Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Next Caves of Chaos...are here!

Detail from the original Caves of Chaos map, rotated 90 degrees ... intentional skull face?
     The D&D Next (5E) playtest materials are now available from WOTC, and as predicted, the playtest scenario is the Caves of Chaos from B2. The scenario is not a "reimagining" like the 4th edition version (2010); instead it's a straight conversion of the original to the playtest rule set. Here are the credits:

Dungeon Module B2
The Caves of Chaos
By Gary Gygax
Revision by Robert J. Schwalb and Bruce R. Cordell
Revision Developed by Chris Sims and Matt Sernett
An Adventure for Character Levels 1-3.

      It's good to see the Gygax credit included. The cover page re-uses a painting by Michael Komarck titled "Caves of Chaos (2005)" - originally used as an interior illustration in the 3.5E Players Handbook II. This is the only artwork included in the playtest module other than a scan of the pale blue Caves map from the inside cover of the original B2. While I'll always prefer the original blue maps, you could also use the "modernized" CoC maps by Weem for the playtest, which I believe are large enough to print for use as battle mats.
     The playtest was adapted from the original Holmes version of B2, rather than the revised B/X version, because the minotaur's treasure includes potions of strength and delusionary healing, rather than potions of growth and healing (spoiler alert, highlight to see).
     There are many small changes with respect to the original Holmes version, so even if you know the Caves very well there will still be small surprises. The only significant addition is a list of five different possible backstories to use - reasons why the evil humanoids are grouped in the Caves. Each is a paragraph in length, and could be used with the original version. Any DM could come up with their own version that is just as good but these are interesting and might inspire you to take a different approach.
     Rob Conley at Bat in the Attic wrote the following about the playtest scenario:
     "Despite the differences in mechanics it works out about the same way you expect if you ran it with Mentzer rules ... 
      I am optimistic at this point mainly because of the format ... the fact it works as is in actual play and that it is the full caves and not some stripped down version ...
     The Cave of Chaos adventure is almost as verbatim copy of the original and it uses ONE line stats blocks that are useful in actual play. If this format continues to be used this means that it is highly likely that D&D Adventures, Settings, and maybe supplements would be of some use to the OSR. Much in the same way that Swords and Wizardry gamers find material useful that was written for OSRIC."


  1. One liners are good, it's just a pity you will sometimes have to look up the monster ability scores for saving throws and stuff.

  2. One solution would be to have one page with all monster stats at the back of the module (like MERP). Just HP in the text. This would make it easier to ignore 5E stats when using other systems. Each monster could fit on one line of a full-page width table, even if ability scores were added.

  3. You had to look up monster saving throws anyway, and they weren't in the monsters description unlike stats will be...

    1. Yes, but since 0E/1E saves were based on HD they were all in one table (& were the same as a fighter of equivalent level). This meant looking up just a single page in the DMG, or looking at one table on a DM screen, rather than constantly flipping through the MM.

      It'll work if they put the scores in the stat blocks, but the blocks will increase in size, which makes for uglier text and a lot of unnecessary repetition if, for example, you have an orc lair with page after page of orcs.

  4. That's no skull. It's a smiley face!