I feel like a post is almost obligatory…
Of course, after reading the playtest agreement I’m still not sure what I actually am allowed to say. It’s an awkward feeling.
So just some immediate impressions after reading everything in the playtest download twice.
It’s neat. It looks like a cool game and it is clear that it is well-designed. From the limited amount of available material it is almost impossible to make any useful generalizations but just the base game does seem to be pointing at old school gamers. Honestly, it bears a lot of resemblance to Castles and Crusades in some ways… it’s almost like Wizards decided to make an OSR clone with “modern” trimmings. Nothing really wrong with that.
I enjoyed reading it. The pregenerated characters give a clear impression of what to expect from leveling. I’m pleased (of course I am) by the amount of authority/responsibility returned to the DM.That particular spectre of 4E is hopefully forever laid to rest. Some of the little details almost felt like “easter eggs” more than genuine design choices but they were also little details so it doesn’t really matter. I will say that one of the few things I genuinely loved about 4E was the single saving throw and the use of Fort, Ref, and Will as defenses and I’m disappointed by that change. Some of the other items on the character side are also annoying (to me) but that’s probably a given. Some choices just seem perplexing.
That said… here’s the rub. It’s neat. It hearkens back to ye olde days with some success. I’ll be surprised if it makes the 4E diehards happy though the promise of later modules remains to give hope on this front. But it won’t make me buy it. I know, I know… it’s the first freakin’ playtest document. Why would I judge it like that? Here’s why. I have dozens (honestly, dozens) of fantasy systems I can play. I have several fantasy systems I love and don’t get to play enough already. This includes my entire Old School, 1e and 2e collections as well as Castles and Crusades, Warhammer Fantasy 2nd ed., Barbarians of Lemuria, OSR stuff like ACKS, Dragon Age RPG, and even, well, Pathfinder. Heck, I’m sure I’m even leaving some out that I could happily list here.
In order to get me on board, NEXT would have to be something so exciting, so different, so appealing, that I’d be willing to spend my thin gaming time on a new game that wants me to play it for the wrong reasons… I’d have to be wow’ed. I’d have to feel like it gave me a more valuable experience than my other options — especially knowing how likely it is that WotC will cut bait and run on me the minute sales start to flag. I don’t think WotC is “teh evil” or anything — but I certainly don’t love them much as a company either. From what I can tell so far (and I know, I know it’s only “so far”) D&D Next doesn’t give me anything I can’t already get, does it in some ways that I like and some that I really don’t, and overall leaves me just feeling, “meh.”
So, what do the rest of you think?
PS — To be fair, the last three editions of D&D — 2nd, 3rd, and 4th — had me standing at the gaming store waiting with baited breath for a box to be opened so I could buy the freakin’ books and take them home. I played all three of them the week they came out and played 4E before it came out at game store events. I’ve wanted this product, waited for this product and played all three editions for many years. Heck, the eleven year lifespan of 2e is something I look back on with a lot of love in my heart. But the bloom is definitely off the rose. Next is Neat… but that’s really the best enthusiasm I can muster.