Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The one where I play DnD Next, Origins Game Fair Part 2

Tim, Dan, and I went to Origins Game Fair on the 14th. We all signed up to play some DnD Next at 8:00pm. The adventure was from the Legacy of Crystal Shards. First the story of what happened and then I talk about the mechanics under the fold.

I got into a session of DnD Next at the Origins Game Fair. It was the Shards of Icewind Dale part of the Legacy of the Crystal Shards. I played Sir Endless Star a Paladin of Torm. We played at 1st level for the first half of the adventure and 2nd level for the second half.

The Roster
Dan - Spikey, Ranger
Me - Sir Endless Star, Paladin of Torm
Tim - Roger, Rogue
Ray - Mithian, Cleric of Ilmater
Mike - Eldeth, Magic-User
Rob - Ironhelm, Dwarf, Fighter

The adventure threw together two groups of old school gamers. Dan, Tim, and I from NW Pa. Ray, Mike and Rob from Harrisburg. Combined, we  had a century of experience with tabletop roleplaying.

The Story

The adventure proper involved us as guards escorting a caravan to one of the Ten Towns of the Icewind dale. We got attacked by Saber-Tooth Tigers and one of the wagons get knocked over during the fight. The party won but the carvanmaster wanted to leave the wagon and its merchant behind. The party agreed to stay and help. In the course of doing so we found a crate full of silver weapons which was a very unusual piece of cargo.

We fixed up the wagon and begin moving to the town. Contrary nothing bad happen along the way. That is not until we hit the town. Even tho we started out hour behind the rest of the caravan, the traffic jam at the gate meant they were still trying to get through. Just as we had the town in sight a bunch of yetis attacked.

We rushed down to the gate and threw ourselves into the fray. After several minutes of combat we managed to get the wagons in (including the one we were escorting) and shut the gates.

In the aftermath, we learned that yetis are solitary creatures and this was very unusual. We were paid off for our caravan work and helped with the clean up. During the clean up a merchant from the local apothecary caught several of the party's ears. He had a tale of woe about he paid for protection from somebody named Slim and got nothing for it. Especially since he felt had to the "protection" money.

Talking with the local sheriff, I found out that Slim was known for hiring out guards. Most of the party was excited about going after Slim and getting the merchant's money back. I reminded them that we are strangers in this town, that we had no authority, that we had only one side of the story. They were ready to ignore me until I firmly stated that if they did this as the Torm's hand on Faerun I would oppose them.

We compromised on acting as the merchant's agent. I again pointed out that we did this right that having the merchant as a friend could help us as we were strangers here. Do this wrong we would be either imprisoned or forced to leave in the midst of a snow storm with yetis on the prowl.

So we headed to the Northwind Tavern where Slim lived. We got directions to his rooms. Before I could knock, one of the more enthusiastic party members kicked down the door. For a second I thought out in the storm would be our ultimate destination. But Torm was with us and we caught the inhabitants of the room in the midst of a murder. Moreso one of the perpetrators was a Wererat. We all rushed into the room but the wererat was took quick. He shapeshifted into to a small rat and escaped.

I went into the room and with my sword point at one of remaining human throat announced that I was Torm's Hand on Faerun, that they were outnumber and retribution would fall if they did not surrendered. They exercised their better judgment and surrendered.

From the information gathered, we uncovered a conspiracy where Slim and his thugs were conspiring with one of the town leaders to take over. The Yetis were magically controlled and sent in to create chaos. The party learned they had supplies at the warehouse they needed to retrieve. We laid an ambush and broke the back of their conspiracy in the ensuing fight.

The Details

The referee was component. On the plus side he made rulings competently and did well with some of our off the wall choices. He used starburst for monsters and gave you the candy if you were the one that killed the creatures. On the downside, he read the boilerplate text incessantly. He was good it at so it wasn't quite the grind it could have been.

When I referee the players have to describe what they are doing first and then I would tell what rolls are needed. Our referee asked for rolls first too many times especially with the skill system. Before anybody start bitching about DnD Next skills, ADnD/ODnD referee had similar issues with stat checks like bend bars, etc. What I saw in this game in 2014 was not out of the realm of possibility for a 1980 ADnD 1st game.

The character sheet is about as a stat heavy as any other classic DnD character sheet. The main difference is that they include the actual rules for all the abilities. With their setup a total novice could play just using the sheet for a reference. Yet the rules are simple enough that you can just write it up old style with name of the ability or skill.

You have some class abilities. They are written up pretty much in the style of classic DnD. For example Lay on Hands: Heal up to 5/hp per level. You can exchange 5 pts of healing for a removing a disease, or neutralize a poison.

You had some background detail. My paladin was from a noble family and had a noble title.

Skills are present, you are marked proficient in certain skills which means you get your proficiency bonus to your skill roll. However like my own Majestic Wilderlands it appears any character can attempt any skill.

Low attributes can not only give you a minus to a skill roll be give you a disadvantage. I had dex low enough that it gave me disadvantage to stealth.

I think this is an important point everybody misses. Fighter and Magic-users have the EXACT same chances of hitting somebody, your proficiency bonus. The difference is in the fact magic-user can only get this with simple melee weapons, fighters have a much broader selection that does more damage.

First Combat (saber-tooth tigers)
Found out that initiative is a 1d20 plus dex. It possible to be proficient in initiative.

I threw a javelin and then got a few hits in with the broadsword. I had an AC 18 which is a big things compared to what we fought.

The fight was over in ten minutes. One party member (out of six) got mauled badly and a few more got hit. With bad luck the fight could have gone against us.

A lot more time was spent roleplaying with the merchant and the wagon that got knocked over. Here the roll first issues I mentioned above first cropped up.

Second Combat (yetis)
This was a big fight with a dozen yetis around the battefield and one boss Yeti. Thanks to the party working together we were never in serious trouble but most of the party including myself got dinged up. The referee and the rules were able to handle my character and others grappling when a party member got caught in a yeti bear hug.

It was during this fight that it was obvious that AC and to hit bonuses are not a big part of the game. What made a creature truly tough is that they soaked up a lot of hit points. My Ac 18 was at a top end and a major assest even with the boss Yeti.

The fight took 15 minutes and it was longer because there were two waves of attacks. The roleplaying afterwards took longer to play out.

After this point we leveled up to 2nd Level. The paladin got two first level spells which could be traded in for a Divine Smite doing 2d8 damage.

Third Combat (were-rats and humans)
This was very short as it involved the wererat winning initiative, and escaping. I had a good initiative roll and used to barge into the room. I shouted "I am the Hand of Torm on Faerun, etc" After I was done I ask the referee what I need to roll. He gave me a Persuasion check with a bonus for roleplaying. I rolled a 23 or something and the four remaining humans surrendered.

While I don't like when referee ask for rolls firsts. However the blame can't be all on the referee either. It is a two way street. You, the player, need to also roleplay first. Since I knew this referee consistently rolled first, I didn't give him a chance with me. When my turn came up I did the action along with the roleplaying and THEN asked him for the ruling.

I know some player get bent about not knowing the rules before an action. But sometimes you need to let go of that and just do what you would do if you were really there.

By me doing this, I think I helped the game without being a asshole to the referee. He had a lot on his plate and was doing a good job in other areas of the game.

Afterwards we did some investigation and a lot talking with various NPCs. Afterwhich we setup the warehouse ambush.

Fourth Combat (humans)
Dan, Tim and I are long time DnD players. The same for the other three guys in the party. Between everybody there we probably had a century worth of experience playing DnD. The ambush in the warehouse showcased our this experience. The party never lost control of the fight, again we suffered a few hits but within ten minutes we mopped up the opposition.

It was getting close to midnight at this point. I was feeling run down and several other of the players as well. Graciously the referee just narrated the rest of the module and he did a pretty good job of it. So we had some resolution to the game.

Overall the flow of DnD Next is exactly the same as the various classic editions DnD. Nothing like the 4e adventures I played at previous cons. The vast majority of our time was roleplaying with the NPCs and dealing with party. Pretty much like how I experienced it in 1980 and the various OSR games I been in it.

The details are as different as 2nd edition is different than 1st edition as different than B/X, than ODnD, etc. It could have been easily a Blood and Treasure game or Castles and Crusades.

The only thing I heard about DnD 4e was bitching and moaning. There were some, yeah I liked it but.... Everybody either was excited about the 40th anniversary classic DnD games or the DnD Next games.

I want to play a high level DnD next game. I don't think it will be the same issues as 3.X but if there are issues it will be there. I think low to mid level they got it covered. I have a good feeling about bounded accuracy and use of advantage and disadvantage.

I think much of the hand wringing is overrated. The system looks mallable enough to do whatever you want. Want to jack up the customization with feats and abilities. Want to go into hard core old school mode, you can ignore feats and background. The remaining abilities are no more complex then they were in 1st edition.


Greyhawk Grognard said...

Great write-up. I played a high-level 5E game at Dreamation a few months ago, and although you have more options (because you have more special abilities) it plays just the same as it does at low levels. As you say, the biggest adjustment is the large numbers of hit points that everything seems to have, but that seems to be balanced out by the AC and combat bonuses.

Mystic Scholar said...

I had no idea you guys were from PA. I'm living in Shippensburg.

Sounds as though you enjoyed yourselves, though I don't think I'll be exploring D&D Next. But that's just me.

Mike Lee said...

Great write-up. I was there, and it went down pretty-much like Rob said. As a player of all editions of D&D, I agree with all of Rob's sentiments. I play-tested, wrote for, judged and played 4e for years. It's a great system, but the soul of D&D somehow slipped away into the tactical ruleset. D&D Next brings me back to previous editions while preserving a few nice things from 4e (like at-will spells).

Venger Satanis said...

An entertaining and informative read. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed 5e.

Chris C. said...

Nice write-up Rob. I'm eagerly awaiting the starter set and can't wait to read through it.

Anthony N. Emmel said...

Thanks for the review. sounds similar to my experiences with 5e so far.

Lum said...

What did you think of the Hit Die as healing surge rule? Did you use it?