June 8, 2013
We began a new adventure for D&DNext playtest using the most recent update (June 7th).
8th level PCs (we played for about 3 hours…hard to tell because we started late and tutored a new player)
Jaden - Human great weapon fighter who converted to a Barbarian (to test it out)
Mythra – Elven Wizard (evoker)
Rynlore – Human Nature Paladin
Elifar – Elven Ranger (a 1st time D&D player)
Here’s how the session started: On the way back to Winterhaven, Rynlore, Mystra and Jaden see an unusual sight. High up in the air, a white dragon flies from the north and backs towards the east. Mystra thinks that she can see that the white dragon is clutching a very large bluish, white crystal in its talons. The dragon continues east, most likely flying high over Winterhaven into the nearby mountain range. Other than that, the trip back to Winterhaven is uneventful. When the party arrives, they help Edgar Scrope pack up his goods so that he can transport them to the museaum he had been talking about. After a job well done, the adventurers help Lord Padraig fortify Winterhaven and route out many goblins to end the goblin threat from earlier. In a few months, the party wakes up one morning to find that the entire region is blanketed in snow. That would not be so unusual, except that is is the middle of summer.
The PCs met up with their old friend Elifar, and then prepared to travel to the eastern mountains. The ranger determined that the snow was real, but the wizard realized that a strong magical effect was at work. He told the others that he suspected the white dragon they saw flying to the east was most likely was the cause of the unnatural winter. After meeting with Lord Padraig, the party went to the Grand Shope with a note allowing them to requisition horses for their journey and heavy winter furs to keep them warm. Rynlore called on his Elk mount and was the first to leave the town.
After traveling for about 3 hours, the snow, nearly 2 feet deep in places, they heard eerie howling. Elifar scanned the horizon and eventually saw a trail of disturbed snow moving towards them. The group was attacked by a winter wolf, and after the first one attacked, three more came at the group from the north, led by a gigantic alpha male. The group was able to use spell and weapons to defeat these beasts. Jaden sliced a number of them in half, while Elifar’s spike growth injured and hindered one and choked off the terrain so that it was much easier to fight the beasts. Mythra conserved her spell power using a few cantrips while Rynlore acted as a guardian and engaged as many of the wolves as possible. He suffered the most, but surely saved the others from damage in the process.
2 more hours of travel led the party closer to the mountains. The wind was picking up and the snow was getting deeper. Passing by some trees, Elifar heard some rustling to the north, and Mythra heard some rustling to the south (keen Elven senses). Elifar tried to peer through the trees, and he was able to see a small pack of gnolls carrying axes and longbows. Quickly he led his horse to a tree and then he climbed up the tree to gain a better vantage point and some cover. The others readied for attack, and the battle began. This encounter forced the PCs to use more of their spells. The gnolls attacked them from the north and south, and the 2:1 ratio proved to be a little more challenging, especially for Rynlore who took many hits. Mythra also became the target of a couple of gnoll archers, but she softened them up with burning hands and Elifar took them down using his bow skill (attacking 2 foes in one round). Elifar used some interesting actions this encounter. He climbed a tree, and when he was spotted, he crawled branch by branch to another location attempting to hide. Then, to move, he jumped from tree to tree (making a DC 15 dexterity check) to reposition. Rynlore and Jaden met most of the gnolls in melee using Elifar’s spike growth once again to gain better position on the battlefield. After this battle Mythra needed to heal and so did Rynlore. While tending to their wounds, Elifar scanned the snow and was able to see that the gnolls came from the north, but looking up at the mountain to the east, he saw a strange light shooting from the mountain into the sky. Mythra believed that this was the source of the strange winter they were experiencing.
In a few more hours, the adventurers reached the base of the mountain and saw a cave opening about 400’ up. Beyond the cave, the mountain became much more steep and the winds were beginning to howl. Elifar took the lead and climbed up 200’ and used all of the groups ropes to create a 200’ lifeline. With his help, the party was able to ascend to the cave opening. Rynlore took a little damage form one mistep, and Mythra stumbled a bit but the lifeline saved her from damage. In the cave, the group found a campsite and two hill giants, sensing the groups arrival (a failed stealth roll for Elifar), they stood up and investigated. The battle raged and this time, Mythra didn’t conserve her firepower. Two hill giant reinforcements eventually came to aid their brothers, but the adventurers put down 3 of them and the final one turned tail and ran. The party did not want him to escape, so they gave chase. Since Mythra was out of range, she decided to cast light on one of Elifar’s arrows, and Elifar fired it at the giant, hitting it squarely. Ray of Frost and entangle slowed the giant, but nobody could reach it before it vanished into an ice maze. Jaden, who was closest to the giant, bravely went into the maze to try to find the fleeing giant. When he was inside the maze, Jaden saw that the walls of the maze were slick ice, and the giant’s image appeared in three different places. He peered intently at the images (spot check made easier because of the lighted arrow that was still embedded in the giant’s hide) and chose which one to attack. His blade found the mark, felling the giant with a killing blow. Instantly, Jaden felt that he was beginning to feel colder, so he ran from the maze to join his comrades.
The group searched the area and found about 115 gp and provisions that they could eat and wine that they could drink. In order to travel to the heart of the mountain, they realized they would have to travel through the ice maze, so they camped for the night.
We had a terrific time playing. Each PC really feels right (even if some of the powers/abilities are overpowered at the moment – most notably the barbarian having rage that makes him resistant to weapon damage - He already has more hit points, the ½ damage thingy feels a little too much)
The player who played Elifar had never played D&D before, but he really picked up on it quickly (he had played a lot of video games, so he had conceptual understanding). The best part of the game was that this player could play and act like his PC from the start. We gave him a 10 minute prep course on using RPGTO, and his character, and he ran with it and had a great time.
Other comments about rules
We are not sure if we like/dislike the 1 hour rest to use HD of healing. On one hand, I think it did help me push the PCs a little bit more, and it gives the DM more power to decide when and where the PCs can take the short rest. It also makes rope trick a much more valuable spell. On the other hand, it limits the use of limited resources so we are not sure it is necessary. It also makes re-acquisition of some class abilities ambiguous. Does the barbarian have to rest for an hour now to use rage again? Does the fighter have to rest for 1 hour to regain expertise dice? We ruled that they could just refresh those abilities after the encounter ended, but it isn’t clear.
The fighter player was not satisfied with the fighter class, so he changed to a barbarian. He felt that the barbarian (although more simple) felt better. He didn’t like how the fighter had so many little tricks (feats and abilities). In essence it was too fidly. As a fighter, Jaden had 3 different was to attack multiple opponents, which was confusing (cleave, wide arc, whirlwind attack). The smaller feats/abilities didn’t seem substantial enough to make them interesting, and even though the barbarian had fewer options, he felt that they were more substantial and they made him feel like a barbarian. We did agree that Rage was probably overpowered though, and we hope that there will be sub-classes (like the designers mentioned) for all classes to make even barbarians seem different from one another.
Although no PC went unconscious, we don’t like the new death/dying rules. Bring back negative hit points. It just seems easier. We love the drama of death saves that fail add more damage until death or stabilization.
Overall, we still think that PC armor class is too high, or monster attacks are too low (in general). There should definitely be some monsters that have +1 or +2 attacks, but some of the more fearsome ones could stand to have +7 or +8 (more like the melee PCs).
We also discussed how duel wielding was not right yet. Without buying into it, and without any penalty, all rogues and all elven wizards will duel wield. It doesn’t make sense. We are not sure what would be the solution, but perhaps fighters can duel wield but all others need to be trained (feat acquisition). Some of the players also mentioned that they like how rangers used to decide if they gained benefits with bow or melee weapons (duel wield) and they liked how that choice was important for developing a stronger character concept.
A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"
Rhenny's Blog: http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog