Last Saturday I started a campaign using the brand spankin’ new Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rule set. My players came in with their characters mostly finished, but I offered six additional campaign specific bonds to help get things going. During my 4th edition campaign, we used a system similar to 5th edition’s inspiration mechanic to encourage role playing and creative descriptions. It was easy enough to shift that over directly, even though the materials so far offer little support for that rule subset.
The group set out with a cleric, a bard, a necromancer wizard, and a paladin.
I used a battle mat and minis for every encounter, and, on a whole it worked well. I prefer to use miniatures to illustrate positioning, even when I don’t use a grid. My enormous wet-erase battle mat makes it easy to sketch in terrain features; once you’re that far, you may as well use the grids. I may not always draw in terrain for simple battles, but I’ll probably continue to use minis and the mat in the future.
I used Kobold Press’s adventure, Horde of the Dragon Queen as the plot and encounter guts for this session. I’ll probably continue to use it for the foreseeable future, though I’ve adapted all the cultural and political structures to match my home brew setting.
The first chapter is absolutely brutal for 1st level characters. Everyone except the wizard went down during the fourth encounter of the day. The cleric failed three death saves and died. The others lived long enough to be dragged to safety. The paladin revived just in time to be killed in one shot by the last encounter of the chapter.
A few things contributed to the game’s lethality. For one thing, kobolds get advantage when attacking a creature adjacent to the kobold’s ally, and there are tons of kobolds. It’s also notable that my group was short a member. Instead of 5 PCs, they fought with 4, and this made a tremendous difference. I should have also encouraged the group to avoid some of the direct combat through stealth or negotiation. Finally, low level 5th edition characters just don’t have many hit points, and can’t do that many things. There is no way a 1st level party of 4 or 5 characters can fight their way through every mission, or even most of the missions in that first chapter.