D&D Next: First Impressions

I like it.

Those aren’t easy words to write. I’ve had a few issues with the way Wizards of the Coast has handled the roll-out of the latest edition. The Legends & Lore articles have been lackluster at best, frustrating at their worst.

Sometimes a thing can be greater than the sum of its parts. Now that the playtest document is (metaphorically) in my hands, the nature of the thing is present. I have played every edition of Dungeons & Dragons since 2nd, and leapt without hesitation to each new iteration of the rules. They haven’t been perfect, and I found myself burned out over time. The energy of a new edition, it seems, inspires me once again.

I can’t claim to have Old School Fever, but when I grew weary of 3.5 I attempted to get back into AD&D. I tried Castles & Crusades and a few retroclones, but found them frustrating. Weapon speeds, casting times, segments—all these things bored me to tears.

D&D Next manages to capture some of that magic I first experienced when I cracked open the cover of D&D Basic, while still learning a bit from what has come after. I like the idea of advantages and disadvantages, and it appears the designers have a somewhat better handle on the out-of-control modifiers that 3rd Edition brought to the game and made rolling a d20 an exercise in pointlessness.

Will it stick? I don’t know. I liked 4th Edition when it hit the shelves, then burned out on it faster than I ever did with 3rd Edition. For the moment, though, I’m willing to see where this goes. The GM of the Pathfinder group I recently joined sent us an e-mail telling everyone to sign up (as if I didn’t do that on the first day), so I imagine a game is in the works. It doesn’t hurt that the first adventure is B2: Keep on the Bord—er, Caves of ChaosI have read and re-read this module many a time in my life, played it, ran it, and admired it. In many ways it is dated, and to say it could use some work is an understatement, but the sandbox-like sense of adventure it first instilled in me at the age of nine has gone on to inspire how I look at RPGs.

Over the next few weeks and months, many people will pore over the rules, analyzing them, dissecting them, critiquing them. That is to be expected and welcomed. I imagine most of us will do this in some form or other. As for me, I am concerned foremost with what the new elements of the game, or the revised elements, contribute to driving a story forward. Killing monsters is hellishly fun at times, but much of my own campaigning has often involved a lot more talking, intrigue, mystery, and travel. I am curious to see if D&D Next adds anything to the table when it comes to these things.

We’ll see how it goes.

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