How our first game went

First, I need to say that my group had a great time playing the new rules tonight. Everything flowed smoothly after a short adjustment period, and we didn't get bogged down with the rules.

I ran our first playtest session tonight, and I did it in the "Theatre of the Mind" style. We wanted to see how that would work, after playing 3/3.5 and 4e with mat and minis for so long. I myself and one other player had played 2e, so for us it was simple to go back. Our other three players had never done this before, but found it easy and more fun. I allowed them to tell me what they wanted to try, and then I made a ruling. For example, our thief asked if there were any rocks or boulders further up the cliff (We started at cave A, where the kobolds are) that she could knock down with a sling bullet. I said yes, and she rolled high on her to-hit. A small avalanche pushed three kobolds off the side of the cliff to their doom.

Another example was the battle cleric asking if there was a boulder of some kind near where the kobolds were waiting to attack. I allowed for it, and he rolled a dexterity check to jump up on it, and then down onto a nearby kobold. Again, not mentioned in the adventure at all, but something heroic and perfectly reasonable to try.

I think for me, having that freedom to allow my players to be creative was a breath of fresh air. It was nice to see them thinking on their feet, and being creative enough to put their own touches into the combat. Anyone who says that the DM has too much power in this system, and that it is a bad thing, needs to actually play or run the game and see something like this happen.

One thing that was a bit surprising is that our thief killed 7 kobolds, not counting the three she knocked over the cliff. She hid behind our largest party member, which gave her advantage over the kobolds, and she was able to exploit that, as I ruled (More flexability and ability to shape the story to what I want) that kobolds engaged with a party member were not paying attention to her. Her dice were pretty hot, to be honest, and she was able to take a lot of them out. (I had rolled the d4+4 for more kobolds joining the party, and got a max score of 8, so my party faced 16 kobolds in two waves) I was actually able to drop the fighter once, but he was brought back. The dying rules are very streamlined and user friendly. I can't point out any real flaws yet, but the more we play,  the more we might come up with.

In closing, I like where this edition seems to be going, very much. It was nice not to need the rules constantly to explain a power or something.
Thanks for that, great to hear it went so well.  I to am planning to play this way as I've noticed theatre of the mind tends to make people more creative and inspired, than looking at a grid does.  Love what the Rogue did, considering that whole, "how they gain advantage" thing, this seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I think like you're group, mine to will go in all guns blazing, it will be interesting to see how things progress, the caves after all can be leathal in places.  

Ab 
Thanks for that, great to hear it went so well.  I to am planning to play this way as I've noticed theatre of the mind tends to make people more creative and inspired, than looking at a grid does.  Love what the Rogue did, considering that whole, "how they gain advantage" thing, this seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I think like you're group, mine to will go in all guns blazing, it will be interesting to see how things progress, the caves after all can be leathal in places.  

Ab 

I did drop the fighter to 0 hit points in that session, so there was a lesson learned about taking on too much. Healing isn't as readily available as it was in 4e, which made the combat feel more urgent.
We played the first couple of encounters in the session gridless.  After that, we switched to using the battle map for positioning only - e.g. to help answer the question "how many goblins can I get in my burning hands?" or, "is there room for me to get close enough to the fighter to cast cure light wounds."

The person playing the fighter learned very quickly this isn't a 4e fighter.  You can't jump out and take three short bow hits and not be badly hurt.
We played the first couple of encounters in the session gridless.  After that, we switched to using the battle map for positioning only - e.g. to help answer the question "how many goblins can I get in my burning hands?" or, "is there room for me to get close enough to the fighter to cast cure light wounds.".



This is exactly why we moved to using a grid even in 2nd edition.  Theater of the mind works great if it's single targeting (most of the time) but when area effect attacks are thrown about then what is a fair way to determine how many creatures are hit?  When I was DMing I would either just make up a number (which seemed arbitrary) or rolled a die (which seemed inelegant... if I rolled a 1 on a 1d6 would you really have cast the burning hands if you knew you'd only get one monster?).  And how do you decide if the other characters are in the blast or not?  And if the fighter then wants to hit one of the monsters who was in the blast how do I decide if he's close enough?

We ran into this in nearly every fight so we just added the battle grid and these problems went away.  I'm not saying battle grids are for everyone but when everyone at the table has a different theater in their mind then it solves problems.
We play gridless as well unless there is a question as to who is exactly where. Then I whip out the grid paper and quickly rough it out. I hope they leave the apparent dependence on minis out or as a sidebar option for those who want them. Wasn't it Gygax who said he heard someone say they liked radio shows better than TV shows because the pictures were better? That's how I feel about minis and maps.
What I love is the choice. I have a large minis collection and I like using them, but I can't help feel that 1st edition combats were somehow more fun.

What I'll do in D&D Next is mostly run TotM and occasionally have a big set piece with minis. In 3e and 4e that wouldn't have worked.
We played the first couple of encounters in the session gridless.  After that, we switched to using the battle map for positioning only - e.g. to help answer the question "how many goblins can I get in my burning hands?" or, "is there room for me to get close enough to the fighter to cast cure light wounds.".



This is exactly why we moved to using a grid even in 2nd edition.  Theater of the mind works great if it's single targeting (most of the time) but when area effect attacks are thrown about then what is a fair way to determine how many creatures are hit?  When I was DMing I would either just make up a number (which seemed arbitrary) or rolled a die (which seemed inelegant... if I rolled a 1 on a 1d6 would you really have cast the burning hands if you knew you'd only get one monster?).  And how do you decide if the other characters are in the blast or not?  And if the fighter then wants to hit one of the monsters who was in the blast how do I decide if he's close enough?

We ran into this in nearly every fight so we just added the battle grid and these problems went away.  I'm not saying battle grids are for everyone but when everyone at the table has a different theater in their mind then it solves problems.

I usually DM without grid battle map for players. I keep one for myself behind the screen and use coloured thumbtacks with numers to identify the players and monsters.

then it's me that "draws" the scene to players, telling them meter distances (and that's why we use 1 m = 1 square and not the 1.5 m, 5 foot) and try to describe precisely but quickly what positions are. I try to give some specific position monsters a treat (such as white cheek signs, or big nose, black robe, squitty voice, etc..) so that players remind which and where the enemy is.

can ba daunty to a DM not used to play this way but it gives satisfaction and runs faster than minis.

anyway, do the style you and your players enjoy more !
I drew my map on paper and we took a little extra time to establish positioning.  I have a gread deal of practice working off the grid so this wasn't a big chalenge for me:

the goblins are 30 feet away from the party, goblins 1 and 2 are standing near to one another with bows drawn, about 5 feet apart, goblin 3 is fifteen feet to your left crouched behind a rock with his bow.

Taking the time to establish the fight terrain with a few sentences rather than just throwing out "three goblins are there" seems to get the job done, as it did in the Before Times.
I drew my map on paper and we took a little extra time to establish positioning.  I have a gread deal of practice working off the grid so this wasn't a big chalenge for me:

the goblins are 30 feet away from the party, goblins 1 and 2 are standing near to one another with bows drawn, about 5 feet apart, goblin 3 is fifteen feet to your left crouched behind a rock with his bow.

Taking the time to establish the fight terrain with a few sentences rather than just throwing out "three goblins are there" seems to get the job done, as it did in the Before Times.

That's how I do things also. I tell my players what is around them, and where monsters are standing so they can picture it. That way, it's easier to know which ones they can target with spells etc.

I can foresee using both TotM and our battle map in future games. TotM for smaller combats, the map for larger encounters. I might even invest in some Gaming Paper and draw maps ahead of time for the encounters that might need them. It's nice to have that choice.
Ok, in my Sunday group, I played instead of being the DM. It was a good chance to see the other side of things. This time, we went to the goblin caves in the SE part of the map. I had to play the Fighter and Cleric of Moradin, due to lack of people able to make it today. One thing we noticed, was that we got through 3 seperate encounters in under 2 hours. The goblins, and hobgoblins weren't much of a threat, or at least not as much as the kobolds appeared to be. The kobolds had 14 hp each, while the goblins had 5 and hobgoblins had 11. This somehow seems wrong to me, as through all the editions, kobolds are regarded as less powerful.

On the playing side, we had a great time again. The rules made for quick combats, and we had plenty of options. Our combat was more balanced than the one Friday, as the fighter killed more enemies than Friday, and the rogue was less lethal. All in all, both groups seemed to really enjoy the game as it stands right now, and we're looking forward to the next level of complexity.