"When you use your IMAGINAAAATION you can do anything!"
I have spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the DnDNext playtest packet (October 29) version. Doing so, I've come up with a list of positive conclusions. This doesn't specifically mean the game is perfect, but it is at a stage that I really enjoy. I discussed what I liked about classes in the previous posts, but today I want to stretch out and talk about a little creativity that players might want to think about when playtesting.
Class-wise, I really don't see a need for a barbarian. I feel like by training certain skills and taking certain manuevers, a Fighter would feel enough like a barbarian, just like how other builds would feel more knightly. That being said, here are some ways I think the other classes could work.
Artificer - Buy lots of alchemical items, take the Healer feats that allow creating of healing potions, healer's kits and antitoxin. I can see this build being a rogue, but focus more on skill use and trap building/disarming.
Barbarian - Fighter with powerful attacks/weapons. Feats should reflect toughness and better hit points.
Bard - Probably a duelist fighter. Jester/Performer backgrounds work well. Be sure to buy a musical instrument. The feats that allow you to cast wizard spells give the arcane feel to the class, but for people just wanting to play traveling bards/rogues, there is a definite way to convey this feel.
Crusader/Paladin - Either build a strong fighter cleric, or a Fighter will the Religious feats that grant you Cleric spells.
Ranger - Fighter build with Survivalist feats/background. Benefits with nature-ish things help.
Class-wise, the only feelings that I can't really evoke is Druids. Maybe building a Wizard a certain way with nature type backgrounds/skills.
When the playtest was first announced, I really wondered about how all the other races would be presented. So far, none of them have been. I was initially somewhat upset about this, mostly because I waited for a really long time for the goblin to make their PC appearance in 4E. I'm not sure how that will work in DnDNext, but at this point, it doesn't matter. Re-flavoring things is key here. Here's some race ideas and what I would use if players didn't want to play dwarf, elf, human or halfling in the playtest (just in order to be a different character).
Goliath/Half-Giant: play a Dwarf
Eladrin: High Elf (not sure if players realized this)
Satyr: Elf, with the Licensed Fool background feature
Half-Elf: Wood Elf
Drow: Elf (give them the Darkness spell for free)
Re-flavoring monsters works easily too. For example, if I want to playtest in the snow covered continent of Vellyn, I can simply re-skin orcs/gnolls to be yetis. I wouldn't play with powers/modifiers, as the point of this playtest is to play, not tweak rules and complain about them. However, describing things is completely up to you.
Sometimes, monsters can have slight alterations. If I remove the fly speed from the pegasus, for example, I get a unicorn. Pretty neat, huh? I would also search through old monster manuals to see what kind of creatures fall under "Griffon" and other creatures. That way, you could use a hippogrif as well as a griffon. An Aranea without the shapeshifter power could easily be a thri-kreen.
In conclusion, the playtest packet allows a lot more creativity that can necessarily be seen at first glance. Continue to play, continue to provide feedback, and we'll eventually get that final version we've all been eagerly looking forward to.