To begin the discussion let me start by saying everyone at the table said they had fun testing things out. We didn't get to try every concept in the playtest documents so there is a chane we may run a second playtest in the hopes that the conditions will get a chance to come into play.
It was agreed that WotC choosing to use the Caves of Chaos for the playtest environment was a great idea.
Everyone at the table really liked the layout of the character sheets with one caveat - you would likely need to use an online tool or downloadable software to add/subtract options when building the character in order to get your created character sheet to come out as nice.
Backgrounds and Themes were another thing everyone really liked as modular options. The way these things are handled in character building/development appears to them to be well done. They are anxious to see actual character creation rules.
The way the sleep spell works in the Next doc seemed to please everyone so far.
The number of first level spells (the at-will "cantrips" were actually first level spells) was high and it was noted that this needs changing in the base skeleton of the core and instead used as a modular option.
The big issue a lot of us were wondering about is the way healing is handled and from reading the documents had gotten the idea that it might be overblown and need to be reduced. What we found from actual play turned out to be very interesting and I have to say we liked most of it as written.
The "healing from dying/unconscious" is done almost exactly as a house rule in my Labyrinth Lord campaign. The only difference is that in the Next documents you heal from zero and my rule has characters healing form 1 hp.
The dying/death mechanic in Next got some praise from a player for setting an atmosphere of urgency due to losing 1d6 points on failed saves each round until the death threshold is reached.
The "hit dice" healing in the Next docs at first glance appeared to be just the renamed surge mechanic from 4e, but upon actual use we discovered that this just isn't the case. Instead of getting 25% of your total hp back from a surge, you actually roll 1 or more dice and take the random number. Once you use your hit dice up from bandaging, they are gone for the day. In the current weekly Labyrinth Lord game I take part in there is a house rule for bandaging that gives back a random number of hit points, no healing kit required. In Next the hit dice mechanic works very similar, but it requires healing kits. If we were running under the Next hit dice rule in the current weekly game, we would be toast since we are a long way from civilization in a lost valley and would have run out of healing kits weeks ago easily.
I am a convert to liking the hit dice mechanic and it appears so were the players.
The full hit point recovery from long rest mechanic still gives us pause however. We hashed this out for a while and used professional NFL football players as examples of adventurers after strenuous combats, etc. They are not ready the day after a game to do it again even without grievous cuts, stab wounds, etc, and take a week or more to recover from the exhaustion, bruising, and soreness from a game. We felt that people in life threatening situations should also not be fully ready the very next day to do it all again without some chance of still being affected by the strain. We seemed to come close to a consensus that rolling your hit dice after a long rest to see how much you recover would leave enough randomness that some characters might be fine while others are suffering a bit from what proved to be more stressful effort. It isn't unanimous though and compared to the weekly game where a d3 is rolled for hit points recovered in a full rest it would still be a bit high for some of the group while others think adding CON bonus to the roll would be appropriate. All agreed that the full recovery should be an option and not core.
Another player pointed to the healing potion difference between 4e and Next, commenting that the Next version makes more sense.
The Advantage/Disadvantage rule was described by players as a neat simplification that they want to see interact with Conditions. As a DM I agree and liked the freedom it gives me as a DM to apply a modification to situations without having to memorize tons of modifiers. It certainly sped things up for me and allowed me to quickly rule on something and move play along.
We did not like that the Dire Rat's disease mechanic was just instant additional damage on a failed save. Diseases and some poisons need to be modeled differently so they add to the immersiveness of the game.
While the group didn't run into any stirges during play, the read through got unanimous agreement that the three attached stirges and you're dead rule, regardless of hit points, has got to go. Admittedly it is no worse than save or die poisons, but it doesn't fit with the idea of blood drain, instead acting like a slower save or die poison. (hmmmm . . .)
The DMs in the group looked at the bestiary and agreed that my initial thoughts on getting rid of ability scores and instead having a single set number (one for saves, another for skills) that DMs can modify, would save time for prep and during play. Monsters should not be treated like characters when building them. That is a great thing that 4e got right and editions prior to 3.0/3.5 were decent about mostly.
A number of other things I commented on during the skim of the bestiary are also on the list of "I have changed my mind". The idea that the save vs centipede poison was too low is out the window now that I have seen saves in play and understand the mechanic better. Centipedes were always weaker with their poison so in context, it works.
Here are the links to my previous thoughts on the Next document readings/skimmings. Bestiary. Other docs. And of course the play description from yesterday.
Please feel encouraged to offer your thoughts and especially playtest experiences in the comments section.