I entioned the new version in my blog yesterday. I wanted to expand on my brief comments a bit
I quite like reading the new edition. Of course, there is no way to tell if it is good without making some characters, an adventure and playing the game, but the ruleset seems good.
The Basic Rules free online PDF released all the same core rules as the Player’s Handbook a couple months ago. So there weren’t many rule surprises within the tome.
The art style and direction of the new PHB is quite good. It is similar to that used in 4e, but perhaps a bit less garish. It certainly makes the book an attractive artefact to use.
The division of the book into sections is really straightforward and makes sense to me. Non-combat resolution is all in one chapter. Combat resolution is another, adventuring/exploration in a third.
But the big additions were all the character options added in the PHB. Gone is the sameness of the 4e classes. Each class definitely has its own feel to it again, but without going back to different rule systems for each class.
That being said some of the classes do have their own rule systems. The most common rule system used is ‘points’ – like sorcerer points or bardic inspiration points. But how each class expends the points is a bit different.
The warlock wild mage has its own wild magic system too that is completely different and quite complex. There are some classes that just do things a bit differently.
The Ranger and Druid are introduced in this book. That means the animal companion and sharp change rules are here. They seemed interesting and well integrated. I liked them. I did think it odd that Wizard’s Find Familiar is still the same old style spell rather than using a rule system similar to companions and shape changed folks.
The classes offer good variety, but within each class there are at lest two sub classes (8 for wizards!). These are thematic and interesting. It is a similar approach to kits, but fully integrated into each class. Splatbooks will obviously be able to include more of these.
One of the big hits against 4e was its lack of roleplaying support. 5e has a full chapter on it – alignments are back. Neutral is now portrayed as lacking strong moral convictions. Not sure about that, but Neutral has always been problematic. Add to that traits, ideals, bonds and the background system. I think the result should be well rounded characters. As experienced role-players, our 4e folks still had a lot of character. But as an overall direction for the game I approve.
I also like the background rules. So roleplaying ideas, some packages of equipment and skills and some small features that only work along with roleplaying. It seems to be a workable system.
Finally the feat system. That is newly detailed in the PHB. It is optional. At any level where a character gets a stat boost, they can take a feat instead. That means the feat must be equivalent to a +1 to hit, damage or casting. Because the power slope is not as steep, losing on these these either might be huge or not as important. I’m not sure. But taking a bunch of feats will likely not be a popular approach. Some feats still allow a +1 to a stat along with a related benefit. Others offer a small list of benefits to be equivalent.
I’ll need to see them in play to fully judge.
After me initial read through that is what struck me. I like it. Interesting mutation of the rules.