First Playthrough - Initial thoughts (lvl 1 monk)

After my first run through, here are my thoughts:

First, the good:
1) The 'package' system works great.
I really like how it allows simplicity without denying complexity. You can choose to be a hedge wizard, OR, you can choose your own feats. Everyone gets what they want.

2)Suggested character combination is great.
I liked how for the fighter it gave you a few options to mash together the various class options, backgrounds & specialities to give different flavours of the same class. I'd love for all the classes to list 2 or 3 options so as a reader you can get a sense of the breadth of the class without having to read every option yourself.

3) Combat
The flow works well, and each player finished their turn quickly doing something that they wanted to do. The combat was over before the players' focus was gone, which was great. See thoughts on the dice below.

4) Fair distribution of stats in skills.
I like how strength & constitution appear more frequently in the skill lists now. I'm not too keen for the list itself, but that's addressed below.

5) Roleplaying encouraged
The lack of combat options encourages the player to spend more time describing what their character does, not which "card" they select. It makes it more about the character, and less about the sheet. There are downsides to this too though addressed below.


And then the not so good:
1) The game should rely less on unintelligent dice and more on intelligent people.
Combat (and skills) seem to rely more on the luck of the dice than the skill, tactics & character (or monster) in question. I think 4e got it right when they allowed the character to shine and the dice to only tweak things, rather than the other way around.

2) Distance should be in squares, not in the empirical system only used in some countries
- Squares were awesome. Geographically, everyone was on equal footing, and most things could be described in squares. Miles are really confusing to someone familiar with the metric system. I feel like I'm playing 'your game,' not playing 'a game.'
- Feet make it too “realistic” when it is not: The fact that every PC can attack in a 1 square radius made sense. The fact that every PC can attack in exactly a 5 foot radius does not (halfling with knife or elf with longsword). The disjoint between 'game' & 'realism' is really jarring.
- Using feet instead of squares makes it more awkward for a DM to invent their own specific measure of distance.
- It was really convenient that a character's speed in squares was their speed in kilometres/hour

3) There should be optional rules to have resilient heroes
Some players like their characters to die from a random, unimportant encounter monster. Some players do not. I think this should be addressed (at least in low levels).

4) The current skills seem arbitrary at best.
-Something like 'break an object' is a skill, but 'negotiate' or 'improvised construction/fixing' is not.
-Ride & drive seem like fairly "trash" skills for your average hero (given that mounts & vehicles are discouraged in most dungeons (and cities, depending on the creature/vehicle) by the rules, mechanics & traps).
-Splitting searching and spotting encourages bad roleplaying and being deceptive with phrasing of what your character is doing.

5)Combat variation
- I felt what I could do (as a monk) was very limited, making one battle much like the next in terms of my options. I didn't have the ability to craft a combat character. The combat was turned into a 1980s arcade game where the only attack is the "A" button rather than a modern videogame where you have options.
- Variety in combat was forced purely onto the DM. As a player I had 1 realistic option most of the time: basic attack with no options, so no tactics.

6) Martial characters should be able to cause effects too.
This is tied in with the above. It seemed, at least at low levels, that special effects like prone, dazed, hypnotised and slowed were for wizards only. I really liked how in 4e everyone got to do the fun, impressive things whether it was with martial or magical prowess.
The combat was turned into a 1980s arcade game where the only attack is the "A" button rather than a modern videogame where you have options.


Haha, well said. I feel like this is especially the case with tactical movement. There's no flanking, terrain rules, or other reasons to maneuver. Very boring and static.
Agree with all your 'Good' points -

Agree and disagree with - 2) Distance should be in squares, not in the empirical system only used in some countries

would prefer hexes. its more iconic with D&D

could go with metric for the weights/distance measurement, it is 2013 after all :P

so I say 2 meter hexes as base for combat, allowing 6 combatants vs 1 medium sized.

Agree and disagree with - 3) There should be optional rules to have resilient heroes - Some players like their characters to die from a random, unimportant encounter monster. Some players do not. I think this should be addressed (at least in low levels).

some players need to learn to run away
some DMs need to play realistic monsters (eg run from fire or when too wounded, they do NOT fight to the death)
some characters and npcs need to learn to beg for mercy, no one ever heard of a worm skin rug etc

all encounters should allow characters to interact, describe the world or advance the plots in some way

Key things for D&D - Where is the character from and why do they do what they do? / Recurring NPCs - allies and enemies / Plot, World and Personal Events.

This...

2) Distance should be in squares, not in the empirical system only used in some countries - Squares were awesome. Geographically, everyone was on equal footing, and most things could be described in squares. Miles are really confusing to someone familiar with the metric system. I feel like I'm playing 'your game,' not playing 'a game.'


 
...contradicts this. 
 
5) Roleplaying encouraged The lack of combat options encourages the player to spend more time describing what their character does, not which "card" they select. It makes it more about the character, and less about the sheet.

 
 
Saying "they're about 30 feet away" is more immersive than saying "they're six squares away", which is itself dependent on playing with a mat and miniatures, which not everybody does. Putting everything in terms of squares breaks immersion and roleplaying. And when would they NOT say "it's a mile to town"? Do you really expect them to use squares in large scale distances, too? "The city of Neverwinter is 1,287 squares away from the town of Ember." Say what?!? 
 
And you're upset that a game set in a medieval fantasy world doesn't use the metric system, which was first introduced in 1799?!?
Because of the new skill system, anybody can attempt to "Ride" or "Drive".  If your campaign rarely uses mounts, and then only to get from A to B more quickly, then the DCs will be low and nobody needs to take the skills.  But if it's a campaign that involves a lot of riding, then DCs will be higher, and the skill isn't wasted.

As for measurement, I'll say it once again: bringing D&D into the 21st century vis a vis technology would let everybody change the entire game to whatever units of measurement they want by changing one setting in preferences.  The only reason we keep having this conversation is because WotC keeps thinking of themselves as a book selling company instead of a play enabling company.
"Therefore, you are the crapper, I'm merely the vessel through which you crap." -- akaddk
I think the goal of changing everything from squares was to allow people to play theatre of the mind. I have had some really great experiences playing that way and it is easier when you know how far everything is. 


The only reason we keep having this conversation is because WotC keeps thinking of themselves as a book selling company instead of a play enabling company.


 
They do sell a lot of books. I really do love going to the local game shop, picking up the new book, and showing it off at the next meet. Still, that is a good point.
Saying "they're about 30 feet away" is more immersive than saying "they're six squares away", which is itself dependent on playing with a mat and miniatures, which not everybody does. Putting everything in terms of squares breaks immersion and roleplaying.


If the text used squares for measuring spell effects and such, there's no reason you have to use squares in casual conversation. The battle grid nazis aren't going to stomp into your house and tell you that you're playing the game wrong.

I don't see what's so immersive about "30 feet" versus "6 squares." Fantasy characters don't use either, and both simply mean "within walking/move-action distance." A descriptor like Close is far more immersive than either.
2) Distance should be in squares, not in the empirical system only used in some countries



Really? Issue with feet, inches and miles?? If you're so bothered with this, then just go ahead and change your system to metric. There's no rule against this. This "bad" made me facepalm. And I'm European..

Concerning death. In my party, we're all beginners. So I decided that my player's characters can't die in an arbitrary fight where a lucky crit on a near-unconcious character results in a KO. Has happened many times, and they all know the rules for dying, but so far no TKOs and everyone gets to do what they like the most - play.
As a side note, I think the death threshold is way too small for any level character.

5)Combat variation - there is none



You're LEVEL 1!!! What do you expect, honestly?

6) Martial characters should be able to cause effects too.



The monk in my party had the ability to stun at lvl 1. You do have these options, you just gotta find them.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

Saying "they're about 30 feet away" is more immersive than saying "they're six squares away", which is itself dependent on playing with a mat and miniatures, which not everybody does.


Why would someone with a mat say they are six squares away, when everyone can see they are 6 squares away? For the mat-free players, it wouldn't matter if they were 6 squares away or 30 feet away - so the argument is moot as far as I am concerned.

Putting everything in terms of squares breaks immersion and roleplaying. And when would they NOT say "it's a mile to town"? Do you really expect them to use squares in large scale distances, too? "The city of Neverwinter is 1,287 squares away from the town of Ember." Say what?!?
 
And you're upset that a game set in a medieval fantasy world doesn't use the metric system, which was first introduced in 1799?!?

Modern miles are not medieval, miles are not prehistoric, miles are not 'Golden Era' Rome/Greece - miles are just what are used today in the country that first introduced D&D. If I wanted to play D&D in Dark Sun - arguably based off of African and Asian influences, should I use their archiac system of travel by this logic? Squares does not stop the DM from creating alternative ways to describe distance, it gives the rules a system which is equally arbitary and clear for everyone.

I, the DM could know that the town is 2 hour walk, 3 empirical miles, 5 metric kilometers, 3400 Roman double-paces, 10,0060 cubits or 2.7 nautical miles away. I can then choose to tell my players how the character tells them - a merchant might tell them it is a 3 hour caravan ride away - a peasant might say it is about 3,000 paces away.

I think the goal of changing everything from squares was to allow people to play theatre of the mind. I have had some really great experiences playing that way and it is easier when you know how far everything is.


I don't know the empirical system like the back of my hand. 30 feet means nothing to me - just like saying 6 squares means nothing to me in real life. If it is squares the DM can easily convert it to your local system, or only mention distance when it matters.

I don't see what's so immersive about "30 feet" versus "6 squares." Fantasy characters don't use either, and both simply mean "within walking/move-action distance." A descriptor like Close is far more immersive than either.

I agree entirely!

Concerning death. In my party, we're all beginners. So I decided that my player's characters can't die in an arbitrary fight where a lucky crit on a near-unconcious character results in a KO. Has happened many times, and they all know the rules for dying, but so far no TKOs and everyone gets to do what they like the most - play.
As a side note, I think the death threshold is way too small for any level character.


As the DM you have now created a houserule to "fix" the mistakes - as we are in play-test, why have the mistake in the first place? That's my logic If the players don't want their characters dying all the time (especially low level characters that people new to D&D may be playing), then I think that is a problem that should be addressed with optional rules.

5)Combat variation - there is none

You're LEVEL 1!!! What do you expect, honestly?

D&D isn't a computer game where you have to get to level 10 to unlock your first cool spell or trait - at least in 4th edition you were doing cool things off the bat. You were already a (novice) superhero. Imagine reading comic books where the first 10 volumes were superman or spiderman with no abilities at all, only with the promise of the interesting battles starting in volume 15?

I guess in short I am coming to 5e with expectations that my character will be a cool dude from the start - he'll have some neat tricks, have personality, and be around for more than 1 or 2 fights before being knocked off by a red-shirt baddie. I may just have high expectations, but 5e was supposed to be a place where all versions of D&D get to show off their best parts and be merged into super D&D. So far I'm just seeing original D&D with all the pitfalls and 4e content being shamefully hidden.
I don't see the problem in calling your moment by feet.  One square is equal to five feet, so you can convert it into squares very easy if you like.  If your speed is 30 feet, it's the same as your speed being 6 squares.  Though, if you are use to the metric system I see the problem.  They probably should have a metric system option.  For now though, I would think it would be very easy to convert the information to metric on your own. 
It's probably best to use a measurement system the majority of the world uses. Metric has even been official in the U.S. since 1866.