Article Header Image
The Final Countdown
Mike Mearls

A t Gen Con this past weekend, we announced that the release of the upcoming D&D Next public playtest packet would be our final one. Does that mean that the game is done?

No. Obviously there is still work to do, but the nature of that work is shifting.

In the public playtest, we assume that most groups roll up characters, play through an adventure or two, give us feedback, and move on. We figure that most people pop in and out as they have the time and inclination to test.

This phase of the playtest was all about nailing the feel of D&D. D&D isn't simply a set of rules. It's a tool for creativity. What it does is important, but how it does it is just as critical. I also believe that D&D had wandered away from what players are looking for from it. The public playtest was our way to get back in touch with you in a way that ensured the next generation of D&D tabletop roleplay gaming was relevant to you.

Our playtest emphasis is now changing to the repetitive grind of balancing out the math and finding and dispelling abusive combinations. We'll continue to work with a big list of testers, but our needs are such that we require focused, directed play to drive our results. Frankly, that kind of testing can be fairly boring. It also mandates a level of feedback that is more detailed and demands more work than the testing done so far.

On top of that, it requires that we know a good deal about each group. Is a group more story-based? Are they optimizers? That kind of knowledge on our end is key, and it's something that we can learn best by getting to know a group through their prior, detailed feedback.

In terms of scope, this upcoming phase of the playtest is at least as large as the playtest for 3rd Edition, if not larger.

So, what did we learn from the public playtest? In some cases you confirmed things, in others you dispelled some notions that had become lodged in R&D's view of you.

  • You like simplicity. You want to jump into the game quickly, create characters, monsters, NPCs, and adventures with a minimum of fuss, and get down to the business of playing D&D.
  • You like that every class has the potential to contribute in most situations, but you're OK with some classes being better at certain things if that fits the class's image. You see balance on a larger, adventure-based or campaign-based scale.
  • You want rules that make it easy to build adventures and encounters. You want to think about the story or your setting's details, rather than fiddle with math.
  • You value flexibility in rules. You prefer an ability or a rule that's easy to adapt or that leaves space for creative applications, rather than rigidly defined abilities.
  • You aren't edition warriors. You want the game to support a variety play styles in equal measure. You're not attached to any specific ways of doing things as long as the game works.

At this stage, our ongoing columns will continue and you will see the same weekly content that we've provided in the past. We're not going anywhere. Now it's time for us to iron out all the details. We'll keep giving you previews and insights into what we're doing and how we're doing.

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.
While I see the nature of your complaint I think perhaps you are placing the limitation yourself. For example in your examples or Trip, or Frighten. Both of those are enhanced results of an attack action. Both have a basic result that the use of their ability will also enhance should the attempt fail. One could if not a fighter try to trip or intimidate as say and action in itself with no fall back result if unsuccessful and perhaps not as easy as a simple d6 vs the characteristic modifier. It seems to me the class ability has better odds that do not depend on the character's ability. Where as your Paladin or other high charisma character would have a DC to match which is likely to be less than 50/50 shot.

I must say I like the simplification I am seeing for skills and overall. I like the fact that skills / lore gives you a good boost to accomplishing something but is not required for average use / success.
I highly approve of the simplification of the system. I... (see all)
Posted By: nosavynada (9/16/2013 7:49:21 PM)


Thank you for having carefully read my analysis. If you direct your attention as strongly to the rules for the playtest, you will see that what you are suggesting is prohibited. The use of ability checks, and particularly opposed ones, should be permitted against opponents in combat, which is why at this early date I am attempting to bring the troubling wording to the gamecrafters' attention. (The use of the superiority die against the target's Strength is convenient, and a similar rule substituting an opponent's ability score for the Difficulty Class of the check could be implemented to cover many situations, offering appealing simplicity.)

I am asking for exactly the ability to make a roll to impede or trip an opponent, actions which duplicate the effect of attack actions and thus must presently be houseruled. Yes, this is rules lawyering and I have been persecuted by the best. Being told that I couldn't purchase marbles or use pepper to make an opponent sneeze, becau... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (9/17/2013 7:05:52 PM)


Reply isn't working (in Firefox) and neither, unfortunately, is delete. The comment below, while fairly well organized, is extraneous and I apologize for mistaking this article for the one to which I thought I was responding. All the information I entered yesterday is intact, and here is what I meant to, and should have merely, added to this article today:

Despite paying lip service to creativity and imagination as ideals, every version this year has implemented a value-added approach making particular combat actions the perquisite of specific builds, the same paradigm applied to skills and feats in Third Edition, and feats and powers in Fourth. This creates a choice trap, parallel to the feat trap in which the character becomes suboptimal if not equipped with the now-mandatory capability. The game developers can indulge in whatever nostalgic homilies they please, but as long as duplicate effects are prohibited, characters' creative expression will be seriously constrain... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (9/12/2013 2:15:10 PM)


Thanks, Wizards! That's sarcasm. I saved the information I had previously entered on this page, restored it yesterday, and now it's gone. Like my backup. And my trust.

I remember that it had something to do with Mage subclasses. The most important point was that first-level mages should use an AED casting structure, that's at-wills, which they already have, one or two encounter spells which refresh after a short rest, and powerful daily such as Burning Hands or Magic Missile. Rather than completely emulating Fourth Edition, I would give them a second nova at second level, or just have their Tradition kick in then.

I also made a point about psions. The idea of monks, rogues and so on having Psychic Warrior, Skulk or so forth as a subclass is good, but with their six or seven disciplines psions can stand as a class on their own and share little with mages. Psicrystals aren't magical foci, words and gestures aren't necessary, and psionic powers aren't necessa... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (9/12/2013 1:42:56 PM)