D&DNext, Again

I’ve been reading and thinking about D&D Next since the newest playtest packet came out. I have a few further observations to share but I’ll start with pointing to a good read from this past week about Next. The Neuroglyph Games post makes good points and I agree with most everything he has to say. I think it’s fair to say that WotC is suffering from a lack of consumer trust. Probably the biggest sticking point for me to being excited about 5E or Next or whatever is that I just don’t really trust WotC as a company (I’m not sure I’m very fond of them) and I’m not really interested in continuing to support them.

That said — from what I’ve heard from GenCon and from Neuroglyph, as well as my own reading of the playtest materials — here’s what I see right now.

Compromise. Old School is “hot” right now. DCC made a splash, OSR games are popular, and WotC is capitalizing on this feeling. But at the same time, the 3e/4e player needs to be kept in the fold. So they appear to be trying to make everyone happy. Compromise rarely achieves this. Mostly, everyone ends up unhappy. Healing is one example of this. I find the variants to the Long Rest healing interesting but I have a problem with the whole thing too…

A Dash of Saga. Maybe I’m crazy, but when I look at how characters are constructed now in Next, I see a growth out of the Saga rules used for Star Wars Saga Edition mixed with the aforementioned OS sensibilities and compromises (mostly consisting of variants). When 4e was still in the “rumor” stage, I remember one of the big rumors being about how it would resemble Saga. If they had done this in the first place instead of waiting 4 years and having the PR nightmare of the 4e era (whether you like 4E or not, it’s been a PR nightmare for WotC). I also still see shades of C&C in the new system — enough that it bugs me.

Finally — well, I could say more but I’ll close it down — I think Neuroglyph brings out a very interesting talking point about Next. It’s that stuff about not “being in the business of writing rules.” It is again nice to see that Wizards may not be very good at doing but they are good at learning from others. Paizo already figured this out with their revamp of 3.5 into Pathfinder. Pathfinder has been around for years now and there are only — with this month’s release of Ultimate Equipment — five books of “CRUNCH” with the majority of what they produce being fluff, adventures, and supplements designed around their world with little in the way of “New Stuff!” 4E was saturated with a constant stream of player-focused product — not as much as original 3/3.5 to be sure, but definitely weighty. And then there was Essentials.

So. I think what reflecting on this teaches me is that, whether Next is a “good” game or not — and frankly that’s mostly about personal preference — I just have no faith in WotC and when I look at Next I see little more than a hodgepodge of stuff that doesn’t bring anything terribly exciting (to me) to the table. Ah well. To each their own – but I’m not getting much from Next.

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5 responses

  1. I have similar feelings about D&D Next and WoTC. I am really having a hard time being excited about what they are doing and it has nothing to do with it being a good or bad game or good or bad mechanics. I am just fatigued by it all. I really hope they have learned from Pathfinder in terms of their business plan and release schedule, because I definitely will not support their “CRUNCH” of the month club sales strategy. I would love to see them do more adventure paths. They have to do something different because I am not sure how long you can continue to re-package the same rules and sell them with much success. I also think that it contributes to the lack of trust people have in them. Continually hyping the next thing while sweeping yesterdays news under the rug/bus can leave people easily disillusioned. Plus it becomes harder to not see every move or decision they make as a means to gouge as much money from you as they can rather than in the best interests of the fans/customers. I am not naïve and understand the importance of profit to a company; I just prefer it to be a little less transparent.

  2. I know from reading your blog that you are a big 4E player. I admit, the immediacy of dropping 4E and kinda pretending it wasn’t such a PR nightmare… (again, irrespective of it’s quality as a game). I also worry that “modules” are going to just be the new way to do “crunch of the month” hidden behind a facade of “but its a new world/playset/something.

    So yeah, frustrated with WotC and thus, probably giving 5e less attention than it might deserve.

  3. Michael, I cannot reach you any other way so I am dropping a comment. I would like to have your comments on my topic at an RPGs forum. I am entirely frustrated with the RPG hobby, considering giving it up, since my pool of players do not enjoy the same thing from an RPG as I. Read the eMail I received from one example of 8 players to commisserate. http://happyjacks.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=1080

    With articulate blogs like yours, I see I am not alone metaphysically but I am entirely isolated in a physical sense. And I do not want to play a game much less prepare one that I do not enjoy. Please spare me a comment. I could use a kind word, so I come to you.

  4. Howdy R.A.

    So, I feel your pain. I’ve been on the edge of walking away too. It’s been hard, around here, to find a decent number of like-minded gamers and I’ve struggled with that. Thanks for the compliment – and you are not alone – but I have to say… I stay away from gaming forums like the plague. The D&D forums near the middle of the 3.5 days were such a pit of repulsive bile that I nearly quit gaming from reading those boards. The 4E days – if anything – were worse.

    And my experience with other gaming forums has been equally poor. Maybe it’s time to walk away from the forums for a while, get out to a nearby game store or convention (or play a small game like Fiasco with a limited set of friends and try to tease them into a less “gamey” way of thinking)?

    That’s my best suggestion. Here’s hoping you stay in the fight though… ultimately, I believe our hobby is worth it!

    1. I actually see our hobby dying. YMMV. I am in a non-English speaking country, 45, and without a social network. I tried to use RPGs to help build one but, let’s face the fact, making age-approriate friends is impossible as a foreigner in a non-English speaking country with a table of Asperger’s.

      I have found great support on forums. But I pick my forums carefully. The Happy Jacks’ forum gives me a window to the hobby heartbeat that a blog just cannot. And it is more respectful than my own table at this point. I also belong to a forum for the hobby on LinkedIN which strips away the anonymity and reveals a person from his business perspective. People are on their best behaviour there – plus you get to look over a profile resume and understand the biases and background of a comment sometimes.

      I do miss your articulation on these forums. You have made some great counter points and expressed your arguments in a more artful and articulate manner than some who state the same conclusions elsewhere.

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