As many of you know, Wizards of the Coast is working hard on creating the newest version of Dungeons and Dragons. They have chosen to call it Dungeons and Dragons Next, or D&DNext, to differentiate it from the X edition nomenclature. This is part of a move to unite the various fans of the different editions of D&D, from OD&D to 4th Edition. It’s an…ambitious endeavor.
I’ve not weighed in on the D&DN yet. While the internet and blogosphere has raged with commentary and what-if doomsday scenarios, I didn’t see the point making wish-lists or getting worked up about something someone’s cousin’s ex-partner’s former roommate who knows a guy at WOTC supposedly said.
But last night I downloaded the playtest and so I, like thousands and thousands of others, now get to actually see something with meat on bones.
If you are interested in seeing for yourself, you can download it here.
As for impressions, my initial ones were fairly positive. I’ve seen so many versions of D&D in my life that it’s a bit difficult to separate this one out. And since the playtest doesn’t reveal character creation (a big bone of contention between grognards and new edition fans), it’s hard to say how well they are meeting their goals. They’ve brought back Hit Dice, which do two different things, and I’m not pleased about how one of those things is exactly what they always were. Sorry, but if hit points are an abstraction of combat skill and prowess, then they should be a set amount, just like your attack bonus and skills/feats or whatever. Casters don’t get a variable amount of spells when they advance, why the hell should fighters (anyone really) get a variable amount of combat prowess? Levels either mean something or they don’t and I’m sorry, this is one of those old school mechanics that should die the death.
There have since been plenty of reviews from people and groups playing the game and while some people like it, there are a lot who don’t. And listening to their complaints, and rereading stuff for myself, I see why. Fighters, as usual, seem to get the shaft. Not only are they mechanically uninteresting (with nearly no choice from round to round but ‘I attack’), they are weaker than clerics at many of the things important to fighting.
One of the arguements raging between older and newer players of the game is whether the Fighter class should be completely mundane, or if they should have some sort of supernatural prowess at higher levels. The mundane camp argue that fighters are supposed to represent ‘normal’ people who overcome through skill and prowess. This is based on D&D’s Swords and Sorcery roots. Basically, they don’t want characters to be ‘Big Damn Heroes’ but rather scrabbling sneak thieves like they were in earlier editions and how Gygax intended.
Yeah, put me in the camp that calls BS on S&S=No Big Damn Heroes. As has been pointed out, Conan, Elric, et al are nearly templates for Big Damn Heroes. Conan is supernaturally strong (from a human perspective).
I also call BS on the whole idea of old school=zeroes to heroes. While 1st level characters could die easily in older editions, other than the thief, they were nowhere near the ‘peasant with a sword’ nonsense, so that whole idea needs to die in a fire. A first level fighter was a ‘Veteran’. He could have twice or more HP than a normal human. He’d been around and SEEN THINGS man! Ok, the mechanics didn’t support him being too super bad, but by the time he was 4th level he was a HERO. He could literally go up against a unit of soldiers with good chances of winning. By 8th level he could break armies as a SUPER HERO. I am talking about Chainmail/Od&d/and sort of 1st Ed AD&D here, the oldest of the old school. But the thing that grinds my teeth is the fact that fighters get weaker with each edition. Except 4th maybe. Oh, sure, they got more hit points, but their ability to leverage their prowess across the field of battle kept getting reduced until they became the superfluous party member, outdone even by the thief (who was the original superfluous party member).
I understand that people don’t want the game to be heavily tactical and, now that I’m playing ACKS, I support that idea. But that doesn’t mean the fighter can have some ‘always on’ awesome, or class abilities that just reflect that he’s the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t pretty.
Cleave: If a fighter hits an opponent with an attack, then all opponents within 5 feet that have less than 5 hit points are reduced to 0 hit points. At level X (5? 10?), this ability affects opponents within 10′ and with 10 (or 15 or whatever) hit points.
Bam! I just made the fighter a whirlwind of destruction. Yes, it’s clearing minions, but still. Versus single tough opponents, they still do more damage (say double normal or something). It also allows combats to move quickly by reducing minor, unimportant encounters.
Speaking of single bad ass opponents, how about something like:
Weaponmastery: Fighters add their level to their damage with any weapon or unarmed attack.
I also think that fighters should be physical powerhouses. They can climb and do athletics and all the physical shit that they were doing before the thief class was introduced. And the whole Warlord class from 4E (which I like) should be rolled into the Fighter (because back in the day that’s what it was…a 9th level fighter). Give the Fighter abilities to push their teammates to better capability, or even heal them… though maybe have that stuff kick in at 4th level or something.
Another way to make them shine. If you have maneuvers that anyone can do at a penalty (disarm, push, bullrush, etc), let fighters do all of them at no penalty (or even at a bonus). From level 1. None of this, I need a feat to bother with disarming crap. Just let the fighters do all of that stuff and do it well.
Anyway, I’m hopeful for D&DN, but right now, there is little in it that would encourage me to stop playing ACKS.