(Can you tell school's out? And I'm trying to find something to keep me occupied?)
One of my biggest faults is that I can be easily swayed by stuff that's new and shiny. I have a tendency to jump on a bandwagon, especially if someone I respect has already jumped on too.....or appeared to have jumped on. Anyway, I've had to really keep myself in check as new things showed up in the OSR, like Adventurer, Conqueror, King system or Crypts & Things or even Rappan Athuk kickstarter. I've had to make myself sit back and ask some tough questions to make sure that I'm not spending money I don't need to spend. I learned that I had this fatal flaw (which advertisers love to see) when 3.0 went to 3.5, and when Pathfinder came out, and when I read of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and....the list can go on for quite a while.
Tied to this fault is my great ability to make bad decisions quickly and good decisions take time. So, I'm now applying a "wait-and-see" approach to a lot of my life which upsets some of my friends because they want advice now. Sorry. Good advice will take me a little while. Give me a day or two to ruminate and I'll get back to you.
So, applying this to 5e after the one playtest may still be a bad decision, or it may be what I need to answer whatever survey comes from WotC about how I liked the game. In addition to this, I've gone out and read some other blogs by other playtesters to see if they saw what I saw and to see if I missed anything. Here's some things that came out of my reading and ruminating.
Advantages & Disadvantages - Basically, there are no more +4 or -4 or +2 or -2 bonuses for things. There's just the idea that you get an advantage or the opponent is at a disadvantage. It's an interesting mechanic but I can see a lot of potential rule lawyering in it as well. For example, (I'll write up the full story of the playtest it self in the next post) my character charged a group of orcs. I rolled a natural 1 on my attack which we ruled that I had tripped, fell, and slid into them. That means I'm at a Disadvantage and they had Advantage. An Advantage means they got to roll 2 d20's instead of 1 and to take the higher rolls when they attacked me. My attack back was at Disadvantage, which meant I rolled 2d20's to attack and had to take the lower value roll. I like the variability of the rolls but I think there will be arguments about what constitutes Advantage and Disadvantage.
XP - this may be a problem of the skimpy little rules they sent but it appeared that you only get XP from killing things. No XP from defeating or outwitting opponents. No XP from gold or treasure. This could be houseruled differently, but the XP values for the creatures are pretty high themselves (at least when compared to Swords & Wizardry). We defeated 40 kobolds but we didn't kill them. If we go hard interpret of the rules, then we get no XP for that. This could be a big game changer for old school players.
At-Will Spells - our cleric regularly threw these divine bolts several times during each combat. And then the mage joined in with Magic Missile. Really? Unlimited use? I had the most difficulty with that. It's one of the reasons I chose to play a fighter.
So, overall, it still wasn't a bad game or a bad system. There's a few spots I'd houserule to make it palatable for me but might be a dealbreaker for others. I can see this as a good intro system for D&D. But, when I consider all the changes I would have to make (for me), I end up with another version of Swords & Wizardry or OSRIC or 1e with a few things added (like Advantages & Disadvantages, maybe). Of course, the one thing many of the other bloggers are trying to get across also is that this is a playtest. These are not the final rules and in fact, the final rules may not resemble these at all. If the 5e rules stray too much further toward 3e/4e, then I'll not even bother getting the books to steal from. If they pull back more toward 1e, then I might use it as a hook to wean players from MMO/4e styles to more old school styles. Time will tell. The current rumor is that they're working on a release of the rules for GenCon 2013.