Strangely, I'd prepared both a continuation and a alternate beginning for last night's session. I knew we might have some new players and that 1 or 2 player's might want to change characters. Thankfully my foresight paid off as both my kids couldn't make it. So this session occurs simultaneously as the first, in the same region, but focusing on a different area and with a new cast.
Mars the Wild, 1st Level Wood Elf Ranger and his pet wolf, Praxis.
Tulley the Tonberry, 1st Level Tonberry Rogue.
Drak Drynk, 1st Level Dwarf Fighter.
Crisper Milleus Lafontaine IV, 1st Level Cleric of Pelor.
Pelaeus Shadowstorm, 1st Level High Elf Wizard (he came late).
• A monster has been rampaging through the Duchy of St. Cuthbert for several weeks. Four heads of cattle have been found mutilated, one is still missing, nearly a week ago, Old Man Ballard was found half-eaten outside his homestead, he lived alone. Then, 4 days ago, young Annabell McCaul was found ripped apart as well. Apparently she'd been out seeing Master Josiah Martin, well past bed time.
• Duchess Katarina Malifaux (yeah there is a connection to Primeval there) has offered a prize of 40 Gold to kill this monster. Her court sage, Verilous the Wise, describes the monster as a basilisk.
• Mars, Tulley, Drak, and Crisper are following it's tracks and head northeast. They come upon the Bant Family Farm, the largest in the Duchy and notice 4 more dead cattle and the front window shattered inward. To their horror, they find all 6 members of the family massacred, as well. Mars believed the animal they tracked was much bigger than a cougar and most probably a lizard of some kind.
• The group followed the tracks toward the Elder Forest, the home of the wood elves and an area Mars was very familiar with. Mars led through well hidden trails, his people used and kept the tracks of the creature they tracked in sight. The tracks veered off to an old hermit's shack and they were wear of the fact that the shacks' door had been knocked down.
• Tulley snuck up to the lonesome house and saw the old woman dead on the floor, the back door had been broken down as well, and he saw movement in the corn the dead woman was raising behind her small home. Mars, Praxis, Drak, and Crisper circled around to the side, but Drak's armor startled the beast. The 4 were startled to see a massive shadow slide from the corn into the dense wood not 100 feet beyond. All 4 rushed to the edge of the wood and looked about for any sign of the monster. As Tulley slowly made his way to join them, he was dismayed to see the shadow of a wyvern hunting above them.
• The group moved into the protection of the wood to avoid the wyvern and Praxis immediately perked up, hearing something. Mars followed his loyal wolf and they discovered 2 humans talking and the monster standing by them. It was hard to see any details to the trees, to identify the creature.
• Drak rushed forward and the lizard vanished from sight, seemingly turning to shadow again. Quickly the shadow monster ambushed Mars and Crisper and revealed itself as a Shadow Drake. Drak noticed that the warrior he fought was dressed in black leather and on his left shoulder wore the symbol of Nilat the Corrupter. Crisper and Tulley were glad to see that the Shadow Drake was vulnerable to their radiant magic and quickly reduced to a skeleton. The enemy warrior felll quickly, but his companion a magic user of some kind, transformed into a raven and escaped. Mars was surprised to find that the fallen warrior had nearly 40 Electrum, a coin of the long dead civilization of Zuul-Vorax.
• The group returned quickly to the Duchess's garrison, Shorwald Keep. They were surprised to find the Duchess was away and were directed to meet with Verilous in the middle of the compound. He was very rude about the fact that what they had slain was not a basilsk, as he predicted, but Crisper smoothed things over and he quickly offered them more work. He also introduced them to a recentgraduate of the nearby magical college of Hexenschule. Verilous was very concerned about the presence of the a cult dedicated to Nilat and promised to set up an investigation.
• Verilous is seeking an Idol of Perrin from Bludnehare's Mine, west of the dwarven Semniary at Golen's Hall. The Idol will aid in his observation of Reming's Star which will return later to the sky this season. All 6 agreed and Mars, Tulley, Drak, and Crisper decide to head over to Golen's Hall for the night. Pelaeus let's them know he will return to the Hexenschule to do research on the Mine.
• Between Crisper speaking to the Librarian at the Seminary and Pelaeus's research at the Garden, they group discovered that Ori Blundehare decided to break off from the rule of Jarl Kev Golen and and set up his own Mine west of Golen's Hall, nearly 700 years ago. Blundenhare's choice for mine never performed to expectations and his cousin, a seer named Garvin the Shadespeaker, used the last of their funds to purchase an Idol of Perrin to locate the riches both dwarves were certain lay nearby.
•After close to 2 months with no word coming from the rebellious colony, the Jarl sent scouts to check on them and the mine was found to be totally abandoned. Jarl Golen, hoping to send a warning to his people about the folley of rebellion, sealed the mine and left the mystery unsolved. Privately however, Golen had concerns about what Shadespeaker may have called forth with the Idol, but he was glad to have the whole issue, from a political sense, taken care of.
• At first light, the unlikely band set off for Blundenhare's Mine and the Idol of Perrin.
This session I used Mike Mearls' suggestion and allowed Fighters the use of 2 Themes. This didn't seem to make them overshadow anyone. I also made several custom characters, but only 2 saw play, a Wood Elf Ranger (inspired by the player's request for a WoW Hunter) and a Tonberry Rogue. I continue to like the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic very well. I am a bit concerned about the characters having too many hit points at 1st level, but I feel that I can either give them 1/2 Con and solve the issue fairly easily. I'm going to wait to make that change though.
In the Friends and Family Playtest, Human had Expertise Dice, which I not only loved, but allowed everyone to use. An Expertise Die is a d6 that can be applied to any roll at any time. I also allow it to be used to do cool things, much like Fate Points. And much like Fate Points, I use them as an economy that can be earned through play. My players want them to return and if I don't in the next session, I probably will in the 4th.
I continue to like DnD Next, and have found super simple to make up classes. I won't say that my creations are perfectly balanced mechanically, but I haven't had any problems with balance in the course of play. It's a perfect fusion of everything I want out of DnD.