First of all, I only gave the playtest material a quick glance and made a few assumptions for the time being, therefore a lot of the following observations will likely be completely wide off the mark.
I’ve had a little glance over the D&D Next play test PDFs and without taking the time to completely understand the mechanics, it seems to me that the maths will be kept relatively simple and streamlined, die roll modifiers kept to a minimum.
While I love Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, I can understand why people would be uncomfortable with all the miscellaneous modifiers from spells, magic items, feats, etc. Playing through D&D 3.5 on my own, I did come across situations where I realised I forgot to include one or two very minor modifiers to a die roll. Very small modifiers that would have been more than enough to turn a whole campaign on it’s head.
On top of that, some modifiers are situational – for example, if you attack someone from higher ground (from a table, for example), you get an extra +1 to attack rolls. Considering there can be as many as three or four of these temporary modifiers and you can see how difficult it can be to keep track of them all, especially at high levels.
The numerical values that compose the stat blocks of monsters and characters in Dungeons and Dragons 5e are smaller than in previous editions, even at higher levels. I assume this is to ensure that battles flow a bit better and don’t take up too much time.
With the numbers being lower than you might find in previous editions, it’s no stretch to assume that the power gap between a high level character and a low level one will be smaller. Combined with the fact that character attributes can only be increased up to a certain point, the overall impression I’m getting is that the game is trying to move away from the superheroes feel of past D&D editions at high levels.
Immediately, I can see ‘grim and gritty’ campaigns being a real possibility in Dungeons & Dragons Next, where even the most powerful heroes are not superhuman. The only thing that sets them apart from the crowd is the wealth of knowledge, experience and talent which has allowed them to achieve more than most ordinary folk.
I guess this is what the D&D community wants, given this is a playtest with feedback involved. Reading through the forums, I know that many people are uncomfortable with the concept that mortals can become demigods or superhuman and prefer their characters to be a little more down to earth.
While I’ve always been a fan of high level D&D, I find D&D 5e to be quite intriguing. I’ll read and post more about it over the coming weeks.