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Sunday, September 22, 2013

D&D NExt final playtest review: More Classes


Wizards and Sorcerers seem to be no more, now there are only Mages. They are the sole primary arcane spellcaster in the playtest packet. They are, as usual, the simplest of the classes in terms of unique mechanics. Their big power is obviously their spellcasting.

Because of that I finally began to read the spell mechanics in a bit more detail. I'll still wait until I reach the Spells section for a full evaluation but there are some interesting differences. First, high level spells seem like they're going to be extremely valuable. Any spells above 6th level seem to be limited to once per day. 5th level and lower spells seem to be more common and it's relatively easy for a wizard to regain them between encounters. It's an interesting method of "balancing" wizards, limiting them to a small number of really powerful effects but making their low level effects much more accessible. The same seems to go for the cleric and the druid, although they don't get as many low-level effects.

Wizards use a school specialty as a "path", much like Pathfinder. They seem like pretty useful, and distinct specializations but some of them also seem a little bit too focused. For instance at 20th level the evoker gets to basically cast fireball and lightning bolt at will. Obviously those two spells are classics but that doesn't mean every evoker necessarily wants to make those his go-to spells. There's lots of fun ways to blow things up and it's nice to be able to define your own style. Overall I like the wizard but I'll have to see the spells to find out more. Seems like some effort is being made to limit their ability to dominate the game.


I'm currently playing a monk, so I'm definitely interested in seeing what's going on in the new edition. Monks have always had the problem that they spend a lot of their "powers" on being able to do what everyone else can do with a bit of easily available equipment. Sure, they're awesome when everyone else is forced to give up their equipment but that's perhaps 5% of the time in a normal game, at best.

D&D Next Monks seem like they're a bit more impressive than 3e's. The biggest problem they had originally was although they got lots of attacks their low BAB and general multiple-ability-score reliance meant that many of them would miss. In Next it seems like most people will have pretty similar levels of accuracy, using their proficiency bonus, and Supreme Flurry means that they can turn Advantage on for all of their attacks in a round.

The monk traditions are interesting but they don't seem to be that impressive. They're not bad but they certainly don't match the power of many other class paths. The elemental path is particularly underwhelming since many of them just give you some variety of elemental attack which just doesn't compare very well to spellcasters. The Way of the Open Hand basically duplicates most of the abilities of the standard 3e monk, done better but still unlikely to be amazing. All told, probably going to be better than 3e but it still doesn't compare well to most other combat classes, especially when you consider just how impressive the fighter can be.


Looking over the Paladin entry its good to see that they got rid of a lot of the more useless or problematic class abilities. There are no mounts, and the paladin can sense demons and celestials (and similar phenomena) but not evil in general. Divine Smite and Lay On Hands is also extremely potent compared to the standard. Paladin spellcasting has also been beefed up. Since they are no longer limited solely to Lawful Good they are essentially a highly militant priest variant. Likewise Paladin auras are significantly more potent.

Well, I say they're not limited to good...but honestly I don't see how their theme fits anything but. They heal, do extra damage to undead/fiends and protect their allies. It seems like standard paladin through and through, especially the Oath of Devotion (which is the only one that they have). Of course, the thing about paladins is they're awesome in the right game but much less so in the wrong one. Fortunately it seems like the paladins are much more "generally" effective than before, their smite isn't limited to evil and many of their most impressive powers are defensive or support-based.


The ranger was always kind of odd. Even more than the bard they never quite seemed to know what they were doing. They were generalists who were also oddly specific with their nature-focus and their two-weapon fighting. 3e expanded that to archery, but it was still a pretty bizarre requirement.

Next rangers do not have a hard-coded fighting style anymore (although like fighters and paladins they can select a general style). Instead they focus more on terrain advantages, stealth, spellcasting (which like paladins is improved over 3e). Their favored enemies are also more significant, becoming their class "path". They're also more generalized, rather than picking specific species or categories they are focused on broad categories such as hordes of weak monsters or killing big, giant monsters. These broader definitions make favored enemy more applicable.

Overall, rangers are decent. I'm not amazed or anything but there's definitely work that has been done to make them more useful rather than cripplingly specialized.


Finally we have rogues. These guys are all about success on rolls. They minimize bad rolls, have plenty of bonuses and lots of defensive abilities. Honestly though, they haven't changed much. They've still got their sneak attack. They still have plenty of skills and bonuses to skills and they're going to be good sneak-attackers and skill monkeys

So, not much to say about them, but they're still pretty good.

Overall I like all the classes, even the ones that aren't too different from the original. The druid is the exception and the monk still seems fairly underwhelming. But overall still good. I'll be interested in seeing if there are any more coming for the core books like Sorcerers.

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