My first impression of D&D Next

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So, I have been sitting here for the past hour, watching a blinking cursor, and trying to think about what I should write in my semi review of what my first impressions are about D&D Next. 

There are many thoughts that pop into my head when I hear those words, and it is a great thing and thought to really have.

I know that when I hear the words Dungeons and Dragons, I think of a few things right off the bat. I think of all the hours spent in my friends basement those many years ago, rolling the die, and hoping that I would get that all so elusive natural 20, or else my Dwarf would be slain in a horrible way… or as in one case, trampled nearly to death in a Lemming stampede.

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 Thoughts of the massive amount of fun and the copious snacks munched, and soda guzzled in the many sessions whither at my shop, or again at friends homes. 

I also think back to a time when it really meant something to create a character… and truly at it’s heart, that thought was gone during the time that D&D: 4th Edition has been out.

I first want to qualify a couple things… the first is that I have been playing role playing games for now over 20 years. I have been a member of the Role Playing Games Association in both of it’s incarnations (When it was run and organized by TSR, and later by Wizards of the Coast), and began playing when what we know now as 2nd edition was still called Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

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Given that I have been playing so long, I can honestly say that  I have seen some major changes to the game. Some of them have been great, but many, many more that I have felt were nothing more than a pain in my gaming arse.

What I am going to write about from this point in the article is really what I think that D&D Next is all about.

D&D Next to one degree or another, is kind of like the plot of Quantum Leap… where the Play Test is kind of like the character of Sam Beckett in the regards of how the Play Test is seemingly compelled “to set right what once went wrong.” I will go over the three things that I feel are the biggest corrections in the development in the new edition as it is being worked on bt the players themselves.

1. The Play Test itself.

It is not uncommon for a game to undergo some type of beta testing when the game itself is being developed, especially when it comes to the games are going to be mass-produced and marketed for millions of players.

This is something that did not happen with the publishing of 4th edition. The game was taken from what had been a familiar system (albeit totally different from what was the system from 2nd edition) and took those changes, and did nothing more than throw the good out with the bad, and rebuilt a game system up from the bottom.

The result was a combat system left unbalanced by many classes having the ability to teleport around the battle field, characters that could totally heal themselves leaving the cleric class being mostly obsolete, and a complete lack of depth when it came to the ability to customize your character to make it so that it had meaning (more on some of this stuff later).

Long and the short of it all really is that the players were left out in the cold without being able to give input for what worked and what didn’t when it came to a game that many of them had been playing since well before many of the developers were in the game designing business.

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With 4th edition being launched so closely to 3.5 and hell even 3rd. It was with a combination of surprise, and a feeling of “I told you so” that I had read an article on the blog from Forbes that addressed the feeling that Wizards of the Coast, and more importantly, their parent company Hasbro, not only jumped the gun in releasing 4th, but had hurt the branding of D&D as well with the veritable onslaught of miniatures, models, books, maps, modules, and over all pressing of products out to the gaming masses, that it appeared that the writing may have been on the wall well into development that if they were going to try and make money with 4th edition, Wizards would have to churn out guides and books faster than they could really get established as far as acceptance from the player base.

While some of this did result in the rebirth of settings like Ravenloft, and Dark Sun, it was really with the changing and marketing of The Forgotten Realms that really made the difference in the edition, and what many players like me would consider it’s ultimate failure.

2. Skills and advancement of level, work much better, and functions of the character creation process have been very much improved. One of the big things that I have found with this is really quite simple. In 4th edition, characters that were created, would not really have the option to take skill that would allow them to round out the character that would make it more personalized.

In previous editions of D&D, no matter what class you chose, you could switch things up and take skills that suited your fancy. It was also possible to select skills that might not be on your character’s class skill list (such as a fighter taking disable device, or a wizard could take a performance skill) in order to expand the depth of the character.

Over the grand scheme of things, you would think that is not really important. That selecting skills that might not be totally needed for a particular class is a waste of time, and that figuring out skill points every level would also be a waste. So the answer that was given to that thought process in 4th edition would be a simplified thing.

Your skills would be pretty much set for the class. You would select 4 skills to have as the trained focus. And for the lack of a better term, that was it. Now lets take that in for a second… that pretty much means that you would need one of these to create a character…

Yes, a cookie cutter. That is the thing that you need to have to help create a character for 4th edition. What makes this so accurate when it comes to character creation, is simply put, you end up in the same idea like an MMORPG… now to me that is not really creating a character. That is just simply rolling up something that you are going to level up and hope to make it into a guild so that you can get to raid content. That my fair readers, is one hell of a terrible problem.

When creating a character for D&D Next, it totally works out way better, and that is because while you can choose to select 4 skills, you have the option of what skills you have. On top of that, if you choose a certain background styled for your class, which gives you more paths to go to round out your character.

Long story here made short, you can now make a character that is more personalized.

3. Some of the rules make more sense.

There is no real big story with this one. Some of the rules make sense, because they brought back some of the old rules. Such as how the game has switched back to the distances being measures in feet instead of number of squares on the map. Or how Strength and Dexterity bonuses are reflected in weapons that rely on that stat when it comes to damage. Or more importantly, the fact that saving throws are now rolled again and they are not just simple numbers that you may or may not have on your side.

All in all, D&D Next is a much better system so far than D&D 4th edition. I will post more about this play test as it develops.

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