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Playtest Packet Two
Legends & Lore
Mike Mearls

I t’s been a few months since we released the first playtest packet and in that time we’ve gotten great feedback from our playtesters. I’m happy to say the second playtest packet is now available for download. If you’re reading this and you haven't downloaded your packet yet, the rest of the article might not make much sense to you, so you might want to hold off on reading this until you have the packet in hand.

For this week, I will highlight a few of the changes that we haven’t yet made and talk a bit about how our testing process works. First of all, we’re committed to taking the time needed to get this right. As I write this, Gen Con is just a few days away. Usually we use the convention as a place to show off new products. We won’t be showing off any products for D&D Next but we do have plenty of exciting updates to share. If you are planning on going to Gen Con, I would encourage you to check out The Future of Dungeons & Dragons keynote address on Thursday evening. And if you can’t be at Gen Con, you can watch the live stream right here. With that in mind, here are a few changes you won’t see in the new playtest packet, but that will likely show up in the future.

Healing: I mentioned this last week, but healing is probably the most contentious issue in the game right now. It goes a long way to determining the game’s feel and tone. For ease of bringing new players into the game, we need to create a default rule, but you can expect this to be one area where we give DMs a number of options.

With that said, healing is still mostly the same as it was in the prior packet, though we have added an optional rule that reduces the amount of healing characters gain for resting overnight.

Cleric: I led off with healing—telling you something you already know if you read last week’s article—to segue into the cleric. A few weeks back, we polled the playtesters to determine which of the spells from 3E were the most iconic. We wanted to learn a number of things, including how people generally perceived the cleric.

It turns out that when people think of the cleric, they think of the class’s ability to heal wounds, remove curses, cure diseases, and so on. It would be easy for us to use that to design a class that focuses entirely on healing others, but we know that’s only half the story. It’s entirely possible that although many players expect the cleric to hand out healing spells, that consensus might come from the people playing fighters, wizards, and rogues.

To get a class right, we need to make sure that the people who want to play that class are getting what they want. We have some ideas on what that might look like, and I expect that the version of the cleric after this one will incorporate some changes to put the cleric on course with its role in the world of D&D and in the game.

Wizard: The wizard hasn’t changed much, but that’s more because we spent our time revising the fighter and working on other parts of the game. The wizard seems to be mostly hitting the mark. We’re looking at adding an option for an arcane tradition, which is a reflection on how a wizard learned to use magic, and we’re also looking at spells that a wizard can regain through five minutes of rest and meditation. Some of the spells that came up as the most iconic in D&D, such as feather fall, are fairly low on the power spectrum. By making such spells reusable, we can make them more appealing and, if we do things right, make them an even bigger part of the game.

For instance, feather fall’s original incarnation affected only one creature or object. That changed to cover multiple targets in 3E. If we make feather fall reusable, we would likely specify that it affects only the caster. In practice, it becomes a safeguard for a wizard against a specific kind of threat.

Other spells ripe for this treatment include similar safeguards for a wizard and blast spells traditionally overshadowed by standbys such as fireball. For instance, ice storm has traditionally done less damage than fireball. It can mire creatures in snow and ice, but only for a moment. If we can make ice storm reusable, we can increase its power and give it a clear use for a caster even if an up-leveled fireball is a more devastating attack.

Rogue: To be honest, I’ve never been crazy about sneak attack as the rogue’s defining combat ability. I can see how it is a logical outgrowth of AD&D’s backstab ability, but in my mind it casts rogues as being too tightly linked to an assassin or similar archetype. I can think of plenty of rogues I’ve played over the years for whom sneak attack would be a poor match for their combat abilities or personality. I’d like to explore ways of making sneak attack an option, with things that push a rogue to be more cunning and tricky in combat standing alongside it.

Fighter: This class contains our biggest question mark. You can expect a lot of questions about the new fighter mechanic in forthcoming polls. I like how it feels in play, but remember that this is a first draft. Ideally, the mechanic provides a simple, easy-to-use foundation that players can expand upon as they’d like.

Above all else, remember that feedback and iteration drive our process. Thanks for taking part, and we’re looking forward to using your feedback to drive the next packet.

Mike Mearls
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.
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