Playtest report

I ran the Frostfur Captives (Pathfinder) scenario with a group of 5 experienced players. I ran the (opposing) goblins as Gnoll/Gnoll leader from the playtest bestiary and the humans opponents as Human Berserker. This is what I found:

I did like the advantage/disadvantage system as it is a single bonus/malus systemt that's applicable everywhere and ties into the dice rolling, which most players love to do. One concern I have is that it is not very granular, for example I like to give a stunt bonus for cool description of player actions, however advantage would be a little too much. Obviously rolling two dice can be only one way. 

Fighters were awesome and our archer made good use of being able to ignore cover (a very powerful bonus). We also had a melee fighter in play who (positively) struggled with doing more damage or having a reserve for reducing it.

I will say I always have found wizards tedious because of one game mechanic: the group encounters a situation, and it can be overcome with a spell, but the spell is to too situational to have it always prepared. We could have exitinguished the fire ... after a long rest. It is a thoroughly un-fun game mechanic. Wizards should be able to cast any spell with a minute casting time, or have a wildcard slot, or be able to cast any spell with a spell slot one higher than the actual level.  The cleric fares a little better here, but has the same fundamental problem.

The game felt fairly volatile. By volatile I mean the ratio of damage potential to hit points is high, and battles are likely to be decided on initiative. This is a problem if your players and GM are invested in their backstories and then you die to an unlucky roll. That's not a fun game mechanic either, you should not die to a single hit. I might just house-rule away the whole stabilization mechanic and leave you unconscious with negative hit points. At this point you are helpless enough, after all the enemies might as well slit your throat if they so desire. 

I wasn't sure what to do about monster knowledge. I use monster knowedge to prevent metagaming; by letting the players roll at the begin of combat their skills fell more valuable, they might learn a few tidbits about the monster (depending on the roll), and we have it out in the open what the characters know about the creature. Here, I used Natural Lore for normal monsters and Magical Lore for magical beasts. 

We missed the ability to delay (without readying an action) and weren't sure if this omission was intentional.

It was awkward to see a rogue come out of shelter, cross open ground and still get sneak attack damage. It is hard to visualize. 

It was not quite clear what kind of advantage dual wielding would have with damage halved, rounded down. If this is meant for very low hp enemies (where you could slay two per round) it would be too situational for me too pick.

It was awkward to ask players for "a spot check or WIS roll depending on whether or not you have the skill" every time.

Overall I found the simplicity and clarity of the rules very beneficial. Most of them are easy to understand and follow clearly explains concepts like Reaction or Advantage. I did not miss flanking or grappling, but I think we'd miss some sort of grappling or brawling eventually.

 
Agree with much of what you said there.

I guess I haven't really thought about it, since I am used to winging various bonuses and penalties, but you are right, they need to "legalize" the ability of the DM to give situational modifiers +/-1 or +/-2 for various actions. Something in the DM's guide as an optional rule for those ready to tweak now and then.

I, too, like some of the simple, yet impactful combat mechanics they added, such as expertise dice.  Going for a Deadly Strike or saving for a Parry or Protect is an important decision, but simple to use.

I don't mind reduced HPs as long as the designers carefully consider what damage output players will be seeing.  5 or 6 HP Wizards (with 11 or 12 AC) don't stand much chance against creatures doing D8+1 damage... but if 1st level creatures were only doing d4, d6-1, or d6 damage, they'll have a chance to take a blow or two.

That said, where I really think they went wrong is giving Wizards some good Defensive Spells and Features.  Shield, quite honestly, is pretty horrible.  10 minutes of +2 AC and protection from Magic Missile just doesn't cut it.  It would be much more useful if it was a reactionary spell that could absorb a single, heavy impact.  One death shot avoided and plenty of warning to get to safety or get others to come to the rescue.

Delayed actions... you are dead on with that... in fact, I am pretty sure I allowed characters to move their initiative score down just out of habit when, in truth, it's not in the rules yet.

Spot checks and Stat checks will get easier with time.  Players will find it easy enough to "roll Wisdom" where appropriate and the DMs will get better at asking for "a spot or wisdom roll."  Honestly, I don't mind that at all.  Having a long list of skills that goes on for multiple columns to to ensure you have everything covered when players only typically have a few they took seems wasteful to me.
 
 

I will say I always have found wizards tedious because of one game mechanic: the group encounters a situation, and it can be overcome with a spell, but the spell is to too situational to have it always prepared. We could have exitinguished the fire ... after a long rest. It is a thoroughly un-fun game mechanic. Wizards should be able to cast any spell with a minute casting time, or have a wildcard slot, or be able to cast any spell with a spell slot one higher than the actual level.  The cleric fares a little better here, but has the same fundamental problem.




I see your point, but I think the question is, how we imagine D&D. If it is about a series of tactical challenges, where rest is a tactical option, then you can prepare situational spells in situations where the DM wants to let you them. If you don't have a wildcard slot, the DM has one more variable in his control when designing encounters.


If you say: Sleeping at every 2nd encounter is awkward story wise and might break immersion, I would agree with you, but it isn't the only issue that would break immersion. So far, so many rules break immersion, and the structure of game, and several rules are designed to steer you away from immersion, I think it isn't a bug but a feature. 

Either you like the core structure and concept, and understand why there is the feature, or would move towards immersion focused game, and question a lot of things in the game. If you move towards immersion a lot of rules and systems would have to be changed, and the game would need to be rebuilt from ground up. 


 

The game felt fairly volatile. By volatile I mean the ratio of damage potential to hit points is high, and battles are likely to be decided on initiative. This is a problem if your players and GM are invested in their backstories and then you die to an unlucky roll.



Again, we speak about a feature and not a bug. Instead of background stories we choose specific background now, and they said custom stuff there isn't part of how D&D normally work. If you take this guideline, then the issue won't be present.


The game is volatile on the first few levels (later it will be rare) to make advancement more pronounced, and get more positive feedback if you advance in level. It can make repetitve encounters more enjoyable. The mental state where repetitive actions and constant positive feedback make you feel happier is the flow. D&D is a hack and slash game, with focus on individual encounters letting you enter this state of mind. 


Diablo III does the same. 


  It was awkward to see a rogue come out of shelter, cross open ground and still get sneak attack damage. It is hard to visualize. 

 



If you go for immersion, and try to realy visualize: Yes. But that isn't the kind of gameplay this game was designed for.

 
Overall I found the simplicity and clarity of the rules very beneficial. Most of them are easy to understand and follow clearly explains concepts like Reaction or Advantage. I did not miss flanking or grappling, but I think we'd miss some sort of grappling or brawling eventually.

 



I don't praise simiplicity because I seen equally simple games from them, and know well how they get bloated, slow, sluggish when they start to dump more options on us to buy. 


Flanking and grappling is someting you would actually describe when you would think in character about tactics, they are left out to let you focus on options you can buy in rulebooks

"I will say I always have found wizards tedious because of one game mechanic: the group encounters a situation, and it can be overcome with a spell, but the spell is to too situational to have it always prepared. We could have exitinguished the fire ... after a long rest. It is a thoroughly un-fun game mechanic. Wizards should be able to cast any spell with a minute casting time, or have a wildcard slot, or be able to cast any spell with a spell slot one higher than the actual level.  The cleric fares a little better here, but has the same fundamental problem."


For me this has always been the fun of playing a wizard and with cantrips (which I feel sorta cover the "wild card" magic you mentioned) I am wholly satisfied with the mechanic. Also now that they have released Warlock and Sorcerer info that might satisfy your desire for a seperate spell casting experince.   

If you go for immersion, and try to realy visualize: Yes. But that isn't the kind of gameplay this game was designed for.


Are you speaking on behalf of WOTC? Your statement surprised me quite a bit.



That said, where I really think they went wrong is giving Wizards some good Defensive Spells and Features.  Shield, quite honestly, is pretty horrible.  10 minutes of +2 AC and protection from Magic Missile just doesn't cut it.  It would be much more useful if it was a reactionary spell that could absorb a single, heavy impact.  One death shot avoided and plenty of warning to get to safety or get others to come to the rescue.
 



I like the idea of a reaction defensive spell for a wizard.. I also would be pretty surprised if the (imo) iconic mage armor didn't make a reappearance in some form.