Thursday, May 31, 2012
DnDNext Playtest: A look at Casters
I have just downloaded the playtest for the 5th incarnation of the dungeons and dragons. And I am going to break down what I feel and think about the rules into several components. As you have guessed from my title, I am going to talk about casters
But first, I would like to detail my background in DnD. Strictly speaking, my DnD days only started when i was a freshman in university. I started playing 3.5 edition with my university schoolmates and even now, 3.5 remains the staple within our gaming group. Laziness was one of the reason why we never converted to 4th ed and subsequently the Pathfinder Edition (a.k.a. 3.75).
But as I started to game outside of my group, I got in touch with the DnD Meetup group in Singapore and 4th ed was still in its infancy stages. I tried a few games but I did not like it. The game mechanics was good but it was a different game in many ways. In particular, the way powers are being structured between casters and fighters was little. So I slowly drifted back to 3.5 and Pathfinder.
Now Vancian Magic is not necessarily the most elegant of the magic systems. But Vancian Magic is , to me, what distinguishes the casters from the fighter. The fighter could chop and slash endlessly at a creature but a caster must know when and when not to cast a spell.
The resource management aspect is what drives the caster (cleric and wizard alike) to know what spell to prepare and what spell to give up. How many times have the party groaned when they realize that the cleric has not prepared speak with dead and they have a dead corpse to question? So I was dismayed when Vancian Magic was excluded from the 4th ed of the game.
So when I crack open my first character sheet ( I was immediately drawn to the human cleric of pelor), I was happy to see that Vancian Magic was back. Yeah!
Even better, I saw that 5e incorporated the Pathfinder Version of Vancian Magic into the game. Orisons could be cast at will by the casters. This was a good thing for us.
The wizard no longer needs to uselessly poke a dagger at enemies when he or she runs out of spell in the first few levels of gameplay. This meant a longer day before a long rest and it also allowed the wizard to contribute to the combat meaningfully. The ray of frost spell may seem minor but it was certainly more useful than the dagger.
The second thing I noticed was the removal of touch AC and the using of casting ability score for the attack of magic spells. For the GMs, the touch AC concept was a nightmare. Ray-like spells ( which needed an attack roll) could target touch AC ( if it was energy based) or AC ( if it is more like a missile). As the 3.5 splat bloat occurred, GM had to scramble at each spell description to see if it is touch or not. GM would also have to calculate Touch AC. So with the implementation of the rules, I hope that combat would be smoother for ray-like spells.
The third thing is unique to clerics. In core 3.5, the clerics have a feature that was seldom used and that is the turn undead ability. Unless the GM runs a zombie overrun, the cleric player seldom got to use the ability. So the numerous splatbook introduced new ways to use the feature; the most notable being the divine metamagic trick that allowed clericzilla to be born. So as I groan to see that the channel divinity is essentially the Turn Undead. But as I look through the level-up notes, I was excited that there were other uses for the channel divinity. So I am excited to see the other options for the channel divinity feature.
Overall, I think the features for the caster was well made. The only complain may be that cleric is clearly tier 1. Next up: Saving Throws and other character options.