Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Red Pen Has A Re-Think

After having the chance to play a session of 5th edition, I am beginning to think that some of what I viewed as negative or optional might just be fine in the context of game play.

While I still think the healing to full hit-points after a full rest is too much, I can definitely see how the other healing methods work well to aid the flow of the game. In fact, the hit-dice mechanic makes for a good representation of fatigue, and other issues, when after a few days of hard adventuring a character could easily find healing up getting more and more difficult when fewer hit dice are returning after long rests.

The ability score increases still urk me, and until the Monster Manual and maybe the DM's Guide are in hand, I won't know if those can be removed or even need to be excised. In the Basic game, ability score bumps are all there are while in the PHB you can choose either a boost in abilities or a feat.

The magic system in 5e is a thing of beauty. Sure, I think the unlimited ammo combat cantrips are somewhat over-powered, and that meant boosting first level spells to a crazy level of damage production (Magic Missile does 3d4+3 damage, split into three 1d4+1 missiles), the flexible use of spells in higher spell slots is awesome. A wizard or other spell caster can take a low level spell and use a higher level slot to cast it making what would have been a minor spell into a more capable/powerful tool.

For example: The Command spell in the hands of a higher level caster is capable of affecting an entire adventuring party because in higher slots it affects more people instead of just a single target. Think of the party bursting into the lair of the evil high priest who simply Commands them to surrender. No longer does one person obey while the rest of the party eviscerates EHP, now they all might fall under the spell and be captured. No more interrupting a well prepared soliloquy, you pesky adventurers are going to have to listen to the grand standing of the big bad boss monster.

The Sleep spell likewise has become more useful. Sure, at lower level it can only do so much, but cast from higher level slots, and based on target hit points, it can be used against the big bad once the monster has been beat down a bit. Got a Paladin or other uber-goody in the party that wants to bring the villain to justice instead of just executing the miscreant on sight? Sleep is now your means of keeping intra-party politics calm.

There is one disappointment I have about the re-writing of spells. As someone that likes to use Enlarge-Reduce spells to break lintels so they crash down on enemies, the re-write rules that out by limiting the enlarge portion of the spell to only fit the area, not expand beyond. At least I can still use the Reduce portion to shrink a door out of its frame.

I've been a fan of the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic since it was introduced in the first play-test packet. No more having to remember a host of fiddly modifiers. Simple and elegant, and it keeps things moving.

My next campaign is going to use 5e so that it gets a proper vetting from the DM side of the screen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

5E Starter Set - Play session

Recently five of us sat down to try out the 5th edition starter set using the pregenerated characters. There were four players and we ended up not having the rogue along with us. We would have benefited greatly from that fifth party member.

The characters were:
Cleric - Thundren Rockseeker, cousin to the plot hook Gundren Rockseeker.
Archer Fighter - (COUGH) whose name was both unpronounceable and unspellable.
Wizard - Therondai.
Fighter - Ozren van Corlinn

We started on the road at the first ambush point where 4 rather stupid goblins (the DM declared them to be morons mainly to get the slaughter on quickly) fired crossbows at the party wounding Ozren and Thundren. Mop-up was very fast. Spells from Therondai the wizard and Thundren the cleric combined one after another to explode the closest goblin with incredible damage (a spell crit happened). The second goblin's head became the world's first golf ball when Ozren's axe sent it flying. (13 damage). The third suffered minor spell damage and tried to flee only to get skewered by an arrow from COUGH. The fourth and final goblin became the firing range for more massive spell damage as 3 Magic Missiles from the wizard rained on his tiny noggin blowin' him up real good.

At this point everyone is thinking, wow, 1st level characters are powerful!

The party located a trail to follow in hopes of recovering the kidnapped hostages. Along the trail COUGH stepped into a snare trap and swung upside down for a bit. Further along the trail Ozren, while lecturing COUGH about being wary and more careful, triggered the pit trap and barely avoided falling in.

We eventually came to a cave entrance from which issued a steady stream of water. Two morons nearby compleately failed to notice the clanking menace approaching so we prepared our ranged attacks to be followed by spells if we failed to kill them on first shots. Fortunately we slew with javelin and arrow.

Entering the cave with the dwarf and elf alternating scouting duties (they were the only ones with dark vision) we were rudely shouted at by some wolves chained in a side cave. Throwing them a dead goblin to eat, quieted them down and we went past them along the stream.

Further into the cave we discovered a rope and plank bridge crossing above the stream. COUGH with the help of a rope managed to climb up onto the bridge and get attacked immediately by goblins we failed to notice. Meanwhile deeper in, another goblin released water from the dam causing it to rush down toward the party.

Thundren and Therondai retreated to the wolf room to get above the rushing flow and Ozren braced himself hoping to maintain footing so he could follow COUGH onto the bridge.

Back in the wolf room a goblin arrived to release the wolves from their chains only to become moron bar-b-que when a quick thinking Therondai unleashed Burning Hands. You think wet dogs stink? Try severely singed wolf fur! Another round or two and the wolves were all dead, right along with the goblin that set them loose.

Meanwhile at the bridge COUGH was handed his backside and dropped by some goblins in the side passage. Ozren managed to pull himself onto the bridge and began separating goblins into smaller pieces. Eventually the party regrouped and COUGH was stabilized and healed.

With all members of the party now on the bridge, the group moved into a tunnel opposite the one the goblins that mugged COUGH had come from.

That's when the party got careless and walked into what could easily have been a TPK had it not been for a not so moronic goblin having need of someone to go kill a bugbear that was making itself worthy of a good killin'.

Three party members were down, chained to the cave wall leaving the cleric to negotiate for the entire partys' lives. He agree that if he could rest for a day and say his prayers that he would take on the bugbear by himself. And so it was.

Clerics apparently have some serious combat spells now because not only did Thundren manage to take out the bugbear, he also slew the pet wolf he had not been expecting to be there.

The party was freed, given back their property, minus their money (call it the hotel bill) and sent on their way.

That is where we left off.

I'm happy to report that despite making some minor goofs with using the new rules, the game plays very quick, and feels very much the way I like D&D to feel. Everyone agreed we want to play more when schedules permit and to continue with the pre-gen characters until we complete the adventure from the Starter Set.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5E Basic - The Red Pen Takes A Break

I think that aside from figuring out how to adjust the Ability score increases out of the monsters if they are included in monster stats, that any other thing I feel should be optional will be easy to separate from Basic without negatively impacting the core math of the game.

With that out of the way, I really like what the folks at WotC have done with Fifth Edition.

I had some concern about all classes having an identical increase in combat value, however I have been reading a lot of reviews and some people willing to dig deeper into the system pointed out how much more powerful a fighter gets in melee combat through class capabilities than the other classes. The classes really do break out nicely into their own respective niche.

While I have not had a chance to run or play yet, just a read through the magic/spells has me anticipating the fun of experienced players trying to relearn how a few things work in order to churn out some seriously cool uses for spells and spell combinations.

That's all for the moment. After a long day of work . . .

Sunday, July 6, 2014

5E D&D - The Red Pen Diary Continues.

Healing in 5E has gone way overboard into redundancy.

1. At one point in the rules it mentions that characters get all lost hit-points back after a long rest (at least 8 hours), along with half of the spent healing hit-dice.

2. During a short rest characters can roll hit-dice to recover hit-points, potentially returning to full.

3. There is a healing kit available in the equipment that has 10 uses and can help restore hit-points.

4. Clerics can use a number of spells to heal characters, including some at-range.

5. There are healing potions and likely other magic items for healing.

6. Some classes even have their own healing capabilities. The fighter has an increasing number of Second-Winds that allow a die to be rolled to heal some hit-points (up to 10 + CON modifier) and this ability recharges between short or long rests. And at 18th level the fighter even gains a minor form of regeneration.

I see no real issue with numbers 3, 4, and 5. Numbers 1, 2, and 6, should have been options, not Basic game inclusions.

Getting back to the Ability score increases. Some classes have more levels at which they are able to do this than others. Once we see the monsters we should be able to determine if this is baked into the core system math and then we need to determine how to remove it. It should not be core, it should be optional since something like this is much easier to add than subtract from the system.

I like the playability of 5E, but I keep finding stuff that should not be part of a basic game.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

5E D&D Basic - The Red Pen Comes Out

Well, I was somewhat wrong about Basic D&D being a clean basic game.

It does indeed have at its core the power mongering ridiculous Ability score bumps both at character creation and at levels 5 additional points during level gains.

Humans get +1 to all stats at the start and all characters appear to get +2 to a single Ability every 4 levels.
The maximum for an Ability score is capped at 20,what good is that when many of a character's Ability scores could get to 20. There may be some differences for the non-human races once I take the time to examine things further

The experience table is designed for very rapid level gain. The potential exists to go through 24 hours of play and have characters go from 1st level into the very high levels.

There may be more things I would change or eliminate from this Not-Basic, Basic game, but I won't know until I have time to read the entire thing a couple times through.

Mearls, you got some splainin' t'do . . .

Monday, June 30, 2014

Odds and Ends

Looks like the 5E Starter Set characters are built using options from the PHB. 

The Basic game will not be complete till close to the end of the year, but that is ok since it should still be playable somewhat when it becomes available for download on July 3rd.

Monsters have different types of hit dice. Some have D10, some have D8, and I suspect other dice come into play. 

Here's something you might find amusing: 101 Spells Not Worth Memorizing


Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Eyes Have It!

Today WotC unveiled a few of the monsters that will be in the starter set. These included the Nothic, the Ogre, and the Ochre Jelly.
Guess which one this is.

I'm quite pleased by the simplicity of the monster stat blocks.  They have been kept neat, tidy, and give the info needed in an easy to read format, which is great when running a combat. The format reminds me of the 4e stat blocks which is one thing I did like about that edition.

Go take a peek at the info over at EN World.

The three creatures revealed are all Challenge 2 and 450xp. I am still baffled by what the 5e challenge ratings represent, though it won't be long before we all find out. Basic D&D will be free to download as soon as July 3rd. (just character creation, the other bits will be added as books are released)

Getting back to the Nothic . . . The flavor text in the description states that they were once wizards that "unlocked magical knowledge they could not fathom".  They also can learn knowledge from people they directly observe, even hidden knowledge. They also possess True Sight, so no fooling them with invisibility or illusions. Nothics are also above average intelligence, they easily could use their wits to smartly stalk and study intruders. I can really picture a Lich having a couple of these as "eyes" within or near the lair.

EDIT: I noticed something about all three of these monsters. Their to-hit in combat is equal to 1st level characters. The Ogre has +6 which is derived from its strength modifier of +4 and the proficiency modifier of +2. Both the Nothic and Ochre Jelly have strength modifiers of +2 and proficiency of +2 for +4 to hit.