Posts in for the previous playtests can be found here, here, and here. Warning: these are all very long.
(*Asterisks mark points I consider particularly important.)
How to Play
The rules for falling look good.
The new grappling rules look good.
*I'm glad to see that PCs no longer get a bonus to critical hits.
The bonus for critting with a weapon is interesting... okay. I suppose that makes sense.
The new Two-Weapon Fighting rules, while better than the old ones, have problems of their own. Damage is dictated by the light weapon? This leads to some nonsense situations. For example, a TWFer with a magical shortsword and nonmagical longsword is inexplicably more powerful than one with a nonmagical shoertsword and magical longsword.
Nat-20 on death saving throws to get back up? I'm not sure how I feel about this... May be better as an optional rule.
Holy and Unholy damage types are gone. Yay!
Descriptions for damage types: sure.
>I prefer simple “positive” and “negative” to “radiant” and “necrotic”. It makes them feel more like forces of the universe.
The rewritten rules for ethereal seem unnecessary. “As part of its move, an ethereal creature can pass through...” Is this now implying that they can't stay in an object when not moving? And if so, why not?
Casting in armor requires proficiency in it: Approved!
Attacking without proficiency: Okay. I don't see why it can't be canceled out by advantage, though.
*So you do stop getting feats at 9th level... I do not like this. Feats are the primary mechanical mode of fine-tuned character individuality; more is better, not less.
Background and Skills
*Skill dice are interesting... I like the concept.
You can now prepare a number of spells per day equal to your level. Okay.
*Channel Divinity is back. Yay
*>Channel Magical Might is very, very powerful... Too much so, I think.
>In channeling positive and negative energies, why is healing stronger than damage?
*>Polymorph may be a tad powerful to be giving away as a free spell (Channel Trickery)
*“Your choice might reflect a focus on only one particular aspect of that deity, which might coorespond to a particular sect dedicated to that deity. Thus, two clerics serving the same sun god might make different choices for the purpose of this class feature.” Hooray!
Deities are open-ended, but have examples. Nice.
*Whoa, am I misreading something or are all domain spells infinitely-castable? Because that would be broken beyond all measure... I'm assuming it just means they're always prepared once per day, and that the wording is just ambiguous.
*The Lightbringer is even more overpowered now. Not only is Lance of Faith still free, but now it can be used as a reaction whenever attacked, and as an opportunity attack? This is bad. Very bad.
*The Trickster: Minor Illusion is very powerful as an at-will...
*Speaking of which, Cantrips are at-will again. I believe this is a big step backwards. Magic is too powerful, and too easily abused when it is free, even at such a low level. It intrudes upon, and makes redundant significant parts of adventuring.
Clerics get Expertise Dice now. Okay. I would say it further exacerbates the problem of clerics being too good all-around, but it looks like damage has gone up in general.
>Also, their attack bonuses have gone down, which is good.
>And no save DC bonus anymore? This I thought was fine, but okay.
The rules for spending dice aren't as explicit as they are for fighters.
*Now there are even more deities with offensive spells. So long as clerics have offensive spells comparable to a wizard's, either they will be overpowered, or the wizard will be underpowered. Clerics simply have too much in their package to balance otherwise.
*Words of Power appear to no longer exist (ostensibly, considering some spells are still marked as such). If so this is very, very good (particularly relating to Cure spells).
Orisons are now called Cantrips just like with the wizard. Awww, why? Diversity is better than simplicity.
Expertise/Martial Dice have gone up since last time, but attack bonus has gone down. Fair enough.
*Perhaps a more steady increase on the Martial Damage Bonus, rather than jumping up by a whole 5 every few levels? The more smoothed out progression becomes the better, in my opinion. Makes more sense, and is more realistic.
*I don't like the Martial Damage Bonus in general. There's no variance with it, and it's all-or-nothing on a single enemy. I think it would be much better to treat it more like Martial Dice, where the damage is rolled and can be divided between enemies.
>I think it may have been a poor idea to separate it from Martial Dice in general. Fighters now have to make less of a choice between damage and utility; they can do high damage every turn even without spending dice on it. I do not like this. Perhaps remake Martial Damage Bonus to work like Parry does now? Or have special 'damage dice' that can only be spent on damage (and not maneuvers)?
Parry is now a class feature. As far as I can tell, the only reason this was done was so that Skill Dice can be included as well. Okay.
There's a strange asymmetry between offense and defense on the fighter currently. Defense draws from the same pools required to do maneuvers and skills, while offense draws from maneuvers and a dedicated damage pool. I'm not sure how I feel about this.
Extra attack is gone. I think this was fine... It just doesn't mesh well with the new Martial Damage Bonus system(which I already stated I think is problematic).
**Combat Surge: Aw no. Please don't bring dailies back to the fighter. Please, please, please don't. Please.
*Overall, I really don't like the changes to the fighter...
*A monk's raw damage output is identical to a fighter's?! That's not right.
*All the same issues with the fighters' Martial Damage Bonus apply here too.
Monks are simply too powerful. I like all the little bonuses they get as they level, that's what a monk's about, but that they can dish out damage like a fighter on top of that is just too much.
Abundant Step and Empty Body are too powerful for at-wills, in my opinion.
Quivering Palm works differently than it used to. Now it's no longer a remote-trigger bomb, but a time bomb with a short and unstable clock. The traditionalist in me is fighting this, but objectively I guess it's okay.
**>Except that there's no way to stop it. So long as the monk is free to act, a creature will eventually fail enough saves and die. I propose that three successful saves will end the effect, however, the monk does not need to continually force the saves to happen and can prolong the duration for up to a week.
*The Martial Damage Bonus is creating far more reliable damage for fighters and monks than exists elsewhere. Monks get even furtherly reliable damage via some of their ki abilities. I don't think I like this... why is martial damage, which can be done all throughout a fight, more reliable than spell damage, which is highly limited? One more reason against Martial Damage Bonuses...
*The rogue now deal equivalent damage to the fighter as well? Shouldn't a rogue be rewarded for craftiness and situational play, but unable to stand toe-to-toe with a true fighter? There seems to be a lot of mechanical homogenization going on between classes. I don't like it. :/
Skill Mastery is now a class feature, and simply gives the equivalent of advantage on all skills (I suspect it doesn't just say advantage so it can stack with natural advantage, this is good). This equalizes the benefit across all rogue levels. I guess it does prevent absurdly high rolls at higher levels.
Schemes now grant a special ability (“talents”). Cool.
Is assassin simply going to be a scheme for rogues? I was under the impression it was being brought back as its own class.
*Assassinate deals double damage on a failed save rather than death. While this leads to damage sufficient to instantly kill a good number of targets, I think this would be better as an actual save-or-die. Four reasons:
1. Assassins are all about bypassing defenses. However, resistances still apply in this case. They're about pinpoint precision, and would rather focus the energy to put a needle through the heart than an axe through the chest. The current approach more closely resembles the latter.
2. Part of the fun of being an assassin was know you had a chance, even if a highly circumstantial one, to kill anything that has a weak point instantly. It's why people play assassins. This removes the chance, however large or small, to instantly fell giants, and thus a lot of the fun of being an assassin.
3. Tradition and thematics. If true save-or-dies belong anywhere in the game, anywhere at all, it's here, with the class and specialization revolving around killing instantly.
4. The mechanics of it conflict with the flavor and archetype: It incentivizes assassinating with something like a greatsword rather than something like a dagger.
>Also, assassinate should have a clause that the target can be aware of your presence, so long as they do not recognize you as an enemy.
Slippery Target mentions melee attacks in the first line, but switches to talking about opportunity attacks midway through.
*Sneak Attack and Assassinate cannot be possessed by the same character? 'Tis a sad day for assassins indeed.
*The option to customize your own rogue scheme has been removed??
Uncanny Dodge: this looks good.
*Ace in the Hole: While I'm more accepting of it on rogues than fighters, I'm still sad to see dailies return to the rogue. What's more, I'm sad that even more guaranteed-effect options are here. Most such things had been removed by last playtest, and I dared to hope they wouldn't return. 100% certainty is bad. It breeds exploitation and challenges verisimilitude.
Detect Noise should still require a check to hear them in the first place. It doesn't make sense to know their location if they're not actually making enough noise, regardless of whether they're trying to conceal themselves or not.
*Taunt has all sorts of logical problems. I really dislike the idea of 'mind control' non-magical abilities. Anything that compels a creature to spend its action in a designated way that isn't actual, magical, forced control runs into countless problems when put into the context of a coherent story.
>Charming Presence skirts dangerously close to this as well. It doesn't actually force an action, though I still think it's a poor rule and should be removed.
I'm not particularly fond of how sections of the text switch from talking in third person about the world to talking in second person to the character. It's awkward. This is present throughout the playtest materials, but is particularly obvious under the Spellcasting section for the wizard. If the second person is to be used, at least talk to the player. Reading the rules in-character is like turning the fourth-wall into a mobius strip.
*As mentioned with clerics, Cantrips should not be at-will. They're still too strong.
*Wizards get very few spells-per-day, considering that it's the only meaningful thing they can do. Granted, arcane magic is powerful, but it's not so powerful that the class can be so skeletal in comparison to the cleric and barely have more spells to use.
*Wizard spells are not expended when cast anymore. While this is a significant power-boost to the wizard, I feel it's a move in the wrong direction. Wizards are supposed to be a class that needs to, but is rewarded for thinking ahead. They now play more like clerics, or like 3.X sorcerers did, which is fine in its own right, but not the wizard.
*School of Evocation and School of Illusion are much, much weaker than Scholarly Wizardry
Signature Spell is gone. This is for the better.
Advancing from level 17 to 20 as a wizard is relatively underwhelming.
Nice specifications for Antimagic Field and Astral Projection.
Can one use Astral Projection to send a body into the same plane their real body is in?
The elimination of gold costs on rituals is fine, considering most of them still have significant other requirements.
**Augury, Divination, Remove Curse, Identify, and True Seeing need more cost for their rituals. Otherwise players will just cast Augury before every single action taken, use Divination every single day, curses become nothing but a minor inconvenience, the mystery of magical items is gone forever, and all illusion and darkness effects become meaningless.
*I very much like the “special” section of just about every spell that has it.
*Some spells can be cast at higher levels. Hooray! Now they don't go obsolete!
Ooo, Chain Lightning can target unattended objects. I like.
I like the effects of Clone
Create Water is a 1st level spell now. So long as cantrips remain at-will, I like it better this way.
*Destruction is a nice spell in effect, but once again, the cleric is making the wizard obsolete by having comparable spells in addition to much stronger class features. Disintegration may be a level lower, but it does nothing on a successful save, and destroys equipment. The utility provided is not enough, especially considering how spell-strapped casters are.
>Harm is in a similar place
I like the location-based effects of Earthquake!
*Firestorm and Flame Strike, again, render the wizard nearly obsolete. I understand the need for clerics that can rain fire and brimstone, but it needs to be done without breaking the balance of power.
*Hm, I quite like the solution to the save-or-die problem in Flesh-to-Stone. Flavorful, sensical, not unfair, and drives action. Great!
Summoning via Gate now requires the creature's true name. Okay. This helps balance and gives story opportunities.
Invisibility ends if you cast the spell again. Why? If a caster wants to blow half-a-dozen precious spell slots to invis the party, why shouldn't they be able to?
Magic Missile had its number of darts doubled, and the overall damage slightly lowered. Why? I figure its so that 1st and 2nd level wizards can target multiple enemies, but meh, I like it better the old way. It's actually fun having your trusty little single-target pea-shooter at low levels. The ability to hit multiple opponents is just a bonus as you level.
*So long as cantrips are at-will, Minor Illusion cannot be one of them. It is incredibly powerful as an at-will, easily brokenly so.
Otto's Irresistable Dance works on its own saving throws. I like this. Keeps it from being little more than an expensive, more humiliating version of Hold Monster. :P
I absolutely love the ritual for Regenerate.
True names evolve. Interesting. I like it. It helps prevent them from becoming abusive.
Planar Ally's costs are ultimately DM discretion. Hooray!
*(Aside from the offensive cleric spells,) the new high-level spells are all pretty good.
I just noticed, Polymorph specifies “The new form can be any beast...” (emphasis mine). This is a pretty good way to prevent a lot of Polymorph abuse.
Prismatic Spray no longer has an insanity option. Sad face. There's also a White option now instead of two rays. Eh...
There's a Mass Suggestion, but no regular Suggestion? I figure that will change.
Mass Suggestion doesn't force you be creative with your wording the way it used to. I think the reintroduction of that would be a great flavor boost.
*Teleport now needs fixed destinations, and Greater Teleport now functions more like the old Teleport. Okay, I like it.
Time Stop has more stringent rules. Okay.
True Ressurection requires a Commune first. Cool.
Wish has different specifications. Okay.
*Wish's limitations are good, but like raising the dead, I think they need to have an experience drain reinstated. Otherwise periods of long downtime become periods of 'the wizard is going to play god for free now'.
Some spells are still marked as being Words of Power, despite that no longer existing in the rules elsewhere. I really hope this is just a remnant and they are actually gone.
There are fewer Maneuvers overall now; some have been sniped for the rogue's new Skill Tricks, and rogues no longer have access to these. I'm not sure how I feel about this.
*Bull Rush requires no check? This is not good.
Deflect Arrows is handled really nicely
Disarm deals damage as normal? Maybe if you're literally “disarming” them... It's also very powerful this way, too much so.
*Whoa, Flurry of Blows is waaay too strong. Especially considering the Martial Damage Bonus. If the attacks were made with disadvantage, this would make more sense, but as it stands this utterly breaks the already-powerful monk.
There may ought to be rules for pushing enemies into walls. For something like Hurricane Strike, the force to push a frost giant 60 ft. ought to be worth something when used to send a goblin into a wall.
*Rapid Shot's description and its mechanics don't line up. If you're firing two shots, why do they have to be at different targets? It's also completely redundant with Volley.
*Hurricane Strike and Step of the Wind should really be ki powers, not maneuvers. Maybe Iron Root Defense as well. Or at least they should have the ability to use ki as a prerequisite.
Specialties and Feats
I like the new presentation of the specialties.
Unlike other specialties, Hedge Magician comes pre-loaded with character background, not just suggestions. This kind of flavor really belongs in Backgrounds, not Specialties.
Does Ambush benefit Assassinate? Because technically as-written it does not.
Charge has strangely circumstantial rules. In a cluttered room you may be able to charge climbing over a pile of trash, but in a clear room you can't even make a swerve?
Deflect has strange rules as well. Consider how it interacts with the Lunge maneuver.
Relentless seems to only make the strong stronger. Flurry of Blows and other multi-attack options are already so powerful
Restore Life really ought to have a check associated with it... though it probably is for groups that simply hate character death
“Shield Bash” sounds like a different action than its rules imply
More options for armor, though some are strictly better than others, save cost. Okay.
I like that speed and stealth penalties are no longer synonymous with weight category.
“Finesse” and “Heavy” have been converted into weapon properties. I like.
I just noticed, the wording of the “Reach” property is awkward, and when taken literally does not work as intended. Think of how it interacts when dual-wielding, or using Reach for something other than attacking with that weapon. A simple rewording could fix this.
“A thrown weapon lands in a spot of the attacker's choice within 5 feet of the target.” Really? Of the attacker's choice? Controlling ricochet like that is even harder than hitting with the weapon. This should be random.
I like the Versatile property.
There's a special weapons category now. Okay.
Weapon groups are gone. Why? they were looking like they would become part of a better proficiency/weapon bonus system.
No scythe anymore?
How to Play
*There's no penalty for using ranged weapons or spells in melee? Why bother with melee weapons or touch spells at all?
*The Ethereal state makes no sense at the moment. Ghosts can pass through something freely, unless it's being used in an attack where they can somehow only “half” pass through it.
*Attack spells still use your magic modifier instead of Dexterity. This doesn't make much sense, and rewards putting all of one's eggs in one basket. What, exactly, does a “magical attack bonus” represent? (Granted Dex is strong enough as it is, but I'd hope there can be other was to address that.)
Still no rules for blind-fire (attacking with non-area attacks by guessing location). This is something people will try to do.
I'd still like to see a return of degrees of the Fear condition.
*The True Neutral alignment still does not have its passive incarnation, that is, the person who just happens to be balanced, but isn't a crusader about it. A great deal of characters fit into that descriptor,but have no representation at the moment. Alternatively, the definition of “Unaligned” can be adjusted to include this.
Ability scores are still advanced 2 at a time. Why not separately, but twice as often? Is it just to ensure that the same ability score isn't raised twice in a row, because I don't think that's too hard to remember
Low-light vision and Darkvision are still one and the same. Still not sure I like this...
*I really, really think racial weapon proficiencies should be actually proficiencies and not damage bonuses to certain weapons. All this does is choice-trap entire races.
For the Dwarven Toughness feature, it's worth noting that 2d6 does not follow the increase progression of the average (+.5 whereas each previous step is +1), and it does not have the same degree of randomness as the other Hit Dice options. Lacking a d14, there isn't a perfect way around this, but d12+1 is probably a more consistent option.
It's still uncertain if Elves are aware of their surroundings while in trance.
*The Halfling Nimbleness feature is problematic. Either it implies that something the size of a human can't move between something the size of a giant's legs, or it's meaningless, neither of which is good. I suggest opening up movement of this type to all creatures, however halflings take no penalty for it, and may use it on creatures only one size larger than them (whereas others could only do it if the opponent is several sizes larger).
*Fearless should be converted into a check (even if an easy one), rather than automatic. It would add some variation to it. Certainty breeds exploitation, and challenges verisimilitude.
I'd still like to see the human's ability score bonuses lessened so that they can have an extra trained skill or two as another racial feature. It highlights their diversity and makes the race a little less one-dimensional. (Not to mention it is currently impossible to have a human with an ability score of 3 because of this. Those are always fun, and no race should be deprived of such poor souls)
Taking average HP, because it rounds up every level instead of every other level, is statistically a better option than rolling. Rounding down on even levels and up on odd levels would put it more in line with the random option (which is still technically worse, since low HP hurts more than high HP helps)
It may be a good idea to throw in that the DM has the ultimate say on whether a spell is allowed or not, rather than giving wizards (and clerics) 100% free reign in their choices. Most of the time this isn't a problem, but there are those who pick spells just to exploit unintended synergies, and sometimes certain spells just aren't suitable for the campaign.
*I don't like Battlefield Concentration, particularly because it further presses the problem that clerics are better combat casters than wizards, despite having more abilities otherwise.
**Clerics are better combat casters than wizards, despite having more abilities otherwise.
*Continuing recommendation: At-wills should function like reserve spells from 3.5, where you must have a similar spell of higher level yet-unspent to be able to use it. It's a good way to preserve at-wills while still allowing the possibility of total burnout.
Fun as it may be, Minor Illusion is very abusable as an at-will
Blink's description still seems to conflict with How to Play's version of Ethereal regarding damage from non-ethereal sources. I hope this is resolved in favor of Blink's version.
Still no counterspelling option?
*Cure spells should not be ranged. It removes the drama of rushing to a fallen ally, and the danger that should accompany it. Even Sanctuary's description thinks so!
*Lance of Faith is still illegitimizing weapons and wizards everywhere. The mitigation to this problem brought on by last playtest's rendering of it non-daily to most clerics has now been reverted and it is once again a huge problem.
Mage Hand: “Many wizards use mage hand to retrieve components from their pouches while leaving their keeping free.” “While the hand is present, you can control it as an action.” Why would a wizard need to retrieve components if doing so would take an action, and thus they would not be able to cast a spell?
Prestidigitation lacks the open-endedness it once had. I'd like to see it also come with a line stating that it may be used for other minor effects as well at DM discretion.
*Raise Dead's material component cost is only 1/10 of what it used to be. This new price is waaay too cheap. It also no longer comes with a significant penalty (negative modifiers for 4 days is nothing), which is also bad. This grossly trivializes character death!
*I always thought spells like Lesser Restoration and Remove Curse should have more significant costs... once characters reach mid-level these spells eliminate any kind of 'long-term' affiliation the party may have within minutes after it was acquired. Some such afflictions can be truly debilitating, and so the option to remove them should exist, just make it less trivial.
*Sanctuary: “Clerics sometimes cast sanctuary on themselves to move to injured opponents or to cast more challenging spells without the risk of interference from their opponents.” ...Well, the first point is meaningless now that Cure spells are ranged, and the second point is meaningless now that clerics have Battlefield Concentration. I'm hoping this conflict is resolved in favor of Sanctuary's wording.
Zone of Truth has too low a ritual time and cost. It's very easy for a party to set this up constantly before social meetings.
Levitate and Wall of Fire are lingering example of spells whose descriptions dictate player actions rather than spell effects. I'd like it if the descriptions were reworded.
Feather Fall is still vvvvvveeeeeerrrrrryyyyyy sssssslllllloooooowwwwww (6x slower than in previous editions).
Feats and Specialties
Ambush's ability for ranged attacks that miss to be unnoticed doesn't make much sense... If it's supposed to represent waiting to strike until their back is turned or something, there should be a bit of DM discretion in there, and a chance of failure for the ability, because under certain circumstances this is completely implausible. The other end of the feat is okay.
*>A good way to fix the Ambush feat may be to have it allow you to make a hide check, rather than automatically go unnoticed.
I'd really like to see familiars given their (pathetic) attacks back.
*Familiars are still encouraged to be treated like disposable scouts. There should be some substantiate penalty for their death. Once upon a time familiar death could even cripple the master; now it's a 30 minute wait before the next suicide run.
The lack of proficiency feats, and higher-level magic feats looks to be making a spellsword impossible, given the current options.
Backgrounds and Skills
The Thug's Bad Reputation trait doesn't really make sense as a 100% global effect. There should be some DM discretion as to where the reputation has, and has not spread to (of course, the character can always broaden those horizons manually...)
*Ultimately, the world is created and run by the DM. Because traits are a mechanical link to the world, a simple comment that the DM has final discretion over whether a trait applies in a given situation is important to avoid conflict.
Charlatan: It's ambiguous as to whether they can forge anyone's handwriting as long as they have a sample, or only one person's.
*I don't like “Forbidden Lore” as its own skill. It's very nebulous, and the parts of it that aren't could fit in just fine under Religious Lore. (Fun fact: The very first check made in my group for the very first playtest was: Forbidden Lore: King's Sex Life)
*Is Drive really necessary as a separate skill from Handle Animal (and Ride)? I don't imagine many people will be taking it anyway.
*Shields are all lumped together (no tower shield even?), and far less useful than they should be. I really don't like this.
*The usefulness of heavier armor has definitely moved in the right direction, although I would argue for even a little more. As it stands, a person with 20 Dex can still be in light armor and match a person in Plate. Sure, the person has 20 Dex - that's huge! - but because Dex is so widely useful it makes a high Dex-based warrior just plain better than a high-Str based warrior (no stealth penalty, not slower, better initiative, less weight, better with ranged weapons, and can use finesse weapons for melee; heavy weapons are the only advantage to Str). Heavy armor could be one of the factors that helps balance this. Re-introducing something like the 1.5x Str bonus for two-handing could be another.
*The light crossbow has been moved to simple weapons: good! But the other crossbows should still be there with it. Slow reload is more than enough penalty.
*And the Shortbow should be a martial weapon.
Some similar creator details give benefits while others do not. Compare: Elemental (Air) to Elemental (Fire).
I don't know if the ability to stack Dancing Swords is intentional, but I know I'd do it given half the chance. The idea is cool enough that I kind of want it to stay, though I recommend requiring atunement to keep things from getting completely out of hand (No pun intended). Granted, for this to work in the first place, you need to find multiples of the same rare magic item.
*A Potion of Longevity should be Very Rare. These are things entire plots can revolve around. I'd also like to see some hinting that they are sometimes rumored to be created via very... unsavory means, and that knowledge of their use might upset some greater powers.
Can Bracers of Defense and Mage Armor stack? Their wording seems to imply not, but it's not wholly clear.