Sunday, August 10, 2014
Actual 5e PHB Play is Actual
I whipped up an adventure using some of the monsters out of the back of the PHB - and one from the monster supplement pdf from Horde of the Dragon Queen from WOTC. It was a seemingly simple adventure - the players were on a small boat going to Waterdeep when they found a large, empty, and damaged ship stuck on a coral reef out in the middle of nowhere. Yay floating dungeon!
We all had read chunks of the PHB - at least the bits we were each interested in. I swear, if there is one words that exemplifies the 5e PHB it is OPTIONS. I thing there are about five splatbooks worth of spat in the 300+ page book, as well as an entire game. It's like a candy store. There are jaw dropping things all around. I have no idea how broken any of it is - but it's hard to think that the half-orc racial attributes have anything to do with balance. Well, maybe that is the point. Fuck balance. Half-orcs should scare the living crap out of you.
I just don't know. It's hard to imagine what the ramifications of all of these features are until seeming them is an actual game.
Kaye made a Dragonborn Barbarian Sailor (Pirate Variant) named Blackscale. Okay, it sounded really stupid to me too. But . . . it worked very well. Imagine Jack Sparrow with the face of a dragon. Kind of makes sense it a twisted way - eh?
Kenny built a Halfling Bard with an Entertainer background named Otter. I allowed him an ocarina for an instrument, despite it not being on the list. He rolled a pipe that blew bubbles for his trinket. That was really perfect.
Even being new to this ruleset, the character creation itself didn't take too long. Maybe an hour for both - which primarily came from having to go through all of the choices.
A new group should use the basic rules or pre-builts like in the starter set. I would definitely call the new PHB ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. Wow. Lots of things to sort though if you don't want any of the easy options.
So, Otter and Blackscale began a salvage operation on the disabled ship, quickly coming to the conclusion that blue and green dragons had double-teamed the vessel, knocking out the rigging and gassing the elven crew to death, then leaving the ship afloat.
It didn't take them too long to find another salvage team - a 5th level evil high priest, his pirate buddies, and a zombie army - boarding the ship on the other side. Ooops!
Actually, I designed the adventure with a DCC style funnel in mind, with both of them playing two characters apiece and throwing enough firepower at them to kill half the party. But they only got two characters created - so me, being a dick - I didn't scale back any. I figured that rolling back the power level was just plain lame, so I through the whole thing at them for fun. And SCIENCE!
It's funny how plans dissolve quickly when exposed to air . . .
In the middle of combat with zombies, Blackscale hurls a bench at a second wave of undead as they are crawling up over the side of the ship, knocking them down. The bench fell down too, hitting the evil high priest's rowboat square in the middle and knocking a hole in it. As the evil high priest is flailing about in the sinking boat, Otter casts Tasha's Hideous Laughter on the drowning cleric.
The poor EHP giggled uncontrollably through saltwater as the PCs dove down and gutted him like a pig from under the waves. With Zombies in pursuit, they high-tailed it towards their own ship. Blackscale was pretty hurt, and the reef sharks were taking an interest in all of the blood. The fact that Otter completely sucked at swimming and was being carried by the dragonborn didn't help.
So what did they do? Well, while swimming for his life, the dragonborn held the halfling bard up out of the water so he could play a nice healing song on the ocarina. It was a bizarre Windwalker moment indeed.
The duo then got back on their ship and raced it out of there.
It was great fun. Even though a short adventure, the system played like a champ. All of the weirdness I was worried about melted away. The mechanics of the barbarian and the bard just seemed natural and right. The characters worked wonderfully together too - a big surprise. And just like in olden times, the application of the perfect spell at the perfect time snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Now, instead of a brutal TPK, the characters are second level and planning their next salvage operation to the coral reef - hopefully next time with more friends. So, yeah, I'll give the new Player's Handbook a passing grade so far. Needs more testing though. Lots more. Couple of years I think, at least. ;)