Session Report: Microlite Caves of Chaos

I was keen to try out the Microlite rules with the gaming group this evening. Sean, Charlie, Richard and myself as Dm were present. It ended up a bit of a mash-up between D&D Next and Microlite StefanStyle. Here’s the rulebook the players were given.

Microlite Players Handbook

1d20+ Highest of DEX/ MIND bonus

Saving Throws
Fortitude:  Survival + STR
Reflex: Physical + DEX
Will: Highest of MIND/ CHA bonus +level  

Advantage/ Disadvantage
If you are ruled to have Advantage you roll 2d20 and take the highest. If you are ruled to have Disadvantage you roll 2d20 and take the lowest.

Actions in combat
Each person can do one action per round:
Move – up to 30 ft. Moving more than 5 ft when in melee provokes a free attack
Charge  – move in a straight line, then attack with Advantage, but foes have Advantage on you until your turn again.
Defend – Foes attack with Disadvantage
Grab – Roll to hit (counts as a light weapon) do no damage then roll Physical vs Physical, if you win the target is grabbed. You must have a hand free to grab.
Knock Prone – Roll to hit with Disadvantage, no damage, success knocks target prone. Standing up takes an action. Anyone attacking a prone target in melee gains Advantage.
Disarm – Roll to hit with Disadvantage, do no damage then roll Subterfuge vs Survival, if you win you get their weapon in your square (or if you have a hand free you catch it)
Sneak – Roll subterfuge+ a stat that fits the circumstance vs MIND+Survival. If you win you are hidden and have Advantage on your next attack. There must be something completely blocking the vision between you and the target.
Other – Improvise, describe your action if you make a description that is awesome your DM will give you a bonus.

The party went hunting orc, the Threeleg clan to be precise. Upon entering the cavern they discovered a number of severed heads in alcoves, but failed to spot that one of them was actually that of a live orc lookout. They made short work of  three orcs in a guard room, then got ambushed by four more, alerted by the lookout,  as they explored another corridor.

Morrin was cut down, but kept from death by his brother Rufus. Between Barda, Rufus and Sabriel these orcs didn’t last long, with one falling so Sabriel’s sleep spell. This one they dragged to the fireplace in the banqueting hall, and woke him by setting his head on fire.

The resulting screams alerted the entire compound, and within moments twelve more orcs were rushing into the chamber. This was surely too great a challenge for the party.

… or not. Rufus filled the whole chamber with smoke, the party retreated to a safe distance to pick off any orcs who made it out, leaving Barda along in the blinding smoke to slice and dice. Although it took almost all their resources the party triumphed.

Battered and bleeding they then retreated to rest up. When they returned they found the Threeleg complex deserted. Some careful investigation revealed a secret door from the Threeleg leader’s room to some sort of meeting room between the clans, which in turn led to a second complex, that of the Whitetooth clan. And further investigation revealed that all the remaining orcs were now guarding the Whitetooth cave entrance, hunkered behind barricades. With their backs to the party.

Verdict on Microlite

Whilst it was a joy to prep (30 mins for all characters, no time at all for DMing prep), the system didn’t go down too well. The main issues raised were:

  • Losing HP to cast spells was felt to be overly punitive on the mage, making her even more squishy. The same is perhaps even more true for a front-line cleric. A possible alternative mechanic was suggested:
    • Mages and clerics have a Mana pool equal to their base HP. Casting uses up this pool.
    • Altering the spell (enlarge, Extend etc) costs HP not mana
    • A mage can cast a spell from a higher level than normally permitted. This costs both mana AND HP.
  • It was felt that there wasn’t enough variety. No cleave for the fighter, no twin shots for the ranger. For this group of players, with lots of experience of versatility in their RPGs, the rules felt TOO simple.
  • Two-handed weapon damage felt overpowered
  • The classic six D&D attributes were missed.
  • Only one action per turn made things feel too static. A Move action and a Standards action are much preferred.

More work is needed to find a system that ticks the simplicity box, but which is versatile enough to keep gameplay interesting. There still seems to be some mileage in a D&D Next/ Microlite mashup, but it probably needs to be far more weighted to the D&D Next side. The Microlite skills system was well liked, so we may be able to use that, and we might trial the magic system outlined above.

There was one success for me last night. I trialed a new initiative-tracking system, and was extremely pleased with the results. As you can see below,  it’s not the most hi-tech of solutions, but it works better than any other initiative system I’ve used to date.

WP_20130316_002 WP_20130316_003

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