Playtest with III packet - review

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Second Playtest with Third Packet – Adventure “Reclaiming Blingdenstone”


Group Background: Experienced master and players


We played nearly every editions of D&D from basic to 4th edition, and liked them all, but we always felt a sense of progression (evolution of game), so we like much more the last edition than every earlier and we could never go back. 


I never felt any need to defend my edition, not I can understand an “edition war”, we don’t need any support or appreciation to play our game (we have already most manuals, we use our own setting and we create our own adventures), so we’ll pass to D&D Next only if it will be a progress compared to the earlier editions.


-          First Session Playtest


Party: 


Player 1) human/wizard/academic/jester


Player 2) high elf/cleric/warbringer/knight


Player 3) human/fighter /bounty hunter


- Quests: They talked to the gnomes, killed (easily) some orcs and went to the pechs, negotiated with success, then went to house central, here they defeated some skeletons and zombies (that refused to die with a good scaring effect) and then went directly to the wight.


I left them many opportunities to understand the danger of the adversary and flee or surrender… but they stood their ground and fight  to the last… so they were wiped out .


-          Second Session Playtest


Before the session I tried to explain to my players that their characters were not supposed to be heroes (as in the last edition), but just very normal peoples that were just beginning to confront with real danger… so maybe  they want to be more cautious and withdraw when necessary…


New party:


Player 1) Luminoso: mountain dwarf/cleric/lightbringer/priest


Player 2) Sergent Kadonos: human/war – wizard/soldier


Player 3) Berallion II: human/fighter/bounty hunter


This time they talked with every important gnome, then went to the Wormwrithings and, very professionally, killed the kobolds, the  blind ogre, took the crystals and closed the tunnels (with the precious help of their guide). After taking the reward the passed to second level.


Then, after listening the singing stones, they began the long quest for Pingtu, recovered the weapons of the drows, and then went to the central hall, avoiding traps and killings zombies and skeletons.


This time the party was much more careful, only the fighter charged the wight, the others stood just around the corner of the exit and killed the skeletons and the zombies one at a time. Unfortunately the wight was still to strong and lucky for the fighter that, let by himself  in the room, was easily killed.


The cleric and the mage, after destroying the monsters attacked the wight and, with only few hits killed him and took the crown and his blade.


General Conclusions:


-          During the whole adventure the players were very negatives, they mercilessly  criticized the rules, complaining about the absence of real choices, the dullness of fightings and so on, nevertheless I coaxed them to give an opinion of good and bad points  this packet:


Good: advantage/disadvantage rule (much better than summing a potentially endless list of + X and – Y); speed of encounters due to reduction of hit points of monsters.


Bad (after eliminating the most caustic comments): absence of real choices in combat; no strategic or tactical rules; specialties without meaning of flavor (just some bonus, very dull, flavorless); spell and maneuvers too flat (it was just too easy to chose the best action and often the fell not to have a real choice at all).


 


Some details on players complaints:


-          few occasions of opportunity attack: they actually complained that the monsters were very stupid not to react to some obvious actions (as using ranged attacks in melee or moving around the monsters but without moving beyond the creature reach), they felt this was too unrealistic and reduced too much their options (the cleric used always lance of faith, it was just better than using a melee weapon);


-          few movements or positions created advantage or disadvantage, so they could just no move at all;


-          the whole system felt too raw, like a D&D for children (actually I explained many times that we were playtesting the core rules, and that complexity will come later, but they were just not interested…


-          cleric: player 2) felt completely useless, the high elf as race was too disadvantaged as cleric; player 1) built his cleric carefully and was very efficient, but he was dying of boredom, at a point he felt that he was just rolling dices without making any choice;


-          wizard: player 1) and 2) felt that it was the best developed class, with much more choice every rounds, but  player 1) complained about the dullness of spells and he didn’t appreciate at all not to have any encounter spell;


-          fighter: the maneuvers were useful, but without deepness, it was too easy, and so it was too boring, choose the right action, the melee fight felt too random;


-          the adventure was appreciated, but they wanted to play it with a more complex system.


My observations


-          It’s true that, at this point, fights have nearly no meaning, but I expect to see early these “layers of complexity” that were promised ;


-          my players are just too used to have a complex system, they are not disposed to accept a compromise, so it would be very difficult to carry on playtesting until we have a module for expert players or something of this kind;


-          speed of combat is a good point, but it cannot go to the dretriment of strategic choices.


-          I felt that the rule for maneuvers for martial classes is a good idea, but must be developed to a more complex system.


-          The magic system of at will spell/signature spell/daily spells, if it is strictly better that a pure vancian horror,  inevitably leads to compare this underdeveloped system to the complexity of the last edition, with obvious conclusions, I think it would be better to try a completely new system than setting for a bad compromise.


 

No more vancian. No "edition war" for me, thank'you.
Had you and your group played any of the earlier playtests? Did the group feel the same way? Does your group feel the party lacks the number of options allowed in 4e? Did they ever try to improvise with their actions (use burning hands to set oil on fire or use a deadly strike from a fighter to hack off a zombie's leg, etc.)?
"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
Had you and your group played any of the earlier playtests? Did the group feel the same way? Does your group feel the party lacks the number of options allowed in 4e? Did they ever try to improvise with their actions (use burning hands to set oil on fire or use a deadly strike from a fighter to hack off a zombie's leg, etc.)?



1) Yes, we played with the first packet and yes the group feel the same way, if possible this time the reaction was worst, maybe because they were expecting a real improuvement.
2) Surely the lacks of options allowed by the 4e is the greatest problem for my group.
3) I tried many times to persuade them to improvise, but they utterly refuse the notion... they improvise (if you can say so) only out of combat.

No more vancian. No "edition war" for me, thank'you.
Had you and your group played any of the earlier playtests? Did the group feel the same way? Does your group feel the party lacks the number of options allowed in 4e? Did they ever try to improvise with their actions (use burning hands to set oil on fire or use a deadly strike from a fighter to hack off a zombie's leg, etc.)?



1) Yes, we played with the first packet and yes the group feel the same way, if possible this time the reaction was worst, maybe because they were expecting a real improuvement.
2) Surely the lacks of options allowed by the 4e is the greatest problem for my group.
3) I tried many times to persuade them to improvise, but they utterly refuse the notion... they improvise (if you can say so) only out of combat.



1) ...that's odd. I mean, this playtest added substantial variance for the fighter and mixed up the cleric's options some in a pretty solid fashion. Neither are perfect, but they've evolved a lot from the first playtest. I guess they expected something much closer to 4e than they got? Do they feel like it's an improvement from 3.x? Not in the same direction as 4e, but distinctly evolved from 3rd edition rules?
2) Which options did they prefer from 4e? Being able to pick from some at-wills, encounters, and dailies? Did your group customize powers through gear frequently? To be honest, I don't think the playtest won't have evolved far enough along for them to enjoy it for a bit more. 
3) That's really weird to me. Would you let them improvise 4e-style at-wills or encounter power type things in combat (if they wanted to)? For example, would you allow a fighter to perform tide-of-iron as the 4e power, even though it's not specifically covered in D&DN? If so, you may want to put improvisation in those terms next time. I can't fathom how dull combat would be without this type of thing.
"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
Did your players tell you why they didn't improvise?
Had you and your group played any of the earlier playtests? Did the group feel the same way? Does your group feel the party lacks the number of options allowed in 4e? Did they ever try to improvise with their actions (use burning hands to set oil on fire or use a deadly strike from a fighter to hack off a zombie's leg, etc.)?



1) Yes, we played with the first packet and yes the group feel the same way, if possible this time the reaction was worst, maybe because they were expecting a real improuvement.
2) Surely the lacks of options allowed by the 4e is the greatest problem for my group.
3) I tried many times to persuade them to improvise, but they utterly refuse the notion... they improvise (if you can say so) only out of combat.



1) ...that's odd. I mean, this playtest added substantial variance for the fighter and mixed up the cleric's options some in a pretty solid fashion. Neither are perfect, but they've evolved a lot from the first playtest. I guess they expected something much closer to 4e than they got? Do they feel like it's an improvement from 3.x? Not in the same direction as 4e, but distinctly evolved from 3rd edition rules?
2) Which options did they prefer from 4e? Being able to pick from some at-wills, encounters, and dailies? Did your group customize powers through gear frequently? To be honest, I don't think the playtest won't have evolved far enough along for them to enjoy it for a bit more. 
3) That's really weird to me. Would you let them improvise 4e-style at-wills or encounter power type things in combat (if they wanted to)? For example, would you allow a fighter to perform tide-of-iron as the 4e power, even though it's not specifically covered in D&DN? If so, you may want to put improvisation in those terms next time. I can't fathom how dull combat would be without this type of thing.

1) I'm sure that they were expecting too much from a playtest, then I must admit that they never were very interested in D&D Next, they accepted to try it mainly due to my insistence... they thought that it was worst than 3rd edition, mainly (I think) for the rules of movement  and opportunity attack in combat. I believe that they like too much to have a complete (and complex) system to can judge some single rules.
2) They prefer the possibility to chose many powers and to use them at will/encounter/daily; no, we never customize powers.
3) Actually we never truly improvised in any edition (as long as I can remember), we are very strict about using rules (if there is not an express rule for an action we usually don't try to do the action). This time I told them specifically that they could do any actions that they could imagine ("tell me what you want to do or realize and I will tell you how you can do it"), but they never tried to improvise anything beyond the ruled actions, I think it's just a mindset (maybe because every one of them is also a dungeon master, I don't know). Yes, combat was very dull... next time (if ever I could coax them to give another try) I'll try to explain the improvisation as you suggest (as if they could use 4th ed. powers).
No more vancian. No "edition war" for me, thank'you.
Sounds like your players are just playing smart. Everything written on the character sheet has a math bonus to succeed. The consequence of that is anything not written on the character sheet is more likely to fail. Your players are smart - they won't try things that are more likely to fail. To get people to improvise, you have to compensate for that. Try doing an 'improvisation bonus day' where all improvised actions get +3 to succeed. Also, don't tell the players this, but start reducing the impact of failure. Players are more likely to do imaginative things if it doesn't hurt to try.
I agree w/ Fim, avoiding improv is a mechanically smart decision. For some groups it's too risky to improvise. I think the 4e terms might make it more easy for them w/ something they're familiar with, and the improvising being along the lines of "I hit and...". It could mitigate the risks associated which some groups on these forums have seen.
It is possible your group just needs more complete and codified rules. There is nothing wrong with that as a playstyle... as long as everyone is happy. 4e terms and bonuses to improv might make the game more fun, but if it doesn't... let them know you'll want to try again in another few months when more rules are added.
I do find it odd that they don't see the rules as an evolution from 3rd ed. Oh well. I hope eventually your group can see D&DN as an evolved game.
"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
Are you doing Theater of the Mind combat or are you trying to Grid the combat? While there are no official grid rules it translates well to grid and does give those players who are used to that form of combat a better frame of reference. I switch it up in my games so that some of the 4e only players get a bit more out of the game but its getting used less as they get more comfortable with telling me what they are doing rather than a power or ability that they scream out to me and roll a d20
Are you doing Theater of the Mind combat or are you trying to Grid the combat? While there are no official grid rules it translates well to grid and does give those players who are used to that form of combat a better frame of reference. I switch it up in my games so that some of the 4e only players get a bit more out of the game but its getting used less as they get more comfortable with telling me what they are doing rather than a power or ability that they scream out to me and roll a d20

I used the grid, the hint that we could play without grid and miniatures was rejected with horror and scorn.
No more vancian. No "edition war" for me, thank'you.
Are you doing Theater of the Mind combat or are you trying to Grid the combat? While there are no official grid rules it translates well to grid and does give those players who are used to that form of combat a better frame of reference. I switch it up in my games so that some of the 4e only players get a bit more out of the game but its getting used less as they get more comfortable with telling me what they are doing rather than a power or ability that they scream out to me and roll a d20

I used the grid, the hint that we could play without grid and miniatures was rejected with horror and scorn.

yeah I am pretty sure they will not like D&D Next ever then if they can not stand a game without grid.

I had two people quit without even playing when they heard no grid or that I would run it without grid.