Saturday, August 10, 2013

D&D Playtest Feedback (Ver. 8/1/13)

As I've mentioned in some previous posts, my daughters are both big D&D fans. We're on vacation in Maine this week, and since we're staying in a cabin without TV or Internet access, we brought quite a few board games to pass the evenings. We started our week playing Dungeon, worked up to The Legend of Drizzt, and by mid-week started a campaign using the latest D&D Next Playtest Rules, the version released late last week (8/1/2013). 

The good thing about the latest version of the ruleset is that it's stripped down. My daughters are smart little girls, but they're 8 and 9 respectively, and the intricacies of the game in its full glory are a little much for them. Likewise, I've been trying to get my wife to play along with us for quite a while, but as she noted at the start, she's more than happy to engage in a game of "Let's make believe" with her family, but she has little to no interest in learning the actual rules for Dungeons and Dragons. The new ruleset succeeded in making the game at least somewhat approachable for her, and in fact, when my kids were ready to just start playing her character for her as the game progressed, she actually muscled her way back into the campaign and re-engaged in the game. I'd call that progress. 

We started out playing in the car on the way down to Mount Desert Island on Wednesday. My daughter's character, Sneakatara "Sneax" Boatman, was sent by ship to the logging town of Ellesburg to broker the purchase of some bulk lumber on behalf of her benefactor, Draks the Fire Elf. Sneax was accompanied by Nathaniel, a half-elf paladin of Mars and one of Draks's innumerable sons, and Nathaniel--my character--in turn brought along Malaika, my wife's half-orc barbarian, as muscle. But in Ellesburg, they learned that one of the logging camps had been attacked by goblins, so their lumber was unavailable.  The local lumber factor therefore introduced our heroes to Zelda, my younger daughter's elf ranger, and soon enough, they were off. 

In the course of re-opening the logging camp, we fought five encounters, against goblins, wolves, a bugbear, cave spiders, and finally an ogre and the giant spider he'd been keeping as a pet. We recovered the missing caravan guard--now desiccated  and webbed over--and the missing lumber shipment, and I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all, even my wife. 

My notes on the game are as follows: 

1.  I think the DM's Guide's experience point budget for encounters is low. We fought five encounters and needed only one of the three Potions of Healing we brought into the adventure. The girls liked winning, but as a DM, I think the game would've had more suspense if it'd been a little harder. 

2. My paladin's AC (18) was virtually unhittable. That may well have been the design, but it was a little surprising, especially for a 1st Level PC. That said, the problem probably would've corrected itself with slightly harder encounters. 

3.  My paladin's horse was a big asset in one fight. It offset his armor's speed penalty and made him more maneuverable in the one battle we had in which range was a factor. 

4.  My daughter's halfling rogue was an absolute assassin. The new Sneak Attack rules make it very easy to deal Sneak Attack damage, and together with her two-weapon fighting and her ability to Hide, she did fully half the party's killing.  It helps that she got THREE Critical Hits. 

5.  My wife's barbarian took nearly all of the damage that the monsters dealt. That was probably about right. She was always out front, had a relatively low AC, and had plenty of hit points to take that damage. I spent most of my Lay on Hands points healing her, and she used the one Potion of Healing we consumed. 

That said, when she raged in the final battle, it made a HUGE difference. The ogre got a solid hit on her that would've dropped her in place, but because she was raging, she had resistance and shrugged it off. So what would've perhaps become a desperate right instead became pretty easy. 

6.  My younger daughter wanted a way for her Ranger to have an animal companion. I hope a future ruleset will have some rules for either a beast companion Ranger or for putting together Companion Characters using extant monsters. I'd have given her a dog of some kind if I'd thought about how I might have done it earlier on. 

And that's all I've got. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

1 comment:

  1. From Chile, I'm DMing the previous set in the only place in my country where the Encounters are played, and we had some talk with my players about the changes and I agree with most of your points. Some guys were surprised by the fact that all those special feats are obtained at level 3!!
    We'll start using new characters by the time of the next Encounter (next week) but we'll traspass the old ones to the new ruleset so I intend to lead them to increase some levels and take them to The Tomb of Horrors...
    Take care and keep playing!