Hello, its us again. We have received your test packet with the new updates and have tried it out twice thus far, and are looking forward to playing it a couple more times. I have written the our thoughts from the original packets here and here and hope to continue our feedback here.
Overall, everyone enjoys this version a lot better than your previous offering. One player went so far as to say that the last game seemed like work, while this one is actually enjoyable.
The combat flowed incredibly smoothly and quickly. The combat portion of the game is very much becoming incredibly straightforward, if not perhaps too simplistic. My players and I are still leery about every basic attack being an AC check, especially when leaving the cleverness of the four defences of 4th Ed.
That isn't true about stealth. We are still struggling about wrapping our heads about the specifics about how stealth works and when a person is hidden. I would recommend beefing this section up. If anything, an example would really help; something that describes how someone enters, remains, and loses stealth. We also have one specific question about stealth that must hit other people as well: what happens when you attack at range from stealth, and kill one of many enemies with that single shot? Do the other enemies see you? Are you still hidden from the rest of the enemies?
There seems to be a large disconnect between the strengths of the players and the strengths of the NPCs in this version. For example: we fought five encounters worth of orcs, which get +2 attack and AC 11. The players have +5/+7 attack and AC's of 10 to 16. These are level 3 creatures? In three orc-laden encounters, we were hit a grand total of two times, and one was the AC 10 wizard. On the flip side, an orc hits with 1d12 + 1 battle-axe. This means an orc can, in theory, one-shot any player that hasn't taken the Survivor speciality. And, we had one encounters worth of orcs ambush us and kill several members of our party that way. There really seems to be a lack of balance or even thought given to the NPCs to make them level-appropriate.
I understand that this game is to have static AC's and just ramp up the consequences of the failures. The feel of the game, however, is that all that is punishing you is the Random Number Generator. *If* a creature hits you and *if* the damage role is unlucky, you die. We played two nights, and one encounter we were stupid and nothing bad happened; and the next we were more careful and lost two members. It seems utterly random. And more to the point: how would a group run away if they realized they made a mistake? By the time they realize they are in over their heads, there is a good chance their heads would already be under their knees.
Is disengage meant to be an entire action instead of a movement? To me, it seems like you have forced every wizard to take Shocking Grasp and every cleric to have melee attacks.
The one that really stands out from the character building instructions is that there really doesn't seem to be a need to have many classes, especially “middle” classes like paladins and rangers. How mechanically different will a paladin be from a fighter that takes the “Acolyte” speciality or a cleric that takes the “Defender” speciality? How mechanically different will a bow ranger be from a fighter that takes the “Archer” speciality and “Sharp-shooter” fighting style?
Healing still sucks. The worst part isn't that you aren't trying to fix it – it is that you seem to be breaking every mechanic in the cleric class to fix it. I'll go one more specifically about this in the cleric discussion below.
We still don't have a comprehensive skill listing. We consider its continuing omission to be a major stumbling block in playing this game.
Will combat advantage and/or flanking ever be brought back?
We noticed that the XP needed to level was dropped. Our major issue is with levelling is that it is confusing trying to track down everything that needs to be upgraded when you level. For example, your listing states that we get “Skill Training” at level two. First off, can you at least point out here that “Skills” are part of the Backgrounds and that “Feats” are part of the speciality? Secondly, can you make the distinction here that “Skill Training” is what we get when we learn new skills, and “Improving Skills” we assume are the actual upgrades characters get at level two?
Here are some class-specific comments our group has compiled.
Overall, the Combat Styles seemed unfinished and poorly implemented. First off, several of the styles do not roll the die but use it as nothing beyond a token to spend during the action. Several of the styles seem useless, such as “Glancing Blow” and “Precise Shot” or almost redundant with feats, such as “Protect” with “Defender” feat with the Guardian speciality.
When does “Glancing Blow” ever work? When does a Fighter roll an attack that misses despite rolling a 10 or higher, when he gets +3 plus Strength modifier to attack at level 1, and level 3 creatures, such as orcs, have an AC of 13? This seems pretty pointless. I would either recommend rolling the expertise dice to add to the attack roll and using that damage or bringing down the value of minimum roll to 6-8.
Does “Tumble” work for the entire move action? As well, does a tumbling fighter still receive opportunity attacks? The “benefit” text doesn't say, but the flavour text reads that the fighter would not be hit. Perhaps, the tumbling fighter should roll the expertise dice and get that bonus to AC
Ultimately, it seems like a solid attempt to appease all of the 4th Ed crowd that played martial characters that had choice and don't want to go back to all the drudgery that those classes had in every other version of D&D. These kind of this are specifically what I want to see from Wizards of the Coast: attempts to add wild and interesting new mechanics to the game, to take risks and explore new territory, rather than just blindly rehash the old stuff. Given that Wizard just decided to start releasing digital copies of their previous works, there is no reason for them to rehash the old now that they just sell it.
A big absence that the fighters are noticing is the lack of an obvious “marked” mechanic, especially given the build options to make “striker” fighters and “defender” fighters.
Lastly, is the absence of a large shield as equipment purposeful?
Thug Rogue + 2d6 sneak attack damage = One-shot, one kill, every shot. This seems a little of out of whack. Admittedly, rogues in the previous incarnation were a useful as Helen Keller's Speak and Spell, but they may have gotten a bit more then their fair share of love. With the two fighters acting as the friendlies within reach, the rogue and her sling has out-killed the rest of the team combined by a fair margin.
The rogue's “Skill Mastery” is unclear: do rogue's get +3 on every check they do, or just on their trained skills? It might pay off here to include examples of both situations where this bonus applies and does not apply.
Does “Thieves' Cant” really belong as part of the Rogue base class, when it seems almost duplicate of the “Thief” background ability? Is it the assumption that every Iron Age kleptomaniac has to be indoctrinated into a Thieves' Guild?
Does “Thug Tactics” work with a rogue's ranged attacks?
I would recommend that Wizard stays away from using the same term multiple times in different contexts. One such place was when the terms “thief” and “thug” are used for both themes of rogues and as backgrounds. This caused confusion for our rogue.
Healing still sucks. So far, there are two major, ham-fisted changes to the cleric class to attempt to fix this. Here is one:
“You can use your spell slots to cast any combination of spells you have prepared, as long as you respect the level limit. For example, if you have bless and cure light wounds prepared and have two 1st-level spell slots available, you can cast each spell once or cast one of those spells twice. ”
And the second:
“Once per day as an action, you can channel divinity (a magical effect). When you do so, choose a creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the target is living, it regains hit points equal to 1d8 + your Wisdom modifier. ”
So, at this point I have to wonder why they are called clerics and not just “obligatory heal-bots”. It ultimately feels like you are clumsily shoe-horning inelegant fix after inelegant fix to the Healing Problem by retooling every other thing with the Cleric class while the most obvious and elegant answer is to use the 4th Ed healing-surge concept. Is every heal-bot class going to have awkward cruft hurriedly bolted on – and then natural parts of the class removed – to failing address this issue?
I have yet to see rational reason why the healing surge mechanic in 4th Ed is not being used here, and why we are rolling dice to determine the amount of HP we receive from healing.
What happens when you cast “Light” on an object that is unwilling to be Lit, such as a thieving Halfling?
I have one minor problem with the “Acolyte” speciality: can “Sanctify Weapon” be changed such that it can be used on another character's weapon instead of the cleric's? Acolyte seems to give additional spells that a cleric could use, especially a melee-based cleric. However, if one wanted to play a spell-based cleric, this seems to be wasted.
Lastly, what happens when equipment packages have the same equipment in it? For example, the Sun domain cleric and the "Priest" background both get holy symbols.
Again, overall the game seems to be heading in a positive direction. There are some things, like boring martial classes and useless rogues, that have been fixed from the first iteration. There are some new things, like fighting styles, that have been added that are cool new mechanics that help make this game unique and different from its predecessors. There are some old issues that are still rearing their ugly head from the previous version of D&D Next that haven't been properly fixed; such as healing, skill listings, and opportunity attacks. In general, though, the game is getting stronger and more polished.
My group seems to be looking forward to the playing it more than two times. We appreciate the opportunity to allow us to beta-test your game. We, as always, iterate that you continue to support your 4th Edition offering as you roll out this system, and we wish you success when you release this version.