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5E 10th level March Playtest Session - Great time

Rhenny

Explorer
Saturday night I ran an original adventure using RPGTO that took me about 2 hours to make (including the map building in RPGTO).

3 players (all experienced with other versions of D&D from 1e through 4e)

High Elven Wizard (Evoker)
Mountain Dwarf Cleric (Lifegiver)
Hill Dwarf Fighter

Wow…this playtest package played much better than I imagined. We played for about 4 ½ hours and completed an entire adventure (6 combat encounters in different areas, exploration to try to find out how to exit the dungeon and deactivate traps and magical barriers, one puzzle and some roleplaying during the adventure for player to player interaction) Some of the 4 ½ hours was also spent looking up spell effects, and learning what a 10th level PC was capable of doing. None of the players had familiarity with these rules, and they had not even seen their PCs until we started playing.

To start, the PCs found themselves inside magic circles that imprisoned them in a strange dungeon. The fighter used his strength to burst through the magical barrier, taking damage. The wizard was able to deactivate his circle, and escape, and then he helped the cleric out of his magic circle. This gave the PCs a chance to use ability checks and roleplay. Each of the players naturally told me what they wanted to try to do to get out of the circles, and I let them roll. Action resolution was easy and kept the game moving quickly.

Then they had to try to find their way out of this mysterious prison. They found a note on a table left for them which told them they had a powerful enemy that wanted them to suffer. The note was signed by Iscar, Tarnack’s Jailer.

Here were the encounters the PCs faced:

1) 4 Flaming Skeletons (I made these up. They were basically 27 hp skeletons that could throw small fireballs) and two necrotic ray traps that required Dex saves to get through with ½ damage. The fighter ran though the rays eventually taking damage, but he was able to use whirlwind attack to great advantage (after getting pelted by no fewer than 8 fireballs over a few round). (Difficult was Easy except for the traps which might have nudged it toward Medium - took about 7 rounds because the players were cautious about the traps and they were conserving magic. Even the fighter waited 3 rounds before trying to go through the traps to get to the skeletons – after this encounter alone, the fighter had to use 3 or 4 HD of healing).

2) 4 wights and 4 wraiths in a large room. The cleric used Turn Undead to destroy the wraiths, and cower the wights. But since the Wizard attacked one of the wights, it turned and attacked the cleric, hitting him and draining him (level drain is scary). (Easy – took 3 rounds mostly because cleric used Turn Undead)

3) A room with poison gas that had 6 ghouls hidden within. The wizard used wall of fire and fireball to vanquish these foes, and find that there was a door at the other end of the room. The fighter held his breath and ran through the gas taking minimal damage because of his Dwarven resistance, and then the others followed. (Easy but the gas would have been worse for non-Dwarves…the wizard took more damage going through the room – took about 3 rounds)

4) A room with 4 gargoyles, and a magical wall. Beyond the magical wall was a stairway winding up (the exit to the dungeon). The wizard used arcane knowledge after the encounter to determine that the magical wall could be deactivated, but not from anything in that room. (Easy – took about 3 rounds)

5) A room with a stone bridge, a chasm hidden by webs, and a huge spider with 6 babies. (reskinned). Wizard used lots of spells to damage spider and so did the cleric (flame strike). It was a huge spider after all (95 hit points). (Easy – took about 5 rounds)

6) A summoning room with a gong and a lever. The lever turned off the necrotic trap, the gong, which the wizard banged on using mage hand summoned an Ice Devil into the room. This scared the heck out of the group, but before the devil could attack, the wizard polymorphed it into a chicken (it was a very funny moment). The chicken tried to peck at the fighter, but that’s about it. At this point we realized that spell DCs may be a little high. The wizard’s DC was 17, so the Devil had little chance to save. (Difficult – wizard used “I win” spell and it was over in 1 round before the devil could even act).

7) A room with a puzzle to unlock another door.

8) A room with a Bone Devil. Again…the wizard polymorphed it. This time into a sheep. The sheep ran to another door and banged on it. This alerted Iscar, Tarnack’s Jailer (A lich with 115 hit points and its full compliment of spells), and his 3 imps. This was an awesome battle. The Frightening Gaze ability of the lich made him so difficult to fight. The fighter could not even get in to attack, and the wizard and cleric failed a number of saves as well. While the PCs were fighting the lich, and taking tons of damage from lich spells or being riped by its icy claws and paralyzed, the bone devil sheep ran away. The fighter followed it since he realized he had a tough time trying to attack the lich. (Difficult – great ending battle took 9 rounds).

After the final battle, the cleric and wizard had used many of their spells, both of them dropped down pretty low with hit points and the cleric had to use heals a few times. If the lich lasted a little longer, the Bone Devil would have polymorphed back and that would have been trouble. As it was, the group was able to rush out and find the sheep and kill it before it turned back into the devil.

Observations

We had a blast. Each PC felt like it was an equal member of the party. The fighter had decisions to make using his Expertise Dice. The others had spell decisions. Interposing shield was fun too (both the fighter and the cleric had that feat).

The game was really easy for me to DM (except that I had to have one of the players look up spell effects often because I didn’t know them well enough and we did miss a few calls, and once or twice we had to rewind and redo something because we forgot something or misinterpreted something – I chalk that up to jumping up to 10th level without much prep time, so it wasn’t so bad). I really liked that I could run the adventure for just 3 players. In fact, I think the default group in my opinion should be 3 players. This made it possible for me to challenge the players without having to throw tons of monsters at them. I also loved how lower level monsters like modified skeletons, wights, wraiths, ghouls and gargoyles were still threatening enough to make the players fear combats (even if they only lasted 3 rounds).

We loved the speed of the game. If the players were more familiar with their PCs we probably could have done the entire adventure in 3 ½ hours. But even at 4 ½ hours it felt fulfilling. With higher level PCs, it is important to have the spell effects written out on the character sheets so that players (and DM) don’t have to search through rules for every spell).

The first time the wizard turned a devil into a chicken it was funny. The 2nd time it became obnoxious. Polymorph is broken. Creatures should at least get a save each round so there is a chance for the victim to revert, or devils especially (and other fearsome creatures) should get advantage vs. magic spells. Not being able to use any of its natural abilities or spell abilities made the devils useless when polymorphed. Without the wizard, the party would have been in much worse shape since the Ice Devil could use polymorph too…and Ice Storm, etc, and the Bone Devil would have alerted the Lich, and both would have fought the PCs at the same time.

Player Spell DCs are too high. DC 17 vs. polymorph and other spells made the wizard nearly unstoppable.

The cleric had a lot of fun using Cure Wounds against the Lich. That did a lot of damage, but not too much. In addition, even though the cleric was a Lifebringer, he didn’t feel like a heal-bot. In fact, he only used healing in the last battle, and even then, he used many of his spells to do damage rather than heal.

Both spellcasters loved being able to use higher spell slots to cast lower level spells, and this flexibility made the wizard especially happy. But we realized that the wizard could actually have cast his Polymorph spell 5 times if he used all of his 4th and 5th level slots. That would have been really godlike, and way too powerful.

We also liked how spells used saving throws instead of “to hit” scores (but again, we felt that PCs DCs were too high). The save mechanic made spells seem different from weapon attacks, and because they used saves, they targeted different defenses other than AC, which always felt weird in the other playtest packages.

Overall, this package is playing much better than past packages, and it seems as if the monster XP values are making it easier to create adventures that are fun to play. With more tweaking, it should get even better.
 

MortalPlague

Adventurer
Nice report! I'm always eager to hear how people find the game plays at their table.

Many of your experiences mirror my own. I found the game very quick, and I was able to get a lot done in the span of a single session. To me, this is the single biggest accomplishment of 5th Edition; you can adventure, go through a whole slew of encounters, role-play, explore, and get a great many things done in a few short hours. And none of it feels like it's cheapened or rushed, it feels just as fulfilling as in previous editions.

I haven't run very much high level content yet, so I can't speak to wizard spells. My group reached level 8, but only briefly before we wrapped up the game, so I didn't see much in the way of high level spells. You note that the devil could use some magic resistance; I was under the impression that demons and devils did have advantage on magic saves, though perhaps that has gone away with the recent playtest pack? I haven't looked over devils for any changes just yet.

It sounds like you put together a dungeon with a great deal of variety in the encounters and challenges, and it sounds like your table had a great deal of fun. If you play more games, I'd enjoy reading the playtest reports. :)
 

Blackbrrd

Villager
I do think that even 4e is pretty fast if you only have 3 players and the appropriate amount of monsters. I really do dislike the save-or-die* spells like Polymorph. Other than that, it sounded pretty darned good.

*Not strictly save-or-die in this instance, but for the encounter it could just as well have been a save-or-die spell.
 

Gorgoroth

Villager
Sounds great! I'm playing tomorrow, can't wait.

I remember my AD&D evoker having a real hard time landing his SoD spells on enemies we were up against, and trying to do all sorts of things to make sure they'd land. E.g. I never once managed to kill a foe using disintegrate, I tried a couple times. This is one of those places where I hope they do "nerf" the wizards DCs, to bring them in line with the classic difficulty. It sounds really fun though! One might be able to play a 4e game with 3 players that fast with that many encounters, but they'd have to be a swat team in terms of discipline and knowing their powers and combos. I don't think anyone could just "pick up" and play 4e at tenth level and do 8 encounters in 4-1/2 hours, that's just insane! I think this is very good news. I want more encounters = more combats, plus lots of fun stuff in between, and during (i.e. no real / explicit delineation between combat and non-combat times, aka similar to reality), instead of more combat rounds but less encounters. I distinctly remember exploring and doing so much more in AD&D and PF than we did in 4e, although the PF character creation is much slower due to all the options and trade offs (I like that, though). On the other hand, the game I'm in tomorrow, I don't even know what the other classes will be so I'll just wing it and roll my guy on the spot to fill whatever niche we need.

thanks for the report
 

Gorgoroth

Villager
Just wanted to agree with what was mentioned above here, I played the latest playtest rules at my local store tonight and it was super fast and run. With 7 players too! doing like 4-5 encounters and tons of RP in under 3 hours was like, a million times more efficient use of my time, in terms of fun / time ratio, than 4e and PF as well. (although the char gen in PF is more involved, I like that too). But the new rules, while not perfect, were slick and fast to play. Here's hoping they keep it up.
 

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