Housekeeping

It’s (shockingly) been more than a year since I last posted something to the blog. I can’t attest to doing anything more constructive over the last twelve months than improving my Xbox gamerscore, but there are a few announcements that I wanted to share with you all.

D&D Fifth Edition Launches Tomorrow!

Kinda. As of 3rd July (probably quite late in the day UK time) the first iteration of the new Basic Dungeons & Dragons game will be available to freely download from the Wizards of the Coast website. For those of you who haven’t been following every scrap of information on this topic: Basic D&D is *not* a simplified version of the 5th edition game – it’s the full game, albeit with less options that you’ll eventually find in the new Player’s Handbook.

Tomorrow you’ll find rules for character creation and advancement for the simplest build of the four core classes, as well as rules on how to play, equipment and spells. As more products are released over the coming months so this free version of the game will expand with more content. Expect monsters to appear after the launch of the Monster Manual, for example.

Following the release of Basic D&D the new D&D Starter Set launches in mid-July, followed by the new Player’s Handbook in August, the Monster Manual in late September and the Dungeon Master’s Guide in November. There’s a few adventures in the mix as well. This is a staggered release similar to third edition in 2000, so will be easier on my wallet.

A new 5th Edition mini-campaign, anyone?

I’m very enamoured with the new D&D rules. I think they’re the best version of D&D to date, and I’d like to take them for a test drive. Therefore I’m going to be a running the mini-campaign presented in the D&D Starter Set. It’s set in the Forgotten Realms and designed to take PCs from 1st to 5th level – about eight sessions worth of adventuring (or twenty-eight at the rate we normally play). I don’t have a specific start date in mind, neither have I decided whether I want to run it on a weekly or ad hoc basis. I don’t want it to drag out too long, though. Basically I’ll be guided by player availability.

Which brings me on the subject of players. I need some. Ideally five, which seems a tall order in these uncertain times. I have had some interest, but any of you who a) live within striking distance, b) feel like some new D&D, and c) I’ve actually met, please drop me an email.

Iourn.com has gone AWOL

For those of you keeping track of such things, access to www.iourn.com has been impossible for month or so. I’m not entirely sure why, but as the site hasn’t been updated since January 2009 I’m not in a big hurry to solve the mystery.

Please don’t worry that we’ve lost any content. I have the entire site backed up in various places. If any of you want a full copy of the site for your reference then send me an email and I’ll endeavour to get one over to you.

My longer term plan is to recreate the old site (including all its content) in WordPress. It would make it easier for me to maintain and update it, although I’d need to think long and hard about the format, navigation, theme etc. WordPress also has the advantage of being equally legible on a variety of different devices, which can only be a good thing in this post-PC world.

D&D Third Edition (Pathfinder) Campaigns

My weekly Iourn campaign, Prophet and Loss, is currently on hiatus due to player availability. I’m in no hurry to start running it again, and am happy to wait until everyone has the time and energy to continue the campaign. I still have all my notes and we can pick up where we left off fairly easily.

The ongoing adventures of the Chosen of Narramac that began back in 2000 will continue with a third campaign, To End All Wars, starting in August. This time our high level heroes are sharing the limelight with a new collection of first level PCs.

The Conversion Catalogue

I did threaten to use this blog as a venue for thrashing out rules for the conversion of old 3.5 material into Pathfinder. I’m shortly going to make good on that threat with an exploration of the third edition Warlock. I have need for warlocks in my ongoing game, and would like to throw out some ideas.

The 3.5 warlock is a bit too focused to stand against other Pathfinder classes. By taking a leaf out of fourth edition I think we can introduce different class abilities based on pacts (Fey and Star as well as the default Infernal); the Warlock’s Curse from 4e is also something worth exploring, I think. I’m also of a mind to make Hexblades and (possibly) Binders archetypes of the Warlock.

Watch this space for more information.

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4 thoughts on “Housekeeping

  1. So, what do you think? I am generally impressed. It feels like D&D in its essence.

    I think they have succeeded in their attempts at creating a game that can handle traditional 1e-style dungeon delving as well as 2e-style roleplaying. I can also see how they will develop a 3e-style multiplicity of options from the solid base. They have also kept some nice stuff from 4e – ritual magic, short rests etc.

    It looks very easy to put together a character with quite a lot of personality even with only a few options available. That is impressive. I also like the way they have expressly stated that magic items are not usually bought and sold and that miniatures and a grid are a variant rather than the standard. It really is harking back to the game we all grew up with but keeping the modern developments.

    However, I don’t know how the maths all pans out. It looks like they have solved some of the problems with things like the gap between attack rolls and AC getting ever wider in 3.x and the bad saving throws getting ever worse while the good saves get ridiculously good. I am worried though, about the advantage/disadvantage mechanic being too simplistic. It feels like a winner as it is so easy to understand but the fact it only ever applies once means you get weird things like, if you fire a bow at long range it is no harder to hit an invisible opponent. They both apply disadvantage but you only ever suffer that once. Are the rules too simplistic? Or is that a good thing?

  2. Sorry, Dan – for some reason notification of your comment was eaten by my Spam filter, otherwise I would have replied sooner.

    Yes: I like the new rules a lot. I have read them thoroughly now, and broken down all the spells on a spreadsheet to have a closer look at them. On the whole I’m very happy with this edition so far. Making the default game ignore the battle grid and assume magic items can’t be sold is (as you say) a very good move. Alignment has also been reduced to a purely descriptive role – there are no longer any rules, spells or abilities that refer to alignment. Yay!

    If I had to nickpick I would say that maybe the rules on movement and position are little too complicated for a gridless game. Too many things seem to be dependent upon having a hostile foe within 5 feet. I’m also not over the moon that there are still expensive gold piece components to cast certain spells. It seems to me there are plenty of things already in the game that prevent spells from being cast too often – an economic element is not necessary.

    The basic rules went some way to allay my biggest gripe, which was the skill list. I made a list of all 60(ish) skills that have appeared in 3rd edition, 4th edition and Pathfinder and there are hardly any skills that don’t directly map to a 5th edition skill or proficiency. It’s not like 4e where there simply wasn’t a Ride skill. Still a little concerned at the number of skills and proficiencies characters have, and how they get more, but the rules will continue to grow and I’m willing to give the designers the benefit of the doubt here.

    Advantage/Disadvantage is a good mechanic in play. I’ve liked it in the playtests I’ve run. The rules are simplistic, but I think that’s okay. 5th Edition seems to put more power in the GM’s hands to adjudicate things – it might just be disadvantage on the attack roll to hit an invisible creature with your bow at long range… but if the foe is invisible how do you even know it’s there in the first place to aim a shot? I deeply appreciate the speed and simplicity.

    Of course, the game can be more complicated and I like that too. Take tracking for example. All it says is that you can make a Survival roll to track. The DC is assigned by the DM (anywhere from 5 to 30), but there are no tables to tell you what the DC should be to track a pack of one-legged hobgoblins, at night after five days of rain. The GM just sets a DC that seems right. But if you want more complex rules for assigning a DC, the DMG will provide… well, it will in November.

    I think that once the DMG and PHB are released, 5th edition is going to be looked on very favourably by fans of all editions of the game. That can only be a good thing, I think.

    I’m really looking forward to getting the Starter Set (only a week to go!) Are you travelling down south to give the new rules a whirl?

  3. Yes, that all sounds good. I am very keen to give it a whirl but there is no way I’ll be traveling down from Birmingham (where I now live for the foreseeable future) for the game. I’ll do an online thing if we want to give that another try?

    On the double disadvantage thing, take the following example:

    Nicos is tied to a tree with an apple on his head. Arvan is handed a javelin and walks to long range. He is then blindfolded. The blindfold does not make it any harder for him to hit Nicos. (Sorry, I mean the apple.) He knows where he is, so he is able to target him/the apple. The disadvantage mechanic is supposed to reflect the extra difficulty of being blindfolded. But it also reflects the extra difficulty of being far away and does not stack. If someone also blows seductively in his ear, that also doesn’t affect him. (it probably wouldn’t affect him anyway, but even Elias wouldn’t be put off by that and that is not realistic.)

    Likewise, a halfling fighting in melee with a greatsword in the dark does not get any better when the lights come on. Maybe that’s fair enough but looked at another way, a halfling in the dark is no better with a knife than they are with a halberd. That seems wrong.

    I will be interested to see if issues come about because of this layering or if it’s more a hypothetical thing. I think it’s a minor gripe amongst a lot of good stuff but it is a fundamental mechanic that could prove annoying.

    On alignment, I am pleased with how it’s presented. Alignment is a fundamental part of D&D. It has played a significant role on Iourn, principally through Io and everything that comes from him. We talk about the temple of Chaotic Evil and the like. Despite it being ignored generally from PCs and NPCs it determines a lot about how we think about the game. Planescape wouldn’t exist without it.

    So, I think it is important to keep it in but not overdo it. Removing detect evil is a great move. Also, the section is very short and pithy. The one line explanations are brilliantly written and get to the heart of the alignment very effectively without all the waffle we have had before. It’s a very well done section.

    My favourite paragraph is probably:

    Magic Items. Selling magic items is problematic. Finding someone to buy a potion or scroll isn’t too hard, but other items are out of the realm of most but the wealthiest nobles. Likewise, aside from a few common magic items, you won’t normally come across magic items or spells to purchase. The value of magic is far beyond simple gold and should always be treated as such.

    If only Pathfinder could work with that as a basic assumption.

    I didn’t think the movement and position rules were too bad. I think you have to replace ‘within 5 feet’ with ‘adjacent’. That should solve any issues.

    On other points, I’ve been able to get to http://www.iourn.com. I was using it when planning new characters and didn’t encounter a problem. Still seems to be working.

  4. Iourn

    Iourn.com is weird. I’ve had people say they can get access, but it hasn’t worked for me for (literally) months and I’ve tried different browsers, devices, and IP addresses. It’d be interesting to know if anyone else was having problems.

    Alignment

    Generally I’ve swallowed alignment for Iourn simply because the third edition rules are so obsessed with it. It works well enough when describing creatures and concepts on a cosmic scale; it was an integral part of D&D and as Iourn is quite manifestly a ‘D&D’ campaign setting I needed to include all the assumptions and concepts of the core game. My next setting will be more creative in that regard.

    Invisibility + Disadvantage

    Hmmm… I see what you’re saying about disadvantage. Characters in areas that are heavily obscured (such as wearing a blindfold or fighting in the dark) are considered Blinded – as in the Blinded condition. This specficially says that all ability checks that rely on sight fail, but still allows for attack rolls to be made at disadvantage.

    The examples you cite do paint the rules in a ridiculous light. I guess the core problem is that 5th edition doesn’t let you stack ad hoc bonuses and penalties in the same way as 3rd and 4th edition. Except of course when it does…

    The rules for Cover don’t use the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic. Half cover is a +2 bonus to AC and Dex saves, three-quarters cover is a +5 to AC and Dex saves, and full cover means that you can’t be targeted directly at all. So the rules for Cover do stack with Disadvantage. It is harder to fire an arrow at someone crouching behind a wall in the dark than it is in full daylight. That said, my reading of the Basic rules suggest that this is the only time that such penalties do stack.

    Does this matter in play or is it (as you say) just an intellectual problem with the rules? I guess you could say there comes a point when the odds are so stacked against you that your chances of failure (or success) just can’t get any bigger (or smaller). It’s the same principle as the Natural 1, and the Natural 20 in combat. A character with +5 to hit and a character with +25 to hit both have a 5% chance of hitting a foe with AC 50. One of the characters is much more skilled than the other, but it’s not by enough to make a difference.

    The Advantage/Disadvantage rules take that principle and make it far more obvious in the game. It’s really hard to stake Nicos with a javelin while making it look as though you’re aiming for that apple – so hard that you’ve got the same chance of success regardless of any other factors heaped against you. The halfing can’t use his skill with the dagger in the dark anyway so he’s just as effective with it as he would be if he was untrained. Swinging a dagger is easier for him than swinging a polearm, but it’s not easier enough to make a statistical difference to his chances of success.

    I’m not sure how satisfying that explanation is, so it will be interesting to see how it works in play.

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