Brace yourself for another D&D Next (5th Edition?) playtest report! This time I wanted to take a stab at something a little different: seeing how effectively Next’s simple mechanics could mesh with an adventure intended for another D&D game system.
I have dabbled a bit with “Dungeon Crawl Classics,” and it’s a cool game with a lot of interesting quirks, but is ultimately a little too old school for my liking, and the character development/options are a bit too bland for what I’m looking for in a game. Where it shines is in its ease of use and simple rules. Given that both DCC and D&D Next operate off of a mechanic close to the core of the D20 System, I figured it would be easy enough to run DCC adventures with the playtest packets instead of their native rules.
To fill a time gap in a playtest game, I quickly cobbled together the end dungeon of Harley Stroh’s “Doom of the Savage Kings” (an adventure inspired by Beowulf, and full of vikings and mead halls – right up my alley!) The session went pretty well, and given that the PCs were all first level, I really didn’t even need to swap out the existing DCC stats for playtest monsters in most cases (given that they were attacking with a +2-4 dealing 1dSomething +2-3 Damage either way). I think the experiment spoke well of both systems, but I wanted to take another crack at it: this time running the whole module and with time to prepare in advance.
So I pitched it to my newest set of players (all folks involved in one way or another with theatre) that I had been running a playtest game with and they were interested. It took a little work to bump the adventure up to be a suitable challenge for 4th level PCs but that mostly involved substituting a monster or two. Given that most of the module’s human opponents need not be overcome with combat I didn’t feel a need to accommodate their stats to higher level PCs.
So with all that boring setup out of the way; the results:
The Rogue’s “Assassinate” – Brutal!
Twice now, a major opponent in a combat was laid low by one crack shot from our archer rogue, using the “assassinate” talent. The damage totals are already high (potentially double max damage), but add on top of that martial damage dice and you have a TON of killing output. This talent is exciting to have as a player, but definitely needs to be tweaked.
Bosses are Wimps
This may not be fair, as numerous factors are influencing the threat level and longevity of “boss” monster (my generous giving of magic items being perhaps chief among them), but given my experience I’d ultimately like there to be some assistance in the rules for this. This need not be a call-to-action to restore my beloved “solo” creatures from 4th edition, quite the contrary, I think leaving meta descriptions for monsters behind is a good thing. But right now it’s difficult to gauge what kind of monsters will result in epic struggles with your players, while not putting them in an unfair scenario. There’s been some discussion of introducing ideas like the old templates, and that’s something I could certainly get behind.
This concept is growing on me a bit, though I’m still not completely sold. It accomplishes a meta goal that advantage also covers – allowing you to seamlessly add those bonuses that sometimes het forgotten in the number crunch at the table. The variability also negates some situations where it is nigh on impossible for a relatively competent character to fail – injecting a bit more tension into the game. And besides – rolling dice is fun; why else would you be involved in this hobby in the first place?
Spell Descriptions Foster Creativity
I think the write-ups for spells are spot on. Providing flavor text to describe the effect, followed by the clearly delineated crunch has let my new-to-the-game players feel like they can experiment with a spell, while still providing them With the knowledge they need to “roll the dice right.” I’ve always believed that the crunchy bits of a spell’s entry were the default way of using it, and that the player was both encouraged and challenged to try using its effects in a creative way (Wall of Force as a slide by which the players escaped down into a chasm is a simple favorite example.) However there’s a fine line between creative application and game exploitation, so having a very clear entry for the spell effect helps keep things on track.
I’ve seen WotC address this directly, but right now the “martial” classes need a bit of tweaking to bring them into balance with each other and help the fighter become something more than just “the guy with all the maneuvers he can’t always use.”
As far as running Next with DCC, I would highly recommend it. As a retro-clone, DCC is known for its brutality, a style of play that I think Next is perfectly capable of accommodating, or disregarding with very little modification (I’d try using the Check and Save DCs outlined in the DM Guidelines document rather than relying on those printed in the adventure for the later option.)
Given my frustrations with “bossification” in D&D Next, the nature of the Hound of Hirot in this adventure helped me to keep up the excitement, and give the players ample opportunities to face down the adventure’s nemesis while still letting them taste the sweet nectars of victory.