I am play testing Five by Five on Roll20.net with two players. Right now the small group allows me to relax into things and pay attention to how the rules are playing out. The 5x5 roll mechanic is solid and easy to teach. It was strong before and seems just as good now.
Successes and failures seemed to happen in about the right variation. No one felt like they were hampered in what they wanted to do, nor did the roll of the dice feel anti-climactic. The possibility of success or failure felt right for these novice adventurers.
My main interest was in the combat system that is completely new and untested. I was pleased by the way the first combat went and I hope future encounters only improve on that trend. I did find flipping from the game screen to my document to check the Critical Damage table to be cumbersome and have since changed the rules to eliminate the need for the table.
We are playing a Monster Hunter game set in the Buffyverse. Because the Buffy series had made a few references that there was a Hellmouth in Cleveland, I set the game there. The players are freshmen in college. One is a book worm type obsessed with knowledge of the occult, sort of a junior Giles (who has also trained in Martial Arts.) The other is a practicing witch, sort of a junior Willow.
The witch character is named Maggie. The Bookworm Martial Artist is named Aaron. The two had seen each other before as they both frequent the rather substantial occult section of the college library. Today when they happened to arrive at the library at once, they find police cars outside and the librarian murdered.
They talk to the cops and learn that the librarian was apparently decapitated (and there is no sign of the head.) They sneak around to peak in a window and see the body laying in the center of a protective pentagram made of salt. But the edge of the pentagram is broken, the salt looks pushed in as if broken intentionally by someone outside the circle.
Aaron makes a Occult Knowledge roll and tells Maggie that Bone Snapper Demons are known for taking the heads of their victims.
Maggie makes a Spell Casting roll and tells Aaron that demon summoning rituals can't be done from memory because they are far too complex. The tome used to summon the demon should have been laying on the ground near the body, but no such book was in sight.
The pair decide to break into the deceased librarian's office to look for clues. Maggie successfully uses a spell to unlock the door, but the use of magic awakens the room's guardian, one of those polished bone anatomy skeletons on a stick. It jumps off its stick and launches itself at Maggie and a combat ensues.
The combat was a lot of fun, but I hit Maggie with a critical right off the bat causing her to be dazed and it took her a while to recover. I had only given the skeleton 2 wounds though and the players were able to defeat it after Aaron had an unfortunate run of rolling 3 doubles in a row (but got good AP.)
We wrapped things after the skeleton's defeat and everyone (myself included) had a good time. The characters are copied below for those who are curious.
Welcoming Demeanor (3)
Spell Casting (5)*
Magic Club (6)* -as Arcane Arrow ... but a club.
Fast Action (2)
Wound Level: Unharmed.
Advancement Points: 2
AP Cost Multiplier x1
Martial Arts (4)*
Occult Knowledge (5)
Fast Action (2) +1RS for Martial Arts = (3)
Wound Level: Unharmed
Advancement Points: 4
AP Cost Multiplier x1
I have already applied the boost to their Fast Action Traits for completing their first game session, but they haven't spent any AP yet.
The evolving play test doc is now available on the link bar at the top of the blog page just under the Dreams and Dragons banner. Click on it to take a look at the latest revision of the playtest. I will be updating the document regularly.
I feel pretty good about all the changes. The game is different but the same and all the changes are (in my opinion) for the best, moving the game as a whole towards a more streamlined uniform game play experience.