Well, I just finished up with the rest of the book including chapters for Skills, feats, equipment (including magic items), adventuring, combat and rituals. Overall it appears to be pretty well thought out. As I have said before, things are different. This is not the same game.
Chapter 5 – Skills:
The skills present in the new edition have been greatly condensed from that of 3.x. This chapter identifies how you go about skill training, using skills, the description of skills and how you use skills for knowledge. As previously mentioned, skills now use a check bonus equal to 1/2 level + ability mod + 5 (if you are trained in that skill). There are no ranks, you are trained or you are not trained. Everyone can try to use a skill, they just don’t get the bonus if they aren’t trained.
You can still take 10 when you are not in a rush, being threatened or distracted. Passive skills, such as perception, use a result as if you were taking 10 unless if you are actively using the skill.
For the knowledge checks you essentially have levels to find information about monsters: Name / type / keywords, Powers, and Resistances / vulnerabilities. Similarly you have different tiers for general knowledge on a subject: Common, Expert, Master. Furthermore, monsters or general information takes a bonus to the dc for paragon or epic tier objects.
The list of skills is as follows: Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Dungeneering, Endurance, Heal, History, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception, Religion, Stealth, Streetwise, and Thievery.
Chapter 6 – Feats:
This chapter describes how you gain feats, how they work, describes each one and also goes into some detail on the "Multi-Class" feats which allow you to trade in some of your powers for powers from another class. It looks like most of these feats help to extend or enhance your attacks, powers, or skills. Some of the feats aimed towards clerics and paladins add new powers to their channel divinity class traits. The feats are laid out in Heroic, Paragon and Epic tiers.
It is a little bit hard to explain, but the feats now have a completely different feel from third edition. I’m not sure I can put a handle on what it is that makes me say that though.
Chapter 7 – Equipment:
The equipment has been subdivided into armor, weapons, adventuring gear, and magic items. Yep, magic items in the players handbook. And boy have they changed.
Starting off with armor, the list has gotten a whole lot shorter. There are now only cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale and plate armors. Each has two seperate "Masterwork" versions that can only be purchased as magic items. There is now only heavy and light armor, no medium. You have Light and Heavy Shields as well.
For weapons, things are now split into multiple categories, each with one and two handed varieties: Simple Melee, Military Melee, Superior Military, Improvised Melee, Simple Ranged, Military Ranged, Superior Ranged and Improvised Ranged. Furthermore the one handed weapons will occassionally have a "Versatile" keyword that indicates it can be used one or two handedly. A good number of the tried and true weapons have had their statistics altered, such as the longbow (1d10) and shortbow (1d8). You also now get a "proficiency bonus" for using a weapon that you know how to use. This bonus is dependant on the weapon and is either +2 or +3. Weapons are now also part of groups. Some of your skills, feats, traits or powers will give you bonuses to use a particular weapon group.
The adventuring gear list is a bit shorter than the previous incarnation. Furthermore, it gives you items such as "Standard Adventurer’s Kit" which list all of the items included (and individually so you can just buy them in that fashion). Overall I would say that this in particular looks like an improvement from the older editions. Following this, but in the same section are small charts for food and lodging as well as mounts and transport
Ah, magic items. Where to start? Each magic item is now classified by level. That is not to say that you need to be a certain level to use the magic item, only a guide to let you know about how powerful it is (and when you can make it). Magic Items now fall into seven categories: armor, weapons, implements, clothing, rings, wondrous items, and potions. There are now more well defined item slots (or perhaps, not more well defined, but just easier to remember) which will all give you a similar bonus to each other item of the same slot. These slots include: Arms, Feet, Neck, Hands, Waist, Rings and Head. You can still benefit from two rings in addition to the hand slot.
Items now also have powers which will follow the same general rules as all other powers, except that you can only use a certain number of daily powers (dependant on your level) regardless of how many magic items you have that offer such powers (see pg. 226). Magic Weapons now (usually) add bonus dice to critical hits (which are not maximum as your normal damage is on a crit). Items have listed what they enhance, what they can enchant, modifiers to criticals, properties that are always active or triggered, and powers. Some also have a "Special" field that will give other rules or abilities. Most items are strictly there for these purposes, enhancements and small powers. Gone are a lot of the iconic items that were just useful, but not necessarily related to combat. They have broken "Wondrous Items" out to those items that are not associated with an item slot, and they contain more of your classic D&D magic item feel. The current list of potions is "healing, vitality, recovery and life". Yep, that’s it… four types of potions.
I’m not sure how much I like the changes, but we will see through a few test sessions…
Chapter 8 – Adventuring:
This chapter describes quests, encounters, rewards, light sources, exploration, rest and recovery. It seems almost like they threw things that didn’t really fit anywhere else here, which is fine because it is all loosely related anyhow. I actually enjoyed this chapter, although I’m not sure why.
Chapter 9 – Combat:
I was surprised that this one was only about thirty pages. The feel of the game has changed in my opinion to be more driven towards the battlemat than it was even in 3.5. Most, but not all, of the rules from previous versions are here, but in a bit more streamlined version. Things seem to be more concisely defined and also seem to be a bit more logically planned. I’m not sure, with the way that they went with the combat rules, why they didn’t change from squares to hexes as it would have made a bit more sense. I guess that people are still too attuned to straight lines, with no partial spaces. As another shift from previous editions, all conditions are listed here instead of having to reference the DMG. They now have a well defined struture of the actions you can take in a round… one minor, one move (which can be traded for a minor) and one standard (which can be traded for a move or a minor). There are pretty good examples of how bonuses stack. They go through resistances and vulnerabilities. etc…
Gone are the days of trying to remember how to count diagonals. Gone are the days of grapple. There are a bit better pictures to show you examples of all of the concealment, cover, flanking, movement, etc. Your five foot step is now different. It is called a shift and takes a move action, but is the only way to get around provoking and oppurtunity attack from an adjacent enemy. There are many, many other options that I could speak of, but it will be best to read this section thoroughly.
Chapter 10 – Rituals:
Rituals are a lot like what spells used to be. Except they cost money (in materials) to cast and they take a whole hell of a lot longer to preform. Oh yeah, and anyone who can perform rituals (one feat) can cast them. Or, if you find a ritual scroll, anyone at all can cast them – you don’t even need the feat. Of course, the list of rituals is far, far fewer than spells in other editions. Their resulst are usually what I would consider to be a bit less powerful than those of the past, and almost all of them are wholly dependant on a skill check to garner the level of success. I would say that this is a decent compromise between the new powers and at least partially appeasing some sense of older style spellcasting. Some favorites that have appeared include arcane lock, knock, raise dead and various divinations (ah, got to love the dial-a-divine-entity spells). We will see how these actually work out…
And that was that. I have finished up the players handbook… I will probably try to read through the first module next as we are supposed to play a pilot session in a little over a week. If / When I finish with that I will begin flipping through the DMG and then the Monster Manual.
Since this is such a different game I am going to hold off judgement until we get a few sessions under our belt. My gut instinct says that, in the right environment and with the right group of players, this game will be fun. But, then again, that could be said for just about anything, right?