Oh, Wizards. Oh, oh you wound me! Oh, I believed in you, and trusted you, and thought you would do no wrong and then what did you do to me? What is my reward?
You generate ability scores randomly by rolling dice.
Ugh. UGH. There is a wide and varied world of games and mechanics out there, and they all have their place, and any can be well done, and any may bring joy, but there is one that I cannot stand. I cannot abide it, and react with revulsion when it is placed before me, and that is random stat generation. I HATE IT. Beyond rationality. I am not unbiased here, I am pissed.
It’s a throwback of a mechanic. It’s like if the Tour de France decided that from now on it’s penny-farthings only. And what’s worse is the language of the document, which I can’t share here. It suggests that this is the normal way of things, and posits pulling from an array as an inferior secondary choice. No point-buying exists at all. Ooooh how this burns me; I know that D&D cannot ever escape the rule that stats fall between 3 and 18, any more than they can ignore the fact that the d20 is the most important die, but man. It tears me up.
And what’s worse is that I’m so EXCITED by the rest of what I’m seeing, by and large! Fighters have been rendered Interesting, and finally feel like they’re their own entities with these new maneuvers. Clerics look more useful, and wizards more squishy, and rogues… about the same, but I loved the rogues, so that’s fine and dandy. I thrill to see the possibilities of backgrounds and specialties although, not to put too fine a point on it, the fact that choosing backgrounds and specialties is presented as optional really cheeses me off, and underlies what I think is the worst choice Wizards of the Coast are making thus far, and that is the “modular” aspect of the game.
Some of this a problem with the language of the document. But man… don’t tell me about an awesome option and then suggest I don’t get to have it. That’s no way to ingratiate yourself to the players! That’s just being a butt! The world abounds with modular gaming experiences… just make D&D. Give folks suggestions on how to alter it, sure, but know that house rules will be the norm because that’s how these things work. Trying to be all things to all people will just muddle the product.
OH! And Specialties, despite having the worst name I’ve ever seen, are great! It looks like there’s some provision for multiclassing in a 3.X manner, too early to be certain, but these let you multiclass in the 4E manner as well… I am a Fighter with the barest hint of Wizard, which means I don’t have all that magic ability but does mean I can cast magic missile. That’s baller. All of them are baller. I’d like it if there were some capacity to create a specialty of free-flowing feats, if I so desire, but I’m not going to freak if I can’t… there’s something to be said for a list of feat choices which synergize automatically, and should prevent folks from suffering from feat-paralysis. If there’ll be option bloat… and there will be… better to suffer it early than every other level, right?
Last note, and this is not unique to this edition: if there is a game out there that handles ritual components in a fashion that is as user-friendly as D&D’s “turn money into totally abstract component stew, and then turn that into magic” but isn’t so goddamn bland and idiotic, someone tell me about it, because man. I would be all over that action.