So, I may have touched on some of this in my blog but I'm being incredibly lazy and can't be bothered to go check what I wrote that night. Instead I'm going to react IN REAL TIME as I read through this article and post my comments on either Pathfinder, 5th Edition, or the articles points because it amuses me and taking pot shots at things other people wrote ages before I got there is why Hume is one of my favourite philosophers.
1. 3rd Edition is F***ing Old
Right off the bat it becomes clear that this is very much an opinion piece. Maybe he actually does comparisons later, but certainly not in this point. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just nice to know what we're getting into. His argument for this point centers on having played a lot of Pathfinder and wanting to try new things. While I can understand the intention, having experienced game fatigue myself in the past, I don't think this belongs on a list of why the new edition is better. Certainly, any one of us can think of numerous cases where a classic movie has been remade recently. We might love the old one dearly, perhaps entirely because of nostalgia and not because it's in any way good, but when Hollywood makes a remake or sequel it is not always the case that the new one is "better". Maybe the movie is technically crafted in a better way or has better actors or a better script (it's rare but it could happen) than the original. But how many of those new movies have you left the theatre saying "It's better than the original because it's new!"? I would estimate few. In summary, I get what he's saying but it's not a good point for this list.
2. Better Approach to Archetypes
This is going to be a long one. Okay, key arguments are as follows: 1) An adventurining party has an ideal composition and array of abilities, typically with individuals specializing in one category. 2) Simple is better.
For the first argument I actually find this slightly offensive. Not to me personally, just mildly in general. This is a metagame issue that subtracts from the gaming experience because it seeks to dictate how and what people can play. Is it true that you probably should have people who can do the 4 key tasks he lists? Yeah, it probably is. But this isn't a game of tetris where you need to be constantly seeking the optimal play. This is a roleplaying game where I feel the players should be encouraged to create the most interesting characters they can that they will have the most fun playing and playing beside. Any other obstacle can be overcome if your players are having fun and are invested in the game world. It often makes it more interesting if a party encounters an obstacle that they are not ideally suited for. I routinely throw traps at my players because they typically neglect the "optimal" approach of having the rogue slowly scout out each corridor and every door for traps before proceeding on. Unless there are character reasons or the entire party is on board with it that kind of gameplay can get incredibly boring. I much prefer when the minotaur barbarian bypasses a pit trap by hurling javelins hard enough to penetrate and stick into the earth walls so the nimble ranger can run across them to the other side. This is, of course, my opinion, and ultimately it is neither mine nor the writer's which matters, but rather the players in your group who really determine which way is better.
The second argument is similar. I know some players who would whole-heartedly disagree with the writer's point on this one because they crave and thrive on the more complicated systems. I know others who cannot bring themselves to open a resource book and require that someone build their characters for them. If you agree with his first argument that the archetypes he describes are necessary and you don't like to compare countless entries of text against one another then, yes, I suppose that would make simple better. For you and the writer, but not for everyone.
I cover this somewhat in my blog post, though I would not say 5E is better than Pathfinder because of it. I like 5E more than Pathfinder at the moment. It is simpler and more fun to whip up characters with, but overall the only way this makes it better is if you place a personal bias or goal on those qualities. Once again, the writer is misrepresenting the text of his article with his title.
3. Fewer Magical Items
The main argument here is that 3E and Pathfinder work on a system that scales differently then 5E and requires magical items. He doesn't actually manage to fully articulate this point, but I feel that's what he's trying to get to. He is opposed to a system that requires the players to deck their characters out in magic items by necessity because otherwise they cannot progress as well or at all, and I actually do agree with the premise because I've played 4th edition. There were some fairly cool magic items in 4E. You never noticed them. This was because everything in 4E did something cool. The system was saturated by abilities and powers that required complex systems for the players to remember what they could even do. Secondly, it was so easy to acquire anything you wanted that gaining a magic item was so commonplace it lost the wonder and excitement. The worst part, though, was the sheer number of magic items that players would disregard or discard because it didn't help their build. I think it was possible to build a 4E character who wasn't overly concerned with optimizing his abilities but to do so was to actively fight against the game system. If you weren't attempting to optimize it felt like you were playing the game wrong. It becomes and metagame issue much like party composition from the point above and I just do not like those.
Now, 3E and Pathfinder aren't as bad as that but they are just a few steps shy. You plan for magic items in those systems and you can easily acquire most of them through just a little time and gold. 5E, by contrast, is designed so you can't do these things nearly as easily. Most cities will have very limited stores of even the simplest magical sundries and if you find a magic weapon, even one you're capable of weilding but not optimized for, you take that magic weapon and feel happy about it because it is awesome. The system encourages this by scaling at a much lesser degree. You don't need any magic items to play 5E. They are super nice to have. You want them, desperately. But you don't need to worry about how and when you're going to get them.
This is why there have been numerous "low magic" games and campaign settings created by playgroups and even some published, just as there have been "high magic" settings and some with unique takes on how magic works in the world. These have existed for a long time. They are not unknown. I'm pretty sure there are rules for it in Pathfinder core books and supplements.
I personally prefer the lower magic base for 5E since it's set in the Forgotten Realms which work better when magic items are uncommon. I makes the magic items feel more special. However, if you tried to play a game of Eberron then it would feel incredibly lame because that is a setting steeped in magic. I also like that the mechanics of the system are less dependent upon gear levels, which as I write those words I get WoW flashbacks and now I'm drinking straight whiskey for some reason. It's going to be a thing that depends on your playgroup, though, and doesn't make one system better than the other.
4. Less Exponential Growth
I pretty much covered this in my above point, I just got there earlier. He also complains about math being linear and hard with big numbers. He should likely stay away from things like Rolemaster.
5. A More Classic Feel
If I follow, this point is arguing that 5E is better than Pathfinder at being DnD because it doesn't expand as much on the lore and flavour of races and classes. I put "at being DnD" in italics because he doesn't actually say those words but it seems integral for this argument to make any sense. Without it, it becomes "This beef dip sandwich is better than this Philly cheesesteak sandwich because it doesn't have peppers." He's still confusing personal preference for objective comparisons. It is true that if I sit down and order a beef dip (my favourite, btw) and I am given a cheesesteak then I would be less happy about it but that doesn't make it a better sandwich.
I would just like to point out as well that he was uninspired by Pathfinder because he felt its races and classes felt too familiar when it first came out and now he prefers DnD because it hasn't really changed them much in 30-odd years.
Oh ho, I see what he did there. He combined the point talking about 5E's Inspiration system with one mention how they got the... wait for it... inspiration from other systems. Clever. Really clever.
I'm not going to argue that this isn't a good change. These kinds of systems have been showing up in countless games for years because it's a great way to reward players for roleplaying. Some groups get more mileage out of them then others but it's always a good thing to give the DM more tools to engage his players with and it's definitely a good thing that DnD is finally getting with the party. My only question is are we sure Pathfinder doesn't have something like this? I feel like I encountered it somewhere on the SRD. I could be wrong and if I am then this is his first point of the list were I uncategorically agree with him that having this feature makes a game better than one without it.
In fairness, Pathfinder actually has 2 systems for this that I am aware of as opposed to the one listed which, as I understand it, is a process which includes the other system but seeing as both are optional I feel they merit distinction. Either way, Traits, Backgrounds, and what have you make mechanical changes to your character you give you bonuses or abilities that you otherwise wouldn't have if you're just using the base rules. 5E does it in one neat little package that also includes character and story elements you can choose to use. Pathfinder has basic Traits which are lesser versions of the same thing and then it has the process he describes from Ultimate Campaigns which sounds awesome to me, frankly.
I think he's running out of steam because this isn't a reason to choose one over the other. He neglects that his description of a fighter starting life as a criminal can be done in either system just as readily and says that the Pathfinder version is more fun. So, moving on...
8. Better Races
I think his point is just a rehash of the recurring idea that simplified and fewer options makes a game better, which we've discussed already is not true. So let's just be mean for this last one and make fun of him.
He doesn't like Gripplis because they're underpowered compared to humans based on the point buy system and he wonders why the powers that be can't make them better. My first counterpoint is that if you're overly concerned with game balance don't choose anything off of the core races list. That's an option you totally have. Or, pick a ridiculous frog-man because it sounds fun to play. Do you have as many Race Points as a human? Maybe not, but a human is boring and jungle-frog-man sounds really fun. If you're that worried about optimizing then make him a rogue with a blowgun and play to his strengths. Don't like that they have to trade their ability to camouflage for jumping? As your DM because that is the only power that is that matters. If your DM thinks they're underpowered he may give you a bonus, or he might not, or he might tell you to stop trying to be a silly frog-man and pick from the Core Races. He makes the rules and you should have the options within them to make whatever character you'll have the most fun with. Having fewer options does not equate to a system being better. It equates to having fewer options.
He throws his conclusion in at the very end of this point. I'd do the same but I'm a much better writer.
(Conclusion, which usually isn't labelled but I'm showing him how it's done)
This man needs to go back to school and learn how to write an opinion piece. Even if you're doing a list format like he is you have to know how to convey your message clearly. I am actually fairly sure he wasn't trying to prove 5E was "better" to the degree that I and others have derided him for. I think that was a poorly chosen title. Unfortunately that is the first thing anyone sees, especially when it's in giant font and is the name by which your article will be searched out. He didn't adequately correct that title in the text portion either. His subject was vague and his conclusion was forgotten. If his intention was to create a piece that attempted to prove 5E was better then this was an abject failure. If he sought to simply explain what he liked about 5E then it was from such a restricted viewpoint that it neglected all others than his own as being viable, which is acceptable but does a disservice to this hobby which is best when it is shared with others. If his intention was to make a headline and talking point to generate website traffic then MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! He still needs to go back to writing school, though. I mean, presumably he got paid to do this and that's the real tragedy here.