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.


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…


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.

Something Old, Something New

Not sure if I mentioned, but earlier this week I picked up the new D&D 5th Edition Starter Set. I’ve been trying to decide what to send my nephew. 1st, 2nd, or 5th Edition. The Starter Set is only $20 (even less on, so I decided to just check it out.

The game mechanics are a bit different, but all the essential elements are there. I like it that they have included rules for using non-combat abilities and skills, like every good RPG since the old days has done. That is an improvement for sure, and very good for role playing.

Combat, in some ways, is greatly simplified. The higher the Armor Class, the better the armor (a huge change, actually). So for any character, the base roll to hit, say AC 18, is an 18. That number is then modified by level bonuses, specialization, etc, etc, etc. So there’s no big table to cross reference like in 1st edition. I actually like the THAC0 system in 2nd Edition, but I must admit it was still kind of convoluted.

Magic users are not quite as weak at 1st level. They have a d6 for hit dice, rather than d4, and have more spells and whatnot. I always preferred to play Magic Users, so this is kind of cool. Oh, they don’t call the character class “Magic User” anymore. It’s Mage, or Wizard, or something.

There are other differences, and I’m sure more will come to light as the new Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and DMG are released.

Now…do I still personally prefer 1st and 2nd Editions? Yes. So far the new version seems pretty good, but there is still something that rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps I’m just being silly about this, but the “slickness” of the new game design and the actual materials is clearly the product of a division of a big company, not a few guys sitting at a table making up a new game. However, I spent some time getting up to speed on the history of 5th Edition, the crowd-sourcing they used to help design it, and it seems like the folks working on the game are real gamers who really love RPGs. There are some features I’ve seen in info released from the upcoming Players Handbook that I don’t like a lot. I’m not crazy about some of the stuff they’ve done for character classes and backgrounds. Some of it frankly seems like stuff you’d see in a card game or video game. But that’s the era we’re living in, and they want to sell some books and make some money, so whatever.

I’m not a game design professional. I think this new version will probably appeal a lot more to current young gamers than to old guys like me. If they seek to please people like me, they will be pleasing a very happy but dying market. Not a good business model.

So, I’ve just sent a copy of the new Starter Set to my nephew. I think he will enjoy it. I think the materials, the quality and presentation of it all, will speak to a kid of his generation. I can easily learn the game mechanics and help him out if he needs help. So if he digs the Starter Set and gets a little game time in, I’ll send him the three new core books as they are released, and get them for myself for reference.


Interwebs Treasures #4

Some reviews of D&D Next (also known as 5th Edition).

I am having a hard time recognizing this as “real” D&D. I am old.

Other stuff I found this time:

I have a few observations on sexism and gaming. A few thoughts. I don’t pretend to be a scholar in this area, so cut me some slack if I’m way off base, but do comment if you wish.

  1. I have only DMed one campaign in which we had female players. This was when I was in my mid 20s, and I ran a game for my wife, a female friend of ours, and straight male friend, and a gay male friend. I’m assuming this may not be a common mix of players, but times have changed and I could be wrong. All of these people were highly educated – working on or having Masters degrees or PhD in some heavy subjects. It’s been said that women are not attracted to gaming because of the complexity of the rules. I don’t know about this, because I’m not a woman. I can say that these two women had never played an RPG before, and they LOVED it. The truth is that once a player has created a character, and has some understanding of what the character can do, the player doesn’t need to know a lot of rules. The Game Master needs to know the rules. The players just need to tell the DM what they want to do.  So if women really are generally averse to games with tons of rules, it really shouldn’t matter for RPGs. Over time everyone picks up the rules.
  2. People get very attached to their characters. Young people in particular, but I think everyone can get very psychologically caught up in the game. Thus, it is entirely possible for an act of violence or intimidation happening to a character in the game to be very much real to the real-world player on the receiving end. When my 15th level thief got killed in the Tomb of Horrors when I was 15, I was BUMMED! And I wasn’t even being harassed by a horny DM.
  3. I’ve read some stuff lately about women at conventions being harassed, in particular when they are involved in Cosplay. Dear men: because a woman decides to dress as a sexy Thor, and regardless of how well she succeeds, she is not giving you permission to act like an ass. There is no contradiction in a human being wanting to have fun and be sexy whilst simultaneously not wishing to be verbally or physically harassed, groped, etc.
  4. To sum up: if you are gaming with someone, it is incumbent on YOU to help that person feel welcome, respected, and appreciated at the table. Err on the side of caution.