2nd packet playtest: mostly bored

Based on the articles WotC has published already, it seems they have a good idea of the general feedback. So I'll limit my better-late-than-never playtest to a few key topics. We only played at level 1.

  • The wizard went over badly. While I initially thought HP were too low overall (more on that later), in practice the only character with durability problems was the wizard. Also, the fact that his big daily attack was Burning Hands was actually a problem: he didn't want to waste it on kobolds or centipedes (rightly so), and it's not helpful against one big target. Other than using Comprehend Languages to good effect (I had the pechs discuss the adventurers among themselves in Terran, so listening in gave the players clues about how to placate them), all he did all day was Magic Missile. He was bored the whole time, except while the gelatinous cube was eating him.
  • Defenses are adequate but swingy. The high ACs and low enemy attack bonuses meant that the party was sturdy enough (except for the wizard, who had roughly a 33% chance of going down any time I said I was attacking him), but a couple of unlucky rolls will mean disaster fast. More HP and better enemy accuracy makes for more consistent fights (which might also be considered more boring...).
  • The cleric found himself in the age-old position of having to choose between fun spells and healing. As a result, he had no more fun than the wizard, and only got to cast Lance of Faith all day. Also the healing, while limited, was super-powerful at this level, and almost always over-healed.
  • The fighters had fun. No complaints there.
  • The rogue was an odd case. No need to hide to get off sneak attack, because none of the monsters were tough enough to merit it. But her skill reliability was a problem for me as the DM, because she never failed at anything. Can Find Traps be used passively? I don't want my players to have to go back to the 1e/2e adventuring style of searching everything every step in a dungeon they take, but if it can be used without explicitly stating so, it's basically trap immunity, with a thief-rogue in the party, unless the DC's are high enough. Since monsters had garbage skills (no trained skills, no Wis, no Dex--even the kobolds had only +1 Sneak, and nothing had above +0 Spot/Listen), the PCs always won. Except for the gelatinous cube, with its blindsight.
  • The adventure sucked horribly. They did chapters 2 and 1. Both consisted mainly of random encounters. The players got horribly sick of kobolds really fast, and I fudged a bunch of random encounters with orcs away or the same thing would have happened with them. The traps were useless; the only time a trap came into play was when I got frustrated and had a kobold bull rush the gnome guide into the pit so I could being out the giant centipedes. (Which were pointless, because dwarf.) The rogue auto-spotted every trap every time. As written, the Chapter 1 boss can't be beaten unless the PCs have at-will spells, and is automatically defeated if they do.
  • The only fun encounter was the gelatinous cube. And I don't just mean that because it was the only encounter to almost kill a PC (or present a meaningful threat at all), but also because it was the only one where an enemy had an interesting and useful ability. The kobold dragonshields looked promising, but the kobolds were so fragile that their ability didn't matter. The blind ogre failed (couldn't hit, couldn't hide, was easily spotted and outrun). The stirges failed (out of 6, only 3 got to attack before they were killed, one hit, and it was parried--which left us with the ludicrous image of a stirge that stuck its proboscis in someone without having inflicted any damage).
  • Self-healing was surprisingly effective, but the party hardly got hurt, again except for the wizard.
Yet, overall, people said they had fun.  I'm not sure why, maybe they were just being polite since it was my first get-together with these people.

tl;dr: Monsters were boring and mainly too easy, wizard and cleric were boring. Both fighters were good. The rogue was just strange. No one brought a sorc or warlock, unfortunately. Hard to evaluate healing other than self-healing (which was good) given how easy the fights were.  A better adventure would probably have helped a lot.

"Edison didn't succeed the first time he invented Benjamin Franklin, either." Albert the Alligator, Walt Kelly's Pogo Sunday Book  
The Core Coliseum: test out your 4e builds and fight to the death.

Heyo,

Some questions came to mind as I read your post. The following are questions, and some of my understanding of the system.


How did your rogue aproach battle, not using sneak attack? was this because of the party size, or because a basic attack was enough to bring them down?

Why would Find Traps be passive? if they are actively searching for traps (Taking 10 or 20) then they can move slowly along looking for a trap or trigger. This does not mean the trap is identified or disabled by them realizing a Floor Tile is a pressure pad. It simply means they could potentially uncover the location of where to make a Find Traps/Disable check.

Also remember that you can't be taking 10 if your threatened, and you can only use Skill Mastery (use 10 in place of a bad roll) on a specific check, never passively.

Random question: Were you using the Advantage/Disadvantage system with the rogues checks?

How did your rogue aproach battle, not using sneak attack? was this because of the party size, or because a basic attack was enough to bring them down?

The latter.  The only monster big enough to merit setting up a sneak attack was the ogre, and it's blind so it gives up advantage anyway.  But I think the former would likely have been true as well; most fights were over in 2 rounds, and nearly all fights in 3 rounds, so the hide-attack-hide cycle wouldn't fit very well.
Why would Find Traps be passive? if they are actively searching for traps (Taking 10 or 20) then they can move slowly along looking for a trap or trigger. This does not mean the trap is identified or disabled by them realizing a Floor Tile is a pressure pad. It simply means they could potentially uncover the location of where to make a Find Traps/Disable check.

In earlier editions, Spot/Listen/Perception could be used passively.  You never said, "well, none of you explicitly said you were trying to hear anything, so you don't get to make Listen checks."  But in all the editions up to 3.5, you did have to say you were specifically looking for traps.  Not for anything else, just traps.  (In 3.x that was because finding traps was Search, and finding most other things was Spot.)  And that meant that either the party bumbled into every trap you put in front of them, or the obsessively searched everything.  Neither was fun.  4e fixed that by making finding traps part of Spot and allowing it to be used passively.
Random question: Were you using the Advantage/Disadvantage system with the rogues checks?

I never saw any need to.

"Edison didn't succeed the first time he invented Benjamin Franklin, either." Albert the Alligator, Walt Kelly's Pogo Sunday Book  
The Core Coliseum: test out your 4e builds and fight to the death.

@OP: Well put! This pretty much matches our gaming experience (rogue skills not exciting, wizard and cleric sticked to a single uninteresting at-will spell)!