D&D 5E Our 5 Session Playtest


(Edit: I wish I could change the thread title - b/c I am posting all our Playtest stuff here. Playtest 2 starts on Page 7).

Before we play I am simply starting this thread to address a few issues.

Play Style
The part about testing your style rang true with me, so I pretty much have set up a mini campaign. I am very comfortable with the 'sandbox' style of Caves of Chaos, but I do not want it to be a hack'n'slash romp.

So I have set the Caves in the Elsir Vale (the setting of the Red Hand of Doom and Scales of War - before these two adventures).

I have already put together intriguing Realms Sheets (from my Homepage) for the key areas including Drellins Ferry and I will be staring the PCs there. They can roleplay around town first and the plot of a 'heir from the west' will be used (but individual PCs might have individual reasons for seeking the Caves of Chaos).

To further encourage Interaction, each of the intelligent races will have a chance to communicate: 1d6: 1-2 Cannot understand Common; 3-4 understands the basics; 5-6 Speak fluently. (I will even use this for the leaders - I could see a gnoll chieftain using an interpreter ;))..

I have also written the Caves of Chaos up using my Realms charts and included who has joined the cultists and how they interact with the other tribes. As well as sample encounters, rumours, etc

In all we intend to fully explore 5E as a mini-campaign that suits our style.

I want to leave most rules, but 'Reset hps at the start of each day' has never suited our style and I will be modifying this slightly (especially for PCs that suffered a nasty wound just the day before; dropped below 0 and gained no magic healing).

We are also going with a type of opportunity attack that I have mentioned in other threads: if you move away from an armed opponent without attacking them you promote an AO. (Not sure how many AOs I should grant yet).

We have 6 players at this stage and I have 8 PCs (I created 3 extra mix'n'matches).

So, that is the set up - wish us luck - and warn me of anything else I need to consider. ;)

(Edit: We have now played the full 5 sessions over the long weekend. I will break up the different areas I wish to discuss so readers can gloss over the areas they don't care about ;)).
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The Players

(Edit: Title should also have read & PCs)

DM (me): Have been playing since 1E. I don't have a favoured edition (Hence my wish for 5E). If I had to I would say 1E for its excitement/nostalgia; 2E for its flavour; 3E for its customisability and; 4E for its ease of running things, especially monsters.

Player 1: Been playing since 1E. (M) - Played the Human Cleric of Pelor (and a human guard (with spear) extra from the village).
Player 2: Been playing since 1E. (M) - Played the Halfling Rogue and later took a 2nd PC, the Dwarf Fighter.Player 3: I believe started with early 3E, possibly late 2E. (M) - Played a Human Fighter (Knight, Slayer - a mish-mash of our own creation).
Player 4: New to DnD; has played some 4E. (F) - Played a High Elf Fighter (with the Magic User theme - another mish-mash & later took on a second PC, the Dwarf Cleric of Moradin)
Player 5: Played 2E (and possibly some 3E). (M) - Played a Halfling Wizard (with Healer theme, another mish-mash).
Player 6: Started with 4E. (M) - Played the High Elf Wizard (and 2 caravan guard NPCs with 2-weapon fighting styles).

So, we had a total of 6 Players, 6 PCs (that jumped to 8 for 2nd half), and 3 extras/NPCs along for the ride.
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Given our play style and the fact this was our 'mini-convention' for the year, I didn't think it would be very exciting just bashing through the new rules for 5 solid sessions, so I set the adventure in one of the settings we had used before - the Elsir Vale.

Drellins Ferry - home base & campaign start.
Wiseman's Run - the road to 'The West' b/w Thornwaste and Wyrmsmoke Mts.
Keep on the Borderlands (a simple tower and longhouse) - ~3 1/2 days along Wiseman's Run, west of DF.
Caves of Chaos - ~6 hours north of the KotB, 1 hour after crossing the Elsir River. The ravine in which the caves were situated was FAR larger than the one presented. (I used the painting as a guide). Caverns snaked around all over the place and were more spread out than presented. (In fact for many fights I used cavern maps I had already drawn or owned from other sources. I rarely used the scale and square rooms as presented).
The Westdeep - forest in which the CoC sits - they go up into the Wyrmsmoke Mts.

Our story took place 2 years before the events of the Red Hand of Doom Module.


What Happened - In Game

Day 1: A merchant caravan arrived in Drellins Ferry. It was attacked near the Keep on the Borderlands. Half the town convened at the inn. Town council and representatives of the caravan called for heroes to find a duke's son and stolen loot. The PCs volunteered of course...and 2 caravan guards (after one PC spoke at length with the caravan leader). The mayor agreed to let one of their guards go to (under the care of another PC).
Some PCs met for the first time - others had known each other around town.
PCs got to roleplay with some of their contacts (which I had predetermined), inc the halflings procurring passage on a barge west.

Day 2: Left Drellins Ferry, heading west along Elsir River on a halfling barge.

Day 3: At a ford, PCs left barge and headed overland south to Wiseman's Run. 4 zombies (all previous caravan guards) approached their camp at night...and were laid to rest.

Day 4: Arrive at the Keep. PCs scouted it out. Longhouse full of goblins; an ogre in the tower. Dealt with goblins first (thanks mainly to 2 Sleep spells. The ogre fled but was easily finished off.

Day 5: Travel north into woods. At ford/river crossing there were the remains of 2 wagons (being used as ferries). PCs floated them off, follwed tracks 1 hour into woods to the ravine (and the Caves of Chaos) - showed picture. They returned to river and camped several miles upstream.

Day 6: Into CoC. Straight into hobgoblin caves (via a rear exit) and fight their way to the torture chamber. (Yep - they went straight to the prisoners. The hobgobs in this were NOT allied with the Cultists and had taken the prisoners on their own raid).
Returned with prisoners to river crossing where there was a gathering of orcs and gnolls. (They had been seeking the PCs down river and returned with one of the wagon-ferries). All enemies taken down bar one fleeing orc archer.
Returned south to KotB, then force marched east for an hour. At evening orcs of the Thornwaste (not evil; CN) approached on boars with malnourished, lizard-like hounds. PCs were civil and the orcs continued on their way.

Day 7: COntinued east along WMR towards DF. At night the orcs of Thornwaste returned in greater numbers and offered a trade: many gold trinkets from the Serpentfolk Ruins in the desert for the several water barrels and food the PCs were carrying.

Days 8-11: Travel towards DF, arriving on 11th day.

Days 12-18: Spent time in town spending loot, gearing up, recruiting (2 dwarf elite guards - the two other PCs), checking in on contacts and making new ones. This was done quickly and glossed over in-game. PCs wanted to go back to get the caravan's stuff, and they had learnt that the head 'cultist with the mad hair' is more than likely the murderer of a PC's father.

Days 19-22: Travel west back to KotB.

Day 23: Headed north into woods. Attacked by 2 G incubator wasps at river crossing. Went into CoC, entering the hobgoblin lair again and clearing out the torture chamber again (freeing a poor goblin captive).
PCs then made their way into the goblins' caves. In main hall they were slaughtering the many goblins when the chieftain arrived and brokered a deal. If the PCs would give the goblins time to leave they would tell them where to find the caves of the Cultists.
On mountain path to cave PCs came across orcs beyond rows of corpses mounted on poles. Gnolls sprang from bushes and then the restrained corpses animated and tried to attack - scaring the bejesus out of a couple of PCs. The cleric of Pelor turned anough of the corpses so the PCs didn't have to 'run the gauntlet'. Enemies dealt with. (A cool fight actually, where there were extra things to deal with, inc not going over the cliff).
Entered Cultists cave. In this campaign the cultists were dedicated to freeing Mual-Ta, 'The Chained Thunder Serpent'. It is actually chained in the Thornwaste. A room of new recruits were easily dealt with (including a Chucky-like attack from our savage dagger-stabbing female halfling wizard).
Further in the PCs came to a room where other accolytes had already been killed. (Gnolls beat them to it).
From there, it was into the great temple (far larger than on the maps). 2 rows of regimented soldier skeletons marched into the room once the bell rang. Then came 3 wights followed by the high priest from the far end. The wights were energised by lightning on the altars, whilst the young, crazed priest sat on a giant throne to oversee things (and cast spells).
This last battle was epic, as the high priest was the murderer of one of the PC's parents and she had crossed the vale to find him. It was almost undone by magic missiles, but she got her chance one on one with the evil cultist only to be hit and fall from the throne and be caught by the knight, who laid her down and then struck the killing blow! (I am sure a nice relationship would develop there if the game continued ;)).

All just in time too. It was the end of our 5th session. I will comment on certain aspects below, but questions are welcome.
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Over Thoughts - Did We Enjoy It?

Hell yes, we had a blast!

Did it suit our play style? All barring a few rules issues (see below), you bet. We like wilderness travel, interactions in town, exploring new places etc.

Not that this was anything too different from other editions, but as a DM I can say, just the tone of the advice section sat well with me. And I like that there is a strong emphasis on the 3 pillars.

At the end we all sat back and went, "Yep, that was worth giving up our Con/Long Weekend for".

One of the other DM's wants to convert our 4E game over to the Next rules, etc.

We like a grittier style (and used our own added crit charts), but we had no deaths. Not even any of the NPCs. I think we were expecting the PCs to be a little more fragile, BUT we did end up with 11 competent allies in the party :eek:


Rules - The Good

What we liked.

1. Taking action at any time during your move. Mobile fights = awesome. (But this was tempered with our Opportunity Attacks House Rule - see below).
2. The characters seemed to do what they were supposed to. (Only 1 negative - se below). One player I thought didn't like their PC early actually liked what they could do (they just hadn't read the PC over...or had some initial dificulty with the sheets).
3. Attack rolls or saves for spells. Seemed OK. I was sceptical about this, but power in the hands of attackers was good, but it was also good to be able to jump clear or fight off magical attacks too (making saves).
4. Advantage & Disadvantage. Less math, easy...and fun. (Though concerns with 'stacking'. 3 x Advantage = no bigger advantage).


The Deal-Breaker?

There was only one 'deal-breaker' at the table: Magic Missile! (we had accounted for the other - see Opportunity Attacks below).

Far and away the most disruptive thing to our imaginations and game play was this spell. I had no problem with an auto-damage spell initially. I had read playtests and didn't have an issue with a 'minion killer' like this, but in play, it caused a lot of 'we don't like that' moments'

Fortunately we didn't have anyone try to MM a door or get 'Intoxicated', but there were heaps of times when its use was questionable: into a fight where 2 people are grappling; through many allies and enemies; at enemies when only a tiny part of them can be seen; when you would normally have disadvantage or severe penalties with other ranged attacks, hunting in the woods (glad there was not a ranger to outshine here), etc. In fact, we had 3 PCs able to use it and most chose to roll attack rolls in the end (then they could get crits too).

The real deal breaker came when the BBEG at end was almost taken out with MM. He couldn't protect himself from them. There is no way to involve yourself in a fight and not be vulnerable to them. Fortunately, the hiding wizard rolled (and missed) and the heroic and just ending detailed above occured.

The spell scaling with level also threw us out. We thought spells were going to power up with slots used! Not sure a cantrip should get more powerful at all based on caster level when higher spells do not - or maybe, you should have the option to prepare it in a slot to make it better?

The four DMs of the group all agreed we would require attack rolls even if auto-hits makes the final rules. All players agreed. In fact, most chose to roll anyway, most of the time. We had people wanting to change it early on, but I said to stick with it...or roll if you prefer. I just wanted to see how it played out...and I did not like it.

The total damage was not the issue - it was being able to use it all the time, under any circumstances and not having a chance at failure. It should not be automatic if there are any disadvantageous circumstances involved.
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Rules - The Bad

In a way I am glad I hadn't read too many posts here first. We didn't see problems with armor bonuses (except vs electrical attacks ;)) and whilst we were a little unsure of auto-damage for fighters it seemed to play OK.

1. Opportunity Attacks: This is a big deal for us. I did want to avoid some of the circumstances I had read about in other playtests, but I did not want to limit the action any time during move. So we used this House Rule during the playtest:

"You only promote an OA if you move away from adjacent to any enemy without attacking them".

It worked very well.

2. Fighter: the player wished he had more options.

3. Trying to do too many of the old minors in a round. Now drawing etc is free - must make it explicit (and I think it is really, but players need be aware) extra stuff is considered 'part of the action of using it'. So you cannot manipulate 2 different items for eg.

4. Radiant damage: Always been an issue for me. Given its flavour is should ONLY harm undead and creatures of utter evil, etc. It shouls have a positive effect on the living and good.

5. Healing to full after long rest. Doesn't sit well with us, but we left the rule as is and it didn't really come into play. Given all PCs were at least 1hp going into long rests it did not matter. Though if you go below 0hp a day before (and don't receive magical healing) chances are we would have a House Rule for some sort of ongoing effect.

6. Some spell descriptions. Such as Sleep being endless. All minor stuff I am sure will be sorted.

7. PC hit points - though this could simply be b/c we had more collectively. No one died, a few went down, but most were up all the time. Including our halfling WIZARD that entered melee with her dagger a LOT and survived! (I really think this player was pushing the system to see how easy you could die...but his PC didn't).

In all, only Magic Missile ruined our immersion, and with our OA rule, everything else was minor. Overall, quite impressed with the ruleset so early on.



It was nice to see the background info there, but it played little part in the game anyway (especially as I had fully developed each tribe and its relationship to the others).

Stats = intuitive. I could arm my creatures with any weapon and the damage would make sense - especially if the switched weapons, dropped one or were disarmed. Poor armor and Dex = poor AC. Liked that a lot. (Not based upon level).

HPs seemed a prob. Nearly every humanoid had the same? Why were gnolls exactly the same as hobgobs and orcs? How were these calculated?

In fact, 1 more distinguishing power for the racial enemies would have been nice. (Though I did forget the gnolls Pack Attack :().

Orc Charge - how far do they have to move? Do they have to move? I used this rarely, stating they required at least 10ft to charge?

I was hoping creatures might have some skills too. Gnolls should be more perceptive for eg.
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