Tuesday, May 22, 2012

D&D Next Public Playtest starts on Thursday

The day is almost here -- those folks who have signed up should get their announcement emails that the D&D Next public playtest materials are available. Being very curious about how the rules will be shaped, I signed on for the notification when it was first announced.
The only real contact anyone has had with the new rules so far (to my knowledge) was a playtest using only character sheets at the D&D Experience event in January, a playtest at PAX East, some closed groups, and several gamers well-known in the online community giving feedback as consultants for the project. This public test will give the rest of us a glimpse at what the design team has been working on.
Much of the speculation about D&D Next on the internet has been over what small bits and pieces have been revealed from these closed playtests and the public articles on the Wizards website from Mike Mearls and company. The departure of Monte Cook from the project has also fueled the chatter.
My thoughts on the speculation? We've see these kinds of high-profile product releases before, and I don't think we can really draw any conclusions from any of the rumors or the articles yet, at least until we see the playtest material. I take anything mentioned in the designers' articles or the choices in associated user polls with a huge grain of salt. Topics in the articles have included the core classes, the role of the magic-user, what's important for paladins, hit points and "healing surges", just to name a few contentious areas. If I were Mearls, I'd throw all sorts of crazy ideas out there into the wild and see what sticks, or what the public shoots down. It's free advice and feedback. Why not use that?
This public playtest is not the same as the beta tests for Pathfinder or the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, where fairly complete PDFs of the rules were given out freely for trial. The D&D Next playtest materials are said to be a short adventure, pre-generated characters, and enough of the rules to use the adventure -- I assume it would be similar to the quickstart adventures for Dragon Age or Castles & Crusades. There may be a playtest agreement required, keeping any discussion and feedback to official WotC channels.
I want to give the playtest rules a try. I don't know if I will be playing D&D Next as a regular thing. Our group has multiple other rule sets that we work with: homebrews, Pathfinder, Unisystem, BRP, FATE.... the list goes on. We as a local group of gamers are not that dependent on it. Having said that, I still think we want the 900-pound gorilla of the gaming world to be successful.

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