5 Things I Like (And 5 Things I Don’t) About D&D Next

Like, I suspect gamers everywhere, I’m having a go with D&D Next. For me, it’s a mixed bag of good and bad.

Fight! by William McAusland (Outland Arts)

 

When perusing the below lists, keep in mind we’ve only been playing for a month or so and have only reached the dizzy heights of 3rd-level. Thus, my views may change as we discover additional facets of the game.

5 Things I Like

  1. Combat: Combat is both faster and more fluid.This is huge as of course much of the game revolves around combat and challenge. I like the slimmed down number of choices in combat and the way actions have been streamlined. I’m sure once we get more used to the system, we’ll zip through fights even faster. I also like having to fight more foes – it feels much more like Old School D&D when you sometimes had dozens (or scores) of enemies instead of the three goblins it takes to make a CR 1 encounter in  3rd edition.
  2. Rituals: I’m delighted they made it into 5e. They were one of my favourite parts of 4e and I think they are great both for the flavour of spellcasters and for moving the plot onwards when the PCs really need access to magic like comprehend languages, detect magic and so on.
  3. Character Generation: Character generation is quicker and simpler than 3.5. I’m sure this will change as more and more options appear, but at the moment I like the speed at which I can make a character and jump into the game.
  4. Fewer Magic Items: It seems D&D Next characters are destined to own fewer magic items than in previous editions. This is good as I’d much rather the PCs rely on their own skills and abilities than the shiny trinkets they find or buy. I also like the edition’s stance on magic shops – namely there aren’t any.
  5. Greyhawk is Back (Again): Lots of named spells in the PHB “belong” to famous Greyhawk wizards. Even better, a small selection of Greyhawk deities appears in Appendix B.

5 Things I Don’t Like

  1. At-Will Cantrips: I loathe this in Pathfinder and I loathe it in D&D Next. Some of the cantrips also seem to do an insane amount of damage. Take for example, fire bolt that does 1d10 fire damage out to a range of 120 ft. That’s better than any comparable archer at 1st level, and you have the added bonus of never running out of ammunition.
  2. The Organisation of the PHB is Terrible: It takes me days to find anything. Why not, for example, provide a handy list of DCs for the various skill checks in the skills section? Scattering them through the text is not an ideal solution to speed game play. Information for critical hits is in two places and (of course) we learn drinking a potion of healing is a move action in the equipment chapter. Obviously.
  3. Speed of Advancement: Advancement seems insanely fast at lower levels. 300 XP to reach level 2? I understand you seem to get less each time you level, but still it seems way too quick.
  4. Spells seem Inordinately Powerful: Pretty much every encounter we’ve had has been won through the judicious use of spells. Often the fighters are unconscious (or dead) while the spell caster blow up or sleep the enemy. I’m playing a wizard, but I’m sure this is frustrating for those playing melee-focused characters. I’m particularly looking at inflict wounds, sleep and witchbolt as crazy powerful for 1st-level spells.
  5. Advantage/Disadvantage: I’m not a big fan of this mechanic. Sure, it’s quick and easy to use but I just don’t like it. I think I would have preferred a straight +2 or +4 modifier to the die roll. To me, that feels more traditional and in the keeping of D&D. I also hate how there is no definitive list of what does and doesn’t confer advantage or disadvantage in the PHB.

Something I Haven’t Decided On Yet

  • Is there enough (or too much) healing in the game?: Pathfinder has definitely skewed my view on healing – we’ve been “spoilt” with the channel energy ability of clerics which gives the party buckets of healing. It seems in D&D Next that ability doesn’t exist so the party must rely on actual healing spells (which are in short supply). Countering that is the (insane?) inclusion of healing potions on the standard equipment lists! Surely this means, the PCs can buy as many of them as they please?

What Have I Missed?

Do you particularly love or hate aspects of the new D&D? Have I missed things in regards to some of my points above? Let us know what they are in the comments below!

 

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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30 thoughts on “5 Things I Like (And 5 Things I Don’t) About D&D Next

  1. “Surely this means, the PCs can buy as many of them as they please?”
    Lol. I hope that’s a joke. Just because the healing potion is on the standard equipment list doesn’t mean the DM can’t restrict it.
    It should be….”the PCs can buy as many of them as they can FIND.”
    Personally, as a DM myself, I would allow unrestricted access to the healing potion at char gen ONLY, since the pcs have a very limited amount of money at the beginning anyway. After that, control how many they find like any other magic item. Any DM that’s not controling such access is not doing his job.
    Just my 2 coppers.

  2. Spell Damage:

    Your melee characters must be built wrong…

    yes a 1st level spell can do 3d8, but for an average of 12 points of damage, usable 3 times per day (give or take) at low levels…

    A good fighter will be doing 1d8+4 at first level…average of 8, at will, with sword and board (+2 AC is not a joke) or 2d6+4 average of 10, at will (average of 12 if they have great weapon combat style) or 1d8+4/1d8+4 two weapon fighter with a feat (human win!) for 16 damage per round, at will.

    at higher levels it gets rather stupid, 4 attacks + action surge for 4 more attacks + bonus action attacks… assuming a +3 weapon and 20 in a stat your looking at 1d8+8 x10 for a possible 80+ 40 average.. much better then rolling a ton of d6’s (we had a caster roll almost all 1’s and 2’s on a 15d6 attack)

    Cantrips at will.
    Also, after playing 1st edition again… at will Cantrips are a must at low level… I have 2 1st level spells at 2nd level.. you know what I do for 90% of the game? watch and do nothing.. drop the sleep and win the fight when things are ugly, but most of the times I throw a dagger with almost no-chance at success… heck at high levels (we played a 1st ed campaign to 14th level) I would run out of spells after 3 good fights and be reduced to wands… at will abilities which cost us gold..

    If I had Cantrips I would be having a lot more fun at low levels, right now I feel like a total waste of space in most fights (because we don’t want to camp every other fight…)

    • I’m not sure I agree. I have no problems restricting magic items and suchlike as a GM, but if something appears on the standard equipment list it follows the designers probably expect you to have access to it. I absolutely agree the GM can restrict it if he wants, though. Our GM has done so in the game we are playing. It’s definitely slowing down our progress as our melee characters keep falling over.

  3. I don’t feel that At-Will cantrips are too powerful. In fact, they’re one of the things I like better. To me, it always felt weird that you would cast 2 damaging spells, and then you’re done. Also, try telling that to a new player, and you’ll hear a fair bit of bad language as they watch fighters and rangers carve up enemies while they hope to bash one with their sticks. As far as the power level of the cantrips, they don’t seem too out of line either – that 1d10 doesn’t really change over time, where other things let fighters and other attackers add damage, and if you come across anything resistant or, god forbid, immune to fire, that cantrip’s pretty much useless. Even at first level against normal enemies, a ranger deals d6+Dex or d8+Dex, and a wizard deals d10. With Dex bonuses commonly being +3 for ranged weapon users, you get a smaller damage band but similar (or higher with the longbow) average damage.

    • actually, most of the damage cantrips level up…still, they are usually marked by needing a to-hit roll or requiring a saving throw as compared to some spells like magic missile.

      Also, Fighters end up with 4 attacks per round including bonus damage from stats and weapons, which, as you noted, most casters lack.

  4. I like the at-will cantrips, though personally I feel that damage dealing spells are often less effective overall than buffing. Unconscious fighters at low level has always been a thing…I can tell you right now that we have a party that includes a bard, a cleric, a sorcerer, a druid, a ranger (ranged based) and a warlock…and we are severely hoping the guy who was planning to play fighter shows up soon….we need the melee.

    As to Advantage/Disadvantage, it is one of the biggest attractors for me. Anything that shifts the roll mechanic away from a flat-curve and over toward a bell-curve is a plus in my book. I’d consider rolling three-dice, with normal rolls taking the middle result, disadvantage taking the low and advantage taking the high. It would produce a lot more rolls closer to ten which is supposed to be the average result, rather than the wonky sort of results you get with a single d20 making any one result as likely as any other one result. a +2 or +4 doesn’t introduce a bell-curve…it just moves the roll up the chart a little.

  5. Mathematically, advantage/disadvantage works out to roughly a +/- 3… with a slightly higher crit chance on combat rolls (9%ish, instead of 5%). That seems perfectly reasonable to me. More DM guidance would be nice, but otherwise I like it.

  6. Hi Creighton,

    I don’t want to say you might have missed something, but you should reconsider your thoughts on healing, because 5E gives us a bunch of possibilities here:

    first of all: the resting system is much different from PF. You now can rest a mere hour and gain HP through spending HD. Resting 8 hours makes you whole again, no matter what wounds you have suffered.

    – for the magic system works differently, spells may be not that precious as in PF
    – Disciple of Life for clerics from the Life domain
    – The Healer Feat is not bad at all
    – Cure Wounds can be cast at higher levels, so it is just one Spell “Known” and available as long as you have slots
    – the spell Healing Word comes as a bonus action, seems to be good

    Compared to the inflict damage or the 3d6 of burning hands, you might still be right with that topic. Time will tell 😉

    I agree on the part, that the cantrips are very strong. But I like, that the casters have something left, when all slots are gone.

    I would also add the following things to my list of “don’t like”:

    – spell descriptions: potential save is hidden somewhere in the text and there are no keywords like “mind-affecting”, wich leads to at ext lengthened by sentences like “does not work on undead or constructs” …
    – you cannot really specialize and excel in something. More things like the rogues Expertise class feature would have been nice (be it through feats or whatever)
    – the quality of the books is quite bad (at least mine)

    • I am still on the fence about healing. I think we’ll need more game play to really get to grips with it. Having potions of healing in the standard equipment list seems insane to me if like they suggest in the PHB there are no magic shops (which is a very good thing). Why are healing potions special (beyond obvious in-game reasons)? Do other potions exist? (I suspect we’ll get the answer to that in the DMG).

      I do like how some spells scale and that you can use higher level slots to cast them. That’s very cool. I’m sure cure wounds will come in for some heavy use!

      • I think healing potions are needed so it’s good they are available relatively easily. They’re still pretty expensive but a party without a cleric or other healer would be wise to stock up…

  7. In re healing – the PCs can heal all of their hit points with a long rest, plus they have hit dice heals they can use to recover some HP during short rests in addition to healing spells/potions. As a DM, I’ve found that healing all HPs overnight gives the PCs way too much healing most of the time & requires the DM to create a sense of urgency/deadlines (or unavoidable encounters, including encounters that disrupt long rests) so that the PCs don’t just take a long rest after every major combat.

  8. Regarding your lamentation of the book missing a definitive list of circumstances that confer Advantage or Disadvantage: The very lack of such a list is the BEST thing about 5e that I’ve seen so far! The DM has control over this and can shape a scene on the fly, rewarding characters who come up with imaginative and interesting tactics without starting a rules “discussion” about it. The ease with which Advantage/Disadvantage can be tossed around is a great opportunity to create drama and shape a scene.

    Rituals: That’s what scrolls are for. I don’t *hate* them, but… meh.

    Cantrips: Love at-will cantrips, although I do see your point and as an “old school” guy I get where you’re coming from. We’ll agree to (mildly) disagree here.

    Fluid combat, fewer magic items, Greyhawk: YES! Agree wholeheartedly!

    • In regards to Advantage/Disadvantage it’s the single biggest thing that slows down our game. Coming from a 3.5/Pathfinder background it almost ingrained in our DNA to hit the rulebook to see if a given situation does or doesn’t confer one or the other. I’d love a list of basic things that confer one of the other – that would speed up my game play immeasurably.

      You are also right, part of my objection/problem with cantrips is flavour and part of it is the maths (which I might not totally understand after all of four games!)

  9. Funny. With the exception of the organization of the 5e PHB, I find all the things you do not like about 5e to be its strengths. IMO, spellcasters at low level only really have cantrips, so they should be just as effective as a basic sword or bow and arrow, which they are. But once or twice per day, a spellcaster can do something bigger, using a non-0 level spell. I find that awesome.

  10. I don’t feel that there needs to be a list of Advantages and Disadvantages as it doesn’t stack and you really don’t have to track it beyond having one, the other, or both (in which case they cancel each other out).

  11. Unless I’ve misread the rules, you’ve missed the major healing, after a short rest your roll all your hit dice, add your con bonus, and heal that many (likely, all of your injury). After a long rest, you heal all.

    Practically speaking, in every encounter the players will have full hit points.

    Also see Revivify, 3rd level cleric spell, which brings the dead back provided they haven’t been dead very long. 3rd level!

    I think advantage/disadvantage is one of the cleverest parts of the rules. It should have applications in other games. Avoids any need to do arithmetic, which is always good these days.

    But I haven’t finished reading the PHB, perhaps there’s more.

  12. Cantrips: in the era of Instant Gratification and video games, people don’t want to do “nothing” in a round. (Of course, they can keep watch, some can even use crossbows or throw daggers, but there’s no big “splash” in those the way there is in the damage spells.)

    Always keep in mind, we’re in the era of reward-based gaming, where you’re rewarded for participation and don’t have to earn your rewards. Consequence-based gaming is a decreasing part of games. D&D aims at a broad market, competes with video RPGs, so it’s not surprising they’ve come down on the higg-healing, always-casting, side of things.

    • I think you make a great point in regard to instant gratification, video games and D&D. I understand from a design point why cantrips are at-will, and sure they make good game play (I suppose, if you like that sort of thing) but it pretty much nukes any old school feel the game has.

      I think also the simmulationist in me does’t like it either. It puts too much magic out there in the world, which should have a massive knock-on effect.

      • For once I am with you on this one Creighton. The sheer weakness and lack of effectiveness made me want to play a wizard. That moment you learn and cast one of the more powerful spells like fireball felt……magical. Old school magical I guess.

    • While this might be a reason, I’m not sure how good of a reason it is. Cantrips not only make sense from this standpoint, but from a story one as well. You’re telling me to believe that in the hundreds of years magic has existed in most settings, no one’s ever figured out how to get a little magic from the world or use only a couple of drops in the tank to do something? Or have mana/magic “regenerate” at a rate equal to a cantrip? Or the reverse: a spell that only uses ambient/regenerating magic?

      Personally, I always found it hard to believe that “oh, I can only use these spells X times a day, and then the magic’s gone til I sleep.” It felt a little too magical, if you get my drift.

      • In some settings magic is controlled by a finite consciousness, that is to say a God/Goddess. In those circumstances, or even if magic was merely invented by a deity who no longer pays it any attention, it’s perfectly reasonable to think the limitation on spells per day, or the limitations on magic in general, were a conscious limiting decision on the part of a being who didn’t want every being in existence to rival him or her in power.

  13. I agree with most of your points. Overall I love the new edition.

    I love the super fast advancement to level 3. Prior to 5e there had been a lot of debate about the merits of starting games at level 3 among my friends. I feel like this super speed leveling is a nice middle ground.

    Also, I find the indexing of the phb pretty good. However I might just be acclimated to really, really poorly indexed games.

  14. Creighton,

    Some very good points in your “likes” section. I have to agree with your view on the cantrips though. I was thinking of having some sort of saving throw that gets harder to make each time they are cast over the first. When the throw is failed, the cantrip energy is used up. Being able to have unlimited spell power seems a bit “off” to me.

    Advancement is too hurried. I guess people are just not patient anymore. My main edition is still AD&D 1&2, and my favorite levels are 1-7. When heroes become super heroes it’s not as interesting to me.

    David S.

  15. For starters, I still dislike the advantage /disadvantage mechanic as well. It does a lot to speed up the game, but it feels like it takes too much away. Maybe, as I get to play more, I will get used to it and like it.

    Like other commenters, I like the PF notion that a cantrip can be cast over and over. I haven’t played a wizard in 5th yet, so I can not comment on the power of said cantrips.

    Magic item balance has always been an issue in the game. I have generally preferred the concept of a high fantasy world, where magic items are crafted often enough that a magic shop can appear in the world. (At the very least, in a world with a long history of magic, the merchant may well be selling old relics. ) I have been told D&D Next reduces the power on magic weapons. That feels like both a let down and a good move. It does beg the question, how can you have the players feeling like they are relying on their own skills and abilities and still include all the magic items in they might find?

    I can not comment on the the organization of the book. However you make a good case for it not being the greatest.

    Other commenters have done a good job summing up the healing, so I won’t add anything there.

    Other than those points, I like your list. I have only one other statement to make on D&D Next, feat advancement seems to come pretty slowly. Coming from 3.5/PF where feat selection helped build and define a character, I am missing it.

  16. A good cantrip is the old standby’s; lighting a fire, making water clean, levitating a little object, opening a lock; stuff that you have to use your brain to get really good mileage out of. Wizards have traditionally been handicapped in combat situations during their first leg of adventuring, and I think it’s a good tradition. Wizards are a tough choice, because of the trade-off that one makes, but that is a part of the wisdom of the original game.
    My very first Basic D&D PC was a wizard, and he had a familiar, a falcon, which was incredibly useful and outweighed any handicap melee-wise. He had no spells, just cantrips, which he used to light torches or light up a passage, and scare superstitious goblins with strange noises (that I of course had to create and vocalize!). He could also move an object like a book off of the shelf and under the counter as the merchant talked to an accomplise. He was great, and I rarely ended up using powerful spells even when I got them.

    Spells with huge damage…maybe in a Mythic Adventures supplement way, but not for average game-play. 1st level wizards with such powers create a very unbalanced world…maybe for an Eberron-type world setting; but these tend to be the exception to veteran role-players, who go to MMORPG’s to get the aggression out with ultra-violence and little role-play. In D&D5, my characters and any NPCs would be burning wizards at the stake just for their potential to harm even at such low levels.

    Rituals are awesome role-play tools. Far better than components with regards to clerics, if there had to be a choice there. Haven’t decided on combat yet, but I always dropped feats and such anyway…to cumbersome; melee is hard enough. Initiative is hard enough!

    Advancement is ridiculuous. The first few levels are the most fun!! come on!! Usually by Level 5 I’m ready to build a castle and am reminiscing about the handicaps of first level.

    Advantage/Disadvantage should be a house variant in some form or another in most games, just naturally. DC and CR’s have always been at DM discretion to enhance game-play. But it’s cool that they address the idea for new gamers who may feel that they need to “follow the rules”.

    Magical items– for newbies, less is more, for sure (rhymes!).

    I like that D&D5 is closer to the Basic style, but not so much that it drives new players away with what may seem now like unfair handicaps on race / class / attributes. Unfortunately, all told, I still rather a system like LegendQuest to D&D5. Pathfinder is okay for when playing with those used to it; but there is a lot of unnecessary stuff going on in Pathfinder for a get-up-and-go game. I find that Pathfinder has opened itself up so much that the rules have become unclear.

    Great post, Creighton. Good insights as always. Play it slow and make it interesting!

  17. In my campaign, the players bought up all 6 of Master Gamble’s Healing potions. And that was it. Master Gamble was out. And it would take another week at the least before he got one more in. One. His daughter, Binta, saw an opportunity. She hired out several of the local women to start crafting healing potions. Oh, there was a learning curve, and all this took time. So a month later, the party is back at Master Gamble’s Emporium looking for healing pots. And there are 14 of them sitting very perkily on the shelf. Price had gone up, 75 gold, said Master Gamble, but he had a more reliable supply now. Inflation being what it is, and human greed second only to that of Dwarves, it soon came to be that healing pots not only increased in price, but also potency.

  18. The organization problem seems to be endemic as I looked through a copy of the Monster Manual that a friend of mine had and found a similar problem. They had a Demon section but it did not have all the demons listed there. Succubi for example have their own listing. They have an appendix of additional monsters at the end of the book, but they do not seem to have any sub-type in common. Just a group of monsters that for some reason were not in the main section. It seemed like it would be very confusing to find things (often monsters were listed alphabetically by the first letter in their two word name instead of the second word that signifies their group). I must say I was very disappointed in the (dis) organization. I mean supposedly they are the premier RPG publishers, but it made me think that they had never done a RPG product before. All their experience putting out Monster Manuals should have counted for something in allowing them to avoid such pitfalls.