My thoughts on D&D Next

Having had the chance to run the first public outing of D&D Next in the UK, and having been involved in both some of the behind the scenes testing and with the public packets, I’ve had 16 months to play with the rules in various forms. I thought that with D&D Next getting its first mainstream outing due next month with Vault of the Dracolich on Free RPG Day, that now is a good time to consider what I do and don’t like about the system, and in a companion article, figure out a way to hack some of the changes into D&D 4e.

What I Like:

1. Its D&D

It seems a strange one, but its an important one to start with. WotC have stuck with what makes D&D… well… D&D. We’re talking about d20’s, 6 stats from 3 to 18 with modifiers, AC, HP, spells, saving throws, turn undead. The core rules of D&D Next are incredibly streamline, and fairly historic. They could have taken a risk, like they did with feats in 3e, and powers in 4e, and throw some crazy new mechanics into the mix, but they kept it classic.

2. The Rules Don’t Get In The Way

I’ve lost track of the number of games I’ve played, but other than one single game, where we purposely tried to break the rules and nitpicked them to death, the rules have barely been ‘noticed’. Sure, we use them, but beyond a quick reference check on things like turn undead or healers kits or grapple, we don’t find that we have to stop to re-read them. To me, thats the sign of a well designed core.

3. Advantage

While the Advantage mechanic is pretty much just a rip off of the Avengers’ shtick from 4e, it is part of the core, and works well. Mathematically, its suspect, but let’s be honest, we like rolling dice, and theres that wonderful moment when your first roll is a 3 and your second roll is a 17 and you hit.

4. Skill Dice

Skills are a difficult system to get right in any rpg, with a high stated but unskilled character often having as good a chance as a poorly stated but trained character. Skill dice, like Advantage, plays off the fact that gamers like to roll dice, and provides a nice random element. I’m not sure if it ever made it to a public playtest, but at one point, skill dice were d4’s and the rogue got to roll d6’s instead. I liked that, it made the rogue have a slight benefit at skills.

5. Clerics/Paladins

When I first saw the paladin, I was unsure about where it would fit in, it looked to similar in power to the fighter martially, and the cleric in spell casting. However, there is just enough to make them all different. Deities and Oaths are brilliantly written, I love they fact that the deities are not specific to a campaign world and instead give real world and rpg history examples. Even the core details aren’t set – words like primarily, usually, often, sometimes… means that DM’s can easily adapt these to their own campaign. I love that the Blackguard was included right from the start. I love the amount of choice in deities and oaths. They are by far my favourite classes to play in D&D Next.

6. Druids

What isn’t there to like about the druid in D&D Next?. It takes inspiration from the recent 4e heroes of the feywild book, its got shape changing. Its got spells, including as one of my friends puts it… The ‘S’ spell… Shillelagh. Its been a great class to watch in action.

7. Adventures

I got an early look at Blingdenstone, and it was pretty good, but the work they did to improve it was great. Then theres the fact they included Caves of Chaos, the quintessential sandbox first adventure. And Isle of Dread, the adventure that got me into D&D originally. And theres yet more cool stuff coming, with some great little ideas from Greg Bilsland and Chris Perkins that probably won’t make most people go ‘ooooh’, but were exactly what i’d have done or were so ingenious as to make me wonder how I ever coped before it.

8. Monster Hit Dice

As you’ll see below, I hate hit dice for pc’s, but for monsters, it means you can have some variety in the relative strength of a monster, giving you a minimum hp, an average hp, and a max hp. I think Hit Dice have always been swingy, and i’d tweak them slightly, but still, I like having the option.

9. Arcane Recovery

Wizards get to, once a day, recover a spell slot they’ve used during a rest. That is a brilliant mechanic that lengthens the in game day because its less dictated by the number of spells they’ve cast. A form of it was also in the earliest playtest, where they could heal OR regain a spell, and my feedback for nearly a year has been ‘bring spell recovery back’, so i’m very pleased to see it!


And now the dislike/hate.

1. Its D&D

I know this looks a bit odd, given I praised D&D Next sticking to D&D’s nearly 40 year history but… It’s D&D, and thats it.

4e really pushed the boat out on revolutionary ideas, presenting balanced classes, where everybody had something cool they could do either every round, every fight, or every day. It streamlined the rules so you only had to worry about AC, HP and the three other defences. Next removes all those advances, and goes back to D&D’s roots, adds in more defences via saves, takes a sprinkle of becmi, a sprinkle of 2e, a sprinkle of ‘skills and powers’ era, a sprinkle of 3e, a sprinkle of 4e, and mashes them together into a game that can feel incomplete and at times ill thought out. It doesn’t innovate and instead rests on the laurels of that rich 40 year history to create a game that panders more to the Old School Renaissance crowd of gamers than the fresh blood the hobby needs.

I’ve been gaming for over 20 years, and amassed a collection of books from becmi, 2e, 3e and 4e. Given the limited amount of races, classes, backgrounds, feats, spells and adventures we have in Next at the moment, I could probably go back to the BECMI era Rules Cyclopedia, and have more material at my disposal in a rules system that feels the same, but is tried and tested…

But I don’t want to do that, I want D&D Next to be new, fresh, and modern, and I feel they are failing at this…

2. Disadvantage

Remember I said up there that gamers love to roll more dice… Well, it doesn’t apply to disadvantage. As a mechanic having to roll twice and take the lowest sounds good, but in reality, you roll a dice, score a 20, a critical success… but then you roll your second, and get a 2…  THAT IS NOT A FUN MECHANIC. And given some of the fundamental class features and rules like sneak attack require you to have disadvantage, it basically removes the desire to ever use that class feature, making the development time, and selection of that class or feature pointless.

3. Rolling For Stats

Years ago, if you’d have asked me what was a important aspect of D&D character generation, i’d have said it was rolling 3d6 to get your stats. (Personally, I like 4d6, drop lowest, reroll 1’s, do this 7 times, take the 6 highest…) but as I’ve got older, and DM’ed more and more sessions, I realise just how swingy and uneven rolling stats is. For a recent playtest session, I rolled 17,11,17,18,17,16 using D&D Next’s suggested 4d6 drop lowest method… I was +2 higher on most stats than everyone else in the group, and accordingly, a +1 to hp, ac, attacks, damage higher than everyone else. I was effectively the ultimate bad ass of a pc in the party. It shouldn’t be like that. Take 4e’s route instead, make arrays and point buy the default, and offer rolling as an alternative that groups can agree to use.

4. Bounded Accuracy

Bounded Accuracy… One of the supposed big selling points of D&D Next, where you advance at a slower more controlled rate, meaning lower level monsters remain a threat for longer, while allowing the use of one or two higher level monsters with slightly increased stats to provide a real challenge. Its meant to help the balance between classes, the balance between low and high level play… But in reality, it just creates a disparity between the classes, the monsters and pcs, and those who roll well. The fighter, barbarian, monk, and paladin are all equally good at fighting thanks to bounded accuracy, and basically only differ in class features. Bounded Accuracy doesn’t just affect attacks though, it affects AC, and creates another disparity, we’ve had games where a wizard had ac 10, and a paladin had ac 19. As a dm, I know which one i’ll attack… The slow advancement will make it feel like you don’t improve, and for playtesting where our group has rarely gone above level 4, we’ve yet to see any improvement in our attacks. I hate that.

Given the average attack bonus in our group at level one is +3, it also affects your ability to hit, something i’ll address in a moment…

5. Monster Stats

I’m including this, but I don’t know whether its caused by bounded accuracy or the fact that WotC just haven’t bothered to sort out the monster maths yet, but given killing monsters is a critical part of D&D, the fact that its not right is kinda a deal breaker for me. It’s quite common to come up against monsters with better AC, HP and attack bonuses than the pcs… At level 1…

I recently ran a game where the players we’re meant to be fighting AC 16, HP 11 foot soldiers, who had a +5 to hit, and dealt 1d6+1 damage. With AC 16, our pc’s with their measly +3 attack bonus thanks to Bounded Accuracy had to roll 13 or more to hit, i.e. 3 out of 5 times the pc’s are going to miss, and players HATE missing. But then the flipside is they have a +5 to attack, and will hit the mage with ac 10 3 out of 4 times, and their minimum damage will kill him in 3 hits, and their maximum damage will kill him in 1 hit.

Monster maths is so broken that I actually find playtesting stuff difficult because it’s hard to judge if the classes are underpowered or the monster overpowered.

6. PC Hit Dice

Hit dice are a classic part of D&D, I can’t deny that, but its a part of the history that I think should not be resurrected, kinda like THAC0. Even 20 years ago when I first started, I could see how swingy rolling to determine how much HP you gained per level was, and house ruled that you got your maximum hit dice result. Given Hit Dice now determine both your hp per level, and the hp you heal during rests, this swingy nature is even worse. Much like my comment about disadvantage, it isn’t fun having to roll and getting a shitty result like a 1 or a 2. My other issue with hit dice, is that they seem too big and no real distinction between classes, stuff that classically got a dice 2 or more steps smaller than a fighter, now has one step or the same.

7. Divine Healing

I’ve put divine healing, but realistically, I could just complain about healing in D&D Next in general, because it sucks, and even from that earliest packet, has been poorly designed. Taking away second wind was stupid, it meant players didn’t have to protect and rely on the healer, and going back to only having divine healing is such a massive step backwards from 4e.

8. Spellcasting

Vancian magic should die.

I was tempted just to leave that as my only comment on this. Vancian magic didn’t make sense to me 20 years ago, and having tried to read the Dying Earth series and giving up because it was absolute drivel, I still don’t understand it anddon’t get why people hold Jack Vance’s idea that the magic words/gestures are so powerful and wiped from your memory is such a critical component of D&D. People complained about the lack of vancian magic in 4e, but realistically, thats all AEDU was, just disguised into a system that was easy to understand and even easier to use.

But vancian magic is not my only complaint about D&D Next’s spell casting… My actual biggest complaint is the complexity of how its presented. You can know, say… 1 spell, plus an extra amount from your stat bonus, plus some that you know because of your deity etc. Of those, say 4 spells, you can prepare 1 + your level plus you might always have some prepared because of your class/deity/tradition, then you might only be able to cast say 2 of them per day, but some spells might be cantrips to your because of your deity/tradition. Then theres the fact that some spells are swift actions, and some have ritual versions… It’s just all too complex.

Finally… theres the stupid method of rolling to hit. Some spells have attacks, some auto hit, some force the DM to roll against a static DC based on the spellcasters stats. Note that… THE DM ROLLS. We’ve ascertained that players like to roll dice. And the DM already has enough fucking stuff on his plate telling the story, tracking hp, ac, initiative, positions, describing stuff… So why in god’s name, have WotC decided to lump yet another thing on the DM and make him roll to see if the spell hits? In some ways I actual prefer the method WotC used in the earliest playtest where the spellcaster rolled to set a DC, and then the dm rolled to beat it. At least that was dynamic…

9. Development Time

The first public showing, to a select bunch of fans – Alphastream, NewbieDM, SarahDarkmagic etc was in December 2011. Thats 18 months ago. I’ve developed and released 10 pieces of software in the same time frame. Given that WotC will have been working on it internally for a year or so before hand, we are looking at 2 and a half years in which they still can’t figure out how the fighter or rogue should work, 2 and a half years in which to still not figure out how skills should work, 2 and a half years for monster maths still not to be calculated right. I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s taking too long, without enough progress been made on core aspects of the system.

10. Disappoint Undead

18 months of public testing, and still we’ve yet to see a decent version of Turn Undead. Some packets didn’t even give the cleric it by default… In our group its known by the more appropriate name of disappoint undead thanks to its inability to actually do anything useful. I can understand that its a hard one to balance – make it too powerful and the cleric becomes the go to class in an undead rich campaign, and it can totally ruin a dm’s planned encounter… But given every party will have to have a cleric because of the divine healing only aspect of D&D Next, I think they could balance this spell/power/ability better, and make it more useful.

11. The Wizard

The wizard is in my opinion the worst class in the current D&D Next playtest. Whereas other classes get new features per level, beyond new spells, and a few more uses of arcane recovery, the Wizard gets well and truly shafted as it goes up in levels. Couple this with the complexity of the spellcasting rules, and the Traditions, which compared to deities/oaths/moon phases/favoured enemies etc are woefully under described and under featured and put simply, boring, and you have a class that borders on being a total snore fest.

12. The Monk

Oh look, yet again the D&D monk is a martial arts master, whirling around the battlefield, almost impossible to hit despite only wearing robes, dealing stupid amounts of damage with their bare fists.

I come from Britain, home of the abbeys and monasteries, hell, theres 3 ancient abbey ruins within 30 minutes of my home. Monks to me are academic priests, with a vow or silence, and the ability to make kick ass beer and mead… Put that aside for a moment, and the martial arts master just doesn’t sit right with me in a medieval world of warriors, wizards, kingdoms and dragons. I don’t mind the Monk being an optional class introduced in a later book, but I hate the fact its a core class.

13. The Rogue

For 18 months the rogue has suffered an identity crisis. At times its being the skill monkey, at other times its basically just been the fighter with less armour and more damage. I wish they would just figure out what it is they want the rogue to do and make it do it, though I personally don’t know what I want the class to be. I know I hated the fact that in 4e, in order to best use sneak attack, you had to flank and thus the rogue became a frontline fighter, but maybe that kind of rogue needs to be an option?

14. The Fighter

I’ll be honest, when I had the chance to privately playtest the various options for the fighter, it drove me crazy. In one session, we had 3 different versions of it playing side by side, and none of them stood out as being the best. I actually had to step aside from playtesting for a while simply because I was fed up of seeing yet another new fighter concept.

The fighter as it stands is a good class, it is equal in power to its rivals – the monk, the barbarian and the paladin. Its only real strength comes in that its ability, the expertise dice, its gets 2 per encounter, rather than the usually 2 per day benefits of its rivals.

My issue with it though, is that it doesn’t scream out ‘fighter’, it doesn’t make me think of a peasant man at arms drafted into the militia, or of a mounted knight, or of a heroic dragon slayer. It’s just a little ‘meh’. It lacks a flavoursome choice like deity/oath (though past playtests have had some) and mechanically I feel like it should be THE BEST at fighting. Even if thats only an extra +1 attack bonus to the bounded accuracy and an extra +2 damage, I just always want it to be the best, and stand out as being the most well trained with weapons and armour.

15. Too Many Things

Your race gives you stuff – stats, abilities, languages  proficiencies. Your sub race (if you have one) gives you stuff, stats, abilities. Your Class gives you stuff, stats, hit dice, hp, proficiencies, abilities, attack bonuses, class skills, equipment. Your sub class (deity/.oath/tradition)  gives you stuff. Your background gives you stuff – skills, equipment and an ability. Your speciality gives you abilities. Even your equipment can give you stuff you have to keep track off. I actually reckon, that laid out like a 4e character sheet, you’d have more ‘powers’ on the cards. For a game thats meant to be streamlined and stripped down, its just too complex at level one.

16. Character Generation Sucks

I have to open pretty much every document when I build characters, char gen guide, how to play guid (because the stat bonuses aren’t listed in the char gen guide!), and I need to pick a race, class, spells, background, speciality, equipment… At least 4e had the character builder app eventually…


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  1. chad

    Next is, in many ways, a giant step back from 4e – a step back entirely over 3.5, 3, and 2e. Think of it as AD&D concepts with simplified 3e (Player’s Handbook only) math, and you’re 85% correct. It’s not my favorite edition, but I’ve taught 100+ people how to play it during a ~2 hour slot at various game conventions, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t pick it up and demonstrate solid mastery within the time.

    A far more telling concern with Next is whether or not it serves the hardcore or medium-core fans. WotC’s answer so far has been “there will be, in some future, optional modules aimed at keeping the invested players interested”. To date, none have been seen in the wild, so we just don’t know.

  2. Intrinsic

    @John Gray:

    No chance to roleplay? That’s not a fault of the 4e system. That is entirely in the hands of the players & DM. The risk of falling/death is also on your DM. The risk of death in 4e is only as negligible as it was in 3.5 (as there exists the same “get out of death free” spells, if you can afford the material components).
    Most sessions in the 4e games I’ve run & played are almost entirely roleplay, with a minimum of combat. It’s not even necessarily planned that way; it just happens organically.

    There is absolutely nothing in the 4e rules that limits roleplay. If your DM forces you through constant hack-and-slash dungeon crawls, that is his/her fault, not the game’s. Ranged fighters & armoured wizards are just as viable in 4e, as well – as my own armour-wearing wizard shows (and without houserules!). I may be wrong, but the feeling that you’re “playing a video game” sounds like a prejudice that was there before you even played the system, because I have honestly never had a new player say that (even those that play WoW & similar games). That, or your DM simply did not know how (or didn’t care) to run the system properly.

  3. Ile

    “Playing a video game” would be an insult to some video games in this case, as many (especially older) games came to be quite good p&p ports in their own right. Feeling like a modern hack and slash (WoW) is a much more closer approximation. Which actually makes it a good starting ground for extremely new, instant result kind of of players, but comparing it to 1st and 2nd edition, the game is all mechanics and no role play (from a character building aspect i.e.). Sure you can roleplay when out of encounters and during some skill challenges, but that’s about it.

  4. Chad

    I don’t understand why people feel the need to assert that nobody can roleplay in 4e despite the numerous people citing evidence and experience to the contrary. If your group found that you didn’t roleplay when playing 4e, you should examine your group to find out why – or don’t, as there are plenty of other great games to play. Don’t incorrectly generalize from your few experiences to everyone, though – there are many, many people who have used 4e to facilitate deep roleplaying experiences from launch to today (I know many who haven’t stopped yet and aren’t planning on it anytime soon).

    The thing that 4e did do is this: it allows a group of new people to play either tactical miniatures game or a hack-and-slash campaign with much less trouble than previous editions. If you didn’t know how to play at all, or if you already liked to play those kinds of games, then 4e was a big step up for you. Especially if you just did exactly and only what the original 4e DMG said, you could easily get very mechanical, formulaic games – but nothing forced that lowest common denominator. Being good for one or things doesn’t make *anything* automatically bad at everything else.

    Anyway, 4e has gone the way of 3e, 2e, AD&D, BECMI, etc. Try the new stuff or not, however you feel. Don’t use 4e as your yardstick for anything about Next, though – if Next has any relationship *at all* with 4e, it’s “Don’t make 5e be like 4e.”, whether you think that’s a good thing or not.

  5. Intrinsic

    Again, I don’t find that to be true, lle.

    My groups roleplay through everything. Encounters, skill challenges, etc. If you’re saying the rules prevent roleplay, that’s not the fault of the system – it’s the players and/or DM.
    There is nothing I have found in the rules that makes it any more difficult to RP during encounters or skill checks than in any other edition. Please tell me what rules prevent that, because as often as I hear it, nobody ever cites specific examples.
    I don’t know what you mean about “no roleplay” during character building; the all-pixie campaign I played in had plenty of that, as does the future-punk campaign I’m currently running (with only one houserule, and that’s “reskinning” bows & xbows as firearms).
    There are no more mechanics than in previous editions, though some are different. None get in the way of RP unless you let them, period.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing for over 15 years, but I can RP in ANY system, at ANY moment, so long as the other players & the person running the game give me a moment’s opportunity to do so.
    In all my years of playing, I have only played one game in which I couldn’t RP: it was 2nd Edition D&D, and it was entirely because the DM & one player were both rules-lawyering power gamers. Aside from that one instance, I’ve managed to have deep & interesting roleplay in every single game I played, across more systems than I’ve bothered to count.

    In short, let me put it this way: if people can manage to RP in Warhammer40k, 4e should be a cakewalk.

  6. Intrinsic

    Since I can’t edit my comments:

    lle, I have a proposal. I’d like to invite you into a game via Roll20 or play-by-post, whichever you prefer. It will be a 4e game, with 2-4 players, and character options are only limited to what’s in the actual hardcover books, plus content in the offline character builder (if you have it; if not, I’m willing to use mine via screenshare). Classes & races in books that came after the builder was no longer supported (such as Heroes of Shadow) are perfectly welcome, so long as you provide a character sheet/layout I can look over.

    I guarantee that if you go into the game wanting to RP, and with a character concept you like, the rules will NOT get in the way of your RP. If they do make it impossible to roleplay within encounters & such, I will happily cede the point & admit that you were right – here, on this very page.

  7. Ganjalf

    Monks are meant to be based on the concept of Asian monks rather than Mid-evil monks. I assume it’s to cause less confusion between monks and clerics who are already fighting a battle for individuality with paladins at times. Basing monks off of the martial arts archetype is also better for defining monks in combat and, once again, making them discernible as a separate class from cleric and/or paladin.

  8. Chris

    With no hint of malice, I can honestly say that about 90% of what the OP hates in 5ed, I love. I think it’s fair to say we won’t be playing at the same table any time soon :) One thing though; yeah, martial monks kind of suck big time!

  9. blindgeekuk

    Wow, 11 months after this post was written, when theres been 3 public packets with quite significant changes (and a hell of a lot more private playtesting ones), this post is still attracting comments?

  10. Ile

    Talking about a late reply 😀
    @Intrinsic- i wish i had the time to play, but for the past few moths i just had quite a busy schedule. So, let me just put some light on what RP issues i have with a simple example from the power cards. Each power is well associated with a description of what it does. Say power X does 2d8 damage and reduces target AC by 2 until the next round, at the same time the description goes “you hit the enemy in the knees and it takes time for them to recover”. In a way this is very rule based approach instead of a role based one. I prefer the times when the DM’s set up challenges or the players proposed actions and the DM would call the difficulty roll. I would agree, with a really good DM you can do this in any edition, but the 4E seams more geared to the mechanical play.

  11. chad

    You’re hamstringing yourself, then complaining about the pain in your legs. If you want to set the flavor of such a power in 4e, 5e, 3e, or any other edition, you do it in the exact same way. Some systems give you a starting place, to use or change. Others give you nothing, and tell you to make it up. Still others give you nothing and tell you nothing. None are better or worse at the sort of play you’re talking about.

    The real problem with 4e is that too many people read the 4e DMG as a strict set of limits on what must be done and how (in spite of the fact that it says, many times and in many ways, not to do this).

  12. Intrinsic

    @lle: The description on the power cards is not a rule. It says precisely that in the books, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a stock description for those who are stuck for their own embellishments of how a power looks. It’s an EXAMPLE.
    That’s like saying that the list of sample names for each race limits what you can name your character, or that the artwork for each race/class dictates exactly how your character has to look.

    Basically, Chad hit the nail on the head (especially with his last sentence). The books themselves tell you to change anything that doesn’t work for you, to throw out or make up rules as a group if you want. This applies to flavour descriptions, as well.
    If your DM says that your powers have to be exactly like the book’s description, then you get a new DM – because that one doesn’t know what s/he’s doing. If you’re doing that to yourself, then don’t complain that it’s the ruleset. It’s your own personal choice, and has nothing to do with the system rules.

  13. Intrinsic

    D&D Next still has issues that bother players like me: players who get excited about new editions instead of being stubborn about what constitutes “true” D&D, players who will pick up almost any system if it plays well, and players who prefer streamlined & easily-resolved rolls so that we can get on with the story.
    It has made changes, yes, but the “flow” of D&D Next is still very off.

  14. Ile

    The books do say to ignore all the rules we don’t like (in a paraphrased way), but if so, why do we need the rules anyway? That is why i refer the earlier editions and Next approach, where only the “bare bone” rules have been established and everything else is a matter of imagination and or DM-ing. This will probably make it not as easy to pick up if you are extremely new at RP-ing, but it’s my personal preference anyway. I have other issues with 4thE, but they are mostly mechanical.

    To shed some light on the group i’m in….. the DM actually proposed to us a few play tests of 5thE and while me and one other player (ex DM) gladly accepted and started reading on the stuff (we even created characters up to lvl 20-which is one of the things i like about it, ease of character creation), the other 4 players found it abhorrent. Not to generalize from the correlation, but this were the players that started off with 20 primary, 18 secondary skill on their characters :(

  15. Intrinsic

    3.x had spell & feat descriptions. I vaguely remember 2nd ed having spell descriptions, too… which are exactly like the power descriptions in 4e.
    And again, the power descriptions aren’t rules. They’re examples – just flavour text. Treating them like rules is like treating the gameplay examples (which are in every edition, iirc) as a script you must follow, without change, for every game.

    Personally, I don’t like a lot of the Next stuff, but I’m willing to give it a try with a competent DM. I’ll probably continue playing 4e, 3.5 & Pathfinder, though.

  16. Ile

    I think this might be the biggest turn off for many players that would like to try Next. IMO it does require a better DM on average. If you ever played 1E and 2E, especially 1E, then you probably know what i’m talking about.

    P.S. I actually didn’t like 3+E that much as well. Still better then 4 for my particular tastes, but ever since 2.5 i didn’t quite like the way they were going and the 4E was sort of the bottom of the slope :/

  17. Nil

    Having played since AD&D, 4E is to date my favourite edition and the one I plan to keep on playing until Next matures to something interesting hopefully. My critique matches the author’s very closely, but to the point after reading the rule packs I wasn’t even motivated to try them. I could see the old patterns close enough to know how they would play and found several elements that I hated in previous editions (vancian magic one of them, hit dice, rolled stats, all spot on).

    I still don’t understand that whole thing about not being able to RP in 4E. I am running and playing in games of 4E at the moment and there hasn’t been more or less RP than in any edition. I don’t understand mechanically what gets in the way of RP for some people. I think it is a case deep seated predisposition that 4E is too much like an MMO.

  18. Intrinsic

    Well, Nil, for lle specifically, it seems he (or she?) gets stuck on thinking that the power descriptions are rules, instead of sample descriptions.
    Despite what was said, it doesn’t take a “really good” DM to facilitate RP in 4e. A mediocre DM can run a 4e game that’s good, if they let the players RP (and don’t have the same misconception about flavour text that Ile had).

  19. Praise Azuth

    I feel compelled to explain my dislike for 4e which may also shed some light on the “no room for roleplaying” stance of some of the other posters.

    I won’t play 4e again because the combat mechanics are time consuming, as such too much gaming time is lost on each combat. As a result instead to 2 social interactions and 3 fights per session, our group averaged 1-2 fights and if we were lucky a single non combat scene. No good narrative can move at this pace. We have all been gaming from the 80s and have a rotating DM system, so the usual “your DM is a hack” won’t cut it when all 6 of us have the exact same problem. It shouldn’t take 15 minutes of table time to kill an Orc sentry, small fights like that shouldn’t consume so much time and narrative momentum.

    Also knowing which of your 3 or so buttons to press every turn made combat predictable and seemed aimed more towards the younger/new gamer crowd.

    But I doubt Next is it, too much has changed, too drastically and with far too much frequency for me to have any confidence in the ruleset. They have had ample time and still seem to be sh*tting the bed, so fingers are crossed but I am not holding my breath.

    Whatever edition you prefer, Next doesn’t seem to be tempting or robust enough to entice many away from their current ruleset.

  20. Marz Nova

    I play-tested D&D Next several times. Mostly in the past 6 months. I agree that it is a major step back, not forward. I vehemently LOATHE the Advatage/DIsadvantage aspect. I liked a lot of the streamlining in 4e. I loved playing on tiles and having movement simplified to blocks as apposed to feet. Moreover, I really enjoy playing with miniatures and will continue to do so.

    Sadly this will certainly be the first time I will not be purchasing the D&D core rule books, even though I want to just to support D&D.

    My friends and I play a mixed version of D&D which consists primarily of 25% 3.5 and 75% 4e.

    RIP (for now) D&D

  21. Intrinsic

    Praise Azuth: I’ve had a completely different experience with the combat mechanics. If it takes you 15 minutes to kill an orc sentry (which is a minion in 4e, right?), there’s a serious problem… since minions don’t have HP. If you hit, they die. I’ve burned through entire combat scenes in 5 minutes with a party of four. And you only have “3 buttons or so to press” at level 1. You gain powers every couple of levels – just like gaining spells & feats in previous editions. (And really, there aren’t fewer options than in previous editions. Fighter: “I hit it with my sword again.” Rogue: “I stab it in the back. Then I stab it in the face.” Cleric: “I hit it with my mace. Oh, and I heal somebody.” Etc.)

    I’ve been gaming since the 90s, across more systems than I care to count. I’ve played 4e with veterans older than myself, and with brand-new players who’d never touched a tabletop RPG before. I’ve never had the problem you’re describing. Maybe it’s just your group’s DMing/gaming style. *shrug*

  22. Ile

    I pretty much share Azuth’s views. I didn’t mean he meant minions when he mentioned the orc sentry. Having played 4E with a party of 5-6 people on average from lvl1 to lvl 13 in linear progression, i could not help but notice the encounter time, growing in proportion with the number of players and even more so with encounter level. We often take 10+ minutes per player to complete a single turn these days and most of the players have dedicated minimaxed characters (read power-gamer issue above). Some if it just sloppy game play on our part, but some of it pure mechanics.

  23. Chad

    I believe that 4e was designed with the goal that a serious combat take about as long to play out as a serious board game. At the time, that meant around 75-100 minutes. Climactic battles would be more important and take longer. This seemed fine to most people at first, but turned out to be too long, as habits and standards shifted. This wasn’t much longer than 3.5’s in theory, but playing the way the 4e DMG guidelines suggested really didn’t get much below that 75 minute floor, whereas there were lots of 3.5 encounters that were over in 15 minutes.
    An experienced group playing 4e at the highest levels would often take ~4-5 minutes per player turn, and run 2-3 rounds. For a table of 6+DM, that’s 60-90 minutes. In other words, I think the 4e team did a good job of hitting their target time, but that turned out to be a poor match for many groups, and the methods for speeding that process up weren’t developed or distributed quickly enough.

  24. Dexter Ball

    Great review. I was interested… right up until I read this:
    “we’ve had games where a wizard had ac 10, and a paladin had ac 19. As a dm, I know which one i’ll attack” I quit reading. If you are going to think like that – as a DM or a player – no system is going to suit your needs. You have to get into the mindset of the creature you are representing. You can’t make decisions based on “Oh if I attack the paladin I’ll miss and the monster(s) won’t accomplish anything” You are not in the spirit of the game at that point and no amount of mechanical crunch can save you.

  25. Intrinsic

    @lle & Chad:
    Odd. I have honestly not run into that (except when the group is getting distracted with out-of-game silliness), and I’ve played at various levels.
    The longest combat I’ve seen so far – with 6 people in the party – was an hour, and that was over chat, with OOC joking & slacking off.

    Maybe my particular circle of players has just figured out how to better streamline combat without realizing it?

  26. Yahzi

    I realize this thread is old but I want to defend Vance. He was a writer’s writer; even though the public never really went for his stuff, those of us who write are heavily influenced by his style and theme. Admittedly The Dying Earth is particularly snarky; I would suggest Suldrun’s Garden (the Lyoness trilogy) for a more balanced tone. But even if you don’t like his work (fair enough), it really is a product of genius. I would give my left arm to have his talent.

    On the topic of 5E, I just read through the Basic Rules and discovered that if a fight doesn’t kill you outright, you will be completely healed in 12 hours. SAY WHAT.

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