Monday, July 8, 2013

Thoughts on Next

I finally got a taste of D&D Next this weekend.  The short of it is that I like it so far, and look forward to seeing what comes along.  It’s a pretty standard set of rules, with plenty of familiarity mixed in with some new ideas, many of which I have seen in other forms as house-rules in the past.  But where Next seems to differentiate itself, at least in my mind, is in the character creation process.
As I spoke about before, there is this feeling among the “old school” crowd that the latest editions (mostly 3E and 4E) are so focused on the mechanics of the game, that it detracts from actual role-playing, and turns it into nothing more than a glorified board game.  Now, while I wholeheartedly disagree with that, I can understand why they would think this way.
Next seems to address this issue, though it may not be intentionally.  During character creation, the process, as laid out by the book, is slightly different than in the past.  Before it was standard to:
1.  Roll ability scores
2.  Select Race/Class
3.  Assign your ability scores
4.  Fill out the details
In Next, the process is pretty much the same, in the same order, except that it adds another step.  After selecting your race and class, you select a Background and, optionally, a Specialty and Feats.
Your Background will dictate your skills at the beginning.  You get four skills to start with, and they are related to your background, which can be equated to your “character concept.”  Other games have been doing this for years, so it kind of boggles the mind why D&D has taken so long to embrace this idea.  I mean, it kind of always has in the case of weapons and armor.  But in non-combat abilities, it’s always been non-existent, or handled kind of willy-nilly.
The Specialties and Feats being optional is actually brilliant.  Having them or not having them does not disrupt the balance of the game, as far as I can tell.  So, for the Grognards who sneer at the idea of Feats, you can feel free to not use them, and still be within the parameters of the “written word” of the game.  They are there simply to customize your character a bit, and really not much more.  I believe that’s the way they were intended when introduced in 3E, but things kind of got misinterpreted and out of hand.
Now, with all of that being said, I should also mention that, as we sat down to play, we three players had not finished (or even started) creating our characters, and the DM had concentrated on his story, and was not fully schooled on all of the rules.  We were also hampered by the fact that all of the rules materials were in electronic format, aside from a few pages being printed out for easy reference (I will be working on correcting that this week).  However, the whole process was relatively easy, and we managed to have a really good session.
The bottom line is, while so far Next doesn’t seem to be too revolutionary, it’s a solid game, and our session proved that the mechanics have little effect on the role-play aspect of the game, regardless of what some narrow-minded grongards like to think.

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