Playtest report - the Wizard

Background: I am a 25+ year D&D veteran, having started with the first hardback AD&D books. Have played through AD&D 1st & 2nd editions, 3E, 3.5E and am currently on 4E.  I have almost exclusively DM'd for the last 15 years and rarely get to play.  I was invited to play in another group's playtest.  This was my first time playing with this group, so I was not familiar with their playstyles at all.  Skip past the game summary if you're just looking for my feedback.

  
Game Summary: The session was approx. 3 1/2 hours in length.  Since this was a short, one-off session, the DM decided to forego a lengthy or detailed introduction.  Each of the playtest characters were used.  I ran the wizard. Our characters were hired to stop raids from the various creatures in the CoC.  We followed the trail from one of the attack sites to the CoC and went up to the Orc cave entrance.  We entered and was spotted by an orc sentry and the first fight commenced.  It was over in a couple of rounds with minimal difficulty.  Behind the sentry's post there was another group of orcs.  I cast a light spell on one of the orc's weapons and realized my mistake when our rogue groaned about not being able to hide in shadows to get Advantage.  Still, the orc holding the weapon freaked out at the sudden light and dropped his weapon (DM fiat - no rolls were required).  Another two or three rounds later, these orcs were dead and we moved on to another series of halls that led to the orc chieftain's lair.  We killed his guards and had the chieftain cornered, when he exited through a secret door to escape.  We followed and decided to subdue rather than kill him.  The slayer intimidated him into providing some information about the cult that is running the show here.  We then tried to convince the orc chieftain to attack the cult, but he was unconvinced.  Then my wizard dipped his hand in a pool of the chieftain's blood and cast a light spell on his hand and announced that he was placing a "blood curse" upon the chieftain, and that unless he aided us in taking down the cult, his soul would be damned to the deepest pit in the Abyss.  I rolled a natural 20 on my bluff and the chieftain fearfully agreed.  But then we decided to try and get the other orc tribe to join with this one in the attack.  Just then, the other orc chieftain came in, supposedly to talk with this chieftain about the tributes, and found us standing over the helpless chieftain.  We tried to intimidate and bluff the other chieftain to join with this tribe in a combined assault against the cult.  It took some fast talking and another "blood curse" attempt, and we finally got him to agree.  We made plans to gather all orcs to attack when the next tribute was due and that's where the game ended.


Feedback:  
- It was mildly fun (mostly because I haven't run a character in a loooong time). 
- It felt like D&D in a very basic form, but not the D&D I'm now comfortable with.  It felt like driving an old car.  Comfortable, nostalgic, but ultimately I want the bells and whistles of my new car.
- We started with Theater of the Mind play, but during the first combat we pulled out a battle mat and used it for the remainder of the session.  It's just so much easier to visualize what's going on with a grid. 
- Combat was fast, but overly simplistic and not very threatening.  I didn't need to use any of my daily spells and I didn't take any damage at all.
- I did like having cantrips available to use repeatedly.   
- I didn't like being without encounter spells.  I kept throwing around magic missiles because I didn't want to blow a daily without knowing how long the meat shields would last.
- I miss power cards.  95% of what I need to run my character should be on my character sheet or on reference cards.  Looking up stuff in the rule book is a pain.  Yes, I could have made my own reference cards, but the point I'm making is that 4E put everything you needed on the character sheet and power cards and this established a new norm for character reference material that should be carried over to D&D Next.
- Comprehend Languages should have a ritual version.  Sacrificing one of my spell slots for that spell was not even remotely considered. 
- Lighting conditions and the effect on combat are not real clear.  The rules should establish what mechanical impact each level of lighting has on combat, not force you to look up other rules to try and figure out what combat effects being in shadows or darkness has.
- Advantage/Disadvantage: This worked fine and is an interesting mechanic, but needs refinement.  One thing that I feared when reading the rule initially actually happened a couple of times during the session.  Players were fishing for ways for the DM to give them Advantage, mostly because what triggers Advantage/Disadvantage is not clearly defined, so the players are trying to get it all the time.  We had the same problem with attacks of opportunity (AoO)when those were first introduced in 3E, but the difference is that there were specific triggers for AoO and the players just needed to learn what those triggers were.  But there are no clear triggers for Advantage/Disadvantage, so players will keep searching for ways to get it until the DM gives in and gives it to them. 

That's about it for my feedback.  I plan to run the adventure for my regular group in a couple of weeks, so I should have some feedback from the DM's perspective to share afterwards. 

Our wizard player is having fun thus far, however the sleep spell seemed useless to us and just did not work well, so we made a new version and it was much more fun and seemed more appropriate for a DAILY spell slot. I included it below for your consideration.
thanks


Sleep


Daily


Range unchanged


Area of effect unchanged.


Targets: Roll 2d20 + 20 to determine the number of hit points of monsters the spell will target. The spell starts by targeting the nearby monsters/enemies with the current lowest hit points and works up, you don’t get to choose the exact targets in the area of effect. When adding a monster would exceed the hitpoint cap, that monster isn’t a target.


Effect: Target falls unconscious, taking any damage ends effect.


Save: Wisdom save to resist falling asleep but target will still be drowsy and make the next round of actions at disadvantage.

The wizard had a hard time, if the conditions that the spells place on the target were listed in the spell discription.  

   

- Comprehend Languages should have a ritual version.  Sacrificing one of my spell slots for that spell was not even remotely considered. 




Agreed. I would go so far as to say that all spells should have a ritual version, but I'm still hopeful that Vancian magic gets kicked back to the dustbin it belongs in. One thing I already miss is that only spell-casters can use rituals, where in 4e any character can grab the ritual caster feat if they want to.



Our Wizard had similar issues with both Sleep and Comprehend Languages.  I updated both since we started the playtest.  Comprehend languages got a ritual variation and also allows you to speak the language of the target, while slowed opponents from Sleep also gained disadvantage to attacks.

Comprehend Languages


1st-level Divination
The world is home to countless languages and dialects, tongues that are beyond counting and whose meaning is lost on even the most erudite scholars. Comprehend languages makes the incomprehensible comprehensible.
Effect: For the next hour, you can speak and understand the literal meaning of spoken or written languages as long as you are touching the speaker or a surface on which the words are written. It takes about a minute to read one page of text (about 250 words).  This spell does not decipher codes or reveal messages concealed in otherwise normal text.
Ritual:You can cast this spell as a ritual by spending at least 10 minutes preparing special material components that include salt, soot, and rare minerals, all worth no less than 25 gp.

Sleep


1st-level Enchantment
The fine sand you fling into the air sparkles when this spell’s magic takes hold. Creatures touched by the scintillating granules grow drowsy and might fall asleep.
Effect: You cause creatures in a 20-foot-radius sphere within 100 feet of you to grow drowsy. All creatures in the area move at half speed and take disadvantage on attacks until they take any damage. Any creature with 10 hit points or fewer must also make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature falls unconscious. The creature remains unconscious until it takes any damage or until someone else uses an action to shake or slap the creature awake.
I played the Rogue in the Game DM_Nel discussed here.  Like him this was my first time playing with this group.  I'll forgo the description as he did a good job of detailing it.

I got much of the same feeling as he described.  The nature of the play test made the game feel less than compelling.  The group focused strongly on combat mechanics and little story line was exposed.  It felt mostly like a hack and slash session because of the way it played out.  It was good enough to get an idea of some of the mechanics, but had it not been for the DM and our wizard putting some clever improv into the session it would have been completely combat.  It was fun to play but not exceptionally compelling.  I think that may have changed had the game went longer and we gotten used to each others play styles, but after 3.5 hours we called it. 

As the rogue, I tried to play the the stealth mechanic which allowed for advantage on most attacks.  I found it unrealistic to think that a character could "hide" behind a creature larger than itself, which happened to be every monster we encountered and every character in the group.  Suffice it to say that mechanic seemed broken.  I would agree that starting your turn concealed would give you an advantage, but not if you had to move during the attack.  Thus, attacking from cover was what I preferred.  I hurled daggers or flung sling bullets from the shadows and tried to stay out of sight when possible.  The problem was that this didn't fit well with the way some of the group played.  It seemed that we were always engaged in close combat from the start of each encounter and only our wizard and my rogue worked at any ranged attacks.  Moving into combat felt unrealistic as the rogues abilities focused on attacks from concealment.  Members of the group prodded that it was acceptable to hide behind their character and attack with advantage from that position or move my full speed into combat and attack with advantage, but it always felt unnatural and like I was power gaming.  I think DM_Nel summed it up correctly that Advantage was sought even when it should have been unlikely to exist.  I strongly feel that any movement beyond 5 feet used to engage an enemy would negate any advantage that concealment or hiding would have provided.

Another thing I noticed in play was that the Rogue's character seemed tailored for combat.  His wisdom score specifically made it difficult to notice anything or do much interesting.  With a -1, he always failed perception rolls.  I think there may need to be some work on the perception mechanic or the character sheet as it doesn't make much sense to have a Rogue that couldn't find a hidden passage, listen in on a conversation, or do most things one would expect to do with such a character.  The Dex bonuses never seemed to have much use in the game we played either.

I really missed skills being on the character sheets.  It would have made things much simpler.  At one point we had a discussion if picking a lock was a wisdom or intelligence check.  Reviewing the rules I think we got it correct with the Int check, but we just guessed and based it on the idea that it would have been a trained/learned feat not something that relied heavily on perception, but then again that was open for discussion.

One final note, I felt our moving to the grid was essential for the game.  I'm glad we had miniatures and a battle map to use.  I would strongly recommend keeping this aspect of play.  Dynamics of light and shadow and line of sight all had a place in our session.  A game void of the grid would not have been as realistic nor would it have allowed many of the rule implementations that we used.




- I miss power cards.  95% of what I need to run my character should be on my character sheet or on reference cards.  Looking up stuff in the rule book is a pain.  Yes, I could have made my own reference cards, but the point I'm making is that 4E put everything you needed on the character sheet and power cards and this established a new norm for character reference material that should be carried over to D&D Next.

There weren't any power cards in the 4e PHB.  The Character Builder provided them, and they printed many of them in "decks" (which subsequently needed errata), but for non-DDI subscribers, you were basically on your own.  I used a template I found online (designed by "Shado").

"Edison didn't succeed the first time he invented Benjamin Franklin, either." Albert the Alligator, Walt Kelly's Pogo Sunday Book  
The Core Coliseum: test out your 4e builds and fight to the death.


- Comprehend Languages should have a ritual version.  Sacrificing one of my spell slots for that spell was not even remotely considered. 




Agreed. I would go so far as to say that all spells should have a ritual version, but I'm still hopeful that Vancian magic gets kicked back to the dustbin it belongs in. One thing I already miss is that only spell-casters can use rituals, where in 4e any character can grab the ritual caster feat if they want to.






Hehe I just assumed that all spells had a ritual version and the cost was just not clearly defined in the playtest. Totally agree with OP that this spell is not useful enough to take up a spell slot.

Removal of vancian system and making all spells encounter or daily was one of the main reasons our group quit 4E. The wizard felt no different than any other class. Mind you we only played for a few games and only with the core books so we might not have discovered all or even most of the nuances of the classes.  
I'm still hopeful that Vancian magic gets kicked back to the dustbin it belongs in.


You and I can hope all day long, but it won't happen in Next. The designers stated from the outset that, among other archaic constructs, Vancian magic was considered "core" to the concept of D&D, and they are committed to it for this edition.

Standard Answer to all 5E rules questions: "Ask your DM."



As the rogue, I tried to play the the stealth mechanic which allowed for advantage on most attacks.  I found it unrealistic to think that a character could "hide" behind a creature larger than itself, which happened to be every monster we encountered and every character in the group.  Suffice it to say that mechanic seemed broken.  I would agree that starting your turn concealed would give you an advantage, but not if you had to move during the attack.  Thus, attacking from cover was what I preferred.  I hurled daggers or flung sling bullets from the shadows and tried to stay out of sight when possible.  The problem was that this didn't fit well with the way some of the group played.  It seemed that we were always engaged in close combat from the start of each encounter and only our wizard and my rogue worked at any ranged attacks.  Moving into combat felt unrealistic as the rogues abilities focused on attacks from concealment.  Members of the group prodded that it was acceptable to hide behind their character and attack with advantage from that position or move my full speed into combat and attack with advantage, but it always felt unnatural and like I was power gaming.  I think DM_Nel summed it up correctly that Advantage was sought even when it should have been unlikely to exist.  I strongly feel that any movement beyond 5 feet used to engage an enemy would negate any advantage that concealment or hiding would have provided.

Another thing I noticed in play was that the Rogue's character seemed tailored for combat.  His wisdom score specifically made it difficult to notice anything or do much interesting.  With a -1, he always failed perception rolls.  I think there may need to be some work on the perception mechanic or the character sheet as it doesn't make much sense to have a Rogue that couldn't find a hidden passage, listen in on a conversation, or do most things one would expect to do with such a character.  The Dex bonuses never seemed to have much use in the game we played either.







Exactly.  Popping into and out of combat like this seems very Dragon Age II - ish.  
@Tukca
I played the wizard in the playtest, and I loved the sleep spell.  I took out the a group of kolbalds very quickly and very easily.  Also, the fact that sleep always does something made it a fun and interesting way to use it.  Our group was getting ready to be over run, I cast sleep on the group and the ones that I couldn't hit got diced by the meat shields, the ones the fell asleep were killed by the rouge and the ones that were "slowed to half action" were trickled in and killed by the meat shields and my magic missles.  It was very effective at the lower levels... and we figured out that when we attacked the Kolbald Leader, we got him under 10 hit points and I could have put him to sleep if he didn't run like a scaredy cat!  All in all I loved the sleep spell.  I feel it was simiple and effective just needs some imagination to really make it work. 

Speaking of that, I have to say, I feel that this skeleton of a class that the playtest provided was the best iteration of the class wizard I have ever played.   DM_Mel, thank you for your post, but I don't agree with your post.  I loved the wizard.  I felt that at first level, I could play with the group and not be a cross-bow master; but wasn't so overpowered that I wasn't part of the team. 

If spells like sleep were changed to add disadvantages or whatnot, it would make the class way to powerful at such an early level.  The stuff I did changed the game, but wasn't the "game changer".  I was helpful not my own hero.  I like that... I like the team work with out the 5 heroes that just happen to be in the same area fighting.  I hope that there is a way to expand and grow so that spells like sleep can do more the high you go in levels, I wouldn't want it to be the best of the best.

Think of this, the rouge, wizard and fighter took out something that each one of them would have failed at.  The cleric and the knight made the situation were we would have struggled, easier and more suriviable.  That sounds like a great team to me.  I wouldn't want to have the wizard, at first level, be able to take out the room while everyone watches.  I like the team!!!