D&D next playtest feedback: classes as a whole, fighter in specifics
by, 05-29-2012 at 11:22 AM (4119 Views)
I am going to do my best and stay objective. It is nice to see the thingy from mike mearls regarding intention. I think it helps to provide constructive feedback. By knowing his motivations, I can properly assess his implementation.
Let's walk through the fighter (in the context of all the classes) section by section.
Regarding AC and HP, these are obviously relative. Without yet playing, I cannot assess if the target was hit, but one must keep in mind the balancing act between length of encounter, survivability, healing, and average damage output.
In the context of equipment's effect on AC, will address that when address "how to play" document.
Leveling up. Again it is relative. It is nice they kept it consistent between classes. It seems like a lot of things are trying to go back to how it was, and that is definitely something that should stay as is, not go back to 1st edition.
The degree seems high, but again, this is a balancing act. If the monsters xp awards are high, then 2000 is not high in context. on monster xp, will comment when I cover bestiary. However, it does seem high. I liked the progression rate of 4e. It felt like you progressed fast enough to get used to a character's changes, adapt them, and utilize them, but not feel like they ever got stale. I think that is important. This is a realistic notion (more on that later) and also good for keeping the game fun. With respect to realism, anybody who keeps training and progresses is going to refine their skills no matter what they do.
I am a molecular modeler. At first I used basic techniques and such. I still use similar techniques, but they are more refined and efficient as I have gained experience. Every once in a while I try something new. Whether I keep it, adapt it, or forget it depends on how it incorporates with my goals and my work style, but that is how it goes. I think the same should go for classes. You should get new or at least improved skills/techniques, have a proper time to assess them and make them your own, and progress from there. If leveling up is too slow, you are stuck with techniques/methods you know don't work or at least could be improved. You as a player master them before the character masters them. The two should do their best to coincide. In 4e, I felt that way. You got a new power. You got enough encounters and such to use it, mess with it, master it. At that point you are ready to incorporate a new element to compliment it or outright replace it.
If it was faster, a player wouldn't get proper assessment of the changes, so they are not as developed as the game says their character is.
So whether what is in place is too slow or too fast, I cannot say. What I can say is the above needs to be kept in mind in assessment. I also can say 4e was better than older editions.
Abilities. Whether these are random or point buy, seems impossible to assess as is. Seems a little low, but again, that is all relative. A 16 sucked in 1st edition, but was pretty worth while in 4e. However, a point buy is the way to go. I think balance is important to keep in mind. I know Mearls has noted that was a downfall of 4e (TOO much balance), but I think it was a strength. This stems from the fact D&D is a GAME.
As a game, distinct advantages in the WHOLE of the game need to be kept in mind. I don't find unbalanced games fun. Why should the other player get to be more powerful because he is a spellcaster and I am a lowly fighter. I want to be a fighter. I want to be a master of my body. I don't want spells and I don't want to be sneaky like a rogue. I want to be an "in your face" attacker. Thematically that is what I want, but mechanically, it seems unfair... I want to be as effective as the wizard. I want my actions to be as visual as the wizard. By ignoring balance, you are giving rewards to one over the other. My price for desire for theme is non-effectiveness. Seems a high price to pay, especially for a game, but less so for a RPG. I know this is a game of story, but it is still a game with mechanics. And to me, when a balance exists in the mechanics, the story results feel that much more rewarding and enjoyable (which is most important in my opinion).
I am an avid board game player. A game I play a lot is dominion. It is a card deck building game like Magic, but with the building of you deck an integral component of the game rather than being a meta-component (that costs real $). You start out with 7 $1 cards and 3 1 VP cards (do nothing but points). Each hand you have 5 cards, so TYPICALLY, you have what we call a 4-3 opening. In other words, you can buy one card worth $4 the first hand and $3 the second before reforming your deck (reshuffling). However, you can get a 5-2 opening (more rare). Depending upon the game setup, that 5-2 opening can be SUCH an advantage that the game is almost decided before the game progresses. As such, playing against the 5-2 opener is no fun. Yes you try your best and apply your skills, but it is a lost cause.
I know you are playing against other players in D&D, but when they get to outshine you the majority of the time due to game inbalance, playing feels futile and the parts of the game with mechanics are not as fun as they could be. That is the kicker, could be.
I think that was a big problem for 3.x hardliners concerning 4e. They never saw combat as fun, so hated that is where the focus was. 4e made combat fun. It made it exciting. It made it just as enjoyable as the RP bits. That should be a goal for D&D next, make all bits equally enjoyable (or at least enjoyable as possible.
Sorry for that tangent, but it will lead into the problems I have with fighter. i.e. fighter is meeh compared to cleric or wizard.
Speed and hit dice. Regarding speed, I don't see its importance regarding realm of mind encounters. But I guess you can use it if you want or disregard it. I think that should be included in mentioning realm of mind gameplay. Concepts like space, speed, reach, etc... should be taken with a grain of salt and not rigidly enforced. In short, put that in the description, so rigid players/DMs are aware.
Hit dice... For those without the playtest, hit dice are replacing healing surges. I LOVED healing surges from 4th edition. Refer to my first post, but having to go without a healer is so nice. I hate REQUIRING a healer. When playing a cleric, I always felt a healing machine. Which meant, refrain from combat when you can (can't have our healer unconscious) and make all of your spells be healing.
So hit dice heal like HS. One big difference: 1/day/level. Seems VERY limited. Unless damage output is not like it was in all editions (hit rate of baddies is low), I feel like this will go back to the old, 2 encounters full rest cycle. "Oh, the dm rolled good, let's take a break before we go on" Storywise this is so frustrating, but as a DM, you don't actually want your players to die and you don't want to have to keep fudging rolls. I think keeping static HP at a level where going unconscious is a fear that will affect the outcome of combat, but once combat is over, you should be able to go to the next one in similar condition. I think about my other favorite system HERO. You can burn through STUN (a form of HP) like no other in a combat, possibly go unconscious. But regaining consciousness during combat is a viable option (while staying at risk for going unconscious again). However, at combat's end, you recover all of that stun with a short rest. If an attack is especially detrimental you take BODY (the other form of HP) which is longer term and harder to recover. I don't suggest breaking up D&D HP like this, but I think being able to recover HP easily is the best way to go. At least between encounters.
The other thing regarding hit dice is the randomness. Because they are so far and few between, maybe it should be a set value, like a HS. Instead of 1d12, have a pool of 12 hp that can be recovered in between battles. Sort of like a separate HP. Nothing I hate more than needing 6 HP (a reasonable amount) and healing 12. Or rather needing 12, and rolling two 1's on two separate rolls. If that is too much healing, maybe the player rolls his hit dice at the beginning of the day. This way, he KNOWS how much is available for the day. If he knows he has 24 available healing, maybe he'll be a bit brash (making for a fun and exciting day) but if he rolls 4, he'll be overtly cautious (still fun in its own respect, especially for the DM )
Without actually playing (hoping to soon), I can't say what is in play achieves that, but that should be the goal. The other thing I know I don't like is how to use them. Only through healing kits? Really? With so explicit usage numbers, this limits it even more.
I think a better way would be a skill check. Either an intelligence, constitution, or dexterity check. If fail, can't try to reheal for another hour. If succeed, successfully apply a HD. Intelligence representing knowledge of healing, dexterity for how well you apply a healing agent, constitution to resist its effects (effect meaning closeness to unconsciousness). I thought wisdom could work (for cleric types), but they have healing spells. Wisdom COULD be a force of will to ignore the pain (similar to consitution), though. In any case, ignore the implement/focus component for using hit dice.
Attacks. I like the concept of races getting specific bonuses on weapons. I think that is cool and makes sense. So props on that WOTC. As for different damage types, I am indifferent. I think it adds complexity (in the light where they are trying to minimize it), but I think it adds to thematics and visualization.
Race: will cover each element later, but I like how clean cut the bonuses are.
Weapon profs: I like how fighters are proficient with everything. No more exotic weapons is nice. Just a clean, proficient with all.
Weapon focus, a little plain, but something to set fighters apart (and aid with balance).
Backgrounds: I like this a lot. I think this is a quick, clean cut way to give bonuses and flesh out a character. Maybe a bit restrictive, but I think providing a framework on how to make your own would be great. By giving trained skills as a set and the background feature, I think it adds that much needed 3rd dimension to a character. So kudos.
Theme: seems like this is taken from the "builds" of 4e. With 4e however, you had the choice to deviate from the suggestions, here, you have no choice (more like essentials line of thinking). This also seems like where you get feats. That I like. With SO MANY feats, it gets cumbersome to really choose one. In this style, the feats are chosen as a suite through a theme. A) it keeps that 3rd dimension concept in mind (mechanical benefits all fit in personality and style of character) B) keeps feat choice easy.
Specifically with the reaper, indifferent. It is nice to have reliability in your attacks. I am curious as to OTHER options, but this one is ok. If anything else, seems like a viable option. However, I don't feel it fits the theme of slayer. I think a better fit would be bonus damage. Like add in ability score mod a second time. To me slayer equates with big damage, not consistent damage. In other words, I frantically swing so I may not always hit and do damage, but when I do, watch out buddy.
"For a more old school experience, don't use background and theme." Absolutely love this. Why? Because it explicitly tells you how to tweak your game style. If you don't want a complex character, it is easy enough to accommodate. A DM/player doesn't have to worry about balance of power (maybe they do, but ideally not) by tweaking the system/character.
Personally, I like theme and background, but as a playtester, I like the idea.
Racial features. Seem typical for a dwarf. I guess if not broke, why fix it. On a general comparison case, I'll do that for certain races (looking at you boring human).
What would be fun are specific themes/backgrounds for a race (or at least suggested so players/DMs don't feel being a dwarf is required). I.e. what theme for a dwarf makes most sense.
Endurance: seems a little lame compared to the features of the other characters, but the skill bonuses seem pretty hardy too, so I think it balances out. Not a background feature I am ecstatic about, but can come in handy. I say this, because as a group, you don't all have endurance, so you are only as strong as your weakest link kind of thing. Yeah I can hold my breath LONG, but he can't so we can't all hide out in this pond....
New HP: Whether it is in the rules to get 6 new hp (with 1d12) or they intend for rolling for new HP is unclear. I PRAY it is set (and the balancing act from earlier is kept in mind on how high to set it). This goes back to balance. Having good luck should not dictate such an important component of the game.
Something I always did was have the player roll three dice for new HP. The player would take the middle value unless the middle level was 1 pts lower than the average. In that case, I let them take the highest (no matter how low the highest was). I.e. with a 1d8, for 8,6,1, the player gets 6. With 6,4,2, the player still gets 4 (near middle). If 7,3,3 the player gets 7 (as 3 is too far away from middle). If 3,1,1 well sucks for him, he gets 3.
I felt this was average enough, but fit in the realm. It never occured to have set hp (and felt the game would account for randomness).
In any case, I think it'd be nice it was set.
For fighter's surge, I like it, but I am not convinced on its twice per day limit. Seems like this is equivalent to an encounter power in 4e. As such, I think a 3/day is more fitting. Would have to playtest the differences, but I just see 3/day being more useful without throwing off balance.
Again, I like the concept the theme dictates the feats gained. As for cleave, it works for slayer. Especially cause movement can be broken up. Without movement allocaiton, this would suck, but with it, I think it makes it fun. A keeper as it would be. Also making it unlimited is nice.
As for the damage bonus, that is probably the way to keep fighters up with spellcasters. Instead of a new spell, you do more dam.
While mechanically balanced, thematically boring. I'd rather do something new than better. (in some cases).
So overall impression.
I have to go back to my initial 45 glance impression. Lack of choices so involvement in combat is boring. This is a balance issue. Out of combat, each class is equally viable (although, a rogue moreso than most), but all a fighter can do is damage (and do it only in one singular way). Hack, slash, do damage, repeat.
While mechanically effective, thematically (and game play) boring. Going back to the board game concept, while it may be fun at first to completely knock out the competition each time, if the game play is exactly the same and the outcome is expected, the fun is lacking.
Again, it goes back to choice. I think choice is what makes a game fun. And in the case of D&D, unique choices. In other editions, anyone could choose to bull rush, or disarm, or whatever. Yes it was a choice, but not a unique one. The choice between using burning hands over magic missile (although not a big difference) is better than a fighter's choice.
I am not saying you need complexity. I respect the motive for simplicity, but simplifying to the point where your choices are pre-determined takes away the fun/challenge. I am also not saying things need to be the same as wizards or clerics. I am saying a level of choice over minimal choice.
I think about my current campaign I play in. I am a runepriest. While super fun and all these neat doo-hickeys, dilly bobs, and what nots make the game neat, the accounting and keeping track of it all gets overwhelming. Trying to keep in mind the +y to dam, the +x to attack (only if adj), the "the target attacks an ally of his, if hit ally of yours" gets to be cumbersome. But the solution is NOT to take it all away, just trim it. In the context of fighter, I think the essentials slayer/knight is a good model to work from.
When Essentials came out, I wasn't really inspired by it (or really like it), but with time I respect it. Considering the alternative (what is present in 3.x and 1st edition), the essentials fighter is a good compromise. What can be taken from that in this edition is the @wills.
I am not saying 10 different attack maneuvers for a fighter, all with long-lasting effects. I am saying a small suite of different effects. Should this suite grow as the player levels up, maybe slightly, but I think it would be better to have a choice of 3 maneuvers from a set of ~10. As you level up, the maneuvers "evolve", but essentially stay the same. If you realize one isn't working out for you, swap it out. But, in combat, it will give you a choice, on HOW you attack someone. While the powers/effects/class features as presented are nice and mechanically sound, the lack of choice takes away from the fun of the game.
I.e. auto damage is nice (reaper feature). However, a choice between auto damage (miss damage), bigger damage (add ability modifier to damage twice), or hit assurance (gain advantage on attack) would minimize complexity while maintaining a choice. Maybe statistically they are all equal (or rather one is distinctly advantageous), but that doesn't matter. Going for the big damage is a fun risk to take (over the assurance of dealing damage). In addition to the choice, a thematic visual element. Not just, "Always do damage", but "your deadly precision is such that even if the foe doesn't take the brunt of the blow, you will still inflict harm." Even the way it is written (can't reproduce obviously), doesn't really invoke that level of visualization.
That's the thing though. Some of us can just imagine what a thing looks/feels like, but others just see it as auto-damage. That is the goal of the writing. To inspire visualization in both the creative and non-creative types. The game must be rewarding to both types, not just creative types.
In terms of suite of maneuvers and leveling up, well, maybe you start to choose which you use each day, or after encounters, or just between gaming sessions. Basically during game downtime. If don't decide, have a default in place. So maybe, at first level you have three. These three are always their and they can't change. You don't get the choice of maneuver set (except during creation), but you still choose maneuvers in battle (their order and frequency). When level up, you gain a 4th but still can only have three to choose from during an encounter. Or, each maneuver has a new caveat that fits in the feel of the maneuver. Maybe with auto-damage, you increase the actual damage. With big dam attack, maybe you can deal your ability mod dam to an adjacent foe (not primary target). Maybe with gain advantage, you can forgoe gaining advantage to GRANT advantage (to your rogue friend who is flanking with you perhaps).
So I said to overall wrap things up and I got into a tangent. Here is the true summary:
I Like the themes and backgrounds. I think they work, simplify things, and give characters a 3rd dimension.
A lot of things depend how they balance against other elements (progression rates vs. XP award rates, HP vs. damage).
I am fine with the revision of HS to hit dice, but I think a skill check would be better than requiring a healing kit. Also, a bit uncomfortable regarding the randomness.
Finally, the lack of choice for fighters specifically does not inspire confidence. I am not saying you need to give fighters the exact same as wizards, but giving them a level of choice would be a huge boon. While the auto-bonuses are nice, I'd rather have a choice than a mechanical advantage. I think it gives a better sense of control over one's destiny. Otherwise, it was just bad dice rolling (or good) that decided what occurred, rather than "I am glad I went for big dam on that last attack. Otherwise that dragon would have had one more attack left in him to totally wipe us out in one breath attack."
Mechanically, it may have ended the same without the choice, but that choice made it feel like an accomplishment for the player. Rather than the player just watching the game, he engaged with it and shaped it. The RP aspect of the game usually does that, but combat needs to also. It can't be once combat has been decided as the viable choice (versus running away or talking your way out of it), that there is no more shaping of what occurs and how it occurs.
Next time, specifics on my opinion regarding the rogue (and possibly in comparison/context of what is said here).
I apologize for the length. Also, I encourage you to leave a comment, but please keep them civil and constructive.