There is no excuse for a 15 month blogging absence -- a virtual blog lifetime. Other life elements intrude, excuses abound. But like a bad case of the clap, I keep coming back to D&D. Or it to me.
I have been sucked back, simply, due to 5th edition D&D (I refuse to call it "Next," unless they promise to call the next version after that "Last.").
While the playtest versions (as of now) are only about 60-70% complete at best, it is in playable form finally and I like what I am seeing. It's enough to get me to run a campaign using it.
Good News Part 1: the game has taken many of the best elements from prior editions and mostly merged them:
* ability checks a la many OSR systems are the new default, making skills both relevant and simple to execute
* simplification (relative to 3e and 4e, anyway)
* return to class-based design rather than MMO-inspired "role"-based design of 4e
* cribbing from a few of 4e's strengths such as at-will spells
* A flatter power curve (more like OD&D/2nd edition)
In sum, it feels like a streamlined version of 3e with 4e/OSR elements. What is still lacking:
* The monsters overall have relatively low ACs. This may be intentional.
* Multiclassing is still an unknown. Whether it will look like AD&D (level up in multiple classes simultaneously, splitting xp), 3e (add a class as you go) or 4e (get a little multiclass functionality from a feat) is anyone's guess. I am guessing it will be more 3e-ish, though the only way that worked for spellcasters was to use prestige classes or take feats to boost their caster levels. I would be open to an AD&D version too, though once you took your classes you were locked in ...
* We still need a few more "core" classes, like the bard and (for me, anyway) the sorcerer. I wouldn't mind seeing a warlock, either. Essentially, if a class' features can't be added as a subclass to an existing class, or if it has some unusual mechanic, it needs to be its own class. For my money, the 3e bard (bardic music effects), sorcerer (spontaneous casting/wizard alternative), warlock (eldritch blast, unique warlock powers and invocations) all justify their own classes; they can't be wizard variants, other than possibly the sorcerer.
* The spell list, magic items, and bestiary are sparse. More content will be needed to justify an end product.
All in all, I am encouraged. I want to play this version of the game. Moreover, I am encouraged that the designers are taking their time and listening to feedback.