Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Opinions on 5e from the Gaming Circle

Now that Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition has been out at least in Starter/Basic form, I wanted to get the opinion of some of the gamers in my gaming circle. The names have been changed to protect the guilty/innocent, but it's interesting to see the different positives and negatives everyone has taken away from their gameplay and reading so far.

The overall consensus seems to fairly neutral-to-good, with some more enthusiastic and some merely tolerant. However, I feel like I should point out that itself is a huge swing overall--I think our circle was largely less than thrilled with Wizards of the Coast in general and 4th Edition, so even coming back to a point of neutrality is a good step. I know more of us are looking ahead to getting into some 5e games at Gen Con, so it'll be interesting to hear further opinions then, as well as see if any of the concerns raised are better understood or clarified.

Opinion A
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is a system that I have very much come to like. The game has been in development for at least three years and I believe it shows. I played in the Beta at Gen Con in 2012 and 2013. The game has come a long way since then. I have played three sessions with the Basic rules in the last few weeks and truly enjoy it. I believe the game flows well and comes off as a bit “rules lite.” The artwork is what I expect from D&D and looks great. It seems to me that WotC took a lot of player information and opinions when they formed this game. However, some people will always be put off from it since it is D&D and that is unfortunate. Sure, you can look at the game from a Munchkin or Min / Max view and find problems. You can with all games. I look at fun and playability and I think this version of D&D is right up there with 2nd in my book. I will be playing this version as my main RPG for quite some time. I hope others give it its fair share of attention.

Opinion B
Wizards' newest entry into the Dungeons and Dragons series is a mix of good and bad. The system itself is solid, providing us with Advantage/Disadvantage, and carrying over some of my personal favorite bits from 4th Edition (renamed of course so people who never played it can't recognize them). Proficiency Bonus being the same across the board makes things easier mixed with the lack of feats (initially) allows the focus of the character to move to their IC actions, versus what is on the sheet. Certain spells that were Save vs X have been retooled to make them less of a go to answer for a quick and decisive victory, and damage spells were buffed to scale with the inflated HP values introduced in 5th.

However, there are small cracks in the drying veneer of the product that can make game play bog down into arguments and moments of bad vibes. Abilities are tied to two different kinds of rests meaning players can argue when to take a knee versus a full sleep (why stop for 1 hour when we can take 8 and just let everyone re-pick spells). Monster CR is back and judging from the Starter Set is poorly implemented, the PDF is vague on many rules resulting in Twitter questions to Mearls being replied with 'have the DM decide'. If you need to house rule on issues that every edition prior has covered, then perhaps it needs to go back to the drafting tables?

Overall impressions: Fun to play, rules have potential but ultimately other rules-light systems have it beat due to the lack of documentation on certain things. For a game that was 3 years in the making, it still has a lot of small issues that I am lacking a word count to list. I could probably write an article on it.

Opinion C
Overall, I’m…warmly neutral?....on the game. I was not a big fan of what 4th Edition did with powers for fighters or how they focused almost entirely on combat for spells compared to previous editions. However, I believe the at least the Basic and Starter of 5th Edition looks a lot more promising. Defining what Dungeons and Dragons is can be very difficult, but this just “feels” more like it was made by someone who actually played earlier editions of the game. This doesn't have that "tactical wargame" feel from 4th, though I still see some bits adjusted and changed in there.

With that in mind, I do not like the hit point inflation, and I think they could have stripped this down even more. I really wish they'd stop the entire "auto recharge" concept on rests--it takes away from a certain grittiness in terms of the long, hard wilderness slog, hundreds of miles from proper rest and refuge. A lot of the magic has been tweaked, which is nice, but I think wands are way overpowered—I really don’t like the whole recharging bit. Still, the background options are neat, and this is a game I would at least play for a short campaign, if not longer. I doubt it will be my absolute favorite, but I think it will do well for itself. I hope so—we need more gamers!

Opinion D
I have had a very hard time trusting Wizards of the Coast to create anything close to a decent gaming product since about 2004-2005, so understand I’m coming to this from a position of extreme skepticism. However, I do believe that the merits of an open playtest can be seen here, as this game more closely resembles the D&D I’d want to play than anything they’ve done in a while.

Having stated that, I don’t see myself personally running this anytime soon. Even stripped down for Starter/Basic, there are too many bells and whistles for characters compared to what I want. Although I’m happy about how spells like Fireball are back up to snuff, I think magic staves and wands have too much power—the recharge rules aren’t my cup of tea, to say the least. I’m also not too enamored with the feats I’ve seen too far—I don’t want to dive down the rabbit hole of min/maxing and specialization again. Then again, maybe I’m just tired of feats in general. I want simpler, more open play, and for all that is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t look like 5e will be that for me. Full Rest=Full Hit Points, HP recovery by a “Second Wind”-type mechanic, unlimited Cantrips are all big “Nays” for me. In their defense, these are all things that look pretty adjustable, and I do like the Backgrounds, for example. I’ll stick with my older games in the main, but would definitely play in a campaign. I'm just not sure there's anything here that a game like Pathfinder, Swords & Wizardry or Dark Dungeons doesn't do better, but perhaps find players--which shouldn't be undervalued!

In future versions, I’d also like to see a fully-functioning Basic pdf—one including a few sample monsters. That’s something they can still work on, though. Pathfinder, the SRD, and OGL have set a very high bar for free game support. Still, this is a good starting effort--I hope they build smartly on it!

Opinion E
Honestly I don’t mind NXT (which I will continue to call it). However, I don’t mind it because it seems like Hasbro/WotC ran away from 4th but tried to take things some people liked along with them. For example, I like having something to do all the time as a low level wizard but still have things that are unique enough that it doesn’t feel like the fighters are casting my spells also. Further the 1/day (Wait… extended rest we kept that nonsense) the ability to use a “healing surge” is nice at low level. I am unsure how it correlates to higher levels. Also it feels like the Clerics have a severely limited spell casting ability.

In our session the cleric had two level 1 spells (great, yeah?) and he could heal a superb amount (It was like 1d8 +5 or 6) which is great for a single burst heal. But it also meant that when the rogue and I were at the 4 or so damage level (roughly 50% of our max) we had to decide if he wanted to make that heal (essentially losing a large portion of healing) or waiting until the fighter needed the larger amount of healing.

The two fighters seemed cookie cutter. Apparently NXT has some sort of specialization when you make your class. I think both of our fighters were ranged specialists. At least it seemed that way they both used more ranged weapons than melee. Otherwise NXT fighters are the same as 4th, PF, 3.5, 3, AD&D… etc…

Okay so the Wizard. I played a wizard. NXT does the same thing with Cantrips/Orisons as PF does (so I can cast them all day long) My level 0 Ray of Frost did as much damage as my short sword (with a lower minimum 1-8 as compared to the sword’s 3-8). Also instead of my normal ranged attack for it I used my INT bonus as the attack bonus. Which is cool. I liked actually being able to hit with ranged touch spells. But further other than Magic Missile I would rather cast my Cantrips all day long. I learned that unlike previous editions using HD for spells like Sleep and Color spray it uses amount of HP or % of remaining HP. Which is kind of neat (makes some spells useful at higher levels) but seems to hurt lower levels.

All in all I would play it but I am not a huge fan. If [redacted] decided to run a long term game I may play in it but I wouldn’t be going out of my way to find games/players/GMs. That’s all I have to say about that.

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