So, DnD Next
In case you wonder, yes, this is in english. I am not a native speaker so, please, forgive any bad spelling or grammar. As DnD Next is all about commenting and playtesting, I want to give everybody a chance to read this (as unlikely as it might be).
I got the playtest files and I skimmed them. I like the old-school vibe of it and that it still is a pack of modern rules. I like that things seem to be easy. But at the first levels even Pathfinder is easy, right?
There are two things I like to comment:
1. It seems to be possible to use Pathfinder adventures without the need to port the stats of monsters. As I grew pretty fond of Pathfinder adventures in the last months, this would be a real boon.
2. In the beginning there was a lot of talk about unifying different game styles at the same table. So, if one player wants to keep things simple he can play without complicated stuff like feats, and if another player likes the complexities of feats he can use them anyways.
At first, I did not find anything of that in the playtest files, but then I saw a tiny sentence on the character sheet, that basically says: „If you want to play old-school, skip background and theme.“ Backgrounds and themes are ways to individualize characters after choosing class and race. As far as I understand it, backgrounds give you skills, themes give you feats. Skill checks are just ability checks with a bonus, so it is easy to play without skills. Feats are a bit more complicated, but a lot of them (all?) also just give bonuses.
But players like stuff. They like bonuses and being more „powerful“. That means, if you do not use backgrounds or themes you should get something for not using them. This could be done in two easy ways:
a) Give generell bonuses to each and every check (magic, fighting and skills depending on class or whatever). Let’s say +1 every uneven level (1, 3, 5, …) for ability checks, if you play without backgound, and +1 every even level (2, 4, 6, …) for whatever seems appropriate (combat, I guess), if you do not choose a theme.
b) Give generell bonuses for doing stuff that fits the description of the background/theme. So, if you are a carpenter, you get a bonus for all things having to do with wood work and if you have the theme lurker you get a bonus in combat for doing lurking stuff.
Without any compensation for not using backgrounds and themes there will be no One Size Fits All. But I hope (and guess) that Wizards is planning something like that anyways. It could work and it would be a lot of fun.