Yesterday I had the chance to DM my first game for the D&D Next playtest. I am still preparing a post to comment on the experience (short version: solid, fun, fast), but in the meantime, here you have a report from one of my players. Rodrigo, a regular in my gaming group, is starting out as an RPG writer, with an article published in Kobold Quarterly, and his own upcoming indie RPG, La Puerta de Ishtar (in Spanish, but English speakers can take a look thanks to the magics of Google). Here is what he had to say about the latest version of D&D.
I have just played my first playtest game for D&D Next. My impressions (and those of the whole table) couldn't be better. We have started our exploration of the Caves of Chaos, experimenting the famous three pillars (exploration, roleplaying and combat). We thought the game was very good, with a good mix of Old School feelings (despite not being a retro-clone, it really caters to that style of play) and more modern mechanics from 3rd and 4E. In fact, it's interesting to see not only why some modern mechanics have been preserved, but also why others have been left out.
The advantage/disadvantage system felt really great, reducing game complexity and slowness, and adding a very interesting layer to it. The capabilities of different character types feel diverse and engaging. Simplified combat gives place to more interesting fights than we initially expected (to be sincere, we had thought of this as the weakest aspect of the game), and this simplicity allowed us to play at a very good pace. The way HPs are assigned and the Hit Dice mechanic (the new Healing Surges, much weaker than before and with harsh timing restrictions) added a lot of tension to the situation without falling into the “five minute workday”. At least at first level. We have been on the brink of death in several occasions, but the way we fought led us to victory. The way actions are resolved in combat gives players a lot of freedom.
I played a dwarven Cleric of Moradin (Gurni Gotreksson), and other players had a dwarven Fighter (Gotrek Gurnisson, my son), a halfling Rogue (Will), and a human cleric of Pelor (Mark Pelorflauta). Perico was DMing. This means that we still have to try out the Wizard.
As I was saying, time flew while playing the session, and the game was universally enjoyed at the table. I recommend trying it out (not just reading it) with an open mind and as written, without worrying about whether certain rule we like is there or not. It mixes very well modern rules with certain grognard styles.
Unless the game changes a lot during the beta, or it breaks at higher levels (though with the math it uses, I don’t think so), they have a buyer here. And yes, we have a very good dungeon master [*blush* - Perico], but he is the same who DM’ed 3rd and 4E in its day, so we can compare. I’m looking forward to the “tactical combat” module, because if it can be combined with the core rules we have tried, it can be very useful for certain “special” combats where the situation calls for it.