Archive for May, 2012

So I got the kiddos together with dad-in-law to play through one encounter using the D&DNext Playtest rules.  It’s wasn’t that bad, but the kiddos said they still preferred 4th edition rules (must be bacause they’re little kids; as we all know, 4e is “World of Warcraft for babbies”).

It was easy to run (relatively); I didn’t use a map, and was able to run through a short adventure that included one battle with 8 kobolds in about 20 to 30 minutes.   They were all 2 hp, so the wizard took out one kobold a round with Magic Missile, the thief missed once and hit once (using the advantage he gained through hiding in the bushes), and the dwarf cleric hit one.  The human cleric was able to detect the trap that was near the cave entrance.  The wizard used her “Comprehend Languages” spell to figure out what the kobolds were saying.

That’s about it.  It wasn’t exactly fun; my little “pick a number” rules handle everything included in the playtest, and do it much more easily, with the added advantage of needing no equipment but one’s imagination.

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It’s good to get the designers’ insights (or, at least, one of the designer’s insights).

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Read through one guy’s playthrough log here.

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That’s pretty much what I get from reading through the playtest packet that I downloaded (and which one can still presumably get by going to www.wizards.com/dnd )

There is one new gameplay element that is intriguing: the “Advantage/Disadvantage” concept.  If a player has advantage in a given situation (making an attack, climbing a mountainside), he rolls two d20s and takes the higher roll.   If he has disadvantage, he rolls two d20s and takes the lower.  This replaces the “+2 bonus” that a player would normally get from, say, flanking an enemy or attacking it from a hidden position.

Wizards and Clerics are back to near-Vancian.  I say “near”, because the wizard’s cantrips (and cleric’s orisons) can be cast at-will (that is, there is no limit to the number of times cantrips can be cast in a day).  “Magic Missile” is one of the cantrips, so the wizard doesn’t have to ever fall back to using a crossbow.  In addition, the Magic Missile gets better as the wizard gains experience levels.

Fighters lose all the interesting powers that they had in 4e; they also lose the “stances” of the essentials version of the fighter.  Fighters now hit with weapons, period.  There’s some flapdoodle about how this makes fighters more interesting, because one isn’t “limited” to the powers on his character sheet.  I don’t know who that argument is supposed to fool.  Fighters are boring again.  Huzzah for the nerds!  Down with the jocks!

There’s some discussion about a rule that a character that is intoxicated enjoys a damage reduction of 1d6.  Well, of course; isn’t it common knowledge that if one is in a car wreck, one should flop about like a drunk to avoid being hurt too badly?  Besides, “intoxicated” isn’t necessarily equivalent to being drunk; one could argue that a person high on some narcotic could be considered “intoxicated”.  So, Bob the Fighter snuffs a little pixie dust up his nose just before a fight, and loses his sense of danger and pain.  The only problem, is that Bob the Fighter is now at a disadvantage; he can’t see straight enough to actually hit anything.  He also tries to climb ladders upside down.

The pre-made characters include a dwarf fighter (with a big, honkin’ axe), a dwarf cleric (very similar to a paladin), a human cleric (a healer with a quarterstaff and scale armor), a halfing rogue (is there any other kind?), and an elf–“high elf”–wizard.

The “adventure” included is the “Keep on the Borderlands”–without the Keep.  The intro to the adventure says to make it your own.  It includes descriptions of the various areas in the caves of chaos.  I intend to try to play this with my kids.  I’ll have them begin at the Adventurers’ Guild, where a farmer hires them to rescue his prize pig (that he intended to enter into the pig competition at the Greymerry Faire the following week).  The characters will follow the trail to the kobold’s cave.  Just outside the cave, they’ll meet a rather beat-up kobold, that jabbers at them in draconic (hopefully, the wizard will remember that she has the “comprehend languages” spell, and uses it to find out what the kobold is saying.  If not, then the party will have a more difficult time figuring out what’s going on).  If the party can figure out how to communicate with the kobold, they’ll learn that the pig was stolen to provide a feast in honor of the kobold queen, who is there on a visit.  The beat-up kobold, who is the chief engineer, knows that the tunnel has become unstable for some reason, and the queen–along with every other member of the tribe–is in danger of being squished.  The kobold engineer tried to stop the queen from entering the cave, and was thrashed for its insolence.  It wants the adventurers to save the queen.  Something like that.

Something I’m hopeful about is the ability to play without an actual map in front of us.  We do that now, with my impromptu “Pick a number between one and ten” rule.  4th edition is my favorite version (so far), but battles do take a while.

Anyway, back to the “review”:  there has been some crowing that there are no longer “healing surges”.  Such crowing is voiced by those who apparently are confused on what healing surges are.  They are not a way for every character to take as much healing as he needs at any time (and thus making the cleric obsolete).  They are, rather, a limit on the amount of healing that is effective for the character.  That is, once a fighter’s healing surges have been used up for the day, drinking a healing potion will do him no good; the cleric’s “Healing Word” will no longer heal him, either.  “Cure Light Wounds” will, because that prayer heals without using a healing surge.  It seems that some confuse the “healing surge” with a character’s “Second Wind”, which allows the character ONCE per battle to use a healing surge to up his hit points.  Now, during a short rest, the character can spend as many healing surges as he wants to increase his hit points, so perhaps that is what is causing the angst.   Much better to spend three days having the cleric memorize his healing prayers, using them, and resting again.  The way I take it, on the other hand, is that between battles, the character gets out his bandages and aspirin, and hums a little inspirational tune (because “hit points” are not “health points”; they represent, rather, the character’s ability to continue to fight) to refresh himself and get himself patched back up for the next potential battle.

But I digress.

There are healing surges (of a sort) in this playtest packet.  A character can heal up to the number of hit dice he has (which seems to be one hit die per level).  To heal, he uses the first aid kit (which has ten uses before it is depleted), and rolls one hit die and adds it to his CON modifier.

So, neener, neener.

To sum up, Wizards seems to be trying to go forward by going backward.  They are  counting on the whole nostalgia thing to bring back those gamers that got their feelings hurt by 4th edition.  I really appreciate the effort they are making to include everyone, and it looks like they have a few innovations that might increase the fun value of the game.  This is not the end product, of course, and there will be tweaks here and there as the develpment process continues.  I still maintain, however, that the 4th edition Essentials line is (so far) the pinnacle of TTRPG rules.

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My kids and I do a sort of impromptu free-form roleplaying.  Today, I was being brilliant, and thought of a substitute for dice rolling.  I think of a number between one and ten, and then have them guess it.  If I consider the Difficulty Cast (DC) to be hard, they have to guess the number.  If it’s a moderate DC, they can guess either the number, or the one just above or below it.  For an easy DC, they can guess either the number or the two numbers above or below it.

Kili the dwarf had been thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.  His brother Fili and their companion Arwen (an elf cleric) were sitting in the coffeehouse, planning his escape.  Fili very incautiously mentioned to the barista their jail-breaking plans, and the treasonous fiend informed the guards to earn some bounty money.  The guards arrived, and Fili tried to make a break for it, but was caught by one of the guards.  He eventually broke free of the guard, but had his shirt ripped in the process.  Arwen tried to do a Super Mario move (seriously, my daughter described it thus: “I jump into the air, spin around, and power stomp one of the guards.  It’s a “Super Mario Wii” move).  Unfortunately, she didn’t get even withing the medium DC, and so Arwen landed on a nearby table instead of the guard, which flung the coffee and plate of donuts across the room, catapult-style.  The patrons who were splatted with coffee and donuts began to hurl food and insults back, and in the ensuing melee, Fili and Arwen made their escape, Fili out the back door, and Arwen out the front.

Meanwhile, Kili is sitting in jail, and hears someone whispering to him.  He wins the diplomacy “throw” to convince the whisperer to help him break out of jail.  The whisperer informs Kili that one of the stones in his cell leads to a secret passage.  Unfortunately, Kili’s player fails both attempts to lift the stone out of the floor.  That’s as far as we’ve gotten.

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