Like many of us, I signed up for the D&D Next Open Playtest pretty much the day it was announced. So it was with great excitement (and no small amount of anxiety) that I downloaded the D&D Next playtest packet when it became available last night.
Over the past few years my experiences with D&D have been a sort of hit-and-miss thing. I appreciate the game for what it is, but the upper levels of complexity turn me off. Whenever discussions turn towards character optimization, my eyes glaze over and I sort of just sit there in slack-jawed silence until someone taps me on the shoulder to shake me out of the fugue state. This is regardless of either the 3rd or 4th edition.
I don’t consider myself to be adverse to complex rules, my love for Fantasy Craft and the HERO system demonstrate that it’s not the complexity of the system that bothers me.
That said, now that I’ve made my case on who I am and where I stand on the issue of what has come before, let’s weigh in on the present with the D&D Next Open Playtest.
I love it.
Seriously. The playtest rules are written in a remarkably accessible and informative style that fulfills it’s aim to present a playable game right off the bat.
The packet itself includes a Bestiary, several character sheets (2 Clerics, a Wizard, a Rogue and a Fighter), as well as a How To Play and DM Guideline documents, and finally an adventure module called Caves of Chaos.
Overall, the system is familiar to anyone who has ever played the last two editions of D&D. That said, the implementation of the rules is a surprisingly elegant one. Little mechanics like the Advantage / Disadvantage system is particularly neat in theory. Grids have become optional again. Monster Stats are presented well, with each monster having something neat for it both in terms of combat mechanics and even neat RP details. The focus on giving Themes and Backgrounds on characters that encourage roleplay possibilities in as little as a single paragraph is an enormous step in the right direction, and just looking at a character sheet is giving me neat ideas on what plot hooks can work for a character… and that’s definitely something I find impressive as a GM.
That said this is all very early stuff, and they’ve already set the expectation that the playtest document is probably going to be very different from the final product, which is a shame since I’m enjoying everything that’s in it so far.
Maybe one of these weekends I’ll be able to slip in a quick session using the Playtest packet with my group and give the group’s impressions of the rules in play.