5E Playtest Reactions

I ran the playtest module for my group yesterday evening. There were five players, so all the pregen characters were in play. I didn’t bother with any backstory or justification, since we expected to play this as a one-shot. Reaction was almost entirely positive. The player who (I thought) was the biggest 4E fan said he didn’t miss anything from Fourth Edition, though he thought it played differently. Everybody enjoyed the advantage and disadvantage mechanic. We got about 2.5 hours of solid game play in (this is about average for us, since we game after work).

Here is some player feedback:

  • Uncertain about the healer’s kit mechanic. It seems like a strange requirement if HP are supposed to be abstract. Also, it might lead to PCs carrying too many healer’s kits.
  • They would have appreciated a bit more healing. My players are used to 4E healing surges though. They thought the clerics needed to prepare specific spells also, so they probably should have had a few extra healing spells following the rules as written exactly.
  • They liked constitution + hit die for starting HP, though it seemed high to me.
  • Simplified action economy was appreciated, though some sort of limited “parting shot” type of opportunity attack was suggested (I believe 1E and 2E had simplified disengagement rules that might work well).
  • Everyone liked split movement, myself included.
  • The cleric of Moradin (dubbed “clericadin” by the player) was played aggressively, as I would expect a traditional plate + mace cleric to be played.
  • The wizard player liked the balance of at-will cantrips and prepared spells.
  • One player said she missed the battle mat. She felt like she had to continually ask me to redescribe the physical relationships during combat. I do run some 4E combats without minis, so this was not entirely new, but when there are lots of combatants we usually use minis.

The PCs went in cave D first, one of the goblin lairs, not trying to be especially stealthy. They wandered into a dead end and were ambushed by a patrol of 6 goblins. They routed those goblins, killing half of them and letting the remaining survivors escape to warn the others. They went deeper, following the fleeing goblins anyways, and got caught in a heavy melee with more goblins who had overturned a table to use as a barrier.

The goblins had already taken the opportunity to pay the ogre, so the party ended up trapped between a group of goblins and an ogre from the rear. The wizard cut off any chance of parlay with the ogre by a shocking grasp to the nether regions, resulting in one very angry ogre. They ultimately prevailed, looted the ogre’s cave (giving the remaining goblins time to build barricades from storeroom junk and prepare). They ended up defeating those goblins too (though the leader escaped).

Some other highlights:

  • A goblin was frozen to the ground with a ray of frost and two of the PCs held a dexterity contest to determine who could get to it first.
  • The cleric of Moradin sampled the invisibility potion and his lips became invisible. This led to many “why so serious” references. He also got drunk off the ogre’s brandy, so we got to test the intoxicated rules.

My feedback as referee:

  • The ogre had too many HP.
  • The frontal assault strategy they chose certainly would have gotten everyone killed if we had been playing B/X. One PC was briefly in negative territory.
  • The rules seemed to promote creative tactical play without much overhead. For example, the halfling jumped on the ogre’s and stabbed him in the back repeatedly while the ogre flailed around trying to get the halfling off (attacks at disadvantage, I have him an intelligence check chance to think about slamming the halfling against the wall, but he failed that check).
  • There was little resource management, but it would have been hard for that to come through in a one-shot anyways. The rules currently seem to be of two minds on this. On the one hand, at-will light cantrip. On the other hand, healer’s kit, antitoxin, and healing potion.

3 thoughts on “5E Playtest Reactions

  1. Billy Billerson

    Thanks for the detailed summary. My friend has been running a 4e game and now wants to run the 5e playtest, so I’ve been wondering what to expect.

    Regarding your note about hitpoint expectations, I find that it usually takes a session or two for players to get used to a more deadly ruleset. That was my experience in the cyberpunk game I’m running(for 3.5e/4e players)–it took every single player losing a PC over several sessions before the players made the tactical adjustment.

    As DM you can help this learning process by giving mechanical hints for a few sessions i.e. “if you attack the ogre head-on you will most likely all die.”

  2. Hedgehobbit

    It’s not surprising that the PCs are easier time that if they were in AD&D/BX. Considering their hit points and their +3 BAB, they really are 3rd level characters.

  3. David

    Nice to hear about an actual, at the table, reaction. Thank you for giving such a detailed rundown.

    I’m hoping to see HP notched down in the next update.


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