Mike Mearls dropped a surprise after-hours news release on us this evening on the D&D website when he announced that the D&D Next open playtest will begin on May 24th. Great news for D&D gamers everywhere, as we’ll finally get our hands on the game’s early draft and can see what the future holds.
It’s important to remember that this will be a quite early draft of the rules. I’m anticipating an extremely incomplete document, but if we can make a party of low-level PCs and do battle with goblins it’ll be fun to imagine what the later bits will entail. And being a playtest, it will be full of imbalance and busted rules. But the beauty of the open playtest will be that those holes are patched over by harnessing the force of nerdrage. Every D&D player who has ever gone god-hunting or sent a DM home in tears is well aware that there is nothing in the game that cannot be broken, so this phase of D&D Next will be a critical stress-test.
The joy of a playtest start date announcement is tempered, though, by the completely unexpected news that Monte Cook is leaving the design team. Is he quitting to get a headstart on writing freelance adventure modules, to have a full adventure path ready to go the day that D&D Next debuts? Sadly, that’s unlikely. We are given no specific details as to whether this is an irreconcilable creative dispute or something personal and unrelated to D&D Next. Mearls addresses the issue in a brisk but amicable fashion, then quickly moves on to the playtest news.
I hope we see more of Monte Cook, as he has been the genius behind some of my favorite D&D products, but in the meantime we can look forward to May 24th.