Thoughts and Opinions

Alpha Release 1 General Discussion

Well, having had a chance to go through the Alpha release 1, I'm pretty darn impressed. Overall, very good, but some serious issues I forsee, even prior to playtesting.

My thoughts, in a by-section series.

Overall, I really like the race changes, particularly with half-elves and half-orcs no longer being mechanically far behind other races.

* Elves (Unnatural Beauty): This bugs me, from a game-balance and thematic standpoint. Imo, a +2 or +4 bonus on Diplomacy would be more balanced. The GM discretion is often going to make a player frustrated that they can't "use their ability", whereas a flat bonus gives them something that's always available.
* Gnomes (Obsessive): Add in Perform to the list. Possibly Linguistics.

Overall, again, I really like the changes. I'd actually be excited to play a straight-class fighter. Bizzaro world or what? The HD changes are alright, and I prefer the max class HD + 6 method.

* Cleric (Orison): The orison change is welcome. My own house rule for years now has been that you didn't have to prepare orisons, and could just cast any you knew (with the standard spells/day limit).
* Cleric (Deities): Spike Chain should not, imo, be a favored weapon. The item itself is broken, and giving someone an exotic weapon proficiency for free is a bad choice.
* Cleric (Domain Powers): Covered later, in their own section.
* Cleric (Turning): Nice change, particularly the healing. Should be a choice that can be made though, whether to heal+turn, or just turn.

* Fighter (Everything): Awesome. Love the changes.

* Rogue (Sneak Attack): Very good news to hear that SA is going to be useful against more enemies. Having a core combat ability useless against a large subset of enemies sucks.
* Rogue (Master Strike): Yikes. The Assassin ability is balanced out by having to study the target for 3 rounds. I'd tone this way down: Dazed for 1d4 rounds or Paralyzed for 1 round or +15d6 sneak attack damage (instead of +9d6). If you can insta-kill people reliably (and DC28 is reasonable to hit at 20th level), rogues with improved invisibility, haste, and a bow are going to be ridiculous against anything that can't yawn off a 28+ Fort save.

* Wizard (Arcane Bond): I like the ability to bond to an item. Viva the wizard's staff!
* Wizard (Cantrips): See Orisons above
* Wizard (School Powers): Covered below
* Wizard (Spell Components): Dissapointed to see that non-costly spell components are still around. They're trivialized with the ludicrous 5g-pouch-of-everything.


Honestly, I really don't like the must-have-max-ranks method here. I've always been a fan of being able to dip into cross-class skills for just a point or two, to give a hope in heck of making a check. It also lets you signify that you've got a bit of knowledge in something, and allows for a range of knowledge. Now, any wizard that's studied Knowledge (Arcana) is going to have nearly identical skill checks, which imo is pretty lame.

I do like the condensed skills, particularly for the social stuff. I noticed that Tumble got rolled into Acrobatics, but wasn't credited.

Another thing I noticed is that defensive casting seems to have disappeared - no mention of it is made in Spellcraft. If that was intentional, I don't like the change either.

I'm not sure if the double-armor-check-penalty rule is being preserved. If so, I'm glad.

* Fly: Shiny.
* Knowledge (Arcana): I like the loss of Identify as a spell, as it's always bugged me. My own house rule was to remove it, and allow Bardic Knowledge to ID things, as well as giving arcane casters the option of picking up a feat that allowed them to ID items as bards could. Higher level spells that IDd items remained, such as Legend Lore.
* Linguistics (Learn Language): Don't like this change at all. Not getting credit for the first level choices helps, but as I understand it, it means it's useless at 1st level. The entire thing confuses me, and I've read through it and pondered it for a while.
* Stealth (Invisibility): This reacts awkwardly with the change to the 5-senses for Perception. Personally, I've always disliked Invis not just granting automatic success for Hide - you're invisible after all.


[u]General Feats[/u]
* Agile Maneuvers: Nice change. Rogues and monks rejoice!
* Combat Expertise: Should retain the option to use less than your full bonus. Not fond of changing it to Int instead of BAB - a wizard gets more benefit from this than a fighter?
* Deadly Aim: Nice to see bows becoming more viable.
* Defensive Combat Training: This is +4, but the offensive feats are +2? Much better to make it +2 - it's still a massive bonus, given that it affects so many combat maneuvers.
* Intimidating Prowess: Good change. I'm fond of allowing players to use 1/2 Str mod in place of Charisma normally.
* Power Attack: Again, should retain the ability to use less than max bonus. Not every power attack has to be a swing-for-the-fences
* Toughness: Knock off the +3hp, imo. People are already getting more HP.

[u]Combat Feats[/u]
Well, this is my first major source of contention. The combo-combat feats are something I really dislike, and for many reasons:

1) It's not true to the feel of the game. I'm not playing an arcade fighting game, I'm playing D&D. For me, Tactical feats filled this niche very nicely.
2) It makes combat-feat-heavy classes much less useful. Not having the bonuses from the early-chain feats while using the higher-chain feats is not fun at all.
3) They're gimped if your enemies aren't surviving. Sure, against the BBEG, Pinpoint Targeting feat is nice. Against anything else, it's very rarely going to get to be used.
4) They're going to be Terrible for backwards-compatibility. Terrible, capital T.
5) The chain "resets" are jarring, and completely nonsensical. Once you've dialed into aiming with the Careful Targeting chain, for example, you're awesome at hitting a sweet spot on round 3, and crappy again at round 4. At the same time, without the reset, they're massively overpowering against tough enemies.
6) It's going to really encourage metagame tactics, which makes it a really tough thing for a DM to handle. Does the enemy get the heck out of the way after the fighter has Overhand Chopped and Backswinged? It's purely metagame knowledge that would have an enemy (or player) avoiding the end of the combo, but not the early parts.

Imo, this kind of system was well-handled by Tactical Feats, and turning some of these into TF would be a much better idea.

Sorting these by chain, rather than individual feat.

* Arcane Strike Chain: Blech. This is much-better handled by prestige classes. Someone using this would be hosed for non-attack spells (ASF), and if their target dies before they get the chain off, it's really underwhelming. Cut this, let PrCs handle it.
* Careful Targetting Chain: Blech again. CT is good. ET is kinda meh, but I could live with it. PT is yuck. At that point you've been sticking arrows into something for 2 rounds, so it's either something really tough, or it's dead, making the feat useless. And really, 90% of the use PT sees is going to be against targets with no cover - people are going to use it just for the massive +hit chance.
* Caught Off Guard: Awesome. A rogue in a bar-brawl is going to clean house :p
* Cleave Chain: HATE this change. It scales /horribly/, being amazing at level 1-5, and garbage at 11+. Whirlwind Attack is fine (if rather odd once you're using reach weapons).
* Dazzling Display Chain: As a single feat, I like DD. As a chain, it's thematically terrible - the third feat (double damage and bleed) doesn't follow logically for me. You impress someone, make them flat-footed, that follows. But then suddenly get double damage? Weird. And the third feat scales poorly. Also, every time this comes up in a game, I'm going to be reminded of that scene in Indiana Jones with the guy with the swords. I'd much rather see this be a 2-feat chain, with the second feat providing a -2 penalty to AC against your attacks, with it being usable as long as the intimidation does. That's useful, and thematically appropriate.
* Deft Shield: I actually like this one unequivocally.
* Dodge: This should not be a Combat Feat, but a regular Feat.
* Dodge/Mobility/SA Chain: This didn't need to be changed. Nerfing Dodge is a poor choice, and Mob/SA have never been overly powerful in any game I've ran or heard of. Useful, especially with a Scout, but only reasonably so.
* Dodge/Wind Stance Chain: Again, having to have used Dodge makes it junk. Thematically, seems like it'd make a good prestige class, or maybe a choice for a Monk progression. And the 3rd-4th round jarring is going to be terrible as well.
* Double Slice: Nice Feat. Poor Combat Feat.
* Overhand Chop Chain: I like OC and Backswing. DS doesn't work well for weapons that are only x2 crit, and the feat is going to be grotesque for people using x4 weapons like a scythe. 3rd round near-gauranteed kills for the guy with the x3 Greataxe? Yuck.
* Point Blank Shot: Should not be a Combat Feat, but a regular Feat.
* PBS/Rapid Shot/Manyshot Chain: I like this one. Manyshot has always struck me as completely ridiculous. Firing 3 arrows at once? Nuh-uh.
* Razor Sharp: LOL. I can't see this ever being taken (unarmed enemies aren't exactly common), but it's funny.
* Scorpion Style: Shouldn't affect things immune to crits. The golem doesn't care if you punch it in the imaginary kidney.
* SS Chain: Looks good.
* Throw Anything: Shouldn't be a Combat Feat, imo. Improvised weapons are weak enough ;)
* Turning Smite: Great feat.
* Weapon Swap Chain: Meh. I prefer the TWR that's already published.


* Cover: This is actually more complicated than normal. Imo, this was better off with PHB rules.
* CMB: Overall, I really like things like grapple+trip being harder to do. Really, really like it. As someone who's played a trip-build fighter before, it gets pretty broken against a lot of enemy types.
* Grapple: I like the changes, although they're not entirely clear. When someone is held, do you move with them if they move away? When are you standing, and when are you on the ground? It's much, much easier to pin someone on the ground.
* Broken Condition: Excellent change for the weapons, although I don't like the crit reduction. A rapier is still a superior weapon for stabbing a throat than a mace.
* Turn/Rebuke Undead: Good change. As I mentioned above, should have the option of not healing.

Arcane Schools
This is the next big contentious area. The balance between the various schools is, imo, pretty decent, with a few glaring exceptions.

The 1st level zapping abilities should not be full (Su) abilities (ignoring SR), and should be 1d4 damage. Overall, I really hate the zapping abilities - not every lowbie wizard needs to be a Warlock. That kind of ability was handled well by Reserve feats, imo.

* Abjuration: Great.
* Conjuration: Alright.
* Divination: Good. Diviner's Fortune should be changed to something else. That's a /huge/ bonus, and it will completely trivialize a lot of skill checks. I can easily see chunks of adventures being derailed due to this ability. I'd recommend something like (off the top of my head) being able to 3/day grant a reroll to an ally within 30' (you get a flash of insight, and warn them), instead of an enhancement bonus. The scrying changes, I love.
* Enchantment: Looks great. Love Legendary Charm.
* Evocation: Looks alright. Elemental Wall should not be full-Su.
* Illusion: Bonus is kind of odd. Not sure what to replace it with though.
* Necromancy: Deathless is broken. Something like 1/2 damage from PosEn would be much more reasonable.
* Transmutation: Very nice.
* Universal: Like the Bonus. HotApprentice is going to be the source of so many arguments, I'd remove it. Let them use all cantrips at will or something. MMastery is insane. That's two free quickens at 8th level. Making it cost +lvl^2 would be reasonable - that lets you Still or Silent etc without change, but keeps the Empower and Quickening in hand. Limited Wish and Wish should still cost XP (as it is they're SLA and therefore don't), or it's game-breaking. MofASchools is utterly ridiculous. +2 to all schools is equivalent to 8x Greater Spell Focus. That's worth 16 Feats, and better than, because it'll stack with them. And then you get a +4 Insight bonus, making it better than GSPen. This entire domain needs to be looked at by someone sober.


Again, hate the zappy 1st level abilities. Having all the casters hanging out back zapping things more effectively than the ranger with the bow beside him? Blech.

In general, I greatly prefer the defensive abilities to the offensive, especially for the 8th level powers. The 8th level ones are often going to overshadow nearly anything else available anywhere near that level.

Standard concerns regarding Sp abilities and components.

The 1st level abilities that grant bonuses/penalties based on a variable are nearly all extremely powerful, especially at higher levels when pumping up a stat is fairly easy. I'd be much happier if these were a set amount, like the Nobility Domain is. Imo, a 1st level ability shouldn't be scaling to be extremely good at 15th, but weak at 1st.

Community: Unlimited forced-march go! Restrict this to 1/day or something.
Darkness: Needs to be clarified that you and your allies can see through it.
Death: A successful save should make you immune for 24hrs.
Destruction: DSmite is seriously overpowered for a 1st level ability especially when it's unrestricted in uses. I'd replace this with something that doesn't scale so massively. AoD ditto.
Evil: SoEvil, was that supposed to be Unholy? Making it evil-aligned is really weak.
Glory: ToGlory is another one that I can see being abusable, especially for things like opposed Charisma checks. I'm dubious about DPresence, an AoE heightened-Sanctuary is pretty darn powerful. At a minimum, make it so that a save makes you immune for 24hours.
Good: See comments for the Divination arcane spec.
Liberation: See Divination arcane spec. (Different, but same problem, possibly even worse). The FCall is going to completely trivialize a lot of encounters as well, and should definitely be changed. Something like 1 target getting Freedom of Movement would be powerful, but reasonable. Letting your entire party ignore a host of powerful effects, not so much on the reasonable side of things.
Madness: VoMadness is extremely powerful. I'd tone that down to 1/2 Cha, if not 1/3.
Magic: See comments in Universal arcane domain.
Repose: WADeath... wow. An 8th level ability that's nearly comparable to an 8th level spell? Yikes. A bonus on saves or something would be reasonable, but this is crazy. Again, an ability that would trivialize encounters.

Hrm, somehow I managed to skip over the advanced feat progression. Leave feats at the 3.5 rate. That's not "power creep", that's "power bullrush". The new take on the classes are just fine without rapid feat aquisition.

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