Thoughts after listening to the dnd next podcast

Wizards of the Coast

I recently listened to the DnD podcast from Wizards of the Coast, which was released around the same time as the dnd Next playtest (around 24 May) was made available online to the public.

Some observations:

  1. They have a ton of work to do, but are loving it. The game has been in development for over a year. That probably means in a closed/secret playtest for all that time.
  2. Wizards are looking forward to the community feedback, and anticipating a lot of positive reaction from their work. I’m dubious about this, and think that the real story is that they are going forward with a positive and strong presence, as anything else would be counterproductive. The devs would have to expect push back from parts of the community.
  3. The playtest is a staged release of content and rules, where month by month new material will be released. This so that feedback can be elicited in a series of smaller segments, rather than a huge chunk of rules.
As a primer on what feedback the devs expect it was actually useful to hear. A cynical person might say this was standard marketing fluff, but as I am an equally cynical person I’d counter that to say that Wizards could have done far less in this process. The energy in rhetoric alone has been substantial, and at some point it is the same amount of work to actually listen to feedback as appear to do so.
The point was made about giving descriptive feedback in terms of good and bad features/aspects, but also that they wish the reviewers to be unforgiving and straight to the point in giving negative feedback. The speakers made a point to ask for bad feedback. That takes some guts.

What was most valuable in the podcast was point one – knowing that they are going to come out of the gate all guns blazing. That is the dedication they need for Next to get up as a product.

I think it would be a shame for RPGs if DnD-5e was a whimper, and would impact the hobbie substantially because of how much of a hook DnD is for rpgs in general. Dnd was the gateway game which started me on roleplaying, and despite years of effort, new systems, and all sorts of considerations – it still has a place, and may still provide a source of entertainment. One of the podcasters (I can’t recall which now) really did seem honest in their enthusiasm for the product. Bravo.

I still stand by the idea that dnd should be given a fair play, and also expect it to not be my style of game. Yes, that is a healthy contradiction, and a stance which could change given play. The introduction of “backgrounds” and “side features” into the character generation is a first for dnd, and something which is a huge positive. If they added a sample of small negative quirks then they’re really getting into a style of game that I could accept.

I’m watching with reserved interest.

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If DnD Next was branded as a new game, would it sell better?

two-hundred & twelve

I had a thought about the debate on DnD Next, and how the version wars are puttering along. What would happen if the same mechanic ruleset was released by somebody else? Is it disliked because of a fear of change, or an inclination of disinterest?

Pathfinder took a variation and made it popular. Could be that they fixed a lot of frustration, and did so without the yoke of owning the product. The same action by the owner might not have been as popular when Pathfinder was released. We now see Pathfinder further tweaking their rules, and getting a mixed bag of acceptance feedback. Coincidence?

DnD 4e went to a new place mechanically with the highly tactical play, and I think it would have been hailed as an innovation if it wasn’t meant to replace older versions of the dnd brand. Meaning as a new game it was very clever and innovative, as dnd a segment of the community hated it.

The same things feels true about 5e – that a third party could release the “Next” rule-set as an indie mod, and probably get a better reaction than dnd’s publishers. Why? Less extremes to worry about. You’d get everyone who wants to test it happily trying, and all the core rules fans ignoring it. The edition war would not start because it would not be an official edition.

If you hold that position as plausible, then it is kind of sad. A new rule-set should be evaluated without that prejudice. Like it or hate it, it should be given the opportunity to be played properly. An rpg is not removing the rulebooks from our shelves, so that if an old edition is a favourite, then it can continue to be played.

Just a thought.