Dear WoTC representatives:
I know you favour getting feedback from the surveys, but sometimes an elaborated feedback method is needed. So I'm hoping someone on your team is reading this.
This is a delayed write-up of a Public Playtest Packet #2 playtest, from the September long weekend. I have stayed away from viewing other player and DM feedback so as to not influence my/our assessments.
I was the DM of six players, most of whom have played D&D for 25 or more years. There was a halfling rogue (thief), a human cleric (sun), human wizard, dwarf rogue (thug), human fighter (slayer) and human warlock (fey). The module played was Reclaming Blindingstone. I let them start as 3rd level characters sinc e they had played as 1st and 2nd in the previous playtest package.
I didn't have a lot of prep time to change things in the module and it didn't say what level it was geared for, so all I did was add more monsters of the same type listed and often gave them near max HP.
Non -session comment: The only class not played in our playtest was the Sorcerer. I think we're all glad this was the case. Although some of the mechanics seemed interesting (willpower etc..), the dragon blood build was completely overpowered and broken on paper. Proficiency with all armor, shields and martial weapons?!? And a d8 HP? Really? Put the poor wizard out of his misery. Also, no one liked the flavour text (particularly that found in the WoTC article introducing the sorcerer: two souls; really??). The whole class needs some serious revisions!
DM session overview: I'm not going to go over the battles and interactions, but only comment on the playtest-ability. These 3rd level characters mowed through the encounters as modified with too much ease. Maybe because they were 3rd, and despite me upping volume and HP.
Some of the monsters seemed too weak and didn't fit certain expectations. For example, why did a skeleton have piercing resistance, but the zombie did not have bludgeoning resistance? I had thought this to be an iconic thing for a zombie. Similarly, the gray ooze had no resistances, when it should have clearly listed things like bludgeoning, piercing and slashing resistance. This would have made things more challenging and fit better with the iconic image of a gray ooze.
Session comments from the players:
Wizard: The player was exasperated by the end of the night. The warlock was superior to him in every way that mattered. And some of the wizard spells in the 2nd playtest package had been notably weakened: Sleep was near-useless, Magic missile did not scale by level, many of the other orisons were useless. Conclusion: the wizard spell list needs another re-working.
Cleric: The cleric also had warlock envy. He found his class to be weak and bland. Among other things, no weapon or magic attack progression through the first five levels, no spell DC progression through the first five levels. Conclusion: the cleric needs more flavour and more of a boost.
Fighter: The player really enjoyed the mechanic, after having it explained to him. It was easy to use: do more damage, or a special trick (maybe even save it for defense). However, he was dismayed that there were no physical skills (just Str checks). We expect a more robust list of skills, that include physical ones, in the next package. He made his character as a massive, dumb brute that was intended to be a physical presence but all the skills available had no fit with his character.
Thief and Thug: Both they and the other players agreed that the damage progression of the sneak attack damage is way too powerful. Between them they were able to find ample opportunities to get SA, and they did massive damage as a result. At the least, the SA damage increases need to be every other level. Also, there should be a mechanic to build a rogue without sneak attack (taking another rogue-like mechanic in its place). Also, the two players agreed that Skill Mastery is too powerful. The other players agreed. Not only is it too powerful on its own (e.g., it should maybe be +1 at low levels and scale up slowly) but it also proved to be a disincentive to have certain high ability scores. All a rogue really needs is a high Dex, or possibly Str. If your Int, Wis or Cha was lower than 16, it didn't matter because you can get a +3 on the related "trained" skill check.
Warlock: While the person enjoyed playing the warlock, it was clearly too powerful. an at-will (Force Blast) that did significantly more damage than all wizard and cleric at-wills, and significantly more than any of their daily spells. The warlock Daily powers were even not Daily, capable of re-gaining them after a short or long rest!! Too much power! Significant revisions needed!!
Comments about Being Human: We had some discussion afterwards about the "human condition". Some people felt that the +1 to all stats and +2 to one was too powerful. To some degree, the others agreed. However, some people also felt that this was too bland, that the human needed either replacement features or additional features, such as weapon group training (of their choosing), an additional skill, or some other kind of mechanic to suit their versatility in the world.
Feats: certain feats were unclear. If someone took Arcane Dabbler (or even if one was a High Elf non-arcanist), can they cast arcane spells with armor? If so, this gives them an advantage over the wizard straight away.
Some did not like the idea of Two-weapon fighting doing 1/2 damage on each hit.
Jack of All Trades seems like a lame specialty in light of the small group of others presented. On the other hand, Survivor seemed like an awesome specialty in comparison to most others. Thus, there seems to be some feat imbalance.