Monday, May 28, 2012

On the #DnDNext Playtest: Part One: Technical Problems

I'm going to try to constrain this to specific problems with the #DnDNext playtest which are not about the problems with the edition, but with the playtest materials itself.

There are people in this world who are so defensive that the mere pointing out of problems during a test makes them sad and angry. The module and other documents were copies of copies of copies of copies, so things get left out or added in. This doesn't make anyone a bad person.

#1. How does the party know WTF this is? [Identification and Appraisal]
We went with the (rather stupid) assumption that the rogue just knew the value of monetary items, and the wizard knew the magical ones, but this takes away from the game experience for me as a DM. The fact is, there were no indications in the game packet materials of how to run either identify or appraisal. The party should at least have to find someone who knows stuff and 'Stay a while, and listen.'

#2. How do I know WTF this is? [Items that aren't described in the materials.]
The Wand of Binding was the first item we discovered in the module that no one knew WTF it was. It wasn't described anywhere but in an appendix in the module, but you couldn't find that with "Search" in the .pdf...REALLY? As a DM coming from AD&D (because both 1st and 2nd edition AD&D are the same game) I'd never heard of this. The assumption that I would know you'd changed the name of the wand of paralyzation and I'd be able to make up how it worked was a bit much since this is supposed to be a sort of 'one edition to rule them all.' BTW: On the how to play document, you created status conditions, and it's "Paralyzed" not "Bound." So, you know, it would be a wand of... oh, nevermind!  Put equipment with equipment and effects with effects and MATCH EQUIPMENT NAMES TO EFFECT NAMES.

#3. Map in Module is too low of a resolution. See also here. Dude, I could've fixed that in Paint.NET. You guys knew about this problem from the first playtest of #DnDNext. It was a frequent bitch.

#4. Um. No home base. I didn't give the players a KEEP nearby, maybe something on, I don't know, some LANDS, near the BORDER, but I did build an inn a brisk walk away. Players need this, especially since the module mentions ranging bad guys in the demesne of the caves.

#5. "It came without packages, boxes or bags." DUDE, do not put "the room is full of boxes" without giving the DM what is in the boxes. Compare: "Crates, sacks, boxes, barrels and piles of items are stacked with little regard for organization/The room contains clothing, food, stale beer and sour wine." with "Many bales, boxes, crates, barrels, and sacks are stacked and heaped in the large chamber. They contain cloth, food, beer, and wine - all of no special worth." Instead I dealt with "What kind of clothing, what is the clothing for, who is the clothing for, what are the goblins dressed like?" AND THIS WAS ONE OF THE BETTER rooms with "boxes." Room 16 has "barrels, boxes and sacks" that are apparently empty. Compare with, again, in Gygaxian: "barrels and boxes and sacks -extra supplies for the tribe. (One small wine barrel, 400 coins in weight, contains a good quality wine worth 55 gold pieces.)" 

#6 Pick one. The monsters either have a set amount of treasure or they carry 1d6 ep, 1d10cp and 1d6 bags of edible food. By the way, players go "What kind of food? Why is it in bags?" If all goblins in the universe have 5 hp, then they all carry 5 gp...or whatever. You can't 'make it easier' by giving everything a set amount of hp then throw random loot in there. If you have a set piece, you can also go "the goblins carry a total of 25 cp, 8ep and 10 bags of food between them."

#7. Lighting conditions. We had a character in the pre-gens without low-light vision, then rooms described with lighting conditions, then places without lighting conditions...sometimes he could not see. I ended up making up lighting conditions. My lighting conditions became a plot point. (There were goblins that were unable to see well, the rogue thumped one with a rock, others failed WIS checks (badly) and they thought Ogruh, their friend, had died spontaneously. They then failed two more WIS checks, with modifiers, as the halfling took out another, then a third. Lastly, he slit the throat of the 4th, who fell to his knees to pray to the goblin god to not strike him down, too.  One of the best moments for my players...but not others in the test, because I had to add the lighting conditions!)

#8. Smells. Yes, I know how the smells got in the module, but the party wants to know how they got in the room. If a room has a fetid stench, tell the DM why.

Most of these problems could've been fixed by an intern who can use word.


  1. A quick rebuttal of some of your points.

    #1. & #2. The wizard is a sage,as a DM you can assign a DC to a Magical Lore check to identify the item, combined with the Researcher background feature this would allow the party to identify the item, or if the wizard fails he will know where he can get the item identified.

    As for monetary values, allow the rogue to roll commerce, int to estimate the value.

    #4. Is not relevant to the part of the system they are asking us to test. But, depending on the background you or your players choose for motivating them adventuring in the caves there could be a keep, housing a church of pelor, a small library of esoteric knowledge, where the lord of the keep acknowledges the peerage of the cleric of Moradin.

    #5 What is in the crates could vary from game to game - the orcs are raiding nearby trading routes, then they contain ale, clothe and other merchandise. Theorcs are preparing for war? arrows, preserved food and tents.

    #7 The lighting conditions in each lair and room is give, as well as the source of any lightn. The characters have torches and access to the light spell.

    #8. Sometimes it is best to look at the surrounding rooms, is the room with the fetid stench maybe the entrance to the Pit of Death?

    Many of these problems are solved with a quick read through of the module. With specific attention paid to pages 2 through 5.

  2. I appreciate your rebuttal, but it seems clear you got a different module than we did. We had rooms with cut and pasted descriptor text that described scents that made no sense for the room (and since we were playing as written, as one does with a playtest, they were left there) and we had rooms with no lighting descriptor. Yes, there were also rooms that had smells that made sense and rooms that have lighting descriptions. The problem was that these were inconsistent.

    These are literally word processing errors, as far as I'm concerned, and formatting fails, not attacks upon a system that somehow need to be defended with snark.