Hello all! I have a few comments on this current iteration (I limited myself to 10). As a GM with 21 years of GMing experience, so far, I’ve GMed about 8 hours of the 8/17 D&D Next Playtest for a group of 5-6 players. I started the PCs off at level 3 and provided them 3000 gp worth of equipment, including magic items from the 3.5e system, though I didn’t allow items that gave bonuses to skills. The magic items functioned like they would in 3.5e. I composed a custom adventure based off of Act 2 of the Witcher 2 video game, set in the Dwarven town of Vergen.
The characters were:
1) Human Fighter (Duelist), Noble Background, Jack of All Trades Specialty
2) Elf Cleric, Commoner (Sailor) Background, Acolyte Specialty
3) Human Rogue, Thief / Spy Backgrounds, Magic-User Specialty
4) Human Warlock, Charlatan Background, Healer Specialty
5) Dwarf Fighter (Slayer), Soldier Background, Survivor Specialty
6) Halfling Rogue, Thug / Bounty Hunter Backgrounds, Lurker Specialty
1) Character creation is fun and simple. Backgrounds and Specialties are a great way to flesh out characters because they make composing a character’s pre-story easy. Custom backgrounds should be made available to characters, which contain custom skills, like Commerce, Engineering, Forgery, Gambling, Riding, Rope Use, etc.
2) Athletics seems to be a critical missing skill from the Skill list. The ability to climb or jump should not simply be based on a character’s Strength or Dexterity modifier. There’s a reason why gymnasts train to do what they do, even though they may not necessarily be stronger or faster than any other athlete.
3) The Spot skill should be changed to Perception. Listening with Spot doesn’t sound right (sorry for the pun).
4) Humans are very enticing to players because of the bonuses they receive. This is a great thing in my opinion because it makes humans take the dominant role they usually have in RPGs by being the most common and adaptable race. Sub-races of humans should be considered, which could be classified by the region the human grew up in (i.e Desert, Plains, Mountains, Rivers, Cold, etc.), and provide a minor bonus for coming from that region.
5) Monsters were VERY WEAK. They didn’t hit often and did too little damage. To fix this, during our second session, I gave each of the monsters a +1 to hit for every two hit dice the monster has and modified their attack and damage bonuses based off of their appropriate attack and damage modifier (i.e. Str or Dex). If the monster had a magic item, it modified the appropriate statistic. This all worked out perfectly. Monster hit points were fine.
6) Monster experience point values seemed about 25-33% too high, making monster encounters have less monsters than they should because the PCs often outnumbered them, and I feel that it should be the other way around in order to create challenging combats.
7) Solo and Elite monster classifications make no sense. For these classifications of monsters, I think a 4th edition approach to their design should be HIGHLY considered, otherwise, they have too few actions compared to the actions that each PC gets.
8) The rogue class’s Thug Tactics level 1 ability (from the Thug background) seemed too easy a way for such a rogue to get Advantage, or useless in groups without melee characters. Also, the rogue’s sneak attack damage seems too high (like it was in the first playtest). It should be 1d6 per two levels (i.e. 2d6 at level 3, 3d6 at level 5, etc.).
9) The wizard’s magic missile lost its scaling damage, which I feel is iconic to D&D. This should return to some degree in order to make it on par with scaling monster hit points. I suggest that the damage becomes 2d4+2 at level 5, 3d4+3 at level 10, and 4d4+4 at level 15. The Wizard also seems to lack any excitement beyond what it gets at level 1. Additional Lore skills (similar to the Arcane Knowledge ability) could help mitigate this.
10) Limiting Skills to a maximum bonus of +7 is a FANTASTIC limiting factor. It created less emphasis on skill DCs needing to be higher as the PCs increased in level, while at the same time providing a real sense of potential failure. I personally think that +7 plus the ability score is too great a bonus.
For those who may be looking for more monsters to use, I created some custom monsters too for the adventure and included their stats below:
Carrion Crawler: Large Beast; Armor Class 14; Hit Points: 33 (6d10); Speed: 30 ft, climb 30 ft; Senses: Darkvision 60 ft; Str: 20 (+5), Dex 14 (+2), Con 11 (+0), Int 3 (-4), Wis 8 (-1), Cha 6 (-2); Alignment: Unaligned; Languages: -; Actions: Melee Attack—Bite: +8 to hit (reach 5 ft.; one creature). Hit: 1d4+5 piercing damage and the target makes a DC 11 Constitution saving throw against poison. Failed Save: The target takes a 5-foot penalty to speed and a -1 penalty to AC and Dexterity saving throws for 1d6 hours. Multiple bites have cumulative effects, but the duration remains unchanged. Melee Attack—Tentacle: +7 to hit (reach 5 ft.; up to 1d8 creatures within reach). Hit: The target makes a DC 11 Constitution saving thrown against poison. Failed Save: The target is Paralyzed for 2d6 rounds.
Rust Monster: Large Aberration; Armor Class 15; Hit Points: 45 (6d10+12); Speed: 40 ft, climb 10 ft; Senses: Darkvision 60 ft; Str: 16 (+3), Dex 17 (+3), Con 14 (+2), Int 2 (-5), Wis 13 (+1), Cha 8 (-1); Alignment: Unaligned; Languages: -; Actions: Melee Attack—Bite: +6 to hit (reach 5 ft.; one creature). Hit: 1d6+3 piercing. Melee Attack—Antennae: +6 to hit vs. AC without Armor or Shield bonus (reach 10 ft.; one creature with a metal item). Hit: The target’s non-magical metal item is broken (if it is a weapon, it suffers a -1 penalty to hit and damage; if it is a suit of armor or a shield, it suffers a -1 penalty to AC, which make non-magical shields useless). A second hit destroys the item completely. If the item is magical, the target makes a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. Failed Save: The item is broken. A second failed save destroys the item completely.
Harpy: Medium Humanoid; Armor Class 14 (Leather armor); Hit Points: 31 (7d8); Speed: 30 ft, fly 30 ft; Senses: Darkvision 60 ft; Str: 12 (+1), Dex 16 (+3), Con 10 (+0), Int 7 (-2), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 14 (+2); Alignment: Chaotic-Evil; Languages: Common; Actions: Melee Attack—Talon: +4 to hit (reach 5 ft.; one creature). Hit: 1d6+1 slashing damage. Ranged Attack—Shortbow: +6 to hit (ranged 80 ft./320 ft.; one creature). Hit: 1d6+3 piercing damage. Mob Tactics +1: The harpy chooses a creature within its reach. Until the start of the harpy’s next turn, friendly creatures that also have this trait gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls against the target while it is within the harpy’s reach.