The first Wednesday session of Basic D&D 5E kicked off with a bang. Eight players, a medley of fighters, rogues, wizards and clerics and a opening scenario involving an invasion of hobgoblins under control of an evil wizard siege a local town served as a suitable stress test to the system. The overall plot was basic: the small barony of Carismore has a hobgoblin problem, and a powerful local evil wizard has decided to send forth the marauding horde for as yet unrealized reasons. The siege of the town started shortly after everyone opened up and established their ties the area....the escalating conflict was designed to keep hurling more foes as time passed, to see when everyone broke and ran, basically. An escape to a tavern's basement cellar where a hidden secret passage led to an old smuggler's den and grotto concluded with a battle with stirges following the discovery of the old smuggler's loot. There was a crazy tavernkeeper dwarf with a Saw complex and a few other surprises along the way, including a shockingly unprepared local militia.
I did warn the players that it would be deliberately brutal....
So, a few observations about tonight's session:
1. Hobgoblins are exactly as badass as their stat block looks. Freakin' terrifying. The PCs literally circled wagons and tipped them over to get cover from the long range longbow attacks, and when the hobgoblins attacked in formation two PCs dropped immediately. Hobgoblins are a menace that will persevere for many levels.
2. Wizards and clerics, as presented in Basic at first level, are like modest cannons that do cool tricks and then twice a day fire volleys of death the effectively disintegrate the target. Sleep, however, remains the coolest spell at low level, hands down. Probably higher level too with the scaling rules for spells.
3. The absence of endless stacking rules and modifiers was a welcome relief to all. Shockingly good. Once the principle of proficiency was grasped and where it applied the numbers faded into the background. That said, at a certain point success/failure can get a little swingy. It became a lot simpler to simply go traditional old school and assume automatic success if a passive number (like with perception) was over any DC target.
4. We ran the entire game without map or minis. No one missed it and the combat mechanics were smooth and at no point did I think "we need a map to figure this out." We haven't had a D&D that ran like this since 1999.
5. Once you get knocked out, it can be tough to get back in to a fight. Comrades dropping in a group which has exausted healing can be a good reason to retreat to fight another day.
All told I thoroughly enjoyed running the game. It was fast, intuitive, and we got a lot done in one session. For me and my table? D&D is back and it's here to stay.