Planescape Next

"To Baator and Back", part 1

"They square off like miniature kaiju... wait..."

The first real play session! So exciting!

The party heard about the strange happenings around “the old wizard’s place” and couldn’t get much useful information out of the increasingly drunken locals, so they set out themselves to see what’s up.

Along the way, they encountered some owlbear tracks and decided to investigate, only to be ambushed by the beast. In the ensuing battle, Adrin Xiloscent turned into a bear to square off against it and almost died for his bravery. Elric was able to take advantage of the owlbear nearly ripping out the druid’s throat, though, stabbing his blade right through its back.

Picking themselves back up (and harvesting the apparently-valuable owlbear heart), they continued on to the “wizard’s tower” – which actually turned out to be a 50’ tall mound. Inside, the wizard’s place had been completely ransacked.

They did encounter two lemures, though – strange creatures they had never seen before. Shelton Widowberry tossed out a quick entangle spell, though, nearly killing one of them in one hit. The party easily dispatched them and searched the rest of the wizard’s domicile.

They found Finott’s Book (spellbook containing 6 1st level and 4 2nd level spells) and a stick belonging to a dead peasant girl the lemures were eating.

Adrin Xiloscent found another book marked “Lab Notes” right as Belker Bitterleath IV decided to enter an exposed “secret” chamber, activating some magical effect and disappearing in a swirl of blue flame. Shelton Widowberry immediately jumped after him.

The rest of the party read through the “Lab Notes,” discovering that wizard had apparently succeeding in contacting “otherworldly realms behind his imagining.”

Assuming that their friends had been transported to some alien realm and intent on saving them, the remaining PCs jumped through (after failing to convince Turga Killdrak pony to come along for the ride).

On the other side, the discovered that Belker Bitterleath IV and Shelton Widowberry had struck up a conversation with a spiny little devil-creature named Halitsu. It was initial shocked and fearful at their appearance, but Shelton Widowberry cast charm person and gained a new friend who was more than happy to tell them wehre they were – as long as they didn’t get Halitsu in trouble with his boss.

They party is on Avernus, the first layer of Baator.

When asked how to leave, Halitsu had had two suggestions: “Join the army, but then you’ll end up dead. Or you could try to talking to the crazy witch and see what she knows.”

The second option being more to their liking, the party sets off to cross the River of Blood to find this “crazy witch.”

They even gave Halitsu his pitchfork back. He was such a nice little devil, after all…

Playtest Notes

So this was the first actual play session and it went very well, overall. I had some initial concerns about monster power, but it seemed to work itself out reasonably well. There were a couple rules questions that popped up that I made a call on the spot for that I’ll need to iron out.

No rules for mounted combat?
I might have missed them, but I don’t remember seeing mounted combat rules. Might be overthinking it, too, but it seemed like it should be difficult to just charge into the middle of two bears duking it out and skewer one on a lance, so I basically just had the knight make a Dexterity or Charisma check (his choice) with Ride with DC 10. If he failed, I was going to five him disadvantage. He got it, and missed anyway, but definitely something I’ll have to check on.

Do devils/extraplanar creatures count as humanoids for charm person?
This was something else I wasn’t sure of, but I erred on the side of letting the players get away with it. It was a neat idea and worked out well, but I’m pretty sure that it totally wouldn’t have worked in 2nd or 3rd edition.

Table comments about the session:

  • Players liked that they were never really looking at their character sheets
  • They also liked that it was much less structured – more free-form and less combat-focused
  • They liked advantage/disadvantage – good way to show advantage, basically, without a lot of math

Personally, I had a lot of fun. I think I’m finding that I actually quite like running relatively loose published adventures because I can focus almsot entirely on description and embellishment. I also found that running a combat as a DM was more fun than I expected. I rolled quick and moved on. As a player, I’ve found D&D Next combat much less engaging – I think it’s a factor of “my turn’s done quick, let me know I’m up again.”

So far, D&D Next seems to mesh reasonably well with my freeform, seat-of-my-pants DM style, though I’m worried about monster stats overall. I think I’ll have to put a bit of prep into that as fights get more complicated.

The owlbear fight was quick, but it also nearly killed the druid in one round. Overall, it seemed about right, but it was pretty brutal on that one player. The lemure fight was almost a token conflict, especially by comparison. The other druid cast one spell that very nearly took care of everything.

I put up some separate notes on my loose 2nd edition conversion logic.

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