Dungeons & Dragons Next Playtest – Actual Play

By Ken Wai Lau

Dungeons & Dragons Next Playtest

Finally, some action…
Artwork © by Micheal Malkin

Now that I’ve finally managed to get round to playing with the Dungeons & Dragons Next Playtest for real, I will write about a couple of things I’ve noticed while playing the game.

Simpler Mechanics.

Compared to D&D 3.5, D&D Next is very quick and easy to set up and play. Battles tick along smoothly, allowing you to quickly get back to exploring, roleplaying or perhaps even more fighting.

But you could probably say that about Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 at lower levels. In fact, it doesn’t feel that much different to D&D 3.5 so far, but I’m sure it will once I get to the higher levels.

While I enjoy high level D&D, one of the problems of high level play in D&D 3.5 is the speed – or rather the lack of it.

Perhaps it’s because of this that stopping at level 10 or lower appears to be common in D&D 3.5. Another reason is that the system ‘breaks down’ at high levels.

Therefore, it will be interesting to see if this simplicity and speed of play will continue once you get to the higher levels of play in D&D Next.

If the mechanics do remain streamlined across all levels of play, hopefully it will encourage more high level campaigns and adventures.

You Can Punch Above Your Weight

Obviously, going head to head with a dragon would be suicidal for any first level character, but having seen what the paladin was capable of during one of my games, I was curious to see how well low level characters fared against enemies far more powerful than your average orc.

So I had two characters – a paladin and a bard, both at level 4 – take on a vrock together as an experiment.

Result? The vrock was defeated.

It must be said that I was rolling well at the time, with both characters managing to resist the vrock’s spore attack. On top of that, the paladin rolled a 20 on his attack roll with a smite attack while under the effects of a thundering smite spell.

And no, I didn’t cheat, although I did forget to use the vrock’s stunning screech ability which could have made a difference.

While it’s also true that I got lucky and used a character specifically designed to take on fiends, it’s nice to know that it’s possible to do something like this at lower levels.

And best of all? It was achieved without using magic items. Therefore there’s no longer a sense that your character can only function if his equipment is enchanted.

On The Flipside…

That being said, I can see problems with this.

While it’s still quite unlikely that a level 4 party would be able to defeat a vrock in a direct confrontation, the fact that it can be done at all might be a bit disconcerting to some.

Being able to do it without magic weapons makes it worse, especially when it is generally assumed that demons should only be harmed by magic weapons.

Then again, it can go the other way: a single level 4 character can find himself overwhelmed by a group of around 4 or 5 zombies. And like I said, it does help if your character was specially built for combating fiends.

The result may have been completely different if the pairing consisted of a fighter and a rogue…

That’s all I’ve gleaned up to now. I’ll write more as I get more into the game.

The above image was produced by Micheal Malkin. Click here to see more of his work.

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