D&D Next Q&A: Caster Level, Multiclassing & The Apprentice Tier

This week Rodney gives us some information on how caster level might work and answers a couple questions on the apprentice tier.

Trevor Kidd Community Manager

Rule of 3 Haiku Time

Caster level... lolwut?
It's a level in which you 
Gain a new spell slot 

MC Apprentice?
It makes things easier, but
it's not the purpose

Heroes with Zeroes?
Start at third with no XP
And you lose nothing.
I love the answer to #2:  Was the apprentice tier designed with multiclassing in mind?

Answer NO (but we really mean yes).  Otherwise it was a solution searching for a problem.

-Polaris
I think that multi-classing should never be a "level dipping" scenario. I think  the decision to multi-class should be an "all or nothing" decision. Once the decision to multi-class is made, the character has no choice but to advance in both (or all) classes simultaneously, splitting general XP amongst all classes and advancing in all classes.

The level disparity between classes would even out at a bit over time, as well. Especially if the XP curve for each successive level were steeper; say 1.5x the XP requirement of the next lower level (or even 2x). 
I do find it funny how poorly backgrounds work with the concept of apprentice.  Some are flat out opposed to them such as Knight which states you've already completed your time as a squire.  Some are less explicit like Guild Thief or Guide which imply you've already spent a great deal of time in incredibly dangerous situations and overcome them and are well past being an apprentice.

@mikemearls don't quite understand the difference

I don't make the rules, I just think them up and write them down. - Eric Cartman

Enough chitchat!  Time is candy! - Pinky Pie

I think that multi-classing should never be a "level dipping" scenario. I think  the decision to multi-class should be an "all or nothing" decision. Once the decision to multi-class is made, the character has no choice but to advance in both (or all) classes simultaneously, splitting general XP amongst all classes and advancing in all classes.

There's shouldn't need to be a contrived system to compel players to "do it right".

If we want to discourage dipping, then eliminate frontloading.
I think that multi-classing should never be a "level dipping" scenario. I think  the decision to multi-class should be an "all or nothing" decision. Once the decision to multi-class is made, the character has no choice but to advance in both (or all) classes simultaneously, splitting general XP amongst all classes and advancing in all classes.

There's shouldn't need to be a contrived system to compel players to "do it right".

If we want to discourage dipping, then eliminate frontloading.



The problem is a certain amount of frontloading is needed in order to properly define the class....and no, IMHO spending two levels qualifying for your class is a bad job all around (and like I said above, a solution searching for a problem).  I will be the first to say that thematically I like 3e multiclassing since it allows for almost unlimited concepts for characters (at least eventually), but mechanically it has issues that I have yet to see a good solution for.

IMHO the 4e hybrid and/or the 1e/2e multiclassing approach (being multiple classes at once and accounting for it from the start) is the right way to go.

-Polaris
I do find it funny how poorly backgrounds work with the concept of apprentice.  Some are flat out opposed to them such as Knight which states you've already completed your time as a squire.  Some are less explicit like Guild Thief or Guide which imply you've already spent a great deal of time in incredibly dangerous situations and overcome them and are well past being an apprentice.

Yeah, some of these Backgrounds probably need rethinking. Still, a Page (Apprentice) on the way to Squire (Adventurer 3), then finally Knighthood (Adventurer 10) can work. Same family connections would still be in play.

...and no, IMHO spending two levels qualifying for your class is a bad job all around (and like I said above, a solution searching for a problem).

If it's bad for the guy fresh out of boot camp, then it's also bad for the guy who wants to try something else several years later.

Hosing dipping to discourage 5/2/1/1/1/1/1/1 builds makes it even worse for the 12/1 guy..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true">.
IMHO the 4e hybrid and/or the 1e/2e multiclassing approach (being multiple classes at once and accounting for it from the start) is the right way to go.

In my opinion, unifying 1e/2e multi and dual classing is the right way to go.

Pick up classes ad-hoc, dump XP into those classes as desired.

The more they talk about apprentice tier, the more I don't like it.

If you want to have a Level 0 effect, then have a separate system for it.  Starting at 3, or any level higher than 1 really, doesn't sit well with me.  Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4. 

This is a solution in search of a problem.  Starting at 1 is fine.  The classes are not complicated, not even at 1.  The most complicated is probably the Cleric, and even then, not very much.

I just can't help that you're asking the bulk of your established, experienced players to be majorly inconvenienced for some theoretical gain for newbies.  I've seen a lot of new players come and go, in both 3e and 4e, and there have only been a handful who seemed to get anything even remotely close to choice overload at first level, and that happened in 4e.  Next characters are extremely simple by comparison.

I don't see what the gain is, here.


Oh, and the caster level thing makes no sense.  Why invent another, separate thing to call "level" and give it a random progression relative to that other thing we call "level" ?  I guess there might be some benefit for doing something like a cleric/paladin multiclass, where the cleric spell progression is faster than the paladin spell progression, but the way described just seems horribly clunky and unintuitive.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
This Ro3 did not give me any warm fuzzies that the devs are in sync with this audience. Perhaps there is a majority of happy players out there that aren't forum-goers, but I'm suspecting that at this rate, these forums will be quite dead after DDN comes out.

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Yet more evidence for why 3e-style multiclassing is fundamentally flawed.

I just can't help that you're asking the bulk of your established, experienced players to be trivially inconvenienced for some theoretical gain for newbies.



FTFY. 
Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4.

You missed the fact that the first 3 levels go faster.  They are "short" levels.

Something like...

Level 1: 1 session
Level 2: 1 session
Level 3: 1 session
Level 4: 3 sessions
Level 5: 3 sessions
Level 6: 3 sessions
....

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

I think that multi-classing should never be a "level dipping" scenario. I think  the decision to multi-class should be an "all or nothing" decision. Once the decision to multi-class is made, the character has no choice but to advance in both (or all) classes simultaneously, splitting general XP amongst all classes and advancing in all classes.

There's shouldn't need to be a contrived system to compel players to "do it right".

If we want to discourage dipping, then eliminate frontloading.



The problem is a certain amount of frontloading is needed in order to properly define the class....and no, IMHO spending two levels qualifying for your class is a bad job all around (and like I said above, a solution searching for a problem).  I will be the first to say that thematically I like 3e multiclassing since it allows for almost unlimited concepts for characters (at least eventually), but mechanically it has issues that I have yet to see a good solution for.

IMHO the 4e hybrid and/or the 1e/2e multiclassing approach (being multiple classes at once and accounting for it from the start) is the right way to go.

-Polaris



Agreed.

The problem comes when you look at why people "dipped" into a class in 3rd edtion (which is the only previous relevant example). People dip into Rogue for the skills - take away too many of those skills, and your Rogue can't do a competent job. People dip into Fighter for weapon and amrour proficiences and maybe for a d10 hit dice - if you want people to not do that, you've got to take many away, which seems unlikely to leave an effective Fighter. In the only example we've got of how it might work, the Wizard loses all but one cantrip - and I don't think many people would be taking a dip in wizard so they can have three cantrips.

Also, if Apprentice levels were intended to resolve problems with multiclassing, then their interaction with the experience system would need to be adjusted quite strictly. Would two apprentice levels need the same XP as two normal levels, if they're taken after 1st/2nd level? If so, they should probably have as much "stuff" in them as two normal levels, unless the intention is to discourage multi-classing strongly.

These, in the day when heaven was falling, The hour when earth's foundations fled, Followed their mercenary calling, And took their wages, and are dead. Playing: Legendof Five Rings, The One Ring, Fate Core. Planning: Lords in the Eastern Marches, Runequest in Glorantha. 

Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4.  


From what' been described, the XP needed to go from 1-4 is roughly the amount of XP one needs to go from 1-2 currently, so in overall adventuring time, going from 1-4 probably will feel like 1-2 in the current packt.

So the packet currently looks like
0: 0 XP
1: 250 XP
2: 950 XP
Etc.

With Apprentice, it might look like...
0: 0 XP
1: 75 XP
2: 150 XP
3: 250 XP
4: 950 XP

Functionally, what this does is truncate the entire process from 20 levels to 18 levels.

Oh, and the caster level thing makes no sense.  Why invent another, separate thing to call "level" and give it a random progression relative to that other thing we call "level" ?


i have a feeling "caster level" is a mechanic they have some ideas on including, but so far the only mechanic that uses it is the elven cantrip ability.  So that's all speculation.
Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4.

You missed the fact that the first 3 levels go faster.  They are "short" levels.

Something like...

Level 1: 1 session
Level 2: 1 session
Level 3: 1 session
Level 4: 3 sessions
Level 5: 3 sessions
Level 6: 3 sessions
....



Nice.
4E actually handled the "multi-classing" issue as well as the game has at any point. You could dip in to a class with a multiclassing feat or you could go full-on hybrid. The Bard's ability to multiclass in multiple classes was flavorful and worked well. Some may argue the power swap feat cost was too high and I'd be inclined to agree somewhat but otherwise it was good.
This is a solution in search of a problem.  Starting at 1 is fine.  The classes are not complicated, not even at 1.  The most complicated is probably the Cleric, and even then, not very much.



I'm not sure I agree.

IME  making new characters ultra simple does make it a lot easier to introduce D&D to people who don't normally game, and I would not describe the current starting characters in Next as "ultra-simple". Just last weekend I introduced a group of my wife's friends to D&D. None of them had ever played an RPG before, and even the basic concept of what an RPG is required some explaining. Note that these aren't people who play computer or video games, read a lot of fantasy, or even play boardgames more complex than Monopoly--their frame of reference for the game was essentially nil. They figured D&D was basically just another game like the time I introduced them to Ticket to Ride--I take 5 minutes to explain some rules, and then we're off and playing. Unfortunately it didn't quite go like that. We were using 4e, and I had some pregens, including ones I thought were pretty damn simple (like a Slayer). It did not, frankly, go that well. Even the simplest character at the table was, in their minds, really complicated, and even by the end of the session only one of them had grokked it at all. In hindsight, I think I should have gone with another system, perhaps Basic or a Retroclone. A system wherein a character has, at most, 1 special thing they can do (e.g. "You can cast sleep once a day" or "You can rage once a day") would have been much better for the group imo.

The current fighter in Next is as complicated as a Slayer, if not moreso. The Wizard is more complicated than any version of the class except those found in 4e, 3.x or Pathfinder. In other words, if I were to do it all over again with this group, I would not pick 4e or 3.x, but I would not pick Next either, for essentially the same reasons.

But on the other hand, I'm not really a fan of low level play in ultra-simple systems. Not just because I'm not a huge Fantasy Vietnam fan, but because having between 0 and 1 mechanical tricks my character can use bores the hell out of me. Thats why I didn't suggest one in the first place, because I personally find that once a system gets too simple it bores me.

It would be cool if there were a system that simultaneously worked great for people like me, who play lots of RPGs and enjoy character creation and lots of options, and people who really aren't gamers at all like my wife's friends. The "tutorial level" idea is one way to do that, though I'm not sold on the execution.

In my dream world, I want a D&D thats as easy to pick up and teach to a brand new group as Monopoly or Pictionary is, but that is somehow still satisfying to people who've been playing their entire lives. I'm not sure it's possible, but I'm glad they're trying.
^ Savage Worlds. It actually is a simple game. You can make characters from scratch and be playing in under an hour, even with brand new players.
Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4.

You missed the fact that the first 3 levels go faster.  They are "short" levels.

Something like...

Level 1: 1 session
Level 2: 1 session
Level 3: 1 session
Level 4: 3 sessions
Level 5: 3 sessions
Level 6: 3 sessions
....


Only the first 2 levels go faster, and no I'm not missing it, but even then "short" is still time spent arbitrarily catching up through the "pointless" levels that I don't want to play.

Apprentice Tier should be a separate and distinct part of the game.  Not tied to any part of the level structure.  The people who want to play it can play it, but something that you expect people to stop using even if they start with it should be made very clearly separable from the real game.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4.

You missed the fact that the first 3 levels go faster.  They are "short" levels.

Something like...

Level 1: 1 session
Level 2: 1 session
Level 3: 1 session
Level 4: 3 sessions
Level 5: 3 sessions
Level 6: 3 sessions
....


Only the first 2 levels go faster, and no I'm not missing it, but even then "short" is still time spent arbitrarily catching up through the "pointless" levels that I don't want to play.

Apprentice Tier should be a separate and distinct part of the game.  Not tied to any part of the level structure.  The people who want to play it can play it, but something that you expect people to stop using even if they start with it should be made very clearly separable from the real game.



Side note: Going with a 4e style hp system, and 3e style skill points could make using a level 0 module really easy to implement.


Level .3: Character has 1/2 con score HP, 2x normal skill points
Level .6: Character has con score HP, 3x normal skill points
Level 1: Character has Con Score+HD hp,  4xnormal skill points 
On complicated classes and complicated character creation:

Isn't this what all of the "prepackaged" option sets are for?  Yes, if you force your new player to go through the whole list of options it can be overloaded.  But this is how character creation for new players is going to work:

Player 1:  Ok, so what kind of character are you wanting to play?
Player 2:  I want to play an archer.
Player 1:  Ok, do you want to cast spells?
Player 2:  Nah, just a normal archer, shooting stuff with a bow.
Player 1:  Ok, you're a Fighter with the Archery fighting style and the Sharpshooter specialty, here's your starting equipment list.

This isn't complicated at all, takes away all of the choice paralysis, is easy to direct new players into, and sacrifices nothing.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
This is a solution in search of a problem.  Starting at 1 is fine.  The classes are not complicated, not even at 1.  The most complicated is probably the Cleric, and even then, not very much.



I'm not sure I agree.

IME  making new characters ultra simple does make it a lot easier to introduce D&D to people who don't normally game, and I would not describe the current starting characters in Next as "ultra-simple". Just last weekend I introduced a group of my wife's friends to D&D. None of them had ever played an RPG before, and even the basic concept of what an RPG is required some explaining. Note that these aren't people who play computer or video games, read a lot of fantasy, or even play boardgames more complex than Monopoly--their frame of reference for the game was essentially nil. They figured D&D was basically just another game like the time I introduced them to Ticket to Ride--I take 5 minutes to explain some rules, and then we're off and playing. Unfortunately it didn't quite go like that. We were using 4e, and I had some pregens, including ones I thought were pretty damn simple (like a Slayer). It did not, frankly, go that well. Even the simplest character at the table was, in their minds, really complicated, and even by the end of the session only one of them had grokked it at all. In hindsight, I think I should have gone with another system, perhaps Basic or a Retroclone. A system wherein a character has, at most, 1 special thing they can do (e.g. "You can cast sleep once a day" or "You can rage once a day") would have been much better for the group imo.

The current fighter in Next is as complicated as a Slayer, if not moreso. The Wizard is more complicated than any version of the class except those found in 4e, 3.x or Pathfinder. In other words, if I were to do it all over again with this group, I would not pick 4e or 3.x, but I would not pick Next either, for essentially the same reasons.

But on the other hand, I'm not really a fan of low level play in ultra-simple systems. Not just because I'm not a huge Fantasy Vietnam fan, but because having between 0 and 1 mechanical tricks my character can use bores the hell out of me. Thats why I didn't suggest one in the first place, because I personally find that once a system gets too simple it bores me.

It would be cool if there were a system that simultaneously worked great for people like me, who play lots of RPGs and enjoy character creation and lots of options, and people who really aren't gamers at all like my wife's friends. The "tutorial level" idea is one way to do that, though I'm not sold on the execution.

In my dream world, I want a D&D thats as easy to pick up and teach to a brand new group as Monopoly or Pictionary is, but that is somehow still satisfying to people who've been playing their entire lives. I'm not sure it's possible, but I'm glad they're trying.

13th Age is pretty friendly to beginners if you stick with the "simple" classes (barbarian, paladin, ranger) but also has more complicated options for experienced players.
Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4.

You missed the fact that the first 3 levels go faster.  They are "short" levels.

Something like...

Level 1: 1 session
Level 2: 1 session
Level 3: 1 session
Level 4: 3 sessions
Level 5: 3 sessions
Level 6: 3 sessions
....

Only the first 2 levels go faster, and no I'm not missing it, but even then "short" is still time spent arbitrarily catching up through the "pointless" levels that I don't want to play.

Then don't play them....  It's not hard to start at level 3.
Or 16 if you want a more lengendary type of game.

Apprentice Tier should be a separate and distinct part of the game.  Not tied to any part of the level structure.  The people who want to play it can play it, but something that you expect people to stop using even if they start with it should be made very clearly separable from the real game.

Weather it's called "level 1",  "level -2", "level 0.3", or "Aprentice 1" is just semantics.

No matter what, your going to have to make a "start here or here" section.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

I think this whole apprentice tier thing could be avoided if they didn't frontload classes and stop pushing D&D stereotypes so hard.

Maybe they should not have nerfed themes and made them specialties.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Re: Caster Level, please don't.  It didn't work in 3E, it won't work now.
I think this whole apprentice tier thing could be avoided if they didn't frontload classes


There's an inherent tension here.  You want to frontload classes so that the class feels like the class from the get-go.  A class should be the class at level 1, and grow outward and upward in capability as you go.  You shouldn't have to wait for your defining class feature to show up. 
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Eh, I like the change. With it, more traditional people can have their weak early levels, and the more modern people can have their early level heroes. The hero guys just have to start at 3rd level....that's a small concession for a decent solution.
My two copper.
On complicated classes and complicated character creation:

Isn't this what all of the "prepackaged" option sets are for?  Yes, if you force your new player to go through the whole list of options it can be overloaded.  But this is how character creation for new players is going to work:

Player 1:  Ok, so what kind of character are you wanting to play?
Player 2:  I want to play an archer.
Player 1:  Ok, do you want to cast spells?
Player 2:  Nah, just a normal archer, shooting stuff with a bow.
Player 1:  Ok, you're a Fighter with the Archery fighting style and the Sharpshooter specialty, here's your starting equipment list.

This isn't complicated at all, takes away all of the choice paralysis, is easy to direct new players into, and sacrifices nothing.


Character creation is only part of it. How the characters play is another, and perhaps more important. Anyone can make pregens in any system, that doesn't make every system "simple." As it stands currently, regardless of how they're built level 1 characters in Next remain substantially more complex to play than level 1 characters in Basic or most Retroclones. That makes low level play way more fun for people like me, who play lots of RPGs. But it also makes low level play dauntingly complex for people unfamiliar with RPGs.

"Simple" to my mind means, "My mom, who's idea of a complicated game is Monopoly, who doesn't play video games or watch/read fantasy, who is basically the polar opposite of the stereotypical gamer, could create and effectively play a character in under 10 minutes."

Basic passes that test. Some retroclones do as well. Depending on class choice, AD&D and 2e arguably might as well.

3.x does not, 4e does not, and Next does not.

If Next can be tweaked so that it does pass that test, while also deliverying a satsifying experience for more experienced gamers who prefer lots of options and complexity, that would be ****ing awesome in my book, because it would make it way easier to get new people into the game, without having to play a system that personally bores me.
Even worse is the idea that I start at 3, but then spend the full 3 levels' worth of experience not progressing, until I get enough for 4.

You missed the fact that the first 3 levels go faster.  They are "short" levels.

Something like...

Level 1: 1 session
Level 2: 1 session
Level 3: 1 session
Level 4: 3 sessions
Level 5: 3 sessions
Level 6: 3 sessions
....

Only the first 2 levels go faster, and no I'm not missing it, but even then "short" is still time spent arbitrarily catching up through the "pointless" levels that I don't want to play.

Then don't play them....  It's not hard to start at level 3.
Or 16 if you want a more lengendary type of game.

Apprentice Tier should be a separate and distinct part of the game.  Not tied to any part of the level structure.  The people who want to play it can play it, but something that you expect people to stop using even if they start with it should be made very clearly separable from the real game.

Weather it's called "level 1",  "level -2", "level 0.3", or "Aprentice 1" is just semantics.

No matter what, your going to have to make a "start here or here" section.




But semantics do matter when you are making a game based around words and perceptions. If you have apprentice levels as negative levels, level 0, level .X, or whatever, all makes them inherently optional from the outset. Setting level 1 as the apprentice levels makes them not optional, but an expected part of the game. While any given group can choose how they want to play, the presentation changes the expectation of what the game is, and what the game is expected to do. It is a fundamental philisophical issue, an identity crisis of what the game wants to be.

It also matters from a mechanical perspective. As noted in the questions, apprentice level being level 1 affects multiclassing in a very real way. We've been told we will most likely at least see a 3.X style multiclassing option for testing. The apprentice levels makes such multiclassing much weaker, or even nonfunctional (And contrary to popular belief, multiclassing between a bunch of base classes wasn't common in 3.X. It was relatively common for martial types, because they were weak and lacked any resource system to encourage sticking around until higher levels... but any caster, psion, incarnate, martial adept, or other type of character who got actual level appropriate abilities was highly discouraged from multiclassing except into prestige classes designed to work with them). If you instead make it (as I suggested) .3/.6 instead of 1/2, you can still have apprentice levels incorporated in multiclassing without having to make the character waste 3 character levels for 1 real level worth of abilities (getting the features of .3/.6 at experience checkpoints), or ignore those apprentice levels entirely, dependent on the desires of the group. That is what modularity is all about, as opposed to the system we were described.
A fighter has precisely one resource to manage at level 1.  Two expertise dice.  You tell them they can use it for offense or defense, and once they use it it's gone until the next fight.


This is not complicated. 


Seriously, new players don't have to be handled as if they were 5-year-olds with zero critical thinking skills.  Basic, simple guidance on what to use when is all that is necessary, and that's easily provided both in the text as well as by other players.  Strategic thinking shouldn't be completely banished.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
For next to be a simple game they would need to unify the core mechanics (no more separation between attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, etc). They would need to make the rules clear and conscise instead of vague and "interperatable". They would need to overhaul spells to actually be clear and concise. They would need to use different terms more often (no more spell level, class level, character level, caster level, and HD + HD healing). It would be a much better system overall, but not one that feels "retro".
Eh, I like the change. With it, more traditional people can have their weak early levels, and the more modern people can have their early level heroes. The hero guys just have to start at 3rd level....that's a small concession for a decent solution.



Why not start with a different number of hit-points/hit-dice at first level depending on what sort of game you want?  This would be an example of modularity.

-Polaris
For next to be a simple game they would need to unify the core mechanics (no more separation between attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, etc). They would need to make the rules clear and conscise instead of vague and "interperatable". They would need to overhaul spells to actually be clear and concise. They would need to use different terms more often (no more spell level, class level, character level, caster level, and HD + HD healing). It would be a much better system overall, but not one that feels "retro".


I'm not sure "better" either, and it certainly wouldn't be D&D.  I've played games like this, and there is some amount of complication required in order to have D&D be a game of depth.

If you really want to simplify, that's what the Basic ruleset that they described earlier is for.  But turning Basic into "levels 1 and 2, for everyone" is not an acceptable solution to me.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I really don't understand why the learning and/or understanding capability of "New People" is so incredibly underestimated.
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
For next to be a simple game they would need to unify the core mechanics (no more separation between attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, etc). They would need to make the rules clear and conscise instead of vague and "interperatable". They would need to overhaul spells to actually be clear and concise. They would need to use different terms more often (no more spell level, class level, character level, caster level, and HD + HD healing). It would be a much better system overall, but not one that feels "retro".



The bolded is why it'll never happen, IMHO.  Not only do the devs (esp Mearls) have their own preferences (which seem pretty strongly slanted towards retro-BECMI), but after 4e, Wotc seems running scared and seems deathly afraid of anything that doesn't feel like retro-DND.

That's harsh, but that's my take.

-Polaris
I really don't understand why the learning and/or understanding capability of "New People" is so incredibly underestimated.



IMHO it's because a lot of them have been involved with DND for so long that they don't understand "new gamers".  That being so, I believe that Wotc is trying to correct the 'lessons' they learned from 4e and Essentials without really understanding what their mistakes actually were.

-Polaris
It seems helpful if the inexperienced newbie starts at level “1”.

Level “.3” or whatever seems like an unnecessary layer complexity.


  
Oppositely, it is easier for experienced players to understand and appreciate the benefits of starting at level 3.
It seems helpful if the inexperienced newbie starts at level “1”.

  



*nod* Yes, that does seem to be the most logical and intuitive place to start.  I would suggest that what constitutes "level one" (in terms of hit points and maybe hit-dice) may vary (and indeed be modular).

-Polaris
For next to be a simple game they would need to unify the core mechanics (no more separation between attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, etc). They would need to make the rules clear and conscise instead of vague and "interperatable". They would need to overhaul spells to actually be clear and concise. They would need to use different terms more often (no more spell level, class level, character level, caster level, and HD + HD healing). It would be a much better system overall, but not one that feels "retro".


I'm not sure "better" either, and it certainly wouldn't be D&D.  I've played games like this, and there is some amount of complication required in order to have D&D be a game of depth.

If you really want to simplify, that's what the Basic ruleset that they described earlier is for.  But turning Basic into "levels 1 and 2, for everyone" is not an acceptable solution to me.



I would love if instead of attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks there was only ability checks.

Those ability checks could then be modified by skills.

Making a melee attack with a weapon, roll Str or Dex modified by your Fighting skill.

Casting a fireball, roll Int modified by your Spellcasting skill.

Need to resist a poison, roll Con modified by your Endurance skill.

Allow players to apply skills if they can describe their actions in way that makes sense. One player may use Dexterity + Perception to avoid a fireball because he noticed the wizard casting it. Another might use Dexterity + Acrobatics to dodge out of the way.

No need for separate terms, bonuses, and other rules that make things not flow together.
For next to be a simple game they would need to unify the core mechanics (no more separation between attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, etc). They would need to make the rules clear and conscise instead of vague and "interperatable". They would need to overhaul spells to actually be clear and concise. They would need to use different terms more often (no more spell level, class level, character level, caster level, and HD + HD healing). It would be a much better system overall, but not one that feels "retro".



The bolded is why it'll never happen, IMHO.  Not only do the devs (esp Mearls) have their own preferences (which seem pretty strongly slanted towards retro-BECMI), but after 4e, Wotc seems running scared and seems deathly afraid of anything that doesn't feel like retro-DND.

That's harsh, but that's my take.

-Polaris


At this point, I think I agree with you, to the extent that I am coming to conclude that attempting to change the minds of the dev team is a futile exercise.

Thankfully there are a number of products in development by other companies, or that I already own, that will allow me to play and run games that I will actually enjoy.  As a result, I am very close to simply walking away from D&D entirely at this point.