The theme of today's seminar was character advancement and how levelling will work in D&D Next. We gleaned some great information that got people in the room excited. The three WotC giants fielded questions and gave us some insight into what to expect.
Iconic monsters will remain threats at higher levels
This is something that has always bugged me about the game and it looks like it's finally being rectified. Iconic D&D monsters like goblins and orcs will be just as capable of challenging a party at 1st level as they will be at 8th level. Monte Cook said: "I think it offers a better play experience that the orc/ogre can remain in the campaign, and people can know how the monster would work from a previous experience, but they remain a challenge for longer." Instead of having a level 1, level 5, and level 8 orc, there will just be the quintessential 'orc' creature that easily scales.
Levelling won't be all about big bonuses
To keep low-level monsters relevant as above, bonuses will be handled differently. Instead of a fighter gaining a constant stream of attack bonuses, he will gain a "modest" amount spread throughout the level spectrum. Instead of bonuses, characters will receive more options "to do stuff". This should allow for more roleplay-oriented gameplay.
Flexibility will be key to gameplay
It's clear that the designers want to make the game as flexible as possible to suit every play style. Jeremy said: "I would want to have the flexibility to swing back and forth between mass battles and normal sized encounters, and for the rules to cover those kinds of things." Customising combat to suit personal preferences is a great idea and allows for epic 4th edition battles along with smaller 1e skirmishes.
More advice will be given to DM's on how to run games
One major complaint about 4e is that initially there was no real advice given to DM's about how to run a game in the new edition. This resulting in them going in with the same mindset as 3.5 and then realising that they're not having as much fun as they should be. In D&D Next, there will be a big focus on aiding the DM with tools and tips. Monte said: "We're going to give the DM a lot of tools to address players actions as well as rules discussions. We want to keep play moving quickly. The same goes for the player with too many options - we're planning on DM and player help to address as much of that as possible."
Old-school randomness will make a comeback
For those of you who mourned over a severe lack of random tables in the most recent rule-sets then prepare to rejoice. There will be random tables for DM's who prefer that kind of playstyle. Mike said: "I think D&D needs to have elements of chaos in it. Sometimes that can be funny, or weird or off the wall. I think that's one of the places where the randomness fo the d20 can come into play. I think that some of the recent history of the game has the designer buttoning down and eliminating some of that chaos, and we want to get away from that. It's the interactions between the DM, the players and the game that make it was it is, so we shouldn't stifle that."
Characters will feel like individuals
D&D Next will get rid of the 'copy and paste' model of 4e, where some powers were often mechanically the same but used by different classes. They're definitely trying to let players have it their own way, choosing what kind of wizard or fighter they want to be and having full reign over how they play it. Players will be able to make their characters as complex or simple as they like and this will (hopefully) work in group situations. Monte said: "Running a few playtests, I had at one long term table a guy who hadn't played since 1st editon, a guy who was more 3rd edtion and a guy who was recently in to 4th. The guy who hadn't played in 1st edition didn't want a lot of options. This solidified in my mind, along with the other evidence we've seen, that there are a lot of players who want to have very few options on their character sheet. As a game goes on, that guy might see some of the cool things that other classes are doing and might want to add some of those modular abilities. This is something that is easy to do and change as the character progresses - he can pick up some of those more modular options if he wants after that point."
The art will be harken back to the good old days
This is a great change and something that I can really get behind. While the recent art has been really good, it just hasn't really captured the gritty dungeon-delving lifestyle of heroes. Jeremy said: "In our recent art we've added a more diverse, modular approach - you've got people that look vastly different. You'll have the halfling who's a bit overweight with some food stains on his clothes along side the more heroic look dashing sort."
So it was a fantastic session where we learnt quite a bit about the new edition. Playtesting will begin in Spring, so look out for that special email in your inbox.