Tuesday, 21 August 2012

DnD Next Playtest Round #2 (p5)

First up: if you haven't already done so, sign up and download the material.  (note that even if you were part of round 1, you will have to 'sign up' again, as they changed their system).  Once you have done that, we can move on!

Part 5: New Classes

In part 1 of my comments on round 2 of the playtest, I discussed the various other aspects in creating a character.  In part 2, I discussed the four classes presented in the playtest material, as well as the new take on themes (backgrounds and specialities). In part 3, I looked in more general terms over other aspects of play, largely following the "How to Play" document.  In part 4, I was focusing on a general look at the equipment and spells presented.  This time, I am briefly looking over the two new classes they have recently released: the Sorcerer and the Warlock.

I have represented my general feelings to each large subject in the title: (-ve) for generally negative feelings, (+ve) for generally positive feelings, and (neutral) if the pros and cons seem to be about the same.

(-ve) Sorcerer

I have always enjoyed the sorcerer.  The 3e version was a way to branch out from the Vancian magic, and the 4e version had a lot of pure elemental fun tied into it.  However, the 3e version still had the problem of being the ugly step child, the second string super hero, or whatever classification you wish to use.  It simply was not as powerful as the Wizard.  It had more flexibility, but gained spells slower, and had none of the Wizard's perks.  So what did they do for 5e?

The first thing to note is that they are again under-performing in the "using magic" area.  Their magic attack score starts out lower, and drops to half of the wizard's at level 4.  Their spell DCs are likewise lower, being two behind at level 4.  They have no spellbook, of course, so lack the large array of spells a wizard will gather over his life, and are stuck with the few they learn.  They only get two cantrips, whereas the wizard gains three.

So, clearly, they are going to get some good, powerful benefits in their spell casting to make up for it, right?

Sadly, no.  Their "Will-Power" allows them to cast exactly the same number of spells that a wizard would cast...except that (as in 3e), they lag a level behind the wizard.  When the wizard gains 3rd level spells, the sorcerer is still getting used to 2nd level spells.  This does mean that they can cast more lower level spells a day, but at the hefty cost of not being able to reach those more powerful, more relevant higher level spells.  (As an aside - this is yet another thing wrong with divorcing "spell level" from "character level".  4e, in giving powers at set levels, removed the need to make some classes lag behind others.  Everyone gained a level 3 power at level 3.)

Sorcerers do get a "Heritage" option (only one is shown in the playtest documents: Draconic).  This gives them stronger hit points and more proficiencies than the wizard, but as the new ability options given encourage the Sorcerer to wade into melee, I'm not sure if it is a true benefit or not.  Surely, if a player decides to keep their sorcerer to the back, they will be sturdier than the wizard, but they will also be ignoring a whole lot of benefits.  Ultimately, though bits of the Sorcerer seem quite powerful, other bits are lacking.  On the whole, I have no real interest in playing this class.

(-ve) Warlock

My favourite character I played in 3e was a halfling warlock known as Marcan.  So much did I enjoy him that I have played a 4e variant in 4 different games, at levels ranging from 1st to 17th.  But not even the first level version could be covered by the rules presented here.

Warlocks in 3e had fewer spells than the wizard or sorcerer, but could use them all at will.  That might have been a good spot to start, but instead, they grabbed the idea of the 4e pacts, and warped them into a poor mechanic for 5e.  Instead of gaining boons from killing enemies, they are now an encounter resource (yes - finally something that is encounter!...even though it should have been far more frequent).  The worst pact boon would be the "fey step" equivalent: teleporting 30ft as an action.  And it uses up one of your two favours! (You also have to use these favours to power your non-minor invocations).

In short, what should have been an array of at-will powers is really only one (Eldritch Blast).  There is a second at-will (Shadow Veil), but spending an action to allow your single move that turn to be slightly less hindered does not sound wise at all.  Yes, you are as accurate as the Wizard, and a little tougher, but unless you want to be a one trick pony, I'd suggest everyone steer clear of this class.  If you really want to play a 3e-ish warlock, go and play the actual 3e warlock.  It was far more interesting (but still not as exciting or fun as the 4e builds).

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