First TPK in 5th and and what we took away from it

Let me start by saying I am one of those DMs that don't want anyone to die but I also won't cripple Monsters or pull punches just because the battle is going badly for the PCs. I have killed a character or two in my day but I've rarely ever TPKed a whole group (maybe 3 times in 25 years of DMing).

Anyway the other night using the new 10/29 playtest and Caves of Chaos I ran 5 players (4 seasoned and 1 new-bee) through a session. Well after killing about 1/2 the Kobolds they decided to parlay with them, It took two tries (the PCs ticked them off once and another battle ensued) but in the end the PCs agreed to leave the Kobolds caves and stop killing them if the Kobolds told them where some prisoner/slaves were. They were happy to send them to the big piggy people (what my Kobolds call Orcs). I tried to give the PCs a hint that this might be too much for them right now (they were still 1st level) by having one of the Kobold guards say "You are really going to go deal with them?!?" referring to the big piggy people. Unfortunately the PCs got cocky and just said "we will kill them just like we destroyed you"


So cut to the entrance to B: Orc Lair and in they went totally ignoring something that would give them away to more Orcs (Trying not to do spoilers). So they frontal assaulted the first guard room and before they could finish them off around the corner came 4 more that HAD been alerted. Well it was all over very fast (3 rounds maybe). Now they really never stood a chance, 4 Orcs plus 1 that was still standing from the first room = a 350 XP encounter. This is almost double what a 1st level party can handle. So no one thought they should have won. What did surprise all of us was how quickly they folded like a deck of cards and how quickly PCs died, died (AKA negative Con + level)


Here is what we discussed post game:


 - The 1D6 on a failed death save was way harsh. Two of the first three PCs to drop from a Orc great axe hit died before anyone could do anything. The very first death save failed and both died from 1 dice roll (they rolled too well). All of us like the design of the death save and the risks but the 1D6 seemed a bit heavy. We all thought a 1D4 would still be scary but not deadly in one round. I know this would become less of a threat at higher levels but 1st and 2nd level PCs will drop like flies if it’s a 1D6.


 - Now that D&D has a much more dangerous feel to combat (something we all like as it turns out) we noticed that when things started to go badly there was very little way out AKA Running away which ya really need to do when things go that bad becomes a nightmare. Since Disengage is an action and so is dodge you can't combine them to create a rear defense, disengage and move only gets you 35 to 40 ft from the enemy so anything with ranged weapons just fires away, finally the hustle and move gets ya a good distance each round (50 to 60 ft) but they just keep following you, get within 5 ft and wait for their next opportunity attack. This last plan is what the last 2 PCs tried, the wizard was dropped on the first opportunity attack and the fighter was dropped after they chased her outside the cave.


 - On the PCs side they learned that in 5th Ed. 1st and I would guess 2nd level PCs are very very squishy. You really need to think out you combat and decide if it’s in your favor to even try.


 - Orcs are scary to low level PCs in 5th Ed

Good feedback. Yeah, low-level in D&DN requires a lot of cunning. My impression of most monsters was that they may not hit too often, but they wreck PCs on a successful hit. It makes for a very lethal game.
I like the idea of a full disengagement giving a bonus to defenses. One thing I liked about pre-OA D&DN was the ability for retreating things to actually get away. It seems much harder now. Hope wotc gets good feedback from you and your group!
"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
Hmm, would you like it if monsters could just run away instead of the OA? Maybe the OA should go away?

Then it'd boil down to more chase scenes, which could have a few skill checks in them instead. Might be very interesting.
Currently running a playtest, weekly, online D&D Next Session using a virtual table system called roll20.
An early TPK? We're the players discouraged or eager to give it another go? Flux brings up a good point, something I've thought a bit about in the past. Good chase rules would be a real benefit and could add some real excitement. I like the idea of some skill or ability checks.
Actually, I did enjoy monsters retreating (or surrendering) and the resulting skill checks involved.
"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

Yeah a disengage en mass would be good. I this OA has its point during battle but if one side (either PCs or bad guys) decide to bug out there should be some simplified way of dealing with it. Make it not so automatic but not as deadly as a bunch of OAs and ranged attacks. It would help PCs get out of really nasty situations with some chance of living to fight another day and it would allow for great suspense situations when the bad guy gets away to seek revenge another day. I've noticed in several versions of D&D the group that retreats has such a high chance of TPK or being wiped out that both sides are too inclined to be all in.


It wasn't an early TPK they had managed to wait and attack almost half the kobolds (previous session) while they were out raiding. They had actually gotten to 112 XP each (New XP rules) so they were close to 2nd level. I don't think 2nd level would have saved them from a large enough group of Orcs with good die rolls however.


The group took it well they know I'm not out to get them and this is a playtest after all. We discussed it and then I said next session that was just a bad dream the wizard had and they are still back near the Kobold caves when they wake up (Think Dallas the TV show undo). The Wizard woke up and said ya know I think going after the Orcs right now would be a REALLY bad idea!


I think if one whole side of a battle says that's it we're out of here and they have some form of egress then there should be maybe a default damage they all take and any that are still standing run and or get a chance to care off unconscious comrades, or the last round of combat each combatant on the winning side gets an attack but the defenses of the retreating group (there has to be more than one left standing) go up like a collective dodge.

If the winning side wants to pursue they can but it’s a fun skill challenge not a slow protracted battle. Group track vs. group stealth, Group chase/harass attack vs. a bugger out group defense (3 misses and they get away) each hit does a little damage to all.


          
To be honest, I really liked playing the 1st playtest package that didn't have AoO (OA).  I found that it was refreshing to let PCs or monsters turn tail and run if they wanted to.  Nobody abused it in our games, but I know that a lot of people have argued that it could be abused.   Since they could move without the OA, combats seemed more interesting.   It also allowed rogues and wizards a chance to take cover after an attack.  Since they are so squishy, I really liked that too.

Maybe with expertise dice, there could be another maneuver that grants OA so that not everyone gets it, and fighter types (or Rogues who get the manevuer) would have to save an expertise die in reserve if they felt they wanted to use OA.  

A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"

 

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

 

 

I like the idea of using expertise dice for OA's, make it like Cleave in that you roll to hit as normal and use an expertise die for damage. All in all I'm not a big fan of expertise/maneuvers and feel it kind of limits things like swordmages and whatnot. I like customization.

OA as expertise damage I can get behind though since it wouldn't be instadeath but is still risky. 

I like the connection between OA and expertise dice. To be fair there has to be some trait or action possible for certain Monsters that have fighter/marshal type qualities.

Whatever is built in I just want there to be a plausible way to disengage without a complete rout (from either side). I think it would also be helpful if it’s a fairly simple process so a running retreat can be cool and have risk for either side but not a rules, dice slog.

Forgot to ask- did you play it grid/miniatures style, old school descriptive narrative style, or a combination? Btw live the idea about the bad dream, keeps the pcs alive and helps guide them regarding where not to go. Well done! You remember Dallas? Heh, me too.
I mean "love" the idea of the dream, not "live." Autocorrect...
Yeah if ya can't use old sitcom and soap opera plots in D&D what else were they good for LOL.


Once I had the PCs come into a town that was completely deserted except for a little girl and a cat named Jonesy. When they figured out what that meant they were truely afraid for thier PCs.


Anyway to your question: It was grid and miniature style. I've always liked to use maps and figures with some narrative when the situation allowed. Actually because the battle was fully displayed the wizard came up with a great last ditch idea which worked but not on all of them. He cast Color spray with the Red option on a tight pack of 3 Orcs. He actually dropped two by having them attack each other and badly wounded a third. But that left two others outside the Cone area and they already had 3 PCs down so it was great but just a bit too late.
Count me in on the reduced role of OAs (AoOs).  The idea is sound and resonable, but I am not sure it enhances play.  NEXT/5E is more about fun than tactics or realism, right?  Modularity can add in additional rules for the more tractically minded.

Unfortunately, there's a lot tied into mobility and action, so it would take some careful consideration to ensure game balance is maintained without OAs.  As we've seen in previous editions, the gentleman's agreement doesn't always work... some players will take advantage of loopholes and imbalance putting the DM in the unenviable position of having to be spoilsport or allowing game mechanic abuse to persist.

Now if only my PC hadn't blown up, taking all my playtest materials and campaign info down with it, I'd try to come up with a solution myself.

Hopefully, I can get back up and running before the next packet hits. 
Count me in on the reduced role of OAs (AoOs).  The idea is sound and resonable, but I am not sure it enhances play.  NEXT/5E is more about fun than tactics or realism, right?  Modularity can add in additional rules for the more tractically minded.

Unfortunately, there's a lot tied into mobility and action, so it would take some careful consideration to ensure game balance is maintained without OAs.  As we've seen in previous editions, the gentleman's agreement doesn't always work... some players will take advantage of loopholes and imbalance putting the DM in the unenviable position of having to be spoilsport or allowing game mechanic abuse to persist.

Now if only my PC hadn't blown up, taking all my playtest materials and campaign info down with it, I'd try to come up with a solution myself.

Hopefully, I can get back up and running before the next packet hits. 

I really do want to see a clearer way to disengage from combat as a group. I don't think this is a new problem either. I felt that from 3.5 on there was an "all in" aspect to combat. Getting away from a conflict before its conclusion seemed nearly impossible for either side. Sure you could stage something or have magic ready as the DM if you needed the bad guy to get away but that was pre-defined plot stuff. I see how getting rid of OA would support this possibility but I think this would over balance combat the other way making it a little too fluid. So I think the way to is either restrict OAs to only certain traits and maneuvers or doing something like:


At the start of each round each side of the conflict (PC group and bad guys run by DM) declares intensions: Continue fighting (round goes on as usual) or disengage (round stops and disengage contest goes into effect).

All parties disengaging have defenses go up as if they all did the dodge action. All parties wishing to stop the disengage, roll a basic attack using their primary attack bonus. For each hit you add you level or the monsters level as damage. So if all three Orcs had hit as the party ran away anyone that has an AC at or below the attacks would take 6 points of damage while running away. If you are still above 0 HP you escaped. If you didn't you are dying or unconscious depending on what the DM feels the bad guys wanted to do or if it was the bad guys running away it’s the PCs option if they are dying or unconscious.


Its fast has risks but is way better then multiple rounds of being swung at by a 1D12+2 battle axe as you try and get out of the room, woods, hallway, etc...





    
Very nice.  Thanks for the post.

I agree that the newer version of D&D is a lot more dangerous than before, if only because  everything happens so fast, and there's very little margin for error at the lower levels--as you noted.

I was playing the other day with my daughter, and I damn-near killed her by accident in what I'd planned to be a throw-away encounter.  But she wanted to try to Bluff first, and when it failed, her Wizard was stuck at close quarters with the bad guys.

BTW, I've had situations like this where I had the PCs wake up after having been defeated in the enemies' dungeon.  Granted, this was 4e, but still, it gave me the chance to run a Skills Challenge called "Survive Drow Torture".  Well worth the experience overall, and one you could easily export to an Orc cavern. 
DannoE "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one"  The Internet's Best Triathlon / Comic/ D&D Blog!
Here's an idea.


-Keep OA's
-Disengage no longer consumes an action.  It is instead something you do in place of a move.  You move half your speed instead of your full speed, but you don't provoke OA's.  Additionally, you can't attack (or cast on offensive spell)until your next turn (but you can still use dodge or hustle or a heal).

This allows people to move relatively freely without much abuse.  You can still hustle a retreat that will keep you from getting attacked too much (the opponents will also have to hustle to keep up).  But ranged characters will have a hard time abusing it to kite melee characters because of the speed penalty and the lost attack.  It also prevents monsters from just ignoring the fighter to pound on the wizard (or rather, it gives the fighter time to chase them down if they do).   And what's more, it allows for hit-then-run tactics for any rogue or wizard that happens to get pinned down (bunch of kobolds ambushing me, eh?  Eat some flaming hands whilst I retreat behind my meatshield).
Hello everyone, after reading thru this thread so far, I will say I will agree with those, Rhenny, dbmoore  that say OA needs regulated.  I especially like the idea of needing to have expertise dice to use it.  Not everyone should be skilled in being able to tell or care that there is a free moment to get a strike in.  A wizard might be to busy, or a cleric might see it as against thier faith, etc. But not everyone should get an OA freely. 
   
I will also have to agree with dbmoore with a disengage formula.  Don't get me wrong quantumphotonkid, changing disengage to a move type seems interesting, but it will still lead to dice slog as dbmoore put it, LOL and run slump.  Back to the infinite loop.  35 feet total disengage for some that only can move 25 feet is still not enough to get away by any means.  As mentioned by someone, the next ranged attack puts them down anyways.  And the rule for disengage HAS to be a group declaration.  Too many times have I seen everyone want to run and then the one does something different and then complains that they died.  Well, this keeps from that happening.  You make it a vote, the majority wins, then all go...  no issues.  Simple as that.

I do like an idea of modularity for those who wish to use OA differently.  A feat that allows you to have OA.  Not everyone likes to waste feats...  So only those who HAVE to have it will give up the feat slot. LOL.  But i stilll like expertise and specific classes knowing OA better.. makes more sense.

DannoE, I like the skill challenge of doom ideas..  awesome! 


Anyways, just my thoughts on it.    
    

  
I like the idea of having AoO as a reaction maneuver. I also just had the idea that the ability to disengage combined with a move be a maneuver as well.

Both of these seem appropriate for all 3 of the current expertise dice classes though, and we are still trying to figure out how to distinguish the fighter more. Perhaps the fighter gets an extra die just for reaction maneuvers or something.
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