I have just finished the secons session on this playtest, and i think i can now give a proper feedback. It's going to be a wall of text, so i'll divide it into chapters for easiness of reading.
4 Players: Human monk, Dwarf warrior, Elf cleric, Human rogue.
Character creation was overall fast. Surely slower than old playtests, but with lvl 14 chars there were a lot of choices. Naturally the one who took most time was the cleric, having to select 15 spells out of the blue to prepare is not a quick matter.
Since the game is supposed to be balanced regardless of the magic items i took them literally and gave them no magic items. They had good equips, but nothing magical.
The warrior had no issues with char creation, nor any comments. It was after all much the same as the old playtest for him. Standard strenght and heavy armor with big axe. Lots of hp, he had more than 150.
The monk is an old monk player from 3.0, so he already knew most of the abilities. He went for the ki of mercy and was satisfied with it. His stats were balanced with those of the warrior, so i was cool with it. He also took the healer specialization.
The rogue was the most unsatisfied one. He actually hated to have the choice of his rogue talent linked with a fixed choice of trained skills. He wanted slippery target, but didn't like the skills that went with it.
On the other hand the cleric was the most satisfied one. The high versatility of cleric options was greatly appreciated. He made an oriental kind of char, a shinto priestess. Dex and wis based light domain cleric with bow and light armor.
Premises to the game:
1) The group i playtested with is part of the same one i play with ever week. They are not used to dungeons, no one of the 4 masters in our group (me included) uses dungeons. I gave them a bit of warning beforehand about the high letalithy and randomness of this playtest so they were quite vigilant about everything.
2) The cleric had forbidden lore trained, so i made him able to translate Taalese. Without a mage they would have had no way to understand the hints.
3) They are all expert players, and 2 of them are DMs.
Running the module:
The first rooms:
It all started with them acquiring a map of this old mud sorcerer tomb. After a short intro that is not relevant to the playtest they set step into the dungeon. The riddle of the first door takes some minute of thinking by the party but gets resolved quite easily.
The first two rooms also took a bit of time to get through but in the end they made it. Important note: the cleric could have solved most of it with a generous use of spells, which in 3E would have surely happened. With this few spells available he was really stingy and the party was forced to make it though by the hard way. In the end he only had to spend a daylight to close the eyes.
In the room of the statues they immediately figure out how to open doors by turning the elephant, but don't feel like using the key on the black pillar before having explored the other rooms. They access the small room with the dirt pit and the dwarf has fun digging to his hearth content. They then proceed to the mummy area (the rogue picklocks the door, triggers the trap but stops the needle between his fingers thanks to trap sense).
The dwarf opens one of the smaller sarcophagus, and is launching himself on the gem when the cleric tries to stop him from such a blatant trap. Unfortunately the method choosen was to sacred lance the gem, triggering the mummies. Two massive bandaged arms erupt for the 2 larger sacrophagi and an hard fight starts...
The mummy encounter
The rogue failed the fear check and got stunned. The monk placed himself in the damage reducing stance to block the way to the cleric. The always lovely warrior leaped on top of one the mummies pushing it back while it was still emerging and sitting on top of it inside the sarcophagus.
The second mummy emerges and attacks the monk. Critical. The monk takes 89 damage (-21 for the stance and -20 the divine intervention of the cleric) and get's thrown across the room. Also fails the save on the curse.
The rogue makes his second save on fear and can act again. The warrior and the first mummy start a punching match inside the sarcophagus isolating themselves from the fight. The cleric noticing that he can't heal the monk and that the mummies are resistant to weapons damage goes all out with the spears while keeping some heals on the warrior. They are losing the fight. At this point they realize that they need some kind of fire, so the rogue empties all his oil flasks on the first mummy (and on the dwarf) and the cleric lits a torch and throws it in. The dwarf was ready to take fire with him, but "luckily" he took a kick in the stomach from the mummy and got flinged outside. I ruled a mummy wet with oil on fire to be a continous 4d4 fire damage. Taking the vulnerability into consideration they managed to drop it and then destroy the other one thanks to a couple of crits. In the end the cleric was almost out of spells, the monk was at -18 hp and the dwarf needed a beer.
They go back to the room with statues, trying to decide if it is a place safe enough to rest. In the end they the monk uses 10 of his 14 hit dices and they decide to risk a bit more before taking a break. While doing this they decide to finally open the black pillar, waking up the golems.
The golem encounter:
Let me say this again, they had no magic items. The monk started dishing out some damage on the cat statue, but all the other ones were missing one attack after the other. When in the end the rogue swinging his katana used ace in the hole for auto hit they finally discovered that they had no chances to damage the golems. Immediate change of plans. The group hastly retreats in the corridor leading to the mummies, and there they put up a last line of defence, the monk. He stood in the middle of the corridor with the cleric supporting him and single handedly destroyed the 3 golems one by one. The damage reducing stance was crucial to this.
Took all the treasures and the hints, triggered the poison gas trap, they proceed forward since the fight with the golems took almost no resources. They ignore the room with the hidden coffin and proceed until they find the automaton.
The automaton "encounter":
Once noticing that that armor was full of gears inside they decided to cut any risk. They took a big piece of sarcophagus lid and used it to smash the automaton into a pulp (it doesn't activate when attacked). The dwarf got quite happy when he discovered that diamond inside. And so on to the room with all the paintings (room 12).
I was really anticipating this room, the moment when they would have walked on the rug...They did, all 4 of them...and all 4 of them made the save. Way to kill the fun of a poor DM, sigh. After realizing that is was some sort of trap they dispelled it. A detect magic revealed that, among other things, the 2 red candles were magical, so they lit those on the braziers (and took a nice fire bolt). Opened the box with the snake and the ring and then we closed the session (they had quite a fight on who should have the ring).
The rules were good, the adventure was not. As i said, something as constricting as a dungeon is an alienating experience for this group.
The cleric felt too much limited in spells/day. I agree with him. Having the cleric limited on spells is good, but we can afford to give them a bit more.
They agree that spot and search should be one, or at least give sinergy bonuses like the 3E.
Apart from that they had no other negative comments on the rules (except for the rogue issue on char creation).
I didn't like the adventure module, and it surely didn't help me understand how things would run on DM side if i had to design one.
You can't give 0 indications about how to equip your party and then throw in an encounter that requires magic weapons.
I like the overall absence of magic items on the other hand, it makes it all feel more special when you find something magical.
The average damage entry on the monsters proved usefull, i used it here and there casually instead of rolling. Improved a bit the speed of fights without the players noticing a difference. Still i'd never use them more than once in a while, D&D is about rolling dices for me.
The cleric's heals were usefull, but by no means necessary. This is good. This is really really good in my book.
The natural healing is still completely off the mark. It makes no sense both if you want a char going to negative hp having some lasting effect, or if you want 4E stile. The chars actually can be all patched up and running is just 10 minutes even from negative hp (requires someone with cure minor, either a cleric or someone with healer spec), but just one time per day since it will take all your hit dices.
Overall i'm liking the direction the game is going, and the players are too. There are a couple of big issues to be taken care of, but the game is starting to shape up, and it's a good one.
Hope someone has the courage to read through all this text.