-Played a test session of DnDNext. Because I did not want to stop my current campaigns to run the playtest, I put out an open invitation on Facebook with a set time and place. I got four responses and one didn't show up because he was in a car accident the night before. So I ended up with three players and each only took one character.
James: Duece, the healing Cleric. He has played every edition since 1E. He recently DMed a 3.5E (not Pathfinder) and is in my 4E campaign. He has also played a variety of other rpgs.
Tucker: Thad, the non-healing cleric. He has played 3E (which he didn't like because of its size) and most recently ran a 4E campaign. This was my first time in a table-top game with the player.
Carrie: Garm, the fighter. She has been playing D&D since 2E and is in my 4E and Savage Worlds campaigns (and she's my wife). She most recently ran 3rd edition Gamma World and has played in/run many different rpgs.
I used a couple of the suggested adventure hooks (the evil cultists have joined the humanoids together and now demand regular tribute which has caused a rise in humanoid attacks, and a neighboring kingdom has lost their prince who has been cpatured by the humanoids and want him found) to quickly set the stage and give the players some goals other than simply "go kill-loot".
website candlekeep.com, wherein he has created a map of the landscape without all the tunnels or hidden entrances being shown. I simply handed the map to the players and let them loose. I also printed out Weem's excellent map of the caves since it is easier to use for me.
James instantly knew I was running B2 and started to use his meta-knowledge to try and get an edge. He started to state which letter corresponded to which cave entrance ("That is A and that is J."). I didn't mind for two reasons; 1) I wanted the characters to start with the "easier" encounters and 2) His memory was faulty most of the time (it had been 15+ years since he had actaully run in the adventure).
They entered the goblin caves (D). James mentioned the pit that was right at the entrance and was surprised it wasn't there. He assumed the playtest was not doing traps. Of course, he was thinking of the kobold caves (A) but I let him wonder.
From there things got hairy. They went left and 30' in, ran into the group of goblins couriers. A fight ensued. Unfortunately, they were right in front of another room so that room's occupants joined in on the fight. Fortunately, the characters were triumpant and managed to kill both groups, mostly from the fighter doing lots of damage and the healing cleric keeping everyone healthy. After the fight, they looted the room and since they were low on hp and out of healing magics, they went back to town to sell. I was a little disappointed that the "15 minute adventure day" was already in effect (even worse is that the combat was over in 4 rounds, making this a "24 second adventure day").
Once in town, they sold the goblin's equipment and then bought another healers kit and healing potions. The clerics liked the themes that gave them free healing at the temple and room & board for the knight.
They went back to the goblin caves. They reentered the room they had cleared and quickly made short work of the few goblins that had replaced the slain ones. From there they doubled back near the entrance and ran into the room wherein the goblins try to hire the ogre to aid them. The fight became a doorway fight with half the goblins trying to hold back the characters while the rest opened the hidden door and grabbed the bag of silver. By now the non-healing cleric had determined he was a "tank" with his high AC and became the one in front. As he and the fighter killed the goblins at the doorway the healing cleric picked off the goblins at the hidden door (he was again meta-gaming the room as he figured this is where the goblins hire the troll to aid them).
The fight was interesting in that there were no special terrain/encounter rules as seen in typical 4E encounters but it was still an interesting encounter. In the end the healing cleric managed to kill all the goblins by the hidden door while the other two killed the ones in the doorway. The goblins did manage to toss in the bag of silver to the ogre, but they never had a chance to finish their negotiations with the ogre. The characters shut the door and the ogre simply took the free bag of silver and figured the goblins were foolish.
From here the characters were in good condition so they went on...and found the central housing location of the goblins. 17 goblins with 6 children (it would have been 22 but they had killed 5 earlier in the re-stocked room). And the fighter charged in. In the end they killed 15 goblins, but it was a TPK. And there the game ended. They said if the mage was there things would have gone easier, or if they had even one more player they would have won.
James: Healing Cleric- It was difficult to keep up on healing. With the low level of the characters one or two hits would put a character into peril and require immediate responses, eating up non-healing actions.
Tucker: Non-Healing Cleric- Disappointed he was not given a healers kit in his equipment. Seemed very limiting as to what could happen. (For the record he was the first to do an "outside action" not prescribed in the rules: he wanted to push forward through an enemy, so I simply called for a Strength check between him and the goblin; success meant he moved the goblin back 5' and took the goblin's spot.) He did like the themes and backgrounds.
Carrie: Fighter- Did not like the fact that all the fighter did was swing a weapon...and next round swing a weapon...and next round swing a weapon. She did, however, like the fact she was a killing machine.
Me- It took us a couple of combats to get used to the system and combat. Once we did combat was fast paced; it helped make combat feel more "authentic". Instead of bogging down in combat the pace was quick which helped get into the "feel" of combat. Overall, I got a sense that the players wanted more from the system (either character or combat options).
I think WotC needs to release more for testing and soon. This testing in a vacuum (no character options, no combat options, nothing to engage the players other than some hack-n-slash) makes the process difficult and slightly uninteresting. Did I like it? Did it give me "D&D Vibes"? I really can't say since the playtest was so limited. I, personally, need more to get a better handle on the system.