"I've been looking forward to this more than Christmas."
-P@, my longtime friend and one of my players
Yesterday was the D&D Next playtest that I've been planning for about a month now. For those that are just joining us, I took various aspects of the adventure Evil Tide, by Bruce R. Cordell and brought it into my home campaign for a larger than life game session. In the end, we probably played for about 8 hours.
Before anybody showed up, I laid the first batch of tiles, put the plastic sheet over them to keep them in place, and got the basement ready for all six players.
The strangest part of the group that I brought together for this playtest was that most of the group was strangers. Myself and my fiancee were the connection between everybody. While that can create some confusion as to how to get the characters to connect with one another, I spent a lot of time with everybody beforehand discussing their motivations and past. So, even though some players were meeting each other for the first time, there were various motivations in-character for them to interact.
The story started off in my home campaign world in a city of Genkar. A misty rain was falling as the group spent the night as the establishment known as Sharleena's, waiting for their ship to leave at dawn. The group all had various goals as to why they wanted to leave the city.
Here's the breakdown of the players.
Nizumo Misoka - played by P@ (@patwalter07). An elf pirate, Niz was a former slave who escaped and ended up with his own ship, only to lose it to the pirate lord of Genkar. Arrogant and brash, his only real motivation is to take revenge on Janubiz, the pirate lord and reclaim his ship.
Vivianne Shearwater - played by Sara (@VivianneLight). A human pirate, Vivianne has connections to the pirate lord Janubiz. She is searching for her missing father, and seems to have more of a moral compass than Niz.
Krenlor - played by Kyle. A high elf wizard, Krenlor is fleeing Genkar after being tasked with destroying the red dragon whose wrath he awoke. Krenlor specializes in fire magic.
Ekbert - played by Rob. A human monk of the Order of Godescalus, Ekbert is simply looking to travel the world and help those in need.
Frenzy Forgestoker - played by Paul. Frenzy is now affiliated with House Sierett of Genkar. He is boarding the ship in order to explore the various isle in the Genkar region.
Caitrisanna - played by Shannon. Caitrisanna is seeking a group of fallen paladins who slew her family.
And so, all the heroes met at Sharleena's.
The next morning, they boarded their ship. The adventure was pretty straight forward from here as the group sailed to Trawlers' Isle. On the way there, they spotted a sea elf being chased by sharks. They rescued her and learned of a sahuagin in the area. The sea elf said she saw a monstrous four-armed sahuagin speaking about returning the Stone Which Abides to the Throne of Teeth, per the command of the Deep Mother. The heroes knew nothing about any of this.
When the ship reached the docks of Trawlers' Isle, they were ambushed by sahuagin. While putting this map together, I got the wrong half of the ship at the docks. My players just told me they were ready to play and we didn't need to fix it, so I let it go. This was probably my favorite map of the adventure. I unloaded 16 sahuagin miniatures. The players thought it was bad when I put down 8, and continued to groan (Vivianne had a small scream), as all 16 got placed.
As D&D Next has proven, combat moves fairly quickly. Several sahuagin were killed, yet Ekbert and Krenlor collapsed. Krenlor almost died, but his companions managed to drive the rest of the group off.
After that, the dock captain Marly brought the party to the Potentate of Trawlers' Isle, Kara. From there, the group learned more about the sahuagin attacks and some missing villagers. The group went and met with the Fathomer who dwelt at the northern point of the isle and learned more about the sahuagin.
The group then went back to the city to investigate the collapsed excavation site where a number of villagers had disappeared (one of them was Lychelle, an acquaintance of Vivianne's). At the Salty Fish, an inn on the island, Niz met a tiefling named Viigill who was seeking a new crew. The pirate captain told Niz that if the elf could drive off the sahuagin raiders, the pirate would be able to bring his ship to the island and set sail. Niz was able to motivate the entire group to follow the raiding sahuagin back to their lair.
The sahuagin were dwelling in a mass of shipwrecks. It was apparent that the sahuagin did not live here, making some of the PC's question the authenticity of the attacks. From there, the group sought to subdue the sahuagin Lieutenant, Jaagisertan, which they eventually did. From him, they learned that the sahuagin were carrying out the raids on Trawlers' Isle under the orders of Baron K'thstraam.
The party took their sahuagin prisoner back to Trawlers' Isle. The Potentate thanked them for their help, and the group decided to venture into the forest east of the city so that Caitrisanna could find some answers she sought. In the forest, Caitrisanna learned of the fey connections the wood had, and met with the Lady of the Wood (a dryad). She was led there by a unicorn.
The dryad led Caitrisanna to a ruined keep of fey origins, then activated the fey crossing due to the dryad's connections with the forest. Caitrisanna and the unicorn stepped through to the Feywild, leaving the rest of the group on Trawlers' Isle, determined to find out what happened to the excavation team.
And that my friends was the 8 hour game. So much story, debate, and exploration in a short time. And the group still has no idea what the Stone Which Abides is. When the game ended, I was a little shocked myself. I spent most of the last month figuring out how to map and making all the locations in the game exciting. I expanded on a couple of things in order to give the players some hooks/depth (this is our own campaign world after all), but I simply imagined that the whole story would be done and over with. I now have a player who has ventured off on her own story (Caitrisanna in the Feywild), but that's ok. In fact, I almost think it's better. Life is crazy, and people get busy, so I never know if I will be able to get this exact group to sit and play together again. Having Caitrisanna pursue her own goals means that I can do a Feywild adventure in the near future and help drive that story (something Shannon really wants to happen).
As for the others, they all felt the story had good closure....for now. I will have to do some thinking when the time comes as to what happens on Trawlers' Isle from here.
Encounter-wise, I was an extremely lazy DM. I re-skinned the Lizardfolk in the playtest packet to make them sahuagin. They fought one sahuagin spellcaster, and , since it was on the fly, I just turned some of her attacks and made them ranged. She wasn't even firing "true" spells. Shame on me, but the players never knew. In fact, the whole group was drawn more into the story that nobody was rules lawyering/worrying about how the game was played. They simply told me what they wanted to do, and we worked around it from there.
I ran the most basic form of the D&DNext rules. When I run the next session, I plan on stepping things up and experimenting with he new healing rules. I enjoyed the new skill system of having a skill die. The players told me they really didn't notice it one way or another (except Krenlor, who rolled bad the entire session). I think at this point I still want skill dice as part of the game. It just seemed more fun to me.
I ended the session with a number of story hooks, so the group can split and go into whatever new adventures we can come up with. Since I can't run giant campaigns at the moment, being able to leave off the single session games and create easy ways to start up again is vital.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about the adventure as I had planning it and running it. As always, leave your comments below and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf