Black Friday Playtest (7 PCs)

So since yesterday was the dreaded Black Friday, I ran my players through a short adventure involving some of the themes of Black Friday. The gist of the adventure is that there was a cursed necklace that brought out the worst in a person, in this case greed, and caused it to become a sort of magical disease. A magical disease that caused people to go berserk trying to buy EVERYTHING. I left a few people uninfected so the PCs could get some information about what was going on. As well as have people ask that they save their loved ones. Threw a few red herrings at them but they figured it out, caught the bad guy and destroyed the cursed necklace.
Now, the PCs can go and deal with the reason they came to the village, deal with the monsters in the Caves of Chaos. 

Now this was the first time we got our teeth into the playtest material. I've played a little of it as well as one other of my players. We went step by step, 7 players, through Character Creation. After which I pit them against Black Friday.

Overall, they really liked it. Though they clearly recognized that this still needs work.

Likes:
Advantage/Disadvantage were a big hit. Attacking from stealth and gaining advantage was enjoyable for the Rogues as well as the PC playing the monk. I did improvise a ruling for a called shot using Disadvantage. What I ruled was the person wanted to called shot the back of the bad guy's knee, so he couldn't run. I ruled that the attack would be at a Disadvantage, which wasn't a big deal the player rolled 17 on both dice, and I gave the bad guy a CON save against the damage dealt. He failed and was dropped to a knee and couldn't run. And was then promptly beat into submission by the dwarven fighter and the monk.

Backgrounds also a big hit. The players, for the most part, came in with what race and what class they wanted to play, not all a couple decided after everyone else what to play. The Backgrounds gave them more direction to go with their characters.

Critical Hit damage felt very critical to the PCs. While only one player got in a crit. Everyone was very impressed and approved of the rule. It was particularly critical. Laughing

Character Sheets received some comments in a favorable light. They all liked that all the important game rules, (backgrounds, class features, maneuvers, skills, specialties, spells), were all on the front of the sheet. There were a few minor comments of dislike, see below.

Expertise dice were very well regarded. Everyone who got them really loved using them.

Skills were liked as they were nice and quick to use. Along with not being tied to specific ability scores. This gave them leeway, and myself as well, in how to apply the skill bonus to situations.

Generally Okay with:
Specialties and Feats were regarded with some meh. While I wanted to approach this as written, we went by specialties as opposed to picking ad hoc. The Wizard player felt that the Arcane specialist was particularly weak at first. Only getting detect magic, light, or mage hand 1/day was weak. These are not in any sense game breaking spells. Personally, I completely agree and those should all be at-will or pick one or two of those to be at-will.  Actually, the Endurance Specialist was taken the most as it gave the most useful bonus. The healer one was liked but not picked and others just went with the suggested Specialties. 

Dislikes:
Skill Training. My players a skill lovers. They like the ability to show advancement for their characters through gaining new skills. They were not happy the only way to get new skills was through feats. I am in complete agreement with them as I also like to show advancement through skills. I feel that the when improving skills at the even numbered levels the player should have the option to put the point, or maybe two points, into a new skill if they choose.
For example, say the Fighter wants to know how to identify spells being cast, something similar. He or she goes to the Wizard or Cleric and asks them to teach them the basics of Identifying spells while being cast or some similar concept. The Fighter player is actively receiving training in Knowledge (arcana), they should be able to invest a point into it. It should be a +1 bonus initially that they can build up. 

A background complaint was that while just going with the Backgrounds as written, some of the players felt a bit pigeonholed  They could only have those skills and that's that. We didn't try to create any of our own Backgrounds or Specialties. This was for ease of Character Creation and to test the rules as written.

With character sheets, the only real complaint, accept for figuring out where to put information at first, was in the treasure section. They wanted a place especially for money.  

As a DM, I like the system and where its going. I did find that the DCs that are given can be reached by characters with a decent stat and a applicable skill can be reached easily. Even the the Formidable. The Nearly Impossible was pretty well within reach of the Rogue PCs. These numbers may need to be upped within the confines of Bounded Accuracy.
Monsters still fall into the category of hard time hitting but the damage they did deal when the hit did seem to make them a threat. My zombies were particularly threatening, due to lucky rolls, since the damned things wouldn't go down for a while. With the zombies, the Cleric PC wanted to use Cure Light Wounds to harm it. While not written, I ruled that CLW would deal damage to the undead the same as Inflict would deal damage to the living. This should be added to the spells description. 

Overall, I'd say this is on the right track, but in need of a whole lot of spit and polish.


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Specialties and Feats were regarded with some meh. While I wanted to approach this as written, we went by specialties as opposed to picking ad hoc. The Wizard player felt that the Arcane specialist was particularly weak at first. Only getting detect magic, light, or mage hand 1/day was weak. These are not in any sense game breaking spells. Personally, I completely agree and those should all be at-will or pick one or two of those to be at-will.  Actually, the Endurance Specialist was taken the most as it gave the most useful bonus. The healer one was liked but not picked and others just went with the suggested Specialties. 

Overall, I'd say this is on the right track, but in need of a whole lot of spit and polish.



Nice report.   This particular part is a concern for me and my players too.  It seems as if that feat is really not even made for a Wizard to take.  I'd like to get back to the first packet where a wizard could take a feat that granted a number of interesting "at will" cantrips.  Any mage worth his salt should be able to cast Light, Mage Hand, Prestidigitation "at will".   I also think that the limit to preparing only 3 or 4 cantrips per day is too small (I'm not a fan of limiting prepared spells as much as this package does).  The same seems true for the Divine Caster feats too.

Cheers.   
  

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

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

 

 

I believe the reason you cant train new skills is because of skill mastery. If you could train new skills the rogue could learn every important skill.
I believe the reason you cant train new skills is because of skill mastery. If you could train new skills the rogue could learn every important skill.


While I see what your saying with Skill Mastery, would spreading a minor amount of training, +1 in three more skills by 6th level, be breaking the system. While I wouldn't be really worried about this with my players, per say, I am talking about all around. I can't see this as any more breaking than the 4 extra skills you could get, by 3rd level, with the Skill Specialist feat Superior Skill Training. With that feat, which the specialty suggests twice, the PC gains full training in two skills each time its chosen or an additional +2 to a skill you have training in. Which could give a rogue a total of 12 skills, a dwarven rogue 13 skills, and an elven rogue 14 skills.
Well remember with skill mastery the rogue get to add his highest expertise dice roll which can add a good amount to his skills. This could have the potential to make the rogue the best in every skill as he is always gaining more of a bonus with trained skills than everyone else.

Also I think the ability to learn new skills was dropped in the same packet as the rogues move to expertise dice. Ill have to double check exactly which packet lost the ability to learn new skills.
Hey Orkbard, how did the playtest flow with 7 PCs?  I've only DMd for 4 so far.   Was combat still fast enough?  Did everyone feel involved all of the time?   Were there any other observations you made that had to do with challenging a large party?

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

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

 

 

@NightsLastHero That is a problem on it's own. Honestly, I think giving the Rogue Advantage to any skill he/she has training in might actually be a better idea. Don't know if anyone has tried it, yet.

@Rhenny The combat flow was very quick. Everyone was happy with it. Especially since the majority of my players really aren't big on big long combats. I didn't have them roll Initiative and just Round-Robin'd the table for the two combat encounters. The first only involved three of the players as they were trying to grab one of the shopping crazed villagers. The other against the bad guy and his guards plus the zombies of trampled people. That one was 7 PCs vs 4 Human Warriors, 4 Zombies, and 1 Human Witch Doctor (used stats not an actual witch doctor) a 280xp encounter. Which works out as a tough encounter for 7 1st level PCs. 
By the end of the fight, one of the PCs had gone down between the Witch Doctor's Ray of Enfeeblement and a Zombie smash. Half of the PCs, the melee types, had taken damage equal to 3/4s of their hit points. The ranged PCs were mostly unscathed. Though the elven noble Wizard had her dress covered in zombie gore, so I count that too. Smile

Apparently, a couple of players have decided to refer to Next as D&D Lite. This is because the game seemed far lighter on the rules than previous editions we've played. They find this to be a good thing.  
@NightsLastHero That is a problem on it's own. Honestly, I think giving the Rogue Advantage to any skill he/she has training in might actually be a better idea. Don't know if anyone has tried it, yet.

@Rhenny The combat flow was very quick. Everyone was happy with it. Especially since the majority of my players really aren't big on big long combats. I didn't have them roll Initiative and just Round-Robin'd the table for the two combat encounters. The first only involved three of the players as they were trying to grab one of the shopping crazed villagers. The other against the bad guy and his guards plus the zombies of trampled people. That one was 7 PCs vs 4 Human Warriors, 4 Zombies, and 1 Human Witch Doctor (used stats not an actual witch doctor) a 280xp encounter. Which works out as a tough encounter for 7 1st level PCs. 
By the end of the fight, one of the PCs had gone down between the Witch Doctor's Ray of Enfeeblement and a Zombie smash. Half of the PCs, the melee types, had taken damage equal to 3/4s of their hit points. The ranged PCs were mostly unscathed. Though the elven noble Wizard had her dress covered in zombie gore, so I count that too. Smile

Apparently, a couple of players have decided to refer to Next as D&D Lite. This is because the game seemed far lighter on the rules than previous editions we've played. They find this to be a good thing.  




That encounter sounds fun.  Holy "Dawn of the Dead" Batman!  

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

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

 

 

Nice feedback, the session sounds like it was a lot of fun!

I feel that the when improving skills at the even numbered levels the player should have the option to put the point, or maybe two points, into a new skill if they choose.
For example, say the Fighter wants to know how to identify spells being cast, something similar. He or she goes to the Wizard or Cleric and asks them to teach them the basics of Identifying spells while being cast or some similar concept. The Fighter player is actively receiving training in Knowledge (arcana), they should be able to invest a point into it. It should be a +1 bonus initially that they can build up.

This is the same idea I came up with.  If it isn't made an official part of the rules I would definitely houserule it, because it makes complete sense.
I'm not worried about how it interacts with the Skill Mastery maneuver for a few reasons:
1) Skill Mastery might change
2) Rogues can already gain access to 2 new skills (at +3) from a single feat
3) If you are really worried, just say that Skill Mastery only applies to the skills you got from your Rogue scheme.

A background complaint was that while just going with the Backgrounds as written, some of the players felt a bit pigeonholed  They could only have those skills and that's that. We didn't try to create any of our own Backgrounds or Specialties. This was for ease of Character Creation and to test the rules as written.

This might seem a bit of a nitpick, but the rules as written say that you can take whatever skills you want.  If your players decided to limit themselves to the premade ideas and then complained that those ideas made them feel pigeonholed...well, I'm sure you can see how it is their own fault.
You don't even have to create your own backgrounds from scratch: just pick a background and then replace skills as needed.  For example, I made a blacksmith (artisan background) and replaced Persuade with Handle Animal.  He was never a people person, so persuade didn't make sense.  But as a blacksmith he often worked with animals (horses mostly) and so Handle Animal was a perfect fit.

With the zombies, the Cleric PC wanted to use Cure Light Wounds to harm it. While not written, I ruled that CLW would deal damage to the undead the same as Inflict would deal damage to the living. This should be added to the spells description.

Good call, and I agree with this.

Oh, and regarding your ruling for Called Shots: be mindful of things like this, because currently disadvantage doesn't stack.  So if a character already has disadvantage on attacks, they might try to game the system a bit and make a called shot, because they have nothing to lose.  An easy fix is to either not allow Called Shots in such cases (makes sense because you lack the focus needed) or just make them roll another d20 (triple disadvantage!) and take the lowest.

Nice feedback, the session sounds like it was a lot of fun!

I feel that the when improving skills at the even numbered levels the player should have the option to put the point, or maybe two points, into a new skill if they choose.
For example, say the Fighter wants to know how to identify spells being cast, something similar. He or she goes to the Wizard or Cleric and asks them to teach them the basics of Identifying spells while being cast or some similar concept. The Fighter player is actively receiving training in Knowledge (arcana), they should be able to invest a point into it. It should be a +1 bonus initially that they can build up.

This is the same idea I came up with.  If it isn't made an official part of the rules I would definitely houserule it, because it makes complete sense.
I'm not worried about how it interacts with the Skill Mastery maneuver for a few reasons:
1) Skill Mastery might change
2) Rogues can already gain access to 2 new skills (at +3) from a single feat
3) If you are really worried, just say that Skill Mastery only applies to the skills you got from your Rogue scheme.

A background complaint was that while just going with the Backgrounds as written, some of the players felt a bit pigeonholed  They could only have those skills and that's that. We didn't try to create any of our own Backgrounds or Specialties. This was for ease of Character Creation and to test the rules as written.

This might seem a bit of a nitpick, but the rules as written say that you can take whatever skills you want.  If your players decided to limit themselves to the premade ideas and then complained that those ideas made them feel pigeonholed...well, I'm sure you can see how it is their own fault.
You don't even have to create your own backgrounds from scratch: just pick a background and then replace skills as needed.  For example, I made a blacksmith (artisan background) and replaced Persuade with Handle Animal.  He was never a people person, so persuade didn't make sense.  But as a blacksmith he often worked with animals (horses mostly) and so Handle Animal was a perfect fit.

With the zombies, the Cleric PC wanted to use Cure Light Wounds to harm it. While not written, I ruled that CLW would deal damage to the undead the same as Inflict would deal damage to the living. This should be added to the spells description.

Good call, and I agree with this.

Oh, and regarding your ruling for Called Shots: be mindful of things like this, because currently disadvantage doesn't stack.  So if a character already has disadvantage on attacks, they might try to game the system a bit and make a called shot, because they have nothing to lose.  An easy fix is to either not allow Called Shots in such cases (makes sense because you lack the focus needed) or just make them roll another d20 (triple disadvantage!) and take the lowest.


The sense of pigeonholing, that sounds dirty, came more from my call that we would go with the Backgrounds as written. Additionally, that sentiment has more to do with advancement, than the Backgrounds themselves. As you, currently, cannot add more skills to your character without using a feat. 
I'm actually issuing a challenge to my players to come up with Backgrounds and I will try to write up something for what they come up with.

As far as my Called Shot ruling, if the PC had already been at a disadvantage I wouldn't have allowed the shot. The Halfling Rogue PC that made the shot took a moment to decide between that and hiding again to regain Advantage. A tactical choice.
The sense of pigeonholing, that sounds dirty, came more from my call that we would go with the Backgrounds as written. Additionally, that sentiment has more to do with advancement, than the Backgrounds themselves. As you, currently, cannot add more skills to your character without using a feat. 
I'm actually issuing a challenge to my players to come up with Backgrounds and I will try to write up something for what they come up with.

As far as my Called Shot ruling, if the PC had already been at a disadvantage I wouldn't have allowed the shot. The Halfling Rogue PC that made the shot took a moment to decide between that and hiding again to regain Advantage. A tactical choice.

Ha ha I've never thought of it before, but it DOES sound pretty bad.

Yup, I agree that it would be nice to be able to add more skills; like I said, I had the same idea regarding using the +1 bonus you gain at even levels for new skills instead of adding to existing skills (if you want).  Like your example, it is something that can be done in a very natural way as the campaign progresses.

Coming up with new backgrounds is fun, but I found it hard...I pretty much just used existing benefits and gave a bit of a tweak.

One other comment I want to bring up, racial abilities. Overall, the group was happy with them. All subraces were covered with the exception of the Mountain Dwarf. The player who picked to go with this one switched to Hill as soon as I read off the abilities. The player was making a Fighter and the Armor Mastery was just not to the player's liking. All the other subraces were good for their players.
The Human player did not feel like they were getting the short end of the stick with the +2 to a stat and +1 to the rest. Nor did the other players feel that the Human abilities were better than their own.