The Things We Can Talk About When We Dare to Talk at All.
It's difficult to talk about the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons in a meaningful way. I mean we've all spent hours pouring over the pictures, panels, and Q&As that have been released to the public like a bunch of hungry crocodiles watching a man hold a dead bird just out of reach; but when it comes to speaking about the things we love and hate in the new edition difficulties arise.
There were options that I could have availed myself of, and from time to time I did. On the playtest site there was a way to discuss each update directly through a comments section that reminded me of a blog only without the sort of genuine human interactions that generally tend to come along with having a blog. Then there was the sucking morass of assholes who circled the forums on Wizards of the Coast and waged wars of words with anyone who dared to have an opposing opinion.
Neither of those options were acceptable.
Instead I mostly kept my mouth shut and filled out the surveys while I patiently waited for the end of the non-disclosure agreement so that I could actually talk about some of my favorite aspects of the new edition without fear of legal reprisals. I know that in many regards it's a silly restriction that I've put on myself when you can go into most any forum and find people openly discussing every facet of the system - but those fuckers don't write under their real name.
There are ten days left until the system goes live in the world (D&D Basic will become available for download on July 3, 2014 - see D&D Q&A at the 58:00 mark for confirmation of the date from Mike Mearls) and we can all talk openly about everything we love and hate without reservations or restrictions. That said there are some things that I can talk about in a limited way without exposing myself to danger and I would like to touch on them briefly.
I've been making characters for the new edition based off the last playtest for the last few weeks and I really love how quick this process has become. Of course it's not as fast as the earliest versions of the game where you could make a character in under ten minutes, but I can realistically make a character in less than twenty minutes without rushing and having come from Third Edition that's a huge difference.
I love this mechanic.
I love that it is an easy way to integrate your players into your setting and provide them with a way that gives them a real sense of the world before they start actually exploring it without taking anything away from the natural process of exploration that has made Dungeons and Dragons so great (see Traits, Flaws, Bonds, and More for where Mike Mearls discusses the mechanic). I love that anyone can build a background and you don't really have to worry about it fucking up your game because it doesn't provide the sort of game breaking opportunities that feats, flaws, and the rest provided in Third Edition.
Advantage and Disadvantage
This is singularly the best thing to come out of the new edition. It's incredibly easy to internalize and moves the game far faster than I would have hoped when I first encountered it. Who ever came up with it - be it from some indie game, +Monte Cook, or one of the designers still working on the game - should be proud as hell. This is a brilliant mechanic and I've long since plundered it in my regular game to great effect.