Ages ago I bought the D&D5e PHB. I liked the look of it, more or less. Over the intervening months - in which I haven't played it, but have played Classic D&D (and OSR variants) and Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e - I've reconciled myself to some of the bits and bobs that turned me off. Quick levelling? Well, lately I always cut the requirements for the early levels anyway, given the shorter, less frequent sessions we play as adults. Hard to kill PCs with rapid HP regeneration? Well, I long ago turned hitting 0 HP into something other than straightforward death - roll on the Death & Dismemberment table anyone?
And there is quite a lot to like about 5e. For one, it seems pretty streamlined, and the skill system doesn't seem too intrusive (at a read through), more like a codification of the mix of d6 rolls, reaction table/morale rolls, ability checks and Saving Throws by which I tend to adjudicate non-combat situations requiring a dice roll.
I'm not sure if I am going to pick up the DMG and the MM. I am certainly tempted. It is D&D after all, and to me it *feels* so much more like D&D than 3e or 4e ever did (in my limited experience).
One thing still worries me.
Cantrips. At will. No preparation required. Damage dealing.
I get the idea of giving low level Wizards something meaningful to do in a combat encounter. I get the idea of trying to provide narrow balance *within* a combat encounter, even though I am comfortable with a more broad based balance, as a game of D&D ought to be about far more than combat. Avoiding combat, for one thing. I also take the point that has been made to me that a Wizard with a crossbow (and decent Dex) will do more damage, on average, than he or she will by casting Fire Bolt each turn.
But a crossbow can be taken away. It can be left in a room as the adventurers attend a feast or explore a town. It can run out of quarrels. A Wizard who knows Fire Bolt never, ever runs out of Fire Bolts. Every. Single. Round. Plus they can set things on fire. Do they count as magical attacks against otherwise invulnerable creatures? And in that bar brawl? Have you met my little friend the Shocking Grasp? Electrocution damage by touch attack. At will. Every. Single. Round. That Wizard just became a master of unarmed combat, with no question of managing resources.
It is not just a case of narrow balance within the combat encounter, even if I like games in which, once the steel is drawn the Fighter class is undoubtedly superior. It is also a question of what kind of game world do these rules imply, in which damage dealing magic is an unlimited resource for even the most modest of 'magic users'. Has questions of this sort figured in your games?
I asked the O5R Google+ group, but what I am really looking for is answers from people who share my tastes. Do you like Classic D&Ds and their clones and variants? Have you played (or more, run) 5e? The opinions of people who hated 'old school' Magic Users are no good to me in this context. Yes, I get it that this game is fun for you, but I want to know how it plays for someone with a taste in D&D that instinctively sees these things as problems, rather than features.
I want to be reassured that my prejudices are misplaced. I want to like and play the new D&D. I want to spend my money.
[Next: is it true what they say about those Dwarven Wizards in armour, eh?]