Interwebs Treasures #6

More D&D stuff today, as that is what I’m concentrating no these days.

Just  couple of things today…

Still More About New Player’s Handbook

Friday night I rolled up a character for D&D 5th Edition, just to get more familiar with the game.

True to D&D form, it was pretty simple. I am so used to building a character with points, as in the Hero System, it was kind of nice to have a simpler method.

In a comment on a previous post, my friend Bob mentions that GURPS has a reputation of being very complicated. I can see that. As soon as you start building your character you are faced with a lot of choices — a high level of complexity. Hero System is even worse (or better, depending on what you like). Back in the old days (ughhhh…gotta stop saying stuff like that) it would never have occurred to me that anyone interested in RPGs would avoid complexity. It was all that complexity that made the Hero system so superior to anything else for running a Supers campaign.

But…perhaps that’s not the best way to introduce people to RPGs.

Anyway, I rolled up a Wizard character, which is the equivalent of the original AD&D “Magic User” class, but a little more robust than the original. In the new game, you start with some cantrip spells you can use at-will without using up a spell slot and with no preparation. You also start with the ability to cast 2 “real” spells at 1st level, and have a number of spells prepared for use equal to your level + you intelligence modifier. So a 1st level Wizard with a 17 Int can have 4 spells memorized/prepared, and use them as he/she sees fit with the 2 spell slots. You regain your spell slots with rest. This seems like a much more logical and playable system than the original one, which I always thought was dumb.

The new D&D materials give a lot of background info on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. In my own gaming history, we never really used the published settings. We used a lot of dungeon modules, but always within our own worlds — which were not well thought-out. I feel like in 10th grade we were playing pretty good D&D, but I and our other regular GM didn’t really spend much time on the overall setting. We just tried to design good adventures. Looking back at the 1e books, they were a lot more skeletal. The new PH actually details the characteristics of a number human ethnicities/cultures from Forgotten Realms. The notion of being able to drop players into a preexisting campaign world is pretty nice. It reminds me a bit of the Stormbringer setting that was available for Runequest.

So, I have to admit that 5e is growing on me. The stuff in the Players Handbook is good. I expect the Monster Manual will not disappoint. How could it? It’s just a list of monsters, right? I am really anxious to see what they do with the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

What I’m seeing is that Wizards of the Coast is doing a pretty good game redesign, and providing a lot of material to make it super easy to get into for those who don’t have the time or desire to create their own campaign world. I think that is fine.

More on New Players Handbook

I’ve been reading it more carefully.

There is some nice emphasis on backgrounds. I like that. There was very little in the 1e Players Handbook. 2e introduced more non-weapon proficiency skills, which was good. This new edition seems to give a nice method of using such skills. I like that.

I feel like the Dragonborn and Tiefling PC races are a bit over the top for PCs. In particular, the Dragonborn have a frickin’ breath weapon. I would probably allow a PC to be a Tiefling, but I think I’d not allow the Dragonborn race. It’s just too stupid.

Non-Human PCs have a lot of racial abilities like dark vision, etc., and they get to add points to one or more characteristics. And of course they no longer have limits on either class selection or level achievement. This would seem to make humans really really suck. BUT — Humans get to add a +1 to every one of their ability scores right off the bat. So that is not too bad.

I love the changes to the magic system, and I think the division of magic-users into Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards is good. They are nice and distinct, and it makes sense.

At this point, I think that once you get over the slick and glitzy look of the new book, the game looks like it is pretty good.

This weekend I’m going to use the adventure and pregenerated characters in the starter set to run some practice combats, and see how it works out.

New Player’s Handbook

newPHSo, yeah, I bought it. I’ll send a copy to my nephew via Amazon, as it is easier for shipping and a lot cheaper.

I spent a few minutes at lunch looking through this new core rulebook. It is a well-written book. Well-edited. Easy to navigate.

This new edition is really not backwardly compatible at all with 1e or 2e. You’d just have to fudge it and recreate your characters.

They seem to have eliminated character class restrictions based on character race. Anyone can be anything. I kind of like that. It is more inclusive.

I also see no mention yet of level limits for demi-human races. 1e and 2e always assumed level limitations for non-humans, for game balance. With such long lifespans, long-lived races would easily dominate humans given hundreds of years to advance in level. I am curious to see if they have inserted some other counter to this problem in the new edition or if they just ignore it.

The artwork is all really nice and slick.

They’ve split the Magic User class into 3 — Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. Monk’s are now powered by Ki magic force.

There are two new races: 1/2 Dragons, and 1/2 Demons, called Dragonborne and Tiefling.

In the old editions, it always seemed like most adventurers were assumed to get to the mid levels of 6-9 level and kind of stay there for a while. Over 10th level was pretty damned powerful. 12th or 13th was badass. The new books give me the feeling that attainment of higher than 10th level is assumed to be more common. Maybe I’m wrong about that. It just seems like this new edition has some of the stink of “power gaming” on it. More later as I read more.

Clerics

I’ve never played a cleric. Of all the character classes in D&D, the cleric is the one that has never interested me at all. Unfortunately, none of my friends ever wanted to play a cleric, so we never had the benefit of turning the undead, healing spells, etc. In D&D, the cleric is really a good thing to have around, but to us at least the most uninteresting class.

One of my friends has created a campaign set in a world decimated by magic gone wild — in the process of rebuilding the ecosystem. I won’t go into the details of his world, the details of the world’s background and the house rules make this perhaps the only game in which I’ve ever thought a cleric might be interesting to play. I love the pollution/climate change metaphor, and playing a cleric on the mission of helping bring the world back to health offers some possibilities.

I’m still not sure I would play a cleric over my preferred Magic User/Illusionist class, but it wouldn’t suck.

I think it’s a matter of coming up with a compelling character background, image, and motivations. A person who, rather than being a temple dwelling cleric or typical druid, is an environmental fanatic who draws his power directly from the Creative Force of the planet/universe, might be kind of cool. He/she would view magic with great suspicion, as it once destroyed the world, would protect “natural” forms of life rather than kill, and destroy defilers of the planet with great fervor. But still not a druid. Instead – something unique. Chaotic Good in alignment, but dark in demeanor. The kind of guy who would withhold the healing spell if the person in need just killed an animal.

That might be interesting.

Edit: the one problem. Cleric spells really suck.

Using Computers with Paper and Pencil Games…

In the previous post, I reference the article HOW DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS COULD MASTER ITS NEXT RETAILING ADVENTURE (BONG RIP NOT INCLUDED) – from Fast Company.

Very interesting article. The vision of an RPG that is played on paper using computer and tablets to enhance the game experience…hmmmm.

OK, first, as always I understand that Wizards of the Coast, as a company owned by Hasbro, seeks to make a profit by selling gaming stuff. I’m good with that.

I’m not sure I really, personally, like the idea of having your character on an app, on a tablet, that somehow interacts with your DM’s computer to track everything. Sure, use the computer to write adventures, create maps to print out, prep work, and all that, but leave the paper, pencils, and dice in the game, at the tabletop! That is part of the experience!

When I was a young kid, I learned about probability from playing D&D. I learned what a bell curve is. When I got to college I was ahead of my classmates in that area. The computer will rob kids of that experience.

All of us spend enough time looking at display screens already. I don’t see their inclusion in D&D as a big benefit. Oh, maybe the DM has some stuff on a tablet to refer to — that’s not a big deal. But really, I think migrating it to some kind of online/tablet-based thing is dumb.

I disagree with the guy in the article. It’s not all about the story. It is also about the experience. How much can you change the experience before you have lost what was special about RPGs?

Interwebs Treasures #5

5th Edition D&D – Easier for PCs?

I posted the previous article, the one about 1st v 5th Edition fighter against orc, on a Facebook group devoted to 1st Edition AD&D. Some of the responses were really interesting. Hard to say for sure without playing, but it seems like the power level of 1st level characters has been greatly increased. Used to be couple of orcs could give a 1st level fighter a real problem.  Now I’m hearing that it takes a LOT of orcs to kill the same fighter.

In fact, I’m hearing that pretty much all 1st level characters, regardless of class, are a lot harder to kill.

Does this cheapen the game?

Granted, it does stink to have your first level character die in the first fight you get into with some kobolds, orcs, or goblins, but I have always just assumed that starting characters are supposed to be weak. That’s part of being 1st level, right? Am I way off base here? In my first D&D game, I went over to my friend’s house, rolled up a fighter, and lucked out massively. In front of everyone, I rolled an 18/00 STR. 30 minutes later, my super strong fighter was dead. He died. That’s how it goes. He was strong but inexperienced.

I’m sure that even back then a lot of people would have said “this sucks” and quit playing. The cynic in me wants to say that these days, with kids brought up on videos games where they get multiple lives, most kids would not play in a 1st Ed. D&D game where it’s so easy to get killed. A lot of people are saying this. I’m not sure if it’s true. I’d like to think it isn’t. But it probably is.

I’ll get around to reading the Spell Casting rules for 5th Edition this week. As I’ve said, I think they’ve done some good things in the new edition. So for now, based on those good things, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

D&D 1st Edition v 5th, a Simple Comparison

I was wondering how the to hit numbers would compare at 1st level, for fighters, between 1st Edition and 5th.

1st Edition: 1st level fighter, 17 STR. Fighting Orc. 1st edition – Orc AC=6. Base to hit=14, -1 for Str Bonus = 13 to hit.

5th Edition: Orc AC=basic to hit number = 13. 17 Str = +3 to hit. Requires a 10 for 1st Level fighter w/17 STR to hit.

That seems like a pretty huge difference to me. Not saying it’s bad — just big. Unless they have reinvented the base 10 number system, making it 3 numbers easier to hit an opponent is a 15% difference.  

D&D Starter Set Combat Rules

I just finished reading the basic combat rules from the new D&D Starter Set.

I must say, they are pretty good. I’m sure that they will give some more complex rules in the upcoming three “core” books but at this point I would say these basic rules are pretty playable. They seem to account for a number of different actions without making combat take a lot of time.

The rules for using skills are pretty good to.

They seem to have dropped the use of percentile dice. Thus far I’ve not run into use of percentile dice. That’s weird. But whatever.

I haven’t read the spellcasting rules yet.

It’s kind of funny. D&D was the first popular RPG. Not sure if it was the first, but it was certainly the first popular one. It has its flaws, and many RPGs since then have come up with better combat systems, spellcasting systems, etc. But they all had something to start from and compare themselves against. So I’m think that perhaps the new D&D design has finally taken advantage of the same fact.

More later, as I continue to delve into this.