So I asked some folks on Facebook to send me some of their most pressing questions concerning D&D Next. Most of the questions I received centered around three things: Races, Classes, and Alignment. So I will try to answer everyone's questions by drilling down on these three subjects.
Races in this edition are still the usual suspects of Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, and Human; but there are also a set of "less common" races that are optional to use. They include Half-Elf, Drow, Dragonborn, Half-Orc, Gnome, Kender, Tiefling, and Warforged. The first question that pops into some people's heads is "which one has the best natural ability?" Well I'm pleased to say that each race comes with some pretty nifty abilities and none seem to be better/worse than another. I want to make specific mention of the abilities of Humans. For the first time, in my experience anyway, humans have been given a proper racial improvement. In D&D Next they are allowed to increase all of their ability scores by 1 point. This reflects the adaptable and varied nature of human life and gives them a huge boost that balances out the abilities of the other races. In short, playing a human is no longer a liability and that makes them fun to play. I also wish to mention that I have not yet discovered any of the racial abilities that can stack with other abilities and allow players to min/max. I'm sure that they exist, but so far I think the creative Next team have really eliminated as many of them as they were able.
Classes are another kettle of fish. Back on the menu are the standard classes of Fighter, Rogue, Mage, Cleric, Druid, Ranger, Paladin, and Bard. However, along for the ride are two of the fringe classes now made mainstream, Barbarian and Monk. First of all I will admit that despite some efforts some classes do seem to have advantages over others. But I would also like to point out that many of those advantages have been balanced out by some glaring disadvantages in other areas. For example, the Monk class has always been a bit over powered in its offensive power and this edition is no exception. However, the flipside of this advantage is poor armor class and fewer ways for the Monk to defend him/herself. Another example would be the Mage class. Mages, along with most spell casters in this edition, are now able to tap into "cantrip spells". These are small-time spells that do little, but can be used as many times as needed. The trade-off presents itself as fewer "memorized" spells per day. Therefore spells are more plentiful on the whole but not nearly as potent. Similar changes have taken place with every class and many of the "unfair bonuses" have been culled out over the long playtest. The result is as even a playing field as I have ever experienced. That being said, the Barbarians, Monks, and higher level Mages still have a slight edge in combat over the other classes. I'm also pleased to report that Rogues and Bards can be very nasty when played correctly and that's exactly the way I like them.
Finally, let us look at Alignment, and here we find that 2nd Edition is alive and well. Lawful, Good, Neutral, Chaotic, and Evil are all back and in their original combinations. How you wish to put them together is between you, your character, and your DM. For the most part, once selected at the beginning of a campaign, your character's alignment does not change unless something catastrophic happens to you. It is also possible to change your alignment via magical means but most of these changes are only temporary. Interestingly, D&D Next does allow for an optional system, called the Interaction System, to change your feelings/attitudes towards certain PCs or NPCs over the course of a few sessions. For example, under the old rules, it would be almost impossible for a Lawful Good character and a Neutral Evil character to get along. However, using the interaction system, these characters can slowly build a relationship especially when their goals happen to coincide. Although I haven't incorporated this system into any of my games at this time, it's something I want to test out in the future.
I hope that sheds some light on a few questions and I always welcome new ones at: firstname.lastname@example.org