We only had 3 players this weekend, so rather than the usual Dungeon World session, we decided to try 5e. We rolled up our own characters (limited to the 4 core classes, since we were using the released rules) and went with a Cleric, Rogue and Warrior. There had been some initial discussion regarding whether a cleric was necessary, and the conclusion by the end of the session was OH SWEET GOD YES.
To jump to the end, we had a really good time. It feels like a somewhat less fiddly version of 3e in play, but I recognize that it’s hard to judge overall fiddliness at first level. We’re enthusiastic to play again and find out.
Non-spoiler stuff first
- 3 characters cuts it pretty close for this adventure. If things had gone even a little differently, we would have had a TPK. The extra firepower of a wizard probably would have been just about right.
- Tellingly it makes a big difference to have more than 8 hit points (our rogue did not) because if you’re at 8 or less, then every single thing you encounter can potentially one-shot you.
- We used the random tables on the backgrounds, purely on a lark. Mixed results. The players pulled some fun stuff out of them, but they were a bit toothless in play. I wanted to give out inspiration much more frequently than I got to.
- That said, man do I love the backgrounds. They are as awesome as I’d hoped they would be.
- It was 100% worth the cleric spending his 10 GP on a shield. He had the best AC in the party, and didn’t take a hit through the entire game.
- The Life domain is really potent. Makes me super curious to see others.
- Also very interesting to see the modular bits in the classes (like domains) at a chunky level of granularity. This is one of the things that keeps raising the specter of 2e for me, with it’s NWPs and kits.
- I need to check the math and see if the great weapon fighting style (reroll 1s and 2s) works better for 1d12 or 2d6.
- That said, it does warm my heart to see support for bow fighters in a way that doesn’t seem like a complete hose. All in all, the fighting styles seem to carry a lot of conceptual weight.
- Weird rule thing. You recover half your level in hit dice during a long rest, which means level 1 characters never recover hit dice.
- We became intimately familiar with the rules surrounding zero HP because the rogue went down three times and the fighter once. The “a stable creature that isn’t healed regains 1 hit point after 1d4 hours” rule (p. 76 of the basic rules) is worth making a note of, because it’s nowhere in the “rest” section, and unless you find it, it largely seems like a character will never get back up from zero HP without magical healing.
- I had missed the section of the rules regarding stat bonuses adding to missile damage. Would have simplified one encounter if I’d done it right, but our range luck was not great.
- The medicine skill seems like a rip off. Doubly so once you see how Healing Kits work.
- If you play a rogue, strongly consider playing a race with darkvision. The whole “scouting ahead” thing is well supported, but works poorly if you’re carrying a torch.
- Sacred Flame (the Cleric attack cantrip) saw heavy use for us. It’s a weird one, since it calls for a save rather than being a spell attack. Messed up the cadence of things every time it came up.
- Which lead to my looking – at 6th level, a wizard evoker starts doing half damage on a save when using a cantrip. That would rock for a cleric, but the wizard cantrips are all spell attacks, so that’s not actually useful.
- Thank God level 2 comes quickly. And feels nicely rewarding, without overwhelming choices.
- Oh, yeah, advantage/disadvantage held up just as well in play as they looked on paper. Super happy with them.
- Mountain Dwarf Fighters? Scary.
- The initial fight was much harder than I expected, largely because it took a round for the players to be able to engage the goblins, and every hit in that fight feels huge. This was the fight where the rogue got dropped, healed, and dropped again.
- I like the way the dungeon writeups include common details at the outset. I wish they included the monster list, just for ease of reference. There are only 3 monsters in the first dungeon, so I put them on a cheat sheet, but it would have been nice to have the reference.
- The group went through the wolves and up the chimney. The fight in the bugbear’s room started while the third character was still climbing up, which was not a good thing for them. It’s not a surprising route, but it definitely alters the cadence of the rest of the dungeon.
- The rogue also snuck in and backstabbed the goblin leader in the other room, so that whole negotiation bit got snipped in the bud.
- The bugbear is terrifying to a 1st level party. 2d8 + 2 damage can one shot anyone. We got super lucky, and he blew the damage roll against our fighter (after one-shotting our rogue) which bought them the round they needed. The cleric to burned a damage spell and a the fighter landed a fairly lucky attack roll, taking the bugbear down in a single round.
- That said, they had to shotgun the Potions of Healing in the bugbear’s treasure.
- if you are wondering why the golden frog is in the treasure, it’s so your thief can palm it.
EDIT: a note on the one shots. If I’d used the fixed damage outcome rules, the Goblins would have been doing 5, the wolves 7 and the Bugbear 11. I suspect that would have favored the players a little, since the real problems came when the goblins were rolling 7s and 8s. The Bugbear would have been a guaranteed one shot on anyone but the fighter. On balance, I suspect I would have benefitted from going that way, though I did not out of habit.
So, I did the math for you. 2d6 is better for the heavy weapon focus.
Reroll 1’s and 2’s turns 1d12 into 1d10+2 for an average of 7.5 (instead of 6.5) and 2d6 into 2d4+4 for an average of 9 (instead of 7). So 2d6 is better.
Thanks for the detailed writeup; very interesting! Does it say that half hit dice round down? Maybe they should round up, so at first level you get your full hit die back when healing?
2d8+2 damage vs firsties sounds terrifying. But fixed damage sounds boringly predictable to me; part of the fun of D&D is rolling low or high, getting away by the skin of your teeth or getting lucky. Others milage may vary.
The default rule for everything is to round down, unless it explicitly says otherwise. The wizard spell recovery ability is designed similarly, but explicitly notes that you round up. The rule as written probably just needs to add a parenthetical “Round up” or “Minimum 1”. Easy fix (and since level 2 comes at 300 xp, one that quickly becomes moot).
I admit I will almost certainly discard fixed damage now that they’re 2nd level, but I’m waffling on it at first – the one shot risk weights heavily on my mind (of course, our rogue would have suffered badly either way – at 7 HP he’d have been trading the goblin’s good luck for the wolves’ certainty of a takedown)
My analysis above was assuming 1’s and 2’s were always rerolled, even if you rolled them on the reroll. If 1’s and 2’s are kept on a reroll, then the averages would be 7.33 for 1d12 and 8.33 for 2d6, and 2d6 is still better.
Lack of fixed damage is part of what made things feel nicely dangerous. 1st level play was certainly more interesting than I’m used to it being. 🙂
In my game, I used fixed damage at level 1 and 2 and then transitioned to rolling at level 3. Our level 3 Fighter actually exchanged crits with a later bugbear boss and kept standing.
It’s unfortunate that rolling for the background traits didn’t work out well. My players selected ones they liked and we’ve seen HEAVY use of them since; not just for inspiration, but just for general roleplaying and decision-making. It’s my favorite part of the game and one I was surprised to see so prominently in play, since it wasn’t in the playtest at all. I hope you guys see more of it in future games, as we’ve been very happy with the results.
Mearls commented on Twitter that 1st level characters regain their Hit Dice on a long rest.
Here’s the Mearls tweet in question: https://twitter.com/mikemearls/status/489930736258924544
I’ve been playing “wrong” and have been rewarding inspiration like I would fate points, for compels and such. It actually works quite well.
Compels was one of the things that didn’t work so well at our table when we were playing Diaspora, and later Fate Core / CrimeWorld.
To be specific: this is what happened a few times:
“Your character has the ‘Desperately Addicted to Doshes’ aspect. Now that you’re in a new city, don’t you need to find a new hook-up for some nices doshes to distim?” [Shows fate point token.]
“Er, no, thanks. I’d rather pay one and resist.” [Pays fate point token.]
People were scared of the consequences of accepting a fate point. To the player it was also a matter of character growth, moving beyond his “bad aspect” at the price of fate. So it was, in that way, cool.
With 5e, I’m going to try to play it more post-hoc.
I.e. after a player spontaneously does something that’s “bad” for them but in accordance to one of the “aspects”, they get inspiration as a reward or compensation for that. But player-initiated, not GM-suggested.
I don’t like what I’ve seen all over, GMs that just give it out for when they think the players or characters do “cool” or “good” things because that adds a sense of competiveness or pressure. Similar mechanics are very common in many RPGs and I’ve always been afraid that it’ll create a sort of “dog show” atmosphere, or just badfeel.
You don’t need to be a good actor, good tactician nor a good author to sit at my gaming table.
Also, I saw a game on YouTube that came across as a bit raily, basically set up for the PCs to do this one heroic and beloved thing, and when they did it, the crowd went wild with joy and the players all got inspiration. Which I thought was a bit surprising — they got inspiration because the crowd loved them, and the crowd loved them because the GM had created a situation where they would.
But at the same time it’s amazing that every table does it their own way.
In short, my “house interpretation” of inspiration will be this:
1. GM can give out inspiration when a player adheres to a negative trait. [RAW is less restrictive.]
2. Players can give they inspiration between them freely. [RAW is more restrictive.]
I’m prepping for my first real game tonight — have only been larking around with some GM-less games with random dungeon tables previously.
Haha, wow, I ended up not even mentioning the inspiration stuff because we were fretting so much about the basics and we only had two hours. The session went great but among the four of us, two were new to gaming so we spent time learning about the fundamentals like AC, d-notation, attack bonus, DC, passive perception, actions, rounds, turns, initiative, suprise, hit points, damage… it was exhilarating to see new people learn this!
Interesting how many moving parts there are even in an ostensibly simple game like D&D.
That’s not to say that fighting is more important as role-playing and I do like the inspiration rule.
But it’s important to get the basics of fighting right for two reasons.
1. We’re using the adventure and it starts kind of in media res with a fight. [But is not rail-roady at all afterwards. For example, the adventure kind of points you to go to a certain place after the fight but the group decided to go ahead to the village instead.]
2. Fighting is usually the main cause of death and I need to establish that there is a system in place, a system that decides if characters live or die, that it’s not something I as GM do. I was open about what I was doing, showing them how the adventure worked (without revealing too much of what lies ahead), answering things like that “The fact that there are four goblins here comes from the book. The goblin stat block is here, see? It says that they have +4 to hit.” etc etc. I need this established clearly as social armor because character death sucks, I’ve been there recently (RIP A’ina my monk who died in Barrowmaze) and it was awful. It was also a big reason why the game was deliciously tense in the first place.
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