September 30, 2012

Well that was a busy Saturday

Been a bit quiet here, so thought I might change that.  Nothing earthshaking this time around though.

Supposedly the weekend is a time to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of the work week.  Well, my Saturday was anything but a chance to relax and unwind, but at least it was due to fun activities (mostly).

It started off the way most of my Saturdays for the past year have, with me waking up to go to work.  Honestly, the paycheck is nice from all the mandatory OT they've got us doing, but doing so week after week after week burns a person out.  Thankfully, things went pretty smoothly, and I was out of there by 2pm.

After that was some errands that needed running (including grabbing lunch) and the quick check on a few different forums, amidst which the FFG Edge of the Empire Beta forum and D20 Radio, as well as get up to date on my Twitter feed.  And then it was off to game night.  Thankfully, it wasn't a repeat of last Saturday, with me only finding out things had been cancelled at the very last minute due to sudden appearance of in-laws at the GM's house.

Once again, I'd brought the starter set for FFG's X-Wing game, hoping to get that on the table and see how the final game turned out in comparison to how it played when I got a chance to play a few rounds at GenCon 2011.  Turns out, it was still fun, and I managed to squeak out a victory as a Red Squadron Pilot in a lone X-Wing with a trusty astromech vs. a pair of Obsidian Squadron TIE pilots thanks in no small part to a very lucky critical hit.  I'm actually glad I pre-ordered all the boosters when I made my purchase of X-Wing, as I guess the X-Wing and Y-Wing boosters are vanishing fast.  Sadly we didn't have time for a full-fledged game, but maybe that will change for next weekend.

After that was a burger run to Five Guys (gods do I love their burgers, and their cajun fries are pretty darn tasty as well) for dinner (GM's wife really didn't feel up to cooking anything, which is fine), and then once the rest of the gaming group arrived, it was time to venture back to the realm of Middle-Earth for another session of Cubicle 7's The One Ring.

Once again our GM pulled from the Tales of the Wilderland adventure path, this time running us through "Of Leaves & Stewed Hobbit."  As many an adventure has done, this one started out in an inn, specifically a Hobbit-run establishment called the Easterly Inn that's fairly new to the region, and provided a taste of Hobbitish comfort for the two Hobbits (Mirabella and Rorimac) in our group.  The dwarf (Bruni) found the mead to be "acceptable" in quality, the elf (Caranlas) was rather aloof, and my psuedo-Ranger (Brander) was simply content to be sleeping next to a warm fire after a warm meal, the group having been "on the road" for some time, with most of the weather having been damp and dismal during the trek.  As the night wears on, many of the patrons get ready to turn in; sadly there wasn't enough open rooms for any of our company to get a bed, so we got stuck sleeping in the common room.  During the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning, there's a thunderous pounding on the inn's door, waking most of the sleeping patrons and putting the Ranger and elf on high alert (the dwarf was too busy sleeping off his mead and the Hobbits not really sure what to do).  The owner of the inn, a cheerful Hobbit named Dodinas (Dody) Brandybuck was quite glad to have some backup when he went to go check the door; any would-be brigands would have an archer and a swordsman to deal with rather than a halfling.

But the unannounced guest turned out to be a rather harried looking youth that claimed to be a survivor of a trade caravan that was coming across the Misty Mountains, with the innkeeper's brother Dinodas (aka Dindy) being amongst the caravan, but whose fate was unknown to the youth, who answered Dody's frantic inquiries with news that the caravan had been attacked by goblins just after they'd settled in for the night.  But before he could go into any more detail, the band of goblins that had been chasing him came up, weapons drawn and cruel intent plain to see on their faces.  At this point, the dwarf and the Hobbit PCs had been awoken, and the dwarf quite eager to spill goblin blood.  After the goblins had all been dispatched (with the elf archer ably dropping the two torch-carriers so as to prevent them from setting the inn on fire), Dody offered our company a job, seeing that we were capable folk; in short, a small amount of coin for finding news of his younger brother, and an offer of free room and board for a week should we bring the young Hobbit traveler back to the inn alive.  From what the youth told the company, the caravan had been attacked just as it was nearing the end of the High Pass, just on the edge of the Misty Mountains.  It would be a few days' journey, and the youth was in no shape to accompany us, so once the sun was up, off we set.

The journey was thankfully without peril or hardship beyond being dreary and gloomy, perhaps fitting for early summer, though being able to make use of a small boat to take us down the Carrock rather than making the trek on foot probably helped.  We reached the foot of the High Pass as the sun was setting, having followed the trail instructions that Dody provided to the ruins of a Mannish town.  The sharp eyes of the elf spotted the presence of a shadowy fiend, one that sought to snatch away wee Mirabella.  The dwarf and elf found their axe and arrows did little more than annoy the creature, but Brander recalled a story his grandfather had told him of night-haunts, and replaced his sword with a torch, forcing the monster to recoil in fear until it eventually fled back into the night to trouble us no more.

However, the night sky cleared, and again the sharp eyes of our elven archer proved their merit as he spotted signs of a bonfire further up the pass.  Given we were already awake and knowing that the night did indeed hold dangers, we made best possible speed towards the alleged bonfire.

What greeted our sight as we approached was not a happy vision, as we found the remains of the caravan holed up in an old ring-fort, with a substantial number of goblins making ready to attack, and signs that the caravan survivors had been under siege for several days.  We play the role of Big Damn Heroes and force the goblins into fighting a battle on two fronts.  It was at this point that teamwork proved a huge boon, as Rory and Bruni had made each other their Fellowship Focus, enabling the Hobbit to remain on the defense and spend his Hope to protect Bruni, freeing the Dwarf up to go for an all-out offensive that left dead goblins in his wake.  Mirabella proved to be a true shot with her sling, with Caranlas and Brander working in tandem to take down as many goblins as they could, all while caravan archers from the ringfort peppered the goblin force with arrows.  Brander ended up drawing the attention of a rather brutish looking Orc, who sought to challenge the manling in a one-on-one fight, going so far as to telling the other goblins to leave the Human warrior to him.  Dumb move, as a critical hit and a couple tengwar runes lead to the Orc's swift end on the third exchange.

It was a tough fight, but in the end we proved victorious, with only a few minor cuts and scrapes suffered.  The caravan leader, a stern fellow named Iwgar (a Beorning) was quite glad for the help, but unfortunately related that Dindy had been taken prisoner during an earlier attack on the ring-fort, due mostly to the "fool of a halfling" running off in a panic rather than staying with the wagons as Iwgar had instructed him.  From what the Beorning knew, the goblins likely had a lair in a cave nearby, as it was a short distance from where the caravan had been initially attacked, costing them half of the six men he'd hired in Bree, leaving only three defenders for the rest of the trek.  Feeling obligated to at least try and mount a rescue of young Dindy, the heroes agreed to get what rest they could before trying to track the goblin raiding party to its lair and hope the Hobbit traveler was still alive when we got there. And so ended the first part of "Of Leaves & Stewed Hobbits," with us slated to hopefully finish the adventure either next Saturday or the Saturday after.

Myself and a couple others hung around a bit later to get another couple rounds of X-Wing in, and I really wish I had brought the boosters along in order to let more people play rather than having to settle for one-on-one battles.  But like I said before, it's a fun game, and I managed to score an Imperial victory, putting the final tally at Rebels 3, Imperials 1.

So like I said, a busy Saturday, but ultimately a fun one.

September 21, 2012

Edge of The Empire - Unofficial Species Menagerie

As of this morning, a fun little project that I've been working on alongside fellow "unabashed tinker monkey" Ben Erickson, aka Cyril aka Agent 66 on the GSA, went live.

Exclusive to the GSA is a fan-produced document for FFG's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beta called the Unofficial Species Menagerie.

It was born of a pair of threads, one on the D20 Radio Forums and the other on FFG's own sub-forum dedicated to the Edge of the Empire Beta, lamenting the lack of species available at this stage of the game.  A few folks, particularly Ben and I, started coming up with our own conversions of various species.  As usual for me, I'd started putting my work together in a single word document to better keep track of, with the intent of eventually tossing it up on the web.  Ben suggested that maybe we ought to combine our efforts, and thus was born a compilation of 32 different species from not only the Rebellion Era but also some selections from the Prequel, KOTOR, and even the early New Republic eras.

And truthfully, this was a fun project to work on.  To be honest, a lot of the enjoyment I got out of working on Unknown Regions was the collaboration with other Star Wars RPG authors such as the amazingly prolific Sterling Hershey and sci-fi author Patrick Stutzman as well as lead designer Rodney Thompson; being able to bounce ideas off some very esteemed minds really helped the creative process for the portions I worked on.  Working with Ben as we bounced ideas about how to translate a species from their prior edition write-ups into Edge of the Empire had much the same feel.  He had a lot of good suggestions, both for the species he worked on and for how to improve upon the one's I'd written, and was receptive to my suggestions as well.

So if you haven't already, check out the article that I provided the link to above, and check out the fruits of our work.  I think the odds are good you'll find at least a couple of species that will tickle your creative processes.  And hey, we've got Squibs.  After all, who doesn't love the little fuzzy blue haggle-masters?

September 16, 2012

Finally ran Edge of the Empire last night...

Like the title says, I finally got the chance to run a bonafide session of Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beta (whew, that's a mouthful) last night.  So now I've had the chance to be both a player and a GM for this game.

And I must say, in spite of my initial skepticism, I'm quite liking this game.  That's not to say it's the perfect Star Wars RPG experience, but it's not an abysmal train wreck of a failure either.

I had chosen to convert a pre-existing adventure, Rendezvous on Ord Mantell (first printed in Star Wars Gamer #1 back in the early days of WotC's OCR version of Star Wars).  Aside from the bad guy stat blocks (I'll get to that later), converting the adventure proved to be a breeze, needing just a few tweaks here and there to account for the very different game mechanics.

I won't spoil the details of the adventure, but if you're curious, stay tuned to the GSA website for further news down the line ;)

I had thought about creating a bunch of pre-gens for this group, which consisted of most of the folks I routinely game with on Saturday nights, but opted to let them build their own characters.  I must say, even though they were largely unfamiliar with the system, it only took an hour for all five people to build their characters, and everyone seemed pretty happy with what they had.  One house rule I did implement was doubling the starting credit allowance, which gave everyone a chance to buy gear suited for their character concepts without being forced to take increased Obligation.  A couple heroes did take some extra starting cash, and the rest wanted a few extra XP in their starting budget (though one of those ended up changing his mind and not taking extra Obligation since he didn't really have a good use for the token XP bonus).

So after that hour, this is what we had for a party:
- Raith Bardo, Captain of the Rusty Sparrow (Human Smuggler/Pilot)
- Gen Capo, Co-Pilot and First Mate of the Rusty Sparrow (Rodian Explorer/Fringer)
- Seku'dira, Teenage Tech Savant (Twi'lek Technician/Mechanic)
- Dewryyhn aka Dewie, Grouchy Ex-Gladiator (Wookiee Hired Gun/Marauder)
- Trista Keyis, Laconic & Sarcastic "Field Operative" (Human Bounty Hunter/Gadgeteer)

A pretty eclectic mix of characters, who again may be showing up at a later date

As to the adventure itself, I'd figured it'd take three, maybe four hours at most for the PCs to get through it all, with about half of that time being devoted to combat to allow for them to learn the rules and get used to the dice pool mechanic that EotE uses.

Let me just say that the dice roller app that FFG is offering, either thru iTunes or as an Android app, is totally worth the five bucks.  I'd put the app on both my iPhone (so I could roll my dice) and on my iPad (so the players could use it), and having said app available to the PCs speed things up quite a bit.  In fact, after the first combat encounter, one of the players went to iTunes through their own iPhone and bought the app to download right then and there, so I imagine the next time I run a game in this system, most everyone will have the dice roller :)

There's also the fact that most of the fights in the adventure were against minions, who tended to go down pretty quick seeing as how everyone except Seku'dira were dealing a minimum of 9 damage per attack, and none of the minions could absorb more than 8 damage before dropping.  I think the first Henchman they encountered was quite a surprise when he didn't just drop after getting shot by Trista.

I will say that one thing that makes combat go a lot faster in this game than Saga Edition is that the heroes are lot more fragile, in that one good hit with a blaster rifle will drop all but the toughest of PCs (such as Dewie).  That doesn't mean they're at risk of dying, merely being knocked unconscious with some lingering effects of the battle after the fact.

The dice pool system is really a case of "you need to play it to fully understand it," as on paper it looks much to cumbersome, though admittedly if you're converting regular dice rolls to the symbols that EotE uses, it's going to be a slow process regardless.  After the first few rolls of the initial combat, the players had the hang of it, making frequent use of their Advantages to either hinder their enemies and/or boost their allies' efforts, which in turn lead to combat being less about "who deals the most damage" but more of a group effort, something that's been kind of lacking in the other Star Wars RPGs, as d20 generally required a character to give up their chance to do stuff in order to help an ally, and though it's been a while, pretty sure the D6 system was much the same.  With EotE and the use of Advantages and Threats, you can still attack, but you're going to do more than just deal some damage to the target.

Ultimately, it took about two hours total to run through Rendezvous on Ord Mantell, with the heroes ultimately successful and not being quite as broke as they had been at the start of the adventure.

As for the amount of prep-work needed by the GM... really, it's not that much, and calls back to D6 Star Wars in that for most NPCs, you just need a couple of lines noting the NPC's characteristics (probably a 2 in most cases), what skills they have ranks in (if any), with combat-based NPCs needing a Soak Value, Wound Threshold, and combat-related gear.  And that's about it.  Raith's player caught me by surprise by wanting to chat up the female bartender, whom I had no stats for, so I simply gave her a Cunning and Presence of 3, a rank each in Cool, Charm, and Negotiate, and went from there.  And it worked wonderfully.

For the major NPCs of the adventure, I didn't so much as convert them to EotE as totally rebuild them using EotE's mechanics.  And they all came out pretty close to function if not exactly form compared to their d20 versions.  Unlike the d20 versions, building an NPC in EotE really is more of an art-form, as there's currently no official guidelines on how to do so other than comparing what you've come up with to what's published in the book. For people that are used to RPGs that largely require you to follow a fairly strict formula, this can be quite a shock and not something they're entirely comfortable with.  Hopefully, either in a weekly update or in the finished product, FFG will offer some NPC creation guidelines, but until then, you'll just have to wing it.

The only thing missing was having someone play a Force-Sensitive character, but given the steep costs involved (particularly after the Week 1 updated), I can't exactly fault anyone for that, as the couple players that were initially interested in playing Force-users lost interest when it became clear that they'd be pretty darn weak, at least compared to beginning Force-users in the d20 versions of Star Wars; I think only one person in this particular group has ever played the D6 version of Star Wars, something I might have to remedy at a later date.  But having played a Force-Sensitive character myself, I can understand where they're coming from; I'm a D6 veteran myself, so playing a wannabe Jedi that can barely accomplish the more routine tasks in the Force isn't something new to me, and EotE is firmly of the mindset that if you want to be an awesome Force-user, you're going to have to work for it.  And even then, there's a limit on how powerful you can get as a Force-user, at least at this early stage.  You're not Obi-Wan Kenobi in TPM or Ahsoka Tano in the early Clone Wars, but rather you're Luke Skywalker long before he gets trained by Yoda.  Heck, you can't even begin play with a lightsaber, which given how freakin' awesome those weapons are in EotE is probably a good thing.

So the early prognosis of Edge of the Empire is pretty good, seeing as how this was the same group that was largely burnt out on Star Wars gaming (or at least the d20 versions).  Everyone had fun, and there wasn't a huge focus on tactical positioning (which also helped speed up combat), even though I did make use of some maps and minis to give folks a relative idea of where everyone was.

If the opportunity presents itself, I'll definitely be running this system again.

September 4, 2012

Post-Play Thoughts on D&D Next

A few weeks ago, I finally got the opportunity to play D&D Next, using the playtest rules released on 8/13/12.  It was a last minute sort of thing, with the prospective GM eager to run and scrambling to find at least four players, enough so that each of the four base classes could be tried out.

As I'm wont to do, I choose to roll up a Human Fighter for my first foray in to D&D Next.  Compared to earlier editions, I must say that character creation is a bit more streamlined than 3e, with a bit more initial complexity than 4e.  Our pack of 1st level heroes were built using "4d6, drop the lowest" and I will admit that my d20 Radio GenCon 2011 dice did not fail me.  All said, it took just under half an hour for most everyone to get our characters built, which given this was the first time half the group was even laying eyes on some of this material was pretty impressive.  Simplest oddly enough was our Halfling Rogue, while the Elf Wizard took the longest due to her debating what spells she wanted in her spellbook.  One thing of interest with current character creation is that instead of just getting ability score boosts from your race, you also get a score bump from your class.  However, for those D&D players preferring a bit of an "old school" approach to character survivability, 1st level PCs in this version tend not to start with a whole lot of hit points; the Wizard was super-squishy at only 5hp.  Admittedly, this can be overcome if using Feats (or "specialties" as they're currently being presented), namely Toughness which is no joke by an stretch.

Skills are fairly interesting, going the route of 4e's "trained or not trained" rather than 3e's skill points or 2e's "proficiency" system.  In short, you simply roll an ability score check, and if you have a relevant skill, you gain a trained bonus to your check.  For the latest playtest packet, skills are still attached to specific ability scores, though the notion from the prior packet that skills did not have a default ability score to fall back on made them more interesting, as it would encourage newer players to try and make more use of their skills in new and interesting ways.

So, with our fresh-faced pack of adventurers chomping at the bit, the GM ran an updated version of the old "Raiders of Oakhurst" module that was created back in the days before 4e was released.  We didn't really get all that far, doing some investigation and interaction with the townsfolk.

One of the elements of D&D Next that I liked was the Background system.  Instead of choosing your trained skills bases solely upon your class (with few a minor exceptions), you instead get three trained skills based upon what Background you've chosen.  For my Human Fighter, I chose the Background of Knight, figuring him to be a "poor knight" in that he was of non-noble birth but had recently earned his knighthood.  Said background gave me a healthy boost when trying to converse with various townsfolk, which normally for a Fighter would be a problem, since prior editions had social aptitudes marked as "not available."  So, after some asking and poking around, we learn that there's been goblin attacks in recent weeks, mostly harassing travelers and traders.  Being heroic-mind types, we offer to go "sort things out," and here my being a knight helped out, as it lead the town mayor to take us at our word and even offer a small reward for our time and efforts.

Long story short, we found a couple different groups of gobbos and laid into them.  Frankly, against the rank-and-file goblins, we were death incarnate.  Thanks to my very high Strength modifier, I almost couldn't miss and always did enough damage to take out any goblin I hit.  Now while pre-4e Fighters were pretty much limited to "I engage the enemy, I smack them until they drop, rinse & repeat," D&D Next gives you a little bit of combat versatility in the form of maneuvers, enabling you to strike for more damage, parry an attack, or several other abilities depending on which fighting style you choose.  Being all knightly and all, I opted for the Protector style, which gave me an option to reduce damage done to an adjacent ally.  This proved handy a few times to spare the Wizard from being dropped, as she had the worst AC of the group in addition to her paltry amount of hit points (her player has only played 4e D&D, so being so fragile was quite a shock for her).  Me on the other hand, I was indeed the party tank, having taking Toughness for a boatload of hit points and being decked out in heavy armor with a shield; I think only three attacks out of the several dozen that came my way during the session actually hit, and with as many hit points as I had, they really weren't much for me to worry about, especially if I was able to parry them to reduce the damage total.

Interestingly enough, the Rogue in this version really, I mean really has to work if they want to get their Sneak Attack damage.  Nothing in the rules packet suggested that flanking provided any benefit, so he was having to make skill checks to feint and get advantage over his foes, which pretty much reduced him to attacking every other round.  Neat thing with Rogues is that if they're trained in a skill, they're pretty much guaranteed to get a minimum result.  So however he sought to feint or trick or whatever, the target had an uphill battle to counter it, especially if they weren't trained in Spot (which seems to be the "skill to observe things" in D&D Next).  Granted, he didn't really need a lot of Sneak Attacks for the first encounter, as well he had to contend with were basic goblins and a few dire rats, all of which got taken down pretty quick.

Wizards and Clerics are at an interesting level of power.  While both have minor, at-will spells they can cast as often as they please (including few decent attack choices for Wizards), they're back on the old-school "spells per day" system.  It was a good thing our Cleric was patterned after Durkon of Order of the Stick, so he could at least do some melee stuff once he'd run out of his daily allotment of spells.  One point about the Cleric we weren't sure one was if using their granted domain spell counted against their "number of spells cast per day;" if it does, then a low level Cleric will need to be extra careful about when they use their spells.  For those familiar with 4e, the Channel Divinity ability is here, but it's now a daily effect rather than a per-encounter thing.  I'm not sure how I feel about this; given the limits of the ability (either a free Cure Light Wounds on an ally or auto-damage on Undead), I don't see it as being a game breaker to move this to "once per encounter" rather than "once per day," especially seeing as how frail a low-level PC can be, as was proven in a later fight.

So, our quest to exterminate the goblin raiders continued, and we finally managed to track them back to a large warren, where we found a humanoid priest of some dark god urging the flock to sally forth and lay waste to Oakhurst.  Yeah, we weren't about to let that happen.  The Halfling got off a really good shot with his sling, pretty much taking down one of the priest's bodyguards with one stone.  The fight was pretty tough for us, as the Wizard got outright dropped by what I'm guessing was the evil priest's own Channel Divinity ability, as there was no attack roll, just her taking more than enough damage to drop her into negative hit points.  This kind of worries me on a design level, as it's much to close to "save or die" type of effects from 3e, only without the courtesy of some kind of save.  On the upside, we did get to test out the dying rules, where much like 4e you have to make a saving throw, except it's not "three strikes you die," but rather three successes and you stabilize, otherwise you take take automatic damage.  Our Cleric was johnny-on-the-spot with his healer's kit though, so he was able to stabilize the Wizard quite handily before healing her on the next round.  The priest suffered the same fate as Thulsa Doom from the old Conan the Barbarian movie after getting shanked in the thigh by the Rogue, with the remaining goblins thoroughly routed.

Though only first level, the Fighter can be fun to play.  I'm inclined to think of the D&D Next Fighter having their lineage traced to the D&D Essentials Fighter, only instead of an "always on" combat stance, you instead have a round-by-round choice of tricks you can do.  I've heard some folks comparing to Iron Heroes, which was created interestingly enough by Mike Mearls.  The Fighter has to pay out of a special dice pool to use their various maneuvers, and with only a single die to start with, you need to pick what maneuver you are going to use from round to round.  The first fight, I spent most of my dice reducing the damage done to the Wizard from the few enemies that got in close enough to take a swing at her and either survived or simply didn't trigger an opportunity attack from my Fighter; looking at the bestiary after the fact, I would have had to roll pretty darn poorly in order to miss or not kill most of what we fought outright, with the Goblin bodyguards (I'm guessing they were Gobbo Leaders) and the Dark Priest (again, guessing based on hit points and the rusty ring mail he was wearing) being the only ones I'd have to roll at least half-way decent in order to land a hit on them.

One thing I did see that kind of worries me is the ability, or lack thereof, to resist an enemy's spells.  Due to rolls, the Wizard started out with a 20 Intelligence, meaning that the monsters had to beat a pretty high DC on a straight ability score roll to avoid getting fragged by her magic, with one group of gobbos getting flat-out incinerated by a use of the burning hands spell just before she got dropped by the dark priest.  That she was able to cast magic missiles and rays of frost as at-wills gave her plenty to do in the fight without having to draw upon her more potent (in comparison) spells in order to be helpful.

The Cleric, at the least that of the War domain, showed every sign of being as burly in a fight as 3e Clerics could be, which is slightly worrisome given the prevalence of "CoDzilla" that ran through that edition, particularly when various supplements, official and third-party, started rolling in.  Heck, he took down one of the priest's goblin bodyguards in one shot thanks to a mix of his domain spell and being a dwarf with a warhammer and an above-average Strength score.

Rogues are interesting, as they go back to being the skill monkeys they were in prior editions, particularly with how many trained skills they start with in addition to a class ability that makes them less dependent on high ability scores when it comes to their final skill check bonus.  This might seem a bit alarming up front, but so far there really doesn't seem to be a way to improve your skill check bonus, and D&D Next seems to aiming for a set range of DCs instead of having to constantly scale the check DCs with the party's level.

What's also interesting is that D&D Next seems to have gone back to attack bonuses that scale based on your class, with Fighters getting a hefty starting bonus to their weapon attacks while Wizards get a similar bonus when casting attack spells, while Clerics seem to be taking a middle path on both and Rogues are really going to need to rely on having advantage since they too have lower base attack bonus, but at least they get Weapon Finesse pretty much for free, so a Thief-style Rogue can pretty much not worry too much about Strength since they're using Dexterity for both attack and damage.

One other element, this one pertaining to the races, is the how D&D Next is (so far) implementing the idea of "racial weapon preferences."  Older editions simply made your character automatically proficient with the weapon, which didn't mean a lot if you were playing a Dwarf Fighter or Elven Ranger.  This time around, if your Dwarf, Elf, or Halfing is wielding a certain type of weapon and they're already proficient with it, the damage die for that weapon is increased to the next die type; so a Halfling with a short sword is doing as much base damage as a Human with a longsword, and a Dwarf with a warhammer can really dish out the pain.  It really does encourage players to chose weapons that are typically associated with a certain race, which can be both good and bad, as it rewards playing to a certain stereotype and discouraging choosing less optimal weapons.

Well, that's my thoughts on D&D Next, at least after one playtest adventure.  While I'd largely written off D&D in all its forms (having become disgusted by 3rd and its variants, such as Pathfinder, and largely bored by 4e) by the time Wizards announced that they were doing an Open Beta for the next version of D&D, depending on how this version shakes out, I might be more inclined to playing, or perhaps even running, the occasional adventure every now and again.  And if it can bring other former D&D players back into the fold, then so much the better for WotC, especially if they can make the game less daunting to new players while still having enough variety and complexity to intrigue the old salts that cut their teeth on much earlier editions of the game.