Thursday, September 13, 2012

In Which The Warlock Rolls Again, now with Advantage...

This past Friday, the current Wittenberg Guildies hosted a "Beginner's Luck" one-shot, focusing on introducing new gamers to both the hobby and roleplaying as an idea.  While we originally had an array of three one-shots prepped--a D&D Next playtest, a Savage Worlds conversion of Firefly, and a Marvel-themed ICONS game--demand and an unlucky power outage reduced us down to two sessions of the playtest.

Now, you might recall that I wasn't exactly kind in my previous playtests of this rule-set.  Both as a player and a GM, massive flaws became quickly apparent, which really led to difficulties with the game as a whole.

Since then, those rules have undergone a fair amount of revision:  two sub-classes were added (the Warlock and the Sorcerer), character generation rules were included, and the Fighter's basic mechanics were altered to include an "expertise die" that refreshed each round.

Mind you, I wasn't planning on running D&D that evening, much less the new playtest rules, which I had only skimmed over.  While the new playtest packet contained an adventure--"Reclaiming Blingdenstone"--I was barely able to glance at said adventure before game had started.  Plus, we didn't exactly have a balanced party for a dungeon crawl.  My four players ended up rolling a Warlock, a Wizard, a Sorcerer and a Fighter; nary a Rogue nor Cleric to be seen!

And you thought they were bad,
before they were wizards!
As such, I had to improvise.  Figuring that our three arcanists probably knew each other, I decided to run a riff on the immortal Harry Potter series, placing our erstwhile adventurers in the library of Ikksplatt University of the Arcane Arts, something of a combination of Hogwart's Academy and Faber College, from the immortal frat-boy hit, Animal House.

And, oh my...we had a blast.

After a swarm of stirges ambushed some thirsty co-eds outside the library--which were fought off by our intrepid investigators, naturally--Headmaster Gornash offered the group a  "book stipend" if they could infiltrate the Theta Gamma Delta fraternity house and find out what was causing the stirge infestation on campus.

This led to a crazy showdown at a "wizard's mark" party at the fraternity house, some rather...unorthodox...uses of the Charm Person spell, and a series of encounters with a drunken half-ogre invoker.  In the end, the players managed to make it down into the cold dorm, where the fraternity president and his stoner elf frat brother were keeping a hungry Gelatinous Cube as a pet!

While everyone at the table had fun, I think that the fun came as a result of the absurdity of the scenario, rather than the rules themselves.  The Fighter, despite numerous mechanical changes, still felt significantly underpowered compared to the arcanists.  While he could dish out and avoid damage, that was pretty much all the class could do.  The arcanists seemed fairly well on par with one another, though few spells were cast.  I'm a touch worried that the Wizard could easily outstrip its compatriots at higher levels, much as it did in 3e/3.5e.

Further, the class write-ups for the Warlock and Sorcerer show their newer, less-refined nature.  The character generation rules for both of those classes were particularly vague, and both players at my table--one of which was the PlatinumChick, an experienced gamer if there ever was one--had issues understanding how much access to spells they actually had.  The Warlock character, in fact, played the first half of the game believing that he only had access to one spell:  Comprehend Languages!  That lack of clarity there is absolutely unacceptable in a finished product, but as playtest material goes, I suppose it's to be expected.

I'm still very much on the fence about D&D Next, as you might imagine.  While I'll likely pick up the most basic set, I can't imagine picking up much more of the line than that.  Simply put, it's got a long way to go before I start really being interested in D&D again.

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