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Playtest Experience [SPOILERS, LONG]

Lancelot

Adventurer
So, some context: 25 years DM-ing, experienced group of players (10+ years each), have played and enjoyed ALL editions (even 2e!).

For our first session of the playtest, we had 3 players. They chose the fighter, rogue and healer cleric. To give the party some extra survivability, I also allowed each player to bring a hireling with them. All the hirelings started out as identical - they had the Human stats from the Bestiary, with 50gp of equipment. I gave each of them +5 HP (10hp total) and +2 on the normal Human Str and Con stats. The hirelings also had a single HD (1d10).

Here's how our first 3.5 hour session went. None of the players are particularly familiar with Caves of Chaos, although they have a vague idea of the basics.

· They end up going into Cave D first, which is the Goblin Lair. 30 feet into the tunnels, they hit the wandering guard patrol: 6 goblins. After round 1, 3 more goblins arrive. After round 2, 3 more goblins arrive. After round 3, it’s “Bree Yark!”....
· The ogre comes stomping out, and everybody switches to brown trousers. They still haven’t finished the first 6 goblins! Every spell gets dropped. Every daily power gets used. The sole healing potion is consumed. The dwarf fighter kills a goblin from a prone position with his dagger, picks up a table, and uses it as a full-body shield against spears. A militia-man is obliterated. The cleric has spiritual weapon active and is fighting for his life. A second militia-man is killed. The dwarf goes down again, and no healing left in the party. The last militia-man drops unconscious. The dwarf fails a Con check and loses another d6 HP. He’s one failed Con check from going out the back-door. And then the rogue drops the ogre with a backstab from stealth.

Extended rest. 11 dead goblins (1 ran away) and the ogre. Players are white-faced. WHITE-FACED. One experienced player has the wind up him. For the rest of the session, his hands are shaking when he rolls dice. There will be five more combat encounters, and he’ll be screaming “RUN AWAY” in every single one of them.

· Figuring out that the Goblin Lair was “too hard” for 1st level characters, they try the other side of the valley. They cautiously creep up towards Cave A, the Kobold Lair. There is no charging into melee. There is no attempt to initiate a “fair fight”. They are crawling on their bellies. When they see a small group of kobolds hanging around outside the cave, they debate their plan of attack for 15 minutes before finally settling on an elaborate lure-and-ambush using flaming crossbow bolts and halfling taunts.
· The kobolds fall for it and are massacred, but several survivors manage to run off. The PCs immediately panic, and seek new defensive positions. Kobold reinforcements begin pouring out of caves but, this time, the dice and the tactics fall in favour of the party. Nine kobolds are killed for no loss, and the rest flee. However, the party now knows that there are dozens of the scaly little buggers in there. They look elsewhere.
· Up the valley they go, to Cave B (Orc Lair). They stumble into a guardpost immediately, and a vicious battle erupts. The last of the militia-men goes down (leaving just the PCs themselves). More orc reinforcements arrive. By the end of the fracas, there are 9 dead orcs and no spells left. They decide to man up and press on, despite the fighter being on 7hp with no healing left!
· They creep up to the orc common room, look in, and see 30 orcs. THIRTY ORCS. One of the players is shaking his head in disbelief. There are mutterings of “WTF?!?” around the table. They do a quick calculation, and tell me that’s unlikely. That room has, according to their calculations based on the XP received so far, 3,000XP of orcs in it. They’ve been fighting for their lives against 500XP orc encounters. I correct them – it’s actually 3,750XP of orcs. There is a lot of head-shaking and laughter, but they don't go into the room.

· The rogue decides to try and creep past the common room, finding a storeroom and one other (untried) door. The other players decide to set fire to the storeroom and then leg it out of the caves. They light the blaze, and then decide to take a quick look through the last door, just in case it’s a treasury. It’s the orc chieftain’s room!
· The dwarven fighter snaps. He charges in alone, screaming at the top of his lungs. He has 7hp. If the 45hp chieftain hits him once, he is down (with no healing left). He swings and hits! The chieftain misses with a “2”. The chieftain’s consorts engage the other characters, who are fighting for their lives. Even “normal” orcs are vicious opponents. The fighter swings at the chieftain again, missing. The chieftain misses. This goes back and forth for SIX rounds. The chieftain rolls five consecutives 2’s and 1’s (all dice rolled in the open, no fudging). Every shot is a miss. Every shot, if it hits, would kill the fighter. The storeroom is burning behind them, the whole time. They have 10 rounds to finish the battle, loot the room and get out before the entire common room is alerted. The common room – with 30 orcs – is between them and the exit….
· The fighter finally drops the chieftain. The fighter's player has a look on his face like his wife just polymorphed into Scarlet Johansson and his life had regained meaning. The rogue is down. The cleric is running towards the exit with the rogue over his shoulder. The fighter stays around for 2 more rounds… the last 2 rounds before an impossible army of orcs comes for him. He finds an iron chest, unlocks it, lifts it clean off the ground (Strength check 21!) and pours the entire contents into his backpack. And then he runs.
· The storeroom explodes behind them… orcs pour out of everywhere… the heroes run off into the night.

Combat turns went by in under 30 seconds. There were no rules calls, because the rules are basically: "The DM will tell you what you need to roll" (hallelujah!). The lack of power cards and defined actions meant that the PCs tried some crazy stuff in combat, rather than just looking at their cards (including the following: lifting furniture and using it as cover, tripping enemies, throwing crossbows as a distraction, making flaming bolts, turning arrow-heads into improvised caltrops, taking and displaying trophies for bonuses to Intimidate, etc). The spells felt appropriately awesome, but were carefully rationed out. A Searing Light, for example, was used on the ogre for a massive 23 damage – but at the opportunity cost of not having the slot available for a Cure Light Wounds.


(...and yes, I know that a lot of the above is true of previous editions, but I also appreciate all the 4e-isms like more starting HP, at-will spells, "healing surges" / HD, themes and backgrounds, etc)



On the face of how much fun we had, I would suggest that WotC just shut up and take my money. However, I did have the following takeaways from Session 1...



· I think the rogue feels a bit fragile in melee. I’d like to see a defensive ability that can be used maybe once or twice per day, where you can force an enemy to re-roll an attack, or maybe avoid a “lethal” blow. That gives the rogue more motivation to get up front and take some of the heat off the fighter.
· I’d like to see a rule change so that you can spend your HD even if you’re not conscious during the short rest. You only get 1 HD (“healing surge”) at 1st level, and it’s a bit frustrating not being able to use it when you need it most.
· The orcs’ Furious Charge ability is a bit terrifying, even as a DM. I like that the monsters are scary again, but the orcs were crazyballs. If the fighter's in the front ranks, on max hp, and 3 orcs charge at him... he better start praying to the gods.



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mrswing

Explorer
Brilliant report. And it proves that less 'rules for absolutely everything' will make the players come up with beautiful creative options of their own. (arrowheads for caltrops?? genius) Whatever quirks need to be ironed out, D&DNext is currently headied in the right direction.
 


MortalPlague

Adventurer
That is an inspired playtest. I was edge-of-my-seat just reading it! :D

I love the description of the battle with the chieftan... simply amazing.
 

DNH

First Post
Excellent report! Well written, in short staccato sentences that capture the excitement and thrill of the game. Sounds like you had a really good experience with the playtest rules. Be sure to fill in that survey and feed that back to the Wizards.

For my group, RL commitments mean our own playtest won't be before mid-June. Shame, because I really like what I see but want to see it all in action around the table.
 

KesselZero

First Post
Seriously, I got all excited just reading the thing. Sounds like D&D the way it's meant to be played. You'll be telling those stories for years to come. Bravo! (And bravo to your players, who are clearly a clever bunch of buggers.)
 




Kinak

First Post
That was a joy to read, but certainly not as much as it was a joy to DM.

Good show. Good show.

Cheers!
Kinak
 



Rhenny

Adventurer
Great report. I especially like the following descriptions. Both are evocative and show the impact the game is having. (Your DM skills are also validated with these responses)

Cheers.

Extended rest. 11 dead goblins (1 ran away) and the ogre. Players are white-faced. WHITE-FACED. One experienced player has the wind up him. For the rest of the session, his hands are shaking when he rolls dice. There will be five more combat encounters, and he’ll be screaming “RUN AWAY” in every single one of them.

· The fighter finally drops the chieftain. The fighter's player has a look on his face like his wife just polymorphed into Scarlet Johansson and his life had regained meaning.
 


FitzTheRuke

Legend
That was great. I laughed all the way through. My group had a really good time, but not near as good as that sounds.


I'll have to step up my game...
 

Oni

First Post
WotC, this is the sort of thing you want people saying about your game.




That was a fun read, I really can't wait to do my playtest game now, hopefully this coming week!
 

slobo777

First Post
Reads like you had epic fun.

One thing occurred to me . . .

The dwarven fighter snaps. He charges in alone, screaming at the top of his lungs. He has 7hp. If the 45hp chieftain hits him once, he is down (with no healing left). He swings and hits! The chieftain misses with a “2”. The chieftain’s consorts engage the other characters, who are fighting for their lives. Even “normal” orcs are vicious opponents. The fighter swings at the chieftain again, missing. The chieftain misses. This goes back and forth for SIX rounds. The chieftain rolls five consecutives 2’s and 1’s (all dice rolled in the open, no fudging). Every shot is a miss. Every shot, if it hits, would kill the fighter.

. . . this part is epic thanks to random chance, and that kind of dodging inevitable doom is something your group would talk about for years, whatever the system! It has nothing to do with the playtest material or D&D Next rules, and could happen in any system when a combat gets to knife-edge resources and luck. Of course more often than not, it doesn't happen like that . . . if it did I'd be straight down the casino to bet on Red 22, three times running . . .

Hopefully you and the players would have had the nous to rescue the game at this point if one of the ogre's blows had connected, simply because the rest had been so much fun. Otherwise the other 29 out of 30 times it would have played out rather differently.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Otherwise the other 29 out of 30 times it would have played out rather differently.

This is something I've learned over the years playing RPGs...the 1 in 30 is what stays with you.

Even if my favorite character dies to bad luck, I can always roll another. But having the ability to surpass those crazy odds and make it out on top is what creates a hell of a story...and long after people have forgotten character names and setting plots...they will remember the stories.
 

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