Long Playtest Rules Feedback post (Dec. 17 2012 version + Barbarian), and feedback from playtests

Because it takes me longer to process rules and organize a playtest than many, this feedback is for the December 17, 2012 version of the packet, rather than the January 28 packet. The only exception is the barbarian class, which I included because one of my players was particularly interested in it. If any of the issues I mention were fixed in the rest of the January 28 updates, feel free to say so.

I approached these rules with as fresh a perspective as possible. As in my previous playtest post (last July), I have avoided reading most of the feedback posted by others, so my issues might already be widely known and discussed. (I did review my previous post before writing this up, however.)

This first (and longest) post will be on the Dec. 17 packet, and later posts will be on the playtests I've run so far.

Warning, this post is going to be very detailed. There's a lot of material to review, after all. It's also a bit less organized than my old post, because this took so long to write up.

If I didn't comment on something, that usually meant I was OK with it.


GENERAL COMMENTS

The rules are much more complicated than they were in July. The sheer number of options and variables to track is honestly a bit overwhelming, and I had to page back and forth a lot between the many documents to find mundane things like unarmed damage or when you can take a reaction. Some summary charts throughout the rules would help a lot with this problem.

In particular, character creation takes a very long time. Considering my fellow gamers' limited time to play, this was a big problem. If the character sheet PDF had been editable, or better yet had included drop-down menus to automatically plug in ability and race and class and specialty and background info, it would have helped massively. I hope something like that is available freely to potential players when D&D Next is officially released.

Those two issues - the greater complexity and the time involved in character creation - make me honestly worried the game won't be accessible to the casual gamer.


HOW TO PLAY

General comments:


  • I approve of the explicit endorsement of gameplay styles that DON'T use miniatures.

  • I still love advantage and disadvantage.

  • I didn't see rules for rolling percentages. (Don't assume that's obvious. It's not.)



Basic Rules:


  • Under Saving Throws, it doesn't explicitly say what constitutes a successful save. (I assume it's equal to or greater than DC, but I don't see that there.)


Ability Scores:


  • I like that a successful Strength save or Dexterity save is all you need to escape a grapple.

  • Under Carrying Capacity, it doesn't say what happens if you try to carry more than your maximum weight. (I assume it's the same as when you try to push or drag more than your maximum?)

  • Also under Carrying Capacity, for smaller creatures, why is only Tiny described?

  • It doesn't make much sense that Dexterity bonus is added to ranged damage rolls.

  • Under Intelligence, we need examples of "spells that attempt to overcome your intellect", since that appears to be distinct from charm or fear spells (listed as examples for Wisdom).

  • Under Charisma, we need examples of "certain magical compulsions, especially those that would overcome your sense of self", since that also appears to be different from spells requiring a Wisdom save.



Exploration:


  • I like the way days are handled.

  • I like the advantage on attacks when you strike from hiding.

  • I like the example of how Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan detect things using different abilities. Very helpful.

  • I still think "5 extra feet of movement for every 5 feet" is an odd phrasing. Is there some reason this isn't a simple "double your normal movement"?

  • Why is high jump distance 3 + Strength modifier? That's very specific.

  • The rules for landing in water seem awful specific, too - maximum of 90 feet, "at least 10 feet deep for every 30 feet of the dive"?

  • Under Stealth, the rules for deciding ties are neat, but I warn that such exceptions tend to get forgotten until they come up in game. Consistency is better than accuracy in my book, especially for new players.

  • Under Obscured Areas, how does one differentiate between "dense" and "moderate" foliage?

  • Why not merge Search and Listen and Spot into Intelligence and Wisdom, instead of leaving them as separate things?



Combat:


  • Under Actions in Combat, I like the way Disarm, Help, Knock Down, Push, and Use an Item work.

  • Again, the simpler rules for Grapple are very welcome. The rules on moving with a grappled opponent are particularly interesting.

  • I'm glad for the sidebar on improvising actions.

  • I like the rules for attacking an unseen target.

  • Pleased to see the section on damage types. Interesting to see psychic included as a core damage type (I guess it's because of the mind flayer?).

  • I like the description of what various levels of hit point damage might look like.

  • Under Conditions, the Ethereal rules are much improved.

  • I think Reactions and especially Opportunity Attacks should be optional, or integrated into specific feats and such. Keeping those in mind requires a lot of thinking for players who aren't tactically minded.

  • The Hustle action should be noted under Movement in Combat. Likewise, I wouldn't mind more details for Hide, even if the Stealth rules are covered elsewhere. (I don't mind repetition when it makes things easier for everyone playing.)

  • Under Readying an Action under Actions in Combat, what is your initiative order after a trigger never occurs or you ignore the trigger? Same as it was before you readied, or at the end of the initiative order?

  • Very minor, but there are two typos at the end of the Ability Modifier section of Attack Rolls under Attack Basics ("wizard's" and "cleric's" should be "wizards" and "clerics").

  • Why can't you counteract the disadvantage of using a non-proficient weapon with advantage? That seems kinda harsh.

  • Why is cover a series of specific bonuses to AC instead of a simple advantage/disadvantage rule? Maybe make advantage/disadvantage the default and the specific bonuses options for a more tactical ruleset?

  • I'm kinda lukewarm on the rules for two-weapon fighting, but at least they seem simple (although they don't come naturally during gameplay). Just to be clear, though, that's the lighter weapon's damage for both attacks, right? Not both attacks merging into one weakened damage roll? (Because the latter would be pretty much useless.)

  • For ranged attacks in melee, why not disadvantage on the attack instead of three-quarters cover?

  • Are there plans for an opposite of finesse weapons? (i.e. a ranged weapon that lets you use your Strength modifier for damage - an example being a longbow)

  • Critical hits are a pretty good compromise between the options. Is a critical hit an automatic hit, or can it still miss?

  • Why is it called "thunder" damage instead of "sonic" or such? It works, but it feels like it might cause confusion with "lightning" damage.

  • The resistance and vulnerability rules are nice and simple, but I wonder why advantage/disadvantage isn't being used there instead? Also, why not just say "half damage from x" or "double damage from y" instead of saying they have resistance or vulnerability? (I prefer it when I don't have to consult the rules any more than necessary during a game.)

  • Under Hit Points, I think they must mean "at least half your hit point maximum" and not "no less than half" as it's stated there. Right?

  • Under Healing, the 0-hp-then-add-healing rule feels a little generous, especially when the negative HP is very severe. But it's OK. The death saving throw rules also seem a bit kinder than I'd expect, though I do like the rules for when you're deemed "dead".

  • It still takes much longer than I'd like to heal damage naturally.

  • Regarding Nonlethal Damage - how do you naturally recover from being knocked unconscious? You only get death saves when you're dying, which you aren't when you're at 0 hp and unconscious.

  • The mechanics for recovering hp during a short or long rest are a little weird to me, and examples of how this would play out would be very helpful.

  • If you have to have at least 1 hp to take a long rest, what happens if you're unconscious (0 hp)?

  • No interest in the Slower Recovery optional rule or the two experimental rules for rests, it's complicated enough already.

  • Regarding Conditions, I wish these could be consolidated more, but I guess that'd have to be pretty radical. The only two I can see merging without much trouble would be Paralyzed and Unconscious, but I'm not sure.

  • Under the rules for the Intoxicated condition, I like the check required for casting spells. However, I am curious why intoxicated reduces damage taken by 1d6.

  • Under Conditions, why does Prone apply a mere -2 to attack rolls and not disadvantage? (Attackers have advantage against you, after all.)



Magic:


  • The way to determine the DC for your spells should be mentioned at the beginning and not buried halfway through the Casting a Spell section.

  • I liked the term "minor spells" more than "cantrips", but I can understand why the change was made.

  • Rituals feel like they should be optional rather than core.



CREATING A CHARACTER

Step 1 - Determine Ability Scores:


  • 4d6, drop lowest, was always my favorite approach, so I'm glad to see it as default.

  • Why do the "standard set" and the optional "customizing" rules both max at 15? I understand there's a concern with min-maxing in the case of the "customizing" option, but why not let DMs worry about that instead of making it a rule? (Mind, otherwise I like the "customizing" option.)

  • Also on the "customizing" option, why not give points back for lowering a stat below 8?



Step 2 - Choose a Race:


  • I miss having gnomes as core.



Step 3 - Choose a Class:


  • I really, really like Backgrounds and Specialties. Great way to create a unique character without having to worry about being an expert role-player or a rules expert. However, it's also wise to make it optional, if you want to stick with the basics.



Step 4 - Assign Ability Scores:


  • This should be Step 2 or 3. Having it as Step 4 required us to note the race/class bonuses, without applying them, until it was time to assign the scores to the abilities. It was awkward.

  • Why can't scores go above 20 after adjustments?

  • Why aren't the ability modifiers listed here, too? Would save some paging back and forth.



Step 5 - Figure Out Combat Numbers:


  • Under Calculate attack modifiers, examples of those "bonuses or penalties from other sources" would be nice.



Step 6 - Record Skill Die:


  • This is interesting, but I'm not sure it's the best approach. (More on that when I get to the playtest feedback.)



Step 7 - Add Finishing Touches:


  • I like the "Describe Your Character" section a lot, particularly the subsections on goals and motivations, and personality.

  • I like that all nine classic alignments are there, PLUS Unaligned (which is rightfully distinct from Neutral). Neutral good could use more detail, however, while "True" Neutral could stand to be a bit less specific than the "maintain the balance" approach (how about the "not concerned with ethics or morals" approach, too?).

  • A flat 150 gp is simple and better than random, but maybe random starting gp, or lower or higher starting gp, should be listed as options.



Step 7 - Play!:


  • Thank you for emphasizing teamwork and cooperation.



The Future - Advancement:


  • Interesting that you can boost two ability scores every four levels.

  • Does everyone get a feat at level 1, or is that just referring to the one you get from choosing a Specialty?

  • Level 2 appears to arrive very quickly.

  • Why can't PC ability scores go above 20 even after you increase your level?



RACES

General comments:


  • Interesting to see gnomes, half-orcs, and half-elves mentioned in the Dwarf and Elf sections despite not being core.

  • Nice to see the classic racial deities back (Moradin, Corellon, Gruumsh, and Yondalla). 

  • Liked the nods to earlier editions, literature, and myth in the suggested names (particularly in the Dwarf names).

  • This portion of the rules clearly assumes that skills are default rather than optional.

  • Why are there two "usually lawful good" races (dwarves and halflings) and one "usually chaotic good" race (elves) but no "usually neutral good" race?



Dwarf


  • The detailed default background is neat, but what if DMs don't want that sort of history for their dwarves? Better to stick to behavior and culture without getting into historical specifics.

  • These dwarves feel a lot more Lord of the Rings-style than in the last few editions. (Not a complaint, mind, just noting.)

  • When a dwarf shames their clan, do they lose their full name or just their clan name? In Dwarven Weapon Training, I have to say that a jump from 1d12 to 2d6 is incredibly minor. Even 1d12+1 would be better.

  • The Hill Dwarf feature Dwarven Toughness seems more suited to the classic Mountain Dwarf, but I guess it fits this new interpretation (mountain dwarves are to dwarves what high elves are to elves).

  • I don't see a lot of dwarf players choosing the Mountain Dwarf as written, unless they really value characterization over in-game advantages.



Halfling


  • Maybe this should be the "usually neutral good" race, since the default Halfling is an uneasy hybrid of the early (lawful) Tolkien-style Halflings and the later (chaotic) Kender-style Halflings. 

  • Having the two archetypes as their own subraces helps some, but maybe the default description should note this more clearly?



Human


  • I like the bit in Languages about taking phrases from other languages.

  • Is Pelor meant to be a generic deity, or does this mean Greyhawk is default again?

  • The ability score adjustments automatically make default humans better than every other race. This also means 10 doesn't represent an average human, 11 does instead. Is this intentional? Do these stats only reflect adventurers, perhaps?

  • Maybe a floating +1 to any stat would be better than +1 to all stats and +2 to one.



CLASSES

General comments:


  • I like the maximized starting hp.

  • I like having suggested backgrounds and specialties for each class.

  • I like the array of customization options for each class, although it can be a bit intimdating to sort through during character creation.

  • I'm not sure I like the idea of getting an ability bonus for your class choice. What if you want a character that isn't optimized for their class?

  • Combat Expertise was a bit too common. Maybe it should be broken down into subcomponents, and certain classes (cleric, for example) should only get access to some of those subcomponents? This would also give more advantages to the martial classes.

  • Martial damage dice might recharge too quickly - maybe it should be once per opponent, or only after a short rest. (Once per turn just doesn't seem like much of a limit.)

  • Why do some classes (cleric, fighter, rogue) get three choices for that starting ability adjustment and others (monk, wizard, barbarian) two?

  • It would be very useful if each default equipment list included the basic stats for the weapons and armor, so you can get started quickly and aren't required to refer to Equipment. (Costs would be nice too.)

  • A little disappointed many spellcaster class/specialty builds don't allow for total customization of cantrips, but I can live.

  • There seem to be implications that multi-classing will be included; I hope it's straightforward.

  • Was surprised to see the mentions of Dragonlance.



Cleric


  • I like the rules for deities, overall, including the choice to go with archetypes.

  • I appreciate that the rules for setting spell DCs are repeated here, although it still feels a bit buried. Maybe include it in the class summary table, too?

  • Didn't like the Channel Divinity mechanic at first, but it grew on me, so I think I approve now. (Big change, though, that healing isn't default!) Tables in this section, with upgrades by level, would help a lot.

  • Too bad cleric cantrips aren't called "orisons", but I'm probably the only one that cares.

  • Surprisingly small number of spells per level, even at level 20. Makes it harder to stock up with lots of weaker spellsfor different situations.

  • The battlefield concentration bit seems like it should be limited to a specific deity or such, rather than being a general thing. (Though I get that it's probably meant to balance them with wizards.)

  • Regarding specific Channel Divinity powers... Channel Positive is much better than Channel Negative (though I can see reasons for doing that). Channel Radiance feels rather similar to Channel Positive, and Channel Trickery and Channel Deception need to be much more distinct (right now, they're too similar). Channel Regrowth should scale more (more nuance than just reducing by 10 or 20). Why isn't Channel Strength an auto-hit? Why is Channel Wrath d10 instead of d8 (like Channel Positive)? And Rebuke Undead isn't nearly as good as Channel Positive or Negative.

  • Do you need to have a similar alignment to your deity? I only see the deity alignments listed.

  • Seems weird that the Warbringer deity has cure minor wounds as a cantrip.

  • The cleric's level 18 martial damage bonus seems kinda underpowered for so high a level.



Fighter


  • I like the fighting style concept. Would be nice if it was clearer you could take one of the existing styles and modify it (such as changing out the Noble background for the Duelist) rather than only taking them as is or making up your own.

  • Interesting choice, making Parry default for fighters.

  • This section is noticeably shorter than the other classes. Maybe fold maneuvers into this section? (Though I suppose that'd be a problem for monks.)

  • Surprised this didn't have a suggested background and specialty like the other classes.

  • The weapon attack bonus should really increase faster and go much higher. This is where they're supposed to excel!

  • The name "Veteran" doesn't seem to quite fit the "tough guy" image evoked by the description.



Monk


  • The monk appears to get the same combat bonuses as the fighter, and access to maneuvers, but they also get cooler powers. Why would I choose a fighter (other than for flavor)?

  • I like Mindful Defense.

  • I like that you can choose NOT to kill with Quivering Palm.

  • Ki Abilities are cool, although Touch of Stony Doom is odd, and instead of a flat 20 damage for Vengeful Flame, how about scaling it by level? (Also, Flames of the Phoenix = Hadoken!)

  • The instant-kill maneuvers don't seem proper for "The Path of Mercy". How about an evil tradition instead? Or at least move them to a more combat-oriented tradition like The Path of the Phoenix.

  • Seems like Undaunted Strike should be available later than level 2. 

  • Seems like Clear Mind should be available earlier than level 7, or at least before Undaunted Strike and Purity of Body.

  • Tongue of Sun and Moon should be available before Timeless Body.

  • Empty Body seems a bit weird.



Rogue


  • OK, the ROGUE has the same Combat Expertise as the Fighter? That ain't right.

  • I like the suggestion as to why you might want a high-Intelligence rogue.

  • The Ace in the Hole feature is interesting.

  • I like the tricks Climb Sheer Surfaces, Detect Noise, Distract, Taunt, Trap Sense, Tumble, Vanish, and Vault.

  • On Skill Mastery, why not just describe it as "you have advantage on rolls with your skill die"? It's the same mechanic, after all.

  • Under Rogue Scheme, the Assassinate talent - so is that maximum damage if the target succeeds on their save, and double maximum damage if they fail? Also, Assassinate and Sneak Attack seem rather similar.

  • The term "opportunity attack" is noted under the Slippery Target talent - should probably avoid using that term when it's not specifically an "opportunity attack".

  • Maybe talents should be listed after schemes, like tricks are?

  • Four out of the seven schemes have Sneak Attack as their talent. How about more choices?

  • Which scheme would you choose for a pirate? Because you know that'll be a popular choice.

  • I don't think I like all of those skill tricks being exclusive to rogues. Some should be available to anyone, like Display Deadliness or Master Linguist.

  • Charming Presence uses the term "charm" for the effect - this could cause confusion with spells, probably wanna avoid.

  • Feint feels more like it should be named "Backstab" or "Trip", based on the description.

  • The Poison Use trick implies that only rogues can apply poison to weapons. Maybe this should be called "Poison Mastery" or such? Unless other classes are somehow incapable of applying poison to things...

  • Superior Footwork should probably be renamed "Sure-Footed" or such. Also, it's kinda dull.

  • Unassuming Threat is kinda weird.

  • Unflappable has very limited utility.

  • I've never been fond of Rogues having Use Magic Device, seemed too metagame-y, and it stretches the realism of that particular class.



Wizard


  • I like the section on spellbook looks.

  • No weapon attack bonus at all?

  • We need more Traditions of Wizardry; three isn't enough.

  • Scholarly Wizardry is clearly the best tradition, with the Spell Preparation and Research features.

  • 50 gp per spell level when copying into a spellbook seems rather expensive.



Barbarian (from the January 28 packet)


  • This is a very powerful class.

  • I like the requirement to attack when raging or lose the rage.

  • Primal Might is cool.

  • Regenerative Rage is really good.

  • Generally, why not put the rage-based features at higher levels and the non-rage ones at lower levels? Feral Reflexes and Unchecked Fury feel like they could be available at a lower level, for example.

  • Relentless Rage seems a bit too good.

  • Incite Rage seems a bit iffy to me.



BACKGROUNDS AND SKILLS

General comments:


  • It's really cool how you can have any of these backgrounds with any class, even combinations that ostensibly make no sense (like a wizard with the priest background). Creates automatically interesting characters...

  • I like the skill descriptions generally, very useful.

  • So, everyone of a given experience level is exactly as good with their skills as anyone else of that experience level? No room for nuance other than what skills you choose? It's simple, yes, but at what cost?

  • Disappointed you can never have more than four skills.

  • When does a skill die "recharge" after you use it for something like a rogue trick? Next time you do a skill-related check?

  • Regarding starting equipment, why can you only choose between "everything in your class and background" or 175 gp. Couldn't you break down the cost for the starting equipment so people can pick and choose?

  • You get 175 gp here, and 150 gp under Creating A Character. Do these stack or does the 175 trump the 150 (or vice versa)?


Specific backgrounds:


  • I particularly like the Artisan's Guild Membership trait and the Charlatan's False Identity trait, and the Jester background generally.

  • Regarding the Bounty Hunter's Bounty Board trait... can't anyone do that? Maybe this should generalized into a "bounty contacts" sort of thing, more like described in the second paragraph?

  • The Bounty Hunter's "lock of hair from previous or current bounty" is kinda creepy.

  • The Charlatan's "ten stoppered vials filled with colored water" is getting very specific, isn't it?

  • Good that the Noble's retainers can't easily be used as cannon fodder (though it'll happen anyway, I'm sure).

  • The Sage's "oddity" is a neat bit of equipment.



Specific skills:


  • Balance and Tumble could easily be combined into an Acrobatics skill (like certain other games).

  • Why "Gather Rumors" instead of "Gather Information"?

  • Heal ought to have more mechanical detail.

  • Why is lore on the Far Realm covered by Knowledge (sciences) and not Knowledge (forbidden lore)?

  • I could see merging Listen and Spot into a Perception skill (again, like certain other games), but the descriptions do make a decent argument for keeping them separate.

  • Why does Track work with Intelligence and not Wisdom?

  • Use Rope sounds ridiculous as a skill. It might be acceptable with a rename, but I could also see dropping it and assuming it's covered by ability scores.



SPECIALTIES AND FEATS

General comments:


  • Why not completely transfer opportunity attack mechanics to feats? (Although I admit the opportunity attack-based feats here leave me cold.)



Feats:


  • Why do you stop getting feats at level 9?

  • Why do we need stat-based prerequisites? Isn't it enough to require other feats first?

  • Under this setup, why have ranked feats at all? Just make the higher one a new feat.

  • Regarding Customizing a Specialty, it's appreciated, but of little use considering you can only have four or fewer feats.

  • Regarding Choosing Feats on Your Own, why not make that default and use the specialty packages only as examples?

  • I like the Retraining optional rule, but I dunno about making it every level.



Example Specialties:


  • Mystical Healer + wizard seems like possibly too useful a combination.

  • Reaper seems a bit too badass of a name.

  • Skirmisher's description doesn't quite fit that name.

  • Skirmisher and Skulker, right next to each other in the list, both cite a "scout" as an example. Might wanna change this.

  • Two-Weapon Fighter seems a lot less archetypal than the others.



Feat Descriptions:


  • I particularly like Durable, First Strike, Improved Initiative, Shield Bash, Skill Focus, Skill Supremacy, Two-Weapon Defense, and Weapon Mastery.

  • So, you can't make called shots without the Called Shot feat? You can't charge without the Charge feat?

  • I'm fuzzy on what benefit Charge provides, since as far as I knew you could already move and then attack.

  • Combat Reflexes seems to be of limited use.

  • Deflect feels more like a "Parry" than the fighter feature Parry does.

  • Be nice if Dual Wielding specifically explained the benefit. (I get it, but still.)

  • Energy Substitution can only be used to its fullest as part of a custom specialty.

  • Find Familiar makes sense as a feat. And I like the generic Familiar stats. However, does this exclude the classic unusual familiars, like pseudodragons? Also, can familiars attack or not?

  • Why are Polearm Training and Sniper the only weapon proficiency-based feats? Are they really that much better than the other weapon proficiencies from classes?

  • Why is Resilience a higher-level feat than Durable? Durable seems better.

  • On Restore Life, are you spending one of your hit dice or is the target they spending one of theirs? And why can't you use this with healing spells as well as the healer's kit?

  • Snipers usually do MORE damage, at least in fiction, so it seems weird that the Sniper feat has you do less (and still technically have a chance to miss, advantage isn't a guarantee). 

  • Is Two-Weapon Strike really so great as to require that restriction?



MANEUVERS

General comments:


  • I like that some maneuvers can be boosted by martial damage dice.

  • There's some definite thematic overlap between feats and maneuvers. For example, there are certain feats that seemed more suited to being maneuvers, like Charge. Of the two, I'd make feats more distinct from manuevers than the other way around.



Specific maneuvers:


  • I particularly liked Composed Attack, Controlled Fall, and Protect.

  • Hurricane Strike doesn't specifically state that the melee attack is on targets within 5 feet, unlike other maneuvers.

  • Lunge isn't very impressive.

  • Shove Away appears to be Hurricane Strike, but not as good.

  • Spring Attack sounds a lot like the Charge feat.

  • Does Trip still inflict the normal (non-martial die) damage in addition to knocking them prone?

  • Volley seems perhaps too good, but at least it and Whirlwind Attack are consistent mechanically.



EQUIPMENT

Wealth


  • If electrum must be included, at least making it 1/2 gp is simple enough.

  • Not sure why it's necessary to specify whether monsters' items are good enough condition to sell, but I guess "rarely" leaves enough wiggle room for DMs.

  • Still not fond of the rules dictating how magic items should be sold.



Armor and Shields


  • Under Using the Armor Table, might want to leave off the specific under Armor Class (AC). Note it generically and let the table do the talking.

  • Why does padded armor provide a disadvantage on stealth?

  • Seems weird to have both Dragon Leather and Dragon Scale, and not make more of a specific distinction between their sources.

  • Why only one type of shield?



Weapons


  • The rules on making weapon attacks without proficiency are nice and simple (disadvantage).

  • The weapon categories seem straightforward enough.

  • I like the way the Weapon Table is set up, with most unusual elements listed under Properties. It would be nice if Properties included whether a weapon uses Strength or Dexterity for attack rolls, though.

  • I like the way Missile Range and Thrown Range work, although I wonder if the DM should choose where the weapon lands, or if it should be random, instead of the attacker always choosing.

  • Improvised weapon rules are good.

  • Again, double weapons can be a bit confusing to use during a game in two-handed mode.

  • Are there plans to make more Mounted and Versatile weapons? One of each makes the property seem wasted.

  • Why do you have to be mounted to use a lance at all? Why not just make it less effective when used otherwise?

  • The Blowgun description should specify that poison is described under Adventuring Gear.

  • The Bolas description should have a few examples of formless creatures.

  • The Whip rules seem a smidge odd.

  • Minor - typo under the "Double" property ("you", not "you're").


Adventuring Gear:


  • I like how most tools give advantage, rather than some flat bonus.

  • Like the suggested alternate uses for equipment, particularly those for blankets, magnifying glasses, pitons, iron pots, and soap.

  • I particularly like the rules for the potion of healing and the portable ram.

  • Block and Tackle is nice and simple.

  • Did I miss some rules for damaging objects?

  • Why is Acid less effective on people than objects? Alchemist's Fire is much better.

  • Antitoxin would be a bit simpler if resistance was the same as advantage.

  • One use of the Healer's Kit covers 10 characters, and there are 20 uses? That's incredibly good!

  • How hard is it to detect a Hunting Trap? The damage from failed checks to escape is harsh, but realistic.

  • Isn't the term "Mess Kit" an anachronism?

  • Oil lasts one minute on a creature but only two rounds on a surface once lit. Is this on purpose?

  • Feels like silk rope should have 1 hp instead of 2 hp like hempen rope, but I admit that's nitpicky.

  • Why is Sledge phrased so bizarrely?

  • Examples for the lore DC in a Tome would be very useful.



SPELLS

General comments:


  • I like the thoroughness of certain spells' descriptions, like Antimagic Field, Astral Projection and Earthquake. And I like the evocative descriptions of what many spells look like, in spells such as Cause Fear, Darkness, Invisibility, and Magic Missile. I also like the background explanations for other spells, like Blink.

  • It'd be handy to have those one-liner descriptions in the index, like in 3E. Makes it so you don't NEED to refer to the nitty-gritty details in a pinch.

  • It would be more convenient, when choosing spells for your character, to have these organized by class and level instead of one big alphabetical listing. I'd include an alphabetical index for quick reference, of course. 

  • It might also be nice to lump the improved versions of various spells together in ascending level order (like the Cure spells). Or perhaps make them all different variations of one single spell that improves in effect with level.

  • Whenever a spell grows stronger when cast at higher levels (Burning Hands, for example), I think it would be very useful to list the increases as a table instead of text. Anything to make referencing easier for more casual players.

  • Will descriptors like "word of power" be explained later? We also need explanations of the spell types (necromancy, conjuration, etc.).

  • Is there "uncategorized" magic? This is implied by Detect Magic's description. There are also "magical effects that are not spells", according to Dispel Magic - could we have some examples?

  • Why are cure spells conjuration and inflict spells necromancy? Shouldn't they both be the same type?

  • Overall, rituals seem like more trouble than they're worth. Why not just make them optional?

  • The rules on "Using True Names" (under Otto's Irresistable Dance) only work as a game element - they don't make much sense in-universe. My name doesn't change because someone's used it against me. Now, if you said you can only USE someone's true name once, that makes sense...

  • More spells need to specify when the caster can use them on themselves, as Sanctuary does.

  • Too many spells require diamonds as a component. 

  • It's a nice nod to have the "name" spells back (Melf's Acid Arrow and Otto's Irresistable Dance), but maybe it'd be better to genericize those? Or save them for later, in a Greyhawk-specific expansion (along with some of those Mordenkainen spells and such).

  • Guidelines for creating your own spells would be very useful and very welcome in the final game.



Specific spells:


  • I like the limitation on Charm Person.

  • I like the instant storyline imbedded in Clone.

  • I like that Identify will also reveal some of an item's lore.

  • I like the consolidation seen in Lesser Restoration and Minor Illusion.

  • Why are Aid and Augury 2nd-level spells? They seem limited enough to be 1st-level.

  • Interesting that Astral Projection is a necromancy spell.

  • Banishment could use some more specifics on the "items the creature hates, fears, or otherwise opposes", as well as some guidelines for how much they should increase DC.

  • Is Blade Barrier really so great as to be 6th level?

  • Blink is awful imprecise for a 3rd-level spell.

  • Chill Touch is rather strong for a cantrip (1d10?). Yes, it levels up slower than others like Burning Hands, but you have to consider how strong it is at early levels.

  • On Cloudkill, it notes you have to be "familiar with one of a few, nameless, reeking Abyssal layers" to "master this spell". This is cool and evocative, but what if some take it literally? That's quite a demand for one spell, isn't it? The approach taken by Cone of Cold, which merely says you draw on such a realm's power, seems better.

  • Also on Cloudkill, you don't take damage from it, right? (It doesn't specifically exempt you.)

  • Interesting that Color Spray is an illusion and not an enchantment.

  • Is Create Food and Water so great a spell it needs to be 3rd level?

  • Interesting that there's "Create Water" and "Create Food and Water" but not "Create Food".

  • Cure Minor Wounds is extraordinarily limited. It's weak even for a cantrip.

  • "Improved Mass Cure Wounds" is such an awkward name. How about "Greater Mass Cure" or such?

  • Why is Darkness level 2 and Light a cantrip?

  • Seems like Death Ward could be lower than level 3.

  • Destruction actually seems too effective for level 7. (One of the few that seems too low, in fact.)

  • You can "imagine" the target location for Dimension Door?

  • Disintegrate is a very powerful spell, and better than Destruction in nearly every way... and it's one level lower.

  • Dispel Magic, a 3rd-level spell, automatically ends any magical effect of level 2 or lower. But Greater Dispel Magic, a 6th-level spell, only ends effects of level 4 or lower. Why?

  • Also, why not just merge Dispel and Greater Dispel into one spell that grows stronger when cast at higher levels?

  • Divination, Commune, and Augury could also be merged into one spell that improves with level.

  • Divine Favor could be a cantrip, methinks.

  • I understand that Divine Power is probably a level 4 spell because it provides a +4, but it's also rather specific, so why not make it lower anyway?

  • As with Cloudkill, Dominate Person says "mastering this spell requires practice". I know this isn't meant to be taken literally, but why not hedge it a bit in case some DMs do?

  • Earthquake notes that it damages structures... any guidelines for how much damage a structure can take?

  • If Flesh to Stone was faster, I'd be fine with 6th level, but as it isn't, how about lowering it?

  • Can you use Fly on yourself? Also, why is it a conjuration?

  • Can you use Haste on yourself? 

  • Is Hold Monster so much better than Hold Person that it needs to be three levels higher?

  • Holy Word may be a bit too strong, at least for 7th level.

  • I might make Ice Storm more closely resemble Fire Storm, doesn't quite seem right as is. Also, that description of "a future where the world has ended and ice ceaselessly pummels the frozen landscape" might be overdoing it.

  • Why does Inflict Critical Wounds provide 4d8+8 to undead and not just 4d8 or 5d8? (Similar criticism for Inflict Light and Moderate Wounds.)

  • Why isn't there an Inflict Minor Wounds?

  • Why doesn't Knock dispel magical locks permanently? I mean, that's kind of its purpose. Also, why is the ritual version worse? Isn't the effort involved in a ritual enough of a drawback already?

  • Lance of Faith should probably be level 1 instead of a cantrip, it's rather good.

  • Mage Armor should probably be level 1 instead of a cantrip, since it lasts so long.

  • Meteor Swarm doesn't seem to do much damage for a level 9 spell.

  • On Minor Illusion, it says "to grasp [this spell] the caster must learn a few mundane tricks of legerdemain". Once again, what if some people take this literally?

  • On Move Earth, do you make one change every 10 minutes, or do you have to prepare for 10 minutes for each change you plan on making?

  • Planar Ally could use some specific examples of what you can summon.

  • Plane Shift's requirement for a very specific metal rod is, well, an extremely specific requirement, enough to make the spell of little use except as a plot device.

  • Polymorph doesn't work on an unwilling target with 150 or more hp. Is there a stronger Polymorph spell that does?

  • Power Word Kill actually seems too weak, especially for a 9th-level spell. Spells of that level SHOULD be ridiculously powerful, why restrain them so much?

  • Prayer might be more appropriate at level 2, instead of level 3.

  • Protection from Evil only specifically protects against fiends and undead. Fair enough for a level 1 spell, but is there a stronger version planned that works against a wider range of evil beings?

  • Ray of Frost should be level 1, not a cantrip. Too good.

  • Regenerate's requirements in ritual form are rather disgusting.

  • Why is "Lesser Restoration" listed separately from "Restoration, Greater"?

  • Resurrection can resurrect anyone who died within the last 100 years? Wow.

  • Scorching Ray is a 2nd-level spell, which only inflicts 15 damage, which can be split (but 15 doesn't split very far). It should either do more damage or be level 1.

  • Shield of Faith is limited enough it should be a cantrip.

  • Shocking Grasp is too strong for a cantrip.

  • Sleep is unnecessarily complicated. Just make it save-based and dictate how many targets it can affect.

  • I like Spiritual Weapon's nod to its predecessor (Spiritual Hammer). However, the spell needs more clarification on how it's used each turn. Also, adding 1 damage per level is rather pathetic.

  • Nothing about Stinking Cloud's description suggests "stinking". Perhaps another name?

  • Stoneskin isn't very impressive for level 4.

  • Mass Suggestion should last longer, if it's going to be level 6. Also, where's "vanilla" Suggestion?

  • Telekinesis's description is a bit too much.

  • Teleport sounds very hard to use, especially if your campaign does NOT have those pre-constructed teleportation circles.

  • Trap the Soul should probably be level 9.

  • True Seeing lasts a surprisingly long time, though I suppose that's fair for level 5.

  • Why not make Water Breathing level 2?

  • Why can't Wish replicate other level 9 spells? It can alter reality, except in a way to reproduce spells of the same level? I do like the physical toll it takes, though. Also, no Limited Wish?

  • Minor - the row headings on the table for Greater Teleport are messed up.



DM GUIDELINES

General comments:


  • That whole introduction is excellent. Love the advice there.

  • In fact, this might be my favorite section of the playtest packet. Few complaints, lots to love.



Resolving Tasks:


  • I like the Ignoring the Dice sidebar, and the later sidebar on Using These DCs, and the section on Engaging the Players, but I bet they're going to be VERY unpopular with some gamers...

  • The explanations of when to use checks, contests, and saves, and how to resolve attacks, is great.

  • I like the practical advice on setting DCs.

  • The entire Tasks and Skills section is terrific.

  • I like the hazard of a failed attempt to recall information - recalling false information. Nice touch.

  • The whole section on Checks and Interaction is great. Although I warn that some of the Determining DCs section assumes actual spoken interaction and not interaction-as-outline.

  • If Trivial (DC 5) is so rarely used, why have it?

  • The section on Options for Checks includes the explanation that Skills "can sometimes... improve an ability check". I thought that's how it worked by default? What part of that is an "option"?

  • Is disarming a trap an Intelligence task or a Dexterity task? And looking for traps, is that a Wisdom task or not?

  • Constitution feels very neglected.

  • What sort of Constitution checks would be impossible without removing armor? Examples, please.


Miscellaneous Rules:


  • I like Incidental Tasks. (But shouldn't it be part of the previous section?)

  • Always Round Down is straightforward. Maybe it should be echoed more throughout the other rules, though.

  • Creature Size is hard to visualize without some actual size ranges. The space they take up isn't enough. (What if they're long and serpentine, or extra-tall, or nearly flat? Also, the description of how "fills" works is kinda confusing.

  • There should be a clearer separation between the "Holding Your Breath" and "Drowning" rules. "Holding Your Breath" is also useful for cases of suffocation. Also, the drowning rules seem a smidge harsh...



Encounters and Rewards:


  • I like the rules for Building Combat Encounters, generally. But how do you set monster XP? And how much XP do you get for traps and hazards?

  • Good advice on Rewards, although I can't help but feel that non-combat XP isn't being given the same value as combat XP.

  • I see this edition intends to make magic items rare and highly valued.




MAGIC ITEMS

General comments:


  • I like the origins for some of the magic items. (Like the mention of the Queen of Chaos under Flame Tongue Longsword.)

  • Once again, I see there's a big emphasis on making magical items rare and special. Was this an issue in recent editions?


Encountering Magic Items:


  • I like the advice that monsters should use the magic items in their possession.

  • I like the suggestion that negotiations for magic items can lead to quests.

  • Under Buying Magic Items... finally, an acknowledgment that not every campaign needs to make magic items rare!

  • Magic items are "a reward, not a necessary part of a player character's advancement." Again, this just philosophical, or a comment on an issue?



Magic Item Creation:


  • Glad this will be in future packets. Give DMs as many content creation tools as possible!



Magic Item Attunement:


  • Interesting idea. The two experimental rules aren't bad, either.



Magic Item Details:


  • Love this section!

  • Abyssal isn't the same as Fiendish? Interesting.



Armor:


  • Particularly like Spellguard Shield. Nice and simple, but cool.



Weapons:


  • Particularly like the Oathbow and the Vorpal Sword rules.

  • Hammer of Thunderbolts is a lot better than the Dwarven Thrower.



Staffs:


  • Not "staves"?

  • Disappointed only spellcasters can use these. And in that 10-charge limit.



Potions:


  • I like the rules for sampling and the sampling descriptions.

  • I like the rules for the Potion of Speed.

  • Potion of Diminution should specify a new size category, not "10 percent of your normal size". Easier that way.

  • "Potion of Longevity" seems like it should called "Potion of Youth" instead.


Rings:


  • I like the description for the Ring of Water Walking.

  • Do we really need to have flawed Rings of Feather Falling? That just seems mean.

  • The Ring of Mind Shielding's secret is weird.

  • Instead of insisting the Ring of Protection doesn't stack with other magic items at all, why not just set a maximum bonus you can get from the Ring and other magic items?

  • The Ring of the Ram's +8 bonus means it can still fail to break down a door. A (high) percentage chance would be kinder, I think.

  • The Ring of Wizardry's origins are kinda gross.



Scrolls:


  • The Scroll of Protection from Undead seems rather underpowered.

  • A little disappointed Spell Scrolls don't let you cast spells from outside your class, considering it's single-use.

  • Not interested in the Scroll Mishaps rule.



Wondrous Items:


  • Making the Belt of Storm Giant Strength an artifact seems to cheapen the concept of "artifact".

  • Can anyone use the Crystal Ball? Not just spellcasters?

  • Disappointed the Gauntlets of Ogre Power are useless for anyone with Strength 19 or higher.

  • The Gem of Seeing's secret side effect is very unfair. I'd rather it just fail. 

  • The spells cast using the Rod of Absorption, these don't count for your spell slots, right? Only the spell points in the Rod?

  • The Tome of the Stilled Tongue's power seems rather tame for such a sinister item.



BESTIARY

General comments:


  • I really hope the stats-only descriptions for each monster are only in place for the purposes of the playtest. I really liked the Habitat and Society and Legends and Lore sections from the initial packet, and I would be very disappointed if monsters are merely treated as flavorless obstacles in the final game. (Monsters are one of the coolest things in D&D, after all.)

  • That said, I do really like the format of these stat blocks, with traits and actions separated. Very nice.

  • I like the way Energy Drain works. (Always been a problem, IMHO.)

  • The Recharge mechanic is straightforward enough.

  • I like all the customization options, but we need to know what effect a given customization option has on a monster's encounter level or XP. Very few actually indicated this.

  • It's very useful when all of a monster's powers are described in full, rather than merely referring DMs to the spells they have. (The Beholder and the Human Witch Doctor are good examples.)

  • The lack of appearance descriptions here make some of these monsters hard to visualize, like the aranea or the osyluth.

  • Just to clarify, each Action is once per turn, right? Unless it says otherwise?

  • Multiattack is efficient, but an alternative would be to give them a budget of sub-actions, and state how much each sub-action "costs". Could still include the existing Multiattack listings as default options.

  • How do we know when a monster's power is a magical effect? This is relevant for certain spells and such.

  • Immunities, resistances, and vulnerabilities should be explained in the traits section, even if it's part of the core rules and everyone should know it. Same for special monster senses, like tremorsense (and even darkvision and such). Convenience should be paramount! (The Doppelganger is an good example of how this should look. Ghost is an example of how it shouldn't.)

  • We need creature type descriptions. In particular, how does one distinguish between a beast and a monstrosity and an aberration? I didn't see much consistency in assigning monsters to those categories.

  • When "multiple [attacks] have cumulative effects", it would be nice to hear specifically how that works.

  • Shouldn't acid and poison attacks be more than just a descriptor?

  • I miss seeing equipment lists for certain monsters (like drow) and variant equipment lists for others (like orcs).

  • Why are some constructs unaligned and others neutral?

  • A lot of demons and devils can summon other demons and devils - is that necessary? (And does it factor into their level/XP?) Also, some demons can summon dretches, but those aren't in the playtest packet. I also see that demons can summon more of their fellows than devils, I assume that's deliberate?

  • I really hope we're getting guidelines for creating your own monsters. Setting DCs and bonuses for their powers, for example, and especially how to set XP (which looks very random at high levels, but there's a clear method).

  • Will there be rules for advancing or enlarging monsters?



Specific monsters:


  • The Barbed Devil's Produce Flame power, and its insta-hit property, is interesting.

  • I like the way the Doppelganger and Mind Flayer Read Thoughts power works.

  • I like the Kobold Dragonshield's Shield Block power.

  • I like the Zombie's Ponderous trait.

  • On the Ankheg, can it choose NOT to grapple after a Bite attack?

  • To clarify, the Beholder can use 1d4+1 eye rays per turn? Also, the Beholder's Petrification and Disintegration powers seem extra harsh, while their Death power is surprisingly less harsh.

  • Don't see any stats for Bugbear leaders.

  • Seems odd that the Dark Acolyte and Dark Adept can heal.

  • Under Glabrezu, why doesn't Chaos Hammer have a random damage type? And I miss the more random Confusion spell, as well.

  • The Quasit (Demon) and the Imp (Devil) providing Magic Resistance to their master is rather good.

  • Asmodeus, the Archdevil among Archdevils, only has +10 to hit? And some of his other powers seem underwhelming too. Also, why does one of his attacks inflict radiant (positive) energy damage?

  • Why is the Pit Fiend's Wish power just as good as that of Asmodeus? (Seems Asmodeus should be able to grant more than a wish a year.) Also, a simpler description than "contiguous 6-foot squares" would be nice for their Fires of Hell power.

  • I see the Dracolich is specifically a Green Dracolich. More variants on the way?

  • Dragons overall seem a lot less intelligent than I remember.

  • Strange to me that the four elementals have different and unequal stats.

  • That attacks on a Gelatinous Cube have no effect on those engulfed by it makes game-balance sense, but that's all.

  • The Ghost's Possession power is too strong. If you allowed additional saves, it would be better.

  • Stone Golem mentions the spells Transmute Rock to Mud and Transmute Mud to Rock, but those aren't available yet. Also, Stone to Flesh only exists as a component of Greater Restoration, not a spell unto itself - and it doesn't sound like it can be used on targets that were always stone.

  • When you hit a Gray Ooze with ammunition, does it do damage before dissolving?

  • Listing Green Slime with the monsters, but giving it hazard stats, is an interesting choice.

  • The description of the Hobgoblin's Disciplined action doesn't evoke "Discipline" for me.

  • Is there an upper limit on how many heads a Hydra can grow?

  • The open-ended designs of the Giant Lizard and Giant Snake are cool, but I think I want more example builds. Also, not sure I like crocodiles being folded into the Giant Lizard.

  • We need rules for lycanthropy on the Werewolf.

  • The Mind Flayer's Extract Brain power should specify that you have to hit with the Tentacles action first.

  • The Ogre's Bruiser trait refers to them as berserkers.

  • Why don't Otyughs have the Filth Fever feature anymore?

  • The Rakshasa's utter immunity to spells of level 6 or lower is crazy powerful!

  • Cave Rats and Dire Rats are awful similar.

  • Why are Skeletons lawful evil and Zombies neutral evil, rather than neutral?

  • Vampires seem to be lower level than their vast array of powers would suggest. Also, can they use their Bite attack outside of Multiattack? And we need stats for their bat form (besides movement). And I have mixed feelings on their vulnerabilities being optional...

  • Interesting that Wraiths can speak Infernal. Also, they can turn victims into specters, but we have no stats for those.

  • How about one default build for Yuan-Ti Halfbloods and leave the others as variants? That's a lot to take in.



ADVENTURES (GENERALLY)

General comments:


  • I hope we're not setting a precedent of not having monster stats for each encounter, and instead relying on a separate bestiary listing. It makes for cleaner-reading adventures, true, but having to page back and forth or create your own cheat sheet every time is irritating and inconvenient.

  • I do like the partial NPC statblocks with only the relevant stats, however. That's efficient. But don't make it a habit, please.

  • I like the way adventures are laid out otherwise.

  • I like all the details for running adventures in the Caves of Chaos packet. Very good guidelines.

  • Thus far I've only had the chance to run Caves of Chaos. Reclaiming Blingdenstone is cool, but looked too complex for a mere playtest. I do plan on running Isle of Dread next.

  • A level-10 sample adventure and a level-20 sample adventure would be useful.

Very indepth review of the playtest!  I enjoyed reading your fresh take on the Dec. 17th playtest packet.  Two things really jumped at me that I hope I can help clarify.  

I'm kinda lukewarm on the rules for two-weapon fighting, but at least they seem simple (although they don't come naturally during gameplay). Just to be clear, though, that's the lighter weapon's damage for both attacks, right? Not both attacks merging into one weakened damage roll? (Because the latter would be pretty much useless.)


The way I understand two-weapon fighting is that you can attack with both weapons with a -2 to both attacks.  The main weapon attack stays the same and the light weapon only uses its weapon die for damage.  (for example, you have a long sword and short sword, a human fighter with 16 Strength at lvl 1 would attack for +2 with the longsword, dealing 1d8+1d6(for the MDD)+3; and attack for +2 with the short sword, dealing 1d6 only.  The wording is very muddled but it says that only the light weapon is limited in its damage.

The other issue I can hope to explain is with Cure Minor Wounds.

Cure Minor Wounds is extraordinarily limited. It's weak even for a cantrip.


I too thought Cure Minor Wounds was an extremely strange and limited spell when first reading it.  It wasn't until in use in a game did it occur to me what the spell did.  Cure Minor Wounds automatically stabilizes a dying creature.  Heck the spell is a word of power so you can attack or do some other action at the same time.  Not only does it stabilize, but it brings your dying teammate back into the fight!  From 50 feet away!  Part of the problem I have with it is the name.  "Cure Minor Wounds" evokes to mind a spell that soothes a bruise or minor cut, not a spell that is used to revive a creature that is knocked unconscious and in danger death.

Those were the two things that jumped at me in your review that I hope I can help clairfy.  I am enjoying D&D Next immensely and wish you and everyone happy gaming. 
gthattman, thanks for the clarification on Two-Weapon Fighting. I guess they need to explain it a bit more clearly, huh?

I'm still not sold on Cure Minor Wounds, though. I still think they could make it just slightly more effective. I guess they could change the name to something like Stabilize, but I'd rather have a minorly effectively cure cantrip instead.
gthattman, thanks for the clarification on Two-Weapon Fighting. I guess they need to explain it a bit more clearly, huh?

I'm still not sold on Cure Minor Wounds, though. I still think they could make it just slightly more effective. I guess they could change the name to something like Stabilize, but I'd rather have a minorly effectively cure cantrip instead.


Issue is, if it was any more effective, it could easily become extremely abuseable. It's the same reason it was changed in Pathfinder changed CMW to stabilize once they made cantrips infinite. If they had kept it as 1 hp, then you would have infinite healing.
My two copper.
Issue is, if it was any more effective, it could easily become extremely abuseable. It's the same reason it was changed in Pathfinder changed CMW to stabilize once they made cantrips infinite. If they had kept it as 1 hp, then you would have infinite healing.



Personally, I don't mind having an infinite but extremely low-level healing spell...
Comments on my two playtest sessions thus far.

Everyone in these sessions used level 1 characters, and we played the Caves of Chaos adventure.


Participants' previous D&D experience:

DM (me): Played with two editions of D&D - AD&D 2nd Edition and D&D 3.5. This was my second round of participation in the D&D Next playtest.

"Player A": Also played AD&D 2nd Edition and D&D 3.5, and participated in earlier rounds of the playtest.

"Player B": Played at least D&D 3.5 and 4th Edition, and in earlier rounds of the playtest.

"Player C": Played little of earlier editions of D&D, except some pre-3rd editions, but participated in earlier rounds of the playtest.

"Player D": Played 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions, and participated in the earlier playtest round.

"Player E": Never played any edition of D&D prior to this, and as far as I know, his only previous RPG experience was Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition. This was his first participation in the playtest.


PLAYTEST 1

Involved players A, B, and C. Player A played a hill dwarf fighter (background: Noble, specialty: Sharpshooter). Player B played a lightfoot halfling cleric (background: Spy, specialty: Healer). Player C played a human barbarian (background: Thug, specialty: ?). 

Character creation took up most of the session.

On arriving at the Caves of Chaos, they decided to first burn away all the trees, and come back later after the fires had ended. When they returned, they proceeded into the Ogre Lair and defeated the ogre with little serious difficulty. Then they ransacked and searched the cave, while player C's barbarian got himself drunk, and the three of them decided to take a long rest in the cave before moving on.

After the rest, they decided to use the secret door to the Goblin Lair, and sent the barbarian in first. He went straight for the liquor, got drunk again, then took on waves of goblins (with aid from the cleric and fighter, who remained concealed behind the secret door) until the session ended.

My feedback:


  • It seemed slightly too easy for three first-level characters to defeat an ogre, but the ogre did seem to be effective enough when it was his turn.

  • There might not be enough downsides to the intoxication rules, especially when applied to a barbarian. (Though it was certainly fun seeing the drunk barbarian kicking butt!)


Player A's feedback:


  • Liked backgrounds and specialties.

  • Pleased that you didn't have to engage in hit-and-run tactics against foes like the ogre (this was an issue in the earlier round of playtesting).

  • Ranged combat rules seemed fine.

  • Regarding the Noble's retainers, he felt more details on what they can do would be useful (like their skills).

  • Would like more flexibility in selecting default equipment.

  • Not so impressed with the martial die concept. 

  • Noted how much you have to page back and forth between different parts of the rules to find things.

  • Would have appreciated a PDF character sheet with pre-set options you can choose for character creation.


Player B's feedback:


  • Liked the halfling's traits, and thought they were funny and awesome. (Particularly liked being able to hide behind people.)

  • Spellcasting rules for the cleric seemed good.

  • Noted that playing a healer here felt more like being a proper healer than it did in 4th Edition. (They felt that in 4E, you were expected to focus more on attacking.)

  • Thought there should be more reference tables in the rules themselves.


Player C's feedback:


  • Thought getting drunk (in-game) was hilarious.

  • Likes disadvantage and advantage.

  • Thought the ogre died rather quickly, but noted it hit hard. Speculated that maybe it was just bad luck with the dice.



PLAYTEST 2

Involved players A, B, D, and E. Player A played a hill dwarf wizard (background: Priest, specialty: Mystical Healer). Player B played a high elf monk (background: Minstrel, specialty: Skirmisher). Player D played a human barbarian (background: Noble, specialty: Two-Weapon Fighter). Player E played a wood elf rogue (background: Bounty Hunter; specialty: Sharpshooter).

Character creation, once again, took up most of the session. This time, everyone decided to make evil characters. (It didn't make much practical difference, however.)

They decided to start with the Kobold Lair, which went rather well (slaying or frightening the kobolds near the entrance) until the rogue was caught in the pit trap. (I'd initially forgotten about when he dashed in, but remembered on his return trip.) A wave of cave rats attacked, but the monk was able to take them out using their Flames of the Phoenix ability. The barbarian freed the rogue from the trap, and the session ended after that.

My feedback:


  • Please provide us with some way to make character creation faster. I figured it was just slow the first time because we were new to it, but even when I knew what to do, it still took quite a while. There were just too many options to look through and sort out. (A more customizable character sheet PDF, set up in a way that allows you to easily plug in your stats and race and class choices, would help a great deal.)

  • Most of the players disliked the skill die, but I didn't actually mind it.


Player A's feedback:


  • Thought many spells were unbalanced. In particular, he thought most cantrips were too strong.

  • Noted it was hard to decide which cantrips to pick, but much easier to choose from the higher-level options.

  • Hated Cure Minor Wounds.

  • Didn't like the skill die, and would prefer a flat skill bonus (+1, etc.).


Player B's feedback:


  • Thought the monk was fun, but noted it's hard to tell at level 1.

  • The damage levels seemed good overall.

  • Character creation is too slow.

  • The two-handed weapon rules were weird.


Player D's feedback:


  • Liked backgrounds and specialties.

  • Liked the rules for using two weapons. 

  • Character creation is too slow.

  • The skill die should be replaced with a flat bonus. 

  • Wants to see a new version of the paladin class.


Player E's feedback:


  • Liked the assassin scheme a lot.

  • Thought skills, the advantage/disadvantage rules, the weapon rules, and the elf traits made sense.

  • Character creation is too slow.

  • Thought there were too many dice, and too many bonuses to keep track of.

  • Thought the Use Rope skill was ridiculous.

  • Asked why two daggers and particularly the rapier were set as default weapons for the rogue. Particularly thought the rapier didn't mesh with the assassin scheme. Liked the shortbow, though.

  • The skill die should be replaced with a flat skill bonus.



Next set of playtests will involve upgrading the characters to level 5, and moving on to the Isle of Dread. With character creation out of the way, I hope to get more actual gaming and testing done...
CMW as it is now is extremely powerful. If you don't believe me, try simulating a party of 4+ clerics. Let's call them Deathbringers, cause it suits well. 
Maximize Con for hp, take Dex14 for +2AC with medium armor, take either Warbringer human for maximum stats or Lightbringer mountain dwarf for ultimate LoF spam and free medium armor proficiency. Make a mix of both for maximum terror. Either way take Lance of Faith and Cure Minor Wounds as cantrips and take shield bash feat with warbringers. 
Now advance at terrified enemy in a column. If someone tries to attack you, first he takes disadvantage from Shield Bash, then he eats a preventive LoF to the face from merry Lightbringer, then he has to punch through your AC of 16+. If he finally drops you to negative, your buddy cleric from second row mutters a CMW before firing his crossbow, and you're back to the party. With some readied actions it's even possible to raise a downed character before he drops prone, so the formations stays unbroken.
I'm pretty sure this can be optimized even more, even at this stage of playtest. Don't get me wrong, a battlecleric order is awesome, I already have these Deathbringers  as a part of my campaign, but I have troubles explaining why they haven't already conquered the world. 

Ok, it's only partly joke. The real problem with CMW is that any monster that had an experience with CMW-ready cleric will start to coup-de-grace downed characters to prevent them from rising back half a round later. And that will be the problem for PCs
Comments on my third playtest using the Dec. 17 rules. This will be my last playtest using this version of the rules, since it looks like the next packet changes things in a fundamental way.

The adventure scenario was The Isle of Dread. Everyone in this session used level 5 characters.

We also had a new participant:

"Player F": Like Player E before him, Player F had never played D&D prior to this session, but had played Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition.


PLAYTEST 3

Players D and E used their characters from the previous playtest (lawful evil human barbarian and neutral evil wood elf rogue), upgraded to level 5. Player A decided to create a new character, a level-5 lawful good mountain dwarf cleric (Priest/Mystical Healer). Player F created a level-5 neutral evil human wizard (Charlatan/Hedge Magician). In an attempt to avoid the lengthy character creation process, I cobbled together Player A and Player F's characters from elements of existing characters, which led to Player A's cleric retaining a few elements from Player B's halfling cleric. (These errors were corrected during the game.) Player E also changed one of his character's weapons early in the game (replaced the rapier with a long sword, which better fit his character concept).

The session lasted a good deal longer than I expected - a few hours of play (with one notable break) and a few days of in-game time.

I decided to start with the characters being shipwrecked on the island. Soon after they awoke, they were attacked by saber-toothed tigers, which the cleric, barbarian, and rogue battled. (Meanwhile, the wizard explored the remains of the ship and took a few choice items from the surviving supplies.) Once the battle was finished (and the raging barbarian pulverized the corpses), the cleric busied himself with burying the dead, before the group set up camp with the supplies from the ship.

The next morning, the cleric surveyed the beach, while the rogue explored the jungle. During his foray into the jungle, the rogue climbed a tree and saw smoke, indicating there was a town within walking distance. However, he was followed up the tree by a band of carnivorous monkeys, and jumped to another tree to escape them. (All but one were injured or killed trying to leap after him, and he killed the one who made the leap.) Climbing down the tree, he immediately encountered a group of zombies... and having had enough of the jungle, he dashed back to camp. (The zombies did not follow.) Meanwhile, the wizard sent her bat familiar into the jungle... and during the second trip, the bat narrowly escaped a group of native hunters. The barbarian busied herself extracting nails and lumber from the ship for future use.

They decided to head to town, and were fortunate to avoid any further encounters in the jungle. Reaching town, they were greeted by the guards as mainlanders, and taken to the chief. (Along the way, they were unnerved by the town's population of zombie servants. The wizard questioned this practice, but the cleric interrupted before she could offend anyone.) The chief informed them that if they wanted to return to the mainland, their best chance was to go to Tanaroa. The cleric offered his services as a healer in exchange for guides to take them to the other town, and everyone stayed in town overnight.

At night, they busied themselves in various ways:


  • The cleric, true to his word, healed the town's injured as best he could.

  • The wizard decided to investigate the zombies, and was taken to the town's Zombie Mistress, who was polite but a little surprised by this outlander's intense interest in their religion. With little useful information forthcoming, the wizard then sent her familiar to try and steal a scroll from a local's hut, but the bat was caught and nearly killed in the attempt.

  • The barbarian had a helmet made out of one of the saber-toothed tiger skulls, then tricked a drunken local with the promise of a night together (stealing their stuff when they passed out).

  • The rogue tried to infiltrate the zombie religion's temple, but was caught by the guards. He asked about the rogue zombies in the jungle, but they didn't believe there were any.


The next morning, the wizard wanted to get revenge on the local that hurt her bat by torching their hut, but with witnesses everywhere, settled for stealing the scroll that started the trouble. (Unfortunately, it turned out to be a love letter.) Then, the group met their husband-and-wife guides... and we ended at that point.


My feedback on the game:


  • The array of options made it easy to overlook helpful class features in certain situations, although we learned and remembered them as the game continued.

  • Random thing I wondered, after considering that the islanders have their own language - how do you learn new languages in-game? I didn't see any way to add new ones to a character.


Player A's feedback on the game:


  • Hit points and armor seemed fine.

  • Damage levels in and of themselves seemed fine.

  • Noted that clerics run out of spells too quickly to keep up with the levels of damage being dealt out at level 5. Further noted this contrasted heavily with the fighter and rogue; the cleric can keep up with them for a few combats at most, until their spells are exhausted. Thought prolonged combat could wipe out a cleric's spell slots very quickly.

  • Felt there weren't enough spell slots at level 5. Didn't think more spell slots would affect game balance, since they thought the effectiveness of martial damage dice would compensate for the advantages of more spell slots.

  • Not pleased that clerics have to choose between healing or damage. After seeing how much more damage other characters could deal out, he started to feel like little more than a healbot.

  • Wondered why the cleric doesn't get martial damage dice until level 7.

  • Would like to see some sort of healing-over-time spell.


Player D's feedback on the game:


  • Hit points and armor seemed fine.

  • Getting used to the skill die.

  • Thought there was too much damage being dealt overall. Maximum damage, with the martial dice factored in, was just too high. Understood that the martial dice were replacing multiple attacks, but noted it still seemed like a lot of dice, and made fights end a bit too quickly. (Player A and Player E largely agreed with Player D on this point.)

  • Noted that every character is like a one-man army (my wording, not theirs).


Player E's feedback on the game:


  • Satisfied overall.

  • Liked all the options for his character.

  • Agreed with Player D that individual characters were super effective, but thought it was realistic for such characters to be that good.

  • Would play this game (D&D Next) regularly - although they thought it was kinda nerdy, they didn't mind.


Player F 's feedback on the game:


  • Thought it was about as entertaining as Mutants & Masterminds. No issues with the D&D Next rules overall (just some specific critiques, which follow).

  • Thought skills were worded oddly.

  • Thought the bat familiar's description should call it "walk" speed and not just "speed" - thought it was confusing.

  • Noted that Invisibility (and similar spells) should note when you can use them on yourself.

  • Wondered if the Darkness spell should be level 1. Also thought there should be a stronger "dark" spell to match Daylight.

  • Would like a more convenient way to check a character's spell descriptions during a game.

  • Thought the character sheet should include more space for spells (and descriptions), as well as familiars.

  • Would like to see more "status effect" spells (burning, freezing, stunning, etc.), instead of such effects always being part of an attack spell.

  • Would play this regularly - noted game didn't feel nerdy, but that they'd only play it with friends (and not strangers).


Feedback on the adventure itself:


  • I noted that while random monster encounters are neat and all, more random events (mysterious locations, things happening, etc.) would have helped spice things up. I appreciated the specific events located throughout the island (which we never encountered), but wished there'd been more scattered around.

  • Player A liked the idea of the randomness, but felt it resulted in too little combat. Suggested that perhaps random encounters should become more likely for larger groups.

  • Player D thought the adventure was decent, but a bit too random, and wanted more treasure.

  • Player E thought the adventure was entertaining, but wished it had moved along faster.

  • Player F thought the adventure was good, and didn't mind the randomness. They were satisfied with the non-combat options and found plenty to do.