Having covered the circumstances and guiding principles behind D&D Next in the previous installment, Part 2 examines the changes and improvements in the new rules.
‘Next’: The future of Wizards of the Coast?
How well do the latest revised rules for D&D Next compare to earlier editions?
So, why should gamers and geeks be excited about the arrival of D&D Next?
It’s Easier for Beginners
Role-playing games can often discourage newcomers with the vast number of options and terms to remember, which can be intimidating.
Fortunately, the learning curve for D&D Next is quite forgiving for newbies and novices. Beyond just trimming the fat from the d20 system mechanics,‘Next’ encourages newcomers through a simplified version of the rules.
These basic rules strip game play down to only the essential fantasy four races and classes, each with clearly defined roles. This bare bones approach is perfect for teaching new players or whipping up quick adventures on the fly.
Tighter Core Mechanics
‘Next’ uses a streamlined version of the fan-favorite d20 System from previous editions. When attempting most actions, such as attacking with a sword, players roll a 20-sided die (d20), adding any related modifiers to the result.
This updated d20 System scraps many of the various, often situational, modifiers from previous versions that slowed down gameplay. Much of this streamlining was achieved by two noteworthy changes.
– Consolidating Actions: Specific checks, such as saving throws and skills, that were once separate entries on character sheets, are now directly tied to ability scores instead.
– Advantage and Disadvantage: When the odds of success are stacked in favor of, or against, a character, the player rolls an extra d20. With Advantage, they use the better result to determine success. With Disadvantage, the player takes the worse result.
The Advantage/ Disadvantage mechanic is a simple, elegant replacement for the often-complicated arithmetic of situational modifiers.
– Exploration and Socialization Rules: ‘Next’ has been careful to avoid the pitfall of past editions in emphasizing combat rules at the expense of these elements.
Rolling up characters in ‘Next’ will feel familiar to veterans, as the process remains largely intact from past versions.
Races and Classes
Fans of D&D will find these character pillars little changed. Elves are still elves, and fighters are still fighters. However, ‘Next’ offers more options for both out of the box.
– Sub-Races: In addition to the traits common to specific races, non-human races offer sub-races supplementing specific character builds.
-Class Feature Options: Many class features in ‘Next’ grant a choice between several techniques sharing a common theme, differing mostly in style. For instance, a fighter may gain increased protective capabilities through parrying or with their shield.
Skills and Feats
Once staples of the d20 System, skill and feats are optional content in D&D Next. This doesn’t mean they’ve been slighted in the rules.
– Backgrounds and Specialties: Essentially theme-based ‘package deals’ of skills and feats, respectively. Backgrounds also offer additional minor gameplay benefits and suggested equipment.
– Skill Dice: The biggest change to skills is the inclusion of skill dice in place of static modifiers when using trained skills.
Is D&D Next the next big thing in gaming, or the next big failure for Wizards of the Coast?
As a playtester and a gamer of some 20 years, I feel qualified stating that D&D Next will almost certainly be the “next big thing.”
It retains the ‘classic D&D’ feeling, absent in 4E, yet still feels fresh and modern. Old-school players who hated more recent editions may find ‘Next’ more palatable.
Though many of the game elements are nearing completion, a lot of supplemental material hasn’t appeared yet, making it difficult to render a final judgment on the system. Some of the more major omissions from ‘Next’ so far include:
- Core classes, such as bard and sorcerer.
- Prestige classes (or equivalent)
- Improved versions of gnome, half-elf, and half-orc races
- Modular and advanced rules systems
- Alternate magic systems
- Feats with improved function
It’s likely these items will show up in subsequent playtest packets, and if they’re as well-designed as the existing material has been, I feel confident in recommending D&D Next to not only gamers, but fans of video games and epic fantasy as well.