Playtest Notes from Players

So. I've compiled a list of comments from my players from the Playtest we ran last Sunday. One was rather vocal (He is very much a 4e player). The others not so much:

The following points were brought up, and are elaborated further.

* Unconventional Wizards should be allowed

* Minimal usefulness of Intelligence in a Wizard.

* Wizard is useless by the end of the day.

* Also, Rogues, Monks, Fighters – back to boring. (He was not playing one at the time)

* Equipment – Quarterstaves are better than warhammers?

* Racial weapons

"As the rules stand, it is impossible to play a heavily armoured battle wizard. The rule is something along the lines of “you can’t cast spells while wearing armour as it is impossible to make the intricate motions necessary for spellcasting while hampered by your armour.” The only purpose I can see for this rule is to prevent wizards from acquiring a high ac, at least without sinking tonnes of points into dex. And it’s ok that they want to make it difficult for a wizard to have high ac. What I don’t like is that as it stands, an entire character concept is completely impossible to play legitimately. It would be easy enough to enable a heavily armoured wizard without unbalancing things, just make a feat that allows wizards to cast spells while wearing any armour they’re proficient in (they’d still need to get proficiency in the armour, so it would still cost them quite a bit to play a heavily armoured wizard as it would take at least that feat and whatever they do to get proficient in the armour).

Alternatively, instead of saying you can’t cast spells while wearing armour, just impose some sort of penalty to spellcasting while wearing armour (say, you get less spell slots per day as you have to expend more energy to make the spell work with simplified hand movements, or your magic attack bonus thingy (I forget what it’s called) and save DCs are reduced by 1 or 2, or if you want to be really harsh give them disadvantage on their spellcasting/their enemies advantage on saves vs them). Aside from limiting player freedom, this rule also makes little sense, given that (as far as I understand the rules) wielding a greataxe or warhammer in both hands (or a shield) has no impact on a wizards spellcasting abilities (even if they’re not proficient in it), even though that would definitely more severely restrict what hand movements they could make far more than armour would. When I mentioned this to the group I was playing with, the DM said something about them being able to cast the magic through the weapon. If this is the case and they can sort of just vaguely gesture with a weapon in place of making complex movements, then surely they could do so while wearing armour. Another thing

On the plus side, it is possible to play a tough wizard, though it does have a cost (as it should). When I rolled my stats I had an 18 and a 16. Instead of putting the 18 into Intelligence, I decided that I would put it into constitution. I also took the Hill Dwarf sub-race, seeing as Mountain Dwarf’s +1 wisdom and benefits with heavy armour were both totally useless to me, giving me +1 con and increasing the size of my hit dice. I then took a +1 con from being a wizard (where I had the choice between +1 con and +1 int). For my 2 feats I chose 2 from the Endurance package, Toughness (in effect increasing the amount of hp I gained per level by a further 1) and another feat the name of which I forget, but which let me roll twice and take the higher result when rolling hitpoints (this one didn’t do much for me, as I only ended up with 2 or 3 extra hitpoints than I already had from taking the average amount of hp each level. So all up I had 20 con, a racial feature increasing the size of my hit dice and 2 feats improving the amount of hitpoints I gained per level, resulting in, at level 5 a wizard with 56 hitpoints, the equal-second-highest in the party I think (more than double our rogue’s). I was still far from being the second-toughest in the party with my 12 AC (14 with mage armour), but it’s far better than a wizard can usually manage."

So he wants Wizards to be able to cast in armour. He doesn't mind if this is accessible through feats - but feels that the character concept should be allowed. 
He did love the fact that he could make the wizard have rediculous HP. Even if it did take a lot of effort to do so.

"This also highlighted the lack of significance of intelligence for a wizard. 16 Intelligence gave me more spells learnt per level than I knew what to do with, and thanks to the ridiculously large attack bonus I had just form being a wizard I was hitting everything with ease anyway. I could have quite comfortably done with 14 Intelligence. With 16 intelligence, I was just as effective a spellcaster as the other, more conventional Elven wizard with his higher intelligence but lower constitution. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not. I like that we have flexibility in our choice of ability scores and that I wasn’t punished severely for my decision to make constitution my highest ability score (although I probably couldn’t have if I hadn’t rolled such a nice array), but I do think that there should be more benefit to maximising the spellcasting ability of a spellcaster. Perhaps half the modifier could be added to damage or something. Or they could have slightly more spells per day based on their score. Or prepare more spells."
So main complaint here is that intelligence didn't seem to matter - it needed to have a real effect in some way. This was partly due to lack of monster defences, I suppose.

"This last option could help with another large problem I have with wizards as they are. By the end of a day, in which I had carefully conserved my spells, I was still out of options for damage other than at-will spells and my quarterstaff. I hadn’t prepared quite as many combat spells as I could have as I had expected a skill-challenge type of day as we had just returned to the city to report to our employer, but preparing only combat spells would only have bought me another 2-3 turns of damaging spells at most. Being that I’m not a super-powerful wizard yet, this is acceptable I guess if you really want to keep that horrible aspect of playing a wizard, but looking at the spells per day per level, it doesn’t look like this gets any better as wizards get more powerful, each level of spell capping out at 2 per day. This means that a level 10 wizard will still only be able to cast 2 level 1 spells per day, even though casting this sort of spell should be as easy as breathing for a wizard of such experience and power, and only a handful more spells per day than my level 5 wizard. The easiest way I can see to fix this is by no means simply, but should be effective. If you allow a wizard to sacrifice a higher level spell slot for multiple spell slots of a lower level (the most simplistic way,

Which does appeal to me, would be to say that a spell slot equals up to its level of spells, so a level 3 spell slot equals either 3 level 1 spells, a level 1 spell and a level 2 spell, or 1 level 3 spell), then wizards are able to manage more spell casts per day, but without being more powerful, and have more freedom to vary their spellcasting to the requirements of the day and personal taste."

 So it sounds like he would appreciate the spell point system here. The At-Will Rituals may also alleviate this a bit... But he wasn't particularly happy with the fact that he ran out of spells, but I felt that they were about right, maybe one more at each level wouldn't have been too bad.

"Another problem from past editions which appears to have come back to haunt us is that rogues, monks, and fighters appear to be pretty boring to play. Every turn, each of these characters did the exact same thing (the monk used whirlwind attack and flurry of blows, the fighter chucked an axe at someone (or if there was someone adjacent to them, hit them with it), and the rogue used spring attack). I’m not entirely sure how the whole expertise dice thing worked, but there didn’t seem to be too much variety in what they did with theirs. The rogue generally parried. The fighter did extra damage (or occasionally used them on saving throws). I can’t remember if the monk had them or used them."

I also felt that the Martial classes all needed something more. The player who played the Monk said that he would have appreciated one or two more maneuvers at first level. The fighter player felt that having an 'Encounter' power or so would have made things a bit appreciated. He did generally just throw axes at things, because that was his best option.

I feel that the Monk needs more options for his Ki... And possibly more uses as well.

"Ok, on to equipment. First off: Quarterstaves are better than warhammers. They do the same amount of damage, have less prerequisites to use, are lighter, cheaper, and allow wielders to choose whether to use dexterity or strength to make attacks with them. I hope I don’t need to explain to anyone how stupid this is in terms of gameplay/balance, realism, or pretty much any way that weapon stats can be bad."

Yeah, I think most people agree that some of the weapons need balancing. I hope the designers get to this sooner or later.

"Secondly, racial weapons. Due to extensive training, the damage dice for axes and hammers were increased for my Dwarf. However, this extensive training was not enough to make him proficient in them. As much as I love the concept of racial weapons, this is just weird."

I agree, give them proficiency as well. This way I can play the longsword weilding High Elf Rogue, or the Axe Weilding Dwarven Wizard . Which are both really cool concepts.

"General combat: Not really a positive or negative, more of an observation on the effects of the lack of a 5 foot step. It really punishes wizards and ranged characters who allow enemies to close with them. As I understand it, they either have to sacrifice both their movement and attack to escape the enemy with the disengage action (and still probably not get further away than they can be chased down) or provoke an opportunity attack (even if they opt for a non-ranged spell). This is brutal.

Also, flanking’s going to be more difficult to set up and escape without a 5-foot step (assuming that flanking gets added in the advanced combat rules and shifting doesn’t), and melee combat will be much more static. None of this is really positive or negative from my point of view at the moment, just general observation on the effects of changes."

Wanted the five foot step back...  

Disengage is an action, so you still get your movement.
I believe the sorcerer is going to return as a warmage and hence have a spellcasting class that does allow you to wear armor while the wizard won't be able to.

In all honesty I think your dm was just making up an answer as holding a weapon should produce the same problem.
you don't really need shift to set up flanking as you can run in circles around a monster without getting an attack of opportunity as long as you don't leave their reach.

* Unconventional Wizards should be allowed

Most different ways to handle wizards are better done by creating a new class. Warlocks, Sorcerers and other arcane casters are already going to have a hard enough time becoming unique without wizards becoming maultifaceted.

* Minimal usefulness of Intelligence in a Wizard.

They are trying to get away from one-stat-to-rule-them-all design that has plagued the last 4 editions. It is odd that you complain wizards are not varied enough and then want any idea of not maxing Int in every build to be discouraged.

* Wizard is useless by the end of the day.

Not at all. They have signature spells which give them back a daily every 10 minutes, and they have Rituals. Just completely wrong on this point.

* Also, Rogues, Monks, Fighters – back to boring. (He was not playing one at the time)

Not boring, simple. There's a difference. That is why there are so many classes. Some players don't enjoy spending a lot of time managing dozens of abilties and would rather just hit things over and over. There should be a class for them too.

* Equipment – Quarterstaves are better than warhammers?

You're comparing a two-handed weapon to a one-handed one. I think we're done here.

* Racial weapons

There is no reason to give proficiency. Why would a dwarf wizard be proficient in Axes? He would never have use for one. If you want to use an Axe, you'll be playing a class that gets proficiency in them anyway.
Races should grant proficiency. A dwarf wizard who has taken the time to learn how to fight with a quaterstaff can just as easily have learned how to use a hammer or axe given how much dwarfs like them. But perhaps a wizard is a stretch. There are still other classes that would easily have learned their weapons especially elves and dwarfs with their long lives. It also gives more meaning to race.
A compromise on racial weapons:
gain proficiency, if class grants proficiency, then gain bonus. 

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of any failed saving throw, including but not limited to petrification, poison, death magic, dragon breath, spells, or vorpal sword-related decapitations.

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