Sally Forth; It’s a Hero’s Horizon
I’ve talked about Dungeon & Dragon’s 4th edition before, about how I tried to give it a fair shake but at the end of the day it just wasn’t as enjoyable to me. And there is no shame in that, it was a different kind of game, one some still enjoy while others did not. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But without getting into the whole can of worms I’d like to take a step forward past 4th to talk a little about the final D&D Next Playtest Packet. I know there are still those who decry and ridicule it for the very point that it isn’t 4th edition, calling it a failure, lacking innovation and little more than a bland throw back to bygone editions. And they are entitled to their opinion. It’s as simple as that.
The underlying truth though is that Next has been shaped from the ground up to fill a hole among fans, to reach down and find the pulsing primal core of the game and breathe new life into it. Things were seen from the vantage point of those behind the scenes that needed addressing, so they are; to ensure years of enjoyable entertainment to come.
And I for one am excited by everything I can see. Time will tell for sure though, so we’ll all have to wait and see where this course will take us. But in the mean time let me highlight a few of the things that stood out to me;
- Simplicity as a strength – Everything presented speaks to the very heart of the game. From the brilliant advantage/disadvantage mechanic all the way to the base math itself things are fun and functional.
- Flexibility without losing focus – Classes have been reduced to their core premise while showing that there are still options to stand them out from themselves. Rangers are done right; Druids are not just a player and his obligatory pet, while Clerics have access to ranged attack magic as well as healing.
- Flavor and fun – Most importantly everything looks fun. You have Rangers who can shoot arrows with nature spells like Hail of Thorns to rain down a shower of sharp spikes from your projectile. Bards who can inspire everyone to victory. Paladins who champion good and can summon up that power to smite, sending radiant power right into their blows. Thematically everything feels right, nothing feels like a repeat. No matter what edition you started with or prefer what you find here will be familiar.
- Versatile and Proficient – New elements shine a pleasant twist on some old characteristics. Take some of the most classic weapons in the game like long swords, quarterstaffs and the like. They have always been staple gear for various iconic heroes and always been useable with one or both hands. Now you can take advantage of some weapons with the versatile trait to wield two handed for a die step up in damage! A long sword’s d8 becomes a d10, meaning the weapons truly become more versatile. And a stunningly simple approach in the form of proficiency handles so much so well. A scaling proficiency bonus provides a key component to replace base attack, saving throw, etc. Proficient with that weapon? Great, add your bonus to the proper stat on your attack roll. Not good with that great axe you snatched up to protect yourself? Sorry, no bonus for you, it’s just you and your strength to deal with your own disadvantage. Easy to figure, easy to implement and feels balanced so far.
- Modular Mages – The Wizard has long since been the default spell caster within the game. However other magic users have come along the way like warlocks, necromancers, etc. The way Mages are presented it would be easy to implement such other themed traditions under the Mage heading without having to recreate the wheel each time. Which also opens the way for a primer to pave the way for player/DM’s to create custom subtypes to fit their own games.
- Multi-class, multiple alignments – A welcome sight was the inclusion of rules for cross classing into other classes. Want to play noble knight of the realm who secretly studies the arcane arts? As long as he has the appropriate attributes (i.e. – he’s smart enough for his lessons) he can do just that. To further add options the 9 alignments are back, meaning that depending on the theme of your story the heroes can run the gamut of saints to villains. Dark anti-heroes, self-centered alcoholics, anything you could consider playing.
- So much room for growth – As a foundation this material looks to me to be a great basis for growth, adaption, and expansion. There isn’t a lot of clutter, everything is condensed to its core elements and so much room exists for building onto.
There is still far more to take in and digest, too much to get into here. And some aspects I can’t really comment on without testing out further. But I can easily say nothing in the materials prompt a single moment of rageface, an ounce of disdain or any disappointment. Only excitement and hope for what is to come.