Sunday, November 25, 2012

Troll5myth Plays

The local RPGA bunch at Dragon's Lair decided to forgo their usual 4e shenanigans to try out some 5e, or “Next” as the kids are calling it these days.  I was lucky enough to score a seat at the table and got to play a pre-gen monk (and ex-sailor) whom I promptly dubbed Stalking Platypus.  We poked around in the goblin tunnels of the Caves of Chaos, killing nearly all of them and their ogre friend as well. 

As one player put it near the end of the day, if you've only known 4e, 5e feels like a completely new game.  Some of them said it felt a lot like 1e.  In my estimation, it feels more like 1e as recreated by big fans of 3.5 with a dash of 4.  On the one hand, it is a lot simpler to play and create a character than it was in 4e.  On the other, everyone has something on their character sheet to invoke every turn, whether it's special powers, spells, or specialties.  Some of these are governed by a fancy mechanic called expertise.  You get so many expertise dice (at first level, it's 1d4 for everyone, I think) and what you can do with them is dictated by your class.  My monk could launch a “flurry of blows” allowing an extra attack per expertise dice, and rolling those dice for damage instead of my normal open-handed attack (which was a d6+4).  I could also spend my expertise die on bonus movement instead of the extra attack, and if I'd had more than one die, I could have split between the two.  These abilities felt like the feats of 3e or the special maneuvers of 4e (though there were few crazy shift-around-the-map powers), but were presented in a way that was more akin to the old special abilities of 1e, like the paladin's warhorse or the dwarf's ability to detect sloping passages.

Otherwise, it feels a lot like WotC-era D&D: roll a d20 plus stat bonuses versus a target number as the core mechanic.  There are a lot fewer dissociated mechanics this time around; my monk could only use his ki ability once per day, but as ki is at least semi-magical, the once-per-day fits the fairy tale logic of such a thing so it didn't throw me off at all. 

It's still damned hard to kill a PC.  The dissociated healing surges have been replaced by a healer's kit, a 20-use item that can be bought at stores and allows characters to roll their hit dice to see how many hit points they regain.  When my monk was down to 1 hit point, a 10 minute rest and use of the healer's kit allowed me to roll his hit dice (a single d8 at first level) and restore 3 hit points, bringing him to 4.  Hitting 0 means you've been KOed and you must pass a CON check every turn thereafter or take another d6 damage from bleeding and shock.  If your negative hit points is greater than your CON score plus level, you die.  In spite of facing an ogre who easily dished out 8 points of damage in single blow, nobody was ever in serious danger of such a fate, and any magical healing brings you to at least 0 hit points.

In short, the wonky stuff of 4e has been dropped, some of the “kewl powerz” of 3e have been retained in an extremely streamlined fashion, and the resource management of 1e is back.  So far, I haven't seen anything to pull me away from Moldvay/Cook/Labyrinth Lord/LotFP, but on the other hand, if someone told me they were starting up a 5e campaign, I'd be far more interested in joining up than I would be for a 4e game. 

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