Continuing with my ongoing look at the final D&D Next playtest packet I thought we might take a gander at two important decisions any player ever makes; race and class. Now, as much as I might be thrilled to do so, I’ll have to refrain from citing every little detail or feature. So, forgive me if you were hoping for a summary account of every single aspect regarding the races and/or classes. I apologize for the restriction, but you are more than welcome to sign up with WotC to get access to the complete packet.
Let’s begin, as most players do, by taking a look at the races presented as available for play.
- The Fantasy Four – Listed as the common races capable of fitting in to virtually any setting are the dwarves, elves, Halflings and humans.
- The Uncommon Denominators – As far less predominant peoples we are also presented with dragonborn, drow, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, kinder, tieflings, and warforged.
- Culture, Anyone? – With the exception of a handful of the races (who realistically don’t require one) every race has a detailed primer providing a good briefing on its culture, customs, and racial identity. Every race offers you ideas for names, commonly spoken languages, info on religion, beliefs etc. You really get a sense of the race as a whole to help shape the character you’re trying to create.
- Fun Flavors – Not every race is just a singular group; many are made up of different tribes, clans and offshoots. This is nothing new to any experienced player; many could even rattle off names of various sub-races like hill dwarves and wood elves without blinking. So it should come as no surprise that when selecting a race you are also presented with some sub-races as well to chose from. They are all well done, with their own signature traits that add to all other racial features without replacing anything. Overall everything looks fun and worth trying out.
- More With Less – The key established premise I keep seeing emphasized is the overall flavor and rich depth. Key aspects of each race is still present, but gone is so much of the math. Racial features are no less important or effective; they just don’t rely on +2 to this or that to justify them.
- Not Exactly What Some Expect - One caveat I must provide, and while I enjoyed it some will no doubt decry it; don't expect every race presented to be precisely as you imagine/remember them. Dragonborn aren't described as having to look like walking/talking dragon-men, nor are Tieflings forced to look like fiendishly evil folks. Without such mandatory aesthetics I think it breathes some old life into the concepts and allows for great storytelling opportunities.
And as for the classes…
- Party Plenty – Don’t expect your party of players to be restricted to a handful of choices because presented are the rules for; barbarian, bard, cleric, druid fighter, mage, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue.
- But Are They Real? – One of the first questions I asked myself when approaching every class was a simple albeit important one; does it feel right. Every class has a certain feel to it, so if the mage doesn’t feel like a mage to me or the ranger like a ranger then it’s an issue. Fortunately, every single class screams its own name. Each one shines in its own way and is exactly how you would expect them to be.
- Options Abound – Just because feats are optional doesn’t mean every class is just a straight line of generic traits. Players can chose from different types of representations regarding their class as they level up. Mages might take up the traditions of specific schools of magic, while a cleric might focus on a particular domain of his deity. No two characters will be alike even if they are the same class.
- Efficient, Effective – Every class description starts off with a brief explanation followed by its features and includes a quick reference box highlighting some things to help if you’re trying to throw one together in a hurry. You have your trusty table of features per level laid out and then the starting traits to take note of. Chiefly your hit die, hit points at 1st level, hit points at higher levels, armor/weapon/tool proficiencies, two attributes you are proficient in for saving throws and finally a few skills to pick one from to add to those granted via your background. Don’t worry though, should they overlap the skills you already have you can pick a different skill of your choice. After this the rest of the classes’ features are explained and any options available are described.
- A Different Approach to Ability Score Improvement – Depending on your class, you will get opportunities to raise your attributes at various levels. However, instead of a consistent 1 point increase you’ll find yourself with 2 points you can boost one stat or 2 separate ones. The only catch being you can’t use this feature to raise any score above 20. Every class provides this feature, just at different intervals and in total about 4-5 times by 20th level. Which could easily allow a player to exchange his stat boost for a feat should he find his stats sufficiently satisfying.
I think that about covers it, like I already said, without endlessly repeating everything in gory detail. So, until next time where I’ll try to fill you in on even more, feel free to have a look for yourself and/or share your thoughts. I know I’m looking forward to seeing Next continuing towards becoming complete, or at the very least farther down the line towards release.