Watching the comments for this latest Legends and Lore article, it looks like they've really hit a nerve amongst Rogue enthusiasts. Speaking only for myself, I view Next, and the general embrace of what one would call "old school" style RPGs and adventures since the Essentials as an agreement with some negative opinions about D&D 4th Edition. Very briefly, these opinions would be:
1) Given the encounter/monster/adventuring day guidelines it is very difficult to challenge the PCs.
2) Combat takes longer than I find to be fun.
3) Money is entirely used to purchase magic items which tend to be homogeneous from character to character.
And strictly for me, in my own games
4) Players tend to fail to look for solutions to problems that don't involve powers or readily apparent skill checks.
So in light of the Essentials, this playtest, and a new lineup of really open ended adventures in Dungeon and the coming year, I had thought this was, for my playstyle. People who want numbers and powers and hour long fights have 4th edition. That’s their system. People looking for something a bit more open ended have 5e. Because, in my opinion (I’m being facetious here), the direction clearly represents something I want more than the people on the CharOp board want. BTW, I recognize this as a prejudice of mine to view the CharOp board as a bunch of number crunchers who want to play a videogame more than an RPG and certainly don’t make for fun PCs. I’ve got a little evidence to support that but it is a prejudice.
Getting to the point, this new article clearly looks towards a rogue that has more in common with the 4E rogue than the first Playtest rogue. This rogue has actions that could be thought of as “spell-like.” You trick an enemy into blundering forward. You divert an attack to an ally. These tight descriptions of a little scene call up memories of 4E powers. You do something, this is the effect. I oppose this because it takes narrative control and narrative burden away from the player. I don’t want a rogue to have a maneuver that says, trick an enemy into blundering forward. I want the player to say, I taunt the enemy in an effort to trick him into blundering forward. A part of this is that classes feel too similar with powers. Without players seizing control of the narrative and describing their actions (which they didn’t in 4E, they just read powers) a fighter, a rogue, and a wizard might as well be doing the same thing. I Blank Blank, hit, effect, next player.
So to my great surprise, there is a real rift on these boards and comment sections of people hailing the return of a “spell-like” rogue with little effects and those like me. The argument I see a lot is against “DM Fiat.” And I can see that point. If you say I want to trick the enemy into blundering forward, the DM can simply say “he isn’t falling for it.” But ah ha with a power that COMPELS the enemy to blunder forward on a successful roll, power shifts from the DM to the player. To this I would say 1) EVERYTHING is subject to DM fiat and 2) there were plenty of times when these “powers” didn’t make sense. What narratively has changed in the situation of a power that imposes a -2 or +2 to hit or damage. Does the player describe a magic effect that produces a great treasure compelling the enemy to blunder forward? In my experience no. Everyone takes the 4E power effects as a given if they hit without really thinking about “does this make sense?” and has it been described well enough for the player to EARN IT. If you can’t think to trick the enemy into blundering forward, I don’t think the game should suggest it to you. I think if you’re not creative enough to think of it, don’t play a Next Rogue. That’s a dick thing to say, but, to double down, I felt my playstyle of where the effect of your action is only as strong as your description went unloved for a long time and I’m digging the attention right now.
DM Fiat deserves a post all its own to examine the arguments against. I guess the point of all this is, I’m honestly surprised to see this many people stepping up to defend Rogue Saving Throw effects and Signature Spells, and all these 4E like elements in Next. I thought they all loved 4E and the numbers game. But I don’t think Next needs to become more like 4E, I think the CharOpers and Anti-Fiat crowd needs to learn a few new tricks first.