Mumbling Thoughts: Basic D&D (5th Edition)

Interrupting my self-imposed blogging hiatus to ramble a bit about the game everyone is talking about: D&D 5th Edition (at least, the freshly released-for-free Basic D&D game.)

I’m going to be lazy and, first, point you to this awesome post on RPGMusings with DM Samuel’s impressions. Seriously, click it, read it, and resume here. I honestly can’t say it any better than him, and I pretty much echo his sentiment. Exceptions being where he’s got mixed feelings on Backgrounds and Inspiration, I have “Shutup and Take My Money” for them.

I ran a one-shot game over the July 4th weekend, with buddies that I used to regularly play Red Box/Basic old-school D&D with. We all share a love for a game that plays pretty quick, isn’t a bitch about table economy, and where character creation doesn’t involve a whole session of time to itself.

I had minimal preparations — I copied some stat blocks of Monsters from one of the playtest packets into One Note, and kept open a PDF of the adventure module Better Than Any Man (written originally for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.) I didn’t run the adventure proper, but I was in the mood for using its historical backdrop of the Thirty Years War, and took advantage of its setting details and random encounters for guide lines.

imagesInstead I ran a simplistic plot of the heroes being mercenaries answering the call to “weed out” chaos cultists who were plaguing the countryside, killing people in their sleep and converting others into “Pigmen” (read: Orcs) to ransack the villages and cause more panic in a time of witch hunts and pending invasion from the Swiss.

It was a good time, resulting in a couple players getting dropped in combat (and the complete death of the Rogue, whom despite having the Cleric constantly healing him ultimately met the working end of an axe by the last pig-man standing, who was near death but still capable of rolling criticals at full force.)

Having become burnt out on 4th Edition after a two year campaign, and then enjoying older editions (coupled with OSR variants) as well as lighter titles like Warrior, Rogue & Mage and BareBones Fantasy, it was nice to sit down to a whole new edition that maintained the romantic feelings I have for the brand but offer some fresh new mechanics.

I think once the Player Handbook and the other core manuals come out, the full game will be a good bridge between OSR and d20/3.5/Pathfinder types. I have no idea if WoTC plans on expanding rules for more 4E style — I’d probably point new-school die hards to 13th Age (from my impressions of a quick glance through) before 5E. But, man, 5E (from the Basic game standpoint) feels good to this veteran of many games and editions.

Already I’m scheming on a campaign that mostly focuses on Basic rules, with perhaps a sprinkling of options from the PHB. I’d like to see concepts like Barbarians, Bards, Rangers and Paladins be built more like Backgrounds and Class Archetypes of the core four classes (Fighter, Rogue, Wizard and Cleric) than full classes. But even if I am suckered into running the “full” 5E game, it’s nice to know I’ll probably have a much easier time hacking d20 or OSR content than I did with fourth edition.

Which is nice — I practically sold all of my 4E rulebooks. I still have a couple shelves filled with older material — including hefty tomes like Ptolus which I would love to crack open more often. It would be cool to finally have a base rules set that could potentially handle a couple decades of collecting.

 

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