Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reading 5th Edition's Final Playtest: it's got me now

If D&D holds its course with the September Final Playtest.....if the game ends up fairly close to what is effectively the final version of the game we will see before an actual print edition hits sometime next year....then I think they have me hooked.

I've been reading the latest playtest carefully, and designing a metric ton of characters for it. I've been tinkering with scenarios (kind of easy to be honest) and poking and prodding it to see how it behaves. It's honestly working very well for my needs, and is surprising me in a few distinct ways.

Some examples?

First: there have been two camps on the 4E influence in DDN: you either see it or you don't. This version of the playtest puts stake to that divide, though; I do not see any more 4E DNA in the game anymore; in fact they seem to have gone through great efforts to painstakingly excise as much as they could from the 4E comparison list. I think the only "4Eishness" I can find is an occasional reference to a short rest to recover certain abilities....meaning certain traits and powers are actually "encounter" abilities, in 4E parliance...but you'd have to be looking carefully to notice them, and also be more than a bit familiar with the 4E methodology to find the comparison noteworthy.

Magic Missile? Back to a level 1 effect. Lance of Faith? apparently excised from the game entirely...or at least the playtest. Yeah...not even a priest of light gets to play laser cleric anymore (although the holy hand grenade is now present in the form of an impressive light channeling effect option).

Hit points? Something we can all recognize. Healing? A smidgen of 4E DNA lies here with the hit die recovery mechanic. It's considerably less offensive to one's sense of verisimilitude than the old healing surges were but still may take some effort for old schoolers to get used to.

Skills were briefly extracted from the playtest but they are back in force and a simple mechanic that ties skill effectiveness to class proficiency, a catch-all number for improving score in attacks, skills and saves. This allows for skills to be more meaningful and in depth, while still making skill checks on attributes a thing. It's really very elegant.

I'm not so sure about the whole "tools" concept but need to explore it more before I cast judgement.

I have managed to roll up about 5 D&D characters in forty minutes. That's a new character...fully statted and an average of 8 minutes apiece. Wow.

The spells are great so far. I like how most all of them work in execution. The elegance on the system is starting to's a very intuitive set of rules, actually. It's a big mass of different PDFs and yet it feels very elegant, it makes me want to play it. That's a very good sign.

The monster stat blocks continue to look good, continue to be simple and effective, and the math is starting to look coherent. They've got (most of) their numbers under control's much, much better than the early stages of the playtest when the numbers were all over the place and made no sense.

I'll be resuming another playtest campaign this Saturday. I plan to make this my only game system for Saturdays from now on. I'll let the Pathfinder players enjoy their Wednesday....for now....but eventually, D&D 5E is going to replace Pathfinder for me; it's too close to what I really want in D&D, and I'm really impressed that they managed to do it. This game system feels so much better, so much more intuitive than the last two editions....and it's more modest, pulls back to the style (if not exact mechanics) of 1st and 2nd edition.

I still think D&D 5E has a tough wall to climb with Pathfinder and the entrenched OSR fandom....but I feel it has a far better chance of finding its own niche than I did a few months ago.

Yes, this means you'll be seeing a lot of 5E stuff in the blog from here on out. I am that predictable!


  1. I think it might have a chance. I know a fair number of PF players who find it to be too much, but play it because it's the only game in town. A less is more D&D could have more appeal.

    1. That description fits my Saturday group to a tee. They like PF, but more because of an absence of any alternatives they can tolerate. My Wednesday group though....they've learned an interesting synergy with PF and 3.75; they are going to be a harder sell because the 5E design is built around ease of access and more organic choices; there's very little min/maxing in the core character mechanics, and that may disappoint them (at least one of my Wednesday players has indicated as much).