ast Thursday, we rolled out the final public playtest packet for D&D Next. It’s been a long journey to today from the first days of this project. It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.
For the next few months, our work in R&D falls into two categories.
The editors and a team of designers will finalize work on the core game. This work consists of squashing bugs, simplifying things, and incorporating the final round of public feedback. The game’s foundation will be set in stone, as will the core options for the classes.
Meanwhile, a second design team will tackle a number of outstanding topics. These include the following elements.
The underlying math of the game. We’ll run stress tests on the numbers, monster abilities, and so on to make sure that everything shakes out as we expect. This work is important to making adventure and encounter design fast and easy. It also ensures that the classes play fair.
- An optional tactical combat system, with rules for using miniatures, rules for combat that operate like 3rd Edition or 4th Edition in that they remove DM adjudication of things like cover, and expanded, basic combat options to allow for forced movement, tanking, and so forth, as options any character can attempt. This optional system will look a bit like AD&D’s Player’s Option: Combat and Tactics book with key lessons learned from 4th Edition. Its goal is to present combat as a challenging puzzle that pits the players against the DM, capturing the best parts of 4th Edition.
- An optional dramatic system that emphasizes D&D as a storytelling activity. This system treads ground that D&D hasn’t formally embraced in the past. It casts a gaming group as collaborative storytellers, with the DM managing the action and everyone contributing events, plots twists, and sudden, dramatic turns.
- An optional system that cranks up character customization by allowing players to build their own subclasses. This system is really more of a set of guidelines that let you mix and match abilities pulled from subclasses within a class. You can approach it as a DM tool (“In my setting, the wizards of the Burning Isle combine illusion and necromancy”) or as a way for players to have more choice in building characters. We’re making this system optional because we know that some players want a lot of ways to customize their characters, but more customization invariably leads to broken combos. We can manage combinations and fairness at the subclass and feat level, but slicing things much finer than that goes beyond what we can reasonably expect to playtest.
- A campaign system that extends the action beyond the day-to-day adventures, focusing on what we’ve called downtime. This includes managing a domain, running a business, playing politics on a grand scale, and so on. Things like mass combat would naturally slot into this system.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, these systems are aimed at specific subsets of players. Testing them in public would just result in a lot of people that the system isn’t aimed at giving us negative feedback. Thus, we’re showing these systems to groups that we know are in the target audience.
That’s where we stand today. With the last public packet out the door, there’s not much more to talk about today that you can’t see for yourself in the latest rules. Download, enjoy, and give us your feedback.
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.