Thoughts on the LevelUp 5e Playtest II – Fighter

The second playtest packet for the LevelUp 5e project is up – this time we’ve moved from the changes to heritages and on to changes to classes – this has the first ten levels of the fighter in.

First impressions – I’ve seen some of this stuff before in the Tome of Battle, the supplement for 3.5 era D&D. Stances and Manoeuvres and Traditions, oh my.
Whilst the Tome itself was well received, a lot of the design was apparently ported to 4e D&D, and that’s where they lost everyone for that game – too much choice at every level, for every class, always.

Well, LevelUp 5e has promised to give players choices, so it looks like that’s what they’ve gone for.

OK, let’s do more of a deep dive.

Well, first thing to notice is some flavour text about different kinds of fighters, and then a paragraph to make the player consider why their character is a fighter, and another on how they got there.

Things that stay the same about level progression (up to level 10, that’s all we’re currently getting):
Fighting style at level 1, martial archetype at level 3, 7 and 10, ability score increases at levels 4 and 8, extra attack at level 5, the Indomitable ability at level 9.
Things that are gone:
Second wind at level 1, action surge at level 2, ability score improvement at level 6.

So what new stuff are we getting instead?
Well, at level 1, we get Exploration Knacks and Manoeuvres (yes, you’re not getting the US spelling), at level 2 we get Steely Mien, something called Reserves at level 4 and 8, Martial Lore at level 6, and Reputation at level 10.

What do these all do?

Exploration Knacks are built to enhance the Exploration pillar of 5e – presumably different classes get different knacks. Fighters get things like being able to carry more, get to do a little more during their watch at night without penalty, and can spend exertion points to do certain stunts (more on them shortly).

Manoeuvres are based on the exertion pool – spend a point to do a cool thing. They also follow combat traditions, which I guess are different ways of thinking about fighting – again, a call back to Tome of Battle – and the Adamant Mountain tradition is different to the Mirror’s Glint, is different to the Sanguine Knot and so on.
There’s some crossover here between Fighting Style and Combat Tradition – Adamant Mountain gains bonuses when using weapons with the Heavy property or to Armour Class, Biting Zephyr helps with ranged attacks, Sanguine Knot has a Shield Wall ability. I can see people stacking stuff pretty happily.
We’re also introduced to additional rules for advantage and disadvantage minor advantage means that if a d20 rolls a 5 or lower, a player can re-roll and take the highest result (without knowing this advantage is coming until that first result happens). Minor disadvantage is triggered on a 16 or higher.
Several manoeuvres give minor advantage on attacks.

Steely Mien gives certain combative abilities outside of combat – perception bonuses, disadvantages for opponents to discern a character’s motives with Insight, or making it harder to harass them without making a Wisdom saving throw.

Reserves boosts the exertion pool. Simple enough. We have text showing this continues to be boosted after level 10 also.

Martial lore also gives abilities based on martial acumen – bonuses to estimate value of weapons and armour, and bonuses to barter on such goods, OR bonuses to identifying the abilities of magical weapons and armour, OR evaluating an opponent in combat (similar to the level 7 ability of a Battle Master martial archetype in the PHB).

Finally, Reputation gives abilities based on what others might know about the character – bonuses on intimidation, the potential to enlist aid from a certain type of individual, or making it harder to divine information about them (both through skill or magical means).

So, there are a lot of choices now for a fighter to play around with. A LOT!
All told, I think this currently makes the game a lot more complicated, and a lot harder to play (though I’ve been looking at converting my own take on the Tome of Battle for 5e, so maybe I’m just jealous?).
I’ll be waiting to see what the other classes look like but so far this looks like a massive over-complication of levels 1-10.

I can see a lot of people unhappy about the loss of Second Wind and Action Surge also.

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