Saturday, April 27, 2013

More Changes on the Wind

Grab onto something, I'm making a radical course change. Again.

So, I played the included adventure in the Beginner Box with my kids last weekend. I didn't have time to post about it afterwards. We had fun. They enjoyed it more than the previous, old-school style, game. They felt more engaged with the game and that held their interest better. So, I forged on ahead with reading the Gamesmaster's book and ran into a snag. Two, actually.

The first was magic items. It quickly became obvious that the system is designed from the ground up for magic items to be vitally necessary for character success. When there is a base assumption that characters can purchase magic items of all sorts (not just scrolls and potions), that is a red flag. It really smacked of computer games to me, which was a turn-off. I'm completely fine with magic items, but if the system's inherent assumption, and therefore balance, relies on them as part of who the characters are, that's too much for me.

The other thing that put me off was the number of conditions. That was a huge down-side to 4E for me as well. I'm fine with the idea of clearly defined conditions, all collected in one place for easy reference. But, there are twenty-five separate conditions. That is too many for me to track, especially when there is overlap, either in similar names, similar effects, or both.

The "thing" that led me the Beginner Box in the first place was realizing that I want something more "gamey" than the traditional old school experience. I'm fine with skills, as long as they are more for definition than limitation. I'm actually fine with feats, IF they don't lead directly to agonizing hours of min-maxing during character creation. I also don't want endless lists that require a Cray mainframe to handle character creation.

So, I revisited D&D Next. An all-new playtest pack was released on March 20th. I haven't read all of it yet, but I'm liking what I see. I initially liked Next, then it seemed to drift more toward 4E and it lost me. Then, I was in my serious old-school swing and Next seemed too rules-heavy. Now, I am in a place where I can appreciate it on its own merit. I am just looking at it as a game, and not as the successor to my go-to. I'm looking at it just to see if it does what I want it to do.

I also took the time to really figure out what Bounded Accuracy really means. I had written it off as nothing more than a smoke screen to try and trick people into thinking Next would be a real innovation. I was mistaken. In fact, Bounded Accuracy answers a lot of my issues with D&D. I've talked before about not liking how classes improve in a fairly generic fashion. Stat bonuses aside, all characters of a given class/level are pretty much the same, simply because the benefits that accrue with each new level are largely static and pre-determined. With Bounded Accuracy, the player has more leeway to determine in which areas his character improves as he advances in levels.

So, that's where things stand as of now. We are going to playtest Caves of Chaos tomorrow, so hopefully I can give you all an update on how that goes. In the meantime, I can honestly recommend giving this latest playtest packet a look. Pretend it's not even D&D and just look at it as a new RPG. I'm glad I did.

Incidentally, I really am getting a little tired of all the crap I read from detractors about how "(Game X) came out with (rule y) a long time ago. D&D Next is just a bunch of other games' ideas." How many other games followed D&D's lead, all the way back to Runequest and Tunnels & Trolls? Even games that went in the opposite direction owe a nod of thanks to D&D for showing them a way to go. So, if D&D Next "got" advantage/disadvantage from Barbarians of Lemuria, then just look at it as repaying a debt, because without D&D there may not even be BoL.


  1. I hadn't been paying much attention to the Next materials, hadn't even heard of bounded accuracy. Now I have, and thanks. Your post led me to do a google search on the term, which turned up this as its first hit:

    And that is really interesting. While I like 3.5 and pathfinder, the relentless DC and AC inflation does make for a pretty annoying "get better just to not get worse" kind of deal. Sounds like they're getting away from that.

  2. Have you looked at John Stater's Blood & Treasure? I don't have it myself, but I understand it's kind of a 3e/1e hybrid. Might be up your alley. Good luck with 5e.

    1. I have looked at some of the reviews for it. It seems well thought of in most of them, and I know it gets a lot of love around the usual OSR circles. I will definitely check it out.

    2. I couldn't bear the suspense, so I nabbed the pdf of Blood & Treasure Complete. I like what I'm seeing, which admittedly is a very sketchy perusal. It does indeed look like a wonderful marriage of the old and new. Can you tell me this, though: I noticed BAB steadily escalating with level, a la 3.x. Does this lead to the same wash that it is in 3.x, with creature ACs going up right along with BAB? That is something I am digging about Next, is the break from that vicious cycle.