So, I’ve signed up for the D&D 5e playtest, and had a perusal through its materials. My overall response was positive, but just barely.
|This is the mascot of D&D Next. I wish his stats were in the Bestiary. That would teach my players a lesson...|
The new combat rules they’ve put out seem relatively solid. Anyone who has played a D20 system before will recognize them instantly. They’ve done one or two new things, which I hesitantly approve of (namely how they treat combat advantage and disadvantage), but I can’t discuss the details without getting a C&D from the company (as if they would notice me anyways!). It looks to me like combat will be much deadlier in 5th edition, unlike the extended pillow fights we have today. Most enemies seem to be able to be killed in a round of combat—by the same token, many PCs suffer the same short life expectancy.
The sample adventure they’ve included surprised me, in that it wasn’t really a sample adventure. There was no plot, it was more of a “here are some caverns full of monsters to loot and kill respectively.” The module does go out of its way to discuss that you can talk your way to success, but it was a far cry from things like FFG’s heavily plot-driven modules in its 40k settings. This is both a good and a bad thing—less potential for rail-roading, as there are literally no tracks, but less guidance for people new to this system. It provides a few possible plot hooks to deal get the PCs to the caves, but on the whole, it really cuts you loose.
There are some things I’m unprepared to review completely. I started D&D in 4th Edition, and ran a campaign with that system for quite a while. I’ve only ever played 3rd edition once or twice, so the biggest shock to me reading the playtest was seeing how the spellbook magic system worked. As I think it over, it would work for any standard dungeon crawl, but the mage will be at a severe disadvantage in any protracted battle. As combat appears to be bloodier and quicker, this will not be an issue in most standard encounters. Depending on how magic and enemies scale, however, this could lead to difficulties.
Characters are, as has been stated publicly, pregenerated. However, the pregenerated characters have Backgrounds and Themes in addition to Races and Classes. This gives me some hope that, with a massive amount of Backgrounds and themes, there may be more to character generation than the horrendous cookie cutter of 4e.
I’m debating whether or not I will actually try to run this playtest with my group. More on that in my next post.