Ok, so I've played three session now, the first 2 with 2 earlier packets and just tonight with the latest one.
I'm not going to focus on the minor differences from the packets, but rather focus on what I see as common issues across all - assuming that these issues are staying around and will continue to be issues (IMHO).
Sorry, so far, hate them. Really, really hate how skills are handled in every packet released so far. Admittedly, I'm a fan of 3.5 skills (even 4th did ok with them), but this version really smashed them good. Skills should give a character a means to focus on some (usually) non-combat ability that really fits their character background, theme, or whatever. In 3.5, one could pick a skill and absolutely focus on it to become very good at it. Certain skills (ie Diplomacy) could break the game, but that was a problem with those specific skills, if you ask me, so I don't want to get side tracked with those cases. I never liked the way 4th edition (and 5th ed) took skills and said: "Here you go, you get these at level 1, but as you level up you can't get any better? at them. (without sinking feats or such into them. ouch!). Nah, you should be able to train a skill or two as you level up. In my opinion, 3.5 was better at handling skills than 4th or 5th.
My suggestion: Ok, you pick a trained skill at level 1. You can apply your skill die to trained skills. Ok, this isn't bad, let's go with it. Now, every level (or two? or three?) you gain a skill point (or 2?). You can assign this to a skill, and get a +1 to that skill. Done, that's it. Simple. Don't give out too many skill points, but having a few availalbe (especially for a rogue!!) is kind of essentially, if you ask me.
2) Hit Points.
The biggest flaw with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition, gleefully brought back because, you know .. we all love level 1 and level 2 TPKs. *sigh*
Why is it, when we learn something (ie starting hit points in 4th edition) that works, we decide "Hey, let's toss that out - no reason". O_o
Seriously. In all three sessions we played (all at level 1). Each and every time, we were almost faced a TPK.
No, this is not exciting or thrilling. It's annoying, frustrating and boring!
No, we had plenty of resources, we hadn't overextended.
No, the enemies were an appropriate encounter (ie not too tough).
Yes, in ?each and every case?, it was due to 1 or 2 lucky rolls vs our front line tank, and, since they don't start with much over 10 hit points .. bam, front line fighter is now down and resorting to watching everything go by and rolling a death saving throw on each of his turns
How exciting!! Please go back and look at what made 4th edition interesting. One thing was that being dropped to 0 hit points and doing nothing but making death saving throws was not nearly as common of an occurance as any other edition.
Even in 3.5, our DM houseruled one campaign that we started with an extra level of NPC class (ie Commoner, Expert, etc). This gave us a couple extra hit points, and man, did we ever notice a difference!
When 4th edition came along, and basically did the same thing, I was all "hallelujah", somebody's finally thinking!!
Then they go back to making PCs excessively fragile. *sigh*
I remember reading something once "Stupidity leads to character creation, not bad luck." It was on a t-shirt that allowed the player to reroll 1/day. Smart!
So why do we then create a system in which bad luck alone can easily lead to a PC death?
My suggestion: more starting hit points at level 1. Resources for healing are still the same (ie Hit Dice, Cure spells, etc., so it's not a problem, it just means the PCs are punked with single lucky shots as much.
Option a) ala 4th edition: Hit Dice + Con score.
Option b) Hit Dice + Con Mod + 10.
Option c) 2xHit Dice + Con Mod.
That extra bit of hit points (usually around 10 or so), make all the difference between players sitting around doing nothing but rolling death saving throws, and actually PLAYING THE GAME!
3) Sleep spell.
Seriously, nerf this please. Way to strong.
No to hit?
Yeah. Go read Command. Take a few pointers from that one.
Fine, less than so many hit points, no save. sleep. Ok.
But if they have more, at least let them save.
And since Sleep can be "metamagicked" by using higher level slots, it can end up with a fairly high roll for hit points at some point.
So, using a 5th level wizard can use a 3rd level slot to get 9d8 of hit points.
That's an average of only about 40 hit points, and a max of 72. A good roll can hit 50 pretty easy, and that seems a bit high.
That 5th level wizard can almost drop a Vrock with that spell! a 7th level wizard could take the Vrock even easier.
A Vrock is a level 10 rating. Seems a bit much.
My suggestion: adapt Command's mechanic:
roll 5d8. Affects total # of hit points as per spell wording now.
Additionally if any target has hit points greater than half of what was rolled, they get a Wisdom save.
There, any sufficiently large critter - regardless of how well you roll - at least gets a chance to shrug it off. Let's not bring back in the cast = death spell. Even these save or die's are bad enough.
4) Coup de Grace.
Speaking of Sleep, this leads to the Coup do Grace. Sure, I understand being unconscious sucks when somebody decides to stab you in the neck with a sharp pointed stick. But wow, this edition is harsh.
Bigger brutes knock out PCs. Minions walk up coup de grace, hit for 1 point of damage, PC dead.
Thanks for coming out. O_o
My suggestion: Take a lesson from 3.5. Take the damage normally. Allow a Con save to withstand it. Of course, the coup de grace should auto-crit or something, or even double damage. And possibly, it should apply a penalty to the save based on damage. The point is, if you deal a reasonable amount of damage, fine, it should be insta-death. However, as it stands, a single point of damage = insta death, and that's a bit much.
5) Dual wielding And monk's are no longer special.
Everyone can dual wield? I don't know about this. Sounds neat at first, but then you think about it:
What's better: (assume Str 16 character)
a) 1 attack roll with Long sword for 1d8 +3 damage.
b) 1 attack roll with short sword for 1d6 + 3 damage. + 2nd attack roll with spiked shield for 1d6 damage.
so 1 roll, 1d8+3 vs 2 rolls, 2d6+3.
Yeah, I know, they did it to balance the 2-h vs two weapon.
So, Greatsword: 1d12 + 3 roughly = 2d6+3 ... fair.
But I don't see any reason anymore, why a standard sword/shield fighter would use a standard shield. Always use a light weapon + spiked shield.
So yeah, good start, but not quite there.
Also, by allowing everyone to dual wield with no problem, Monk's are no longer special. Monk? FLurry? meh, no big deal.
-2 to attack with two weapons, unless you have a feat. It's what the feat is for, use it.
You want to dual wield? Train - it's not easy. But then, reward them. Make the two weapon fighting feats "better". It's ok if the two weapon fighting gets slightly ahead of two handed fighting IF FEATS ARE BEING SPENT TO DO SO.
Bring back flurry for Monk's, allow flurry to work on any "Monk weapon"
Define monk weapons as: quarterstaff, dagger, handaxe, club, spear/javelin.
Flurry does flat damage: ie 1d6, regardless of weapon used - but uses the weapon's damage type.
Just my suggestions. Don't have all the answers, but I know what I'm not enjoying and what I find irritating, so there's my feedback!
Hope this helps.