruleset in the playtest packet.

    My big question would be are your players big improvisers? Do they like to try off the wall schemes or coming up with tactics on the fly in a fight? Coming up with manuvers for the fighter and the rogue was one of the highlights of our evenings with it so far. It could be though that our enjoyment was strictly because our attitude of “go nuts” is very much what Wizards is looking for in DNDNext.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect. The rogue does start out pretty slow at level 1 but by level 3 is keeping up with the fighter pretty well (My concern here is scaling). The Ogre is just boring (Either a Second Attack, Double Damage, or Damage on a Miss would clear that up). Medium armor is probably the worst offender I can think of, as it is always better to be in either Light or Heavy. Some form of movement control in combat is needed. I wouldn’t mind the return of OA’s as long as it took your reaction for the round. Or maybe you have Disadvantage on attacks until the end of your next turn if you don’t use your action to make a special “Withdraw”. Something to make movement tactical. There is room for growth and development obviously, but I think this is a solid foundation to build on.

    • By the way I’m aware sometimes I come across as critical on your blog, but I really do think this is one of the best blogs around for analysis and deconstruction of mechanics (especially monsters) and design materials around. This is my go to place for sensible discourse on D&D. Keep up the excellent work.

      • Actually, I prefer being challenged, as long as the discussion remains civil. I love it when people say, “You’re being too harsh” or “I don’t think that works.” That sort of thing is awesome, especially when compared to “You suck” or “You’re an arrogant gasbag.”

        Thank you for the compliments. They’re like an extended rest for my ego!

    • To answer your question, yes, my group is heavily into improvisation and narrative. Two-thirds of us are ex-LARPers. That isn’t the issue. My concern is for what happens when the players either can’t come up with something cool to do or lack the energy to do so. Just as the system should allow for the characters to sometimes exceed their normal limits, it should also give them fun, meaningful things to do within the rules. This is where the comment about the “Make Your Own Fun Kit” comes into play. If the fun lies almost entirely in what the players bring to the table, why bother using Next at all? There are plenty of very fun, low-mechanics systems out there – *cough*Fate System*cough* – that can get the job done just fine. Next needs to distinguish itself in some way.

      I will say that we’re happy with the movement change and the skill system.

      • I will agree 100% on skills. The Skill system is fantastic. I’ve been waiting years for this without even really knowing it. I think a skill challenge framework using set DC’s and this new skill system would likely be a lot close to what they originally intended when 4E first came out.

        How much more do your players need? What are they looking for in terms of Mechanics or rules from the playtest? How much more structure do you think Wizards needs to provide?

      • “How much more do your players need? What are they looking for in terms of Mechanics or rules from the playtest? How much more structure do you think Wizards needs to provide?”

        Specifically, they miss the highs of 4e, both the spotlight moments and the “Hey, I’m doing something other than the same basic attack that I’ve used sixty times this session.” The problem with Next’s narrative “mechanics” is that anything that the players come up with is very likely either going to be small (Advantage and Disadvantage may be large bonuses and penalties, but in terms of excitement they’re kind of bland) or it’s going to feel like handwaving. My players want something that has an impact, but doesn’t simply negate an encounter or monster.

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