Wow, it's been a long time since I've updated. What can I say, the field season is a busy time. It's also proving pretty difficult to organize an online game with my group(s) from home while I'm out of state. So far I've only gotten to run a single (short) session with some non-gamers, but it seems like this round of playtesting will last longer that initially expected anyways, so there's still time.
Here is today's Legends and Lore article where Mike Mearls gives an update on how the feedback from the first playtest packet is shaping the ongoing design of the game.
It's no surprise that a lot of people are clamoring for more combat options for Fighters (and martial characters in general). "I hit with my sword" Fighters have their place (given how many non-gamers I've introduced to D&D I can definitely appreciate them!), but the 4E Fighter was by far the most engaging incarnation of the class, and it'll be nice to see some meaningful choices to make during combat. I'm hoping that they'll be simple (quick to resolve), redundancy will be avoided (no more "it's a different power because now it's 2[W]+mods and prone!"), and flexible enough for further improvisation. I like that complexity will be catered to in both a tactical rules module and a narrative rules module, and I'm sure I'll be using both in my games depending on the situation.
In addition to maneuvers in general, it's looking like the Fighter will be more than just "I have better stats." Which is definitely a good thing. After all, of the 4 core classes it's pretty obvious that the Fighter should be the best at Fighting, but what about when the Barbarian, Ranger, and Paladin come out? All of these classes should also have very competitive damage, HD, etc., and they also have a bunch of "extras." Giving the Fighter some "extras" as baseline opens up the opportunity for the other warrior classes to actually have competitive combat stats. Otherwise where would a Ranger fall compared with a Rogue vs Fighter, for example?
I'm glad that a lot of people commented on not liking the Surprise rules, because there wasn't very much discussion about them online. Personally I think that it should at least grant advantage to the attackers, if not an extra turn. An initiative bonus is not quite exciting enough.
I'm NOT thrilled about the new skills system they're tinkering with. It's sloppy design if two different characters roll 2 different types of checks just because one is trained and one isn't. Furthermore, why should training make everyone exactly equal? Why should an 8 Int Rogue be just as good at disarming traps that require logic and/or knowledge as a 15 Int Rogue just because both are trained? After all, just because a whole class of students is exposed to the same material doesn't mean they're all equally proficient and knowledgeable. Some get As, some get Ds. I vastly prefer the +3 bonus that you add onto an ability check. It makes different characters approach the same skill in different ways. An 8 Str Gnome Wizard will be far more successful threatening someone with a force of magic using Cha to Intimidate, whereas an 18 Str Minotaur Fighter can punch a hole in the wall and threaten to do the same to your face, adding Intimidate to a Str check. With an "Intimidate check" replacing the ability score check the Gnome could say that he's punching a hole in the wall and it would be fine mechanically, despite the fact that he's a spindly little guy even by Gnome standards. I certainly wouldn't feel threatened if he flexed his muscles at me.
The article concludes with healing and resting. I'm honestly not sure what kind of system I'd prefer, but I definitely do NOT want a healbot to be required (and that includes wands of CLW). I do like the idea of making the healing rules modular, with options for high-action, quick-recovery games as well as grittier, more deadly games. Hopefully there's also some middle ground.
Anyways, it also seems like the next round is put off until later in the summer (as opposed to early July). Given that I haven't messed around with this first playtest all that much, I can't complain. I'd like to make some minor tweaks to the system while it's still in a very bare-bones state, without getting distracted by all of the shiny new modules.