First session

I got the latest packet last week, was pretty intrigued by the game so far, and got together a few people from my regular roleplay group and other friends to try it out.

In the interest of providing a helpful spectrum of opinions, I had three players: one with years of experience playing and running a multitude of systems and even building some of his own, one experienced mostly in 3.5 and Pathfinder, and one complete novice. We'll soon be bringing in a veteran of 2nd edition as well. I've played 3.5 for years and jumped to Pathfinder when it came out; I didn't like 4th edition at all, but I'm not here to start an edition war, just to help make a great new edition that hopefully we can all enjoy.

Here's what I really like about 5th edition so far:


  • Saving throws: in 3rd edition, with all the save bonuses from your class and feats, your stats hardly even matter after a certain point. On the other hand, in 4th edition you could pick between two skills for each save (or "defense"), meaning you could have three good stats and three abysmal stats and still be adequately defended from everything. Using all of your stats for saving throws is a great idea, I think. It forces you to work with a character that has definite strengths and weaknesses and should make it more difficult to create an overpowered character.

  • Skills: same thing, really, in 3.5 you could end up with so many skill ranks that it becomes virtually impossible to fail a DC, while this also pushes up the DCs so for a skill you aren't trained in, it becomes virtually impossible to pass something else in order to balance a party. And I just found skills completely overcomplicated in 4th edition. This system is very simple, but looks like it could be balanced for all levels and all situations because it's so simple. Again, ability scores are the most important numbers, just like with saving throws, so using a skill untrained is not a hopeless endeavor, but because the DCs don't increase as much as before, the small bonuses you get from training really make a difference still and make it worth it to train in a skill.

  • Character creation: so far character creation has never been easier, partially because it doesn't take half an hour to assign 24 skill ranks to your new character. The backgrounds are a good way to speed it up further, and the other bits of roleplay flavor from your background that don't assist you in combat are a great new feature.

  • Races: I really like the racial features. Increasing damage die for weapon familiarity makes sense to me. Rather than race significantly affecting your stats, it's usually just a +1, with your class giving another +1. This makes sense because your training is mroe likely to shape what kind of person you are than what race you were born as. I like how every race has sub-races, that will add a lot of variety to the game. Humans have always been my preferred race, now they get no extra class features but increase all ability scores; that's interesting, not sure how I feel about it; I think it's balanced, though.

  • Separate weapon attack and magic attack modifiers: that's something that's been needed for a while. It doesn't make sense for a Wizard to be able to swing a sword as well as a Fighter like in 4th edition, but giving them a much smaller attack bonus in 3rd edition made it difficult to hit with your precious, limited spells. Using strength for a touch attack made no sense at all; how strong do you have to be to reach over and poke someone? Using dexterity for ranged touch attacks made some sense because you had to "aim" the spell, but then again many ranged touch spells were targeted and couldn't hit anything else on a miss like an arrow might have. I just hated 4th edition's magic attacks, where every single spell had to be an attack roll. Having a separate magic attack modifier roughly on par with a warrior class's weapon attack modifier, using the casting stat for magic attacks, and having both target the same AC should be perfectly balanced, in theory.

  • Smaller numbers in general: I think this is the right direction to take. A +5 attack bonus at 20th level instead of a +20, so upper level enemies don't need armor class in the 30s to be challenging.

  • Better armor options for light and medium: full plate is still the ultimate in defensive technology, but light armor users aren't stuck with leather forever and can improve their AC a bit when they get rich.

  • Natural healing: I rather like the default system, in which you can roll your hit die during a short rest, more than any of the variants, but I like how the DM has options too, and I hope the general layout of the game will have multiple rues options elsewhere. In comparison, natural healing was a grueling and almost useless process in 3rd and below, making the party rely heavily on healing magic and potions, especially at a low level, while in 4th edition the healing surges made it far too easy to recover and devalued healing magic's usefulness in my opinion.

  • Finesse and ranged weapons: I always thought having to take a feat to wield a rapier with your dex instead of strength was extraneous, and I'm glad it's just automatic now; that's something that should just come with your class training, not extra training on top of it. I also like that dex can apply to damage rolls for finnesse and ranged weapons, as if you can aim better and target vital points rather than just hitting harder. This makes an agile fighter a viable character compared to a meathead.

  • Magic items: one of my favorite things about the packet. I'd stuck to the item slots for a long time, but it really doesn't make sense that you couldn't wear two necklaces before. The attunement system balances this and prevents players from wearing a whole museum of magical artifacts. The new descriptions of magic weapons based on the creature that created them are awesome and will make it seem like you're really getting something special.

  • Spells: I'm liking it so far. 3rd edition casting rules were a bit limited for classes who prepared spells, because you always ended up in a situation where you could really, really use one of your spells, but didn't prepare it that day. My favorite new addition is the rituals. They allow you to cast a spell you haven't prepared, but not in combat. Also, the at-will spells for combat prevent casters from running out of useful spells. I was worried about the at-will cantrips and orisons being abused, like when my cleric wanted to just cast cure minor wounds until he was at full health while resting, but then I noticed that the spell only works if the target has less than 3 HP remaining. What a great way to balance it! I'm glad there are still spell slots, though, because the way 4th edition relegated all spells to at-will, encounter or daily powers really limited your options I thought. I also like how now preparing-casters can use their spell slots for anything they have prepared instead of having each slot tied to a particular spell. I'm awaiting the Sorcerer to see how spontaneous casting is handled.



A few things I'm maybe not crazy about:



  • Critical hits: crits just ran rampant from behind my screen because I no longer need to confirm them (if I understand the rules). But mine were just max damage from monsters' attacks. The players' damage bonus kind of makes them far superior to non-player characters and monsters, to the extent that it imbalances the game. Critical hits (and critical misses) should continue to be an integral part of the game as the greatest moment of triumph in a battle, but players should be vulnerable to them as well.

  • Armor options are very limited at the beginning. Hopefully that's just because it's a simple playtest document, and the game will include a variety of armors for all types.

  • I think the stealth skills should come with the Rogue class. One of my players created a Rogue focusing more on the charisma-based skills and ended up with no bonus to sneaking, which has always been a staple of the rogue/thief type.

  • Turn undead isn't all that great of a class feature, I think Clerics should get something else as well that can be useful in more situations. So far I don't think the Cleric's features stack up with the other classes.

  • I'm not sure I understand encounter building with the new monster level system. I had three players at level 1 so I put them against 3 Goblins, which are level 1 monsters, seemed like the thing to do; but they slaughtered them in one round. So I tried six Goblins next time; the entire party almost died. Three fire beetles seemed about right, though, maybe Goblins are just weak as always, so maybe the game should still have CRs lower than 1 for really weak creatures.



And a few questions:



  • Will there be exotic weapons in the game? I noticed some previously exotic weapons like the spiked chain have been reclassified as martial and racial exotic weapons have been replaced by the racial weapon familiarity features to increase a standard weapon's damage die. That could work for racial weapons, but as someone who likes playing fighters, exotic weapons are my favorites, and I hope they're included.

  • Will all of the classes from 3rd edition be made in 5th edition? I thought it was a very good set of base classes. I'm glad that it sounds like the Warlock will be a permanent addition to the set of base classes, and it sounds like the Warlord might too, which was one of the best things in 4th edition. I hope it has a lot of base classes to choose from.

  • Will we get completely ripped off this time around? 3rd edition books were about $20 and the three core rulebooks gave you everything you needed to play. In 4th edition, the first player's handbook hardly gave you anything and the content that was in the old player's handbook was spread out over three books which each cost $35 or so. I think the main reason the game failed financially was that players don't like being exploited. While most players like to have an actual book in their hands, we aren't above pirating the books if they're overpriced. A set of three core rulebooks is the way to go.

Welcome to the boards!  Nice report.  The monster math is definitely something that WoTC will be working on in the future.  They haven't really addressed those issues yet other than trying out a couple of new monster abilities.   

Keep playtesting.  See what happens as the PCs level up.

Cheers.     

A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

Good report (though you got a lot of 4E stuff wrong, but that's not worth discussing). I agree with you wholeheartedly on most points.

Weapons: I wouldn't worry about that too much.  Right now, we certainly have a lot to choose from but I'd expect we'll see expansions to it with additional supplements when the time comes.  For now, I would suggest just working out with your DM what you'd like to use and just renaming something that already exists that's similar or at least would reflect weight and damage.

Creatures: Yeah.  The main problem with the Bestiary is with the heavy weight being put on damage... adding more creatures significantly ups the threat level because of the increased chances of an attack finding the mark.  Though, I must say, there had to be some bad luck involved because 6 Goblins slaughting 3 1st level PCs shouldn't happen all that often.

I honestly think creature damage should be reduced a bit to allow for more dynamic fights with more give and take.

Core Rulebooks: I think we'll see similar to what we have gotten with every edition (4E included).  A good solid set of Core Books that will be very playable followed by a number of supplemental books to expand on the core.  As for pricing, I am sure they'll do their best to balance profitability and affordability (along with quality).  The truth of the matter is that everything today is more than it was 10 or 20 years ago so it's hard to compare what it cost to play AD&D with what it'll cost to play 5E.

Hopefully, no one will be reduced to pirating because it hurts all of us D&D enthusiasts in the long run.
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