So today, we lugged a laptop bag full of 4e rulebooks to D&D Encounters, only to find out that -- despite what the store's website said -- they were playing D&D Next instead.
But, it wasn't too bad. The dood who had the Weapon of Divine Something two seasons ago was DMing for us, and when we showed up there was only one other player at the table. So it ended up being two Wizards against a four-hour adventure ... and neither of us brought any healing potions.
Impressions of D&D Next
In a word, "swingy." In two words, "very swingy."
Random chance seems to play a bigger role in D&D Next than in any previous edition of the game. You roll a d20 (20-sided die) for most actions like always, but in 3.5e and 4e, the difference between a trained skill (one your character's ostensibly good at) and an untrained skill is +4 or +5. In Next, it's +1 at first level, and the 6th-level Wizards we started with had a "Proficiency bonus" of +2.
You get a "Background" at 1st level, which trains you in three skills and gives you some unique bonus, like the Charlatan's false identity. Feats, you don't get until 4th level, and then you get either a feat or an ability score bonus. You also don't add your spell level to saving throws, so our Evoker was throwing out Fireballs that did 6d6 damage and had a whopping DC 14 save for half.
Basically, it's hard to optimize for big numbers in Next, and every single roll seems to be about a 50/50 chance of success. Which is part of why we chose to play an Illusionist.
Meet the Party
We played Tara Foxtail, a sinewy anthro Asian dragon in a yukata, with her sleeping snake familiar draped over her shoulders. (We used a Pathfinder medusa miniature for her, and it worked very well!) We also gave her some traditional weapons and implements, like throwing needles, a war fan, brushes for painting and calligraphy, and a big ornate Yuna style mage staff.
The other player at the table played Octavia, a half-elf scholar and evoker. Where our magic focused on stealth and illusion, hers was largely about blasting the Hell out of things. And as it turned out, we both got to do our respective things in this session.
Close the Stargate, save the world
The people we were working with were trying to stop the Red Wizards of Thay (this was in the Forgotten Realms, BTW) from basically opening a Stargate and pouring their troops in and taking over the Sword Coast. Apparently, this was a continuation of the previous season's storyline, which we were absent for.
Anyway, this Stargate ran on two things: Elemental orbs in themed caverns, and the blood of innocents. We and two other strike teams (i.e., the players at the other tables) were going to be teleported into these caverns and grab the orbs, then escape into the main chamber where we'd all try to take down the Stargate and disrupt the ritual sacrifices.
My character got badly injured (but not eaten) by a grue in the first, air/cold/lightning themed cavern that we were beamed into, so we decided to play it safe from then on. We cast Aura of Invisibility on the party, such as it was, and approached the room where the load-bearing MacGuffin was.
Planning the heist
The elemental orb was at the centre of a huge ice cavern, with two air elementals in between us and it. The plan we came up with was to carefully walk together around the inside wall a bit, then use an illusion cantrip to distract the elementals with the sounds of fighting from the passageway we'd come in through.
That didn't hold them for long, though, and about halfway to the orb they turned around and came back inside. (They're really fast.) So we cast Major Image and projected a whole squad of ninjas, tossing the orb between them and ... doing ninja stuff, I don't know. >_>;
We ran up, our snake gulped down the orb, and then we ran back. A squad of mooks teleported in as soon as the orb got pulled out, but we were still invisible and the imaginary ninjas looked like they had the orb, so that distracted them all long enough for us to run like Hell back to the starting zone and jump out before it collapsed around us.
Killing people and breaking things
We jumped through a portal in that room and ended up in a big cavern where the Stargate was set up. There were a ton of Thayan soldiers and mages and stuff, some of them getting ready to do the sacrifices, plus a lich doing some ritual to try to open the portal. Of course, we were still invisible, so they all turned and went for the other strike teams on the other side of the room. :D
(This part was supposed to be played out with all the tables together, I think, but they decided not to do that. Even though it would've been epic.)
We and Octavia snuck up on one of the tables where they were polishing their ritual knives (or something), while the four mooks who'd gotten distracted by ninjas got blasted out of the portal behind us and landed on their faces. And it was about the time I ran up and Colour Sprayed the daylights out of one of the ritualists, and Octavia started chain-casting Fireballs on the gate, that the lich was like "YOU FOOLS! AFTER THEM!"
My breath weapon torched most of the mooks, and I then held them and the other ritualist off with my limited blasty spells while Octavia continued chain-casting. At one point a devil that somebody summoned tried to get us to remove a sword that was stuck in its chest, and promised that it would destroy the gate or something, but I don't think either of us cared. Octavia gave the sword a nasty twist when the devil got too close to her, and it disappeared in a puff of fire and smoke and screamed imprecations at her and her descendants or something.
Octavia's third fireball finally took the gate down, and she used her Circlet of Telepathy to contact HQ and get them to tele us out of there. Unfortunately, the gatesplosion messed up the teleport, and I think it sent us to Thay, on the other side of the gate, instead ...
... which might explain why this season is called "Dead in Thay."
Tune in next week for the next session! Hopefully.