Hey! Last night Ken, of Berling's Beard, ran a D&D Next game last night! Set in Icewind Dale, I think the events are part of the bit of metaplot Wizards of the Coast is trying out, "The Sundering." Alicia summarized it as "north of The Wall" so I decided to go into full tundra & Ice Age mode. I played an orc druid named Zugzoz Mammoth-Haunt, of the Sabertooth Clan, of the Circle of the Mammoth Totem. His druidic holy site is a mammoth graveyard, & he rides a giant stag-moose named Black-Antler. Alicia played Kato, a half-orc barbarian, but city raised, a slicker trying to get in touch with her "roots". Emma played Fillip-- called mostly "fiddle-whip"-- a human monk trained at the Penguin Clan monastary, an orc school of brawling located in an iceberg temple. Me, Alicia, Ken, Emma; a little "Stories of Our Youth" reunion. I know fatbutts was jealous, 'cause she said so on Instagram. Walei played Samir, an elf wizard from the semi-mythical Falcon Clan, & Stacy played Dewberry, a gnome druid also of the Mammoth Circle, but born of the Ice-Fox Clan. I brought miniatures; one for Zugzoz, one for Zugzoz mounted, & one for the two "combat" forms he's likely to take, snow leopard or dire wolf. We didn't play with minis at all, but on the plus side I had a physical prop to let Walei, who is blind, feel. I've never gamed with someone who was blind before, but it wasn't a big deal; mostly everyone is already excited to cheer or groan over a die roll, so saying the result out loud is really natural. Hm; maybe there should be an app for random number generation with a robot voice?
This playtest iteration of DnD Next is nice. I think the druid's shapeshifting is probably better in Fourth Edition or earlier iterations, though. I don't think that it makes sense to have a different statistical block for every form; a "predator form" or "flying form" would be fine, I think. Then again, using the whole Monster Manual as additional class content is smart, & the "if you drop HP you reform as a druid" is a good mechanic. As before, Advantage is the key invention of this edition, much like feats were for Third Edition. Which, by the way, making feats optional & equivalent to statistical bonuses? A good conceptual balance. The Proficiency bonus-- based on your level, a bonus with tools or weapons-- is very nicely done, as well. Oh & the rules for Criticals...hey first off, I rolled a 20! My luck with dice is spotty; I'm not bad with a d00 but then, you are supposed to roll low, aren't you? Hit dice, I like those too; actually, the "short rest" concept over-all worked; if you aren't going to give up & call things "scenes," the short rest at least helps break it up similarly. We started at second level; it looks to me like the design of the classes is that first level is relatively simple & second level is about that same level of complexity, over again, before the classes more or less stabilize. Overall, I could use maybe one more round of simplification in the rules, but that is me.
I'm impressed with Ken's ability to keep track of pacing. Keeping the group moving & contracting the story are hard skills, especially for late-night one shots, but we got it done. Our characters were called for a moot, led by fair-haired man named Falnor to a meeting at a river of tears, where the witch & druidic hierophant Omtos charged us to defeat the Chosen of Auril, God of Winter, so that Faerûn doesn't end up like Westeros, all "winter is coming." No, maybe not, because Fillip pummeled the heck out of winter while...but I'm jumping ahead. Omtos gave us some gourds, too; I got a potion of clairaudience. First we trekked cross-country, finding our way blocked by juvenile yetis. The druids shifted forms, the wizard made illusions of flames, the monk broke grapples & flurried blows, the barbarian raged. They we kayaked across the icy sea-- leaving Black-Antler behind-- to a black crystal spire, & a frozen queen, just like that Disney movie. I was ready with the healing word & a javelin--I'd already used my wildshape to turn into a bat to sneak in-- & everyone just laid into her until at last she was dead!