That thing. No, that other thing. The one that's on everyone's mind. Yeah, that one. (I have no idea why I'm avoiding naming it, other than just to be contrary)
Yep, I got it. Downloaded it this morning. Looked at the first few pages this evening, the introduction part, which was boring has hell but gave me a good idea what the designers intend the thing to do. It's written for the newbie, really, which is why I was bored reading it. At least the tone wasn't quite as dry and textbookish as I found the 4E books to be. Quite similar to the 3E books as I recall.
Anyway, no picturesque High Gygaxian, nor simple yet effective Mentzer prose.
And it's basically still the d20 system (I knew that from the playtest documents, of course). The primary way to adjudicate some action is d20+mods vs. a DC set by the DM/module. Ugh. I've discussed the benefits and drawbacks of a flat d20 distribution before, vs. curved distributions, but I'm too lazy to look up the link, and honestly, unless you're new to D&D math you probably understand it just as well or better than I do anyway.
Still, a recent playtest by Jeremy in our Saturday night groups, using only 3d6 rolls instead of d20 rolls has instilled in me a greater appreciation of times when a flat spread is needed (combat, saving throws) vs. a curve. Yet my own work on Chanbara has made me appreciate how nice it is to use a curve for non-combat tasks, as it means you can make them as easy or difficult as you like (see recent discussion on the Thief and said Thief's skills in other recent OSR blogs, and quite a few old ones if you do a Google search, on the low chances of success and flat distribution of the d%).
Anyway, the first sample of play has the players trying to engage the DM in exploring the entrance to Castle Ravenloft. What's the first thing the DM does to answer a basic question? Have the player roll an Int check. A memory returns of one Pathfinder session, where my Paladin was checking under a bed for treasure. There was treasure there, but I rolled low on my Search check, so the DM had to inform me that I don't find anything. Another player then rolls, and finds the bag of jewels that was just hidden under the bed. Seriously, I described my player looking under the bed, but since the module had a Search DC listed (and apparently didn't describe the treasure as hidden/concealed other than being under the bed), despite describing doing exactly what was needed to find the treasure, I had to make a roll. And I failed it. Yeah, we got a laugh out of it at the time, but it was just another little event that reinforced my belief that common sense should come before a die roll, and that the proper player description should make die rolls unnecessary in most cases.
Finally (my wife's ready for bed, have to make this quick), we have the listed "Three Pillars of D&D" which are exploration, interaction, and combat. Are these the three things that will earn players XP in this edition? Unsure as of yet. Combat's a given, as it has been the only pillar of WotC D&D play, really, until now. Will something like Jeff Rients' EXploration be in the rules? (Gaining XP for finding new things, going to new and unusual places, experiencing strange events, etc. or just covering new ground in the dungeon/wilderness crawl.) Will there be "social combat" XP for successfully interacting with NPCs? I remember reading that XP for gold will be an official option, but to me it's a bit disappointing that treasure hunting is no longer considered a "pillar" of D&D play. Not every game need revolve around combat, yet it's a "pillar." The same could be said to be true of treasure hunting, and it has a pedigree in both the game's history and in pulp fiction, film, and other inspirational sources. Well, if I ever run 5E (there, I said it), it will by my "fourth pillar."
Anyway, as I continue to look over the document, I'll post more. There was stuff I liked about the playtest materials, so I'm remaining guardedly optimistic about the rules overall.
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