Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Into the Breach Debriefing and a Few D&D 5 Post-Game Observations

We played Into the Breach with Basic D&D 5 last Friday. Since then, I've updated the "Into the Breach" rules notes in that blog post to bring the backgrounds more closely into line with the final version of backgrounds in D&D 5 (two skills and two tools and/or languages) and made some modifications to gun things thanks to +Charles King. A pdf copy can be found here for easy printing.

The Squad

Codename: Mountain Man
Primary Military Specialty: Architect
Acclimation: Rogue

Codename: Black Eagle
Primary Military Specialty: Search and Rescue Inferus
Acclimation: Rogue

Codename: Silkscreen
Primary Military Specialty: Cleaner
Acclimation: Rogue

Codename: Sand Viper
Primary Military Specialty: Soldier (Automatic Riflewoman)
Acclimation: Fighter

Codename: Lead Balloon
Primary Military Specialty: Sapper
Acclimation: (Mountain Dwarf) Fighter

Acclimations were rolled randomly, as planned, but on a larger table that put (human) cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard with equal probabilities (20%) and distributed the remaining 20% across a few different demihuman + class acclimation possibilities. Demihuman acclimations don't change character appearance at all -- they just add a bit of strangeness to the character's abilities. We didn't end up with any casters, so we didn't see any spellcasting in play.

Here's what we did see: 

  • A Dyson Class Stairwell's main hallways collapsed with explosives
  • Murder most foul at the hands of a drug lord with access to Guenhwyvar class xenotech
  • And the use of said xenotech as a hood ornament
  • A warehouse full of custom speedboats used for drug and xenotech smuggling
  • A lost island that has to be sailed to in a ritual pattern in order to reach it, containing a breach
  • Orcs with automatic weapons
  • Velociraptors eating drug lords
  • Hijackings on the high seas

Here's what I learned:
  • Advantage is really great. It is easy to keep track of even when drinking, and it keeps things moving. These things are very important to me because we typically have 8-9 players + the GM. (Last Friday was the 4th of July, which is why we were down to 5 players + GM.)
  • Orcs with automatic weapons are scary. Players may even make a tactical retreat while collapsing the tunnel behind them.
  • If you introduce an Onyx Panther Figurine of Wondrous Power and call it a "Guenhwyvar Class Xenotech," it cannot be scary. It will be treated with disdain regardless of its actual danger level to the party. 
  • You deserve that.
  • Giving a Dyson Class Breach Database (copy of Dyson's Delves I) to a player will slow initial dungeon exploration until the breach type is identified. After that, things pick up. 
  • Project Long Stair Breach Closures are plausible. The players actually set charges to close the main entrance tunnels to the dungeon they found and collapsed the tunnels without exploring the dungeon first. (In The Cinder Throne map, they blew the tunnel at location of the first side door in each primary entrance tunnel.)
  • It will still be very tempting for them to go in, and they may leave a side passage unsealed "just in case we want to go back." (The players knew about the secret door entrance thanks to the Architect, but they chose not to seal it.)
  • You don't need any extra rules to set up an interesting tension between "Do we do our jobs and shut down this breach and do a veil out" vs "Do we explore this dungeon just a little bit and maybe find a treasure xenotech artifact or two... for scientific purposes of course." All you really need is a set of "Mission Rules" that are directly at odds with the things D&D PCs do. The players will do the rest to make that interesting. (I used the "Ethics Code" from p. 42 of the Esoterrorists, and it was perfect.)
  • Rogues are pretty great at the things they are great at, even at 3rd level, but it feels right.
  • Backgrounds are really easy to create and are an invitation to make your own stuff that tailors the game to your setting. I will have a lot of fun with them.
  • Inspiration is easy for me to forget because I'm not used to it. I'm not opposed to its presence in 5th edition, but I'm not acclimated to tracking it. Also, only one player filled in the ideals, bonds, flaws stuff that links into it. Partly I think the other players just didn't think to do that, since bonds, ideals, and so on are a new addition to the game. Partly I think it was because it is a thing that slows down character creation. Bonds, ideals, and flaws are very open-ended, and open-ended decisions are not as easy to make quickly as closed-set decisions. Some people will want to spend a little time mulling them over, and . Also, players may not have a clear image of the character yet and are painting with broad strokes during character creation, so they may be a bit hard to pin down. As far as Inspiration goes, so far I could take or leave it. Time will tell which one.
  • Monsters are not that hard to just make up on the fly, at least at low level. I used "Hobgoblin" stats for my orcs and those were fine but I also was ready for just about anything because I know what AC range, Hit Points, attack rolls, and damage values characters have and can use those benchmarks to spitball monsters. Bounded accuracy helps a lot with this, I think.
D&D 5th edition is pretty good Dungeons & Dragons. It'll be a while before I'm able to say for sure, but it has a real shot of joining ACKS as one of my top two choices for playing D&D.

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