Sunday, June 9, 2013, 10:42 AM
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. When Elifar used his last spike growth, Mythra used her minor illusion spell to place a copy of Elifar into the middle of the spike growth. That lured one of the giants into the trap. The battle raged and this time, Mythra didn’t conserve her firepower (used 2 fireballs). 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.
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 10:57 PM
Edgar Scrope’s Map
We continued our 5th level playtest with the following PCs:
Mythra the Elven Wizard (Evoker)
Rynlore the Human Paladin (Warden/Nature Paladin)
Jaden the Human Fighter (Great Weapon Fighter)
This was a continuation of our last session. We played for about 2 ½ hours.
As Mythra and Rynlore rested in the great cave, Jaden came running in. He had trailed them and finally caught up with them. They told him about their progress, and the group decided to search the walls around the cave that the bugbears were using their pick axes upon. Edgar Scrope investigated the area as well. After about 20 minutes, they determined that the bugbears were not digging in the proper places to find the resting chamber of Sayer Veldam. After a few more minutes of discussion, the party decided to go back to where they saw the chained up Ettin and take it down.
The group walked into the Ettin’s cave and since Jaden declared that he wanted to slay the beast, Mythra fired a frost ray at the foe. The enraged Ettin pulled mightily at the chains that held it to the wall and was able to free itself and attack Jaden. The Ettin’s blows did not hit the mark, so Jaden hacked at it with his silvered greatsword, and Rynlore smashed it with his newly acquired magical warhammer, “Brightbeater.” As the Ettin disrupted a pile of refuse in the cave, 4 giant centipedes emerged from the debris, and one of them climbed up the Ettin’s back and bit the giant fiercely (I made the bite and the poison of these creatures more powerful than what’s in the bestiary and the party had cut the Ettin down to 1 hp anyway). The Ettin toppled to the ground as the bite and its poison was enough to take him down. Then the little vermin attacked both Rynlore and Jaden. Jaden would have suffered a wound, but Rynlore used his shield to block the centipedes attack. Then, the trio of adventurers made quick work of the giant insects. Searching the refuse pile, they found a half-eaten human body, undoubtedly other archeologists who had found the site before Edgar Scrope and the adventurers. Mystra saw that their was a plain gold ring on one of the body’s fingers. The group took it and walked back to the main cave.
Turning south into a narrow tunnel, the group moved cautiously, spotting an area that had some rotten support beams. The party decided to go back to the cave and use some raw lumber that was in the cave to sure up the support beams. After working for 10 minutes they felt as if the passage was safer to travel, so they continued deeper south until they came to an eastward bend in the tunnel. Rynlore walked forward with “Brightbeater” casting light for all to see. As he stepped closer to another cave opening, the party heard the sound of flapping wings. Soon, Rynlore, and Jaden (the two PCs in the lead) were swarmed by 8 stirges. Jaden hacked at one and killed it easily. Rynlore killed another, but over the next few rounds, Rynlore was bitten by 1 of the creatures, while Jaden was bitten by 5 of the nasty buggers. Mythra was able to cast burning hands to kill all but 1 of them. Jaden cut through the final one and the group went forward to see a river cutting through the cave, on the other side of the river was a rug with a large, moving bump under it. Rynlore and Jaden both tried to jump over the river, but both of them fell in and had to climb out on the other side. Mythra made it across without fail. Rynlore bravely pulled the rug to reveal a cowering goblin. Mythra was able to speak with the goblin it its native tongue. His name was Gupu and he was taken prisoner by the Hobgolins. He asked for the party to let him go. After asking him about the area, Mythra found out that Gupu had heard of Sayer Veldam, and he said he saw where there were some obscured statue feet, perhaps a secret way into the resting place of Sayer Veldam. Jaden also used some down time to bandage some wounds.
The party let Gupu lead them to the spot and they retrieved some pickaxes and started to break the stone and a statue that they found buried behind the stone. Rynlore moved into the opening and found a number of guardian skeletons with longswords moving toward him, 4 normal skeletons and 4 that wore chainmail. After the skeletons moved in, the party attacked. Jaden hacked one down and injured another. Mythra weakened one with a ray of frost. Then Rynlore used his last channel divinity to utterly destroy all of them as they clawed at him on all sides.
From the north west, the party saw a strange blue glow. They approached it and saw a strange alter with a water receptacle and a place for candles. There was a magical force shield blocking the entrance to another room to the north. Rynlore and Mythra examined the alter, and decided to fill the basin with water and light candles to place on the alter. Then Rynlore blessed the water. As soon as they did that, the magical barrier fell and they could enter the tomb of Sayer Valdem.
Inside the tomb, Rynlore was attacked by a skeleton that could fire a ray of frost. There were 2 of those foes, and 2 wights in this room. In the center of the room, in the floor tile, was the flaming eye, the symbol of Sayer Veldam. At the north end of the room there was a stone sarcophagus. The party battled the wights and the chillborn skeletons (27 hp and extra cold damage…multi-attacks) Rynlore faced one of the chillborn skeletons, while Jaden ran to attack one of the wights. After Jaden critically wounded and killed the wight, the sarcophagus burst open and a mummy with chainmail, Sayer Veldam, climbed out. He asked the party to drop their weapons and help him reunite with his brothers. He tried to get them to help him leave the tomb. The party noticed that he was wearing a pulsating red medallion around its neck, but at his point, the trio of adventurers felt a wave of despair, but only Jaden was paralyzed by fear. The paladin stood boldly resolute, and his aura of influence helped Mythra as well. After about 6 rounds of fighting (and Jaden hit with another critical against Veldam), the foes were vanquished, even Sayer Veldem (a mummy with 120 hp – the amulet made it easier for him to resist fire damage even with the mummy’s natural vulnerability).
After the battle, Jaden beheaded the mummy, and the amulet fell to the floor. Mythra picked it up and placed it into the holy water in the basin outside the room. She felt as if the item itself was not evil; then she detected magic and realized that the amulet was a protective device. Searching the sarcophagus, the party found 200 gems (10 gp each) and a golden torc. After a short rest, Edgar Scrope came out of hiding and told the group that they could keep all of the treasure except for the torc, and the urns that they found earlier. The party packed up their loot and headed back to Winterhaven without any mishaps.
This concluded a complete mini-adventure that took about 5 ½ hours. Our game illustrated that 2 PCs, joined by 1 PC (about mid way through), could continue on and on through a total of 9 combat encounters and a few exploration encounters without taking a long rest.
By the end of the adventure, Rynlore had no spells, no channel divinity, no hit points of healing left over and had about ½ of his hit points. Mythra had only a 1st level and 2nd level spell (both recalled using arcane recovery). However, she had taken no damage, and had all of her HD of healing left. Jaden, who came late to the party, was down about 10 hp, and had used only 1 HD of healing. The party did have 3 potions of healing that they found in the beginning part of the adventure, which they never used.
Overall, we had fun, but I have to say that the adventure was much more challenging when the party was only 2 PCs. Once Jaden joined in, everything was so much easier. I had to make Sayer Veldam a mummy with 120 hp, and no vulnerability to fire to even challenge the group the little that I did. My monsters missed quite a lot, especially since Rynlore had a 19 AC.
Because the PCs gain so much at 5th level, I think that it is much more difficult to challenge them. Since they don’t gain deadly strike x3 until 10th level, I have a feeling that levels 7, 8 and even 9 will feel more challenging because they will be able to fight higher level monsters, but they will not have a corresponding boost to their damage (except for the wizard who will gain higher level spell slots). Then, when the PCs make level 10 and they gain more damage potential, it will be more difficult to challenge them with level appropriate monsters, etc., etc. I am wondering if the damage boost for all PCs is too much and too abrupt.
One thing about the fighter that was really confusing was that he had so many ways to do damage to multiple foes. He had wide-arc, multi-attack, and cleave. It was confusing deciding which to use, when and how. It was messy.
The paladin and the wizard both felt satisfying to play.
As a DM who has run about 5 or 6 sessions using this package (along with 8-12 previous sessions with other playtest packages), I still find it hard to judge how the PCs will do against the encounters that I build. I thought I was getting the hang of it, but at 5th level I lost it again. I think monsters need to be overhauled to really give them more power and special abilities. For experienced players, there is little challenge if encounters are built using the monsters as written. The xp guidelines also don’t help that much either, but I really do like how lower level monsters can be used against the party and how encounters can vary greatly even against level 5 PCs. I actually think that the players in my games could handle a 10th, 11th or 12th level appropriate combat encounter even at 5th level. That’s just so different from prior D&D experiences, and because it is different, I think lots of playtesters might feel weird about it.
Saturday, May 18, 2013, 11:38 PM
This session was a 3 hour session with only 2 players. Overall, there was roleplaying, exploration, and the equivalent of 5 combat encounters.
Mythra – High Elven Wizard (Evoker) – 5th level
Rynlore – Human Paladin (Warden/Nature type) – 5th level.
The adventure began in Wrafton’s Inn. Edgar Scrope, the archeologist who had asked the party to retrieve a stolen map (prior adventure), was speaking with an Elven wizard named Mythra.
Elifar and Jaden had gone off with a few Winterhaven Wardens to deal with Goblins that attacked the caravan earlier, leaving Rynlore to deal with Scope.
Rynlore produces the map and Scrope is pleased. He rewards Rynlore with 100 gp. Then he asks Rynlore and Mythra up to his room to look at the map. Mythra is able to help unravel the last of the magical wards on the map, and Scrope asks the two heroes to accompany him to the excavation site of Sayer Valdem. (He tells them the back story about the Valdem brothers, etc….the players introduce themselves to one another and Rynlore tells Mythra about their last adventure).
As the small party travels at a normal pace, Rynlore plays music, Mythra keeps watch, and Edgar keeps the map and navigates.
After about 6 hours, a Manticore flies overhead circling, and then it dives at Rynlore doing a flyby firing some quills at Rynlore and Mythra. Still 20’ in the air, Rynlore prepares for attack, Edgar hides behind a tree, and Mythra hits the Manticore with a lightning bolt. The beast is enraged so it fires all three quills at Mythra hitting her and injuring her badly. Then it flies south to a small plateau (60’ climb). Mythra is able to unleash another lightning bolt, but it does not kill the Manticore before it disappears on the top of the plateau. Rynlore runs to the base of the plateau and begins to climb. Then Mythra joins him. At the top, Rynlore heals Mythra and the two walk cautiously toward a hole in the top of the plateau that becomes a cave entrance. Rynlore can see that the cave goes down and then elbows so that he can’t see completely into it. Mythra hears the growling of a Manticore within. Just then, a Manticore jumps out of the cave and attacks Rynlore. This one is not the injured one; it must be a mate. The two adventurers battle the mate and finally prevail. Then Rynlore goes into the cave to find the wounded Manticore nursing its wounds on a nest. The beast leaps at Rynlore and they battle each other until Rynlore’s morningstar smashes down upon the beast one last time.
Searching the nest, they find over 200 gp, 2 healing potions, and a set of finely made banded mail sized for a human. Rynlore strips down and dons the armor with satisfaction.
After another 6 hours of uneventful travel, the party camps without mishap. Then after another 6 hours of travel they near the site they’ve been looking for. Through a grove of trees, the group sees a tower. They attempt to sneak closer, but Hobgoblins in the tower hear them.
The adventurers fight the Hobgoblins in the tower while Edgar Scrope hides. One Hobgoblin warrior escapes into the excavation pit beside a shack, and 3 rounds later 3 warriors emerge. In this battle, Rynlore moves around the tower and encounters the Hobgoblin Warriors and the normal Hobgoblins with long spears (reach 10'). One Hobgoblin on top of the tower throws down some stone debris and smashes Rynlore on the head. In combat, the long spears hurt Rynlore as well, so to enhance his attacks and boost his defensive position, Rynelore uses Nature's Wrath and entangle, slowing the oncoming Hobgolins so that he had time to step back and heal. All the while, Mythra makes pop out attacks using Ray of Frost to conserve her magic.
After the party deals with the Hobgoblins, they investigate the shack. Mythra goes in and finds it to be a two room house built for humans. There are two old urns on a table, so she calls Edgar in to see what they are. These urns must have come from the excavation. Someone must have known about the site and the Hobgoblins must have surprised whoever was here before them.
Edgar decides to stay hidden as the others go down the ladder into the excavation site.
In this large underground room, a Hobgoblin leader calls others to attack. 8 Hoboblins train their bows on Rynlore as he goes down the ladder, and arrows rain down but Rynlore and Mythra get lucky and none of them hit the mark. Mythra fires a more powerful magic missile at the leader, and then Rynlore faces the leader and kills him. Then he intimidates the others and tells them to run from here…far away. All but 1 listen. After taking a frost ray to the abdomin, the remaining hobgoblin decides to run too. Mythra does not let him - Frozen Hobgoblin.
Rynlore and Mythra call Edgar down so he can look at the mosaics and the strange eye design on the tile floor. He says it is the symbol of Sayer Valdem. They have found it.
Mythra sneaks down another corridor and hears the sound of pick axes all coming from a rough cave area. She sees a troll working some bugbears as they use pick axes on the walls. Rynlore moves in to the rough cave area as Mythra hides down the corridor. Rynlore draws the troll and 8 bugbears to him. He takes a number of injuries, but before he goes down under the crowd, Mythra casts a maximized fireball, killing all of the bugbear and seriously wounding the troll. The troll tries to run, but he falls a few times after Rynlore connects with his morningstar. Mythra casts another fireball and the troll goes down, but it still regenerates some of the weapon damage and it continues to run. Eventually Rynlore is able to tip a brazier over on the troll, and then Mythra does the same.
In another cave, the two see and smell a refuse pile, and a stream that leads out through a closed portcullis. There is a windless device next to the portcullis, and behind them in another corner of the cave, they hear a huge monster in chains, roaring and rattling the chains that restrain him. It is a crazed Ettin. The group decides to move back to the main cave, avoiding the Ettin, and then Rynlore bandages himself.
They find a chest behind some of the smoldering supply boxes (Mythra’s fireball all but charred the Hobgoblin, Bubgear supplies). Inspecting it closely, Mythra sees that it is trapped. Then, she tells Rynlore that they should check the leader’s body and the troll’s body for keys. Low and behold, each of the monsters has a different key. The leader’s key seems to fit the chest. Still unable to disable the trap, Rynlore opens the chest with his shield up, and he is able to avoid taking damage from poisoned darts. Inside the chest they find over 500 gp, 1 potion of healing and a magical warhammer. “Brightbeater” – This warhammer deals 1d6 damage per round to any evil being that holds it, and it can be commanded to shed light like a magical torch. It is a +1 weapon.
Mythra explores a southern tunnel and sees that there is no threat. About 15’ down they will have to squeeze by a rocky area, and then about 30’ further down they see some support beams. It looks as if the tunnel goes further beyond their vision.
This session worked really well. Although the adventure isn’t finished, the players have made it pretty far. Rynlore has used all of his HD of healing, and all of his spells and his channel divinity. Mythra still has all of her HD of healing, but she only has 1 first level spell, and 2 2nd level spells remaining (plus Arcane Revovery which we totally forgot about). They did however find 3 healing potions during the adventure, so they can continue to explore next session.
Both PCs played major roles and each played very differently. I am amazed at how easy it is to run an adventure for just 2 players. The more I play this package, the more I feel that it is easier to run/build adventures for 2 or 3. With each PC above 3, it becomes exponentially more difficult to challenge the party.
There were moments where the PCs were in danger, and there were moments where good or bad die rolling made a difference in the game, but more importantly, player decisions made more of a difference. For example, when Mythra used fireball vs. the bugbears and the troll, the player decided to maximize it. Two of the bugbears made successful saving throws, but even so, ½ of 36 hit points still killed them. If the blast was not maximized, they would live, and they could have attacked Rynlore and prevented him from chasing after the fleeing troll. If the troll would have escaped, he would have released the Ettin and that would have been bad for the PCs.
Also, Rynlore was able to use his nature abilities, entangle and nature’s wrath to control the battlefield against the hobgoblins when they fought at the tower. That was very nice. His healing also helped when both of them were low.
Both players were able to feel their PCs, and roleplay accordingly. At 5th level, not much seemed to be broken or strange in play. As DM, I love how lower level monsters like Hobgoblins and Bugbears can still be a threat to the PCs. Fighting the pair of manticores was also very challenging. The troll, although tough to bring down, should probably do more damage with its attacks. The bugbears were much more deadly when attacking than the troll. That seemed a little weird.
Friday, April 26, 2013, 10:27 PM
We continued our adventures from where we left off last session using level 2 PCs
Rynlore Human Paladin (warden/minstrel)
Jaden Human Greatweapon Fighter
Elifar Wood Elf Ranger (Brute Hunter) – DM PC for tonight’s session
The party had previously escaped from the sewers after encountering wererats. Resting a night at Wrafton’s Inn, they healed and refreshed (leveled from 1st to 2nd level) and they were also able to procure 6 silvered arrows from the Great Shop merchant. Then the adventurer’s crept back down into the sewers to continue exploring and ultimately find the wererat lair and Edgar Scrope’s map.
They explored a northern passage and Elifar was able to sneak up on a carrion crawler that was feasting on a rancid humanoid corpse. After Elifar gave the others hand signals alerting them, Jaden charged into the carrion crawler’s nesting area, and chopped at it with his greataxe doing some damage to the slug-like monster. Rynlore moved in wielding his mighty morningstar and connected for considerable damage while Elifar hit it with an arrow. Within two rounds, the monster was dead and the party inspected the rancid corpse. Under the body, Jaden found a silvered dagger.
Exploring another passage that they hadn’t explored before, the party came to a t-section. Jaden looked down both passageways, and was able to spot two Troglodytes hiding in the shadows to the east. After engaging with the creatures, he smelled their putrid stench and a wave of nausea washed over him. Even though he was reeling (disadvantage), he was still able to hack into one of the creatures nearly severing the creatures arm in one shot. Rynlore and Elifar joined the fray, and Elifar dropped the injured Trog with an arrow that shot straight through its eye and out the back of its head (crit). Rynlore moved up and pressed the attack hurting the creature, but before it went down, it disengaged and ran to the east to a door in the east wall. Jaden was able to catch up to it, and rather than turn its back to the fighter, it screamed out and turned to face its death with valor, injuring Jaden before another arrow from Elifar’s bow dropped the Trog. With Jaden injured, the party rested for 10 minutes and luckily they were not interrupted.
After Jaden tended to his own wounds, he was able to bash in the door (break object skill comes in hand) to see a small clutch of Troglodytes led by a Troglodyte Priest (reskinned Dark Priest like creature). The Troglodyte Priest uttered a blessing that aided his warriors, and the battle began. Jaden took a number of wounds and eventually the Trog Priest uttered an unholy word that sent wracking pain through Jaden’s body (1/2 damage inflict wounds). Elifar was able to cast a cure to knit up some of Jaden’s wounds, and Rynlore attacked with holy fury. Over the next few rounds, Rynlore suffered some claw wounds, but soon after the party prevailed. After the party dispatched its foes, they found 300 sp and 110 gp in a pile with a silvered greatsword buried beneath it. At this point, Jaden gave the silver dagger to Rynlore and took the greatsword for his main weapon. The party rested and Rynlore tended to his own wounds.
Now the party felt as if it could confront the wererats, so they stalked to the south near where they had encountered the wererats the day before. As they passed one intersection they noticed that a barrel that used to be in one area had been moved to the south end of one of the sewer tunnels. When they saw the barrel, Jaden fired an arrow into it. The arrow stuck into the side of the barrel, but nothing else happened. The party moved closer and peered around a corner to the west. Then in the darkness, they saw a torch light up. Momentarily they caught a glimpse of a wererat throwing the torch toward the barrel. It was a tremendous throw that hit the barrel and lit some oil on fire. Before the adventurers could duck away, the barrel exploded doing fiery damage to Jaden (full damage failed his save) and some damage to Rynlore (saved). Since Elifar was behind them, he took no damage from the blast. Jaden ran toward the wererat as Elifar cast a cure spell upon the fighter, but the wererat turned around and headed toward a door to the west. Before the wererat could escape, the party dealt it severe wounds using silvered weapons, and the wererat died at the foot of the door. Meanwhile, Elifar’s keen Elven ears heard ritualized chanting from inside the room. By this time, everyone heard it, and the party moved quickly to try to interrupt whatever was happening inside the room.
Inside, they found two more wererats, two zombies and a necromancer who was chanting and waving his hands over a table with a parchment on it. As the adventurers engaged the wererats and zombies, they noticed that the necromancer was intent on continuing his incantation. Jaden jumped into the room and met one wererat on a small stairway. After that wererat went down trying to defend against combined attacks by the adventurers, Jaden hopped over the handrail of the stairway and jumped down (Dex check) so that he could slide between 2 zombies, the other wererat and the necromancer. Rynlore used this opportunity to channel divinity and deliver nature’s wrath upon his foes, injuring them all. Then Jaden attacked the necromancer, disrupting the incantation, and used wide arc to take down a zombie as well. Miraculously, the zombie stayed down. The battle continued, but Jaden took a number of hits and called for Rynlore to heal him. Even with the heal, Jaden was nearly knocked unconscious as he faced another wererat. Lucky for him, Rynlore was able to use his shield to block a potentially deadly blow (interposing shield turned a critical hit into a miss). Then Elifar fired his arrow at the remaining wererat, but could not knock it down. The necromancer, disturbed and fearful of the fighter’s silvered greatsword disengaged and moved to the far corner of the room. After Rynlore smashed the zombie with his morningstar, Jaden hacked the wererat and the zombie, killing both. Then he moved to engage the necromancer. The necromancer, caught in a corner, lashed out with a Dark Fears spell (a custom spell) that caused Jaden to cower in fear from a spectral monster that pestered and wounded him. Elifar saw that Jaden was in trouble so he leveled his bow and fired at the foe. His arrow shot true and pierced the heart of the necromancer.
On the table, the party found Edgar Scrope’s map (the map was much easier to read now because the necromancer was using some sort of magic to unravel the magical wards originally on the map). They also found a chest with 200 gp worth of gems and 4 pieces of 50gp jewelry, the necromancer’s spellbook, and a potion (later identified as cure disease potion). In other barrels and boxes, the adventurer’s found fresh water, rations and a box of leather scraps with a suit of studded black dragon leather armor sized to fit the elf. After their find, the party exited the sewers and went back to Wrafton’s Inn to rest (and level up)
We like how the game flows and the quickness, but we are really concerned that many fights are too quick and spell damage seems too much especially when monsters use the same spells as PCs (inflict wounds and in our last game burning hands especially).
One player said that he didn’t really feel challenged. He realized that the spellcasting creatures were really scary and deadly, but because the inflict wounds spell, for example, does so much damage (enough to drop a fully healed 2nd level fighter into negative hit points if the fighter fails his save) he felt that luck was more of a factor than any skill or strategy (save or fall). This, combined with the reality that most fights are so quick the most efficient strategy is to just be totally offensive, made the combats less rewarding for that player. Basically, there is not enough time in most combats for rich tactical play and depending on the luck of the dice, the same encounter could turn out to be pretty easy or too challenging. That said, twice, interposing shield saved the fighter from a blow that would have knocked him down…so that was really exciting.
The same player also misses the "solo" monster concept or the "boss" monster concept. In a way, I (as DM) also miss it so I tend to put at least 1 elite or different (more powerful) monster in many of the encounters, but I have not truly used anything that would come close to being a solo monster. We mused that I could probably pit the party against a Bone Devil and the party would win...not sure. Maybe I should try it.
The other player liked the gritty likelihood that they could get knocked unconscious with one bad roll, but everyone agreed that there are balance issues with the PCs vs. Monsters.
As DM, I really have a tough time challenging the party using monsters straight from the bestiary. That’s why I create spellcasting monsters. I even gave the Troglodytes a chance to do claw, claw, bite (3 attacks per round) because I misread what I wrote in my notes (they should only get 1 claw attack and 1 bite attack per round). That being said, the adventure they went through gave them a chance to fight in 5 encounters and explore a bit all in 2 hours, and by the end, the fighter used both of his HD of healing, the paladin used 1 of his HD of healing, and both the paladin and the ranger used all of their spells and the paladin used both of his channel divinities (I forgot when he used the first one so I didn’t write it into the game summary), so I guess I’m getting a feel for what makes an adventuring day.
Overall, we are having fun playtesting, and we like the feel of many of the class powers/feats, especially interposing shield, wide arc, cleave, channel divinity options, weave through the fray (although the ranger didn’t even use it yet).
Next week I think I’m going to have them fight 1 or 2 encounters as 3rd level PCs and then level them up to 4th. We want to see how the PCs feel at different levels so we are accelerating their advancement.
Monday, April 22, 2013, 6:02 PM
The game started as the PCs arrived in Winterhaven. They spoke with the guards and gained access to the walled town. Then they went to Wrafton’s Inn and saw Bartho, a burley middle aged man, cleaning classes tidying up the bar. Rynlore spoke with him and convinced Bartho to get the owner so that Rynlore could audition to perform nights in the inn for tips and a room. The owner, Salvana Wrafton, a tall, thin, yet muscular women in her late 20s, met with Rynlore and let him play for her. She liked the Paladin’s lute playing, and decided to give him a chance to play tonight. She let the party take one room upstairs so the adventurers felt as if they at least had a place to stay, if only for a night or two. As Rynlore was performing for Salvana, Elifar and Jaden left the Inn to see if they could find leads on any jobs. Shortly after they exited the Inn, they heard a commotion at the front gates of Winterhaven. Investigating the incident, they saw a bloody and beaten town warden nearly collapsed in the arms of the gate guards. He was wailing that the Grand Shop’s apprentice and he were attacked by goblins not 30 minutes West of Winterhaven. The goblins took the wagon and the apprentice, but the warden was able to escape. Elifar and Jaden expressed interest and the warden asked them to try to save the apprentice. The call to adventure spurred them on, so they went back to the inn to drag Rynlore with them.
The adventurer’s left Winterhaven and proceeded west. When they got to a bend in the road about 30 minutes from town, Elifar saw the abandoned and ravaged wagon through a grassy, rocky area. Elifar scouting ahead surprised a hiding goblin and killed it easily. Then, as the rest of the party came closer to the ranger’s position, they were attacked by 3 goblins and a shield using goblin. Since the Ranger was closest, he took a lot of attacks and got hurt pretty badly, but the group prevailed. Rynlore killed 1 of the buggers, and Jaden hacked into a number of goblins, ultimately killing 3.
After checking the dead bodies and recovering some copper pieces, the Ranger tracked the rest of the goblins to a small camp. He tried to sneak up to the forested area where he saw the tracks and the blood trail of a slaughtered horse, but he snapped a number of twigs and made a bit of noise. This alerted the goblins and they began rustling within the forest area. Quickly, Rynlore and Jaden took positions in front of Elifar and waited to see if any goblins would meet them in battle. Lo and behold, one of the creatures charged out. He could not see Elifar or Rynlore who were behind some cover, but he could see Jaden, but the goblin’s mace attack was unsuccessful. Then, a few other goblins moved toward the group, one carrying a staff and chanting an arcane spell. The goblin witchdoctor’s hands fired forth a sheet of flames, which enveloped both Rynlore and Jaden, who caught fire and fell to the ground dying. Luckily Elifar was beyond the blast, so he remained standing and was able to cast a healing spell on the Paladin. When the Paladin got up, he was able to cast healing on the Fighter, and the adventurers kept up their attacks against the goblins. Elifar did some nasty damage to the witchdoctor, but he could not finish it off so the witchdoctor had another chance to cast his spells. This time, the witchdoctor tried to fear the party, but none of the brave members of the group faltered. At this point, Rynlore called upon Wraith of Nature to injure a number of the goblins so that Jaden could kill a number of them with his greataxe wide arc and cleave. The adventurers fought bravely and won the day. Then they found the apprentice, untied him, tended to his wounds and escorted him back to Winterhaven.
After rescuing a captive and returning to town, we did a bunch of roleplaying. Rynlore played his lute in the bar, and brought in a nice crowd. Salvana was pleased and gave him a wink and a thumbs up. Elifar and Jaden overheard a man talking about a map and a great find. They started to speak with the man and found out that his name was Edgar Scrope, and archeologist. He said he couldn’t read the map yet, but it could help him find the resting place of Sayer Valdam, a leader of this region over 200 years ago. The adventurers asked if Edgar needed protection or help, and Edgar said he would call on the trio when he needed them. After a night in the bar, the adventurers went to their room and slept only to be awakened early the next morning to the Edgar’s shouts in the next room. “Someone stole my map.” The adventurers rushed into the next room and found that Edgar needed help. The Ranger immediately found tracks that a humanoid thief must have made, leaving the Inn and going into the sewers. The party followed.
In the sewers, the party fought a carrion crawler. Although Elifar was paralyzed for one round, he shook it off, and then everyone cut viciously into the soft flesh of the underground monster. After dispatching the beast, the party found a locked door in a steel grate. Jaden borrowed Rynlore’s crowbar and smashed the lock so that they could open the door. Just then, a bunch of rats and dire rats swarmed at them. After a few rats got through the door, Elifar slammed it shut keeping the dire rats on the other side. The adventurers cleaned up the rats without much problem. Then they ventured to the other side of the grate to follow the thieves’ tracks until they encountered two wererats. (This was another monster test. I made the wererats duel wield short swords just like the Ranger, and I gave them resistance to normal weapons, and also added the caveat that if they were struck down by a non-magical, non-silvered weapon, they would still have 1 hit point. Thus, they could only be killed by silver weapons, magic weapons or magic. This was a really tough fight especially because the Paladin only had 1 more area of effect spell (entangle) and the wererats were not close enough together to get them both in the blast at first. When the Ranger realized that they were wererats, I told them that they could not kill them with normal weapons.) After they tried for 2 or 3 rounds to whittle away at the two wererats, and each of the adventurers took some massive damage, they finally decided that they would try to get them bunched up enough so that the Paladin could use his area spell on them. If they didn't both die, the party was prepared to run. One of the two wererats died, so the adventurers used the opportunity (and the rough terrain that the spell made around the remaining wererat) to make their escape.
The PCs made it back to town and were able to nurse themselves back to health. The PCs earned enough XP to gain a level, so now they are level 2, a little more prepared to get their revenge on the wererats, and attempt to recover the map. They are quite scared that there may be a number of them further in the sewers.
Sunday, April 21, 2013, 8:21 AM
April 21, 2013 3:51 AM EDT
I'm starting a new set of playtests that will have players quickly level through PCs beginning with 1st level but hopefully getting them to 10+ in only 4 or 5 sessions. Overall, I want them to let me know how leveling up influences their play experience. As usual, we played online using RPGTO.
Tonight was our first session. I planned a quick adventure and let my players play whatever they wanted to play. We ended up with the following:
1) Elven Ranger (Brute Hunter)
2) Human Nature Paladin
3) Human Greataxe Fighter
We were able to do a bit of roleplaying and a little exploring and 5 combat encounters all in about 3 1/2 hours (which includes chat time in the beginning of the game)
The game went well. Everyone felt good about what he could do in game. I did however try to twist/change some of the monsters to make it easier for me to challenge the party more.
I gave some goblins the ability to use shields and interposing shield (which blocked one of the PCs attacks).
First the Ranger scouting ahead surprised a hiding goblin and killed it easily. Then the party was attacked by 3 goblins and a shield using goblin. Since the Ranger was closest, he took a lot of attacks and got hurt pretty badly, but the group prevailed.
In the next encounter, after the Ranger tracked the rest of the goblins to a small camp, I made a goblin witchdoctor who could cast burning hands and fear. He was able to drop 2 of the 3 PCs using his burning hands. It was lucky that the 3rd PC was not in the cone.
Here I learned that giving monsters PC class abilities makes them really dangerous. Perhaps burning hands itself is too powerful as written.
The encounter with the witchdoctor, a leader, 3 goblins and 1 shield goblin could have easily knocked the PCs out, but the PCs prevailed using nearly all of their spells and powers which included a number of Cure Wounds from the Ranger and the Paladin. The Paladin also used his Channel Divinity Nature's Wrath. The fighter cut and slashed using greataxe with wide-arc and cleave. (Question: Can a fighter use wide-arc expertise and then use cleave if he kills the first adjacent foe?)
After rescuing a captive and returning to town, we did a bunch of roleplaying and the party slept and had to investigate/recover a stolen map. The Ranger found tracks of a thief leaving the Inn and going into the sewers. The party followed.
In the sewers, the party fought a carrion crawler. Then they fought a bunch of rats and dire rats. Then they continued to follow the thieves tracks until they encountered two wererats. This was another monster test. I made the wererats duel wield short swords just like the Ranger, and I gave them resistance to normal weapons, and also added the caveat that if they were struck down by a non-magical, non-silvered weapon, they would still have 1 hit point. Thus, they could only be killed by silver weapons, magic weapons or magic. This was a really tough fight especially because the Paladin only had 1 more area of effect spell (entangle) and the wererats were not close enough together to get them both in the blast at first. When the Ranger realized that they were wererats, I told them that they could not kill them with normal weapons. After they tried for 2 rounds to whittle away at the two wererats, they finally decided that they would try to get them bunched up enough so that the Paladin could use his area spell on them. If they didn't both die, the party was prepared to run. One of the two wererats died, so the adventurers used the opportunity (and the rough terrain that the spell made around the remaining wererat) to make their escape.
In this encounter, I wanted to see how the party would respond to the immunity-like feature of the wererats. On the one hand, I like that the players decided to run. On the other hand, they were kind of upset that they now needed to buy/pay for silvering for their weapons. Well...there are a few more places in the sewers they didn't explore, and if they do explore they may find a silver weapon, but that will have to happen next session.
I leveled the PCs up to 2nd level...so now they are more prepared to get their revenge on the wererats. They are quite scared that there may be a number of them further in the sewers and they are haggling with the vendors in town to try to get silvered weapons.
Other comments by players:
They felt pretty vulnerable with only 12 hp, and when I rolled pretty well in some combats, they got hurt pretty badly. One player wants more hit points at 1st level. One player likes the feeling of being vulnerable, and the other is indifferent.
Everyone agreed that when monsters get to use the same spells as PCs it is very dangerous. Burning hands may be too strong.
One player felt that "needing magic or silvered weapon" to kill a creature was a road block rather than a challenge. I'm not sure about this. For werecreatures I kind of like the idea that they should be able to keep living if they are not killed by magic or silver, but the experience has definitely made me think more about using immunities on monsters. Before tonight I didn't think too much about it. I could use an immune monster whenever and I felt that once the players realized that they could not harm it, they would have to figure out another way to deal with the situation. Now, I'm much less likely to use such creatures. There has to be other ways for monsters to be challenging without using immunities.
All three liked the feel of their characters. The Paladin was able to have the minstrel background, and he got a chance to perform at the Inn to earn them free board and 10 gp to boot. The inn-keeper was especially generous this night because she realized that the Paladin's performance brought in more customers. The Ranger liked how he could scout and track, and use his bow and dual wield short swords. He felt very effective. The fighter felt like a greataxe fighter, but he also liked using Warning Shout to protect his comrades.
Sunday, March 31, 2013, 1:17 AM
Tonight (or last night really), I ran an original adventure using RPGTO that took me about 2 hours to make (including the map building in RPGTO).
3 players (all experienced with other versions of D&D from 1e through 4e)
High Elven Wizard (Evoker)
Mountain Dwarf Cleric (Lifegiver)
Hill Dwarf Fighter
Wow…this playtest package played much better than I imagined. We played for about 4 ½ hours and completed an entire adventure (6 combat encounters in different areas, exploration to try to find out how to exit the dungeon and deactivate traps and magical barriers, one puzzle and some roleplaying during the adventure for player to player interaction) Some of the 4 ½ hours was also spent looking up spell effects, and learning what a 10th level PC was capable of doing. None of the players had familiarity with these rules, and they had not even seen their PCs until we started playing.
To start, the PCs found themselves inside magic circles that imprisoned them in a strange dungeon. The fighter used his strength to burst through the magical barrier, taking damage. The wizard was able to deactivate his circle, and escape, and then he helped the cleric out of his magic circle. This gave the PCs a chance to use ability checks and roleplay. Each of the players naturally told me what they wanted to try to do to get out of the circles, and I let them roll. Action resolution was easy and kept the game moving quickly.
Then they had to try to find their way out of this mysterious prison. They found a note on a table left for them which told them they had a powerful enemy that wanted them to suffer. The note was signed by Iscar, Tarnack’s Jailer.
Here were the encounters the PCs faced:
1) 4 Flaming Skeletons (I made these up. They were basically 27 hp skeletons that could throw small fireballs) and two necrotic ray traps that required Dex saves to get through with ½ damage. The fighter ran though the rays eventually taking damage, but he was able to use whirlwind attack to great advantage (after getting pelted by no fewer than 8 fireballs over a few round). (Difficult was Easy except for the traps which might have nudged it toward Medium - took about 7 rounds because the players were cautious about the traps and they were conserving magic. Even the fighter waited 3 rounds before trying to go through the traps to get to the skeletons – after this encounter alone, the fighter had to use 3 or 4 HD of healing).
2) 4 wights and 4 wraiths in a large room. The cleric used Turn Undead to destroy the wraiths, and cower the wights. But since the Wizard attacked one of the wights, it turned and attacked the cleric, hitting him and draining him (level drain is scary). (Easy – took 3 rounds mostly because cleric used Turn Undead)
3) A room with poison gas that had 6 ghouls hidden within. The wizard used wall of fire and fireball to vanquish these foes, and find that there was a door at the other end of the room. The fighter held his breath and ran through the gas taking minimal damage because of his Dwarven resistance, and then the others followed. (Easy but the gas would have been worse for non-Dwarves…the wizard took more damage going through the room – took about 3 rounds)
4) A room with 4 gargoyles, and a magical wall. Beyond the magical wall was a stairway winding up (the exit to the dungeon). The wizard used arcane knowledge after the encounter to determine that the magical wall could be deactivated, but not from anything in that room. (Easy – took about 3 rounds)
5) A room with a stone bridge, a chasm hidden by webs, and a huge spider with 6 babies. (reskinned). Wizard used lots of spells to damage spider and so did the cleric (flame strike). It was a huge spider after all (95 hit points). (Easy – took about 5 rounds)
6) A summoning room with a gong and a lever. The lever turned off the necrotic trap, the gong, which the wizard banged on using mage hand summoned an Ice Devil into the room. This scared the heck out of the group, but before the devil could attack, the wizard polymorphed it into a chicken (it was a very funny moment). The chicken tried to peck at the fighter, but that’s about it. At this point we realized that spell DCs may be a little high. The wizard’s DC was 17, so the Devil had little chance to save. (Difficult – wizard used “I win” spell and it was over in 1 round before the devil could even act).
7) A room with a puzzle to unlock another door.
8) A room with a Bone Devil. Again…the wizard polymorphed it. This time into a sheep. The sheep ran to another door and banged on it. This alerted Iscar, Tarnack’s Jailer (A lich with 115 hit points and its full compliment of spells), and his 3 imps. This was an awesome battle. The Frightening Gaze ability of the lich made him so difficult to fight. The fighter could not even get in to attack, and the wizard and cleric failed a number of saves as well. While the PCs were fighting the lich, and taking tons of damage from lich spells or being riped by its icy claws and paralyzed, the bone devil sheep ran away. The fighter followed it since he realized he had a tough time trying to attack the lich. (Difficult – great ending battle took 9 rounds).
After the final battle, the cleric and wizard had used many of their spells, both of them dropped down pretty low with hit points and the cleric had to use heals a few times. If the lich lasted a little longer, the Bone Devil would have polymorphed back and that would have been trouble. As it was, the group was able to rush out and find the sheep and kill it before it turned back into the devil.
We had a blast. Each PC felt like it was an equal member of the party. The fighter had decisions to make using his Expertise Dice. The others had spell decisions. Interposing shield was fun too (both the fighter and the cleric had that feat).
The game was really easy for me to DM (except that I had to have one of the players look up spell effects often because I didn’t know them well enough and we did miss a few calls, and once or twice we had to rewind and redo something because we forgot something or misinterpreted something – I chalk that up to jumping up to 10th level without much prep time, so it wasn’t so bad). I really liked that I could run the adventure for just 3 players. In fact, I think the default group in my opinion should be 3 players. This made it possible for me to challenge the players without having to throw tons of monsters at them. I also loved how lower level monsters like modified skeletons, wights, wraiths, ghouls and gargoyles were still threatening enough to make the players fear combats (even if they only lasted 3 rounds).
We loved the speed of the game. If the players were more familiar with their PCs we probably could have done the entire adventure in 3 ½ hours. But even at 4 ½ hours it felt fulfilling. With higher level PCs, it is important to have the spell effects written out on the character sheets so that players (and DM) don’t have to search through rules for every spell).
The first time the wizard turned a devil into a chicken it was funny. The 2nd time it became obnoxious. Polymorph is broken. Creatures should at least get a save each round so there is a chance for the victim to revert, or devils especially (and other fearsome creatures) should get advantage vs. magic spells. Not being able to use any of its natural abilities or spell abilities made the devils useless when polymorphed. Without the wizard, the party would have been in much worse shape since the Ice Devil could use polymorph too…and Ice Storm, etc, and the Bone Devil would have alerted the Lich, and both would have fought the PCs at the same time.
Player Spell DCs are too high. DC 17 vs. polymorph and other spells made the wizard nearly unstoppable.
The cleric had a lot of fun using Cure Wounds against the Lich. That did a lot of damage, but not too much. In addition, even though the cleric was a Lifebringer, he didn’t feel like a heal-bot. In fact, he only used healing in the last battle, and even then, he used many of his spells to do damage rather than heal.
Both spellcasters loved being able to use higher spell slots to cast lower level spells, and this flexibility made the wizard especially happy. But we realized that the wizard could actually have cast his Polymorph spell 5 times if he used all of his 4th and 5th level slots. That would have been really godlike, and way too powerful.
We also liked how spells used saving throws instead of “to hit” scores (but again, we felt that PCs DCs were too high). The save mechanic made spells seem different from weapon attacks, and because they used saves, they targeted different defenses other than AC, which always felt weird in the other playtest packages.
Overall, this package is playing much better than past packages, and it seems as if the monster XP values are making it easier to create adventures that are fun to play. With more tweaking, it should get even better.
Monday, March 25, 2013, 7:20 AM
Many people are eager for a "Tactical Combat" mod for D&D Next. To me, tactical combat has to do with movement and positioning in combat. It includes any decision a player makes to engage, disengage, or effect the battlefield.
Even now, in our games with D&DNext, we can play tactically using the "disengage" option to get out of combat, or using other standard options (dodge, grapple, hustle, knock down, Ready an Action), use terrain/cover especially in conjunction with split moves, and use feats/abilities. To me, there are plenty of tactical options in this playtest package (March 2013).
Here is a list of feats/abilities that grant more tactical options in combat: Bull Rush, Charge, Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Combat Superiority, Covert Strike, Disarming Attack, Evasive Movement, First Strike, Hold the Line, Interposing Shield (one of my favorites), Polearm Training, Reposte and Seize the Advantage, Shove Away, Spring Attack (another favorite), Trip Attack, Tumbling Movement, Warding Polearm.
All of the above feats influence the way PCs move in combat, sometimes encouraging tactical play because the feat depends on movement and positioning, or another combat option that could help others or hinder foes in some way.
Class abilities also influence the way PCs move and or attack in combat and become ways to add to tactial combat.
Barbarian abilities including rage, reckless attack and fast movement all influence the way the Barbarian moves and behaves in combat sometimes leading to tactical decisions.
Cleric's use of Channel Divinity can also add to tactical play....Spiritual Vestment, for example is a safety net so that a Cleric can take chances triggering AO to get into better postion...many other Cleric abilities also grant tactical options.
Fighter Options and Expertise is all about tactial combat. Superior Defense (nimble dodge, parry, warning shout) all give fighters the ability to move around more freely in combat to seek better positions.
Ranger abilities like Weave through the Fray, Small Target, Avoid Reach, all encourage movement to get to a chosen foe, becoming a tactical decision.
Rogue abilities like Tumbling Strike, Backstab and Isolated Strike all encourage tactical movement and decision making.
I think the best thing D&DNext could do is just keep the "DMs best Friend" rule from previous editions so that if a DM wants to grant +2 bonus he can feel free to do so. Some DMs would use this rule to encourage interesting improvised maneuvers, or acrobatic attacks like diving onto an opponent from above, or flanking (or attacking from behind). In a way, it would become a "mini-advantage" mechanism.
Saturday, March 16, 2013, 8:39 PM
So now I’m playing in a 4e campaign. The funny thing is, I DMd 4e for over 2 years, but had never really played it. Now that I’m getting a chance to play it, I’m seeing so much that I like, and so much that I feel D&DNext is incorporating into it. Frankly, I’m a little confused why 4e lovers don’t see some of the 4e elements within D&DNext.
To me, 4e would be a great game if combat didn’t take so dang long. Even in our 1st level game this week, one battle took over an hour and 15 minutes. It was a nail biter, and it was exciting, but when combat takes too long, it takes away from other parts of the game that could also add to the larger story. I like how D&DNext might be able to shave some time off of combats so that other aspects of the game (exploration and interaction) can be balanced, but that doesn't mean that 4e does not have a lot to offer to D&DNext.
Two of the things I really like about 4e that I do see in D&DNext include healing surges and combat choices derived from powers. Of course, in D&DNext the healing surges idea has been simplified becoming Hit Dice of Healing, but essentially it is the same concept. PCs can heal themselves out of combat using surges/hit dice. Honestly, I like how D&DNext does not allow for “Second Wind” within combat. That’s one of the 4e elements that just makes combats drag on too long. With “Second Wind” the DM has to really throw everything at the PCs in order to get them to spend their encounter based resources, “Second Wind” being one of those. To me, as DM, 4e makes the DM think of encounters more in terms of “how do I get the party to use their resources” rather than how do I create an encounter that fits within the story of the game. I do understand that superior DMs can do both, get PCs to use their resources, and also create encounters that fit within the story of the game, but for me, it always seemed like a chore and often my encounter design seemed contrived in order to achieve both goals. As a player, I really appreciate the way that 4e gives PCs optional attacks and other abilities derived from powers. Being able to hit a foe and do damage is only one aspect of the game. Granting bonuses to AC, adding temporary hit points, granting combat advantage, and applying other conditions to foes really does make for exciting battles. I can see how D&DNext feats and abilities is drawing from this to some extent. As D&DNext evolves over the next few months or over the next year, I can see it incorporating more and more into the combat maneuvers/feats so that DMs and players can approach 4e style combat. The one thing I hope, and I think the designers are conscious of, is that while giving options and interesting abilities to both PCs and monsters makes for a richer combat experience, it can also lead to slower combats. WotC will have to walk the razor’s edge to give players the options allowing for active decision making during turns and reactions, but they will also have to make sure that this can be done without overcomplicated conditions and effects because those conditions and effects tend to bog the game down, slowing combats to a crawl. I hope this balance can be achieved.
A related idea in 4e that is also in D&DNext is the ability to use a power as a reaction rather than a turn based power. I love being able to react to a foes attack instead of just standing there and taking the hit. In 4e, powers like Shield spell, and other interrupt spells give me a chance to do something when it isn’t my turn. Yes, this slows the game down, but it keeps me in the game even when it isn’t my turn. In D&DNext, “parry”, “protect”, “shield bash” and other maneuvers do the same thing. That is good for the game, and if the mechanic is simple enough, it won’t add to much time to combats.
Another element in 4e that has made its way into D&DNext is the “at will” powers for spell casters either cantrips or orisons. These really allow each spell casting PC to contribute even when they don’t have a spell slot to burn. The only issue I see now with D&DNext is that there needs to be a wider variety of options for cantrips and orisons, and the damage that some of these powers do needs to be clearly calibrated so that they aren’t under or overpowered. Personally, I’m a big fan of cantrips that have 1001 uses, ones like mage hand, prestidigitation, minor illusions. I’m not sure how much damage a cantrip should do, but that is something to experiment with. I kind of like the design idea that gives some cantrips limited damage coupled with a chance to do something else. Ray of Frost with damage and a chance to slow is very interesting. I could even see a mage hand used to slap or sucker punch an opponent doing 1d4 damage. This would broaden the utility of the spell and encourage players to use it in more interesting ways. It would be quite exciting if a 1st level wizard could use mage hand to cuff a kobold, gaining a small chance to knock it unconscious.
The final aspect of 4e that I see coming back to D&DNext is using damage multipliers for weapon damage as PCs gain levels. Mike Mearls mentioned that in one of the next playtest packages MDD would be replaced by weapon damage multipliers for higher level PCs, and I like that idea. It seems reasonable and much easier to work with than MDD. The only thing I’m worried about is that this will truly disadvantage any dagger wielding rogue unless he/she gained another ability that made using a dagger more advantageous. I don’t want every PC to always have the urge to simply use the weapon that does the most damage. There should be other reasons to use smaller or more specialized weapons. I hope that WoTC can incorporate this into their design.
Overall, by playing 4e, I’m cultivating a more clear idea of what I like as a player, and I’m also seeing how many of the same elements are, at least in part, seeping into D&DNext. Although I started playing D&D with Basic and 1e, I would like D&DNext to incorporate more from all editions, especially some of the parts of 4e that made for a richer playing experience.
Friday, March 8, 2013, 4:50 PM
After posting to a thread about Healer dynamics in a party (reducing the need for healers in D&DNext), I started thinking about an idea that a few people mentioned...use of damage mitigation. Some people have been calling for damage mitigation mechanics for all PCs, and I agree.
Damage mitigation serves a number of very important gameplay objectives that I can see.
1) Less dependence on in combat healing.
2) A way to keep hit points from inflating too much.
3) More active participation by players on “off” turns (reactions).
The first two points are pretty self explanatory so I’m not going to elaborate. The third point is one that I’ve been really interested in over the past months as I’ve been playtesting. One of the most enjoyable parts of the playtest, for me, has been the decision making process, and the active choices that my PCs have been able to make in a number of in-game situations. Among those choices has been the ability to decide which attack to parry or which attack to attempt to block using shield bash. These types of decisions (as reactions during an off turn, not during my turn) have made the game much more exciting. Rolling to see if my PC can parry a blow (or more precisely how much damage can my PC avoid taking by using his parry against one attack) has given me a chance to respond to attacks instead of just being passive. Not only that, but the random nature of the parry dice adds an element of suspense that I would not experience if I could not use that ability.
Similarly, deciding which attack against an ally I should impose “disadvantage” on using shield bash has also made me a more active player during off turns. Deciding which attack to shield bash on becomes a tactical decision that makes the game more interesting. For example, when my Cleric (who had the shield bash feat) was defending a rogue in one of the games I played in, the rogue was attacked by a creature like a troll with two claws and a bite attack. Before the troll-like creature attacked, I had to decide which of the attacks to impose my shield upon. Sometimes I picked one that missed anyway so I chose poorly, but other times, I chose one that hit and was able to turn the blow, very exciting. Decision making in these situations became more tactical because I had to decide which attack might be a more devastating attack. If I didn’t know the monster, I just guessed, or I made an Intelligence (dungeoneering or other appropriate focus) to determine which attack might be more deadly. This made gameplay much more interesting and dynamic. It also saved the rogue some pain and disfiguring wounds on a few occassions.
Because damage mitigation adds the randomness, tactical decision-making, and gives PCs a chance to be active when creatures attack rather than passive, it becomes a terrific addition to the game, so much so that I believe every PC should have options to choose feats/abilities that perform damage mitigation maneuvers or stunts. Clerics and wizards should be able to call on divine power and arcane magic to do magical parries or blocks. Since most (or all) of the abilities that mitigate damage can only apply against one attack in a round, it does not save a PC from gang attacks, but in a lot of situations it will be the difference between suffering 0, 1 or 2 hits rather than more hits in a round, and that could make all the difference.
I’m all for damage mitigation for all, and more choices that make my play experience more active even when it isn’t my PCs turn.