Well, its here – the first glimpse at D&DNext, via the first public playtest documents. It consists of 5 characters (Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and 2 Clerics), basic rules, DM guidelines, a bestiary, and an adventure (based on the caves of chaos from Keep on the Borderlands).
The clerics and wizard seem pretty solid. Turning is now a spell, but the Clerics have an ability to cast it at will, which indicates it will be available as a spell for other classes (the Paladin?). Both get minor spells, which can be cast at will. For the Wizard, vancian casting is back.
The rogue is a real skill monkey – he can take 10 for a skill check after rolling the check. He is explicitly a Thief, and does thiefy things. Sneak attack seems to improve every level.
The Fighter is, well, crap compared with the other classes. All he seems to get is +2 to damage. At second level, he can attack twice 2 times a day, and at third level gets cleave. That’s it, basically.
All the characters have a background and a theme. It is not clear whether these are class agnostic, or not. Could you, for example, have a Slayer Wizard?
All in all, the basic system is pretty good – it seems to have been dialled down from previous editions. The highest DC seems to be 27, and attributes max out at 20 (+5) for PCs. Given +3 for a trained skill, the best skill check appears to be +8. Saves are now attribute rolls, and there is no explicit BAB. As written, characters going up a level get more HP and some powers, but no bonuses to attack rolls/saves, which seems…odd. It may be that they stripped out level bonuses to keep things simple.
All rolls are checks now, based on attributes. So a melee attack is a check based on Strength, plus bonuses.
Combat notably has no rules for using a grid, which suggests such rules may be a module. This will be jaring for those used to later editions of the game. The armour table is one of the worst parts of the game – the maths is totally wonky, and Chain Shirts rule…
The rules include a selection of spells, most of which are the old classics. The save DC does not increase with the level of the spell, apparently.
This is a shorter document, outlining what the DM needs to know. One glaring ommision is the lack of information on the check required to disable a trap.
The bestiary includes all the mosters from the adventure. The stat blocks seem to be a combination of 2nd and 3rd edition information. There are very few monster powers a la 4th edition. HP seem a bit high (88 for an Ogre?), but apparently that is one of the areas they want to test. It is all a bit bland, but thats OK for a playtest.
This is a faithful reworking of the caves of chaos from B2. I think it would require a lot of work by the DM to be fun, to be honest.
– underlying system seems solid
– Wizard and Clerics have plenty of option in play
– old school feel
– fighter is very poor
– maths seems wonky at times (especially on the character sheets)
Overall, a good, solid start.