In the Year of Our Lord, 1066, Uther Pendragon, Duke of Normandy, sailed his army across the English Channel and defeated King Vortigern at the Battle of Hastings. He moved quickly to consolidate his rule over the island, which lasted from A.D. 1066 until his death in A.D. 1215. In that year, the boy Arthur, foster son of Sir Ector of the Castle of the Forest Sauvage, was revealed to be Uther’s son and heir by pulling the sword Excalibur from the stone. Although he had the backing of Merlin, and the miracle to substantiate his claim to the throne, Arthur was immediately beset by rebellion, led by King Lot of Orkney. With war brought the usual scavengers; monsters who seized the opportunity to pillage and wreak havoc on a defenseless people. Arthur, guided by Merlin, re-established the national Adventurers’ Guild that his father had previously abolished. A royal stipend was given to the Guild to train up new heroes to fight the darkness which had spread over the land.
So the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is out, and I have not yet seen any serious negative criticism of the rules. There are questions and concerns about certain rules that people pose in the forums on therpgsite.com, Enworld.org and forum.rpg.net, but I have not seen any “D&D 5e’s Out…And It’s Awful” type articles. Most of the discussion is quite positive, and people seem excited, or, at least, interested in getting the rules and playing. There will be no edition war this time, it seems, and based on what I’ve seen so far, I’d have to say that WotC’s new edition gambit is a resounding success.
I still prefer Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition rules, especially the Essentials line, and am looking forward to possibly picking up some good deals on 4e products as those who move to the new edition make room on their shelves. Of course, the Essentials Red Box is still over $100 on Amazon.com for a new set, and close to $60 for used. I’m glad I got my copy early on. I also bought a copy of the Starter Set. It’s also $100 on Amazon.com right now.
In addition, Wizards of the Coast seems committed to supporting every edition of D&D; they are offering PDFs of products from every edition (except, perhaps for Original D&D) for sale on their “D&D Classics” webstore. They have also published physical reprints of both the 1st and 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.
So, what about the Basic Rules? I have some observations. They use characters out of the DragonLance books as examples; that’s interesting. Percentile dice are back (they are a pair of 10-sided dice used to roll percentages). The rules contain four races: humans, halflings, dwarves, and elves. There is a very good flavorful section under each race description that gives the reader an idea of how a particular race views members of other races. For example, Dwarves think elves are generally good, but that they can be occasionally frivolous and unreliable. Halflings are nice, but boring. Humans are considered “everyone’s second-best friend”.
The exceptions-based rules are present. That is, general rules are trumped by specific rules.
There are four tiers of play; the first and fourth tiers have four levels each, the second and third tiers have six levels each.
Four classes: Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, and Wizard. Pretty classic set-up.
Weapon Proficiency is a flat +2 for First Level Characters. In 4e, bladed weapons tended to grant a +3 bonus to attack rolls (if the character had proficiency in the weapon), while other weapon types only granted a +2 bonus.
There are several human subraces listed, based on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.
Characters have Hit Dice, based on their class. When the character gains a level, he can roll to see by what amount his total hit points increase, or he can take a static number. In 4th Edition, characters got a set amount of additional hit points when levelling.
There is a section on the expenses a character incurs when he is not adventuring. There are several levels, from subsistence to spendthrift (my paraphrase). Each lifetyle level entails a particular cost per day. The character can have a second job in order to maintain the modest lifestyle. Interesting element to role playing.
Well, that’s all I feel like writing for now.
You have to love a video that starts with the Susato Suite. Some of the best music ever composed.
It’s the Two-page Essentials Character Sheet
So, some houserules off the top of my head to make the heroic 4th edition characters into more “old school style” characters.
1. 4e Characters begin with some hefty ability scores, and they go to superheroic levels by the end of their careers. The standard array (before racial bonuses) is 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10.
•Subtract 2 from each of these: 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, then add racial bonuses. In addition, mandate that no character may begin with a score higher than 14.
2. 4e characters regain all their healing surges after an extended rest.
•Characters only regain one surge plus their CON modifier (if it is positive) from each extended rest. +1 if the characters are staying in an inn. +2 if they are staying in luxurious quarters. +3 if they are receiving medical attention, as in a hospice.
3. 4e Characters begin with 100 gp worth of equipment.
•Characters begin with 50 gp worth of equipment.
4. 4e Characters can carry 10 x STR pounds of equipment without being slowed down; they can carry 20 x STR pounds and suffer the “Slowed” condition. They can drag around 50 x STR pounds.
•Characters can carry 5 x STR pounds without penalty, 10 x STR pounds and be slowed, and can drag around 20 x STR pounds of material
I created an example character: Ace Walker Dwarf Fighter
dungeonmaster.com has a write-up of it here.
Torchbearer is a relatively new set of tabletop role-playing game rules. It is actually more of a resource-management game set in a Dungeons & Dragons style world, with dwarves, elves, and wizards and the like. The book is 200 pages, and contains detailed rules about how much characters can carry, what happens to them when they fail tests, why they would actually want to fail tests, etc.
This is normally the type of game I would avoid; keeping track of how many arrows you shot in the just-concluded battle, and how many days’ worth of rations you still have seems a little more micro-management than I prefer, if I am more interested in telling an interesting story while using rules to adjudicate conflict.
Reading through the rules, however, I see that Torchbearer is, as I mentioned, a resource management game, which describes one of my favorite all-time computer games: The Oregon Trail by MECC. In The Oregon Trail, you begin in A.D. 1848 in the town of Independence, MO. You decide which profession you are (Banker, Carpenter, or Farmer), and use the alloted funds to purchase supplies. You pick your starting month, and head out. Over the next several hundred miles, you’ll watch your little wagon pace along the screen, and deal with various random events (Your kid gets dysentery; you find wild fruit, you find an abandoned wagon with an extra set of clothes, you get robbed by a thief). Every now and then, you reach a historical landmark, where you can talk to people. But the core of the game is resource management. To get the highest score, you must choose to be a Farmer, and start the game with only $400 (Carpenters begin with $800, and Bankers with $1600). This means you’re limited to how much you can buy. Want to get the recommended 3 yoke of oxen (that’s 6 total creatures)? Then you must do with less extra wagon parts, or less food, or go with a single set of clothes for each member of your party. During the trek, if you had the foresight to purchase bullets, you can stop and hunt for food to replenish your supplies. But managing your physical resources isn’t the only thing you have to worry about; you must also manage your time. You decide the pace at which to travel. Do you keep at a steady pace, which will keep everyone in more or less good health, or do you pick a grueling pace, which can move you more miles in a day, but can affect the health of your party? To say the least, you want to arrive in Oregon with everyone alive, and preferably in good health (which gets you a higher score).
As I say, grand fun. Which brings me back to Torchbearer. It is said to be a set of rules to evoke the feeling of early versions of Dungeons & Dragons, especially the “dungeon crawling” aspect of the game. The mechanics of Torchbearer bear little resemblence to D&D, however. Player characters have 3 (or 4) stats, instead of the traditional 6. Encumberance is based on how much space you have in your pack (or on your person–you only have two hands, after all!) rather than on how much everything you’re carrying weighs. Lighting is core to the game, and the basis for how the passage of time is measured, rather than a rule that one must keep remembering to apply.
There was a discussion of the game a year ago over on therpgsite.com; most of it is people sniping at each other, but I am reading through it and found this description of one group’s game (scroll down to the post by “fuseboy”).