My thoughts on D&D Next are up on Tor.com, but I didn't include a play report, so I summarized the session below. Actually, sessions, because I had a bunch of newbies decide they wanted to play on Memorial Day! I know, I just had a whole post over there about using World of Darkness to run fantasy games, but you can have your cake & eat it too. Do both! Or don't, I'm not the boss of you. In general my thoughts about Dungeons & Dragons Next, or Fifth Edition, or 5e or Type V or whatever you want to call it are positive. I'm not going to repeat myself! You can go read it. You should, I'm very charming when I talk about imaginary things. Go on, you can come back & read this afterwards, it will probably make more sense that way. Anyhow, I played once with a group of hardcore veterans & once with a group of mostly newcomers, so I think I got a good glimpse at the spread, & I intend to revisit it with both groups to delve a little deeper. Without further ado, on with the show!
The session I ran started out with character drafting: James loves tanks, so he called dibs on the dwarf fighter & named him “Calcus of the Southern River Caliphate,” fordmadoxfraud grabbed the human cleric of Pelor, “Belasco of Bog,” Tracey took “Talianathas Glorfindel,” the shy elf wizard & Sam played “Shaev Filagré” the halfling rogue. We brainstormed how they knew one another & then I plunked them down at the entrance to the valley of the Caves of Chaos, starting it in media res. Embracing the reactionary nature of the Caves’ design, I let the players explore the valley a little, letting them make perception checks & having the monsters make covert perception checks themselves, based on where the party wandered…& the ogre was the one who spotted them first. Tossing the boulder it uses as a door aside, the ogre barged out & started smashing! It messed up the party pretty bad—everyone got their share of the beating except the rogue—but the players dealt with it through a combination of freezing it in place with ray of frost, sneak attacks, a rain of axe blows & crossbow bolts, & finally the cleric’s searing light, reducing it to a puddle of gore & ichor.
The fighter was knocked out when the battle ended, & the rest of the party decided to camp out in the ogre’s cave, rolling the boulder back into place. They knew there was a secret door in the cave, but they assumed it went to the ogre’s treasure horde. Bunking down for the night was…an unsafe decision. The elven wizard was on watch when two hobgoblins came around the front…& then three more popped out of the secret door. “Don’t feel bad, guys,” I said to them. “This sort of thing even happens to Gandalf, Thorin & Bilbo.” The hobgoblins knocked out the rogue, the cleric & forced the wizard to surrender, & then took the four of them to the prison cell. Wait, did I say four? Sorry, no; Belasco died in transit, failing to stabilize. Lucky for David, “Sir Uthbar Pinbock” the dwarven cleric of Moradin was also in the cells, so he started playing him. The session ended with the hobgoblin warlord Obould Many-Arrows (yes, I know, I stole the name from an orc) coercing them to attack a tribe of bullywogs in the complex. Calcus, the dwarf fighter, refused…& so the warlord shot him twice in the heart, killing him. “Hey, don’t feel so bad,” I said to him. “Just this sort of thing happened to Boromir!”
Memorial Day found me sitting in my living room with some non-gamer friends & having them go “hey, teach me how to play Dungeons & Dragons!” Well, I can do that; ranai was partial to the halfling rogue right out of the gate & so “Cordova” was born; James was raring to play the dwarven fighter “Flärn,” fatbutts decided on the elven wizard & after some waffling decided on the name “Isabelle” – Izzy to her friends, & that doesn’t include the party. David showed up at the last minute & so I decided he’d reprise his role as Sir Uther Pinbock & that this session would be a prequel to the last game. Things were much the same as the last time around; I figured I’d let them blunder around the valley until something heard them or they found an entrance to the Caves of Chaos. The rogue was doing a good job of scouting but then everyone got paranoid by how far from the party she’d gotten, & then everyone regrouped & started being a little more noisy.
& then, orcs! There was a row of severed heads, but then the elf & the fighter saw a head looking at them! A few other heads rolled forward out of their niches & arrows started pouring out. Flärn laid down covering fire with his crossbow; I ruled that if he won at a contested check using his attack bonus, he could grant someone another move action. Isabelle cast shield on the dwarven knight, which is I think technically shenanigans but I wasn’t going to say no to a new player making smart tactical choices. That gave Sir Uther Pinbock an AC of 20, & between that, his Defender ability & the wizard’s magic missile, the group was just about to start taking the fight up to the orcs…when the ogre heard them & burst out of his cave with a roar. Since Jenny came home, we left off there, but maybe we’ll pick it back up later!