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.