ince we’re in the middle of finishing up the next playtest packet, this week’s article will be fairly short. Back on June 25th, I shared a list of the key issues that arose from the first round of testing. Let’s see where we are with each of them for the upcoming packet.
To start with, we saw the call for more fighter options as the number one issue that stood out in our feedback. The feedback spanned play preferences, length of time playing D&D, and every other category we tracked. The other issues fell into line behind it.
Our tactical and narrative rules modules have been on the back-burner. Before we go much further, we want to see how the new fighter mechanic that we developed goes over in the next round of testing.
The first packet’s rule for surprise was a little unwieldy. The events in one adventure that I ran do a good job of illustrating this unwieldiness. A gang of goblin bandits split into two groups to ambush the party. One group made a lot of noise to attract the PCs, while the other group took cover and attacked after the characters moved past them. Our current surprise rules made it unclear what would happen to the goblins that created the distraction. Were they surprised, even though they knew the ambush was coming? If only the characters were surprised, why would the distraction team gain the benefit of surprise?
We adjusted the rule to look more like prior editions. We have a surprise round, and anyone who succeeds in surprising an opponent gets to act. Thus, in this case, the ambush party would act in the surprise round. The other group of goblins, plus the characters, would be unable to act.
We’re leaving critical hits the same for now. We want to make critical hits a little more dramatic. The current rule isn’t exciting, but it’s functional enough that we haven’t addressed it yet.
Resting and Healing
We made an indirect change here. Hit points across the board, along with damage, have dropped a bit. However, we did not reduce healing. Thus, when you do use healing, you’ll get back a greater percentage of your hit points. In addition, the cleric can use channel divinity to heal, and we adjusted spells such as cure light wounds to increase the minimum amount of healing they offer.
The Hit Die mechanic is still there. Personally, I like that it takes the pressure off the cleric to heal and allows the group to benefit from a short rest. I think the mechanic is a bit more complex than I’d like, though.
For long rests, we’re introducing a simpler, grittier option that significantly reduces the amount of healing you gain. I can see long rests being an area where I expect the final game will give you a few options, since there’s a fairly even divide between people who think that a long rest that recovers everything is just right and those who feel it is too much healing.
We’ve made a few adjustments to skills. First, we now have a set list of skills that we’re drawing on when creating backgrounds. This change should make it much easier to construct your own backgrounds.
Second, we’ve given the rogue the ability to use the higher of either a +3 bonus or an ability score modifier when using a skill in which the rogue is trained. This simple change reflects that a rogue’s expertise transcends natural talent. It also means that we can have Wisdom 8 rogues who are good at finding traps.
Overall, I’m happy that we could address most of the key issues that came up. We spent a lot of time working on the fighter and the other classes, and we should have critical hits addressed in the packet after this one. Thanks again to everyone who gave us feedback. We’re looking forward to seeing your reactions to the next packet.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.