I had the opportunity to run the Caves of Chaos D&D Next playtest on Sunday for a couple of old friends. They have both been playing RPGs for 25+ years and they both still play only 1st Edition AD&D for the most part. The results were interesting.
The session lasted about two and a half hours and we got in four separate combat encounters. One player ran the Fighter and the Rogue and the other player ran the Wizard and the Cleric of Pelor. I made the conscious decision not to use maps or minis. I thought that non-combat and combat situations flowed pretty smoothly. I have run 3.0 and 3.5 D&D in the past and the rules systems were very familiar for the most part.
The only snag came when the PCs fought the 'boss' creature of the cave system they were exploring. They ganged up on him and I was unprepared. With no minis and no attacks of opportunity as crutches, I failed in my narrative description of combat and allowed them to dog pile on the boss creature and take him down. The only consolation was the fact that I made some awesome rolls and dropped both the Fighter and the Wizard. The rest of the party cleaned up the remaining monsters. Unfortunately that took four more rounds and the Fighter failed three of four saves and died. The Wizard hung on long enough to be stabilized with a healing kit. The PCs were out of magical healing by this point. We wrapped the session up at this point.
The players had a decent time. I think they were surprised the most by the generous healing rules and the Fighter's Reaper ability "You're telling me he still deals damage on a miss?" I am sure that I screwed up a rule or two, but I think that I did a fairly good job of running things. I had a decent time too, but my feelings about the game system so far are just sort of *meh*. The game feels a bit like 3.0 D&D Lite. There is not a lot of flavor or unique bits the make the system shine. Of course, I realize that this is an early version with only 1st level pregens. I am prepared to give it a chance and I will definitely check out future playtest releases.