Long Post: So We Gave It a Try

So my group has played the beta for “D&D Next”, sat down and spent our D&D session with it. Here's our thoughts about it, including some background on my group so that you can perhaps understand our biases. Overall, we'll continue trying “D&D Next” out (and thank Wizards of the Coast for the opportunity to do so), but we consider 4th Edition to be a better system and hope that Wizards of the Coast continues to support it as they move towards D&D Next.


Background
I have been playing D&D for not quite four years, and my first version of playing was the initial release of 4th Edition ("4th Ed" ), summer of 2008. We didn't play it for very long, and quick moved on to other systems, such as 3.5, Feng Shui, and Mechwarrior. I played with this group for almost three years.


During this time, I started up a second group,with a bunch of friends that have never played any other system with 4th Ed. I've been doing most of the DM'ing, and we've been playing together for almost 3 years. We've really enjoyed it and have had a lot of fun with it. In the last 6 months we've gotten two new players and are indoctrinating them proper into the system and D&D.


For about two years, I've played D&D twice a week; my 4th Ed group, and my 3.5-centric group.


Despite playing several other D&D systems I have to say that 4th Ed is heads and shoulders above any other system available. I was a great system for people new to D&D to quickly learn, and an incredibly easy system to DM. Likewise, I simply despise 3.5. I honestly tried to like it; I rolled three characters to get a large amount of experience with it and gave it every break I could. I ended up quitting my first group after they wanted to start another campaign in 3.5 because I simply hate the system that much. It's doggerel, in my humble opinion.


So, when I heard that “D&D Next” was coming out, I was interested until it was described as based on 3.5. I won't lie – I was and still am prejudiced against the system. As for my group, they original players largely feel the same way, with the newer players largely being “meh” to either system. Is this because 4th Ed was “our first” and we are biased towards change? Maybe. Will there be any objective way to say one system is better or worse than the other? Probably not.


Where We Are In The Game
Currently, we've each grabbed a character. One of my players with zero DM experience is DM'ing “The Caves of Chaos”.


Warning: Next Paragraph has spoilers.


We currently have had “one” combat, when we entered the nearest cave entrance and ended up engaging two separate goblin patrols as well as the ogre in a single combat. This may explain some of the issues we've encountered, such as the in-combat healing, the out-of-combat healing, the resting, and so on.


Thoughts On the Game
Overall, here are some of the general comments about the game.


“It has swung too far back”. Many comments were raised about how the game feels like the game direction is going “backwards”. This doesn't feel like an improvement of the game, but a regression; it feels wrong and bad to not go forwards to better things. This is one of my major post-analysis epiphanies about D&D Next. 4th Ed has something that that D&D Next doesn't have: a vision and direction towards something fresh and new; a ground-up trailblazing re-imagining of the game with definite, obvious, and successfully executed directives. It's easy for new people to D&D to learn, it was consistent, it was balanced across classes, it gave a lot of options during combat while offering a streamline approach to non-combat encounters, and was easy to DM. D&D Next seems like the only vision is a massive and unfocused reactionary “OMGWTFPATHFINDER!!!!” which is sad because a solid synthesis of some of the new ideas in D&D Next and some of 4th Ed would make an excellent product.


“It is easier to learn than 4th Ed”. As a warm-up to the game, I created a three-page “Differences” document to describe the major differences between 4th Ed and “D&D Next” and read through them to the players. Other than that, it was largely just reading over characters with me and the new DM going over the rules during combat as they came up. It was very simple, which was surprising to many of us given the perception of 3.5 being a very difficult system.


“Advantage: Advantage”. The new advantage/disadvantage mechanic is very nifty and a welcome change to book-keeping. It was really enjoyable and using it felt very elegant and fast while still making a large impact to the game. I'm a little unhappy about the unevenness of the whens and wheres this mechanic comes up. A good example of this is it pops up during some appraisal checks made with a magnifying glass. Overall, this is a game-changing mechanic and is considered the best new feature we've so far encountered.


“Back to Accounting”. When the DM started to describe the loot we got after the first encounter, the first things out were: 91 arrows and 13 spears. Many of the WoW veterans got immediate flashbacks to vendor-trash grey loot. While we've only done the one (incredibly long) fight, it did seem to stick with us as a game mechanic, largely because it stood out is being very specific when the campaign didn't bother to name the town, tavern, or the quest-sharing magistrate. As well, maybe this is a quibble, but how are these goblins running around shooting crossbows but are carrying arrows instead of bolts?


“That was fast”. It really seems like the combat went faster. This is good thing, as one of the major complaints of 4th Ed is combat in the mid-to-end levels really start bogging down with all of the options. It really seemed to move quickly despite the fact that we accidentally decided to have three encounters at once rather than being boring and just doing them separately.


“Pre-rolled characters were good”. This was mainly by the new players that have had problems with the 4th Ed online character generator (which, admittedly, is terrible and buggy); most of the older players are notorious min-maxers. The newer players just had to grab a character in play and really enjoyed it. Overall, the characters were interesting and varied – as I like paladins, the cleradan build was quite intriguing.


“Back to rolling for stats and HP per level, hey?”. One of my largest single problems with 3.5 is rolling abilities and HP for my characters. I truly hate that, as it violates my sense of consistency and fairness. While we didn't roll our characters, judging by the ability statistics, I can only assume that they are not a point-buy system but rolled. To me, I have to watch this in the beta because it makes the Pelorian cleric quite nice because he looks like he has the best rolled statistics, including the only 18. I do notice that, while playing him, does has more damage with his “minor” attack than either damage-oriented classes like the wizard or the rogue.


“Less control over what we do”. This is regards to the spellcasting regression and specifically towards the loss of minor actions. This is actually a bigger negative issue than one would initially think because we use minor actions extensively in our 4th Ed campaign, especially for many of the in-combat skill-checks that really shouldn't take a long time to execute. By removing this, a many of the players feel that their flexibility and breadth of options have been seriously limited. A good example of this was with the ogre fight – normally, my characters would use a minor action to look around the room to see if anything was interesting. Since we didn't have that, we missed a lot of clues regarding the ogre's motivation that may have allowed us to stop fighting the ogre and start role-playing.


“Skills and checks?”. This is very negative because the players have two issues with these. The first is a bit of a difficulty of knowing what they should be rolling because there is no omnibus skill listing like in 4th Ed. The other issue is that, given the specificity of the skills available to us, it's implied that there are so many skills that we are going to be swamped with which skill to use or train or choose when we have to make checks.


“Rests and healing seem nerfed”. One of the things they liked in 4th Ed was the amount of out-of-combat and in-combat healing we had available to them. As their DM, it was good to be able to script encounters and allow my players many combats in quick succession without them feeling like they had to stop gratuitously for extended rests. This really allowed me an easier time to build suspense or a necessity of speed. Here, we fought 2-3 encounters in quick succession, blew all of our spells and hit dice, and really feel like we have to go all the way back to town to rest to come back to do it all over again. It seems cheap and unheroic that we run in, do our one thing, and then tuck our tails between our legs as we cowardly scurry back to town.


Another thing I noticed is that so far, as our initial fight has been in cramped corners with many choke-points, we haven't had a need to worry about creatures bum-rushing the wizard. But, since there are no aggro mechanics like marks or any opportunity attacks, I imagine that in more open combat, we are going to have problems with guarding our squishies. I imagine this is the reason that clerics now start with scale mail instead of chain?


Each combat gave us 100ish experience, but we need 2000 experience to level, so levelling takes twice as long as 4th Ed?


Here are some of our specific, class-based issues:


Rogue:
“No thievery skill?” There were a couple times in the first encounters where a thievery check would have been very useful (tying up a goblin prisoner, for example), but the rogue didn't have it, and only got a +3 Dex check to bind the prisoner.


Fighter:
“Was very simple to play”. This can be considered praise.
“The death and dying mechanics are straight-forward”. This, not so much.


Wizard:
“Emotional disconnect”. Removing attack rolls on spells makes the wizard very unappealing to play, because you don't have the suspense of rolling the dice yourself to see how it works out.
“More realism”. The thought is that, if magic and dragons existed, a target would actively dodge attacks rather than have the attacker aim them.
“Choosing spells sucks”. The wizard also played a wizard in 4th Ed and liked that he only had to prepare dailies, as opposed to here that all of his non-minor spells. This regression seems to make the game more accounting work and less fun.
“So... obstructed?” The rules on what happens when a Magic Missile is cast against a partially obstructed target need to be explained, especially given the campaign is set in very tight quarters with lots of targets partially obstructed by corners and what not.


Cleric of Moradin
“Healing is limited”. As our cleradin was the tank, being healed in-combat was high on the importance of things to pay attention to. And, she found that there wasn't enough to go around, and what little there was, was very limited.
“I can haz taink now?” It seems to be a huge regression that we've went from 3.5, where you needed one cleric in a group; to 4th Ed, where we don't need any clerics; to D&D Next, where we need TWO clerics in a group – one to be a defender and one to be a healer. Do you actually need to make a paladin class now that you have a combat-based, tanking cleric?


Pelorian Cleric
“No reliable”. Many 4th Ed daily spells are reliable or do half-damage on a miss. My cleric's “Searing Light” roll was fumbled, did nothing, and was wasted. It seemed very anti-climatic, especially given the next point.
“No worries, I got this”. A quick scan of this cleric indicates it is a low-strength, casting cleric. But that's not completely correct. He has scale mail, which is really good to use the cleric as an off-tank when standing besides the cleradin, or at least just as good as the fighter. Due to the creation of the cleric does the 2nd highest base damage output of the group (1d8 + 4 vs. 1d8 +3 of the rogue and 1d4 +1 auto-hit of magic missile ) and tied for first for chance to hit. And the cleric still has the ability to heal and cast Channel Divinity. It really seems overpowered, especially when I can auto-kill goblins on a hit when the wizard and rogue would have to focus fire to bring down a goblin.


Conclusion
Overall, this game just seems like a rehash, regression, or otherwise negatively connotative rollback to 3.5, with a few, but only few, notable progressions and fresh ideas. We had enough fun with it to keep playing with it, but it seems to harken back to the days that D&D was designed to emotionally scar players and used Stockholm Syndrome to keep them playing. There are some things to look forward with: the advantage mechanic and the implied character generation with race, class, background, and theme giving players enough options to build characters without drowning them with too much. We'll continue to play it as well as offer feedback. As it stands now, we will continue to view 4th Edition as our “main system” and express our wish that 4th Edition still is supported and extended as Wizards of the Coast works on, eventually releases, and hopefully succeeds with D&D Next.

A well thought out analysis. I'll only respond to the points I have an issue with.

“Advantage: Advantage”. - I gather my players liked this, but as a DM I found it troublesome to roll twice for each of 18 cave rats in a single encounter. Perhaps if they keep advantage/disadvantage as it is for players, but changed it to a static modifier for monsters.

“Less control over what we do”. - The first time I played 4E, minor actions were one of my favourite additions. However, I think your group has missed what the point of them being removed is. Everything that was a minor action in 4E, is a free action in DNDNext. If you want to look around the room, of course you can. That action is just not strenuous enough to be considered your action for the turn.

 “Skills and checks?”. - The players announce what they would like to do, such as tie up a goblin prisoner. The DM then decides which check is appropriate, in this case Dex. The player rolls their Dex check. In this way, there is an infinite number of skills, and the DM determines which ability scores govern which action on a case by case basis. The system assumes that everyone is untrained, and the DCs are set as such. This frees up players to do what they like, while still allowing characters with training in particular skills to have an improved chance of success. The assertion that using rope should only be the domain of thieves is strange, and I don't think that being a thief should automatically allow you to be trained in using rope, so the halfling's lack of this training is understandable.

“The death and dying mechanics are straight-forward”. - I actually have no idea what you mean by this not considered praise. If you could clarify it would be great.

Wizard: 
“Emotional disconnect”. - In my game the wizard cast nothing but magic missile in 3 encounters, and my players seemed happy that the auto-hit was back (4E is the only edition that has ever required a die roll from magic missile.) Both of the wizard's other offensive cantrips require attack rolls, while the 1st level spells both require saving throws. Seems good enough for me.
“More realism”. - Another unclear point. Are you looking for more realism, or complaining about it?
“Choosing spells sucks”. - All of his non-minor spells are dailies, so this kind of makes sense. As an aside, the wizard was designed to show how they would approach Vancian casting, the feature of which is preparing your spells. The DNDNext wizard was designed to be different to the 4E one, so perhaps it is not the right character for your 4E wizard player.

Cleric of Moradin
“Healing is limited”. - The two clerics were designed to be distinctly different, showcasing the domain mechanics of the different deities. It is obviously not required that a party have 2 clerics, or even a single cleric. Come release, any character will be able to take any theme, and our group found the main source of healing was from the Pelorian cleric's healer's kit. Only urgent, in combat healing needed to come from the healing word or cure light wounds spells of the clerics, and that was rare. The point of the 2 cleric builds was to show the versatility of the class.

 Pelorian Cleric
"No reliable". - As 4E daily spells are so, well, daily, I wouldn't want to waste one by missing. As the cleric, however, can cast searing light up to twice per day at first level (if he doesn't want to cast cure light wounds), this becomes less of an issue. Also, as you rightly point out, his at will attack spell is nothing to be sneezed at.

Now, in some cases here I am simply playing devils advocate, in others I think you may have honestly misread or misunderstood the rules. Any way, good luck for your future sessions! 
If you want to look around the room, of course you can. That action is just not strenuous enough to be considered your action for the turn.


Well, on page 11 of "How To Play," it does say that searching for something requires an action.  Probably needs to be clarified a bit better what searching entails.
If you want to look around the room, of course you can. That action is just not strenuous enough to be considered your action for the turn.


Well, on page 11 of "How To Play," it does say that searching for something requires an action.  Probably needs to be clarified a bit better what searching entails.



Nope, a search check is called for only when you're *specifically* looking for something that has been hidden or concealed. Just looking at a room and marking down the most distinct features does most certainly not require an action or a roll (see DM guide, page 4 about 'Incidental actions').
... as a DM I found it troublesome to roll twice for each of 18 cave rats in a single encounter.

Sounds like you are rolling a single die two times.  Try rolling two dice at once.  It's not that hard.

“The death and dying mechanics are straight-forward”. - I actually have no idea what you mean by this not considered praise. If you could clarify it would be great.

It was pretty obvious to me that the fighter is not a fan of the harsher (but simpler) system in D&D Next.

(4E is the only edition that has ever required a die roll from magic missile.)

4E has not required an attack roll for magic missile in a very long time now.

The DNDNext wizard was designed to be different to the 4E one, so perhaps it is not the right character for your 4E wizard player.

If that's the case, the class design has failed.  If somone wants to play a wizard, it needs to be a fun experience no matter what the player's background.

As the cleric, however, can cast searing light up to twice per day at first level (if he doesn't want to cast cure light wounds), this becomes less of an issue.

Actually, no, it's still a big deal.  You are still using up a sizable chunk of your daily resources to no effect.  That's always going to be painful.


If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.
A minor action to look?

That should be free in any version of dnd.


Specifically searching for a hidden rogue? that might be a minor action.
good review. and i think you nicely pointed out why i immediately called dibs on the cleric of pelor.
Very well thought out post. I haven't played yet, but I'm going to keep your thoughts in mind as I run the game.

I'm a fan of 4E over other editions as well, and I've had a similar situation with a previous 3.5 centric group and a current 4E group.

One thing I'd like to get clarified. HengeGuardian, you mentioned that you used the Pelorian Cleric's healer's kit for most of your healing. As I read it, Healer's Kits only stabilize the dying: they do not restore hit points. 

Having not played yet, I'm worried that the low amount of healing (Randomized from potions and hit dice, only getting reliable heals from Pelorian at level 3) and the low Hit Point counts (relative to 4E) will be a return to the "Oh crap, the orc sneezed on my wizard" fears of 3.5.

Still, super excited to get a game together! 

Wizard:
“Emotional disconnect”. Removing attack rolls on spells makes the wizard very unappealing to play, because you don't have the suspense of rolling the dice yourself to see how it works out




It looked like any spells that did damage, besides magic missle, required an attack roll... Arc Lightning, and Ray of Frost requires them. Your freebie spells do not require it because they are low powered and gives you something to do when you don't want to shoot out a high lvl spell to do damage.

I think 4th edition spoiled players, always giving them tons of skills that always did something even on a miss. Sometimes you just miss. Got that super powered spell that hits like a truck? Yeah, it might just miss.
First off, I really do appreciate all of your responses!  I posted a link to this from another set of forums, and the highest response was pretty much "of course you don't like it, you are too used to having 4th Ed spoonfeed you everything".  So, while I do understand that my post is pretty inflamatory, I do appreciate everyone's cool-headed responses!

@HengeGuardian:
I think I've seen that we may have missed that point regarding no minor actions.  One thing I'll point out is we had a completely rookie DM and so some of these things he may not have realized and I obviously missed.

For the checks, the one thing that we like in 4th Ed is having the skills list right there to act as a starting point to figuring out what they should do.  They also like being proactive by saying, "I want to use skill X in this situation for this idea".  Not having the skills down in front them means that they feel less enpowered to know what to do.  As well, given the specifics of the skills they do see and a lack of knowledge regarding all possible skills, it seems daunting when they want to do something but don't know how it is going to be worked out.

What I mean is that the fighter was knocked unconscious and got to test the new dying mechanic out, and was not as impressed with this honour as one would think

Regarding healing, we had 2 different goblin patrols and an ogre to fight simultaneously on our first combat, which may have caused some concerns as we blew through our healing.

I don't want to waste a daily by missing -- but a significant number of 4th Ed dailies seem to do "something" on a miss.
I think some things are just gripes because of our 4th Ed bias, and some are just misunderstanding of the rules.

@StormholdGames
If you read p13 of the "How to Play" document and read the section on "Short Rest", it says that if you have a healer's kit, you can expend uses of it for players to roll Hit Dice to regain health.

 
Very well thought out post. I haven't played yet, but I'm going to keep your thoughts in mind as I run the game.

I'm a fan of 4E over other editions as well, and I've had a similar situation with a previous 3.5 centric group and a current 4E group.

Having not played yet, I'm worried that the low amount of healing (Randomized from potions and hit dice, only getting reliable heals from Pelorian at level 3) and the low Hit Point counts (relative to 4E) will be a return to the "Oh crap, the orc sneezed on my wizard" fears of 3.5.

Still, super excited to get a game together! 



Let us know how it goes :D  If some of my problems were just misunderstandings with the game, you hopefully will get them clarified before you play.
 
Thanks for your thoughts, DoomHaven. You write well and explain yourself clearly, and I and my group agree on all points. 

You raise a particularly interesting point about skill use--I hadn't thought of it at the time, but I realize my group fell victim to the same tendency. I found my players not bothering to use skills at all, because they had no idea what their characters were actually good at, with the skill system as it stands both too specific and too vague. 

I also found the interplay necessary for skill use was slower than I'd like it to be. It was actually more disruptive to combat and roleplaying flow than anything in 4e. Since 4e interprets all conflict-associated skills into a fairly small list (and, wisely, I think, leaves everything else up to pure roleplaying), it's a simple matter for a player to decide what they want to do, pick the most appropriate skill for it, roll, and have their result ready to announce at the same time they announce their intentions. By contrast, the new edition requires the player ask if he can do x, requires the DM respond with what ability score he should roll, the player asking if bonus y is applicable, the DM answering, and then the roll happens and results announced.
My group only played two encounters, the one with the ogre (which was done in the surprise round by our rogue), and six goblins in and around two tables (which I as the fighter didnt do any damage). 


First you only need to spend an action looking for something if the something would require you to actively go to its location and search near it.   IE. a secret door or a corpse lying in the room.


If you just want to look around and see what a monster in the room looks like, that is a free action.


Secondly, yes preparing spells means bookkeeping.  But think about this, with 4E you had to do that with all classes and not just wizards and clerics.  Mind you not the preparing part, but the part of actually having powers aka spells for everyone.


Thirdly did any of your players RP their characters.  To me, this edition the rogue has gone back to the shadows way of fighting.  The clerics also are just different builds so players can be shown how one class can be different.  The wizard, being stuck with at-wills to cast, actually makes him the most potent of the classes.  Yeah he is weak armor wise, but that is the way a wizard should be.  The fighter, yes, is simple to use, but try to improvise and use his trained skills.  He might be an idiot with an Int of 8, but he's no moron with a Wis that almost matches the cleric.


Fourth you got to realize this is a playtest.  There's going to be bugs all over it.  But that is why I think Next is actually going to work, Wizards actually want players input, not just their money.              
What an excellent review, and what considerate feedback from the group!  Right on!

I agree with much of what Doomhaven says about the game, though I've yet to try it out with my group.  I first learned AD&D 30 years ago, which was a great system when there was nothing else like it around.  But it wasn't complex enough to keep me interested as I grew up, and I frankly wasn't into "roll playing" when I was in college.  Give me strategy!  Give me tactics!  I'll have a hard time accepting 5th edition if flanking (at a minimum) isn't part of it.

The big divide I see between players is whether to have a tactical game or a "theater of the mind" game.  I personally want the option to use tactics.  We have a great DM who loves the rollplaying, but I often tune out during that part.  I don't understand the people who say they can't rollplay with 4th edition (too restrictive, etc.) -- we manage to rollplay just fine.  

I agree that there are some things about 5th edition that I really like, such as more character/race/class themes (which I find fun but oddly restrictive) and the advantage system.  But I'm a little confused why they've returned to spell effects lasting in "minutes", distance in "feet", and ... the electrum piece is back?  I thought the move to 4e was based on the need to establish a clear, simple set of rules for game play, and I thought they succeeded well with 4e.  Are they forgetting those principles?  The advantage to clear rules for the DM is the same as clear rules for your children -- it prevents players from whining their way into getting what they want and keeps the DM from being the bad guy for saying "no, that's not realistic."

I've said this in other posts, but I HATE the auto-hit Magic Missle.  I don't mind if they eliminate half-damage on a miss with a daily power, but nothing should be auto-hit, EVER.  At 9th level, the Magic missle does automatic 4-20 damage an unlimited number of times per day (more with possible feats and magic impliments?).  I can't imagine any other attack in the game being that damaging.  At least in earlier editions you were limited by the number of times a day you could use it.  I thought the "encounter spell" was one of the best things about 4th edition, and I wish they'd keep that.

So my group has played the beta for “D&D Next”, sat down and spent our D&D session with it. Here's our thoughts about it, including some background on my group so that you can perhaps understand our biases. Overall, we'll continue trying “D&D Next” out (and thank Wizards of the Coast for the opportunity to do so), but we consider 4th Edition to be a better system and hope that Wizards of the Coast continues to support it as they move towards D&D Next.


Background
I have been playing D&D for not quite four years, and my first version of playing was the initial release of 4th Edition ("4th Ed" ), summer of 2008. We didn't play it for very long, and quick moved on to other systems, such as 3.5, Feng Shui, and Mechwarrior. I played with this group for almost three years.


During this time, I started up a second group,with a bunch of friends that have never played any other system with 4th Ed. I've been doing most of the DM'ing, and we've been playing together for almost 3 years. We've really enjoyed it and have had a lot of fun with it. In the last 6 months we've gotten two new players and are indoctrinating them proper into the system and D&D.


For about two years, I've played D&D twice a week; my 4th Ed group, and my 3.5-centric group.


Despite playing several other D&D systems I have to say that 4th Ed is heads and shoulders above any other system available. I was a great system for people new to D&D to quickly learn, and an incredibly easy system to DM. Likewise, I simply despise 3.5. I honestly tried to like it; I rolled three characters to get a large amount of experience with it and gave it every break I could. I ended up quitting my first group after they wanted to start another campaign in 3.5 because I simply hate the system that much. It's doggerel, in my humble opinion.


So, when I heard that “D&D Next” was coming out, I was interested until it was described as based on 3.5. I won't lie – I was and still am prejudiced against the system. As for my group, they original players largely feel the same way, with the newer players largely being “meh” to either system. Is this because 4th Ed was “our first” and we are biased towards change? Maybe. Will there be any objective way to say one system is better or worse than the other? Probably not.


Where We Are In The Game
Currently, we've each grabbed a character. One of my players with zero DM experience is DM'ing “The Caves of Chaos”.


Warning: Next Paragraph has spoilers.


We currently have had “one” combat, when we entered the nearest cave entrance and ended up engaging two separate goblin patrols as well as the ogre in a single combat. This may explain some of the issues we've encountered, such as the in-combat healing, the out-of-combat healing, the resting, and so on.


Thoughts On the Game
Overall, here are some of the general comments about the game.


“It has swung too far back”. Many comments were raised about how the game feels like the game direction is going “backwards”. This doesn't feel like an improvement of the game, but a regression; it feels wrong and bad to not go forwards to better things. This is one of my major post-analysis epiphanies about D&D Next. 4th Ed has something that that D&D Next doesn't have: a vision and direction towards something fresh and new; a ground-up trailblazing re-imagining of the game with definite, obvious, and successfully executed directives. It's easy for new people to D&D to learn, it was consistent, it was balanced across classes, it gave a lot of options during combat while offering a streamline approach to non-combat encounters, and was easy to DM. D&D Next seems like the only vision is a massive and unfocused reactionary “OMGWTFPATHFINDER!!!!” which is sad because a solid synthesis of some of the new ideas in D&D Next and some of 4th Ed would make an excellent product.


“It is easier to learn than 4th Ed”. As a warm-up to the game, I created a three-page “Differences” document to describe the major differences between 4th Ed and “D&D Next” and read through them to the players. Other than that, it was largely just reading over characters with me and the new DM going over the rules during combat as they came up. It was very simple, which was surprising to many of us given the perception of 3.5 being a very difficult system.


“Advantage: Advantage”. The new advantage/disadvantage mechanic is very nifty and a welcome change to book-keeping. It was really enjoyable and using it felt very elegant and fast while still making a large impact to the game. I'm a little unhappy about the unevenness of the whens and wheres this mechanic comes up. A good example of this is it pops up during some appraisal checks made with a magnifying glass. Overall, this is a game-changing mechanic and is considered the best new feature we've so far encountered.


“Back to Accounting”. When the DM started to describe the loot we got after the first encounter, the first things out were: 91 arrows and 13 spears. Many of the WoW veterans got immediate flashbacks to vendor-trash grey loot. While we've only done the one (incredibly long) fight, it did seem to stick with us as a game mechanic, largely because it stood out is being very specific when the campaign didn't bother to name the town, tavern, or the quest-sharing magistrate. As well, maybe this is a quibble, but how are these goblins running around shooting crossbows but are carrying arrows instead of bolts?


“That was fast”. It really seems like the combat went faster. This is good thing, as one of the major complaints of 4th Ed is combat in the mid-to-end levels really start bogging down with all of the options. It really seemed to move quickly despite the fact that we accidentally decided to have three encounters at once rather than being boring and just doing them separately.


“Pre-rolled characters were good”. This was mainly by the new players that have had problems with the 4th Ed online character generator (which, admittedly, is terrible and buggy); most of the older players are notorious min-maxers. The newer players just had to grab a character in play and really enjoyed it. Overall, the characters were interesting and varied – as I like paladins, the cleradan build was quite intriguing.


“Back to rolling for stats and HP per level, hey?”. One of my largest single problems with 3.5 is rolling abilities and HP for my characters. I truly hate that, as it violates my sense of consistency and fairness. While we didn't roll our characters, judging by the ability statistics, I can only assume that they are not a point-buy system but rolled. To me, I have to watch this in the beta because it makes the Pelorian cleric quite nice because he looks like he has the best rolled statistics, including the only 18. I do notice that, while playing him, does has more damage with his “minor” attack than either damage-oriented classes like the wizard or the rogue.


“Less control over what we do”. This is regards to the spellcasting regression and specifically towards the loss of minor actions. This is actually a bigger negative issue than one would initially think because we use minor actions extensively in our 4th Ed campaign, especially for many of the in-combat skill-checks that really shouldn't take a long time to execute. By removing this, a many of the players feel that their flexibility and breadth of options have been seriously limited. A good example of this was with the ogre fight – normally, my characters would use a minor action to look around the room to see if anything was interesting. Since we didn't have that, we missed a lot of clues regarding the ogre's motivation that may have allowed us to stop fighting the ogre and start role-playing.


“Skills and checks?”. This is very negative because the players have two issues with these. The first is a bit of a difficulty of knowing what they should be rolling because there is no omnibus skill listing like in 4th Ed. The other issue is that, given the specificity of the skills available to us, it's implied that there are so many skills that we are going to be swamped with which skill to use or train or choose when we have to make checks.


“Rests and healing seem nerfed”. One of the things they liked in 4th Ed was the amount of out-of-combat and in-combat healing we had available to them. As their DM, it was good to be able to script encounters and allow my players many combats in quick succession without them feeling like they had to stop gratuitously for extended rests. This really allowed me an easier time to build suspense or a necessity of speed. Here, we fought 2-3 encounters in quick succession, blew all of our spells and hit dice, and really feel like we have to go all the way back to town to rest to come back to do it all over again. It seems cheap and unheroic that we run in, do our one thing, and then tuck our tails between our legs as we cowardly scurry back to town.


Another thing I noticed is that so far, as our initial fight has been in cramped corners with many choke-points, we haven't had a need to worry about creatures bum-rushing the wizard. But, since there are no aggro mechanics like marks or any opportunity attacks, I imagine that in more open combat, we are going to have problems with guarding our squishies. I imagine this is the reason that clerics now start with scale mail instead of chain?


Each combat gave us 100ish experience, but we need 2000 experience to level, so levelling takes twice as long as 4th Ed?


Here are some of our specific, class-based issues:


Rogue:
“No thievery skill?” There were a couple times in the first encounters where a thievery check would have been very useful (tying up a goblin prisoner, for example), but the rogue didn't have it, and only got a +3 Dex check to bind the prisoner.


Fighter:
“Was very simple to play”. This can be considered praise.
“The death and dying mechanics are straight-forward”. This, not so much.


Wizard:
“Emotional disconnect”. Removing attack rolls on spells makes the wizard very unappealing to play, because you don't have the suspense of rolling the dice yourself to see how it works out.
“More realism”. The thought is that, if magic and dragons existed, a target would actively dodge attacks rather than have the attacker aim them.
“Choosing spells sucks”. The wizard also played a wizard in 4th Ed and liked that he only had to prepare dailies, as opposed to here that all of his non-minor spells. This regression seems to make the game more accounting work and less fun.
“So... obstructed?” The rules on what happens when a Magic Missile is cast against a partially obstructed target need to be explained, especially given the campaign is set in very tight quarters with lots of targets partially obstructed by corners and what not.


Cleric of Moradin
“Healing is limited”. As our cleradin was the tank, being healed in-combat was high on the importance of things to pay attention to. And, she found that there wasn't enough to go around, and what little there was, was very limited.
“I can haz taink now?” It seems to be a huge regression that we've went from 3.5, where you needed one cleric in a group; to 4th Ed, where we don't need any clerics; to D&D Next, where we need TWO clerics in a group – one to be a defender and one to be a healer. Do you actually need to make a paladin class now that you have a combat-based, tanking cleric?


Pelorian Cleric
“No reliable”. Many 4th Ed daily spells are reliable or do half-damage on a miss. My cleric's “Searing Light” roll was fumbled, did nothing, and was wasted. It seemed very anti-climatic, especially given the next point.
“No worries, I got this”. A quick scan of this cleric indicates it is a low-strength, casting cleric. But that's not completely correct. He has scale mail, which is really good to use the cleric as an off-tank when standing besides the cleradin, or at least just as good as the fighter. Due to the creation of the cleric does the 2nd highest base damage output of the group (1d8 + 4 vs. 1d8 +3 of the rogue and 1d4 +1 auto-hit of magic missile ) and tied for first for chance to hit. And the cleric still has the ability to heal and cast Channel Divinity. It really seems overpowered, especially when I can auto-kill goblins on a hit when the wizard and rogue would have to focus fire to bring down a goblin.


Conclusion
Overall, this game just seems like a rehash, regression, or otherwise negatively connotative rollback to 3.5, with a few, but only few, notable progressions and fresh ideas. We had enough fun with it to keep playing with it, but it seems to harken back to the days that D&D was designed to emotionally scar players and used Stockholm Syndrome to keep them playing. There are some things to look forward with: the advantage mechanic and the implied character generation with race, class, background, and theme giving players enough options to build characters without drowning them with too much. We'll continue to play it as well as offer feedback. As it stands now, we will continue to view 4th Edition as our “main system” and express our wish that 4th Edition still is supported and extended as Wizards of the Coast works on, eventually releases, and hopefully succeeds with D&D Next.


Good post.  Our group had a similar experience.  I hope the devs read this because I too feel this iteration is a big step backwards and I do not like it. 
Thanks again for the compliments!

My group only played two encounters, the one with the ogre (which was done in the surprise round by our rogue), and six goblins in and around two tables (which I as the fighter didnt do any damage).  



That's surprising because the fighter has the "big damage" of the group, I am finding.

First you only need to spend an action looking for something if the something would require you to actively go to its location and search near it.   IE. a secret door or a corpse lying in the room.

If you just want to look around and see what a monster in the room looks like, that is a free action.



I do think we should have used the incidental actions *better*, especially on looking around.  However, we generally use minor actions for many of the skill checks in-combat, which is mostly a house rule and not 4th Ed standard.

Secondly, yes preparing spells means bookkeeping.  But think about this, with 4E you had to do that with all classes and not just wizards and clerics.  Mind you not the preparing part, but the part of actually having powers aka spells for everyone.



I disagree.  Wizards were the only class that had to prepare spells per day in 4th Ed, and that was only their dailies.  Everyone got to choose new powers when they levelled, and let's face it:  levelling is fun and no-one thinks choosing a single, shiny-new power is a chore when it's part of your character's progression.

Thirdly did any of your players RP their characters.  To me, this edition the rogue has gone back to the shadows way of fighting.  The clerics also are just different builds so players can be shown how one class can be different.  The wizard, being stuck with at-wills to cast, actually makes him the most potent of the classes.  Yeah he is weak armor wise, but that is the way a wizard should be.  The fighter, yes, is simple to use, but try to improvise and use his trained skills.  He might be an idiot with an Int of 8, but he's no moron with a Wis that almost matches the cleric.



During combat, not really.  Every action was spent as an attack or heal.  My players don't like using their standard actions for anything but an attack -- even our cleradin was hestitant about spending her action to use Crusader Strike.  Some combat choices made by players were based on how their characters would act:  the wizard chasing after a strangler, the cleradin holding her ground against a ogre.  However, as we had to handle 13 goblins and an ogre in a single fight, we ended up having to be very tactical and less on ideas that may or may not pay off.  And, our fighter was three-hit by the ogre and really didn't have a chance to try any of that improvisation stuff.

Fourth you got to realize this is a playtest.  There's going to be bugs all over it.  But that is why I think Next is actually going to work, Wizards actually want players input, not just their money.



I do realize that this is a playtest.  My review isn't made for a finished product -- I've said we'll keep playing it and offering feedback about it.
What an excellent review, and what considerate feedback from the group!  Right on!



Thanks!

The big divide I see between players is whether to have a tactical game or a "theater of the mind" game.  I personally want the option to use tactics.  We have a great DM who loves the rollplaying, but I often tune out during that part.  I don't understand the people who say they can't rollplay with 4th edition (too restrictive, etc.) -- we manage to rollplay just fine.



We found the combat so far in D&D Next to be tactical friendly.  We drew out the combat on a battle grid and used 4th Ed minis, used terrain such as tunnel bottlenecks to our advantage, and used the map and minis to determine areas of effect and obscurement.

spell effects lasting in "minutes"



Ugh.  I forgot about that one -- this was a complaint at the table.

I thought the move to 4e was based on the need to establish a clear, simple set of rules for game play, and I thought they succeeded well with 4e.  Are they forgetting those principles?  The advantage to clear rules for the DM is the same as clear rules for your children -- it prevents players from whining their way into getting what they want and keeps the DM from being the bad guy for saying "no, that's not realistic."



My view is that WotC took a risk on 4th Ed and it didn't pay off.  After watching Pathfinder fill the "no 3.5" void, they decided the players want 3.5+ and ran with it.  It's not so much them forgetting lessons -- to me, they've learned a very specific lesson.

I've said this in other posts, but I HATE the auto-hit Magic Missle.  I don't mind if they eliminate half-damage on a miss with a daily power, but nothing should be auto-hit, EVER.   At 9th level, the Magic missle does automatic 4-20 damage an unlimited number of times per day (more with possible feats and magic impliments?).  I can't imagine any other attack in the game being that damaging.  At least in earlier editions you were limited by the number of times a day you could use it. 



Magic Missile in 4th Ed was errata'ed to auto-hit.

I thought the "encounter spell" was one of the best things about 4th edition, and I wish they'd keep that.



I really like the mechanic of at-wills, encounters, and dailies for all classes.  I think that's one of the reasons we like 4th Ed over D&D Next.
(I suck at html!)  You said:  Magic Missile in 4th Ed was errata'ed to auto-hit.

I say:  We house rule very seldom at our table, but we did house-rule the Magic Missle back to being a to-hit 2d4 attack the way it was originally written in 4e.  Notice that it did 2+Int damage in the 4e errata at every level.  Now in 5e(assuming it doesn't change) it will be 4-20 (plus other stuff, no doubt) damage at 9th level!  Plus monsters have many fewer hit points.

More thoughts:  

One thing I really like about the proposed 5e rules is making saves/checks versus the six ability modifiers rather than three defences.  At first I thought it was a good idea in 4e that one of two stats would determine each defence (for example, either strength or constitution would determine fortitude).  But what ended up happening is that I would engineer characters with one high stat in each defence in order to have the highest possible defence bonus.  So my fighters would have high STR, DEX, and WIS, but I'd sink CON, INT, and CHR as low as possible.  I like that under the proposed rules I'd have less attribute engineering to maximize defences, since a spell/check could require all six attributes.

But I loved that players attacked the defences of other monsters, rather than the DM rolling a saving throw.  I think the most enjoyable game is where the players do the most die rolling, not the DM.  Here are three ways spell attacks could be played out:

The Good:
Player:  I cast [a spell] at the monster.  (dice roles)  I roll a 10, which becomes a 14 versus the monsters reflex/dexterity.
DM:  That misses.
Player:  Hmm, that was a pretty high roll.  Next round I think I'll try a spell that attacks a different defence/ability.

The Bad:
Player:  I cast [a spell] at the monster.
DM:  (dice roles)  You miss.
Player:  Hmm.  I wonder what the DM roled?  I wonder what I should do next round?

The Ugly:
Player:  I cast Magic Missle at the monster, which automatically hits.  (dice roles)  It takes 4 damage.
DM:  (dice roles)  No it doesn't.  You didn't beat it's magic resistance.
Player:  This game sucks!
So my party and I got through 3 encounters. My players did not feel the same way about all the changes, not surprisingly to me, it was the 4th edition players that protested the most.

Skills all ran fine, except there was much debate on stealth (again). I followed the suggested guidelines about menial skill checks and what an action should entail and was pleased with the smoothness of just letting them make spot rolls without having to take actions.

My players enjoyed the advantage/Disadvantage system save for the fact that many things were not included.  What about flanking, attacks from behind, ranged attacks into melee, reach weapons that threaten an ranged weapon wielding opponent but are not in melee range, etc... what is the advantage or disadvantage associated with these?

The healing seemed way more gritty, after 2 encounters 3 of the players had to take a short rest and use their 1 hit dice to heal and 1 healing spell was down. On the 3rd encounter the kobolds, elite kobolds, and the chieftain posed too great a threat for the remaining healing and the party was killed. The slayer was in the front and was the first to go down, and between him and the wizards being able to kill one normal kobold a round it still only took 4 rounds to kill the party.

Opinions about their characters was that they felt they lacked options. Besides the spellcasters, it was noted that they were simplying deciding who to attack and then rolling one or two d20.  This is a far cry from having 2 at-will attacks (maybe even 3) and an encounter in 4th. Races also seemed trivialized.

Some of my players feel that most of this is just system regurgitation and simplified down to the point that they feel intelectually insulted. Lack of options leads to boredom of the player and death of the characters. While I like simplicity where it saves time to progress the story I dislike simplicity for simplicities sake.   

(I suck at html!)  You said:  Magic Missile in 4th Ed was errata'ed to auto-hit.

I say:  We house rule very seldom at our table, but we did house-rule the Magic Missle back to being a to-hit 2d4 attack the way it was originally written in 4e.  Notice that it did 2+Int damage in the 4e errata at every level.  Now in 5e(assuming it doesn't change) it will be 4-20 (plus other stuff, no doubt) damage at 9th level!  Plus monsters have many fewer hit points.



We have the same house rule, actually.  Rolling for an attack is fun.  I agree with what you've written below:  it feels depowering to cast a spell, and then not know what happens yourself.

One thing I really like about the proposed 5e rules is making saves/checks versus the six ability modifiers rather than three defences.  At first I thought it was a good idea in 4e that one of two stats would determine each defence (for example, either strength or constitution would determine fortitude).  But what ended up happening is that I would engineer characters with one high stat in each defence in order to have the highest possible defence bonus.  So my fighters would have high STR, DEX, and WIS, but I'd sink CON, INT, and CHR as low as possible.  I like that under the proposed rules I'd have less attribute engineering to maximize defences, since a spell/check could require all six attributes.



I never thought of it that way, but that's a good point.  I would suspect that the majority of spells are going to save against DEX, CON, and WIS, though.

Skills all ran fine, except there was much debate on stealth (again). I followed the suggested guidelines about menial skill checks and what an action should entail and was pleased with the smoothness of just letting them make spot rolls without having to take actions.



The big problem with the rogue is that having an advantaged attack is very difficult, so I imagine the rogue will have every desire to flex the stealth rules to maximize the amount of advantaged attacks he can make.

My players enjoyed the advantage/Disadvantage system save for the fact that many things were not included.  What about flanking, attacks from behind, ranged attacks into melee, reach weapons that threaten an ranged weapon wielding opponent but are not in melee range, etc... what is the advantage or disadvantage associated with these?



Flanking doesn't exist in this game and facing has never existing in any of the more recent systems.  Ranged attacks while in melee range of an enemy, even if that range is more than one, is at a disadvantage.

The rest of your points we mostly agree with -- I don't think anyone feel insulted playing it, but we felt like it was just a rehash of previous systems.  The healing seemed dangerously limited and a lack of options was a common lament.  We didn't notice the races being so irrelevant -- we'll have to see about that.

If this playtest seems like a step backwards, I assure you it is for good reason. For most of us playing this game there has been a series of reasonalbe and logical progressions, not necessarily ones everyone has enjoyed or agreed upon, but still well within certain parameters. And although the pamphlets of the late 70s may look very little like 3.5 there has been a cohesive set of mechanics within the growth and change. To many of us, 4e was a strange and unexpected overhauling that did not conform to what we saw as D&D. It was too far departed from any of the previous editions and so most of us immediately returned to an edition we preferred be it Basic, AD&D, or 3.5. The designers have seen the effect and realized that a large portion of the player base did not join them on their journey into 4e and they have figured out why. I love that you consider yourself part of the D&D culture, but 4e feels the least like the game most of us remember. It does seem they have learned some lessons from the system for 4e and hopefully it will serve to make Next a better experience. I will say that if you want to know what your nerdy uncle or that wierd Lit teacher was talking about when they brought up hours of dungeon delving, take a good hard look at any edition other than 4e and you will have a better feel for what the vast majority of the D&D market considers THEIR game.
I'm a little unhappy about the unevenness of the whens and wheres this mechanic comes up. A good example of this is it pops up during some appraisal checks made with a magnifying glass.

Advantage is powerful, but if it makes sense to add it in a situation, it makes sense. If magnification helps you catch small details more reliably than just the naked eye, why not have it there? It need not be a combat-only occurrence. Good tools may give a bonus or just ALLOW certain difficult skill checks, but a good set of tools also helps keep the easy things done reliably in a reasonable time.

"Accounting": What's wrong with that? You might ignore it, nay, as you stated "treat things as vendor trash"  in fourth edition, but most other games and systems, you do not. The DM was telling you what was there. Whether you use it, exploit it, or leave it behind is up to the players. There's nothing wrong with this. Besides, if you're assuming the archer has unlimited arrows instead of a full quiver of thirty, you may as well assume EVERYONE has unlimited projectiles forever too. The archers besieging your town are gonna have a field day that's for sure.

 There is, however, something wrong with 91 arrows when they're all using crossbows. That was either a typo, misprint, or worst-case-scenario: "well crossbows suck and no one uses them, so it would be mean of us to give something that isn't arrows as loot"... which would not be surprising in 3.x or pathfinder as an opinion, though still unrealistic. ...

“Pre-rolled characters were good”: The bigger problem with minmaxing in 3.x was how easy it was to "win" with no effort. In many cases there were no complex feat interactions to stack, it was pretty straightforward. Just that, the guy that picked +2 to search as a feat and fielded a crossbow had shotgunned himself in the foot, compared to the one that went "oh, I fire two arrows with my highest attack, that's like, an extra free attack right there". There's certainly minmaxing, but In my experience with the 3.x and derivatives, the heaviest of that is done by the poor buggers that pick the underperforming stuff, in the interest of catching up. A wizard needs no effort, he just selects the spells that do not suck.

“Back to rolling for stats and HP per level, hey?”: There's going to be point-buy. But pre-set gain all the time takes a bit away from your character's personality and development. Makes the game too static. It DOES suck when you roll a thirteen and five sixes, but you can just be reasonable and let'em reroll. Unless the whole party happens to be there.


However, it is important to note that other games are NOT 4th edition, and there's been a serious creep, backed by the point-buy-system, on the stats of the average adventurer. The average adventurer in fourth edition has like 140% the average stats of a commoner across the board. Its like a superheroes game: you're starting already as "heroes", instead of clawing your way up into renown from barely-above-average but with a spark of potential. There is something to having to decide what to do about that 17 and those two eights. Your character will be spectacular in a field, but is, in fact, deficient somewhere. That's some heavy 'fantasy character' right there.


“Less control over what we do”: This is the one time I'll give the "just wait for the modules" guys a bone. A BASIC FRAMEWORK of rules is obvioiusly going to have less intricacies than a completed system. Also, the extended 4e action economy slowed things drastically at times. You pack a lot in a single turn, which really can make the passage of time in something as fast and chaotic as combat odd. Hackmaster for example has moved on to an actual active time count-up system, which I have to admit has blown every other combat system I have played right out of the water. All the complexities and possibilities are there, and the damn thing's pulled off a speed-up that made 4e look like a petrified crawling child.


“Skills and checks?”: There'll be a nice big listing of skills later on. I hope. There really should. If not, we'll have one out quick and easy as a "module" to help the newbies. But, really, a lot of it is self-explanatory, OR, the player gets to try and argue why he should get to use this skill instead of that one. That leads to the hows and whys of the skills, instead of, you know, skill challenges.


“Rests and healing seem nerfed”: Damn straight you bloody pansies. The long-winded attrition warfare in 4e was something you got used to, but something that many, many others thought was slow, clunky, hand-holding or outright assinine. There was virtually no chance of some poor peasant dude ever just running you through with his sword, not without getting it clean through your chest several times even though you're level 1. Personally, it reminded me of E3+ mote attrition in exalted between solars [with the E5 dragonblooded being the poor shmuck minion that despite the fluff and their supposed function and history, just gets killed when they 'accidentally' swipe him aside to get back to their dueling]. Not that there wasn't risk, but you rarely ever felt it; it was more of an impending doom you could see coming from 2-6 turns away. An "at this rate, we're eventually going to lose", like the results of a bad move in R-Type-Tactics 2 really early on.


Instead of aggro mechanics, it looks like the fighter will actually be a credible threat. The squishies will have to worry themselves about keeping away from angry clawy things, but those same things actually have to deal with the fighter because he's dangerous, instead of being artificially forced to deal with him arbitrarily. Hopefully, modules will add plenty of tricks and extras the fighter can add to his attacks: Fantasy Craft for example had effectively that entire 'powers' system of 4e, but nestled small and easy into the weapon proficiencies you gained. No one was casting "I rush past them and force the two of them to attack eachother", but instead, you were triggering cheap shots or extra trip attempts as part of your attack. Not that there's much different between saying "I use this power" or "I attack". Player's gotta make it interesting on his own.


"Each combat gave us 100ish experience, but we need 2000 experience to level, so levelling takes twice as long as 4th Ed?"  What? Are you forgetting the adventure, important plot-points, events that are not combat [you telling me they don't learn something important after their first evening of desperately trying to find a waterhole?] Combat should not be the only source of experience. Hells, 2nd edition sometimes gave MORE experience for AVOIDING a combat, than it did for just killing them. 150% in the case of psionicists, in fact. that one ratio I remember clearly. And what about crafting your first magical item? A weeks or months long process where the mage is learning a whole lot about what makes magic tick? Or the cleric's bigass diplomatic banquet with that other religion?  Try to keep away from just a "skill challenge" though. Let things play out, call the skills as they're needed instead. Don't skip right over the good stuff back to the other good stuff [the combat].


Here are some of our specific, class-based issues:


Rogue: They probably don't have a fully functional skill system yet. There IS mention of open locks, disarm traps, and stealth [the three that that specific thief background package gave a bonus to], so we're probably just waiting on all that.


Fighter: “Was very simple to play”. Actually, many are worried he'll be too simple to play. I'm rather hopeful given what he can pull off, at least offensively and damagewise, at level one, though. We'll want some fun things to do as part of the attack, but again, this is an early alpha/beta.
“The death and dying mechanics are straight-forward”. Yes, as opposed to convoluted. Someone who's in shock, unconcious and bleeding out is in pretty bad shape. Or did you think that was only supposed to affect monsters? There's much more of a sense of accomplishment when there's actual danger to the characters.


Wizard:
“Emotional disconnect”: The easy reliable stuff is nice to have too. There will be plenty of attack-roll based ones like acid arrows, and "will it work" can also apply to the things that have a saving throw. Its even explained he rolls attack with spells that call for it, adding 2+Intmod.


“More realism”: Yeah. That's called having a defense score, and its called having to make an attack roll, and its called getting a saving throw when it comes to 'reflex' or the like. They're there.
“Choosing spells sucks”: WAT. He gets his minor spells. He chooses his "dailies" in those spell slots. Is THREE SPELL SLOTS too much bookkeeping? He's not exactly tracking anything else.


“So... obstructed?” I'd like to imagine they mean "not in total cover, you need line of sight" but yes, their wording does need serious work.


Cleric of Moradin
“Healing is limited” 4e had WAY too much healing, way too available. They'd removed the "healbot" factor by making everyone all but outright REGENERATE both in and out of combat. If you were weaned on this, it'll look like a hell of a step towards death and doom, but your party will just learn to adapt. Monsters go down faster too, you just have to think of things like cover, corners, human shields and other things that you can do without a power that says you did, now.


“I can haz taink now?” Again, most games don't offer nearly as much healing, nor require it since you're not missing half the time. Buffs prevent the damage, damage prevents the damage, and less healing is needed if everyone's in better shape. Though they'll have to play a little wiser.


Those "but on miss" effects were so valuable because you were expending feats and class abilities to just keep hovering around 50~55% hit rates. When you're dealing out 80% or more, its a different matter. Unless one guy has **** luck with the dice, which does happen, but then they start hovering around the autoaim abilities.



Personally, I would like to direct your to Hackmaster, where you should all spend a year playing it straight [hey, it wasn't even a joke when it first came out, just disguised as one. won origins and all] and learning just how brutally lethal playing stupid can be to a party, and also just how rewarding a game can be when its not all about slow attrition. Not an insult or anything, but I do believe your group could really use a healthy dose of something that makes no illusions about holding hands. Hell, a smart player might even realise that his **** rolls can be... gotten rid of... in those optional class training rolls. Welp he's dead, guess I gotta restart all over now...

I have to express that this 'step backward' actually has me excited.  Warning:  The next comment is not flaming or disrespecting any previous edition.  My favorite edition has always been, and will always be, ADnD 2e, due to the way it was marketed and controlled.  A simple core mechanic with -infinite- resources to complicate the game as much or as little as the DM or group desired.

DNDNext seems to be veering this direction, which thrills me.  For as long as I've been playing, we've had to add realism to our games - thats just the way our groups like it.  No system is perfect out of its box, and thats what has always been.

So, when 3e first came out and my group bought me the core rulebooks and gave me a day to learn the system so we could try this new-fangled contraption, I eagerly delved in with the idea in mind 'there'll need to be some tweaking' and was pleasantly surprised to find the level of complexity built into the core rulebook.  Over the years, however, I discovered I -hated- skill ranks.  I've always been a 'talent over practice' kinda guy.  A talented musician is always better than a well-practiced one, and a talented musician who is also well-practiced is exceptional.  So the idea that at level 1 alone you could have 4 ranks (+4 bonus) when the attribute governing that skill is only 12 (+1 bonus)... bothered me greatly.

Fourth edition, for all its innovation, didn't change this at all.  The trained bonus alone was enough to break that basic understanding.  So finally, I see DnDNext and how the attribute is the star again, at least somewhat.  I see these skill bonuses (+3 and so forth) and the attack rolls all having a mysterious +2 (which I could only assume is proficiency, a base stat, etc), and realize the ability score will (at least so far in the playtesting) be the star of the show again.

Long story short, I couldn't agree more that this 'step backwards' is absolutely the right direction, at least for my playstyle and that of the particular friends I DM for.  I love the skills being infinite, the DM having perfect adjucation over a situation, and all 6 ability scores being vital for saving throws.

My only suggestion would be to bring back touch AC and have spells intelligently target touch or normal AC, depending on the spell.  Not really that complicated and gives high levels of detail.  Again, even if they don't do it in the core book, I'm sure another book will come out expressing how to do it.  And if not, as my group has already discovered, this system is incredibly easy to tweak.  We've already delved into our normal realism-tweaking.

It all boils down to this:  "How easy is the system to customize to your playstyle?"  I'd be hardpressed to see any other system save original 2e (which was incredibly similar) even compared to what DnDNext is shaping up to be, in that regard.
After my groups first 5e session yesterday, I agree with many of the OPs points.  I don't feel like it's a step backwards so much as a blending of the old-school mechanics with the 4e stuff.  I'm a 4e player so there's a lot that feels different, but not a regression in terms of a better/worse game.

I also found the Pelor cleric (which I played) to be just a stronger wizard.  When I told my group that my Searing light does 4d6 + 4, they all had to read the skill description themselves to believe it.  My DM responded, "That must be just against undead."  I had to explain that it actually does 4d12 against undead.  Unfortunately my spell missed every time I cast it so I never got to feel overpowered.  With just 2 casts a day, any miss is a huge setback at low levels. I expect this to level out as I progress but it's pretty dismal when just starting a new character.

I like how open-ended this edition is so far, with just using the barebones rules.  I'm hoping that as rules are fleshed out they provide options instead of restrictions, because as it is right now, we're relatively free to make our own decisions on certain situations, and for the most part we fall back on 4e rulings if necessary.  One of the most hilarious events of the evening was our halfling who decided he was going to be 2.5 feet tall but weigh 100 lbs.  He then wanted the wizard and cleric of Pelor (both with low str) to lift him over a wall.  Well that led to some seriously funny imagery and str checks so eventually I pulled out my 4e PHB and told our halfling he was really supposed to be 3.5-4.5 ft tall and weigh between 75 - 85 lbs.   Things finally settled down after much laughter. For my playgroup, these are the kind of things we enjoy most about playing DnD.

As for the campaign setting, we also had our characters displayed as minis on a battle grid and abused the mess out of corners and doorways to minimize the number of incoming attacks.  It made it really easy to tank and the clerics could really stonewall while the others kept at range.  This relegated the rogue to using his slingshot about 95-99% of the time.  He rarely snuck up into melee combat.  More often he'd spend a turn "hiding" to gain his stealth advantage, then pop out and whack something (often nearly a 1-shot) on the next turn.  I don't know if he particularly liked/disliked having to alternate stealth and ranged but I imagine many rogues would really like to have more melee opportunities.  Speaking of melee, no one in our group wanted to play the fighter. It seems to have a narrow playstyle and doesn't bring much interactivity to the group.

I'll also chime in on the healing aspect.  In 4e we're very used to being able to surge out of combat and having a near-endless supply of surges.  This was a nightmare for our DM because it was very difficult for him to create combat encounters that truly threatened our ability to surivive.  It seems like having just the single hit die to heal with is the opposite extreme and we did have to run in and out of the caves just to make any progress.  I didn't quite like sheepishly going back to town to rest. It was diffcult to roleplay that.  Rolling for heals is pretty dicey too. I'd prefer it always be padded by a mod like CON so that you don't waste a potion or healing kit to get 1 hp back.  That happened way too often in our session and hindered our ability to progress. This goes for heal potions as well.  I'm not sure what the expectation is supposed to be about what condition your party is supposed to be in after a battle, but it seems like we were in dire shape after every substantial encounter. 
Some analog to a 4e healing surge would be appreciated to help shore up hit pools betwen encounters, especially if we have to wait around 10 minutes for a "short rest."  Perhaps allow 1 surge if a short rest can be taken after a combat encounter, of an amount equal to 1 hit die + con mod.  This way if a character is badly wounded, he's not able to simply use several surges to get back to full (like in 4e), he's just limited to one but is still capable of participating in another encounter so the group can progress.

Overall we were still able to have an enjoyable and successful session.
If this playtest seems like a step backwards, I assure you it is for good reason. For most of us playing this game there has been a series of reasonalbe and logical progressions, not necessarily ones everyone has enjoyed or agreed upon, but still well within certain parameters. And although the pamphlets of the late 70s may look very little like 3.5 there has been a cohesive set of mechanics within the growth and change. To many of us, 4e was a strange and unexpected overhauling that did not conform to what we saw as D&D. It was too far departed from any of the previous editions and so most of us immediately returned to an edition we preferred be it Basic, AD&D, or 3.5. The designers have seen the effect and realized that a large portion of the player base did not join them on their journey into 4e and they have figured out why. I love that you consider yourself part of the D&D culture, but 4e feels the least like the game most of us remember. It does seem they have learned some lessons from the system for 4e and hopefully it will serve to make Next a better experience. I will say that if you want to know what your nerdy uncle or that wierd Lit teacher was talking about when they brought up hours of dungeon delving, take a good hard look at any edition other than 4e and you will have a better feel for what the vast majority of the D&D market considers THEIR game.



Well, I am one of the people that you mention that have been playing DnD a long time. I started playing seriously with the release of 2E, but I had the old red box set and familiarity with AD&D 1E but never got the chance to really play 1E, although I did mess around some with the red box set.  All that being said I couldn’t disagree with you more as like the OP I loved DnD 4E.

DnD 4E played like DnD was always described as playing but that the mechanics of previous editions did not allow.  For example the ranger in previous editions of DnD was always described as a skirmishing warrior that harassed his opponents by running around and the battlefield shooting them and so forth. In 4E the ranger did this he shot and moved and even had powers that allowed him to take an extra move or shift after he shot a target, etc.  In previous editions of the DnD game like 3.5, the ranger was described in this manner but due to the mechanics of the game no one ever really played the class this way.  In 3.5 even if you did take the shot on the run or spring attack feats who wanted to move and give up their iterative attacks from BAB after their initial attack.  Instead you stayed planted and swung or shot away resulting in very formulaic combats.  Likewise the cleric in every edition of the DnD game was described as a warrior-priest who waded in to combat smiting her enemies while healing and bolstering her allies. In 4E the cleric did this. She could use a move action to move up to her opponent, a standard action to attack and the attack did something that helped her buddies like grant a saving throw, and then she could use a minor action to grant healing to someone.  In previous editions of the game this rarely occurred the cleric had to make a choice: heal or attack.  3.5 tried to help with this some by allowing clerics to spontaneously cast heals, but still due to the action economy they in effect remained nothing but walking healbots.

Other rules mechanics 4E introduced corrected things old school gamers had complained about for years.  Things like at will powers, healing surges (this was HUGE and one of the best things 4E introduced) , encounter powers and short rest pretty much solved the problems of resource management and the 15 minute work day, where you go into the dungeon fight one or two battles and then run back to town to sleep or find a hole in the dungeon to sleep because of resource expenditure.  Also, having a choice of 2 abilities to affect saving throws solved the MAD (multiple ability dependency) issue that existed in previous editions.  You know, having FORT be affected by STR or CON, WILL by keyed off either WIS or CHA this was a huge improvement in the game, but now we have six saving throws, each keyed off a different stat…this is MAD squared. Roles and the mechanics around them were another improvement to the game that corrected issues people complained about in 4E.  For example both DMs and Players had complained for years that while a fighter or barbarian etc was the "tanks" of their respective groups there was no real mechanics in place to stop a monster from ignoring the tanks and using focus fire tactics to take down the more physically vulnerable characters and work their way up from there, in particular monsters of at least average human intelligence (or monsters of low intelligence even that have a good understanding of military tactics) and highly mobile monsters would imploy this strategy.  It required a good deal of suspension of disbelief in previous editions of why this did not occur.  4E corrected this it gave marks and punished creatures for not attacking the tanks even stopped them flat out from attacking tanks buddies via things like how the fighter could lock someone who tried to move away in place and such.   Now, we are back to having this be an issue and I suspect that in fact it will be a bigger issues because the roles have and their functions have been introduced explicitly to the game via 4e and people will be more aware of role mechanics not being present in this edition.

Like everyone here I want DnDN too succeed, but after this playtest I am beginning to feel a little scared that WOTC may have set themselves up for failure.   I want DnDN too succeed because if it doesn’t I think Hasbro could cancel the line, and if that happens I don’t think they would sell the intellectual property, but instead hold onto it on the off chance in a few years (decades) they decided to release the brand again, and even if they did sell it I doubt any RPG company (including Paizo) has the bank to buy what the DnD brand is worth, at best it would have to be a computer MMO company, because they are the only game type companies I can think of that really have the cash to buy DnD.  The reason the game might fail is because 4E players, I think we can all agree, or a sizable portion of the DnD/gaming community and if WOTC makes a game that at the core alienates them then I don’t see how this edition can do well, and not only that this game is not guaranteed to pull the Pathfinder players back into DnD either, but even if they do if they don’t have the 4E crowd they still lost.


 Because of this it is with true regret that I have to give my honest opinion and say, if these rules were released as is I would not make the switch from 4E to DnDN.  For the first time in my 23+ years of gaming I feel like an old foggy grognard and it isn’t a good feeling but it is an honest feeling and my friends in my gaming group (who are people who have been playing as long as I have or longer for the most part) also get the same feeling from these rules.  It’s like been there, done that, and left that behind for a reason so why should I go back?


 Alas, all I can do is participate in the play test, give my honest feedback and hope that enough 4E makes it into  the game that I will change my mind and get hyped to buy another edition but right now it’s bleak.  I would say to all other 4E players though speak up in the playtest and in forums.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease and while I suspect that 4E players are a silent majority for better or worst the 3.5 fans are getting the grease right now because they are the squeaky wheel, and if this game doesn’t appeal to us enough we all lose.


 


 




Truthfully its surprising how different people can be about issues.  Like you, Fallstorm, I'm a redbox dork and I felt like the 'old woman' when I didn't like 4e as well as I would've liked to.  I agree that the powers allowed classes to do things that rules typically worked against in other DnD fashion, but I think the large oversight here is the freedom of the ability score check and how my group has already used it to its fullest for just as you were describing.

Said ranger wants to run around his adversary and deliver skirmishing stings and create confused and harried mobs.  So what does the DM do about this, without a power card telling him how?  Easy - the ranger makes a dexterity check (why?  Because I don't care what card you have, a dexterity of 8 shouldn't run through the battle ducking, weaving, and not getting hit).  The DC?  Easy; the enemy(ies) passive dexterity.  Just take a dexterity mod, add 10, bingo you have a DC.  Now that ranger can do as he pleases.

I feel this is going exactly toward what I loved about 2e, which was ability scores being the highlight of a character (though Thac0 kinda undermined it in the overall long haul).  4e was truly innovative, and I won't take that away (in fact I really agree with your thoughts there).  However, the trained bonus of +5 really undermined the ability scores.  With this direction, I think the differences in heroics will be much more profound - that 18 dexterity rogue will be a master at all things dexterity, regardless of ranks in this or that.

4e in fact is what introduced the idea of many passive defenses to me, and that would be entirely too easy to manipulate with this basic mechanic setup.  The tumbling example to avoid opportunity attacks; DCs for concentration to cast in melee without being hit.  Flipping spells to aggressive also becomes easy with d20 + magic ability modifier for the caster against 10 + targeted stat.  That innovation (as far as DnD goes) belongs solely to 4e.  I just also think getting rid of the skills is a step forward along the same path, at least as they've been for the past two editions - all about the bigger numbers.

I hope you'll change your mind and find the depth and freedom being introduced.  Also, don't forget the grand picture of their design scheme here - a simple, easy to use core system for 'get up and go' groups, with countless supplements to make the system as simple or as complex as you desire.  I say this last part only because your words are careful and concise and it'd be a pity to lose you to the community =)  Only time will tell, however.       
Truthfully its surprising how different people can be about issues.  Like you, Fallstorm, I'm a redbox dork and I felt like the 'old woman' when I didn't like 4e as well as I would've liked to.  I agree that the powers allowed classes to do things that rules typically worked against in other DnD fashion, but I think the large oversight here is the freedom of the ability score check and how my group has already used it to its fullest for just as you were describing.

I hope you'll change your mind and find the depth and freedom being introduced.  Also, don't forget the grand picture of their design scheme here - a simple, easy to use core system for 'get up and go' groups, with countless supplements to make the system as simple or as complex as you desire.  I say this last part only because your words are careful and concise and it'd be a pity to lose you to the community =)  Only time will tell, however. 



First, thank you for your response and I agree the differences people take away from things can be amazingly interesting.Smile.  That being said, I didnt' overlook the "freedom" present in the core rules of the playtest in fact that freedom and the ambiguity surrounding it is one of the things that overwhelming myself and other members of my group had an issue with.  I have never been a fan of ambigious "mother-may-I" situations and the lack of real structure in certain areas leads to exaclty  that "mother-may-I" scenarios that again had always been apart of the game in previous editions and that we were very happy 4E (and to be fair 3.5) corrected.

There were other parts of the core rules that our group just really had a an issue with like the return to resource management issues I noted above.  Our cleric players really didn't enjoy spending an action to heal and nothing else except move for that turn, again this returns to what has always been a very common complaint of the cleric class.  For me when I played the wizard I also have to say I really missed the lack of control as compared to 4E and even to some degree 3.5 present in the class.  Due to the cramped quarters of the caves of chaos area effect spells didn't really come into play, and I didn't read the adventure beforehand so the only time I cast sleep was when we encountered a group of hobgoblins along with  bugbear and some other creatures.  Well not having read the adventure and estimating from previous editions I thought the Hobgoblins maybe had 8 or ten hit points max.  Needless, to say I cast sleep and no one dropped unconscious and to top it off the cramped quarters of the dungeon (or the encounters we played through) made effects that caused half movement pretty much a non-sequiter.  So, basically as a wizard I was pretty much a magic missile sniper the whole game, and from what I see this edition has a strong prevalence to forcee the blaster caster syle mages into play.

Like I said, though I will playtest with an open mind, give my honest and carefully considered feedback and hope WOTC will take it into consideration.

I really am in awe - the part I loved the most of 4e was the ambiguity with half-level ratiod... everything.  Any skill could conceivably be viable as an attack against a defense (unlike 3.5, in example) and so skills could truly be used correctly without backwards math.  It actually reminded me a lot of 2e in the aspect of combat being more than a base attack bonus and stat.  Acrobatics to swing from a chandalier and kick someone into a fire (to use a DMG reference) was purely awesome, without having to worry about (3.5 in example) the attack roll being absolutely pointless due to out of control skill bonuses.

To the point of power and action economy, I see they tried to fix the primary issue with Healing Word (Heal for a tidbit -and- make an attack all at once) and I really liked this compared to the minor action firing from 4e, and definitely loved it more than -waste your turn- from anything else heh.  I'm a huge fan of clerics and paladin (and even devout monks) and this was a very important aspect for any system to get right in my eyes.  I suspect being able to select your own spells will vastly improve each cleric's approach and favor/disfavor to the class, so that you can abandon cure light wounds for some warpriest action, at least thats my take.

As far as Wizard, frankly nothing will compare to 4e wizard for a long, long time.  Probably the most-played class for my entire group from the 4e lineup (that, and Rune priest).  I did notice a throwback to the HP capped spell adjustments, but didn't actually read sleep.  (Goes to do so before finishing posting).  Ahh, yeah that would be a massive tweak.  We've never used any of the HD capping rules from any edition, and always just balanced it by level.  I believe our 3.5 sleep was converted to 'up to 2HD per caster level, max 10HD total' were put to sleep?  Something along those lines.  I hate the notion of spells becoming useless as you level; but 4e did this as well.  Soon as you hit 13, you're just replacing lower level powers with +1W versions of the same thing.

I'm personally hoping Wizards takes your view on the spells into serious consideration, because turning Wizard into a true controller was the greatest change that came from 4e (aside from passive defenses).

I really am in awe - the part I loved the most of 4e was the ambiguity with half-level ratiod... everything.  Any skill could conceivably be viable as an attack against a defense (unlike 3.5, in example) and so skills could truly be used correctly without backwards math.  It actually reminded me a lot of 2e in the aspect of combat being more than a base attack bonus and stat.  Acrobatics to swing from a chandalier and kick someone into a fire (to use a DMG reference) was purely awesome, without having to worry about (3.5 in example) the attack roll being absolutely pointless due to out of control skill bonuses.



Respectfully, I think you are hyping up the amount of ambiguity present in 4E skills.  I totally concur that the skills in 4E were much more streamlined down than those in 3.5 and getting rid of skill ranks and simply going with half level plus stat mode + any trained or other bonuses was a gargantuan improvement of over skills of 3.5, but that being said the skills were not as vague as the proficiency system of 2E.  4E did have a set skill list just like 2E had NWP but this system (the baseline) 4E mechanic seems even more ambigious than 2E to me and I don't think this is a good thing. "Mother may I" style gaming creates to much debate or rationale arguments between players and DM and leaves the system wide open to abuse from both.  Also, the ability to have every stat be a defense is not good.  Again, 3.5 (and other editions except 4th to be fair) suffered from MAD (multipel ability dependency).  It was an issue that was known and complained about, which again is why 4E made each defense key off one of two stats instead of a single stat.  Now, we get an editon with defenses keying off six stats with each defense based off of a separate stat.  You do see the issue here don't you?  Mark my words unless this mechanic is changed the flaw present in it (like the proverbial 800 lbs gorilla in the room) will be readily noticed in very short order in DnDN with rampant strings of text  buzzing in various forums on how to correct it.

To the point of power and action economy, I see they tried to fix the primary issue with Healing Word (Heal for a tidbit -and- make an attack all at once) and I really liked this compared to the minor action firing from 4e, and definitely loved it more than -waste your turn- from anything else heh.  I'm a huge fan of clerics and paladin (and even devout monks) and this was a very important aspect for any system to get right in my eyes.  I suspect being able to select your own spells will vastly improve each cleric's approach and favor/disfavor to the class, so that you can abandon cure light wounds for some warpriest action, at least thats my take.



The DnDN version of healing word does absolutely nothing to correct the Economy of Actions when it comes to the cleric because the amount of healing (1d6) it does is so paltry.  Our cleric was gravely injured (having already used his CLW) for the day and cast this on himself and got 3 hit points back and just laughed at how insignificant it was.  Any real substantive healing has to come form a) out of combat (which has been the case steadily through every edition and I don't see a problem with this) or by the cleric burning his actions in combat to cast a XD+mod.  Again, this is a pure mechanic. The cleric bieng able to select and spontaneously cast spells like a sorceror does help with the cleric's spell selection and give hims options to choose spells besides healing spells but  a cleric should never have to give up their turn to boost/heal an ally unless she is doing something like a HEAL spell that would restore a PC to full (or near full) hit points.  The clerics EoA in DnDN is back to being what it was in previous editions: screwed up.

As far as Wizard, frankly nothing will compare to 4e wizard for a long, long time.  Probably the most-played class for my entire group from the 4e lineup (that, and Rune priest).  I did notice a throwback to the HP capped spell adjustments, but didn't actually read sleep.  (Goes to do so before finishing posting).  Ahh, yeah that would be a massive tweak.  We've never used any of the HD capping rules from any edition, and always just balanced it by level.  I believe our 3.5 sleep was converted to 'up to 2HD per caster level, max 10HD total' were put to sleep?  Something along those lines.  I hate the notion of spells becoming useless as you level; but 4e did this as well.  Soon as you hit 13, you're just replacing lower level powers with +1W versions of the same thing.

I'm personally hoping Wizards takes your view on the spells into serious consideration, because turning Wizard into a true controller was the greatest change that came from 4e (aside from passive defenses).



100% agree with you the control aspect of the 4E wizard coupled with the mobile and everchanging combat dynamics of 4E (things constantly shifting or being pushed, pulled, and slide) created a truly unique incarntation of the wizard, but one that again was always described as being such in DnD but never was because of the mechanics of previous editions.  I definately hope that we see a real control style wizard in DnDN because in all honesty if not then the game will have lost me.  Upon, reading DnDN and listing to Mike Mearls in his PAX interview though I can't help but feel he has a real bias towards the blaster caster style of wizard vs. the control wizard where as Jeremy Crawford stated he liked being able to charm things (which Mike didn't seem to happy about) so we will see.  I sincerely hope WOTC is looking through the playtest feedback and reading these forums now and again on how people feel. Like I said, I can't complain about how things go down in the new edition if I don't participate so I am particpating in good faith and hoping some changes get made, but right now as I stated this is the first time my 23 years of DnD history I am not pumped about a new edition.

Again, thank you for the dialogue though I am enjoying the discussion.

@armikov and Xaelvaen

On one hand, I'm really glad that you both are excited for D&D Next  My largest bother with D&D Next just being 3.5 (aside from the  distaste I have for repeatedly playing 3.5) is if WotC is just making another 3.X game, what's the point it getting it?  I mean, you guys may not like 4th Ed for it being such a large departure from previous iterations -- I can understand and appreciate that.  But, at this point, D&D Next is so derivative from 3.5, I don't see why someone with a 3.5 bookshelf would want to spend money on what amounts to be largely the same game.

As well, do you both feel that 4th Ed brought nothing to the table, at all?  Because, if there are some small mechanics in 4th Ed that are improvements, I would expect to see them in D&D Next; I really don't see this at all.

@Xaelvaen
Over the years, however, I discovered I -hated- skill ranks.  I've always been a 'talent over practice' kinda guy.  A talented musician is always better than a well-practiced one, and a talented musician who is also well-practiced is exceptional.



I know reality is a silly thing to bring up here, but from what I've read, most studies done on the topic show practice trumping talent in terms of being proficient in something.  I've heard this referred to the "10 000 Hour Rule".

@Deruvid

I don't feel like it's a step backwards so much as a blending of the old-school mechanics with the 4e stuff.



I want to ask you this:  what stuff in D&D Next do you feel comes from 4e?  I really don't see anything in here that reminds me of 4th Ed -- I would go so far as to say that WotC is really throwing the baby out with the bathwater on this next iteration.

LOL!  I am glad you guys have no issues going back into the 4th Ed books to get some info.  It felt weird having to look up in the 4th Ed PHB what Pelor represents to justify my cleric's roleplaying.

I do have a problem with him -- he seems too powerful.  I expect the wizard to cast a lot of minion-killing magic, but it really makes me wonder when, comparing one-on-one damage output, the healer can out-kill the wizard.

@Fallstorm

Incredible posts!

The biggest thing I agree with you is that this just seems so 3.5-based that it's been done before; and that there isn't anything new or useful here.  I also agree that there is a lot of good in the 4th Ed system and places where the 4th Ed mechanics could really shine, even in little places like cleaning up the spell durations.

I really hope that the 4th Ed fans are not the silent majority, and that their words do help sway the direction of D&D Next.

@Zhendra

Incredible posts

I have never really considered how much the abilities are hidden away by the skill system of 4th Ed.  I do admit, as I DM 4th Ed, I would almost never make any player make an ability check -- they would always be skill checks, and if they didn't have the skill trained, they wouldn't do as well.  I actually think training is more important, as I'm partial to the "10 000 Hour Rule".

That said, you've given me something to think about.

 

Go away to play DnD for 2 days and ya have a lot to catch up to heh.

As to the question of 4e, I didn't mean to leave out the things I liked about it (hell, loved about it):  
*Passive Defenses
*Lack of a Base Attack Bonus
*-POWERS-
*Skills as Weapons

Anytime I played my shield-toting Dwarven Fighters, Athletics vs. Fortitude to knock 'em down over and over.  My rogues?  Acrobtics as 10x better than any old rapier.  The diversity of the skills absolutely thrilled me and their uses.  I just feel this system too can represent that, with a much cleaner mechanic.

As to the 10,000 hour rule, that'll be debated, and 'scientifically' approached countless times, but how does one measure talent?  How does one find a 'constant' of 'talent' when they call modern musicians 'talented?'  That being said, its never something I would argue or try to change someone's opinion about.  As a musician who never cared about money, fame, hype, glory, or publication, I always found that simply being good outweighed practice.  I'm sure many opposite cases could likewise be presented, but who would find the talented 'talented?'

I think the case is valid in DnD because talented is clearly visible.  An 18 Strength is clearly 'talented' at strength-based things.  There's no margain of doubt here, so I guess thats why its a valid approach to me.  However, that being said, I think the skill bonuses being nominalized (3 or so) would represent the best of both worlds for this mechanic, so I definitely have to agree with it.

My last comment will be the words around the Mill of Maneuvers (I assume akin to 4e powers and 3.5 martial manuevers) and rather like the idea of 'spell slots' for fighters, like 4e brought to the table.  It absolutely does seem like blending the old with the new, I just think they are leaving skills and 'spontanous action' to the attribute checks (including saves, defenses, etc) without mucking up the delicate core mechanic.  The old ambiguity of 2e for clever players who want freedom (and DMs who can tolerate) mixed with the powers and streamlining of abilities from 4e - I couldn't personally ask for more. 

First, thanks for the kind words and intelligent conversation.  For people to keep rational and actually discuss pros/cons/opinions with thought is frankly far more than I'm used to.  One of the many reasons my post count is so low, heh.

@Xaelvaen
Agreed 100% with the talent over training, but let me point a few things out, mechanically:

1.)In 4e, everyone adds 1/2 level to everything.  Attack, AC, all skills, even ability checks.
2.)In DnDNext, no one adds anything from level to anything.
3.)So, that means they are the exact same system, mechanically, without the need to level scale success ratios.  Instead, level scaling determines damage output (like any MMO) and damage absorbtion.  It really doesn't -need- to measure anything else.  In fact, in many of our games, we take level out of the equation altogether.  Most of my players even hate the word 'level', heh.

Skills in 4e came down to trained (+5), super trained (skill focus +3), and your ability score.  In DnDNext, its the exact same thing.  Trained (those lovely +3s on the sheet), I'm sure skill focus will exist, and the ability score.  I see it as absolutely redundant to add +1/2 level if everyone does it.  Just get rid of the extra math.  Anyone who knows anything about Algebra will tell you, its the same number.  I think the only complaint many people have is the 'WoW' factor as I call it.  They want to just slaughter through lower level creatures, and think the bonus you add to your accuracy is what dictates this.

Its not.  Its how much damage you deal compared to HP, so they are focusing on damage:health ratio based on level instead of accuracy/defense.  Brilliant, honestly.

Next up -- @Fallstorm

Honestly, I'm a fan of 'MAD' as you put it.  The thing that left me playing 4e less than 30 combined hours, I would guess, was the lack of importance in attributes.  Intellect -or- Dexterity to AC/Reflex, etc.  The Eladrin Wizard with 20 Intellect dodges better than the Human Rogue with 18 Dexterity because that human wanted a slight increase to Strength for Brutal... whatever its called for Sneak Attack.  Hell, I had trouble accepting Weapon Finesse back when 3.0 came out, and now Dexterity to Damage?  Gafaw!

However, I can rationalize dexterity to damage with the following:
Dexterity == Manual Dexterity == Muscle Control == Precision == Hitting just the right spot.  Ok, so Dex to attack and damage for finesse weapons I can buy.  But short of that, I -prefer- characters having to have weaknesses.

With all of that up for truth, there can be a compromise however.  Seeing this point as a recurring theme, I suggest to Wizards to take their 'optional material' idea and run with it.  Use the straight six saves mechanic right out the door; core mechanics, simple, sweet, easy to grasp.  And on the very next page of Ye Olde PHB, have 'Optional!  Fortitude, Reflex, Will' where fans of the 4e 'lighter restriction' playstyle can use str/con for Fort, dex/int for Ref, and Wis/Cha for Will.  The spells wouldn't take more thought than a hiccup to reassign proper saves, and that's that.  That way, each group of players can make up their own mind.

Finally, by ambiguity, I didn't mean 'undefined' specifically, I just meant a drastic explosion of undefined options for them.  The skills of 4e trully thrilled me.  To this day (since I haven't played 3.5 based systems in a long time), my characters love skill on AC action - acrobatics to trip, athletics to knock prone in a more manly way, etc, etc, etc.  I remember one specific encounter where two wizards were locked in a duel, and as opposed to power card war (pokemon style), arcana checks using the DMG damage table until one went down.  A truly new experience, despite 20 years of play.  Forever will I bow to the balance that 4e brought to skills in combat.  This system is following the exact same formula (see above -1/2 level comparison).

And like you, I absolutely love these discussions.  Perhaps even just the difference in opinions will draw the attention of the development of this sytem and create - nay, inspire brilliant ways in all directions.  Thanks =)

@Doomhaven

Thank you for your kind words; you have a lot of insight into this whole mess as well - at the very least trained in the skill ;)  I'm glad I've induced thought!  The whole playtest experience has me very actively refining every house rule we've ever made (and there's a ton of them, I assure you).

I think the above points might be relevant to both of our stakes.  Taking away the 1/2 level, it seems this mechanic could easily be manipulated to behave the same way.  Choose X trained skills, gain a +3 bonus no matter what attribute you use to trigger them.  A +3 to Jump works if you're using dexterity to flip over someone's head, or strength to haul across a chasm; I'm sure the books and final product will define when to use each associated attribute, or at least guidelines.

But as long as the numbers never rise above +3 or so (maybe a total margain of 5), then all things will be equal.  An average stat of 2 - 3 for a skill you care about, bonus of 3 or so to the same skill, will yield a 50% threshold for Attribute:Training.  I might be able to throw myself across a large gap, but I'm not flipping over anyone's head - so yeah my jump training might come into play there XD.

Hopefully, we can both win mate ;)

As to the question of 4e, I didn't mean to leave out the things I liked about it (hell, loved about it):  
*Passive Defenses
*Lack of a Base Attack Bonus
*-POWERS-
*Skills as Weapons




But where are these in D&D Next?  I mean, BAB isn't in, but I thought 4th Ed had BAB regarding 1/2 to attack per level increases.  To me, the fact that almost no 4th Ed mechanics -- even "good ones" -- made it in to D&D Next means that WotC is just making a 3.X-based product that actively shuns the improvements they created in 4th Ed.

As to the 10,000 hour rule, that'll be debated, and 'scientifically' approached countless times, but how does one measure talent?  How does one find a 'constant' of 'talent' when they call modern musicians 'talented?'  That being said, its never something I would argue or try to change someone's opinion about.  As a musician who never cared about money, fame, hype, glory, or publication, I always found that simply being good outweighed practice.  I'm sure many opposite cases could likewise be presented, but who would find the talented 'talented?'

I think the case is valid in DnD because talented is clearly visible.  An 18 Strength is clearly 'talented' at strength-based things.  There's no margain of doubt here, so I guess thats why its a valid approach to me.  However, that being said, I think the skill bonuses being nominalized (3 or so) would represent the best of both worlds for this mechanic, so I definitely have to agree with it.



I have the funny feeling you and I can disagree about this for a very long time :D  Here's my counter-argument.  If you have never picked up a bible or went to church or did any research in Christianity, why should you make any "Lore:  Christianity" check regardless of how high your Intelligence is.  I would expect someone that's not intelligent but who has spent time in the Christian faith should be able to handle those checks better than some ignorant genius.  I think I'm a pretty intelligent guy, but when my car breaks down, it goes to a mechanic.
Thank you for your kind words; you have a lot of insight into this whole mess as well - at the very least trained in the skill ;)  I'm glad I've induced thought!  The whole playtest experience has me very actively refining every house rule we've ever made (and there's a ton of them, I assure you).

I think the above points might be relevant to both of our stakes.  Taking away the 1/2 level, it seems this mechanic could easily be manipulated to behave the same way.  Choose X trained skills, gain a +3 bonus no matter what attribute you use to trigger them.  A +3 to Jump works if you're using dexterity to flip over someone's head, or strength to haul across a chasm; I'm sure the books and final product will define when to use each associated attribute, or at least guidelines.

But as long as the numbers never rise above +3 or so (maybe a total margain of 5), then all things will be equal.  An average stat of 2 - 3 for a skill you care about, bonus of 3 or so to the same skill, will yield a 50% threshold for Attribute:Training.  I might be able to throw myself across a large gap, but I'm not flipping over anyone's head - so yeah my jump training might come into play there XD.

Hopefully, we can both win mate ;)



You are welcome  I have a lot of Insight only because of training ;)  That's a good point:  we've mainly only played a lot of 4th Ed, and D&D Next is giving me a lot of fresh ideas and house rules coming from here.

I don't think I have a problem with the *mechanics* of the D&D Next skill system, on its own merits or compared to 4th Ed.  I think my group's core issue with it is its presentation.  I can't think of a RP system that doesn't have a list of skills and an indicator of that character's relative success in that skill.  To me, these skill lists and the character's values for each skill in that list is how players determine to do various actions.

I wrote this in another thread, but I'll copy and paste it here:

Your character has done "X" all his or her life.  Maybe it's disabling traps, maybe it's reading people, maybe it's making threats, we don't know.  So, in any life-or-death situation, a character isn't going to ask, "hey, what completely random thing am I going to do with no innate ability or training that I may have to bet my life on?"  They are going to see what they know and try to use it to help them out.  My players think their characters like that, but without something in front of my players (including me) to give them a feeling to know what their character's apparent levels of success are, they really don't want to risk their characters doing actions that they are pre-ordained to fail at.
 


The mechanics of a system are just that.  The lack of communication of the options and relative successes avaialble for those options are very problematic.
I actually prefer rolling saves on my character than having passive defenses... but I'd like the enemies to have passive defense! Can I have my cake and eat it too? I guess, like everything else in this edition, it'll be up to the dm.

I think powers need to come back in a way, but not as the homogenized spread that they were in 4e. Particularly the martial classes need something different to do on occasion, something extra heroic.

To call this edition 3.x though is unfair. It's more like (40% 3.x, 30% add and less, 15% 4e (at wills on casters, removal of bab, skills, etc), and 25% that they won't give us info on).

They're adding some nice things, and building it from the ground up to feel like a classic dnd system built with modern standards. I think that's great.

Now, modern standards does not mean 4th edition die hards. There's plenty of people playing other ttrpgs as well, and not everything is a tactical combat simulator, nor does it try to be. It seems that 5th is also not doing this.

What will be particularly interesting to see is the extension of backgrounds. The minor OOCombat stuff from them is neat, but I'd like to see how that changes at 5th level with new feats, etc. Can we become counts, or will they give rules for players investing in the economy, starting businesses, etc? Out of combat options have suffered...always, and they've said they want to address that in this one. That alone separates it enough from 3.x to make someone with a way too big collection of 3.x books want to come back.
'That's just, like, your opinion, man.'

But where are these in D&D Next?  I mean, BAB isn't in, but I thought 4th Ed had BAB regarding 1/2 to attack per level increases.  To me, the fact that almost no 4th Ed mechanics -- even "good ones" -- made it in to D&D Next means that WotC is just making a 3.X-based product that actively shuns the improvements they created in 4th Ed.

I have the funny feeling you and I can disagree about this for a very long time :D  Here's my counter-argument.  If you have never picked up a bible or went to church or did any research in Christianity, why should you make any "Lore:  Christianity" check regardless of how high your Intelligence is.  I would expect someone that's not intelligent but who has spent time in the Christian faith should be able to handle those checks better than some ignorant genius.  I think I'm a pretty intelligent guy, but when my car breaks down, it goes to a mechanic.



First, I'll address that situation in the system itself.  A more intellectual person retains information more swiftly, adeptly, and much more well-organized, we can all agree to that.  (And by intellectual, I don't mean grades or some other such silly units of measurement).  The attribute refers to a plethora of ways information can be picked up:  "I saw on the Discovery Channel once" or even inferred knowledge, such as seeing the picture of a vampire on some poster with an oak stake through its heart.  One does not neccessarily need to know anything about them to infer from that glimpse of knowledge an oak stake could kill one (unless the vampire was still alive, whole different topic).

Second, I'll address the topic and how we fixed the lack of 'intelligent design' in knowledge checks anyway.  I never allow any player to roll a knowledge check, ever.  What someone knows is what they know.  I assign each piece of knowledge a DC, a requirement, and a 'commonality' factor.  The reason for this is, if I read a book about Undead and rolled a 20 on my knowledge: ghoul check, but a 1 on my knowledge: skeleton check - the dice has become absolutely stupid.

Example, using 4e:  Ghast - super ghoul:  Knowledge: Religion (DC 15).  So basically that means anyone trained in the knowledge will have that passive knowledge, period.  A super-smart person may have that passive as early as level 1 or so, and by level 10, everyone has it.  Then I assign a requirement (they are fairly common to adventurers, but not to commoners) so it doesn't require trained, and has a commonality of 'Adventurer.'  But using something much more complex, like a Bodek, I might say DC 20, requires trained, and commonality of 'Fanatic' meaning only someone truly trained could have accurate information.

I know some DMs like to use the roll to give inaccurate information, or even represent happenstance (did the player ever encounter something like this before?); I myself prefer a secret roll here, and typically use percentiles with a much wider variety of results.  Just my approach to the situation, which again, fits perfeclty into the core mechanic they have going on here.  They even spoke of 'requirements' for checks in the playtest material, so seems they've learned a few things from me ;)  (kidding of course).

As far as 4e mechanics showing up - yikes, it is a good point!  I know personally we've included them already in our playtesting (it was an assumption of mine WoTC would work it in, it seems natural).  The passive defense for a situation is equal to 11 + the defender's stat modifier, like a spell in reverse.  In example, to tumble past someone without getting hit (should you decide to add opportunity attacks), is a Dexterity (Tumble) check with a DC of 11 + the defender's dexterity.  (Even if you use Strength to attack, your reaciton speed should be measured, not your melee ability to deal damage).  There may not be a happy place on the char sheet for this info, but it works smashingly - so much so that I only naturally assumed WoTC would be following this direction.

The other thing I can see, is that it appears fighters get a +3 to their attack bonus with weapons, while everyone else sits at +2.  Pretty much the same approach as 4e; +1 to attack rolls beyond what everyone else gets.  That being said, however, I definitely see your point, mechanically speaking.  The two examples I gave are rather pushing it, but I feel they will be integrated smoothly.

As far as it being 3.x, I'd go further to call it 2.x if anything, aside from having to roll lower than your attributes instead of using a modifier system.  Nonetheless, I think the powers will really smooth over a lot in the community at the moment (or hope so).  Despite our differences, its clear we want the same thing - flawless remergence of the community, a smooth, fun, and intelligently-designed product, and free stuff from Wizards.  (Last bits an assumption of course).

One final note, I think the countless back and forth over talent:trained has brought me to one conclusion:  In our playtest, we're currently experimenting with a slew of skills without preset ability scores being added to that total (like the playtest's intent).  And what I'm discovering is, talent and training are controlled through their 'requirement' system as the instruction manual lists.

A Rogue with 18 Dexterity and absolutely no training in Tumble, in example, can roll past an enemy fine - so can a Wizard with 13 Dexterity and a good roll.  Talent, clearly matters.  However, that Wizard can 'train' in Tumble and do it as easily as the Rogue (literally, using the +3 model).  But if one of them wants to flip over an enemy's head, I'm not going to let just anyone do that - so I could affix a 'Jump training' requirement for the altitude, but not a tumble requirement.

Point of it all, training can represent what it was always meant to - an exclusion factor.  Your point was the most valid argument for this.  Why should someone with 0 exposure to a knowledge, have any relevance just because they are smart?  Their intelligence may let them pick up on it more quickly (and they are more likely to recall the information later after that singular encounter), so the talent is obvious, but the training becomes important (and in more ways than just numbers).  I personally, even as a Talent:Training preference, appreciate this a lot.

                     
I actually prefer rolling saves on my character than having passive defenses... but I'd like the enemies to have passive defense! Can I have my cake and eat it too? I guess, like everything else in this edition, it'll be up to the dm.



It depends entirely on the situation for me.  The examples I listed above (like tumbling past someone's 11 + dex) I much prefer passive.  For spells, I much prefer the defender rolling a save - this system seems poised to appease both those directions (at least in our playtest experience). 

I think powers need to come back in a way, but not as the homogenized spread that they were in 4e. Particularly the martial classes need something different to do on occasion, something extra heroic.



  In our playtest, we assigned spell slots (much like casters) to the fighter, and made melee manuevers basically.  It actually felt pretty amazing.  It wasn't as rich on the rogue, but that could be all the focus on creating advantage (like, dex check vs. passive dex to trip) so your next attack would get advantage).


They're adding some nice things, and building it from the ground up to feel like a classic dnd system built with modern standards. I think that's great.

Now, modern standards does not mean 4th edition die hards. There's plenty of people playing other ttrpgs as well, and not everything is a tactical combat simulator, nor does it try to be. It seems that 5th is also not doing this.

What will be particularly interesting to see is the extension of backgrounds. The minor OOCombat stuff from them is neat, but I'd like to see how that changes at 5th level with new feats, etc. Can we become counts, or will they give rules for players investing in the economy, starting businesses, etc? Out of combat options have suffered...always, and they've said they want to address that in this one. That alone separates it enough from 3.x to make someone with a way too big collection of 3.x books want to come back.



I will admit, I bought about 3 total 4e books - I didn't like the marketing scheme.  Create classes dependant upon spells, and sell entire books focused on one genre to sell more spells.  Just never really felt that wholesomeness there.  (Of those three books, btw, two of them were campaign settings.)

So adding the powers to 5e does scare me in that same regard; are they going to try the same marketing ploy?  I never felt that with 2e or 3/.5 edition books; there was always so much more content (and I don't call one alternate class feature and feats 'so much more').  That being said, I definitely want the mechanic fleshed out.  Of all the times we tried 4e, we've made up countless powers using our own methods, house rules, etc - the power books just never really seemed important.  Hopefully, this design will follow the 'ease of formula' for creation.

You mentioned one important thing though, that I'm just -now- thinking about:  OOCombat.  I see the Herbalism trait to let you craft three items.  Crafting was absolutely dead in 4e; I despised every written word of it, yet loved the fundamentals behind it from 3.5 (just had to doctor some of the time rules).  My big BIG sell point for this system, will be exactly that; the OOCombat materials to go with a perfectly balanced core mechanic.  Thanks for mentioning that =)   

You are welcome  I have a lot of Insight only because of training ;)  That's a good point:  we've mainly only played a lot of 4th Ed, and D&D Next is giving me a lot of fresh ideas and house rules coming from here.

I don't think I have a problem with the *mechanics* of the D&D Next skill system, on its own merits or compared to 4th Ed.  I think my group's core issue with it is its presentation.  I can't think of a RP system that doesn't have a list of skills and an indicator of that character's relative success in that skill.  To me, these skill lists and the character's values for each skill in that list is how players determine to do various actions.

The mechanics of a system are just that.  The lack of communication of the options and relative successes avaialble for those options are very problematic.



I think the launch may have been premature in this regard, or perhaps they were relying on people to take skills of the previous same names and just relate them to past editions?  I'm not sure, honestly, but we just took the idea from previous editions and ran with it.  If I might suggest what Xaelvaen has indicated (and what we've started doing since reading his posts), is setting DC based on 10 (or 11 for a true 50% success ratio) and using that as a default to checks in combat.

Yesterday, had a Wizard wanting to use ray of frost to target a particular location on a creature's body - to freeze their hand instead of their legs.  Well, since ray of frost immobilizes, I figured it could be a wicked way to simply prevent the use of that hand.  For aiming, however, I just tacked on disadvantage.  Lucky thing nailed two 19s.

This is not in defense of what they did, mind you, but I'm sure the big-time products (hell, with these responses maybe even the next playtest packet) will have much more valid DM information on exactly this - how the skills are to be incorporated, DM adjucation guidelines, and the like.  If I could make one suggestion, however, it would be just to ignore the rules a bit and throw in your own adaptation of what the rules -could- look like down the line for your next playtest, where you think WoTC -should- go and see if that helps your groups reservations any.  Just a suggestion that worked well for me anywho.

As always, keep it up Doomhaven - witty as usual =)       

We finally got around to playtesting the new rules last night after wrapping up our previous game.  Feelings weren't good about the game, and we quit early and then discussed it.  Likes and dislikes are listed below, but part of the problem was that the players didn't like their characters and didn't like the adventure.  We tend to roleplay a lot, and the Caves of Chaos didn't give us much inspiration or variety in that regard.  By the end of the play, the characters had converted to chaotic evil and were slaughtering helpless creatures for amusement.

Some background:  We always play the 4e rules, and while we don't like how silly some of the high-level powers are ("your at-will arrow knocks the huge dragon prone again!"), we prefer it to any other system.  We really like the strategic approach to battle, and we often make it very theatric.  We are 5 players + DM with various levels of experience who play together once a week.

Likes about the 5e system: (my own and the other players)

1.  healing kits -- great idea!

2.  advantage/disadvantage (though it could become overpowered if granted too frequently). 

3.  charater themes are cool, but they do not let a player make their own kind of characters (at least as the way I see it so far.)    

Dislikes about the 5e system:  (my own and the other players) 

1.  skills were tied to abilities (at first I thought this would be good, but the players didn't like it)

2.  hiding rules for the rogue seemed to be either unclear or not useful 

3.  the healer-cleric was good at healing, but that's about it

4.  back to distance in feet and time in minutes?  Seemed to make it very complicated. 

5.  lots of low HP monsters meant way too much record keeping for the DM (me).  I miss the minions!

6.  melee characters missed their encounter powers and the cool stuff they could do with a minor action.

7.  the cleric-knight cast a healing word on himself and regained 1 HP.  Very frustrating.  Having a standard number of HP gained by healing made you know it was worth the effort.  None of the players liked having to roll for healing.

8.  the cleric-knight felt that Death Ward was useless as an at-will.

9a.  the wizard thought that making Flaming Hands into a cone instead of a square sucked.  Squares are so much easier to plot out, even if they aren't cone shaped. 

9b.   I let the wizard roll the monsters saving throws against the flaming hand.  It seemed he had little use of his dice otherwise.

9c.  I've said it before, but the auto-hit magic missle is hella overpowered.  We played 3rd level, and an automatic 4-10 points of damage every single round?  The poor cleric just sat there in disbelief.
    
10.  the players really missed the "bloodied" state.  It was a good marker for how much damage was done so far.

11.  the players missed "action points."  

12a.  we tried the "theater of the mind" style with limited use of map and miniatures.   Battle certainly went faster since there was no strategy to positioning.  It also lead to the players becoming bored quickly with the game.  That style might have been fine when I was 14, but I want more to the game now.  (When I played Caves of Chaos with the other neighborhood boy back in 1983, I was DM and he played 8 different characters at once.)

12b.  so when the players wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary, rather than consulting rules to see if it was possible, the DM (me) had to say "yes, you can do that" or "no, that doesn't make sense."  My role changed from story-teller to judge and jury.  I don't want to be the bad guy in our game.  We have a very civil relationship between players, and trust in each other to keep play fair.  It's not "players vs. DM", but I can see how that could become that way without concrete rules.

13.  making the dwarf "immune" to poison is silly.  "Resistant" makes more sense.  Otherwise every dwarf is going to be a snake/spider/scorpian handler because ... "hey, they can't hurt me."  (my feelings, not the players)

Conclusions:
I was planning on DMing this system a few more weeks, but we've decided to go back to 4e the next time we play.  We spent some time thinking why Wizards is making this edition change, and we know they are frustrated that so many people are jumping to Pathfinder.  I kept thinking back to the saying "you can't please all of the people all of the time."  We felt that if they wanted to stay financially afloat, D&D Insider is one of the best things they have going for them, which we won't need under the new system.  I also go to outside sources to buy a lot of the stuff I need to play (battle map, miniatures, dice) since they either don't offer it or sell it at outrageous prices.  I've also felt the most recent books were not the quality I want.  But that's a different thread.

I know they don't want players to look at their sheets for skills and then say "I diplomacy that guy", but, as  DM, it'd be helpful to have a skill list to help understand the logic.  For instance, if I know there are three skills, "Perception", "Spot Trap", and "disarm trap", then if a player is attempting to spot a trap, I'd have them roll either perception or spot trap.  But, if a character only has "disarm trap", then and I'd never heard of Spot Trap, I'd probably think they could roll Perception or Disarm trap, making Disarm Trap much more useful, assuming you have a relatively inexperience DM (me).

Similarly, in CoC, there were "Fast talk" and "persuade" skills.  If I didn't know about fast Talk, it'd be reasonable to assume that persuade was used any time you were trying to convince anyone of anything, making it one of the most powerful skills in the game.  

I just forsee that without a skill list ( and better yet, a skill tree ), the DM might notice a supliment, decide he'd been doing it wrong, and randomly nerf a skill.  That just seems poor.

Also, if some skills are General (Perception, Diplomacy) and some are more specific (Heraldric Lore, Folklore),  why not have a bonus tied to how common the skill will be.  So, Perception might be +1, but Find Tracks might be +4.    That way, the skills would be roughly equivalent, instead of now, where if I can pick between "Lore" and "Folklore", I'm picking Lore every time.