Holiday D&D Next Playtest Feedback

The newest version or the D&D Playtest came out a couple weeks ago with many an exciting change! I thought about doing a disgusting Christmas theme and making a list of “naughty” and “nice” features of the new playtest, but my sense of decency prevailed. The good and bad highlights below:


Fighters, Rogues, and Monks have the same hit progressions, martial damage dice, and bonus damage: Frankly, as far as class features go, these are all pretty barebones and basic, so I am perfectly happy to see these qualities shared by each class. It goes a LONG ways towards balancing them in combat relative to each other, and there is still a lot of room to distinguish them from each other with maneuvers and other abilities.

Skill Dice: These introduce more variance to skill checks, which I tend to prefer, as it evens the playing field between disparate opponents and makes success or failure more uncertain at various difficulty levels (the uncertainty, of course, being why you roll the dice to begin with). Skill dice also address some potential concerns with the rogue. Rerolling skill dice is a nice ability but less powerful than rerolling a d20. Also, spending skill dice provides the rogue with more flexibility in using skills without giving them yet another advantage in the basic success/failure mechanic.

-Rogue Schemes: The alternative options for sneak attack are surprisingly viable, considering how big a part of the class that ability has been in previous editions. Also, requiring the rogue to give up advantage to use sneak attack or assassinate helps balance those abilities and make using them an interesting choice.


Feats: A number of feats seem poorly balanced. Two-Weapon Strike and Riposte both seem a bit too powerful, unless I am missing something important. With regards to TWS, guaranteed advantage is tough to pass up, especially for a rogue with sneak attack, and it doesn’t appear to have many downsides (d8 damage die compared to a d12?). Riposte seems like a no-brainer for any tank types, adding to their damage and increasing their chances of using their martial damage dice considerably. Of course, some feats are plain-out underpowered. Weapon focus, for example, adds a mere 1/6 damage per martial damage die!

Cleric hit progression, martial damage dice, and bonus damage: These max out at +2, 4d6, and +5 by level 20, which is considerably less than HALF the bonuses of the fighter, rogue, and monk (+5, 6d6, +20). Now with Divine Power, clerics do improve noticeably to +6, 4d6, +9, but that is still 18 damage behind the other classes. I think the expenditure of a mid to high level spell (depending on what level you are) should even the ground a bit more (or clerics should just be more effective to begin with). The bottom line is that WotC needs to determine if clerics should be capable of being relatively effective melee combatants or not; their current state feels like they are making a promise about the class that they can’t deliver on.

Spell Damage + Effects: Spells still seem a bit underwhelming compared to fighter/rogue/monk damage output. Let’s use a really simple example: a level one fighter with a two-handed sword can do about 13 damage when they hit with their Greatsword (1d12+3+1d6). Rogues and monks are a little lower at 11 (1d8+3+1d6). A wizard, in contrast, does only 5.5 damage + a minor effect with their Cantrip, which is a lot to lag behind; I’d be much more comfortable with them adding their ability mod to cantrip damage to keep up a bit. 1st level spells are similarly lacking: Burning Hands does about 10.5 damage (3d6), with a save for half. With the potential to hit multiple targets and reliably do damage even on a miss, this is certainly better than a normal hit. If a wizard could do this sort of thing at-will, I might say they were a bit overpowered, but with a limit of twice a day I am not impressed. Things don’t appear to change much at higher levels, with a 9th level fireball doing about 42 damage (12d6) versus the 51.5 damage (1d12+4+6d6+20) of the same fighter at level 20. Mike Mearls made a comment that he thought each class should look totally awesome when they do what they are best at; the wizard should wish he was the fighter when he chops enemies in half round after round, but then the fighter should look enviously at the wizard when he blows a ton of enemies apart with a well placed fireball. I’m just not convinced we’re there yet.


8 Responses to “Holiday D&D Next Playtest Feedback”

  1. Jason says:

    This article, and maybe the whole game, has just become so damage focused. seems like something other than raw damage output should be the main schtick of the classes.

    i sometimes feel lately when playing dnd that we all have blinders on, and things get too hack-n-slashy, but maybe that’s just me. One of the reasons I stopped dm’ing for encounters was that my home game started to mirror the roleplay/combat format of encounters, and began to get dreary. I want my players to have to look up and say are you sh!tting me now and then, forget the damage.

    Dont mean to be negative just thinking out loud about something that has been bothering me for awhile. the new playtest just seems small and pedestrian.

    Love your blog by the way. That mazes and monsters stuff was side splitting.

  2. Rory Rory says:

    I was thinking of putting a disclaimer in about how I tend to focus on combat balance since it is the easiest to analyze and the element most likely to derail the game if it is done poorly. And in combat, damage tends to be the most important factor in determining victory. In my experience, any system can support a healthy amount of roleplaying and creative problem solving, assuming the system doesn’t specifically straight-jacket you into a certain style of play. My D&D games (any edition) tend to have a healthy mix of tactical combat and free-form roleplaying/problem solving, and I have certainly seen entire sessions go by without a single damage roll.

    A few additional comments:

    -The rogue gets some fun non-damage focused options with skill tricks. These allow them to spend their skill dice for cool effects, such as charming people using only their words a la Saruman or perfectly mimic the appearances and mannerisms of another person. I just wish the other classes had more abilities like this.

    -Backgrounds: These do give cool traits, such as “false identity” or “licensed fool” depending on which one you pick, so that is a nice nod towards giving people light mechanical effects that help establish them in the world and setting.

    -Spells: The wacky spell effects have largely been stripped out, which does hurt the character of the game somewhat. Even the non-damaging combat effects (such as hold person) have largely been stripped down to the point where they feel about as underpowered as the damaging effects. I would certainly like to see some more wacky spells added back in, perhaps as rituals or spell-like abilities so they aren’t competing for the same spell slots as combat oriented effects.

  3. Noumenon says:

    > a 9th level fireball doing about 42 damage (12d6) versus the 51.5 damage (1d12+4+6d6+20) of the same fighter at level 20.

    Does the fireball divide its damage among the targets, or does it do 84 damage to two targets and 168 damage to four? If so it had better be weaker against just one.

  4. Rory Rory says:

    Keep in mind wizards get ONE ninth level spell. In fact, they get one 8th, 7th, and 6th level spell. So I don’t think it’s a given that they better do less damage versus a single target compared to a fighter’s at-will attack.

  5. Alexander says:

    Couldn’t agree more about the lackluster Cleric! Took the words right out of my mouth! Even as The Warbringer (Level 1 Deity option), there is just no comparison to the warrior classes!

    Also feel some feats also need a revamp!

  6. Jason says:

    This packet is the first time I’ve been mostly satisfied with the Cleric, actually. Previously they were extremely underpowered relative to both the Fighter and the Wizard. Now, at least, they have strong spellcasting, even though they lag behind other classes’ fighting ability. That seems mostly fine to me, although it would be cool if there were options to exchange spellcasting power for a better Combat Expertise progression.

    Melee and spell comparison might just be an impossible bridge. I still see people complaining that spells outclass melee classes, even though this post argues the opposite. I’m pretty satisfied with it now personally. I think spells having additional effects when using higher-level spell slots is a great choice.

  7. Rory Rory says:

    You know, I might be happier if they removed the cleric’s melee bonuses and stopped pretending they could melee :). I would be fine if they were JUST a spellcasting class.

    In one fight a day (or maybe two at high level) with a lot of enemies grouped together, spell-casters might have an edge by blasting through their best spells, but I am still dubious, considering the basic math involved. The evoker wizard does have a cool ability where they can ignore allies with their area attack spells, so that could certainly help maximize targets. Area effects are circumstantial, so it can be difficult to tell how effective they will be, and I think that is where they have the biggest edge in combat. Though, of course, spells that disable combatants certainly have their place; they just aren’t the ridiculous powerhouses they used to be.

  8. Jowsepi says:

    The wizard would do 42I damage to every creature in a 20little ft radiis. If you can bunch the enemy up that is a lot of damage. I do agree they need a lot more rituals for them.

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