I read all of the DDX stuff pretty much as it was happening over the weekend. Some of it I liked (keeping the Warlord), some of it I’m going to reserve my judgement for the open playtest. One thing, however, provoked a visceral response that I feel demands a reply:
Are races going to have positive and negative ability mods or just positive?
Monte: We’re looking at having both positive and negative modifiers for races.
I get that you said “looking at”, but isn’t the point of open playtesting getting feedback? So here’s my feedback: if negative racial traits are included as the default, it will either be the absolute first module I will “turn off” or the first house rule I will make. I’ve talked about how racial attributes interact with character concept*, but this goes even farther than that.
Under the 4e model, trying to play a class/race combination where you lack the attack stat is merely suboptimal. In D&DNext, certain character concepts will be flatly impossible and I think that’s a shame.
Edit: I was aware of the potential class-based stat bonus that Jacob mentions below and I was remiss to not address it. If you get a stat boost from your class, then classes will be balanced around the full class+race combo. In other words, the system math will be predicated on making that “correct” choice. My desire is that there be fewer “incorrect” choices, increasing the number of story options available to players.
Incentives to play a specific combination can help maintain thematic identity (though they are by no means required) and they can lead to power creep/optimization problems. They are, however, generally preferable to disincentives, which are more likely to lead to dissatisfaction and frustration.
* – I am, once again, going to make the case for Gamma World style attribute selection. It’s clean and it opens up a ton of character concepts that would otherwise probably never see play.