Monday, May 28, 2012

5E Playtest - The Chronicles of Milo Friendbeard

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to give WoTC's newest iteration of my favorite game a go. I lucked out; the group available was a pretty good one - everyone was pretty familiar with at least one version of D&D, and we all seemed pretty willing to give the new edition a fair look.

My thoughts are a little simplistic at the moment, as frankly it was a fun but short session and I'm still absorbing much of it. We did manage to cover a lot of ground, much of it being what people have already been talking about.

Anyway, initial notes and impressions!
I was playing the Dwarf Fighter. We also had the Elven Wizard included in the playtest, and both clerics. The DM was running the monsters and such as statted in the book, though he modified the flavor for them.

Lets start with the whole "Slayer" theme. Its been talked about a lot, but Its worth mentioning again for clarity's sake; if I make an attack and miss, I still manage to do my strength modifier's worth in damage. This made me feel like a kid getting a consolation "trophy" every time I rolled badly. I wasn't a big fan, but I don't really think its a deal breaker. I can certainly see why its there, and its hard to argue that it shouldn't be without revealing my own preferences.

That being said, my character does a lot of damage when he actually hits.I don't think any of the monsters we fought would have been able to take even one solid hit from my great axe. We didn't find anything really big though, just lots of mobs of little nasties.

No Milo, they most certainly were not.
Hit points seemed to be inflated, but I needed every last one of them anyway as my poor dwarf was getting stabbed all over the place. There were moments that got pretty heated, where I thought I was going to go down which was nice. The whole argument of lethality is double edged though. While being taken out of the fight was certainly present, I don't think actual permanent death is much of a concern except in the case of a total party kill. This differs from OSR style D&D, where a PC can die fairly readily in situations isolated from the health of the other members of the group.

So its not that the threat of death is not there, its that its different. I'm not sure how I feel about this; on one hand, I like my games bloody and ruthless - where life is cheap and one wrong move can end your sad little career. The challenge of staying alive is part of the thrill for me, and I really get attached to a character when I watch them avoid death time and time again. On the other, 5E did seem very group oriented. It was pretty obvious that we would stand or fall together and maybe it was just because I was playing with a good group, but we were acting like comrades at arms pretty quickly.
I just want you two to know - I've always hated you.

Now, I'm not saying this latter feeling isn't present in OSR D&D. Far from it - I'm just pointing out that 5E really drove it home.

Also, the game includes things called advantages and disadvantages. Basically, in situations where your character has one of these, you roll two d20s instead of one. If you have an advantage, you stick with the higher of the two with the opposite being true with a disadvantage. I actually thought this was pretty cool, even if I didn't get a chance to use it much.

There is a lot more to be said, but I think I'll save it for further playtests. I can say that I really did enjoy the game, especially for what it is. Its never going to be my favorite version of D&D - but hell, it doesn't have to be. What they have here is something that allows for reasonable representation of various styles. I noted to another player that I could use this game to run Old School style adventures for people who were not big fans of those editions, and that's worth it for me.

We are still at the start here folks. I won't say that the game is definitely going to be good. There is a lot of things that could happen to push me one way or another, and I'm still on the fence on a lot of things, especially when it comes to magic. Regardless, I'm opting to keep my hopes up. In the absolute worst case scenario, I'll just end up saving money.