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.