DDN Playtest Session 4

The “Kargian’s Ambition” Quest Continues

Exploring House Center

Dealing with Doors (and Passages, and T-Junctions)

We entered from the east, and having secured six fire-beetle glands, are now faced with a single exit to the south. Its door stands a little ajar.

“Let’s work out our order again,” prompts ½-Jack the Halfling rogue. The paladin Guerra holds his hand up and says, “A moment! Now that we know undead are about, I can use Tyr’s divine power to sense them… No, all seems clear.” “I’m OK carrying the lantern,” the Halfling continues. “I can cast Light on my shield… if I’m at the front, Carrick can see well into the gloom,” suggests Br Gaunt the priest of Tempus. “Good, then I can use my bow,” ½-Jack amends. “Then I shall cede the honor of leading,” Guerra decides.

[What follows is a labyrinthine series of passages. Standard operating procedure is set up, since caution seemed called for.

  • Carrick Listens (he gets advantage)
  • Guerra uses Divine Sense (50’ radius unchecked by obstacles)
  • Br Gaunt and Carrick lead off
  • Guerra and ½-Jack follow
  • Noise discipline: hand-signs are used where possible, otherwise low murmurs
  • If anything seems worth searching, ½-Jack does an initial check for traps, then Carrick searches, then if any locks are found ½-Jack tries to open them.
  • We go right at any T-junction.]

Not far past the point where we seem to have doubled back virtually to our start-room, we spot a wider area west, possibly a chamber. But in the meantime, a dead-end north proves to have a concealed pressure pad on the wall. Pulling back to the nearby L-turn west, the party shelters. Carrick highlights the plate with minor illusion and Guerra triggers it with a hurled hammer. In front of us a doorway opens!

Beyond it we follow a passage east then north to find a modest chamber that opens to a much larger one. ½-Jack bravely agrees to explore it. The bullseye lantern picks out heavy iron bars separating the south half of the large chamber from the north half. Two massy iron gates let through the barrier. We steadily advance behind the doughty Halfling as he tries the locks. At first he seems to have jammed one [rolls a 1] then it springs open [Luck allows retry on a 1, gets DC18].

[Player remarks:

Thieves tools proficiency: This discussion arose when we discovered that ½-Jack, who is a pregen, has Tools- Artisan but not Tools- Thieves Tools. This seems such an oversight I suggested the GM simply swap them out. However, having the tools in his pack allows him a Dex check, and that’s what the GM went with.

It seems logical that the proficiency be left for a background. After all a rogue need not know anything much about opening locks. But there must be some rule to cover swapping out one proficiency for another, during set-up, and there must be some rule so that characters can gain more proficiencies if they want to, as levels increase.

As a further note, the descriptive rule on Thieves Tools does not line up with the descriptive rule on other types of Tools proficiencies. This will need to be brought into line.

Divine Sense: Divine Sense is OK in that it applies only to 3 types of nasties, but overpowered in range and see-through-wall area. The ‘single action’ requirement means a paladin can turn it on over breakfast and run it all day unless taking some other action, since he can move and take an action, every turn.

End remarks]

The large northern half of the chamber has a 3’ diameter hole towards the far left (north-west) corner, about 15’ shy of a door west. We gather; Carrick Lights a coin, tosses it down, and the light reveals a tunnel some 10’ below, running roughly north.

Proboscii of Pain!

We decide to try the door west. It is locked, and after ½-Jack admits failure Br Gaunt boots it open [Str DC18] to find a passage that L-turns south. Rounding that corner we find a 10’ stretch of passage –  and another locked door. ½-Jack cracks the lock on this one, revealing a decent-size chamber, perhaps 30’x40’, with a lone table standing in the middle of it. Carrick and Br Gaunt lead off as usual: [Wis checks, Gaunt makes 23] then Br Gaunt cries an alarm as critter swoops down from the south-east corner!


  • Guerra
  • ½-Jack
  • Gaunt
  • Carrick
  • Stirges

Round 1: “Pull back!” cries Guerra, adopting a defensive stance at the doorway [Dodge]. Gaunt misses with a Sacred Flame cast and pulls back. ½-Jack sets the lantern down and readies his bow, while Carrick gestures impressively and with a huge thunderclap of sound – that ruins our noise discipline – wastes all four of the critters [Thunderwave – all save but the half-damage still kills them]. He then retires, just in case.

Round 2: Guerra remains on the defensive waiting for any further development, but calls back to ½-Jack, “why don’t you make sure they are all dead?” ½-Jack obligingly pads into the chamber and over to the squished critters. “I think I know what those are,” Gaunt comments. “We need a little light to our rear,” Guerra suggests, and Carrick casts light on a coin and flips it back past the corner. Three more critters swoop and attack ½-Jack, one sinking its proboscis deep into him [2 damage]. “Don’t try to pull it out – just attack the others and I’ll help you,” Gaunt warns him.

Round 3: Guerra advances and throws his net at the others but catches only the floor (as always). ½-Jack misses another with his bow. He pulls back a little but stays in the room. Gaunt uses Sacred Flame on the impaling stirge, but though scorched it is not out of action! Carrick tries Shocking Grasp on the same target:

“Shocking Grasp!?!” – ½-Jack’s player

“Hey don’t worry, it’ll be just like a stun gun that zaps an attacker but doesn’t affect the guy he’s grabbed” – Guerra’s player.

“Hmm actually that sounds like something the Mythbusters should test.” – Guerra’s player, after a short pause.

Regardless of theory, the spell fails to zap its target as the stirge “dodges” [say what?*]

More stirges swoop down, now numbering seven in all. ½-Jack’s blood is slurped some more [2 damage] while one attaches itself to Guerra [4 damage] and another to Carrick [5 damage].

Round 4: We disengage! Gaunt uses Sacred Flame to excise the stirge on Carrick but again it fails to kill it. Carrick uses his Magic Missiles selectively: first slaying the one in front of him, then the one eating him, then pulls out. The stirges still attached to Guerra and ½-Jack suck them more [1 damage each].

Round 5: With the door now closed, we kill the remaining two and remove them from Guerra and ½-Jack.

[*GM’s remarks:

The stirge is not “restrained” when it is embedded because the Bestiary description does not state it is. Therefore, it is still allowed to save on Dex. If it is actually supposed to be restrained, the Bestiary needs to be amended.

End remarks]

Death to Stirges!

A Long Rest later, with everyone back to health and another light spell behind us and a plan of action, we open the door again and Guerra goes to get his net, ready for the next wave. As stirges swoop he yoinks the net and retreats [and thanks to odd placement of minis is left at the back while Carrick becomes a front-ranker]. ½-Jack neatly skewers one with an arrow, then the stirges attack, sinking into Carrick [2 damage] and ½-Jack [3 damage]. Carrick uses Magic Missile selectively again, removing first his own then ½-Jack’s stirge. Then retreats! “Time to leave the fighting to the thugs!” Carrick yodels. “I object to being called a thug,” growls Br Gaunt in a thuggish voice. Br Gaunt advances! Guerra too advances, net at the ready, hurls it, and misses (as always), but luckily ½-Jack brings down the last stirge.

We grapnel the nest down, finding nothing but rags. A small skeleton is found under the table. “If that is a deep gnome we must bring the bones back for proper burial,” Guerra states, then tosses his tattered pack to ½-Jack. “Just pile them on top of the fire-beetle glands, will you” he asks casually. Under the bones, ½-Jack finds a mildewed pouch with 27 silver. We each take six coins, and as a mark of his prowess with battle magic Carrick is given the extra three.

Turning our attention to the wider room, a nook or alcove to the west seems of interest, and a search [DC10] locates the non-secret side of a concealed door. This seems to line up satisfactorily: we’ve now explored the whole of the concealed area, except for the hole and passage.

A Short Rest later, [all hp recovered] we retrieve our caltrops and light-coins, and relocate back to the hole. Carrick has also recovered his Magic Missile spell, using a talent named Arcane Recovery.

[Player remarks:

All players thought that Arcane Recovery works pretty well, as it offers a way to avoid the “15-minute workday” effect. It could easily be overdone given at-will cantrips that are quite powerful.

The Long Rest and Short Rest still feel like too much recovery to some of us, given other healing may be available.

End remarks.]

Tunnel North

Using a tied-off rope with a loop-stirrup, ½-Jack is lowered with the lantern. He finds that the tunnel is gnome-height, quite cramped for his lofty 3’ stature. He easily locates a niche ahead and takes the eight gemstones sitting in it. The tunnel leads north-ish and into a different stonework, quite obviously a different building to the one we began with. He returns and reports.

Guerra [Int DC20] estimates the gems to be all standard turquoises, around 10gp each, so everyone gets two each.

Oozy and the Near-Death Experience (Appearing in a Pit Near You!)

We retrace our steps out of the concealed wing to face west, into the wider chamber. It is much larger than we first guessed, easily 30’ across and so long only the elf can see the end. A ruined portcullis part-blocks a southern arch. We spread out, searching, as it seems the sort of place that would have concealed exits or murder-holes in its walls. As Carrick and Br Gaunt finish their (south) wall and move across the chamber, a huge pit-trap opens beneath them and Carrick tumbles in and to everyone’s amazement Br Gaunt [Dx-1] does not. Carrick falls 10’ onto spikes [2 damage] and we begin reacting, bringing light, rope and so on to the scene.

Surprise round: Carrick [fails Wis check even with a 19] is brutally attacked by a grey oozy blob [13 damage, falls unconscious and narrowly avoids death by massive damage].


  • Gaunt
  • (Carrick, later)
  • Oozy the Grey Pudding
  • ½-Jack
  • Guerra

Round 1: Gaunt (who has medical proficiency) sees a grey blob and acid damage. He leaps into the pit onto the spikes beside Carrick [6 damage] and casts Cure Wounds, healing the Elf mage fully. Carrick [next in order of Init] casts Thunderwave to drive Oozy back, ripping it back across the spikes and slamming it against the wall of the pit [11 damage right back atcha]. Oozy rolls forward at Gaunt but fails to drive its acid through his armor. “Oil and torch! You throw oil, I light it!” yells Guerra, and ½-Jack sloshes oil over Oozy [DC10 as it is an area] and Guerra drops a lit torch into the blob: the oil lights satisfactorily!

Round 2: Gaunt climbs out with an impressive display of strength [DC18] and Oozy’s tendrils miss him [a disengage-climb is impossible]. Carrick also has to try his climb and makes it [DC15 with -1 bonus]! Oozy rolls up and out, ready to attack. ½-Jack throws more oil and pulls back. Guerra nails it with a javelin and pulls back. “That just cost me 2 silvers worth of javelin, but it was worth it” he says grimly.

Round 3: Gaunt misses with Sacred Flame and pulls back, well away from Oozy as he suspects the thing might roll very fast on level ground. Carrick’s Magic Missiles flay shreds off Oozy and the oil burns the last of it away as it begins rolling forward.

[Player remarks:

Several points were raised by this interesting trap-with-monster.

It’s not absolutely clear that Cure Wounds and other healing spells can be applied to unconscious people. The wording around 0 hit points needs more clarity.

Cure Wounds seems excessively effective given Short and Long Rests and higher-level healing as well.

Spikes are probably a good example of things that require a Con check to cast spells while still on them. E.g. take damage from spikes, fail to mitigate further damage, attempt spell: Con check. This would be good to cover off in examples of play.

The instructions on damage from spikes did not specifically explain that the d10 applied included falling. An older-school DM would add a d6 for falling. GM guidelines should cover this off carefully, including varying damage from different sizes of spike.

Jumping down into spikes sounds suicidal until you figure they are likely to be reasonably well spread out. A Dex save ought to be applied, but there were no guidelines on that.

Even though Gaunt is very strong, climbing a sheer 10′ pit off spikes would seem to indicate a Climb check with disadvantage.

It wasn’t 100% clear at which point Carrick needed to make his Death save. He did make one at the end of the surprise round but as that would have been before his own turn came round that does not appear to make complete sense.

End remarks]

Calling this a Skeleton Crew is Exactly the Kind of Crap Pun I Hate

Searching the pit reveals nothing. But Guerra senses undead, south. We pull back to the chamber entrance-way, and await their shuffling approach with the lantern flooding the chamber with light. As they shuffle to the cover of the portcullis we see they are skeletal archers!


  • Carrick
  • Gaunt
  • Guerra
  • ½-Jack
  • Skeletons

Round 1: Carrick leaps into line of sight on the part-obscured skeletons and strikes one with Ray of Frost, to little obvious effect though it does slow its advance. He retires back to safety behind Gaunt and Guerra. Gaunt, Guerra and ½-Jack ready actions and wait, but to their chagrin the three skeletons line up outside handy throw range and fire at the defenders. A couple of arrows bounce off the raised shields, the third skitters off the wall harmlessly.

Round 2: Carrick repeats his previous maneuver [another 2 points damage, still no visible result]. Gaunt, realizing the skeletons will not advance, advances himself and throws a Sacred Flame at the damaged skeleton, to little effect [1 damage]. Guerra advances a full 30’ around the other side of the pit from the skeletons and hurls his last javelin, which passes harmlessly through a rib-cage. ½-Jack has much the same weapon as the skeletons and returns fire, dropping the damaged one [7 damage halves to 3]. The skeletons grin (well what else would they do) and miss Gaunt completely.

Round 3: Gaunt draws his mace and charges the two remaining [8 damage, he is disgusted that mace damage is reduced to a d6] and the bashing weapon shatters his chosen target [bash damage doubles]. He chuckles: his deity the war god will bless his next attack! [Felling a foe permits extra next round] But Guerra rushes around the pit drawing his hammer and charges home on the other, dropping it too. [Using Mike Mearls charge rule as quoted in his twitter feed, an extra 10’.]

[Player remarks:

The charge as written provides no ability for charging. It is simply a standard move to where you can hit something, then hit it, and no retreat (so less useful than a standard move-hit-move). Mike Mearls’ explanation appears to explain that an extra 10’ may be added to a standard move so that an enemy may be contacted at the end, as long as it is 10’ or more away. This fitted the set-up as above: Guerra was able to move around the pit, line up the skeleton about 20’ further, and complete a total of 40’ rather than his normal 30’. However, the rule needs substantial rewriting if this is the correct treatment, because it says nothing like that.

GM remarks:

I read the charge as 50% extra on the move.

End remarks]

We (well, ½-Jack) search the bones and extract three quivers of short-bow arrows, three short-bows, and three longswords. None are in good shape, especially the longswords. We consider value in the markets and think we should cart them out if possible. As for use, ½-Jack is happy to add more arrows and Carrick decides to add a short-bow and quiver to his:

  • Banjo
  • Longbow
  • Quiver of Longbow arrows
  • Short sword
  • Backpack
  • And component pouches

“Since I wear no armor, it will be easy enough,” the 6’ tall, pipe-cleaner-thin [Str8] mage avers.

[Session notes:

A surprisingly large labyrinth of passages inside what appeared to be a small building, and no sign of deep gnome relics? Still, it was a good demo of a number of traditional monsters and challenges. While not part of the playtest the dungeon design was acknowledged to be logical enough – for example the concealed wing with a logical escape tunnel.

We used minis and corridor and room pieces throughout. These did make layout a lot easier to follow, though we could probably have managed without them. In one instance they placed us at a disadvantage because of the placement of one front-ranker, but in most cases they simply allowed us to grasp how a room or passage was arranged without long explanations.

Overall the Long and Short rests were probably the key part of the process that the group is unimpressed with, given other means of healing. If this was a campaign where healing magic did not exist the rest system would be well balanced.

We’ve now just reached Level 2, so next session will describe decisions about paths, spells and the like, and comments on how easy these were to understand.

End notes]


About andrewmclaren26

Weekly Roleplayer, Wargamer when I can
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