So I recently had the opportunity to delve into the newest edition of the playtest with (mostly) the same group of players that I had last time I did some serious testing. Again, I wrote up a short, one-off adventure in advance and ran them through It (By now, advancing their modified characters up to Level 3). Here are a few impressions that I had by the end of the night.
Monsters – Wonky?: I walked away from the last iteration thinking that monsters needed a little tweaking. This time through, however, I was happy to find them working effectively. Even lower level monsters, with scant Hit Points, were occasionally able to survive a blow from higher level PCs (Meaning that they weren’t all “minions” across the board). This was nice because it kept the gameplay fast without making creatures too easy to take down. I had ended up using a Hill Giant as the model for the final encounter and he ended up going down quite easily, so creatures that are intended to taking longer to bring down may yet require some tweaking.
Martial Dice and Maneuvers: These continue to shine. The new maneuvers added are easy to use, logically intuitive, and tactically valuable. I think this aspect of the game is very strong and I’m excited to see where it goes from here (especially in context to the Ranger and Paladin)
Skill Dice: This was one of the bigger changes in this iteration of the rules. I came at it with a bit of skepticism (silly, considering my love of the now defunct Alternity, and the fact that game thrived on a similar mechanic – But that was also an entirely different system, and the modifier dice were part of it’s charm.)
It seemed that having more dice to roll would slow things down (even if it added to the tension and made things more fun for those who love rolling dice). I’d like to try this out from the other side of the table before really coming down on how I feel about it, but my players (all newer to the game) were none too fond. It made skill checks more complicated, and added a level of confusion where there was normally just a static bonus to consider.
For my money, I lament the loss of the players choice to invest a greater bonus into a particular skill. I feel the previous iteration was going int he right direction on this (allowing a player to increase his character’s static bonus to a skill, but topping out relatively quickly to prevent skill creep). I’m still open minded to the skill dice, but will explain it very carefully in the future, and if it goes away, I can’t say that I’ll be terribly heartbroken.
Hard to think in terms of “Attributes First”: This may be my gamer conditioning infecting my players, but I found we consulted our skills very often when considering what to do. This isn’t bad at all – a core function of classes in D&D is to give each player a role to fill – a time to shine – something that they need to step forward and try. But I worry that I was undermining some of the open creativity that was encouraged in emphasizing the attributes. It’s a useful thing to keep in mind, and interesting that my DM conditioning may have accounted for this reliance on the skill list. Old habits die hard.
I didn’t get too much in direct feedback from the players since we had to pack it in quickly and head home, lest we all be caught in a tiny blizzard – but I’ll put out some feelers to them and see what further insights they have, updating this post appropriately.