CoC Feedback


So my group and I gave Caves of Chaos a go last night. We are only one session in and have plenty more of the caves to explore but here are my impressions thus far;

 About us: The group is a three man strong combination of both Clerics (Raest - Dwarf Cleric of Moradin & Onos - Human Cleric of Pelor) and the elf wizard (Veers). We've only ever played 3rd Edition (and its Star Wars cousin) and over the years our attitude towards the rules has varied; for a long time we only consulted the rules when it suited us and didn't bother with miniatures or any other prop to keep a accurate representation of what was happening. Recently, after starting a new campaign, we've begun following the rules more closely and use a grid and paper tokens to keep track of events (though mostly we only bother if its a combat situation) and this is what we have used in playing this module. The players are a wilful bunch who enjoy going off the beaten track; tell them to slay the dragon and save the princess and they'll slay the princess and marry the dragon. They are happiest with a balanced diet combat and role play and tend to get bored if the games constantly favour one over the other.

 How we are using the Caves: As well as play testing the rules I also took this as an opportunity to play test a new type of adventure for my players. Exploring big sprawling dungeons isn't something we've done much of so I'm curious as to how they will enjoy it. In terms of theme I went with the Devil You Know idea presented in the module documentation and tied it into our current campaign. The Medusa used to rule the caves and demanded the worship of the creatures. Her vanity and wariness of the outside world kept the monsters from bothering the local villages. Recently the Evil Cult (who I'm tying into our campaign as agents of the, as yet unrevealed, Big Bad) turned up and usurped her and began sending out the monsters to kidnapped villagers so they can turn them into a undead army (the zombies and skeletons of area K). The party is sent to investigate and pacify the area by any means necessary. 

 I divided up the monsters in Medusa Loyalists, Cultist Usurpers and Neutral Parties, as well as giving each one a personal objective of their own. I felt this theme would work well for my players as they like breaking skulls and playing in politics (I blame Game of Thrones for their recent interest in this) and with their broad mandate they could deal with the situation as they saw fit.  I set the location of the Caves to the north of our current campaign's adventuring area and gave the PCs a base near the caves (a merchant caravan camp) where they can rest between forays and barter for supplies.

 What happened: The party headed for the Goblin caves and on first contact they stayed their weapons and tried to talk with the Goblins to find out some info and get the lay of the land. The goblins promised information if the PCs bartered the services of the Ogre on their behalf. The Ogre wanted more money than the goblins had and the goblins suggested that the PCs raid the Kobold lair on the other side of the ravine to acquire the extra coin. The PCs approach the Kobold caves and spotting the sentries they once more try the diplomatic route and try to convince the Kobolds to leave the area (sans treasure of course). They learn from the Kobolds there is a rift between the local monsters and that the Kobolds are loyal to a imprisoned "Queen" (the Medusa) and won't abandon her. Negotiations break down and swords are drawn.

This was the first combat encounter and it coloured how I handled the rest of the session. The eight Kobold sentries took down two PCs before being defeated and there was a real possibility of a TPK at one point. To be fair this was mainly due to some poor rolling by the players and some good rolling for me but I did tone down the combat after this, ignoring the Kobolds' Strength in Numbers ability and keeping the combats as (mostly) isolated affairs not bringing any other creatures from near by rooms. This made things easier on the PCs and as they ventured into the Kobold caves they got through the next couple of fights without major peril. The battle against the Kobold Chieftain and his retinue served as the climax of the first session and was suitably challenging and resulted in one PCs being knocked out and the other two taking some moderate wounds before they forced the Kobold Chief to surrender. Laying down his arms he gave the PCs some treasure and led his remaining people out of the ravine, forsaking their Queen and their home. The party then returned to their base to rest and they plan to head back to the Goblin caves in the next session.

Stuff we liked:

 * As DM I found the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic really useful. It was nice and simple and helped keep the game play flowing. Call me lazy but I enjoyed using this more than having to come up with a modifier for each different situation (especially since my players will constantly haggle like merchants about how much of a bonus/or how less of a penalty they should get). This was also handy for filling in gaps in the rules (e.g. there was no rule for flanking so I just called it as an Advantage).

* The players enjoyed being able to cast minor spells at will. It feels much more wizardly to use Magic Missile or Shocking Grasp as your normal attack rather than swinging with a stick.

* The amount of ways we could heal (spells, potions, healer’s kit) seemed to provide just enough to keep the adventure going without needing to stop and sleep every five minutes but not enough to make the party careless. That said we did have two Clerics in the three man party so perhaps this would have panned out differently with a different configuration.

* Combat flowed pretty well, we got through four combat encounters in a three and a half hour session (that's pretty darn fast for my group) and the spells the party called upon when things got hairy were both useful and cool (who doesn't love smooshing Kobolds with a floating hammer). In hindsight perhaps I didn't need to tone down the combat (though to be fair in the first encounter they were getting their arses handed to them by the weakest monsters in the module) and next time I think its safe to take the training wheels off now we are all comfortable with the rules and what the characters can do.

* The dying mechanic with the random amount of damage on a failed save added a lot more tension to being taken down.


Stuff we didn't like (honestly, no big gripes thus far but here's a couple of small things):

 * Didn't see the point of all the different denominations of coins. Copper/Silver/Gold would work just fine or even just Gold.

 * With this module I didn't see a lot of opportunities to use half of the character backgrounds/themes. I guess its up to me to find a way to fit them in but at face value I couldn’t see many ways to apply them to this module.

 * The players expressed an interest in how certain things on their character sheet were worked out. e.g. Onos the Cleric's Radient Lance attack was a +6 to hit, presumably +4 from that is from his wisdom modifier but where does the extra +2 come from? Not a big issue in terms of play but the guys just wanted to know more about their characters' stats.


Stuff we haven't gotten to yet:

 * Not much Stealth or Surprise came up in this game so no comment on those mechanics yet.

 * Hostile magic and Conditions (no magic users amongst those Kobolds)

 * We've not tried out the Fighter or Rogue yet, however the characters are present in the story (they're just chillin' back at camp) so perhaps someone will swap out next game.

 In conclusion this first taste of DnD Next was a good experience for all involved. In the next couple of sessions I look forward to seeing how my players deal with some of the tougher monsters (I'm pretty sure they aren't going to be able to take that Minotaur in a straight fight) and exploring how the rules deal with some more varied situations that will inevitably crop up (bar dealing with the goblins at the start and dodging one trap this game focused almost solely on combat).

In the Minotaur cave, Stealth checks will become your very breath. If you don't make them, you will die! Heh-heh, I had to wing a lot, but I was glad it was a module I am so familiar with. I wasn't impressed with the spellcasters provided. The guys started rolling really well and I didn;t get to use them to their full potential. I'd like to hear how yours goes.
I'll be looking forward to that first failed stealth check. I know as a DM you are meant to guide the story rather than act as the antagonist but I can't help but take a little bit of joy from when things go wrong (especially when it involves a raging Minotaur). I've not forced my players to prep spells ahead of time in this game - I just let them use which ever spell they want within the limits of their spell slots.  I may change that later but at the moment I just want to see how each of the spells plays out and allowing them this versatility seems the best way to do that.
One of my houserules from 2e is pretty much that. You can use any spell provided the spell progression chart allows it. No memorization ahead of time. Also, you can trade out higher spell slots for lower spells, such as swapping a 3rd level slot for 3 1st levels or a 1st and 2nd. The swapping doesn't happen often because it can slow things down. I think it would be nice if that was an official option for DnDNext, not having to prememorize the spells. I think to offset it, I would put a chance of spell failure. I'd make it a bit toughter, though. The 2e cleric hit a 0% chance at WIS 13. Far too low, IMO. I'd probably go something like this for all spellcasting, arcane or divine (or primal if they add that):


Note that even the most hopeless imbecile still has that 1% chance to pull it off, while the greatest can still mess up from time to time! I give the higher end a bigger chance for failure simply because you're more likely to encounter a spellcasting BBEG with a high WIS, and this gives the players a better (although only barely) chance at seeing Mr. High And Mighty Villain suffer a brain fart. I wouldn't grant a 0% until we're talking demigods at least.

Hehe a Big Bad screwing up his spell is the kind of silliness that would fit my games pretty well. If letting them use which spells they want starts to give them too much of a edge I'll bring back in prepping spells or borrow your failure chart. Or I may use both; prepped spells can be used without risk but if you want/need to use a different spell you can swap out on the fly but have to risk messing it up. 

Ooh! I like the 0% failure rating for a prepped spell! *swipe!*
I'm glad you mentioned the coinage here.  I read through the packet but when it came to the coinage section I just turned the page with a "pfft I know that crap".  Obviously I didn't.  While running the campaign I was very confused with what ep meant... I just assumed it was a typo for gp (e looks like a backwards g lol)
LOL! I think an ep is half of a gp. One of my players was happy as hell to see the ep make its return. He dusted off an old character sheet and notes. One of his old PCs, last seen at a very viable level 7, began amassing eps because the player thought they were neat (and just liked to say 'electrum'). He has quite a few of them. We're still adding it up!
Doctor Gonzo, I dunno' if you found out about the common +2. There are several things on the sheets which seem incorrect. R&D has said there are certain mathematical factors which aren't exposed. My favorite is the halfling damage dice bonus with slings.
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls

The common +2? Nope haven't come across it yet. My players were happy enough using the characters but would have liked to have seen the mathematical breakdown on some of the stats. Have they done any modules before this one without pre-generated characters? If not I would like to try one in the future with basic  character creation rules. I don't often play as a character (DM4life yo!) but I always enjoy rolling them up. There's something very satisfying about taking a bunch of numbers and seeing them evolve into a full character.

Having electrum in the game seemed a bit superfluous. Almost all commonly used items and equipment are valued in gold so I don't see a lot of point in using any other denomination for loot. I can kind of get on board with Copper and Silver for small change but even that's something we don't bother with a lot of the time. 

That said I kept pronouncing electrum wrong ("OK you loot the room and find 3...electum? elect-err-um? electalum?") so maybe this is tainting my view on it. If I could only get my stupid tongue to work properly I might enjoy this quirky denomination as much as Shiftkitty's player haha

"DM4life", LOL! I so want that on a T-shirt or something! We've always pronounced "electrum" the same way you would "electric", eh-LECT-rum. I'd do character accents from time to time, pronouncing it "ee-LECT-rum", "LECT-rum" (dropping the first syllable), or even cutting the name altogether by paying tribute to the old British "ha' pence" by calling it a "ha' gold".
Knowing my luck I'll get drunk and wake up with it tattooed across my knuckles :S Got the group coming over in a few minutes for Caves of Chaos round 2! When I asked them what they wanted to play tonight one player responded; "New edition! I want to be a glowing sun beam priest!"...that guy is a bit too attached to his radiant lance power.
LOL! I'll bring the drinks! Have fun, though it sounds like that's a foregone conclusion!

Session 2

Same players as last time using the same characters (both Clerics and the Wizard) but the player controlling Veers the Wizard left half way through. The second act of the game included the Dwarf Fighter (Karsa) and the Halfling Rogue (Topper). I allowed the monsters to use their special abilities and while once again the fights remained isolated this was due to poor rolling for the monsters who never managed to get away and warn their fellows.

What happened:

After a bit of trading with the merchants and a good nights rest the party heads back to the Goblins and makes good on their agreement to acquire the Ogre's protection for the tribe. In return the Goblins give them some info on the surrounding area which included the location of the Hobgoblin caves, the fact that no one goes into cave G and that the two Orc clans (the Red Hands of area C and the Dark Skies of area B) have both sent troops to claim the now vacant Kobold caves. They also learn that the two Orc leaders are meeting that day to settle the matter. After the goblins decline a alliance with the PCs to fight the Hobgoblins (the goblins hate their larger cousins but are two fearful to oppose them) the party decides to head back to the Kobold caves and see if they can turn the Orc clans against each other.

After some failed diplomacy the party is forced to take down two Red Hands guarding the cave. The PCs then investigate the Garbage Heap room they didn't bother with the previous day. They are ambushed by Dark Skies Orcs and after a battle which sees Veers the Wizard knocked down, but quickly revived, the PCs are victorious. They then drag the two dead Red Hands in from outside and arrange the bodies to look like the Orcs had slain each other and then make a hasty exit.

At this point the guy playing Veers had to leave so the elf was left behind near the Kobold caves to keep an eye on what happens while the rest of the group went to raid the Hobgoblin lair. The two remaining players took control of the Dwarf Fighter (Karsa) and the Halfing Rogue (Topper) in addition to their usual characters.

After easily figuring out the Hobgoblin door mechanism the party sent Topper ahead to scout the nearest three rooms. When the halfling gave himself away spying on the jailers in the cells another short combat followed with no problems for the party. They freed the merchant and his company and one of the guards elected to stay behind and join them (Eddard). They quiz the Gnoll and Ishrak the Orc (Dark Skies clan) and find that the tribes that rebelled against the Queen now owe their fealty to someone known as the Howling Lord (throwing this in as some foreshadowing for our usual 3E campaign) and are preparing to go to war. The PCs release the Gnoll who heads home while Ishrak joins them in their raid against the Hobgoblins to regain his honour - he was caught raiding supplies and is shamed to have been taken alive (hey just cus' the Orcs and Hobgoblins are on the same team doesn't make them BFFs). 

With their new allies the party storms the nearest guard room taking the Hobgoblins by surprise. Eddard brings down a Hobgoblin before being killed in turn (decapitated like his namesake) and Ishrak turns on the party after slaying one of the Hobgoblins - in my mind Orcs have a very odd sense of honour and once Ishrak had restored his by killing one of his captors he considered the matter settled and resumed his duty to destroy those who would oppose the Howling Lord. The session ends with Ishrak and the Hobgoblins being defeated with no loss to the party, who chases down the last Hobgoblin who tries to run for help.


Notes from this session:

* The fighter was a welcome addition to the party though one player put forward that his Reaper ability was a bit overpowered but we did acknowledge that it would probably be less effective at higher levels/against tougher monsters.

* I'd say that the skill mastery ability granted the Rogue too much of a bonus but it did give him a very defined role as the group's scout as a minimum of 16 on stealth checks let him get the lay of the land and kept the party from blundering into encounters that might have been overwhelming.

* Despite using the monster's special abilities this time round combat went much more in favor of the PCs. Only one character was taken below 0 HP in four battles and one player commented that they were being more tactical when playing this edition. This is pretty true, in our other games the PCs usually fight as individuals with little thought to acting as a team but not so in this play test - abilities like Defender really encourage the players to work together.

* Once again backgrounds/themes didn't come up much in the game passed their skill/ability contributions. As I said before perhaps I just need to provide more role play opportunities for these to come up but thus far no situation had lended themselves to it. Same with a lot of the skills; we;ve not used many other than Stealth, Perception and Diplomacy. Still it's early days (I can see this lasting at least another four sessions and the story is just unfolding) and I'm sure opportunities will present themselves.

* Being that there were no rules for Attacks of Opportunity I've just been (roughly) using the 3E rules. I thought about not using them since they weren't mentioned but kept them in for now as without them there seemed to be too much maneuverability on the battle field without consequence - running away also seemed like to much of an easy option in many situations.

* Being able to break up movement to move before and after attacks has been used to good effect by the PCs ranged characters when lines of sight are limited.

Session 3

The two cleric players return and a new player (D&D newbie who has only started playing with us a few months ago). Picking up from last time the party took a severed Hobgoblin head and used it to help cow a room of off duty guards. They told the horrified Hobgoblins to take a hike but didn't ensure they actually left the caves (only two were scared enough to desert - the others went to raise the alarm). The players fight their way through Armoury and into the next guard room where they are ambushed. The fighter goes down and is carried off by two Hobgoblins while the others held off the adventurers.

Notes from this session:

* The two clerics levelled up (they were the only constant players and hit level 2 after the last fight of this session). The Pelor Cleric was excited at the prospect of using his Area of Effect power.

* More use of Stealth/Sneak Attacks, Surprise and Cover in this game. Not much to comment on, the rules for those seem to work pretty well.

* The lack of info behind the stats came up again when the Cleric of Moradin found a ranged weapon and had no ranged stats to refer to. Again not a big deal but it would be nice to know what makes up each of our attack modifiers.

That was about it. The session was really short - no one seemed all that into it this evening and overall it wasn't a great session. The novelty of the new rules and powers had worn off and I don't think my group is really feeling the extended dungeon crawl. I get a sense this game might be abandoned in favour of our regular campaign; between various commitments we can usually only get one session per week at best, so choice of game is crucial decision.

I'd like to continue as there is now plenty of stuff going on that will make a change from just going room to room exterminating monsters. There's the rescuing of the fighter to be done, the main plot needs pushing to the forefront and the PCs have stirred up the wasps nest enough that I'm going to give them some retaliation from the creatures (I'm thinking midnight Bugbear attack on the camp).

But I think I might have left it too late and everyone would be happier going back to our 3rd Edition game - but that’s cool too. The players are quite invested in those characters and there is plenty of cool stuff going on there to get back too. 

Thank you very much for the write-up.
If you get another session in, I would suggest removing the AoOs and play the rules as written.
My group found that they really like the freedom of movement and the hectic flow of combats.
And with your clear write-ups I would be very interested to read how your group handles it.

Also, remember that a new packet will be released sometime "around the end of summer". Maybe at that time you can pick it up again if your group does decide to stop for now.
Viva La "what ever version of D&D you are playing right now!"
Yeah, I'm looking forward to a continuation of this write-up myself! I'm also keeping our Next game on hold until the next packet. Meanwhile, it's back to 2e where an innocent wish continues to go horribly awry!

Cheers guys - the more I think about it the more I really want to see this game through to the end. Perhaps the last session was just an off night (I had one player call me up today and apologise for not being very engaging - personal issues were on their mind) and I'll sound out everyone's thought's on it before making a decision. Even if the group doesn't want to carry on I think I can convince at least on player to keep at it even if we switch back to the 3rd Edition campaign for our regular sessions. 

If there is one thing I hate about gaming it’s that there is never enough time for all the stories we want to play. We've had a on-off Star Wars campaign going on for six years, the new edition rules to try out, a Dark Heresy game waiting in the wings and our 3rd Edition campaign which is just getting really interesting: the PCs have their own castle with a growing supporting cast of retainers and are hell bent on reshaping the political scene of a entire kingdom. I had hoped to tie in the Caves of Chaos game as a spin off from the 3E campaign to foreshadow the Big Bad and have some characters cross over (e.g. those Kobolds that were driven off in the first session of the play test are going to be looking for a new home).

I'll take your advice PinkRose and drop AoOs for the next session just to see how things go - I did think that perhaps I should have done from the start as they weren't in the rules but I was sceptical about giving the players (and monsters for that matter) so much freedom on the field without consequence. 

ShiftKitty, what was the wish in you 2E game? I want to guess how it goes wrong :D

The wish was that they (the party) would become "the best in our chosen careers". The party consists of a wizard who is overly fond of drink, a cleric who is so devastatingly good-looking that he has drawn the envy of his own deity, a fighter who was born in the temple of an evil deity and is on the run from the cult, and a thief with a horrible stutter.

Ok here are my guesses: 

The Fighter becomes so good that he is constantly being challenged by aspiring warriors who want to make a name for themselves by defeating the best fighter in the land and/or his reputation as the best fighter leads the evil cult to him. 

The cleric begins to be seen as the physical embodiment of his god bringing on more divine envy and "I'm not the messiah!" moments. Or he starts converting everyone who he talks to about his religion and inadvertently creates an army of fanatical worshippers who cause havoc by taking the tenants of the religion too literally.

The thief starts to steal compulsively and can't stop.

Can't guess of a specific one for the wizard but I imagine there are plenty of ways a alcoholic all powerful wizard could end up in trouble.

I'm seeing my group again tomorrow and I'm going bring up the subject of continuing the Caves of Chaos with them (we aren't doing D&D tomorrow night, just playing a board game). One player I chatted too the other day mentioned that he felt all the skills in 3rd Edition let you personalise your character a lot more and helped to avoid pigeonholing.

Oh quick question while I remember: has anyone else been doling out XP as rewards in this playtest? I can't remember reading about it in the rules (will double check in a bit) but I've thrown the PCs some extra XP for doing certain things e.g. forcing the Kobolds to leave their home and bartering the Ogre's services for the Goblins. I'm not sure how much effect this has had (three sessions in and only two characters have reached level 2) but it just seemed to make sense to me.

Anyone else being doing this or something similar like granting XP for role playing or non-combat encounters perhaps? We've never bothered keeping track of XP in our usual games (just leveled up every couple of adventures) and how it should be allocated outside of defeating monsters is just something I've been pondering while we've been recently.

I think some of the reasons they brought back the electrum pieces are (1) it just sounds really cool and flows very nicely off the tongue, (2) it can be a way for the DM to RP new and interesting ways of money such as ep and pp being rare here but standard in some forgotten ruins and razed civilizations, (3) in reference to number 2, it makes more sense that some monsters inhabiting ruins would carry stranger currencies because they're metallic and shiny, seriously why would a kobold carry gold?, (4) it also gives another option to think about coin weight and encumbrance. Woo you found 100 gp worth of coin in copper, now carry it all back haha. Ep being 1/2 a gp means more coins for less gold, and less weight as its not copper or silver. 
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