Friday, September 20, 2013

September and life begins at 3rd level

Well. That was sooner than expected.

Between busy summer weekends and wives making plans, we got to play the August packet all of once. Just like that, the final playtest packet is out. So much for our guess that it wouldn't appear until November or even the start of next year.

It's not like the September packet is as radical a departure as the August was from the May packet, but there's still quite a bit of new stuff and some noticeable changes.

Let's start with the stuff I liked.

Multiclassing. At last! I love to multi-class and missed it terribly in every version that we've tried that wasn't Pathfinder or 3.5. Now that it's appeared in the September packet, I think the wait was worth it. Most of it is pretty straightforward, and honestly, how else would you design multiclassing?

The part that I like the most however, and that sets the 5E multiclassing above even the 3.5 rules, is how it handles Spellcasting. In particular, the Spells per Day, where all your spellcasting levels are considered and merged into one handy table. Simple and elegant I say.

I also like the changes made to the Fighter class (the one class I really focused on since that's what I'm currently playing). At first, I was peeved that I could take one and one only Fighting Style just because it's one more restriction or road-block. For example, my fighter is a great sword user, so the "Great Weapon Fighting" style is a natural fit, and it has a cool benefit. But, I also pictured him as having a couple hand-axes and short swords to use in close quarters, where the "Two-weapon Fighting" would be a huge help. So, I'm screwed right? Take one or the other and live with it forever. *sigh* Until I see that in the "Warrior Path", I get the option at 10th level of picking a second specialty. Yay! Oh, wait. That means I'm automatically funneled down that Path instead of getting a real choice.

Ultimately, I'm happy with give and take and being pushed to make hard choices. I just wish it wasn't so early in the character's career. Maybe if there were ways of bailing out of a Path to another one...

Moving on, there are a few things I'm not so sure about.

For starters, I liked the Expertise concept, so I'm a little disheartened to see it go. That said, I don't mind the proficiency in Saves and Skills. On the downside, it's one more table to consult (and one that doesn't seem to have a rhyme or reason on the progression) and one more number to keep track of. It's also a bit of a pain remembering when it applies. The upside however is that it's one more bit of customization available, so on a whole I'm leaning towards liking it.

Next is the bastard sword; an old favorite of mine. It's gone. Instead the longsword has the versatile feature and gets it's damage die bumped a notch when used with two hands. I can picture it and equate it to the katana but there's just something missing from the weapons table.

While I'm on the equipment side of the packet, I don't like the Plate Armor and Mithral Plate. Either the former is way too expensive, or the latter is way too cheap. I mean, for an paltry extra 1,000 GP (or 500 EP if you prefer), you get the Mithral version that weighs 1/3 less and doesn't slow your character down.

Granted, a DM can easily say no until the character does something awesome to earn the friendship of a dwarf/clan/hold/whatever. As a DM, that's what I'd do, and as a player I'd have no problem with going off on a side-trip to get my lighter and flashier plate armor. But if it's a question of simply saving up an extra grand in coin, then it's a no-brainer.

More of what I didn't like.

The kender race. It's just a halfling. Make it a variant with the "Stout" and "Lightfoot". Okay, I get that they included one race from each of the major settings. I'm also a fan of the old Dragonlance setting and wanted to see it as the preferred setting in 4E. I just don't see enough of a difference to justify having the kender as a separate race from the halfling.

I still get the definite feel that the first two levels are a bit of a slog with level 3 being where shit finally gets real. It doesn't help that Mearls all but said that levels 1 and 2 were "apprentice" time for the character. Again, I'm okay with that, if only because we always have the option of starting at 3rd level. I'm just not sure of the design choice. If I had been sitting in that meeting when someone suggested that the first levels of the game should have an "apprentice" feel to them (ie. boring), I would have asked why they wanted the first two levels to be a dull slog.

Unless it was just to nerf multiclassing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Apprentice not wanted.

Another week and another "new" Mearls article that Crwth sent my way (he's better than an RSS reader). New in that it's new to me, despite it being from April 1st.

Anyways, Mr Mearls gives some insight into the tiers of 5e and in a backhanded way, offers up a reason for the Circles and Paths not starting to level 3. Something I've expressed my disdain for.

So, okay, Circles don't open up until 3rd level because the first two levels are an apprenticeship. I can live with that up to a point.

That point is any time I want a character who's back story is anything other than farm boy or serving girl wants to go adventuring.

As an example, my current character was envisioned as a former gladiator (because I saw that path and thought it looked like fun). He escaped or earned his freedom and wandered north to a quiet little town where he could settle down and live a quiet life as a preacher.

Naturally, I knew that the game would drag him out of 'retirement'. What bugs me is that he's a grizzled veteran but he's gotta go through an apprentice phase all over again. Granted, fighting monsters with swords and spells isn't exactly like riding a bike. I'm sure skills get rusty, swords and armor get heavier, and all that.

"Well, gotta go smite some evil. Good thing I still have my armor and blades from all those years I spent in the arena. Too bad I suddenly can't remember how to do all those special moves. Oh well. I guess they'll come back with time (and levels)."

It just seems like an unnecessary roadblock to have a character outside the cliche farm boy.

Yes. I can start at 3rd level. I'm just not sure how the rest of the guys I game with will feel about that. Maybe I'll just tell 'em to take it up with Mike Mearls and WotC.