[earlier context snipped]
I actually liveblogged it a couple of weeks ago, so if you want slightly more precise analysis of the various issues I found, that’s here.
But the general points are:
- Rolling for stats and HP is a good way to fuck over your party balance before you even start the game.
- Spellcasting classes are still ridiculously more powerful than mundane classes.
On the first one, I tend to agree; I note that those are now unambiguously-optional rules, with the fixed values at least specifically called out. Although I do not place as much weight on party balance as I used to. The spellcasting/mundane thing… I don’t dispute it, because I haven’t gone to high levels yet, but compared to previous editions of D&D, which is mostly what I’m comparing it to, it seems MUCH better. (For instance, in 5e, a wizard maxes out with a single 9th level spell per day. I think 1e it was a handful, 2e it was 2 at 20th level, 3e it was at least a few and you could get many more.) I’ll have to see how it works at higher levels.
Note that they have long since gone to always-maximum hit points at first level, which mitigates the worst of the chargen losses.
I think the rolled-stats are a thing because people sometimes enjoy them, and they have certainly produced some very memorable games.
Yes, making rolled stats an option is at least a small mercy. And yes, if you are doing first-level chargen, max HP does help somewhat, but if you are doing beyond first-level, or as you level up, it just seems rather too swingy to be able to keep your characters effective.
From what I have seen and heard, the spellcasters have fewer spells but they are more powerful, comparatively (admittedly, I realise looking over this that you were comparing to 3e and I was comparing to 3.5, so I will probably need to check with 3e there). Additionally, most classes seem to have been nerfed to an extent. (Though it is at least better than Pathfinder.)
Would you mind expanding on why you put less stock in party balance, and how you are interpreting that?
- The mandatory fluff is so incredibly stereotypical.
I may have misunderstood things, but I thought the fluff was suggested, rather than mandatory, with suggestions of considering alternatives. Again, some of that may just be that, really, the game isn’t actually out yet; this is the demo, pretty much. The actual game is the PHB+DMG, which will be a while yet.
Yeah, the way they are marketing this is somewhere between confusing and misleading. The best explanation I have found so far is that they are trying to mimic the structure of Basic D&D and AD&D, back when that was a thing. (Also, you would think that an RPG would avoid giving something the acronym DMG…)
- Their simulationism is bad and they should feel bad. (Like, if you are going to give weapons different amounts of damage - which by itself is a bad idea, since it means that only the highest-damage weapons will be used - you should at least be accurate with your damage assignments.)
Thinking back over the 30ish years I’ve been playing D&D-derived games, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone using the highest-damage weapons. Except I think we had a barbarian with a greataxe in one 3E game. Past that… I don’t actually have any real clue on the damage assignments, but I don’t think D&D is really “simulationist” in the sense of “trying to accurately model weapons and armor”.
…I’m incredibly bemused by why people wouldn’t use the highest-damage weapons; I think that may be a playstyle difference.
And - why do you reckon not? Like, if they are going to go to the trouble of giving a great list of weapons with different damage dice for each and sometimes different properties, why would the intent there be inaccuracy instead of accuracy?
- They are trying to tell you that PCs should be exceptional in some way - which is good; protagonists are protagonists for a reason! - and yet their rules do not support this.
- The monster guides are lying again about what monsters are suitable for what parties, which seems to defeat the point of them being a guide. >:|
I haven’t seen the monster stuff yet. It’s always been sort of pot luck, though. I am not as sure about the protagonist thing, and won’t be able to comment very well until the DMG is out.
Yeah, the monster stuff is an ongoing problem; I’m just saddened they haven’t gotten wise to that yet, you know?
The issue whereby they ripped off the FATE system is best summarised here, to save this post getting ridiculously long.
Oh-hoh! See, I knew FATE, and I saw this, but I don’t think it’s close enough in mechanics to count as ripping it off. And I’m not entirely sure FATE was the first game I saw a thing like that in, although I’d have to go digging in boxes to check some of the others. (I thought there was a thing a little like that in pre-d20 Deadlands, maybe?) I guess I didn’t so much see it as an attempt to recreate that system’s entire benefit, as a way to add a little newbie-handholding for people new to RPGs. And I am fine with there being some newbie-handholding in the game, which I just assume I’ll ignore.
See, I would buy that if it were just the similarity in how the traits were set up, but with the Inspiration mechanic - that just seems suspiciously similar to FATE points. Though I will have to hunt for the Deadlands you mention to have a look at that.
And I am pretty sure that they absolutely do not intend you to be
Out of curiosity, which other games besides Pathfinder, and why d’you prefer 5E?
Okay, for starters, I’m mostly a D&D player. I mean, just for whatever reason, that’s the one that suits me best. GURPS reminds me of day-old chewing gum; I have never had a GURPS experience which involved the perception of the setting’s flavor having survived the conversion. FATE and some related systems have generally struck me as very good for things heavily focused on character development and story, but I tend to prefer more combat-heavy crunch in my RPG systems. I’ve played a handful of games in WoD-based things where the rules were being adhered to mechanically mostly but the setting was basically replaced entirely with something the GM thought more sensible, and I sort of like those, but I got really sick of rolling huge piles of d10s.
So the big comparison, for me, is Basic/Expert/etc. (BECMI), AD&D1e, AD&D2e, 3E, 3.5E, 4E, Pathfinder, 5E. Those are “the D&D family” for the most part. Of those:
1e is full of horrible extra complexity which adds little value but requires table lookups, and doesn’t even remotely approximate balance. 2e tries to clean it up in a way that loses a lot of the flavor I like in the system. 3e’s a sort of nice first-pass at a more simulationy game, but with a ton of severe balance flaws and holes. 3.5e and Pathfinder are both pretty decent for that genre, but scale atrociously at high levels because of the enormous gaps between good and bad skills, saves, etcetera. 4e is actually a really nice game, but it departs enough from the usual resource management that a lot of people don’t feel it plays like-D&D at all.
5e has the cleanest, simplest, rules of any game in the series. I think it has a reasonable chance of producing better parity between casters and non-casters at high levels, just because the spell slot supply is so very much more limited. Comparison: A 20th level 2e Mage had 37 spells per day, a 20th level 5e Wizard has 22 plus cantrips. They get some spamming of low-level stuff, but there is no spamming of high-level spells.
And while other games have a lot of things they’re good at, I’ve never really been happy with combat in basically any of the others. Maybe it’s just baby duck syndrome, maybe it’s some sort of innate style preference. D&D’s heavily-abstracted combat model, with no real distinctions made between all sorts of things (like, no soak-vs-dodge distinction), has worked well for me, as has their class-based progression system. So I’m mostly comparing the games built around that, and of them, 5e is looking to be my favorite so far.
Hmm, that is interesting. And yeah, I can see how 5e would be a preferable system out of those you mentioned, especially if you are going for simplicity. (I admit I’m somewhat spoiled on that, since I cut my gaming teeth on a system that came out of people looking at all the balance flaws in 3.5 and making a system that had the good aspects of a d20 system and fewer, at least, of the bad ones.)