D&D Next playtest, Session 1

Fellow role-players, here’s part one of a report on my playtest session for Dungeons & Dragons “Next” (Fifth Edition). As I’ve mentioned previously, my regular Pathfinder: “the Vanished Landstelecom fantasy and FATE 3e “Vortex” space opera campaigns are on hiatus while we try other games for the summer.

It was nice to be back in the Game Master’s chair to run this retro/preview scenario. Brian W. hosted the group in Newton on Monday, 11 June 2012. My next post will discuss our observations about D&D5e/Next.

>>Player Characters for the “Caves of Chaos,” playtest scenario for “Dungeons & Dragons Next” (5e), June 2012:

-“Salami” [Brian W.]-male Mountain Dwarf Cleric of Moradin, god of smiths (background: Knight, theme: Guardian); Alignment: Lawful Neutral; at Experience Level 1

-“Gerald” [Beruk A.]-male Human Wizard (Sage, Magic User) and student with a mongoose familiar; Chaotic Good, Lvl. 1

-“Uldor” [Thomas K.Y.]-male Human Cleric of Pelor, sun deity (Priest, Healer); Neutral Good, Lvl. 1

-“Gug” [Kai-Yin H.]-male Hill Dwarf Fighter (Soldier, Slayer), mercenary; Chaotic Neutral, Lvl. 1

-“Kada Theron” [Sara F.]-female Raccoon-folk Rogue (as Lightfoot Halfling; Commoner, Lurker); Chaotic Good, Lvl. 1

-“Pergamoy” [Josh C.]-male High Elf Wizard (Sage, Magic User) with time to spare; Chaotic Good, Lvl. 1

The Caves of Chaos
Player map of the Caves of Chaos

Six would-be adventurers seeking fortune and glory found their way from disparate origins to a keep on the borderlands. Kendall Castle sits along a road between the human-dominated plains and a dark forest and high mountains.

A gruff Dwarf nicknamed “Salami” heads straight for the inn, where he orders an ale from barkeep Will. Wandering student Gerald browses in the market, while wily thief Kada Theron sticks to the shadows and looks for easy prey.

Blond priest Uldor pays his respects at the local chapel, and taciturn mercenary Gug notices the keep‘s stonework on his way to the tavern. Patient Pergamoy sees posters advertising “coin” in return for monster-fighting and exploration services.

Will complains to Salami that the distant king hasn’t sent reinforcements to the castle, which has resorted to hiring freelancers after some farm lads went missing. Barmaid Calista brings more food and drink for Gug and Gerald, and Pergamoy negotiates for a free night’s room and board, plus some provisions.

Uldor finds Abercrombie asleep in the dusty chapel. The older Cleric tells the newcomer that he is glad for any help and will offer blessings on any expedition. Stealthy Kada eventually follows Uldor to the inn after deciding that he’s not worth pickpocketing.

Will tells the six travelers that he is also a member of the militia and that with no men to spare, all of the castle’s regular inhabitants must keep an eye on the roads after nearby farms were attacked. Livestock was taken, and no survivors have been left to describe the humanoid raiders. Anyone who defeats the bandits can keep whatever booty they find, he says.

Dwarves Salami and Gug readily agree, especially once Will says that the attackers are likely coming from a nearby cave complex. Uldar feels obliged to protect the human peasants, since he is from a nearby village, and Kada is curious about rumors of monsters in the woods.

Wizards Gerald and Pergamoy need money to continue their arcane research, so the adventuring party agrees after some discussion to set out early the next morning. Will provides a sketchy map of the area. Uldar returns to the chapel for a quick blessing.

Kada leads the way along the rutted road, with Gug close behind. Gerald and Pergamoy are less comfortable roughing it, but Uldor and Salami note that they should be able to afford pack animals — if they survive. A few hours later, the group finds a ravine deep in the woods.

Furry Kada follows a stream to a cave mouth, one of several in the gully’s limestone walls. Gerald casts Light on his ferret’s collar so that he and Uldor can keep up with the demihumans. The spelunkers are horrified when they realize that the crunching sound underfoot isn’t from pebbles or acorns but rather bones!

A large Owlbear lumbers toward them. Uldor invokes Pelor to cast Searing Light, drawing first blood. Pergamoy recites an incantation for Ray of Frost, stopping the unnatural beast in its tracks. However, the Owlbear uses its long arms to swing at Gug, biting the Dwarf.

Salami moves up and swings his warhammer, while Kada’s first sling stones miss. Gerald also casts Ray of Frost, but Uldar’s Radiant Lance and Pergamoy’s next Rays of Frost spells miss the Owlbear, which tries to rake at Salami.

The Dwarf Cleric shouts Moradin’s name in a battle cry and again strikes the Owlbear with his warhammer. Gug coordinates with Salami, timing his great axe’s blows. Kada slings more stones at the monster and then acrobatically slides between its legs to help wounded Uldar, who leans heavily on his staff.

Gerald casts Grease on the Owlbear, which doesn’t trip but is also unable to grab anyone in a bear hug. The wise Mage steps back as Pergamoy fires Magic Missiles. Gug is caught by the Owlbear’s claws, but Uldar blasts it with another Searing Light, felling the foul beast.

The explorers quickly search the cave, claiming electrum pieces and the Owlbear’s claws and beak as trophies (mainly for the Wizards). Salami notices that a pool in one corner leads to another cavern, so he ties a rope around himself, gives the other end to his companions, and wades in.

Salami surfaces in a stench-ridden cave, and he feels something slither past his legs. He hustles to a twig-covered shore and realizes that he has found a nest with another Owlbear! The ooze in the water has eaten the Dwarf’s rope, but Salami manages to hustle back to the rest of the party before it or the second Owlbear can catch him.

The party retreats from the caves and sets up camp for the night just outside the ravine. Pergamoy wonders why Will didn’t offer tents or bedrolls as Kada builds a campfire for Salami to dry out. Gug notices movement in the brush and warns her friends.

Six small Kobolds attack. Uldor calls upon Pelor as he casts Radiant Lance, while robed Pergamoy incinerates two of the doglike reptiles — or reptile-like canids — with Burning Hands. Salami, who hates all Goblinoids, smites another Kobold.

The three remaining creatures try to flee, but Kada drops one with a well-aimed sling stone. Gerald’s Ray of Frost takes care of another Kobold, but Gug misses wildly with his crossbow. Salami interrogates the last Kobold, who mentions that there is an Orc chieftan in the Caves of Chaos.

Gug dispatches the Kobold (demihumans and humanoids tend not to expect or grant quarter). Pergamoy asks whether the Owlbear nest is somehow connected to the humanoid tribes, but Uldor thinks that it is unlikely. Gerald recommends caution before returning to the caves, and Kada asks Salami to help keep watch while the injured attend to their wounds….

I hope that everyone who participated in this playtest enjoyed it, and I look forward to discussing and posting more feedback regarding the D&D Next rules. Depending on scheduling, we may continue with this scenario and these characters, either face to face or online. Don’t forget Free RPG Day, and take it easy, -Gene