Monday, July 28, 2014

D&D 5th Edition: Playtest Impressions

Map From Lost Mines of Phandelver
Due to some odd scheduling and three of my players being absent for one reason or another, I finally managed to run my first session of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Since I only had three players, I decided to take my own advice and create three 2nd level characters (a high elf wizard, a hill dwarf fighter, and a human rogue) and ran the first portion of the Lost Mines of Phandelver with a few modifications.

Knowing we wouldn't have very much time to play (we spent too much time eating dinner at Pizza Hut and the FLGS closes at midnight on Fridays & Saturdays), I decided to rework the opening to the adventure. Instead of meeting their dwarven patron in town of Phandalin, the group was hired to find the missing Gundra Rockseeker (female dwarves are underrepresented within fantasy, so I thought this might be an interesting change). After searching the countryside, they picked up her trail and followed it to the Cragnaw Hideout. The group killed some goblins, distracted some wolves, and used a sack of ball bearings to help them escape with Gundra.

First things first, the system was both familiar and simple. While it possesses many of the iconic elements that I associate with Dungeons & Dragons, it managed to compile them into a new set of rules that were much easier to implement at the table. The players also seemed to grasped the system pretty well, only struggling with things like magic and the like (which didn't take very long to figure out).

Advantage/Disadvantage really helped with the simplification of the game. Instead of juggling a lot of different modifiers at once, having players roll two d20s and keeping either the highest or lowest result depending on the circumstance really made handing out bonuses & penalties much easier and it was an easy rule to remember. I will say that it took me a minute or two to figure out what kinds of situations should provoke Advantage/Disadvantage, but I do like that its mostly left up to the GM and allows for a lot more innovation at the table.

However, there were a few concepts that I wasn't too fond of. For example, I'm really not a fan of the implementation of hit dice as healing surges. While I understand the concept behind the mechanic and it did help our group (which lacked a healer), I feel it could have been done better. For future seasons, I might use a house rule where a player can either choose to take a set amount of healing (probably half the hid die), or roll the die with the chance of receiving more healing (or getting screwed).

Also, I'm not sure if I like the new magic system. I guess I find the separation of spell slots ultimately pointless. They could have achieved the same concept by implementing a single spell slot progression, requiring you to spend more spell slots to cast the more powerful versions of the different spells. This just feels like something that was kept because of "legacy".

With that being said, I can honestly say that I had fun running 5th Edition and would probably do so again (which a few house rules here and there). Like I said before, I probably won't unseat Pathfinder as my go-to system for fantasy games, I could definitely see it as my backup system.