Mike Mearls tweeted this image of the D&D 5e fighter sheet from the Starter Set.
Character information. With this in combination with backgrounds, 5e has more explicit support for roleplaying. I have no issue with this and feel that a minimal approach probably works better than the blank page approach of 4e or ODnD. We see that the noble background plays into the some of the information boxes particularly the flaw.
The two combat boxes. Looks pretty standard for DnD except for the Death saves. I believe if you go below zero you start making a Constitution save a round. Three successes means you stablized, three failures means you die. Makes for a mini game out of dying. Imagine the tension when after making two successful saves you start rolling failures or vice versa. Weapons are about your bonus and your damage which again is pretty much standard.
Abilities, at first level this fighter gets Second Wind, Fighting Style, and Position of Privilege. The first two are probably from his class and the last is a result of his background. The mechanics of Second Wind are the same as 4e's encounter powers but I like how they write it up here. It definitely sounds more natural and logic then the pure game mechanics of 4e. The test will be in what the other abilities that only reset with a rest look like.
Fighting Style (Defense) I think there will be more options in the Player Handbook when it is release. For Basic probably they will preselect everything. With that being said the abilities make sense. This fighter has the training to use his armor gear more effectively.
I like how the background gives a minor ability that is full of flavor and hooks for adventures.
The proficiency bonus this is probably the single most important number in DnD 5e. From the playtest every class has the same number. It is used for your attack bonus, saving throw bonus, and skill bonus. In short anything that your character is good at or rather proficient at will get to add this number in addition to the relevant attribute bonus.
This also mean that a Wizard swinging a staff and a fighter with a Greatsword will have the exact same chance to hit regardless of level. In this respect it is like ODnD particularly at low levels. It may lead to some blandness as well. In my Majestic Wilderlands supplements I have fixed progression for each class that has MW abilities (i.e. skills). I tweaked them to what I thought best for the case. So a 4th level Burglar with stealth may not be the sames as a 4th level Claw of Kalis with stealth but both are better than Mr. Fighter who can only use his dex bonus with stealth.
In the Player Handbook and the DMG there may be options to allow specific bonuses for skills based on a feat or background. We will have the see. Right now it looks like for 5e Basic if two characters are proficient in stealth they will have equal chance of succeeding at the same level and same dex regardless of class.
The six saving throw tied to attribute seems overly fussy to me. I would opted for Will, Reflex, and Fortitude of 3e myself or even the single save with modifiers of Swords and Wizardry. But it is not a deal breaker as long as how to use it is clear and understandable.
Click on the above image, look at it carefully, notice how EVERY skill is filled out. Yup just like what Matt Finch recommended in the Old School Primer, and what I implemented for abilities in the Majestic Wilderlands supplement; Any character can attempt any skill just some are better at some skills than others. The way 5e appears to handle better is by marking it as the characters being proficient in the skill. Thus allowing the character to add his proficiency bonus to the normal attribute bonus.
This wraps it up for the front half and in the next post we will look at the second page.