We tried yesterday – here is our playtest report:
Originally planned for a group of four we played with only three because one (the cleric) cancelled with short notice. We had a RPG veteran playing the Halfling. We had one semi - verteran (used to DD3 and 3.5 and Chtulhu for several years) playing the Elf and a relative newbie, used to Pathfinder for a couple of months and just having two sessions of Rolemaster – trying the dwarf.
As a DM, I went through all editions starting right from the red box up to DD4 but also tried most other games like MERS, Rolemaster, Star Wars, Chtulhu etc. We really gave DD4 a try for a year and a half (including a disappointing test of Dark SUn 4) but were in the end unable to not get bored by the roll-playing character of these rules and wandered off to Pathfinder. What we really do not like on DD4 are two things:
Powers are basically of use in combat situations and not for exploration. Old school roleplaying was left behind and the games felt more and more like DD Skirmish. Second, all classes at the end felt the same: “I am a fighter. I use power x and roll d20. Great, 25 points of damage!” basically sounds like “I am a wizard. I use power y and roll d20. Great, 25 points of damage!”. Not our liking.
Ok, so what´s about DD5?
Everyone instantly understood the character pass and the basic concept of their characters. Themes and backgrounds are great helping the player to quickly imagine how their PC might look like and what his role in the world might be. So everybody immediately started with great roleplay and we had lots of fun with an improvised pick-pocket scenery at the marketplace of Hamlet.
As the motivation for the adventure I took “the devil we know” but changed it a bit: I let them find a proclamation asking for help to discover the whereabouts of a caravan (Finn´s). So I let the group find a toppled over wagon and a dead horse plus the other plundered remains of the caravan. As they found no dead bodies they guessed that Finn and the rest of the caravan had been captured for ransom or other reasons. They followed the tracks to the caves to find out…
Of course, they got ambushed by the kobolds and finished them off quickly. They then decided not to enter the kobold cave but explored the entrance of every other cave first. They immediately guessed that the shrine-cave hold the “boss” and then decided to go on the goblins first. What follows was a fight against the goblin patrol where they took one alive to get more information. There they learned that “the big mother no one is allowed to look at” was their former queen has been vanished and that new lords took on the reign. The goblin was also not very happy about the Orks gaining more power. The PCs then decided to enter the goblin cave and tricked the guards to follow them outside. This worked but the goblins bribed the ogre who attacked the PCs from the back. So they were between 12 goblins coming from the cave and the ogre and his big club coming from behind.
They killed the first three goblins using range attacks. Then the elf managed to drop 6 with his sleep spell. The dwarf took on the ogre but rolled terrible (he missed two out of three attacks but was able to score high on the one hit). The rogue was a big hitter as nearly every attack was a sneak.
After that fight the party went on raiding the goblin caves…
Fights were very quickly run. Most attacks are much more powerful than in previous editions and downed foes usually with one hit.
We love advantage/disadvantage! This concept is easy to grab and allowed for more dynamic and also encourages players to be creative to earn advantage through good roleplay. I will use this rule for my Pathfinder
campaign from now on.
With advantage you double your chances to achieve a crit. Maximized damage including all dice (also sneak attack damage) makes the rogue a heavy hitter.
The healing concept is not bad. For the first time in history, a healers kit is a useful investment. As there are only limited sources to regain hitpoints, it requires the PC to plan ahead and be carefull. Yes, they need to withdraw to gain full rest but I don´t have a problem with that. Almost better than to have lots of healing surges available that makes you look like a tumbler on the battlefield.
At-will spells are good making the wizard able to do something outside of his one or two 1st level spells. This was the only concept of DD4 that everybody really liked and it is good to have it included here as well.
The new maneuver rules are great and getting rid of AoO was a good idea. This immediately makes battles more dynamic and creates some tough situations for second- or third-row PCs.
I would remove the auto-hit capability of Magic Missile. It is more fun to have the wizard roll for a hit plus granting an auto-hit makes him more capable than e.g. a fighter who has no auto-hit with his bow.
The fighter seems to be underpowered compared to the wizard who easily could down several foes in one go using Sleep or Burning Hands where the fighter can only kill one per round if he rolls well.
While in general only using abilities for skill rolls is a good idea we were skeptical if this concept will allow for specialization as we are used to it from the skill based system. There a fighter could train on being a climber by spending skill points and buying talents. Not sure if this would also work with the new rules.
We had trouble with the rogues low wisdom which makes him absolutely useless for spotting things. So this rogue was unable to notice the hidden kobolds or several other hits. The group then lets the cleric do most of the perception work. Maybe we did something wrong here but my feeling is that the rogues +3 from his training would not make him a better explorer than a cleric with high wisdom.
The DCs for skill checks seemed to be too low. The PCs were able to literally make every skill check they tried. With a d20 you roll 10 on average. Having a +2 up to +6 as a bonus for most tasks give them a greater than 50% chance to make most rolls. Much to much for my liking compared to most challenges presented in a low level adventure.
Initiative -20 for surprised creatures does not make sense to me. What is the difference of having an initiative total of -10 (after a roll of 10 and no bonus) compared to a total of 1 or 2? You are last in that round. Better leave it with the old concept of having a free round and then go to initiative order.