Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My “Basic” ideas

So, the announcement of Basic D&D has my wheels spinning with ideas on how to expand it to feel more like an “AD&D” –styled game. Here is a short list of the ideas I have so far. My plan is, once I have that PDF in hand, to begin detailing these (and more) out, and probably post them for free here (depending on whether 5E is OGL-supported or not).

How new races work will be somewhat dependent on how certain aspects of character creation are handled. Will each race have those familiar +/- to specific abilities? How about racial limits on level and/or classes? How do racial abilities work within the framework of the 5E rules?

Half-Orc* – Ok, this one should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, even passively. In a nutshell, I would probably handle Half-Orcs as Humans with a few Orc traits. Darkvision, bonuses to Strength, with a corresponding penalty to Charisma (never a fan of penalizing their Intelligence or Wisdom). Probably a Dwarf-like mining affinity, and some kind of Rage ability.

Half-Elf* – Much like the Half-Orc, the Half-Elf would be basically Humans with some Elf traits. Low-Light (or Dark) Vision, probably some kind of affinity to magic, including the resistance to Charm and the like. Depending on how things are done, I could also see an ability +/- as well.

Gnome – This is where some of my personal quirks would come out. I have always believed that Gnomes are nothing more than Dwarves with Halfling blood (or perhaps Halflings with Dwarf blood), so I would base this race on those two races, mixing abilities from each.

Katumon – This is a race that I have used in various games for decades. I recently detailed them in my aborted attempt at a Retro-Clone, Hero’s Journey. Basically, they are a cat race with a society similar to Feudal Japan.

Like races, classes will also depend on how things are presented in the 5E rules. But here are some ideas on how I see some of the more popular classes being created using the “Core” classes.

Barbarian* – Barbarians are largely just Fighters with a few extra abilities and limitations. I would limit their allowable armor to nothing more than Medium (generally), and give them a Rage ability similar to Half-Orcs, but probably more nuanced. They would also have some kind of limited damage reduction and/or magic resistance.

Ranger – In my mind, Rangers are more-or-less just Fighter/Rogues who specialize in outdoor settings. They would have limits on armor as well, plus some kind of tracking ability, and maybe special fighting styles.

Paladin – What is a Paladin but a Cleric-lite with the ability to use edged weapons? That would be where I would start with Paladins. Their spell-casting would probably be more limited than a cleric, and they would have the bonus ability of Laying on Hands. They would be the “Knights” of a standard D&D world, and would be modeled after the Teutonic Knights of history (which I just finished a research paper on last week). They would also fight as well as Fighters.

Monk* – As a huge fan of Martial Arts, I need to have some kind of Monk class. I’ll probably handle them more-or-less as Fighters who specialize in empty-handed attacks, and unarmored defense. Possibly with a few mystic abilities mixed in.

Bard – I am actually debating on this one. I have a love/hate relationship with Bards, as a whole. I like the way 3E did them, but I’m not sure that level of intricacy would work for a Basic game. I might just leave them out, and have a “Bard” be an NPC-class, or a PC can take some skill in Performance, and call himself a Bard, though he would still, functionally, be a Fighter/Rogue/Etc.

That’s what I have for now. My basic premise is to build off of what already exists, rather than create things from scratch. So, anyone have a race or class that they think would enhance Basic?

*These are also detailed in Basic Arcana, and chances are that most of what I did there will be pretty portable to 5E.

Free Basic!

In an article posted by Mike Mearls, he details what will probably be the hook that lures a lot of players over to 5E. Although many of those players may not spend a dime on WotC products. The announcement is that, when the Starter Set is released, WotC will also release what is being called Basic D&D as a free PDF file.

Basic will allow you to play a Fighter, Wizard, Cleric or Rogue, using the core 5E rules, and taking them all the way to level 20. For races, you will be able to pick from Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling.

In my head, I am already planning out my own expansions, such as new races (Half-Orcs, duh!) and new classes (Ranger and Barbarians, obviously). And, I have a feeling that a lot of other OSR-fans, particularly those with many levels in the Grongnard class, will be doing much of the same thing.

Personally, as a chronic RPG Tinkerer, this is a boon. I'm going to have fun with it. And, truth be told, I imagine that it will make me that much more likely to just invest the cash for the core books eventually.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Things change

After the official announcements for D&D Next (aka 5E) products this week, I have to admit, I’m just a little bit more excited. My plan remains the same, though. I’ll fork over the $20 for the Starter Set, and see where that leads. But that $150 price tag still looms like a menacing dragon. We’ll see if it needs to be slain or avoided later.

In the meantime, I am still picking away at various of my own projects. Opened up the Life of Rage - Complete Edition yesterday, and chiseled away at a few of the monster descriptions. Once I complete all of those (about a third left), I’ll just need to do a final read-thru, and add some artwork. Although I was surprised at how complete it feels with the few pieces I have done already. And a Facebook friend has volunteered to do a nice color cover for me. That’s pretty exciting!

Related to LoR, I have a question. Should I include a small adventure in the book or not? I’m going to write one for sure, but I’m not sure if I should include it in the book (which is where I am leaning) or offer it separately.

I’m also still working on my Skills and Advantages house rules for Castles & Crusades. The Skills section is done, and I have determined how I will do Advantages (basically, stripped down Feats). Now I just need to create a list of Advantages and describe how they work in the game. All of this in the hopes that I will someday get to run a game with my group.

Other than that, my gamer life has been pretty quiet. Still playing the 3E game, and making progress. But most of my time has been occupied with my research paper that is due on Sunday. I’m about half done with it right now…

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


There’s a lot of talk going around in the limited RPG circles I run about D&D Next and the release dates. Word has it the “Starter Set” is due out in July, with the full Player’s Handbook coming a few months later. However, it’s the other piece of info that is being bandied around that has me concerned: Price.

According to the rumors (and they may be more than rumors at this point, I don’t know), the Core Rule Books (PHB, DMG, MM) will retail for $49.95 each. Basically, a $150 investment to get the “full” game. Ouch.

I have copies of almost every main rulebook from every edition of D&D. I have a copy of the Holmes Basic book, Moldvay’s Basic and Cook’s Expert books, Metzner’s Expert book (missing his Basic), the three core books each for AD&D, 2E, 3.5E, 4E (plus the PHB2 for 4E, since they couldn’t put my beloved half-orcs in the PHB…bastards), and various splat books and setting books for each edition. You could say I’m a bit of a collector (of a lot of RPG’s, not just D&D), but not that serious. At this point, I’m wondering if Next will be worth the cost to be a Completist.

I did partake in the playtest a bit. Our gaming group played an adventure using progressive revisions. I generally liked what I saw, but wasn’t really “wowed” by anything. It looks like a good edition for those just getting into the game, or even getting back into it. But, I didn’t see it doing anything significantly better than earlier editions, or even some of the retro-clones that have come out.

Take that with a grain of salt, as my experience was limited to one adventure, which we never actually finished, and that was RP-heavy (not a whole heck of a lot of dice-rolling and mechanics).

As of right now, I will probably invest in the Starter Set. At $19.95, it’s much more affordable, and may be all I would need. As I hear more about the Core books, and the rules that are going to be included, I may alter my views and leap in feet-first.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I’ll do it myself!

I am really getting into this whole idea of C&C game now. I tend to get obsessive when I latch onto an idea, so this is nothing new. The cool thing is that, according to people I know who play the game, you can pretty much do it all from the Player’s Handbook, though you may want to add the Monsters and Treasure book. And even then, converting from other editions is easy, so I could use one of the Monster Manuals I have in a pinch.

However, for the more advanced options, such as Skills and Feats (aka Advantages), you should get the Castle Keeper’s Guide. I would love to get it, and someday I just might. But right now, it’s a bit pricey, and finances being what they are, I am strapped. So, like I always do, I’m doing it myself.

To that end I took the basics that I jotted down in my last post, and refined them a bit into a (hopefully) workable system. I even created a list of skills, and designated which classes have which skills as class skills. Once I polish it up and make sure it meshes with the C&C rules, I will probably post it here, under my “My Products” page linked above.

For the Feats/Advantages, I think I will boil the Feat list from 3.5 down to some bare-bones options, and simplify the mechanics to be in line with C&C, and probably post that as well (maybe as part of the same document). Other than those two items, I will probably just stick to what’s in the PHB and go with that.

I’m also trying to decide what world to set my campaign in. The Slavers book is set in Greyhawk, and I’m inclined to just use that setting. However, I’m not all that familiar with it, so I may have to do some more reading. But, on a whim, I also began building my own, unique world. Just churning out ideas as they come, I have three pages of narratives, and a skeleton of an original pantheon of deities (basically just a list with the spheres of each noted). I did most of that this morning. It’s a slow day at work.

Now if I can just get my group to commit…

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The slavers return…?

So I posted on the Facebook page of my regular gaming group (what did we do before social media?) about the possibility of the next campaign using Castles & Crusades, and running the 2E “adventure path” of Slavers. As you can see by the picture they seem to be made for each other.

The reaction was non-existent at first. In fact, it’s what it has always been when I suggest anything beyond what we are currently playing. I complained (whined) to my wife about it, since she is in my group too. So she commented that she approved. I guess I’ll take that as at least a nibble, since I know she’ll play anyways. Then one of the other players “liked” the status. Wow! That’s the most positive feedback I’ve gotten yet!

Anyways, I’m not sure if it will ever come to fruition. My group is kind of stodgy, and they seem so resistant to change or, Gods forbid, a step “backwards” in gaming systems. Regardless, I’ll probably read through the adventure materials, and do some preparations, just in case. If nothing else, it will be good practice. I’m really rusty with being a DM, and all that entails.

As to the previously discussed idea about adding some kind of skills system, I have been doing some research. I’ve found a few resources for adding skills from 3E, WP/NWP from 2E, and some original ideas. A lot of them sound cool, but not exactly what I’m looking for. So, I have kind of an idea in my head. Let me see if I can get it down in writing here…

• Each class has a specific list of skills that are associated with it. When using these skills, the character adds his class level to any roll.

• When attempting to use a skill not in his class list, he does not add any class levels to the roll.

• At every 3rd level (3, 6, 9, etc.) he may add one skill from another class’ list to his own.

Possible additional conditions:
• Only add ½ of the character’s level to the roll – It occurs to me that as the character gets higher, this roll becomes ungodly easy. So, adding only half (rounded up) kind of mitigates that a bit.

• Must have a teacher – Non-class skills need to be learned from someone who has the skill as a class skill. This could be a PC or NPC. Training time would be up to the DM.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I think it’s simple enough to mesh with C&C, but complex enough to allow for some customization and a bit more concrete rules for skill use.

Friday, May 2, 2014


On my last post, Edward Wilson made a very good point about 3E vs C&C. Basically that, without the skills and feats in 3E, C&C characters of similar classes tend to become very linear. To the point where, as he put it, Fighter One and Fighter Two would only be differentiated by the magic items they carry. I thought long and hard about this, and I think I have my opinion/solution worked out.

In a nutshell, the customization is in both the details on paper, and the details in the player’s mind. On paper, two fighters may seem very similar at the same level. They have the same to hit bonuses, roughly the same hit points, and they have all of the same class abilities and limitations. However, looking below the class to the core character, you can often see major differences.

The first is race. This is a huge factor, because it dictates many of the other facets of the character. A dwarf fighter will inherently be very different from a human fighter. On average, he will be tougher (more HP), gain bonuses and penalties based on his size and his racial preferences, and most experienced players (or even those just familiar with fantasy tropes) will recognize that dwarves act (and fight) very differently from humans.

Then you get to the ability scores. As mentioned, a dwarf’s bonus to CON will often give him more HP. But even within the same race, two fighters will have differences. For instance, if Fighter One has an 18 STR and a 10 Dex, he will fight very differently from Fighter Two who has a 10 STR and an 18 DEX. One might wear heavy armor, and use a 2-handed sword, where Two might stick to Leather armor, and use a rapier, perhaps in conjunction with a dagger, since two-weapon fighting is affected by DEX.

This is the crux of Feats in 3E. In essence, Feats attempt to codify rules that traditionally have been the DM’s fiat. In a Feat-less game, the player is expected to ask the DM if the character can do something outside of what the rules say. In turn, the DM decides if it sounds reasonable, and if so, what effects it will have. In 3E, this decision-making is taken out of the player’s and DM’s hands, and placed on the page, with the idea of keeping everything in balance. And it works great.

The benefit of Feats is that it makes things easier on both parties. However, since Feats exist whether you use them directly or not, they can still be a benefit to games like C&C. For instance, Fighter Two wants to use his DEX to his advantage, so he proposes that his use of a rapier and dagger relies on his accuracy rather than the traditional brute strength method. Hence the reason why the “Weapon Finesse” Feat exists in 3E. So, in a C&C game, the DM is probably familiar with that Feat, and can therefore say to the player, “Yes, that makes sense. When using your lighter weapons, you can add your DEX modifier to hit instead of your STR.”

Skills get a bit more complex. And I’m almost of a mind to import the 3E skill system (or some variation) into C&C. In fact, I would wager that there are already rules for doing so in one C&C book or another (I only have the PHB, and haven't read it all yet). Either way, the use of C&C’s Siege Engine rule can be easily integrated with a Skill system, simply by listing exactly which skills are related to the character’s Prime attributes, and which are related to his non-Prime. And the DM can even state that some skills are just not available to the character because of his class. This last ties in nicely with the C&C rules for Multi-classing, especially the “class and a half” rule (which I am eager to give a try some time).

In short, I think a lot of customization, that being what differentiates characters with similar class/level combinations, comes down to Player choices. The choices of what race to play, where to put your ability scores, and what to equip your character with. And during play, it also comes down to the choices the characters make in a given situation, based on their background. The strength of this is that it prevents the tendency for characters to become simply numbers on a piece of paper, and allows them to be actual characters that the player can Role Play through.