I played D&D Next this weekend. My group dispensed with a lot of roleplaying and went straight for combat. We dove into the Caves of Chaos and started tackling some bugbears almost immediately. The game so far feels simple and easy to grasp. Possibly too simple, though I’m trying hard not to be biased. I spent a large amount of time at the table doing nothing in between turns.
As I waited for my turn to come back around, I realised something about 4e. Sometimes it is heavily implied that immediate powers are some how taking away from the real combat and/or slowing down combat to a crawl. The speed issue is true, and I used to think maybe immediate actions could be removed from the game. I have to say I feel differently now. 4e’s immediate powers keep players invested in the combat – all of it, turn by turn, because someone might do something that affect them. This is not a bad thing.
I noticed a huge difference in myself between playing 1st level Next on Sunday and playing 1st level 4e Encounters the Wednesday before. At Encounters I’m sitting forward, I’m listening to what every player does, how the monsters react, because it might be immediately helpful for the group if I can do something, or someone else might drop an immediate that will benefit me, even indirectly. At Next I’m sitting back, I’m idly flipping through the rules book again, I’m jotting notes in my equipment, or stacking dice. I have no investment in the battlefield when it’s not my turn. Its a strange feeling to me.
Again, I’m trying hard not to be biased. I don’t want to settle for being a grognard, but I loved 3.5 when 4e came out and I was very open and excited about 4e. That transition was like jumping into a swimming pool full of jello and hundred-dollar bills – kinda weird but at the same time really freakin’ awesome. Trying out Next so far has been more like sitting in a kiddie pool with a roll of gold dollars. Its okay? I guess? It comes down to hoping that more will come out that will make me excited about this game. Until then I’ll keep testing the waters.