D&D was always about getting a group of friends together with some paper and pencils, a collection of variously sided die and your imagination. You were supposed to think about how to overcome obstacles with the skills you had at hand, offering suggestions to the dungeon master, hoped that they accepted it and let you roll on your outcome. More recently, the game had evolved into a model moving live video game that was pretty straight forward in telling you what you could do. Obviously, you still had a collection of spells or abilities to choose from, but you could just go down the line checking them off without much thought.
At level five the warlock can march into battle with 3 cantrips, 6 known spells and 3 invocations. The cantrips are your auto-fire-infinite-ammo spells - not much of a change here. The invocations are a mixture of ability buffs and "free casts" for your main spells - a bit of a new spin. And yes, the spells, this is where the big change happens.
Even though I know 6 spells at level 5, I only have 2 spell slots - aka I can only cast 1/3 of them. I then have to take an extended rest (8hrs) to replenish those slots. While this may seem constraining at first it actually give you more flexibility in the long run. In 4th you had powerful spells called "dailies" which also required a long rest to recover, but you only had one or two of them. Now you have a greater pool to pick from while you attempt to choose the best fit for your situation.
A new part of the gameplay that is going to help players feel empowered is the ability to play or use reactions. In the past, during combat, everyone just took their turns based on how high they rolled on a d20. The highest roll went first and so forth and so on. You could defer your turn to the end but that was pretty much all the flexibility you had. Now with Reactions you can prime a spell or ability for a certain circumstance. Example: "My spell will go off when the orc is in front of the spike pit." Its easy to see how this can be the impetuous to some pretty creative strategies.
Overall, I am pretty optimistic, even though it can be hard to predict the impact of these changes (and the tons of others that I didn't touch on) without an actual game session. Many have said that we may be entering the Golden Age of D&D with 5th edition, but you can never forget where you came from...
Last weekend we managed to finish off our 4th edition campaign (my character survived, thank you very much) and were able to jump into our 5th edition adventure - Hoard of the Dragon Queen. I'll say it up front, I had a lot more fun in the short period of 5th edition play compared to the average of our 4th edition sessions. The freedom in this new edition is immediately felt and elevates the enjoyment factor (for me at least) immensely. No longer are you worried about your positioning on a grid and whether or not that corner of the door frame will nullify your turn because you can't lean three inches to the left. (Note: you can still play with a grid, but it is listed as a "variant" of gameplay.) The characters are just present in the scenario and it just works.
That being said...my character didn't transfer over as cleanly as I would have liked. Since the leveling/level bonuses are now class based, I had to re-roll my stats. This turned out less than stellar (you and your Black Templar dice can go to Hell Greggles!). As you can see I wound up with a completely stereotypical magic user stat line. Just remember that these are my stats at level five. Since my original charisma roll was only 13, I haven't been able to get any feats yet. In 5th edition you have to choose between taking the +2 (or +1, +1) stat points or a feat. With how 5th edition handles casters this could be a big deal.
On some of your spells, you don't roll an attack roll - the DM rolls against a DC that you give them. The spell will say vs. Con or Dex etc. and they get to add the bonus(es) from that stat to their d20 roll. My spell save DC is only 14 (8 + cha bonus + proficiency bonus) - not exactly a high difficulty. Right now, 2.5 out of my 6 spells use the spell save DC function, as well as one or two of my cantrips. As mentioned previously, this version has been scaled down a bit, so a DC of 14 might be a medium/high-medium difficulty. I will have to do further research on this one.
Even with my possible obstacles to overcome, I am truly amped up for our next session! For those of you that are interested, our DM (Shantz) provided the following summation:
So upon arriving at the town of Greenest, our adventurers see a blue dragon circling the town and smoke billowing throughout. They all came for their own reasons and motivations. Some by the desire of coinage, as evident by the quick snip of a purse bag, and others for reasons as yet to be learned. All we know is that the party is determined to get into the town. Some require gear, others possibly looking for divine knowledge, or at least magical items.
Upon entering the town, the adventurers came upon various raiders. Dealing mighty blows to kobolds, acolytes, cultists, and drakes all around. They rescue families that inform them that the town has gone to the keep where the town's defense led by the dwarf Escober the Red is holed up. Governor Nighthill is there as well and pleads with the party to help bring other townsmen to the keep. They are also informed there are a number of townsmen who seeked sanctuary at the Temple and that the Mill is currently on fire and seems to be in need of assistance.
Without a word, Dakai, leaves through the back Sally Port seemingly on his way to the temple. Down at the supply area, after a brief debate, the remainder of the adventurers, except for one, decide to go out and search the town for other people who need assistance in reaching the keep before the doors are locked or they die. Meanwhile, standing at the top of the wall of the keep, who knows what goes on in the mind of a barbarian? Especially as they notch an arrow and takes a shot at the ADULT BLUE DRAGON circling the city that has been seemingly content not attacking the town. The Barbarian, Once the dragon flies off to continue it's monitoring ignoring what amounted to as less than a mosquito bite, realizes there was no battle to be had, then heads out in search of what? All we know is that it heads towards the temple and battle.