Don't kid yourselves. You can call it D&D Next all you want, but even if you add stat blocks for Phibrizio, it's still just Season Five.
Okay, that analogy was stupid and I apologize, but I'm going to continue calling it 5E-if only because I want my blogger domain name to remain relevant.
Wizards has links to a number of Q and A sessions with the staff on their site, so head over there and make a search check if you want the full context of what I'm ranting about.
So, my thoughts? Well-
1.) Roleplaying is not game balance. Seriously, when you break the game down into Combat, Roleplaying, and Exploration, if you're going to have some classes be better at Roleplaying than others because-hey-that's how the game is balanced, what you're really doing is you're disincentivizing those classes that aren't as good at Combat.
I have always had a problem with predominantly roleplaying game stats-things like charisma especially, but even Intelligence-because I feel it gives the wrong kinds of incentives for those of us that like to twink builds. I don't want to play a dumb barbarian because being dumb is the ability score economically feasible choice, I want to play a dumb barbarian because playing a dumb character can be fun. On the flip side, I'd like to be able to play a smart fighter without having to pigeonhole myself into intelligence score based fighter abilities.
The entire thing just creates a giant unnecessary conflict of interests. Roleplaying involvement should have to do with a player's active involvement in the game-how much backstory they have, how much they work with the DM, and how much they actually care about those things. When you reward certain classes with roleplaying benefits at the expense of combat benefits, you're saying some classes are better at being involved in the game than others.
2.) I'm not sure I trust their math. In particular, the Fighter versus Wizard scenario discussed here. I understand what Monte is getting at, but he gave a really bad example:
Monte: Fireball is a static 5d6. If you want more damage, you use a higher-level spell slot. Much more balancing. Monte: the play session that I envision with the fighter and wizard fighting together is that the figher is always better than the wizard. The fighter hits someone for 12 damage and then the wizard hits someone for 4, and the wizard wishes he was a fighter. Then that happens again on the second round, and the wizard feels the same way again. But then on the third round the wizard whips out his fireball and does 16 or 20 damage total and the fighter goes ahh, I wish I was a wizard. I want each class to shine and to have reasons to want to play that class.
Seriously Monte? In your suggested example, the fighter did 36 damage over three rounds, whereas the Wizard did a crappy 28. This is assuming that a Wizard has enough spells to use one every three rounds equivalent. At that rate, there's never any reason to play a Wizard-their peak may be higher, but their average damage is a whole lot lower, and consistency of play is a lot more useful in combat than having occasional novas that don't even deal twice as much damage as the guy who's being consistent all the time!
But, maybe I'm underestimating how many spells per day/encounter/full-moon that Wizards have in this newfangled old school Vancian magic system (which, BTW, I'm rather conflicted on-I like how the Mage uses spells in Essentials, and I'm not sure whether they're moving away from that from the discussions here). Maybe Monte forgot to note "Oh yeah, and the wizard is damaging two or three targets at once." Any number of possible justifications for the rather shoddy math. But those weren't there, which gets me to wonder if anyone really understands what they're talking about.
3.) Skills: You know me, I hate skill checks. So, when they're talking about things like "Oh, your strength is 17? Yeah, you can do that" that's a definite move forwards in my book. Kudos.
4.) Classes as themes: Works for me, but without knowing what constitutes a theme, I can't say anything particularly meaningful. The "kits" idea makes sense, but I question the game balance involved. After all, a lot of the things that end up being broken are mixing unexpected combinations with one another. 4E was nice in that there was a lot of mutual exclusivity baked into the game system, so it was a lot easier to balance-having some old style classes as themes sounds like it has the potential to break some of that. Still, I'm optimistic.
5.) Ability score boosting items: Meh. I know that our old pal Percio over at Square Fireballs seems to have a beef with these, but I'm a bit more conflicted. I like the idea of ability score boosting items, but I HATE the effective necessity of them. The idea that you can take a dumb character and make them smarter by, say, bonking them on the head with a wooden paddle (been reading Nodwick) is fun, but if ability scores are crucial to the game's balance, that means that any significant increase to scores is appropriately more useful for characters who are likely to already have high ability scores.
Thinking about 2nd edition (my experiences of which were mostly the various computer games and the like), we can remember that Gauntlets of Ogre Strength and the like tended to grant flat specific ability scores, rather than granting a bonus (excluding Manuals of Awesomely Overpoweredness).
Of course, the big thing to remember is that it doesn't matter if magical items can boost your stats if you don't HAVE them. But, well, it's hard to imagine that monty haul DMs aren't going to monty haul.