So, the shoe has dropped. D&D Next is announced, and I’m not even finished with the Heroic tier for my bi-weekly Keep on the Borderlands 4E campaign! Not that I’ve been pushing them to advance, as my group has just reached 8th level and I see from my older posts they were reaching 4th at the end of 2009. Granted we’ve had a few breaks for other games (my SotC Jazz-era LoEG game and a short-lived Arthurian D20 Modern game), but I’ve also been throwing a LOT of inter-related stuff at them in game, and since we get at most 3-4 hours per session, progress has been slower than I expected. I think everyone has been having fun, though,so it hardly matters.
Still, since I have plans now into at least the early Epic Levels, considering a transition before I reach mid-Paragon is not something I look forward to. And likely won’t consider, for this group, at least. Since WoTC is talking about an extensive public playtest (or at least more so than in years past), it sounds like I’ll have at least another year and a half to make the decision. As with many others, I figured something of this ilk would be announced for 2014 and the 40th anniversary of the game. I was figuring at D&D Experience in January 2014, but now it sounds like that is being rolled into GenCon starting next year, so GenCon2013 appears to be the odds on favorite guesstimate of the ‘Next’ launch.
And while I’m not planning to converting my existing campaign over to playtest, I have other options. I’m still running the Encounters program for the local game store, and rumblings are that the Encounters program will be used in the playtest in some manner. I look forward to that, since while I am happy running 4E, there are a few issues I would like to see addressed (or maintained as is) in the new… iteration? After the 3.5 vs 4 edition wars, the WoTC folks seem to be going out of their way not to use the E-word. I have mentioned that I have run more 4E games than I have pretty much any previous Edition of D&D – I love the simplicity of setup and prep it has over 3.x. While I still enjoy playing in 3.x games, I’m not sure I would ever want to run an extended 3.x game again. That’s one of the things I most fear in a new version of D&D – an increase to prep work for DMing. If there is one thing I would want to get out of playtesting, it is that the game isn’t changing back to the complex leveling model of 3.x. While I love the flexibility of that system as a player, it got to be such a chore as we got to higher levels as a DM. There are things I would like tweaked, of course. While I love the action economy of 4E, and the inherent balance in classes, I do not care for how long battles run. My group of 4 (with our companion character gnome bard) seldom gets through more than one combat encounter per session. We have to wait to start until the young son of our hosts go to bed around 8pm, and at times we balk at continuing past 11pm because we are getting ready to start a new combat. No doubt that contributes to us still being in high Heroic tier.
There isn’t much that can be said about the system, one way or another yet. Not a lot of folks are privy to it, and they are under NDAs. So we have speculation based on Mike Mearls’ and Monte Cook’s Legend & Lore columns over the past year. Many had speculated based on the topics that they were a precursor to a new edition, and one can hardly dispute that now. However, I don’t think what we’ve seen in those columns necessarily translate to a sneak peek into the coming revisions. For that, I am taking a wait and see position. Some folks will get a better look once they attend D&D Experience in a couple of weeks – a public playtest called “The Caves of Chaos” is scheduled. Another call back to Keep on the Borderlands, which seems to be a favorite of Mearls, so I’m intrigued. Unfortunately I won’t be attending, so I will be watching for nuggets of info like everyone else.
Any glimpse through the Encounters program is likely to be late this year (perhaps around GenCon – with a Game Day event like the Neverwinter one this past year), or perhaps even next. If I want to get in on the playtest bandwagon sooner, I may have a chance. There is mention of more extensive public playtesting coming in spring. Hopefully they mean this spring. I had been considering starting up a D&D campaign for the regular players of Encounters at the game store. There is a regular Pathfinder game, but no ongoing D&D. I don’t know if I’ll have the time, but I might make the time if I can use this to playtest. I’ve signed up on the WoTC website, so we’ll see what comes of it. Regardless, I will still be plotting the continuation of my 4E Keep on the Borderlands game, and running the next few seasons of Encounters, so 4E is in my life for a few more years, at least.