- The basic cleric, fighter, thief, and wizard classes are nice. I could even imagine allowing the arcane trickster and eldritch knight, for players who wanted a multi-class type option. The 4e-style battle master is right out, though.
- The cleric domains and wizard school specializations are cool. I like the thematic non-spell benefits each grants.
- Backgrounds are awesome.
- I love the equipment chapter and the section on downtime activities -- streamlined, flavourful, and inspiring.
- I'm very happy that weird races, multi-classing, and feats are explicitly called out as optional.
- The simplicity and flexibility of the ability check / skill / proficiency system.
Actually there really isn't much of a definitive "no" for me in the new PHB. There are things I won't personally use (see below) but those are mostly modular and easy to drop, without getting into a mess of house rules.
- The non-core-4 classes. They all introduce add more complicated mechanics and, especially with the addition of backgrounds, I just don't find any of them necessary. Ranger? = Outlander Fighter. Paladin? = Acolyte Fighter or just a Cleric. Bard = Entertainer Rogue (Arcane Trickster). Druid? = Cleric with the Nature domain. And so on. Feels like a lot of duplication to me. They also all bring world assumptions which I don't necessarily want in my game. (I could, however, imagine running a campaign with just a small, hand-picked list of these classes: Ranger, Druid, Warlock, Monk, for example, might be interesting.)
- The silly 4e races. Well... I'm totally bored of the standard fantasy races too, although I do like the sub-races and the way they're described. My favourite is the gnome actually.
- I was open to liking the new feats but still find them too much of a door into fiddly mechanical character optimisation.
- As I discussed previously, I'm not keen on some aspects of the skill system. This is an area which seems not so simple to house rule in a way which doesn't risk messing with loads of other stuff. We'll see.
I'm sure I'll run some games of D&D 5 to get a feeling for it. There's a lot of good stuff in it which I, on first reading, prefer to my traditional go-to, Labyrinth Lord. I'm open to the idea of this becoming my standard base of rules to build from, and it feels like a very solid foundation, at that.
I could imagine two approaches. Firstly, a silly, Mos Eisley, free-for-all. Dragonborn monks meet dwarf necromancers and half-elf warlocks for a party. Not my usual style but I could see it working for a throw-away game. (There's no way I'm going to try to come up with a consistent world setting which encompasses all the race/class combo possibilities in the new PHB!)
For a game more to my usual tastes, I would most likely cut out or reskin all the fantasy races and strip down the classes to the core 4 (or, more likely, core 3 -- no cleric).
I've been having a few ideas for tweaking the wizard class:
- Bring back strict spell memorization. I'm not totally sure how I feel about the new flexi-spellcasting. Luckily, the spells per day chart is presented in a way that makes it trivial to interpret it as "spells memorized". (I guess this was intentional and will be mentioned as an option in the DMG.)
- Make school specialization stricter. I've always loved the idea of pure specialists, e.g. a necromancer who can only cast necromantic spells. I'm not sure if the current 5e spell list is meaty enough to make this feasible, but I'm going to check that out. The additional bonuses granted by the specializations somewhat make up for a lack of spells. I'd also consider limiting specialists to one major school and a couple of minor schools, something like that.
- Make school specialization optional. I've thought about the idea of bringing back the "mage" wizard -- a non-specialist. Given my ideas for stricter specialization, the mage would lose the special abilities granted by a school but would have a broader range of spells to choose from.
- If I ran a game without clerics (as I usually do), I'd look into rolling all of the spells into one über-list. Perhaps non-wizard spells would only be available to school specialists, giving them an extra boon. (I was, by the way, interested to notice that the healing spells are almost all evocations.)
- I'm mulling over the possibility of allowing wizards to make pacts as per the warlock class. There'd have to be some downside to doing so but the basic mechanics seem like they'd work out.
(ps. I'm on holiday for the next 2 weeks, so likely won't have much time for writing. Really hoping I'll have some more free time at the end of September. I've been so busy lately that all of my writing projects have really fallen behind!)