First real playtest started with packet 10/29/12

Okay so this was my group's first real taste of DDN. My group had created characters based on the 10/8/12 packet initially, and we got through a single encounter since character creation and getting to know the new system took up a lot of time that evening. I did have to explain (after it was explained to me here) that the 10/8 packet was just a slightly tweaked version of the packet from August, so really this new packet wasn't really as soon as it seemed. With a little grumbling (Archer fighter wanted the Archer specialty back naturally) everyone updated their characters in the week leading up to tonight's game so we could get started right away.  

The group comprised of a Dwarf Guardian Fighter, an Elf Archer Fighter, a Halfling Sneak Rogue, a Human War Cleric, and a Human War Wizard, so pretty well rounded. I decided to eschew the mat and minis for tonight's game (impressions on that later), and go strictly "ToTM" as they call it now. 

I'll put up the obligatory warning now that if you are a player in another DM's game and he is running Caves of Chaos, don't read any further etc etc so on and so forth.

I described the ravine as required and added a few little touches of my own to embelish for my own story. They moved into the goblin section of the caves as that was the first place they saw. As they moved in they tipped off the random patrol of four almost right away. As scripted, one yelled out and initiative was on. 

The wizard moved just ahead of the group and used Thunder Wave, killing all four of the initial goblins in one go. But of course the call had been sounded and there were now two coming at them from the east and two from the west. I kept initiative going as they moved cautiously towards the group, using the darkness to hide. As they got closer I had everyone make checks, but they all failed to see the incoming goblins, so they popped out at them seemingly out of nowhere, gaining Advantage on their attacks. Only one hit though (my rolls were abysmal) and scratched the dwarf fighter. After a brief skirmish it was down to a single goblin (from the eastern passage) who decided to run back to his guard room. He alerted the other 5 even as the cleric chased him down.

The group mowed through this group as well, and moved up towards the hoibgoblin area. After some deliberation (and some good Listen checks) they decided based on hearing 13 different voices that it would be wiser to head the other way. They came across the remaining five goblins in the guard room to the west of the entrance all waiting for them. Two were already set up in the back fiddling with the secret door that leads to the ogre's cavern, while three hid behind a table, using it for cover. The dwarf fighter and the elf archer took out two of the goblins behind the table, but the rogue got smart and tried to use his sling on one of the one sin the back...and missed. they got the door open and slid the money sack in, awakening the ogre.

The group managed to finish off all but one goblin and the last one decided that descretion was the better part of valor and moved into the room with the ogre and hid behind him, or attempted to. The wizard then moved up and used Thunder Wave, damaging the ogre (and gaining his attention) while killing the goblin, before backing off realizing that angering the ogre might not have been the best of ideas. Having finished off one of the goblins that was by the secret door to the ogre's lair, the dwarf was in position when the ogre came through. He swung and missed (a roll of a 3) and didn't even do the auto damage. The group then managed to drop the ogre before his next turn, the dwarf fighter (13 damage) and wizard (a total of 21 damage including the initial Thunder Wave) doing a lion's share of the damage due to low rolls from the rest of the group.

Overall we had a lot of fun with it. It was a fresh change from our 4e game (where we are at low Paragon) where it feels like we get bogged down constantly in people taking time on their turns deciding what to do, interrupts, reactions, OAs and everything else. Also character creation was fats and easy, and I have a feeling it will remain so even at highe rlevels, so that making a new character to bring in may not be the headache it is in 4th (oh my character died suddenly and unexpectedly! I may as well go home because it's going to take me a couple of hours just to put together a new character). Also the fact that the group took that ogre down gives me a sense of relief, since I know that now, even at 1st level a 3rd level monster can be thrown at a group, and they can beat it. that means that Mearls and team are spiot on for monster design. They stated that they wanted the monsters to be a viable threat at all levels of play, and so far it seems that their plan is working.  

To me it feels like a modernization of 1e/2e and I like that since 2e is one of my favorite editions. I love 4th, don't get me wrong, but I have the feeling that Next is going to cater to an older style of game, and I love that idea. 4th has its place, and is really good for a linear story or a series of delves, but honestly I have had a hell of a time running a sandbox type game because there are just too many monsters and I can't memorize stats like some people seem to be able to and I don't have the room to sit with 5 monster books open in front of me as I try to put together an encounter on the fly (which I can't do within 5 minutes because, again, I just can't have everything memorized, and that includes what levels monsters are, there really are just too many of them. Hell I can't even keep track of which specific monsters they redid in the MV from the first MM!). I have to sit down and painstakingly create every encounter when I run my own setting and campaign in 4th, and it has been a trial of endurance at times.  

Also getting away from the mat and minis after 2.5 editions (I started using them in late 2nd edition) and going back to imagining everything was quite nice. We all had a blast with it, and we found ourselves describing things more often and with more flavor. The entire gorup (who has been together since the beginnings of 3rd) kind of balked at the idea of no mat or minis, but they quickly warmed to the idea once we had our first combat. 

So all and all, my group and I are looking forward to our next playtest session, and we are liking the experience so far. Personally I am looking forward to Next if it is going to be anything like they are showing us in the current playtest packets, maybe bring back combat specialties, but that's the only thing I miss from the previous packet. I am really looking forward to the modules, how they can be messed with and how I can make a D&D that really fits my homebrew setting.         

I'll post more specific observations and thoughts once I get my notes compiled and have more time to do so. 
Glad your group had so much fun! It'll be interesting to hear your observations since you guys haven't played a playtest before.
"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
Great report.  It is nice to see how you and your 4e playing group felt a freshness to this iteration.   Did the Wizard player (or you as DM) feel weird that the Wizard could Thunder Wave every encounter?  Did it become the "go to" spell and feel monotonous or did was that not an issue?

I remember the first time we playtested the first D&DNext package after playing 4e for years.  As you did, we found it refreshing and interesting to get off the grid for a while, playing theater of the mind style like we used to over 30 years ago.

Keep playtesting and enjoy.     

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

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

 

 

I want to start this by first stating that I have been playing D&D in its many iterations since 2nd edition, though I started with the Basic Rules Cyclopedia (where elf, dwarf and halfling were classes). My group consists of two gamers who have been playing since 1st edition, and two who started playing primarily during 3.X with a smattering of older editions here and there. We have played a wide array of games as a group over the past 10 years, everything from World of Darkness to Warhammer Fantasy to Call of Cthulu. We know what we like in a game system, and so far everyone is enjoying the old school feel but modern rules approach of Next. 

Okay so as promised here are my more specific observations - 

1) While player characters are powered down from 4th edition starting out, they are still fairly powerful in the scheme of things if the monster stats are anything to go by. After all they did manage to kill an ogre in one round with a few good rolls. That, if anything, is heroic in and of itself.

2) Things felt 'swingy' at times. Like older editions there were a lot of misses but a hit usually meant someone or something was going down. I personally like this better than 4e's bag of hitpoints but easy to hit characters and monsters, more as to why below.

3) Combat flowed much smoother and quicker than previous editions. More reminscent of 2e where combats took all of five to ten minutes per encounter. 3e and 4e both bogged down massively in combat situations, especially at higher levels. This is partially due to the if it gets hit it goes down sort of combats that Next is emulating from previous editions as I noted above in #2. I personally hope they keep it this way, with only certain things getting multiple attacks (like fighters get at level 6, and only certain monsters get).  

4) DMing. Really liked how easy it was to adjudicate actions by telling them to make and add if you have it. The static DCs are also nice. All I have to do is remember that 7 is the bottom, 22 is the top and base it on that scale. Very easy. Very nice. Also it was nice to see how very little we really needed the mat and minis. I think it drew us into the game world a lot more as I stated in my post above. Monster stats being streamlined is nice. Makes them easier to work with. While I loved 4e's monster design, it made them really hard to use on the fly or in home made adventures since I needed the entire (usually quite large) stat block. With Next it looks like I'll just need a few lines and that's it (unless I add class abilities, but even then, it's only a few extra lines).      

5) Expertise dice. For the fighters it came into play more often than I would have thought. The archer used hers a couple of times to negate cover, and hit when she would have missed otherwise. The dwarf fighter managed to save the wizard from a strike that would have dropped him to 0. The rogue picked up sneak attack, so obviously, (when he hit, poor player is a notoriously bad roller) his came into play when he dealt damage. I felt that for Sneak Attack the damage was a litttle low so I just houserulled slightly and told him to double anything he rolled on his die for damage. I made sure everyone else was okay with this change, and they were, stating that I should make sure to give feedback that everyone felt that the Sneak Attacks should deal more damage.

6) Magic and spells. First to answer Rhenny specifically here, coming from 4e, it didn't feel weird for the wizard to use Thunder Wave every encounter, since we're used to encounter powers, and he only used it when he could get into a position where he could (based on my descriptions of things). I think in the long run though, it could get a bit tedious, especially when he starts leveling and keeps having to fall back to it. I also think that the Cantrip at-wills as they stand are a bit limiting. I personally liked it better when Magic Missile was a Cantrip for those that don't want to wade into combat when they run out of spells otherwise.

On that note...2 spell slots? Seriously? I understand WHY they are limiting them, but I think that they could add one or two more slots per level at cap. 2 is way limiting and will result in wizards memorizing the same spell twice at each level in a lot of cases. They may be going back to a 4e type system where spells are all about combat, and I don't think that's the right approach, a lot of us missed spells that could be used in and out of combat depending upon one's creativity. What happened to grease and similar spells? 

So my solution would be to make more cantrips (maybe slide some spells back to cantrip status like Magic Missile as I mentioned above), and allow for more signature spells as the wizard leveled. Also add to max spell slots somehow. Maybe add half the wizard's Intelligence modifier?

Clerics of course have the same issue, and we're going to see a lot of clerics not wanting to always pray for heal spells, especially ones that have a different domain. My players tend to go for spells that fits their character and their vision of said character. If there were more slots available, then the cleric would be able to set one aside per level for a heal spell, just in case, but then pray for the spells they feel would fir their vision best. And on that note Turn Undead was written...I dunno, oddly. Bring back Channel Divinity.  

Overall the previous packet was better on the magic.  

7) The rogue. We liked the way the rogue looked in the previous packet. He felt like a class that could get things done both in and out of combat and it seemed really different from the other classes. His skill mastery was awesome as was Knack, and the sneak attack damage was great though maybe slightly overboard, a more sedate increase would have been fine. This rogue just feels like an inferior fighter that can spend expertise on skills. It doesn't feel all that different. Especially since the archer took a background and specialty that made her just as good at hiding and such as the rogue, only she could do her Deadly Strike at any time.

All and all I like the direction that Next is taking, and with some minor changes we feel that it will be an awesome game.

On a personal note, before I looked at the newer test packets I was looking at possibly resdesigning 2nd edition with modern rules from 4e, kind of mixing them together to get the best from both rules sets. My homebrew setting never did work for 4e that well (I had to do a lot of shoehorning to get things to work as it was built originally for 2nd), and I was looking for a home for it in a system with modern rules designs. Looks like Next very well may save me the trouble and provide me with a system for my setting to call home. Meanwhile inbetween our regular 4e sessions playing out the last bit of the campaign I am running (after which one of my players is taking over as DM and running the 1-30 Orcus arc from the modules) and the playtest I am coming up with a setting built from the ground up as a 4e setting (I am still planning on running 4e here and there even after Next comes out. I think they will provide radically different games) as something to do until Next comes out and I can figure out how to fit it to my setting.   

           
Good feedback. I hope you send (sent?) It back to wotc.
"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
I absolutely did. At least I was figuring that last survey was for this packet since it only asked about the fighter, wizard, cleric, and rogue with no mention of the sorcerer or warlock. 

Also I would like to apologize for any typos in my previous two posts, my fingers get ahead of me sometimes. 
 
No worries about the typos. Lately I type more and more on my phone. I notice typos and misphrasings. Yes, I believe the 4 class one is the current one. Fwiw, I agreed w/ your thoughts and responded as well.
"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
Will be playing another session tomorrow. Will post here on how it goes and any more observations I may have.