first thoughts on 10/29 playtest

Summary: Another step forward, another step backward, and three steps sideways toward 3rd edition. Two things made me do a full-on Darth Vader Ep. 3 NOOOOOOO: the horrid 3rd edition turn undead mechanic is back (again), and the wizard was pushed out of the nerf tree and hit every branch on the way down.

The good:

- De-coupling skills from abilities: Glad it was rolled back.
- Turn undead not a spell, general fixes to cleric non-spell abilities: Another great rollback.
- Haste as a single target spell was needed over the 3rd edition version.

Neither good or bad:

- Rogues get their own resource: Yay! But it's the same as the fighter: Boo. There has to be a more interesting way. But at least rogues aren't super-overpowered now.
- Ranged attacks against melee attackers no longer cause disadvantage (or anything else)? Interesting.
- Point buy only goes to 15: Interesting.
- Wizards gain INT mod spells per level, but still have to pay 50g / spell level to copy them into their spellbook? Seems like a mistake.
- Specialties: Interesting, but less flavorful. What's the point? Feat-bundles are not a bad idea but I don't see much difference between this and just picking a feat every 3rd level, especially since feats just went ultra-generic again.
- Are there even more weapons? There are only 3 armor choices (until you have 500 gold) and like 500 weapons. Please condense!
- Mage Armor as cantrip is nice, but why not just let wizards wear light armor?

The bad:

- Crits got weirdly complex. I don't want to look up a rule for crits. Please try again.
- Two Weapon Fighting: Now it's constant disadvantage, but anyone can do it at any time? The other way, it was like getting advantage on your attacks at the trade-off of only 1/2 damage if you only hit once - and you still got your rider effect. This way, you get two attacks, but disadvantage and a damage penalty. The penalty for disadvantage is too steep to make this style viable. The extra damage penalty on top is overkill.
- Rouges don't get sneak attack for free: Why would any rogue not take this? Fighters already get "deadly strike." Just give it to them for free.
- Skills got more narrow: I'd rather they got broader. Even better: let us choose from narrow or broad skills and give different bonuses! (+3 broad, +5 narrow?) Still needs to be a way to add more skills eventually, even if it's very rarely. Having a fixed skill list still makes me sad.
- Feats that give 1/day spells: Bleh. Those aren't interesting: those are what a class does anyway.
- Feats in general: The usefulness of them varies wildly. The feat that allows double rolls for HP gains is useless in a fixed-HP campaign, for example. They also got more bland, somehow.
- Some spells: Burning hands is a zero-level spell? Magic missle is no longer at-will for anyone? Ray of frost and Shocking grasp still suck? Sleep still uses the horrible turn undead mechanic?
- Old complaints: Cover and dying rules are still needlessly complex. Intoxicated is still just silly and far too powerful. These are minor issues and easy to house rule, though.

The very ugly:

- Turn undead uses 3rd Ed rules: No. What a terrible, terrible mechanic! Tons of math, tons of time, and way too complex to remember. I like the callback to destroying undead but otherwise: bleh. Not even going to playtest that one.
- The whole wizard class: No. Just: no. They gained a couple HP and lost everything. All their zero-level at-wills and an entire spell slot per spell level: gone. They said wizards would gain "encounter-like" spells but what they got was 1 crappy pre-chosen encounter spell at the expense of all their at-will abilities - and they STILL lose a bunch of spell slots. Wizards were already falling behind the pack and this just reduced their tactical ability even further. You know what a wizard who casts burning hands every combat is? A crappy fighter without expertise dice. We already told you doing the same thing over and over isn't fun; please don't kill the most tactical class! (The cleric was hurt by the same nerfs but not quite as badly since that class has other features. But they still lose at-will minors and have their spell slots stolen for pre-chosen domain spells.)


I haven't gotten very deep into the spells or the maneuvers and obviously we've not played it yet, but this playtest feels so much more like 3rd edition I'm wondering where all the cool new ideas went. The Magic Items addition was so awesome I'm still happy to keep moving forward, but the spells and the wizard class in particular are so oddly dissident from some of the best ideas it's like there was an entirely different team working on them that never communicated with the first team.

My plan now is to use the previous playtest wizard (with more HP) and give it the traditions on top of what it already has. No interest in even trying the Oct. 29 rules. (I'll come up with some signature spell for the Academic to balance it.) I'll continue to use the old Turn Undead and the first playtest's spells as appropriate: those are still the best spells so far. Also, rouges will get sneak attack for free, and I'll give the cleric zero-level at-wills again and probably more spells as well since that class' spellcasting also got hit.

A few more random thoughts...


- Perception is both Wis and Int based now?  I doubt I'll remember the subtlties required to parse that out each time.  Wisdom it is!
- Looking again at the rogue they were pushed out of the nerf tree, hit every branch, and then the tree fell on them.  They needed a tonedown but wow:  no freebie sneak attack, and their skill bonus is a weird rule instead of something simple like advantage?  Oh, and the skills being narrow affects rogues most of all.  Bleh.
- Several of the maneuvers are weird rules now. Why would precise shot give a bonus from +1 to "cover" instead of just negating cover?  That's ten times faster and easier to remember.  Some others have "roll all your expertise dice, but only use the highest."  Why?  If you didn't like that much being added, don't use their expertise dice.  But sometimes using both and sometimes using one?  It seems needlessly complex.


At this point I'm thinking it's a "two step back, one step forward" playtest again, just like the last one.

Thanks for the thoughtful feedback, it mirrors a lot of my thouhts on the playtest.

I like that skills are bonuses to situations rather than situations themselves (if that makes sense). It makes it feel a bit more free.

I DISLIKE the proliferation of skills. Some of them are arbitrary/too narrowly useful - a lot of them could be combined into a single skill - Tumble and balance, for instance - or spot/search/listen - I really dislike perception being broken into those three skills - spot and listen, sure...but search on top of that? Aren't people good at searching because they are good at spotting or listening to things?

I like that PCs get +1 to two stats every four levels.

I dislike dead levels - specifically levels five and seven. There's no need for them.

I kind of like Rogue's having ED - a lot of how ED is handled, as you point out - is really, really sloppy.

I like that trip/disarm/grab are all actions any player can take. I think each one should be STR or DEX (judo or aikdo, anyone?) as that would open those manuvers to players other than fighters. As it stands, fighters are better at swashbuckling than rogues - combat wise at least - due to the STR-centric nature of those manuvers.

I -really- dislike the changes to TWF.

I'm willing to give the wizard builds a go - but I think the way they implemented traditions was a bit sloppy. Why don't War Wizards get proficency in any martial weapons? I have to admit that my heart lies with the Gish, and generally, if I'm playing a magic user - i want to be wielding a blade in one hand and frying foes with the other, or using mirror image, or what have you - and I was hoping for that with this tradition.

I'd love to see manuvers that allow Fighters or Rogues to use trip/disarm/grab as part of an attack. That would be pretty awesome.

Totally agree with you about crits, too. Granted, I could always write "Crit +3d6" on my Character Sheet - however...I don't see the point to this. Monster HP is already pretty low, and monsters critting a PC with these rules will just straight up kill them (they make mention of Monsters having class levels, so that will be a thing, I guess). Seems unnecessarily complicated and just kind of unnecessary.

I look forward to messing around with the healing rule variant 2. It does need to be a bit more specific, and it needs to take into account Healing Kits or other such items...how does someone get beyond their bloodied value? The current rules just state that you cannot heal above it during a short rest - can you only become unbloodied through using Healing Kits, potions, or sleeping all night?
I personally really dislike the new Sneak Attack mechanic. It's basically the exact same as Deadly Strike, but with strings attached, meaning rogues don't even have their 'get more out of exploiting weakness than your generic warrior' niche. A fighter with a thief background could completely negate the need for a rogue in the party. If there's also a rogue in the party, that rogue now feels useless.

I hate hate hate the Arcane Magic Specialist and Divine Magic Specialist, because they've been taken from being something that adds a splash of magic to non-caster characters to something that's only remotely useful for characters who use that particular kind of magic. The two at-will spells from Arcane Dabbler were awesome! You could take a rogue and get mage hand for thievery and ray of frost for getting out of sticky situations, and now you have a very different kind of character who was made unique by that specialization. By making it something that's only useful for a specific set of classes, you're taking away some of the awesome customization that was brought out by the background-specialization-class triumverate. Also, the idea of a rogue having a sneaky familiar to help scout out potential theft locations was awesome! And all of this is of course useful to other classes as well. Please bring back the old paradigm! Casting one of the three crappiest cantrips once a day seems like an utter waste of a feat.

Dual wielding giving disadvantage: Not a bad idea. Where's the specialty that mitigates this? I don't see it... So dual-wielding is just worse than two-handed weapons in all regards. Got it.

Why are there twenty seven skills? I'm glad Sneak stayed true to itself from 4E, but I miss the 4E consolidation of skills. Hide and move silentlY: Good at sneaking around, but light up like a christmas tree. How do you do one and not the other? Spot, listen, and search. Why not just a general perception? The more fringe cases you add, the more players will worry about them. Acrobatics instead of tumble and balance. Should I make characters roll Balance after doing a Tumble stunt to see if they stick the landing or fall over? 

Magic missile not being an at-will: I am so disappointed in this. That was my absolute favorite part of 4E. Whenever someone bashed it, my tried-and-true response was 'at least wizards always had magic missile.' At 1d4+1 that didn't need an attack, it was balanced and reliable. Please give it back to the poor wizards!

Also, burning hands in the first iteration (3d4) was perfect in my opinion. Super useful for clearing out the thirty goblin cave, not so great that you'd use it on every ogre that came along. Making it a 1d6 at-will is lame. It was the perfect example of how to make low-level wizards satisfying and not useless! Please bring it back.

I think the most interesting step forward in the new packet is rogues using Expertise dice, because it's a cool mechanic, having dice to do cool stuff with every round. Neutering their sneak attack ability is not fun, though.

How I'd fix sneak attack: Spend a die, get 2d6 damage. Period. Spent 3d10, get 6d6. More reliable, less likely to hit a massive spike. Most of the rogue's career will work with 4d6, which is great! Feels satisfying, doesn't baloon out of control. Feels satisfying for actually getting advantage to pull it off, and not like you're just a crappy version of a fighter who can't hit properly without a friend telling you where to poke him. 

Thank you, both of you:  I completely agree with everything you've both said.  Proliferation of skills and the removal of "cross-class" specialties for all classes are definitely two very concerning trends (amongst others).  Both ideas seem so opposite from everything they've done so far - so limiting - that I do not understand why they went that direction.


I love some of your ideas, too:  trip/disarm/grab/etc. being Str or Dex vs. Str or Dex is great.  Spending expertise dice to gain 2d6 sneak attack per die is great.


The more I think about this playtest, the less I'm interested in testing it.  It's like the thing where the wizard doesn't have zero level spells at-will anymore:  I don't need to playtest that.  I played 3rd ed.  I know how that works.  And I'm past that now.


Or like the rule to tie skills to abilities from the 2nd playtest.  I didn't even bother; we just houseruled it back, because we didn't need to playtest that.  We knew how that worked, and we're past that now.  And this time around they rolled it back.  This gives me hope that they'll roll back more from this opposite direction as well.  But given the number of rules and changes that I would have to houserule or ignore from this playtest it just doesn't make me feel like I should bother.

I can simply say +1 to all of the above.  I won't be making any effort to playtest this version.  I made a fighter and came away pleased.  I tried to make one of any of the other classes and hated so much of what I saw I couldn't even finish making the character.  Everything sucked out loud.  Don't need to test the thing for playability.  I'm sure we could make a go of it, but I don't want to.  What I see on paper is not only not fun on the face, it's like a broken, ham-handed version, full of 3rd Edition clunk with none of the finesse.   "Missed the point totally" applies.

As written, I'd play the fighter, but otherwise, no interest at all.  Moreover I would be unable to DM this with a fair outlook.  I would tend to believe any players I could con into it would be so unenthused by the classes they'd call it quits midway through.

Dwarf: PERFECT.  Stop there.  Fighter: Same thing.  Elves: Fix the skill issue and they are done too.  Halflings: no complaints, no interest, but no complaints.  Magic items: good start.  Everything else: Start over.  You've lost the thread of it.




Neither good or bad:

- Wizards gain INT mod spells per level, but still have to pay 50g / spell level to copy them into their spellbook? Seems like a mistake.


This represents the fact that a wizard develops their own spells as they go and what not. Not necessarily requiring magic writing.



- Mage Armor as cantrip is nice, but why not just let wizards wear light armor?
Why not just let a fighter roll damage without an attack roll? Because it's only effective if a resource is spent.



The bad:

- Crits got weirdly complex. I don't want to look up a rule for crits. Please try again.


WHAT RULES!? It only changes every 2 levels, and even then it's just another D6. No more difficult than remembering your attack bonus.




- Rouges don't get sneak attack for free: Why would any rogue not take this? Fighters already get "deadly strike." Just give it to them for free.


Because not everybody plays a rogue just for sneak attack. This is a good way to see "the rogue isn't just dpr" now they are completely seperated from their dpr with a fighter and gives you the options you play the nimble rogue for instead just hitting things.



- Feats in general: The usefulness of them varies wildly. The feat that allows double rolls for HP gains is useless in a fixed-HP campaign, for example. They also got more bland, somehow.


It also applies on short rest healing.
- Old complaints: Cover and dying rules are still needlessly complex. Intoxicated is still just silly and far too powerful. These are minor issues and easy to house rule, though.


How? How are these complex?



The very ugly:

- Turn undead uses 3rd Ed rules: No. What a terrible, terrible mechanic! Tons of math, tons of time, and way too complex to remember. I like the callback to destroying undead but otherwise: bleh. Not even going to playtest that one.


My players like it. It makes the more powerful cleric better at this and gives you the feel of channeling your dieties power. Although i'd like the option to remove turn/rebuke from alignment and make it diety based instead (or a character choice instead). Also, to make the turn/rebuke not just undead based. Make it part of your diety options basically.



- The whole wizard class: No. Just: no. They gained a couple HP and lost everything. All their zero-level at-wills and an entire spell slot per spell level: gone. They said wizards would gain "encounter-like" spells but what they got was 1 crappy pre-chosen encounter spell at the expense of all their at-will abilities - and they STILL lose a bunch of spell slots. Wizards were already falling behind the pack and this just reduced their tactical ability even further. You know what a wizard who casts burning hands every combat is? A crappy fighter without expertise dice. We already told you doing the same thing over and over isn't fun; please don't kill the most tactical class! (The cleric was hurt by the same nerfs but not quite as badly since that class has other features. But they still lose at-will minors and have their spell slots stolen for pre-chosen domain spells.)


If you read the traditions, you would realise they DO get most of their cantrips at will anyways. And did you think maybe they were responding to those who complained about the wizard being too powerful? Can't please everyone.

My plan now is to use the previous playtest wizard (with more HP) and give it the traditions on top of what it already has. No interest in even trying the Oct. 29 rules. (I'll come up with some signature spell for the Academic to balance it.) I'll continue to use the old Turn Undead and the first playtest's spells as appropriate: those are still the best spells so far. Also, rouges will get sneak attack for free, and I'll give the cleric zero-level at-wills again and probably more spells as well since that class' spellcasting also got hit.


Try running the new and old clerics as seperate classes.



I really dislike the whole, "0-level spells are at-will sometimes and sometimes they aren't". There really isn't anything wrong with 0-level spells being at-will. It works fine in Pathfinder. Leave them all at will and just give them minor bonuses according to specialty (when evokers cast evocation cantrips they get a small bonus on damage, when illusionists cast an illusion cantrip they can make more complex illusions, etc.). That way everyone can cast at-will according to their needs that day but specialists have an incentive to focus on their school. That an illusionist is stuck without at-will "light" when he does a dungeon crawl is rather harsh. If versatile at-will magic is such a terrible thing then just ditch level 0 altogether and assign 3 at-will spell like abilities to each specialty. AS it stands the mechanic is inelegant

Specializations for wizards should be school-based! Illusionist, war wizard, academic wizard? These things are not mutually exclusive. Why assign a school of magic to a spell if that school has no mechanical effects? Changing the specializations to represent mastery of a particular school of magic is a nod to d&d tradition and a simple way to let player determine whether their bonus features apply to any given spell.

Specializations for clerics should be domain based. With the new gods thing you are impossing your mythos on my world. What I have a god in my word that has domain over both life and death? Or light and darkness? What if I don't have gods at all and clerics just worship ideals or disembodied forces? There is no need to be anything but generic here.

Signature spells are fine but should scale for the specialist. The war wizard gets thunderwave, which can be prepared at higher slots for a stronger effect by anyone. And he can refresh it. The illusionist gets color-spray, which does not scale in any way. YOu could have these remain level 1 spells but provide scaling only for specialists (with or without requiring high level slots). You could have them be scale-able for everyone but require that non-specialists prepare the spell at a higher level to get the effect (whereas specialists automatically gain these benefits as they level up, without increasing spell slot level).

Please give specialists things as they level to remind them that they are specialists. Currently being a specialist means that there is one spell you are good at. Whoopie! No bonuses to skills as you level up. No minor magical effects you gain. No reason to seek out and preferentially cast spells associated with your specialization. The 4e mage and the Pathfinder specialist wizard both do this much better.
I am with you, ppaladin.  I really like Schools of Magic and Domains.  Two things I loved the introduction of when they first hit.  5E/NEXT should take advantage of these features.

As I have mentioned in many other threads, Domains should be the heart of the Cleric.  The tie between the priest and the power(s) that he or she draws upon.  It's so flexible, allowing easy mixing of domains, uses between different worlds, etc.  Special features (like special weapon use, additional armor proficiencies, added features) and Spell Availability should all be tied into Domain.  I differenciates different clerics, it's simple, and adds a whole lot of RP flavor.

Same goes for Wizards.  It's not hard to tie things to schools of magic.  It could easily be done in a less complicated, easier to administer way than what this last play test offered.  It would allow for all sorts of sub-class Wizards (Invoker, Enchanter, Illusionist) without complicating the game at all.

Doing so seems so obvious to me, at least, I can't quite understand why the more convoluted solutions they've come up with so far.

I agree with ppaladin123's points about zero level spells and what it means to be a specialist, but I don't mind wizard specialties not being tied to schools and cleric specialties not being tied to domains.  I think they were trying to be more generic here by tying them to class role and "generic deity" - which I think is fine.  Generic is great, because you can use those rules however you'd like.  It's flexible.  If you have a dual light/dark god, then you can choose from either, mix them, or give them both - any way is fine.  No need to have specifics because an individual's campaign is just going to overwrite those specifics anyway.  Think of all the DMs who make up their own gods / religion for their games:  a generic approach is best.  Same for the wizard.  Maybe I want to use elements or something instead of schools?  Flexibility is the key.


To AlmightyK:


This represents the fact that a wizard develops their own spells as they go and what not. Not necessarily requiring magic writing.
I was saying it seems unfair that a class feature depletes resources.  Fighters don't pay for a second attack, so wizards shouldn't pay to learn spells.


Why not just let a fighter roll damage without an attack roll? Because it's only effective if a resource is spent.
But fighters wear armor...  Not sure what you were saying there.


Crits:
WHAT RULES!? It only changes every 2 levels, and even then it's just another D6. No more difficult than remembering your attack bonus.
Exactly:  they change every two levels.  Per individual.  Far too complex when you compare it to "do this every time it happens for anyone ever."


Because not everybody plays a rogue just for sneak attack. This is a good way to see "the rogue isn't just dpr" now they are completely seperated from their dpr with a fighter and gives you the options you play the nimble rogue for instead just hitting things.
Right, they don't.  But that doesn't matter.  Rouges don't have to use sneak attack, but giving it to them for free might help balance them slightly from the huge nerf they got.  (Plus, it's pretty iconic.)


It also applies on short rest healing.
Ah, I ignored that because I don't like rolling for short rests, either.  Double-useless!  


- Cover and dying rules are still needlessly complex. Intoxicated is still just silly and far too powerful.
How? How are these complex?
Cover doesn't need more than one state, and it can give disadvantage.  DONE.  Easy to remember.  Multiple states that give different bonuses?  Why?  To what end?  It just seems like extra rules that aren't needed, and why make me remember two things when one is fine?  The dying rules are also horrible:  negative HP values that are specific to each character?  Bleh.  Give me a generic "roll saves until you get three bad ones or three good ones" and you're done.  Tracking negative HP is just extra work that doesn't add to anything.  And "intoxicated" still gives WAY too much damage resistance, especially for a low-level player.  They tried to fix it and made it more complex and didn't fix the problem.  Double wrong.


- Turn undead uses 3rd Ed rules: No.
My players like it. It makes the more powerful cleric better at this and gives you the feel of channeling your dieties power. Although i'd like the option to remove turn/rebuke from alignment and make it diety based instead (or a character choice instead). Also, to make the turn/rebuke not just undead based. Make it part of your diety options basically.
Glad your players like it.  I hate it and it's far too complex and it slows the game down and it's extremely arbitrary and I hate it.  


- The whole wizard class: No.
If you read the traditions, you would realise they DO get most of their cantrips at will anyways. And did you think maybe they were responding to those who complained about the wizard being too powerful? Can't please everyone.
We can agree to disagree here, especially about wizard power levels.


Try running the new and old clerics as seperate classes.
Good idea, but at this point I've completely given up playtesting this one.  It's just not worth going back over so many ideas that I already know what I think about, or houseruling them all out - which would take tons of effort and not really help the devs anyway.  We are skipping this round but hoping to come back if things improve.

I can simply say +1 to all of the above.  I won't be making any effort to playtest this version.  I made a fighter and came away pleased.  I tried to make one of any of the other classes and hated so much of what I saw I couldn't even finish making the character.


Thanks for sharing.  Your experience mirrors mine:  I think the fighter came out alright (they didn't really change the class) and the rest are borked.



"full of 3rd Edition clunk with none of the finesse" - nice quote.

Generic is great, because you can use those rules however you'd like.  It's flexible.  If you have a dual light/dark god, then you can choose from either, mix them, or give them both - any way is fine.  No need to have specifics because an individual's campaign is just going to overwrite those specifics anyway.  Think of all the DMs who make up their own gods / religion for their games:  a generic approach is best. Flexibility is the key.

Funny, because I have the same opinion as you, but see the approach from a polar opposite opinion.

To me, The Lifegiver, the Lightbringer, the Protector, and The Trickster as Deities are much more restrictive than having domains.  To make matters worse, when you select them, you have 0 choice as to Domain spells.  Quite the opposite of what I think would work, where you have domains with spell lists (so if you chose a deity of Shadow and Trickery, you'd have spells lists specific to those domains, but with variety at each level to choose from).

So, yeah, I like flexibility, I just see Domains as giving it more so than specific deities.
Fair enough!    I'm good with whatever, as long as it gives flexibility.  However it works!
Agree with the points being raised here.

Particularly agree with the sentiments expressed by ShadeRaven:

I am with you, ppaladin.  I really like Schools of Magic and Domains.  Two things I loved the introduction of when they first hit.  5E/NEXT should take advantage of these features.

As I have mentioned in many other threads, Domains should be the heart of the Cleric.  The tie between the priest and the power(s) that he or she draws upon.  It's so flexible, allowing easy mixing of domains, uses between different worlds, etc.  Special features (like special weapon use, additional armor proficiencies, added features) and Spell Availability should all be tied into Domain.  I differenciates different clerics, it's simple, and adds a whole lot of RP flavor.

Same goes for Wizards.  It's not hard to tie things to schools of magic.  It could easily be done in a less complicated, easier to administer way than what this last play test offered.  It would allow for all sorts of sub-class Wizards (Invoker, Enchanter, Illusionist) without complicating the game at all.

Doing so seems so obvious to me, at least, I can't quite understand why the more convoluted solutions they've come up with so far.



In latest itteration of the wizard and cleric, WOTC have somehow managed to give us generic specificity, with all the negative conotations of both!
Some interesting thoughts here. I have two issues that have come up so far in the current packet:


1) Zombie Fortitude is ridiculously powerful
If you run this ability rules-as-written your Zombies can go to one hit point and become invulnerable (especially if the cleric blows turn undead early on in the fight) since - as it's written - the ability allows zombies to continuously recover from the final attack against them. Am I missing something or has anyone else come across this?

2) Backgrounds allow characters to bypass parts of the game
I'm mostly going to be talking about the guide background here since it's the one I've had experience with but it applies to almost all of them. I like injecting a little bit of survival into my campaigns i.e. making the players track their supplies and run into trouble if they're out of food. The current adventure seemed perfect for that - stranded on an island with little food or equipment. However the fact that one of my players had the guide backround completely trivialised this - he was able to find food for the rest of the party every day. It's very similar to the issue I had with the 'create food and water' spells in other editions, they made survival trivial (furthermore, I didn't think it made sense that there would be farmers in a world where these spells existed). I can see similar issues appearing with some of the other backgrounds (particularly the commoner's "Salt of the Earth" trait) i.e. if you want players to feel threatened because they're in an unfamiliar city (for example) well you can't because depending on your background anything from the local church to the local library might be obliged to take them in.
Does anyone else think this is an issue? How would you deal with it (I think I'll just disable backgrounds completely if they stay like this in the finished product)
Aurumae, I am with you on reading the traits of backgrounds literally.  It can be an inhibitor to roleplay.

Personally, I consider each background to be specific to the environment that a character "grows up" in.  So, for example, in my two current Playtest Campaigns, I have them set in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (in the world of Mystara).  So a Guide (background) with the Wanderer trait can find food and water, remember the terrain, etc., of the regions of Karameikos that they were aware of in their formative years.  However, when the Sea of Dread sweeps them up and strands them on its infamous isle, the character is out of her element now, and no longer benefits from the background trait.

Salt of the Earth I have used in much the same way, though with a little more "reading between the lines."  I have use it as a roleplaying tool, rather than a EASY BUTTON.  More like the way Streetwise was in 4E.  A Salt of the Earth commoner, with a little time and effort, can quickly get the ebb-and-flow of the street - a general idea of what's going on in the undercurrent of a town and where one might find various, let's say, less official organizations.  And, of course, as the Commoner gets further away from his element, the information is more sparse and more effort is needed to gather it.
So, for example, in my two current Playtest Campaigns, I have them set in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (in the world of Mystara).  So a Guide (background) with the Wanderer trait can find food and water, remember the terrain, etc., of the regions of Karameikos that they were aware of in their formative years.  However, when the Sea of Dread sweeps them up and strands them on its infamous isle, the character is out of her element now, and no longer benefits from the background trait.



And this doesn't bother your player?  Knowing that they chose a background that no longer gives them any benefit?  What if they chose the background because they saw that trait and said: "Hey, that would be an excellent trait for a member of an adventuring party, I'm sure it will come in handy."
Then you decide that nope, their choice was useless. 

Of course, if you told the player up front then there's no problem.  However, these traits exist as written so that players expect to get the benefit from them.  This would be like (to use some older edition examples) having a player show up to a 3.5 game with their Cleric character ready to go and then telling them that in your world, all divine spells only work on undead creatures.  Oh, and there aren't any undead creatures.

Still seems like a problem to me.


And this doesn't bother your player?  Knowing that they chose a background that no longer gives them any benefit?  What if they chose the background because they saw that trait and said: "Hey, that would be an excellent trait for a member of an adventuring party, I'm sure it will come in handy."
Then you decide that nope, their choice was useless. 

Of course, if you told the player up front then there's no problem.  However, these traits exist as written so that players expect to get the benefit from them.  This would be like (to use some older edition examples) having a player show up to a 3.5 game with their Cleric character ready to go and then telling them that in your world, all divine spells only work on undead creatures.  Oh, and there aren't any undead creatures.

Still seems like a problem to me.

Nope.  No complaints yet.  In fact, half the time it's the players looking for more RP flavor to their backgrounds than me (after all, it's their characters, not mine).

It could be that I have a group that's been integrated into a world that promotes roleplay and that, over time, they realize that with the quality of depth to their roleplay comes benefits that go far beyond that of a character sheet.

But, yeah, I guess I've earned the trust of even the newest players (people who've just started joining us with NEXT) to know that any restrictions I put on a feature is done with a fair hand and not to inhibit their enjoyment of a game.

And, yes, I am always up front about any adjustments to any rules, no matter how minor, I make to the game.  Along with that, I am more than willing to listen to reason for those who would argue that my application of any rule feels unfair to them.  More times than I can remember, I have come around to their point of view... but over the course of 30+ years of doing this, it still amount to very few differences of opinions.

However, I have never gone so far as to make all cleric spells useless and completely gimped any choice a player made simply on a whim.  In fact, there's never any take without some corresponding give to go with it.

Nevertheless, your point is taken and I expect you'd hate roleplaying in my campaigns because I don't do everything by the book.  I have never pretended to be the right DM for everyone Smile
And this doesn't bother your player?  Knowing that they chose a background that no longer gives them any benefit?  What if they chose the background because they saw that trait and said: "Hey, that would be an excellent trait for a member of an adventuring party, I'm sure it will come in handy."
Then you decide that nope, their choice was useless. 

Of course, if you told the player up front then there's no problem.  However, these traits exist as written so that players expect to get the benefit from them.  This would be like (to use some older edition examples) having a player show up to a 3.5 game with their Cleric character ready to go and then telling them that in your world, all divine spells only work on undead creatures.  Oh, and there aren't any undead creatures.

Still seems like a problem to me.

Nope.  No complaints yet.  In fact, half the time it's the players looking for more RP flavor to their backgrounds than me (after all, it's their characters, not mine).

It could be that I have a group that's been integrated into a world that promotes roleplay and that, over time, they realize that with the quality of depth to their roleplay comes benefits that go far beyond that of a character sheet.

But, yeah, I guess I've earned the trust of even the newest players (people who've just started joining us with NEXT) to know that any restrictions I put on a feature is done with a fair hand and not to inhibit their enjoyment of a game.

And, yes, I am always up front about any adjustments to any rules, no matter how minor, I make to the game.  Along with that, I am more than willing to listen to reason for those who would argue that my application of any rule feels unfair to them.  More times than I can remember, I have come around to their point of view... but over the course of 30+ years of doing this, it still amount to very few differences of opinions.

However, I have never gone so far as to make all cleric spells useless and completely gimped any choice a player made simply on a whim.  In fact, there's never any take without some corresponding give to go with it.

Nevertheless, your point is taken and I expect you'd hate roleplaying in my campaigns because I don't do everything by the book.  I have never pretended to be the right DM for everyone Smile

Sounds like I'd be right at home in your games.  Keep in mind that the point I'm making is not necessarily my own perspective, but the perspective that many gamers have. 
I too consistently house rule and adjust things to fit my games, and am also up front about it to players.  Sounds like we have very similar DM styles

The problem I was pointing out is not that your decision to do that was wrong, but that it could be construed as a problem by some who DO play very "By the Book."  DMs who wouldn't want to (or wouldn't realize to) make the call you made are often at the mercy of the rules as written, and we need to be aware of any problems they might incur.  My point was that if, as written, the Guide Trait is (as the original poster has posited) too heavy handed in its mechanical benefit, it should be tweaked.

Have a good day!  :D
Sounds like I'd be right at home in your games.  Keep in mind that the point I'm making is not necessarily my own perspective, but the perspective that many gamers have. 
I too consistently house rule and adjust things to fit my games, and am also up front about it to players.  Sounds like we have very similar DM styles

The problem I was pointing out is not that your decision to do that was wrong, but that it could be construed as a problem by some who DO play very "By the Book."  DMs who wouldn't want to (or wouldn't realize to) make the call you made are often at the mercy of the rules as written, and we need to be aware of any problems they might incur.  My point was that if, as written, the Guide Trait is (as the original poster has posited) too heavy handed in its mechanical benefit, it should be tweaked.

Have a good day!  :D

Yeah.  I have had a few who really nitpick and want it by the law, so to speak.  I don't mind the "by the book" type, so long as they approach me with concerns or suggestions outside of game play.  It's only when the conflict in opinion comes at the expense of the enjoyment of everyone involved.

As a narrator and story teller first and foremost, people who only want a DM who's an adjudicator of the rules will probably move on to a different table eventually.

I have actually, though, for the Playtest Packets, stuck to the rules almost exclusively for the first handful of sessions using each packet, at least.  I only start to tweak as we (a) feel as though we've exhausted the testing of the mechanics and/or (b) look for solutions/suggestions to areas of concern.

At any rate, I'd love to see you in action then... not because you are similar but because I enjoy seeing a good DM's interpretation and style.  There's always opportunities to learn and benefit from others' experience and methods.

You are, of course, correct about trying to have a core set of rules for 5E/Next that are solid and flexible from the get-go.  I'd much prefer to see the traits worked as to be more about roleplaying flavor and flexibilty than fixed, unyielding and all-encompassing benefits.  But to the Aurumae's need, I was tailoring it more for a specific campaign than as a suggestion to the rules themselves.

Honestly, I think both Backgrounds and Specialties lost a little in the latest variant.  It felt like they were looking for more rule centric options than roleplay based selections.  It's nice to have solid, well balanced rules for players to enhance character with, but it doesn't have to come at the expense of the "character" of a character.
Some interesting thoughts here. I have two issues that have come up so far in the current packet:


1) Zombie Fortitude is ridiculously powerful
If you run this ability rules-as-written your Zombies can go to one hit point and become invulnerable (especially if the cleric blows turn undead early on in the fight) since - as it's written - the ability allows zombies to continuously recover from the final attack against them. Am I missing something or has anyone else come across this?

2) (I think I'll just disable backgrounds completely if they stay like this in the finished product)




1) We fought a group of 8 zombies and only one of them saved once. If your players are doing very low damage, the zombie will live for a long time. However one good hit from a fighter that looks like 1d10+1d4+5 (Avg damage is 13) and the zombie will fail that save over half the time. Again, with 8 zombies we only had one stay up once. 

2) I like the backgrounds and this 'bypass.' It is sorta the point. If something is too heavy, then you should probably think about tweaking it. Otherwise it just adds rp and problem solving abilities.

Currently running a playtest, weekly, online D&D Next Session using a virtual table system called roll20.
I like the backgrounds and this 'bypass.' It is sorta the point. If something is too heavy, then you should probably think about tweaking it. Otherwise it just adds rp and problem solving abilities.

I guess I am too "old school."

To me, "bypass" abilities, auto-success abilities, etc., completely remove RP and problem solving.

If I set them in a seedy town, with dangeorus elements on their tail, subtle currents in the political and religious circles, and detailed NPC personalities to enrich and liven the setting, when the player show's me an "I win" button, a skill or trait that makes all the above inconsiquential, it undermines roleplay and the fun of having a rich environment.

Similarly, if I set up a Tomb of Horrors type dungeon, with logic problems, clever traps, and riddles, only to have another play point to a Auto-Succeed feature, again it's a detriment to the verve of a campaign that isn't just about Attacks vs AC and Damage.

I really don't like this trend to "bypass" DCs, RP, and challenges... and, quite honestly, I think more than a few players prefer to solve the Hobbit Riddle on their own over having it given to them for free.

I could be wrong, or maybe I have a more intellectual group of players, but the majority of them seem to enjoy the chance to think and/or roleplay their way through various trials set before them instead of having the game be decided on whether or not some auto-success feature is in the group.

I just see them as extra resources. I do understand where you're coming from and why it must be frustrating. To me it is a non issue. If your whole campaign is the worry or struggle over food in wilderness, then I get it, disallow guide or change it in some way as appropriate. However, likely that situation doesn't allow the guide to use his ability anyway. If your whole game is about someone figuring out how to get a room at a inn and such, then I get it. Dont' get me wrong, players will still have to role play those environments. They might always be able to find a place to perform, but the quality of that place might depend on role play or dice rolls. Success yes. Degree of success? not so much.

You might always be able to find fruits and berries, but the distance out of the way you might have to go might be larger than you wanted if you make a poor survival roll. Although honestly, I doubt I'd use this one here. The guide has to have been through the area or studied a map of the area to get this nuance.

Okay, so your character knows where to find a bounty board and how to get some information on a bounty. If you don't want them to be able to do that for some particular bounty, don't set that bounty up for them. Last time a character went to a bounty board, they decided against investigating it due to local ruffian types in the area.

I actually find that the backgrounds increase rp, and rp ideas in certain situations. If you want your guild theives to have to roll innuendo checks to talk in secret sign language, so be it. I for one will be using the backgrounds. I love the flavor and don't see the "I don't have to roll" as being the biggest deal. And most of the time it isn't really "I don't have to roll" quite so directly as you have laid it out to be. It 'can' be if you just want to skip past that part of the role play, but it doesn't have to be. Of course, a lot of stuff can be skipped in rp anyway.

I didn't realize that finding an inn or feeding yourself in the wilderness requires thought or roleplay for a group that doesn't want it to require thought or roleplay. It is quite nice to be able to know that you can requsition a horse for borrow as a knight. It makes sense. It doesn't require a roll, you just do it. It makes sense that people are intimidated by known thugs of the underworld who like to hurt others. I wouldn't try to force those guys to pay for food either. Yeah they skip an intimidate check. But so what? That doesn't change the role play of the situation. Just in place of the roll there is an auto success. The degree of that success can still depend on a roll. Which is a lot of what most people do in a group anyway.

As an example, if a player tells a really awesome and convincing story to a person who wants to believe him. He's automatically succeeded. His die roll just tells the degree of his bluff/diplomacy/whatever check.

Currently running a playtest, weekly, online D&D Next Session using a virtual table system called roll20.
I like the backgrounds and this 'bypass.' It is sorta the point. If something is too heavy, then you should probably think about tweaking it. Otherwise it just adds rp and problem solving abilities.

I guess I am too "old school."

To me, "bypass" abilities, auto-success abilities, etc., completely remove RP and problem solving.

If I set them in a seedy town, with dangeorus elements on their tail, subtle currents in the political and religious circles, and detailed NPC personalities to enrich and liven the setting, when the player show's me an "I win" button, a skill or trait that makes all the above inconsiquential, it undermines roleplay and the fun of having a rich environment.

Similarly, if I set up a Tomb of Horrors type dungeon, with logic problems, clever traps, and riddles, only to have another play point to a Auto-Succeed feature, again it's a detriment to the verve of a campaign that isn't just about Attacks vs AC and Damage.

I really don't like this trend to "bypass" DCs, RP, and challenges... and, quite honestly, I think more than a few players prefer to solve the Hobbit Riddle on their own over having it given to them for free.

I could be wrong, or maybe I have a more intellectual group of players, but the majority of them seem to enjoy the chance to think and/or roleplay their way through various trials set before them instead of having the game be decided on whether or not some auto-success feature is in the group.


In addition, in your situations.

seedy town: only the one commoner in your group will be able to get out of that. The rest of the group is on their own luck and rp.  If they're all commoners, well, yeah I guess they could all get out. Which would be pretty lame. A group with all the same background. BORING! I'd probably veto that just out of sheer boredom.

other example: hobbit, tomb of horrors, clever traps, logic problems: what background auto solves these? Mabye I missed one that I should be angry about afterall!
 
Currently running a playtest, weekly, online D&D Next Session using a virtual table system called roll20.
risking earlier comments resurrection, I have to agree with the vast majority of the feedback stated in this thread.  Mages are not too weak (aside from the moderately better starting HP), Rogues are way weaker (& did not need to be tweaked or powered down quite so much in my opinion), Sneak Attack is this version is wrecked; please fix it.  Expertise dice are an interesting idea but it could slow things down a little bit, especially with newer players.  Same goes for the Critical hit rules: it went from far to simple & weak (Max DMG) to a mechanic that changes.  The increasing/scaling part of the critical hits it something I like.  Much of the faster scaling we saw in earlier versions of the game have been cut back or eliminated entirely (many spells).  While I'm not entirely on-board with this I do understantd the math involved and see the logic... it eliminated the "linear fighter vs quadratic mage" dilemma.  Keeps classes fairly well balanced.

Skills really can be condensed.  Perception, Athletics for Balance, Tumbling, Swimming, etc. 

On Guide & Salt of the Earth.  Guide first: can't you know how to survive in multiple types of terrain & environments?  Look at Army Special Forces, Marine Recon or Navy SEALs; they can survive in practically every environment.  Unless running a particular adventure that Survival in an especially harsh environment is part & parcel to the story, why does foraging/trapping/hunting for enough to eat & drink have to take away from the game & role-playing your heroes??  It doesn't & I think that's what the developers had in mind.  Same thing with Salt of the Earth.   Won't work everywhere, especially, oh, say an elf in an all dwarf town... but otherwise, it's a decent mechaninc for some of the more mundance parts of the game.  I always DM that the PCs are the heroes... they don't start out that way but the story is almost entirely centered around them and they need to have a chance to shine.

You guys are right, of course, especially from your more modern point of view.  RPGs are much more mechanics oriented and traits that automate or minimize "mundane" or roleplay elements is the norm.

I am, regretably, an ol' grognard type... prone to awful bouts of "remember the days" and perhaps even a smattering of traditionalism mixed in.  I loved 4E, but find myself hearkening back to the simpler days of OD&D/AD&D for its facile fun.

So I still look at skills as a roleplaying tool, not a crutch.  I look at backgrounds as an opportunity to expand and enrich a character and world, not for mechanics to make play easier or to move the story past the "boring" NPC interactive parts.

I realize that it doesn't quite fit in with a generation that's used to cooldowns on powers that have 100% reliability.  Failure is not supposed to be an option if you have and use various features.  There's elegance in that as well (and I have enjoyed its application myself).

Ironically, what generated the examination of various EASY BUTTON inclusions in Next didn't come from my critical eye, but from a player in one of my campaigns.  He enjoys the Ranger/Scout type, who's outdoor survival skills and adaptability in the wilds is the heart of the roleplay he enjoys most.  He was the one who balked most at the idea that a background circumvented the roleplay and design of his character.  It was no longer about wise decisions on skill selection and careful consideration on ability score placement.  It was all or nothing based on a trait.

Similarly, the clever, from-the-streets Rogue with a Guild Thief background was as a huge disadvantage in her element versus the Commoner Fighter because the street kid didn't have the same auto-win button the common farm boy did.

It's not going to make or break the game and I'm allowing players to use it as they see fit.  That said, I'd still rather see traits as more an augmentation than an automation feature within backgrounds.
I've played D&D for over 20 years and never loved 4E.

I find backgrounds increase role play. The limited scope of 'easy buttons' makes the situation not likely to 'ruin' someone's character. Certainly a guide in a hostile environment still needs his survival to survive. But if he's done his homework (which requires RP), at least he can feed and water a party "for free." Except he already had to do the RP rolls to allow this to even happen.

If your guild rogue is at a 'huge disadvantage' because it doesn't have an auto-win in a guilded city, then there are certainly issues. The fighter is also not 'free and clear' just because he found a place to hide. Just like the rogue wouldn't be. The rogue has several avenues to find a hiding place in a guilded city. Sure, he has to make rolls, but he has a lot more options as well once things go south. In addition, when the fighter is convincing commoners to hide him, there are still some rp moments. While the commoners will do so as he is one, who else over hears? What story does he tell? How does he convey the story? There's plenty of work to be done, even if his "diplo" check is an auto-succeed. 

I'd love to hear about number of instances where the background has auto-won in an ongoing campign where the entire party is involved. More importantly, how often has the same background trait been involved. Because I feel like backgrounds will increase rp.  It hasn't happened in our camps yet. But we haven't traipsed through a wilderness yet (which most certainly would have some auto-wins), or run in our own city yet.  
Currently running a playtest, weekly, online D&D Next Session using a virtual table system called roll20.
Playing a Mountain Dwarf Rogue Guide currently and I haven't found the ability to find food for six people inhibitive to my character's role or my roleplaying.  In fact quite the opposite.  I still have him scout ahead, track suspicious spore, and report back.  But now can say I find food along the way, bits here and there.  It frees the DM from having to focus what I would consider unneccessary time on finding food by rolling and the consequences of us, I guess, starving in a game that's supposed to be about the characters.  In fact we ended up escorting twenty gnomes that we rescued from some orcs and I ended up needing to find food for all of them, by rolling Survival.  I felt the Trait: Wanderer empowered me and made me feel more like a compentent Guide then relying on rolling to find food, failing, and then wondering why I am a guide.  I really liked the idea that my charcter has an eye for terrain and landmarks also.  In short I found none of the Background Traits to be particularly inhibiting to roleplaying but quite the opposite.     
/white flag Tongue Out

As I said, I come from an era that goes as far back as to remember when you didn't even have skills to rely on.  It was all imagination generated.

Suffice to say, it wouldn't work today for most, clearly.

I know this probably sounds awful to some, but there has been a few modules in the past where sources of food and water being limited have been a part of the plot, an obstacle to overcome.  Again, though, taking away that aspect of the adventure isn't likely to ruin it.  There are always other dangers to toss at players.

As for roleplay, it's hard to argue with hyperbole.  I never said backgrounds inhibited roleplay.  In fact, I am on record as saying the introduction of fairly straightfoward, inspirational background options helped stimulate the little grey cells in most cases.  However, like classes (and everything else), just because the majority woks well doesn't mean that within the feature, every single aspect can't be further fine tuned.

At the risk of being criticized for adding unnecessary detail to what's clearly a mundane, useless campaign feature (eating, drinking, keeping track of rations, etc), I am going to offer a possible alternative to the Guide Trait - Wanderer:

As it currently exists
Guide Trait - Wanderer: You have an excellent memory for maps and geography and can always recall the general layout of terrain, settlements, and other features around you.  In addition, you can find food and fresh water for yourself and up to five other people each day, provided that the land offers berries, small game, water, and so forth.

A possible alternative
Guide Trait - Wanderer: You have an excellent memory for maps and geography and can usually recall the general layout of terrain, settlements, and other features around you.  In addition, you can typically find food and fresh water for yourself and up to five other people each day, provided that the land offers berries, small game, water, and so forth.
Benefit: Nature Lore checks to remember terrain, features, and aspects of local geography and places of distinction are made against an Easy (DC 10) difficulty task. Survival checks to find adequate food and water are Trivial (DC 7) for oneself, with additional food being found to feed others for each point success above 9 to a maximum of 4 additional people (thus, a Survival check score of 12 would feed one plus three additional people).  The DM can adjust the DCs accordingly, if circumstances would make either easier or more difficult to succeed at.

Again, before you jump on me for ruining roleplay by introducing possible failure or unnecessary mechanics to the beloved backgrounds, I am just pointing out that it's a possible solution, not a necessary one.

As odd as this sounds, I actually have some players who enjoy the devil in the details.  They like having things like keeping track of Arrows, Sling Bullets, and Rations be a part of their characters maintenance.  Again, I point to Paul who plays a Fighter with Survival as a background, and he put Wisdom as his second highest score to reflect the character's awareness and attention to detail when it came to practicality.  It was he who wanted the element of doubt, skill, and planning to be a part of his characters survival.

I'd have no problem DMing the game as is for all of you who'd prefer to ignore mundane tasks (in fact, I do run at least one campaign where those aspects are completely ignored in favor of more enjoyable aspects to that group of players - quite honestly, my wife strongly dislikes anything that slows down the action or excitement). Even if they introduced possible failure, it wouldn't change my DMing style for groups who don't enjoy minutia - I'd still largly ignore aspects that don't contribute the the enjoyment of the players.

It sounds like, though, they are on the right track with traits that grant infallible benefits.  If it keeps players happy and enthusiastic, I am 100% on board and hope they continue to introduce more no-risk traits.

As the guy who's playing a Thug said, "It's great having to never pay for anything ever again."  He's certainly having fun smashing down doors and smashing up places because he's got a Bad Reputation.  That groups hasn't had to pay for meals, drinks, stays, or damages... ever.

My only thoughts on this two-page side conversation is that in my games "guide" would be useless because we don't track food or water or anything like that.  So regardless of whether or not it's an "I win" or "useless," we all agree this type of mechanic needs some tweaking.


It is similar to the idea of the feat that allows double rolls for HP I called out in my first post.  This is useless if you don't roll for HP, which is not just an optional rule - it's one of two possible rules.  Why account for one and not the other?