Thursday, October 9, 2014

Barad joins a D&D 5th Edition game

Cover Art from Wizards of the Coast
My son and his friends wanted to run the D&D Starter Set game and needed some players.  In need of a game I recruited a couple of my friends and off we go to Phandalin.

I do not intend to give away the module, but inevitably there will be spoilers.  I'll try to minimize them, and certainly not give away key facts.  You have been warned.

Mostly I will talk about random impressions and how we enjoy or do not enjoy the 5th Edition rules.  It seems funny to call it 5th Edition as Wizards spent so much time calling it 'Next'.  However it seems appropriate to me to call it 5th Edition because it gives perspective, not accuracy.

My view is colored by my FRPG gaming experiences.  As noted elsewhere on this blog, and in my profile, I have mostly played D&D.  The games with which I have the most experience are:

  • Holmes basis RAW
  • AD&D/1E RAW and house ruled
  • D&D 3E RAW, D&D 3.5 RAW and house ruled
  • D&D 4E RAW
  • D20 Modern/Past
We gather and introductions are done. Two of us know everyone.  Six people around the table, half under 30, half over 55.  It will be interesting.  Characters are handed out.  Three of us gave preferences for a particular class and with no objections we got those characters.  The remaining two players choose from the fighters.  I had requested the rogue, without having read the character sheet.  I have interest in exercising the rogue character because to me it gives the fastest and best view into the game for me to be able to DM a game later on.

Some of us have read the basic rules PDF, so we review some of the changes we feel will be most helpful to reduce confusion and player disappointment.  If I am remembering them correctly the main discussions were around:

  • Advantage/Disadvantage
  • No flanking
  • Change in Attacks of Opportunity
  • Action economy - Move, Action, Bonus Action
  • Moving before and after attacks
  • Hit points and healing
  • Saving throws and skills
Character sheets were briefly read and off we went.  There was no complicated "you meet in a tavern" awkwardness, we started in the caravan to Phandalin - our connection only that we all knew the Dwarf NPC somehow.  How we knew him was up to us, mostly.  I was fairly pleased with the pre-generated character sheet.  It was not hard to find most information with the exception of equipment was not quick to find items, and the inclusion and focus on Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds & Flaws made jumping into character quick and easy.

Half of the group was playing D&D before the other half was born, and we were quite comfortable with role playing on the fly so the in character discussions started right from the beginning.  Referring back to the traits etc was helpful, but did not eliminate the need for the detailed back ground on the back of the sheet.

Combats were quick, easy and fun.  I still have to remind myself when my rogue gets advantage vs when I get sneak attack, but that is more edition confusion than rule complication.  I definitely recommend people have two sets of dice to keep the rolling moving quickly.  Two twenties to deal with Advantage/Disadvantage, and two damage dice to deal with critical hits.  I found with all the action going on at the table, if I picked up the damage die to re roll for the additional critical damage quickly forgot the original roll.  Of course that memory challenge could be age related....

Goblins from Wizards of the Coast
I agree with what I have read elsewhere regarding monsters being more challenging.  Our encounter with goblins was very dangerous and could have gone badly for our little group of would be heroes.  One of our fighters went down to zero in the first two rounds and was clearly in danger of perishing.  Quick action by the rest of the group got him back in the game and we managed to handle the encounter.

1st level Characters are definitely more fragile than in 4th edition, but much more sturdy than in 1st & 3rd edition RAW.  So far my opinion is this is a good thing.  Characters in 1st edition could and did die on randomly good rolls; we house ruled additional hit points in our game.  We did similar adjustments in 3rd edition.  Although I have had only one game outing so far (excluding a play test game), my feeling is the starting hit points is about right compared to the monster challenges.  I like the idea of fledgling heroes who need to learn to survive, but not so fragile they would die if locked in a closet with a house cat.  Those long time players will understand the reference.

That is it for now, more soon.  Share your experience in the comments.
The dice never lie.

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