Location: The Game Keep
Campaign: Looking For A Group, Session 8
System: D&D Next / 5e Playtest
Barad (Jeremy) - Dwarf Paladin
Damithus (James) - Human Cleric
Flip (Graham, subbing for Trevor) - Halfling Rogue
Halfbeard (Cliff) - Dwarf Fighter
Keyleth Siannodel (Matt) - Elf Druid
Steif (Thomas) - Human Monk
Tamel (Andrew) - Elf Ranger
Zuul (Graham) - Half-Orc Paladin
Our two Paladins, Zuul and Barad, belong to different churches. Each church wants us to go on the same mission: to find the Lost Temple and return the "Shield of Halav". For now that means we're all on the same side, but what will happen once we find the shield? Looks like there could be some in-party conflict coming up. Can't wait!
|"Many Bothans died to bring us this map."|
In the first hallway of the temple, we saw a face on the wall. It said, "Greetings visitors. Kneel and knock." We didn't do either fast enough, and a pit opened up beneath our feet. Halfbeard, Steve, and Barad fell into the pit, and the party was attacked by giant ants. We killed two of them, but the final ant fled down a hallway. We explored the adjoining room and studied our map. The map was a bit confusing at first because we assumed the face we'd seen was the one drawn on the map, and therefore thought we were in the NorthEast corner when we were actually in the SouthEast. But then we started finding more faces - each with their own vague warnings - and the map made sense again.
In the hallway marked "Sounds Bad", we fought several bats. In the next room we fought some fire beetles, followed by more bats in the room after that. Steve, the party monk, proved to be an incredible damage machine, often pulverizing two enemies each turn. We found a library and looted some of the books. A face in one hallway told us we needed to find a certain relic to go any further, so we turned back.
|Dead ant... Dead ant... Dead ant dead ant dead ant...|
Once the ants were all dead, we took a short rest in the worship room and ended the session. There's still plenty of temple to explore.
The most recent playtest update brought in a lot of changes. My character was nerfed to the point that I've had to change my entire combat strategy. No more morphing into a bear and barrelling through every encounter, at least not until level 6. That doesn't leave me with a whole lot. I've got a couple of decent spells, but I don't get very many per day, and I prefer to save what I've got to heal people. Which leaves me with my bow, but I'm not that great a shot. I wish the Druid had one good cantrip I could use as a bread-and-butter ranged spell, like the Wizard's Ray of Frost.
But they weren't just picking on the Druid. They nerfed most classes to some extent, because they wanted to stretch out the early levels and give us a more old school experience. That's fine for nostalgic players who want to relive their games from the 70s, but I didn't get into RPGs until the 90s and I greatly prefer the modern improvements. What's next? Are they going to bring back THAC0 and have races as classes?
Look, I understand nostalgia. I still have an irrational fondness for 8-bit Nintendo games. It reminds me of a simpler time in my life, when I had fewer responsibilities and a lot more time for fun. But that doesn't mean I want them to stop improving modern graphics and only use primitive sprites from now on. There's a reason we don't still listen to music on vinyl. MP3s are more convenient, take up less space, don't degrade, and have more consistent sound quality. Some modern advancements are simply better.
And if they want to keep the old school stuff as an option, great! Have a version of the game that appeals to the veterans, but also have options that keep things interesting for the more easily-distracted modern gamers. They've been saying from the beginning that they were going to have lots of optional rules in the hopes of pleasing everyone, so this is one place where that would be very appropriate.
Moving on... They removed skills almost entirely, replacing them with straight ability checks. Frankly, that sucks. Skills represent practice. Not everyone is good at climbing just because they're strong, some people are good because they practiced the skill. This takes out so much customization. Now you'll almost always be able to predict what skills a person has based on their class. Okay, to some extent that's always been true (ever met a rogue who couldn't sneak?) but now they're just throwing creativity out the window.
I'm told that there's only going to be one more publicly-released update for the playtest, and after that they're going to start being more secretive. That makes sense - you don't want to give out free copies of of it too close to completion. Otherwise there's less incentive to buy the actual game when it comes out.
My prediction is that the September update is also going to have even more radical changes, but that none of these last few updates are actually indicative of the final product. Right now they just want to show us as many different versions of the game as possible, to see which ideas get the best feedback So it makes sense to make each update as drastic as possible.
My next prediction is that the players won't understand this at all. They're going to expect the final product to be a tweaked version of the September update, rather than a compilation of the most popular ideas from all the updates. People seem to think each playtest update is supposed to represent an improvement on the last set of rules, rather than different examples of possible options. When the September update comes out, half the players are going to scream and rant and rave about how stupid 5e is going to be. Then, when the final product comes out, the other half of the players are going to scream and rant and rave about how it's nothing like that excellent September update.
You gotta love gamers.