I was going to hold off on a new post until after we had a chance to play a second session with the August rules packet. Given that we're doing that second session tomorrow night, I really should stick to the plan.
However, I got to chatting with Crwth about the August versus the June packets. While it's fresh in my head, I might as well hammer it out now.
I'll start with the way the August packet handles skills.... sorry, ability checks. Skills don't exist. Which is actually something I'm on board with. It's simple and intuitive and it should stop the I've-got-so-many-ranks-I-literally-cannot-fail-even-the-most-impossible-task problem.
The only downside to it is strictly a mental hurdle I have to make. As a player, I'm conditioned to ask for a Sense Motive check, for example. Instead, I need to be more specific in what my character wants to do or accomplish and let the DM (Crwth) call for whatever ability check he feels is appropriate. I imagine it might take a while for me to get to that point, but I'm pretty sure I'll eventually adjust my way of thinking.
On the upside, I'm very much in favor of the expertise die certain classes get when doing a task that's under their traditional purview (ie. Rogues and opening locks or picking pockets, Rangers and following tracks). I like the added bit of randomness. Sometimes your expertise helps a lot; other times, not at all. Crwth however, would prefer a set bonus. He's an idiot.
One last thing on skills/ability checks. I'm not sure about the Fields of Lore and how those are used. I guess they give a character a bit of background that has a mechanical impact. I'm just not sure on the bonus it gives. Maybe if they set it as an expertise die, I'd like it better.
So, all in all, I like the way ability checks nee skills are handled. I'm on the fence when it comes to feats.
I'm glad that feats are included in the August packet. The ones they've created are by and large, interesting and some are downright awesome. I'll even concede that the choice between +2 to an ability (or abilities) or a feat is a solid mechanic. As a player, I love being pushed to make a hard choice now and again.
My fence sitting stems from whether they are worth the wait; everyone gets an opportunity to pick up a feat by 4th level, and after that generally every three to six levels. For the Fighter or Rogue, dropping a +2 to stats might not be such a big deal when the next one is just three levels away. And what happens when you roll up a Rogue with really shitty stats? Are you gonna feel cheated when everyone else is picking up cool feats while you're just struggling to bring up your Int and Wis scores?
Finally, the one thing I'm sure I don't like in the August packet is the Circles or Paths the classes get at 3rd level.
For starters, the whole concept makes my skin crawl. Sure, my character concept might start out with one path being a perfect fit. But what usually happens is that the character tends to take on a life of his own after a while. As soon as that starts to happen, the Path becomes more of a Hallway with no doors or windows. Unless the designers at WotC crank out a hundred paths/circles per class, it's a lousy thing to include.
The other issue I have is that it starts at 3rd level. The only use I'd have for Paths/Circles is as a background enhancer; much like the Lore rules.
My current character is a Fighter. I pictured him as a grizzled Clint Eastwood type, a former slave and gladiator who just wants a nice quiet life in a picturesque little hamlet but is grudgingly forced to strap on his armor and sword. The Path of the Gladiator seemed like a perfect fit. But... I can't take it until he's 3rd level.
Well, you can still have it set as the Path you'll take at 3rd and use it as a part of the character concept and background. True. But, for two levels I have to suspend disbelief and try to ignore the fact that all those tricks he learned in the arena are forgotten. Then at 3rd level he suddenly remembers them? WTF? Way to ruin the escapism WotC.
Let me choose a Path at 1st level, then space out the bonuses and tricks over the ensuing levels. I'd be okay with that. Also give me a chance to depart from the Path at later levels.
I guess what I'm saying is.... keep your Paths and Circles. Give me the feats system from the June packet.