Late feedback on a quick first session for DDN

On the first run through of D&D next my players only managed a short session. We learned a
lot from it though and wanted to share our thoughts here. Note that there is some DM commentry mixed in with the player feedback. I wrote this without access to the web and didn't know the feedback threads had split.
 


My group for the first test was 4 players. No battlegrid, map or minis were used. Healer
theme Cleric not played.



GROUP DYNAMIC
-------------


Generally our make up could be stated as two roleplayers, one roll-player and a powergamer.
That's being a little unfair to my players but it may help others understanding of the
general points of views on display. This group plays a 4E campaign with me with two having
migrated from 3E and two missing 3E altogether having come from AD&D 2E.


Roleplayers were on the Defender Cleric and Halfling Rogue, roll-player was on Hill-dwarf
fighter (what else?), powergamer was on High-elf wizard.



SESSION OUTLINE
---------------


Group accepted a mission from a local lord to rescue the crown Prince, who had been taken
hostage by slavers, before the King finds out and sends his own forces. Group get guided to
the forest that contains the slaver's caves and given general info. Group explore the
woods, looking for likely entrances. Group rogue finds hidden cave (E) behind bush. Group
raid the cave, get tangled with an Ogre, escape then use tactics to bring it down after
almost losing two PCs (one down and dying). Cave looted. Rests/heals. Selection of new
cave.


As I said, short session.



THOUGHTS/OPINIONS
-----------------


I'll try and keep this short and to the point, expanding only when I feel the point being
made isn't clear enough. These comments and opinions came from different members of my
group and have been collated here as the group opinion.



ON THE BASIC MECHANICS
* Advantage/disadvantage mechanic easy to use and to understand (DM note: I dropped this
into many different actions not specifically covered by the playtest material when players
were getting inventive around the combat with the Ogre. Everyone loved rolling multiple
D20's - what's not to like about D20's? )
* Advantage sometimes didn't feel as big as a '+ to hit' not disadvantage a big a penalty
as, say, cover
* Saving throws work great as ability checks (DM note: My 2nd edition campaign used this
mechanic anyway from 1992 - 2008. I always hated the old saving throw mechanic and the lack
of use out of the ability scores so I houseruled that in. As such, half my group felt like
we were running my 2nd ed game)
* Skills (proficiency) system sems to suggest a somewhat freeform approach to skills
allowing for infinate variation to obtain case-specific modifiers. Worked well in the test
and was easy to use. Need to see more of this and would like to know if skills can be
improved as levels advance or acquired after character creation.
* Ability checks/opposed checks (contests) seemed to work well. No need to tweak these.
* Attacking and defending was very D&D, easy to grasp immediately (DM note: more on combat
later)
* Short rests now don't feel as special due to no real recovery of resources (hit points
aside).
* Healing easy to understand and use (DM note: had to liken Hit Dice use to Healing Surges
to get people to understand the concept at first). Little healing at first mens that
players may hesitate to push on in an adventure with low level characters but, presumably,
if hit dice increase at 1 per level healing will end up more available to mid/high level
adventurers than it is in 4th edition, making adventure design difficult.
* Healing using Hit Dice can bring extremely low results, meaning a player can't even
survive another hit even after healing. This can be frustrating (DM note: Low results on
Hit Dice rolls were common after the Ogre encounter. I like the uncertainty behind the
healing myself but my players didn't like it at all)



ON COMBAT
* Starting hit points seemed low (DM note: to my players. Seemed a little high to me given
the drop in power)
* Far fewer options seemed to be initially available during combat until it was realised
that ANYTHING goes. (DM note: The advantage/disadvantage and contest mechanics helped with
adjudicating player plans)
* Combat was more mobile. With a lack of marking and Oppertunity Attacks (OAs) combat
became very hit-and-run.
* With no advantage for surrounding (or simply flanking) the enemy there was no real
impetus for players to manuevre to anywhere other than the place with the best exit options
* With loss of things like flanking and OAs there's less encouragement from the mechanics
to act as a team - all combatants are effectively solo with only one real power or ability
useful when players try and move and act together (DM note: My group did try and act as a
team, particulary after the Ogre took his first attack and almost levelled the fighter in
one hit. Additional skills like that of the defender cleric would help encourage players to
support one another and cement co-operative play. This is something 4E's tactics encourages
very well)
* Combat was faster than 3rd or 4th edition.
* Combat felt dangerous when fighting a creature that outmatched you in power (DM note: My
players all commented how 4th edition never put them in such a position - they're always
confident that a combat encounter will go their way with the proper application of powers)
* Lack of tactical options hurt the enjoyableness of a combat - without a descriptive or
confident DM you may as well sit together, roll a handful of dice and compare the numbers
to whatever the DM has written down to see if you defeat the creature (DM note: A point
well made but this applies to 4E to a certain degree. The issue here is that NEXT at
present doesn't arm the DM with ways to engage the players with a combat without
significant thought or improv. Detailing the combat blow-by-blow, or adjudicating an
improvised move, for example)
* Move-attack-move is a good option to have. Love the ability to do 'drive-by slashing' (DM
note: Once players realised this, combat with the Orge turned to dart in, hit, dart back,
wizard use ray of frost. I see DMs needing more reach and missile capable monsters in their
encounters to restrict overuse of such obvious tactics)
* Combat felt very old-school D&D. There was none of the meta-abilities (read: feats),
extra actions or power optons here. There is nothing in NEXT's combat system for 4E purists
to like (DM note: Yet. Nobody has seen any tactical options or other modules that may allow
for a more 'skirmish wargame' style of play).
* Initiative was simple and intuitive. -20 to initiative for suprise was different, meaning
we only got to act first rather than do something unopposed. While it seems less of a
benefit it is more logical. (DM note: I agree. The -20 modifier on a suprised creature
allows for high initiative creatures to still beat poor rolls from players to emulate the
highly aware, fast reactors that permeate fantasy fiction. Could be very useful with the
right monster support)
* DM note: Lack of challenge rating, equivalent level and such for creatures made it
difficult to see immediately when characters were outmatched and will lead to painful
encounter design
* DM note: Combat was more fluid but with lack of tactical options this will go one of two
ways depending on encounter. Toe to toe slugfest near the exit or 'travelling combat' where
the fight moves through rooms, down corridors and such as all parties can move freely at
all times unless held. Or Ray of Frost'ed
* DM note: Should healing potions also add the CON bonus in HP of the imbiber?



ON THE WIZARD
* Wizard can use weapons but unlike the other characters none was supplied. Is this
correct? (DM note: Wizard player insisted on a staff, having the fighter cut him a rough
one from the forest around the caves).
* Having always available magic to a Wizard is a great benefit, helping the flavour of the
class. Keep this!
* Wizards spamming Magic Missile do instant hit damage equivalent to daggers. Why would any
character carry a dagger when the wizard can outclass them every turn and never have to
roll for attack?
* Ray of frost excellent to enable escape from single monsters. Potential for unbalacing
effect on 'boss' or 'elite' style encounters. (DM note: The only reason the party didn't
suffer TPK against the Ogre was judicious use of Ray of Frost and the fact I made the
connecting section between the Ogre bedchamber and where it was sitting on it's pile of
loot a touch too small for it, forcing it to squeeze through. The entrance walls were worn
and showed snagged fibres and the Ogre's clothing tattered to show this and give the
players a clue as to what was up here).
* Ray of frost description seems ambiguous about the effect - is this a restrained
condition or not (DM note: Seemed clear enough to me but it's a valid point. I ruled no to
this question - speed reduction to 0 isn't 'restrained')
* Effectiveness on low level magic seems to suggest high level magic will have a similar
unbalacing effect to 2nd or 3rd edition. (DM's note: Conjecture. Honest opinion expressed
within the group, however)
* Nice that the wizard is not 'sneeze-and-I-die weak' at 1st level (DM note: relates to HP
at 1st level)
* Why can't the wizard leave spell slots 'open' for learning during the day rather than at
a break? (DM note: Easily houseruled but this is something that needs to be set in stone
one way or another - can a wizard forgo study and fill in a spell slot mid way through a
day instead? I realise other magic classes will treat spells differently and that extra
magic systems will be presented that could make this a moot point)
* Need to see more ritualised spells please
* Great to see non-attack spells in the roster again. More like this please
* Loss of keywords on powers is detrimental to spell understanding. It would be nice to
have these back.
* Multi round or minute spells are a pain to track
* At mid - high level the minor magic missile looks like it will be more damaging than even
a fighter's attack. This shouldn't be the case and suggests again that the wizard will be
top dog in 5E, just like 2E/3E. The baklance may need looking at here.



ON THE CLERIC
* Spellcasting method and inclusion of Orisons a big benefit. As with wizard minor spells
can be 'spammed' and will act better than small weapons in the hands of any character. Why
would a cleric choose to get in close and hit with a mace when he has Orisons at his
disposal? (DM note: Aside from more damage? )
* Defender ability worked really well, saving party fighter from death
* Lack of a healer in the party seems to really hurt a party's survivability
* Theme system did make the defender (knight) and healer clerics seem very different (DM
note: Take this with a pinch of salt - the healer cleric wasn't played, only read)
* Holy symbols seem less important now (DM note: compared to 4th edition)
* Orisons don't appear on the magic section of the character sheet (DM note: They appear in
the 'notes' at the end of the character sheet. This seems to make no sense)
* DM note: can healing word be used on 'self'?



ON THE ROGUE
* Doesn't seem particularly special in any way. Anything the Rogue can do, the other
characters could potentially do just as well.
* Managed to 'sneak attack' from the front of an enemy - should this be possible? (DM note:
Halfling was hiding in bushes at the beginning of a turn - Ogre comes out of cave, Halfling
jumps out and stabs him. I ruled 'yes' to this case)



ON THE FIGHTER
* Extra damage did not make the fighter special enough at fighting for it to be worth a
look over, say, a Ranger or Paladin (the other traditional 'Warrior' archetype classes)
* Slayer power very useful
* Cleave seemed very poor compared to 4E (DM note: Player hadn't seen 3E's version of this
power/feat)
* Very simple to play but lacked any real options in combat
* Not enough hit points. Almost killed in one hit and for a trained fighter that isn't fun.
(DM note: It looked fine to me but the Fighter took max damage hit from the Ogre early in
the combat)



ON CHARACTER ADVANCEMENT
* DM note: I'm assuming a triangular number patern for advancement up to 10th level?
(1,000, 3,000, 6,000, 10,000, 15,000, 21,000 and so on)
* Unified XP tables are great - keep these
* Advancement to 2nd level seems that it could come quite quickly (DM note: some
excitement, some groans)
* DM note: Hit Dice advancing at 1 dice per level could make healing too avaiable at higher
levels
* Need to know whether skills, extra themes, hit points and such will advance along with
level. (DM note: for my group the success of the system largely hinges on the power
progression of both the characters and creatures)
* Need clarity on level up conditions (do we need 'training', rest at a safe haven, time to
advance or does it happen instantly)?



ON THE ADVENTURE (DM NOTES)
* Bog standard old-school cavern-crawl with little narrative or role playing to get the
teeth into.
* Seems fairly lethal for a group of 4 x 1st level adventurers
* Is an old Gygax module really a good place to showcase NEXT? Coupled with the lack of
tactical meat in the combat system this seems to be a move designed to pique the curiosity
of 1st ed revivalists or old-schoolers.
* Map was terrible quality - could hardly make out room numbers once printed.
* Complete monster stat blocks in the adventure text would have been very useful - found
myself veering back and forth between the monster bestiary and the adventure during combat.
This broke the flow a bit.



SOME OTHER SUGGESTIONS
* Keep the Dragonborn and Tieflings in their 4E guise. These are fun character races that
enrich the traditional set of D&D races
* Bring back OAs in some form and force players to use a 'disengage' action or similar to
get away from a creature cleanly. This could do away with the shift/5-foot step.
* Look at setting minimums for rolling hit points or do away with it altogether. 3E players
generally didn't like this as it could wreck a good character and 4E players will hate it
because of the uncertainty (DM note: not sure I agree. I LIKE the uncertainty but I get the
point my players were making)
* Bring back keywords
* Make monster stat blocks clear and place them in the adventure text



CONCLUSION
D&D Next feels like old school D&D with a better 'kit' system tacked on to it. You are
never in any doubt that this is Dungeons and Dragons and it was easy to pick up and play.


There's a lot of minor criticisms with the materials - The way the rules were presented was
at times a little patronising, in other places a touch vague and the monster stat blocks
weren't friendly (to name but three) but such critiques are best left until the playtest
gathers pace. The pre-gen characters didn't receive a lot of love from my group either but
then again, everyone loves their own character in this game


Next played faster than 4th edition but a lack of simple tactical options (rear attacks,
flanking, OAs) seem to hurt it a little. I was asked to provide a battlegrid if possible
just for relative placements if nothing else (easy to accommodate) to free me up from
checking on character placement before combat actions went off.


The 4e fans in the group weren't happy initially but afterwards they admitted that this was
because they came at this with a 4E mentality (my character is God and I have 10 ways to
kill you now! Bwu-ha-ha-haaa!). They agreed that they thought lethality was back and they
sort of liked the rush that could bring as they started to worry for their character's
safety again for the first time in many years. They still hated the randomness of healing,
despite my protests that it could be a good tension builder.


All players are interested enough to try another few sessions. So far, no converts other
than me (Adv/disadv and themes aside, it's almost identical to my houserled 2nd edition
game so I'm biased). We're still in for the rest of this playtest and will post further
feedback as we get familiar with the materials.


Players coming from a 4E game will not like this at all - it doesn't feel like 4E, does
away with a lot of tactical options and reduces the party level significantly. Those playing
with a 4E mentality will fail spectacularly.
Players coming from a OA or 2E game will feel right at home. This is very much 'their' D&D
but with modern mechanical tweaks to make play easier.
Players coming from 3E will find a lot to like but will be keen to see character creation
and level up mechanics before they know whether their playstyles are being catered for.


I've left a few things out as we play some more and form solid opinions. For now it's a
tentative thumb up. More work to do but so far we see promise.



By the way, the best comment of the session was from a 4E die-hard (our fighter):
"D&D 5E seems a bit like the noisy cricket from MIB - seems really small and useless but it
packs a wallop!"


I hope all this helps.

"They call me Wraith for I hate the living..." "Play the game, not the ruleset" In April this year, a real force for good was lost to this community - Wrecan, whichever plane your soul now wanders I hope the journey you are now on is as interesting as the writings you shared with this community. Rest in peace. I am Blue/Green
I am Blue/Green
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.
By the way, one of my players calculated the odds for the Advantage/disadvantage system and the mumbers seem to show that for die rolls requiring 1 - 18, Advantage is better than 4E's combat advantage. For rolls of 19 or 20, it's worse. The same is true for disadvantage with rolls requiring 1 - 18 being harsher than 4E's combat advantage with 19 - 20 being less so.

The lower the numbver required by the roll, the more beneficial DDN's advantage system is. 
"They call me Wraith for I hate the living..." "Play the game, not the ruleset" In April this year, a real force for good was lost to this community - Wrecan, whichever plane your soul now wanders I hope the journey you are now on is as interesting as the writings you shared with this community. Rest in peace. I am Blue/Green
I am Blue/Green
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.
That was pretty extensive feedback.  Nice.  I like how you thought about the HD of healing.  I too felt that the work day might be pretty short at 1st level given the scarcity of healing spells and HD healing.  I didn't think too much about how it might change when HD increase.  With more HD of healing perhaps the groups will be able to press on further.  

I do think, however, that WoTC will need to do something more with Cleric healing so that clerics don't play like healbots.  I can see a Cleric player holding back on spell casting just to save the CLW, etc.  I think they need some kind of healing that works using Channel Divinity, or a rule for Spontaneous Healing that is independent of spell slots (limited of course).

Cheers.

 

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog