I always loved the theme and style of the bard and monk throughout D&D’s editions, but in actual play, they failed spectacularly until 4e.
But as we all know, for all 4e’s strengths, the weakness of “supercrunching” the game with rules and too-long combat took away from a classic, balanced D&D RPG experience.
Well, I created this blog because I love D&D and RPGs because of that fine balance of crunch and flavor, story and game, strategy and roleplay. D&D Next is doing a commendable job of bringing that essential D&D feel back, and I love that quality more than any other.
Last night, I got my first chance to play as a PC since my first D&D Next experience at a cozy and comfortable gaming event, and I jumped at the chance to play the new-to-Next-playtest monk. I loved the 4e monk, and was left wanting to play more – what a delightful opportunity! So my brother kindly offered to DM a 14th level game for us, and we had an absolute blast.
The Story: A Nymph’s Vengeance
We woke up in a dungeon cell. Our last memory was a great feast – a celebration between warring nations who had made peace. But something went horribly wrong as all of nature’s denizens – led by a mysterious, angry nymph – burst onto the scene and slaughtered or imprisoned nearly everyone.
Everyone but us.
Weeks later, our strength finally returned to us, we forced our way out of our cells and then explored the suddenly deathly silent remains of the ruined feast hall, looking for any gear or weapons we could get our hands on, any other survivors, and any clues as to why our feast celebrating feast ended only in slaughter and destruction. Who was this nymph, why did she lead this attack and where had they all gone? Why did she kill all those people? What was this crystal and staff she whispered questions about as she tortured and killed?
And why… why were we the only ones left alive?
Just as we began to make sense of some of these questions, two insane treants burst through the walls and began beating us to death. It was only when the cleric burned away the mind-poisoning vines covering the treants with a Flamestrike spell did the normally peaceful creatures cease their attacks. Confused, they could only ask how they had gotten there.
The vines we burned away were the first clue for both us and the treants. The creatures recognized the vines – a deadly plant not of this world that caused insanity.
And that’s how it ended! Can’t wait for next week!
The Game: Smooth High Level Play… Wait, What?
From a rules perspective, I increasingly came to loathe high level play across D&D editions. Those games were always more work for the DM. And in 4e, not only were they more work, any “set piece” combats (and I hate even saying or using that term these days!) ended up being hours of drawn-out, slow-paced combat. High level play meant a painfully long combat encounter or two per game, which I couldn’t stand.
Enter D&D Next. The combats – even at 14th level! – were fast and furious. More burst damage, less actions to track, plenty of options (not too few or too many), and smoother, more seamless inclusion of story options and resolutions. Honestly, I was stunned how the mechanics – even at 14th level – didn’t feel like they ever got in the way of me enjoying the unfolding story and adventure. It was the pace of a story rather than the pace of a story with a drawn-out miniatures war game broken in. That’s quite a switch from 4e. A refreshingly smooth, elegant, wonderful switch!
Be Awesome: How Can YOU Help D&D Next Be More Awesome?
Here’s a collection of links to give you a sense of D&D Next’s feel, get you participating in or simply reading the official blog’s ideas and questions for the community, and – last but certainly not least – how to sign up and help make D&D Next awesome by playtesting and sending in your feedback through their email surveys:
P.S. I specifically love how powerful and flexible the Monk’s Martial Damage Dice are! Cool flavor, burst, options… all in one!
P.P.S. How have your own D&D Next playtest games gone? What’s your favorite part of the game so far? What’s the one thing you’d like to change?
Enjoy your weekend! Play something cool if you can!