Saturday, 19 November 2016

Hilary`s Musings

Thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons
{A Week End Filler Post}
Next time, Stevie will conclude the small zombie adventure, starring Dakota and her new best `friend.` But for now, as it will be a while until that can be played through and written up (probably by next week end I`m guessing), But for now, I figured I`d do one of my small Hilary musings - this time on the Dungeons and Dragons game.
As I think has been mentioned in past postings, we recently took the big plunge of moving our rpg games over to 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. This was no small feat for us to make, I can assure you *sighs* as we have been well entrenched in our regular 3rd edition campaigns for many years now, and although I am happy to say the crossover potential between the two systems is a fairly comprehensive one to make, with a bit of time and effort: 5th edition D&D is, never the less, substantially different from previous versions of the game. This is exacerbated by the fact that we find ourselves constantly juggling between 3rd (actually 3.5) edition table top rpg, plus the D&D adventure System Boardgames, which.. to make matters even worse.. are primarily based on the 4th edition (uuugh!!), and now we have to add yet another ball to this `slight of hand` juggling act, by trying to fit 5th edition into the whole thing. It’s all a bit of a gaming nightmare, believe me. But it is possible; and we are managing it all quite well, so far.

Why would we mix and match games, you might well ask? Well, it’s simply a case of trying to use all we have in our collection, rather than just chuck out a lot of material which is really good, and we are unwilling just to `throw the baby out with the bath water.` Why change to 5th edition at all, you could also ask? That one’s slightly trickier to answer. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with 3rd ed, it’s a great little old game (actually there’s nothing small about it, with core rule books and manuals easily running into 40 or more tomes of knowledge), but we do like to evolve our games, and to do that, and to be able to enjoy all the new material for this game as and when it is released, we need to evolve with the game as well. There is the case to be made that “what’s to stop Wizards of the Coast from simply changing the rules yet again in a few years, and coming out with a dreaded all new 6th edition?”  hmmmm nothing! We can`t be sure. But all signs and indications seem to suggest that Wizards have finally learned their lesson. So many followers jumped ship for other systems having grown sick and tired of Wizards constant changes, that the company have had to sit up straight and do a heck of a lot of work to restore faith in their customers once more, and to update the rules one more time, right now, would be a suicidal move on their part.

No I feel satisfied and fairly confident that 5th ed is here to stay for the remainder of this decade at least. SO that means, over the coming years, we can expect a slow trickle of new material to enhance our games, and this is the life blood of rpgs. It’s fun to look forward with excited anticipation to each new release. Stick to our 3rd edition of the game (though some might say this is the more logical choice) and we divorce ourselves from the main stream, and Stevie and I do very much enjoy being part of the official on line `living world` community that exists for anyone to share and be a part of. For Stevie too, this move into 5th edition is also a financial one. If he writes professionally for companies, he really needs to be up to speed with the game as it is now, not a retro game which is no longer supported in any way.

But back to the problem. With our beloved older version of D&D, it is fairly easy to use most of the material, as is.. especially if using the bountiful independent open licence D20 material that is out there. SO that in itself isn’t a major hurdle. It’s the Adventure System Boardgames which give us the biggest headache. These Boardgames were released right in the middle of the (much hated, by most) 4th edition of the game, and as such, the boardgames naturally followed that pattern.

However, once 4th edition D&D became kaput, was no more, and obsolete: this gave the faithful owners of boardgames a real problem: nothing for that game would ever again fit neatly into the new edition of the game.. uuugh!! They kinda fixed this with the late release of the Temple of Elemental Evil Adventure System Boardgame (the fourth stand alone or/and compatible boxed game in that series), but the fixes in those rules are sloppy. Wizards of the Coast had firmly nailed themselves to their own post on that one. I often wonder if the forth Boardgame was designed, and put into workshop production.. i.e. was soon due for release.. before their decision to shift to 5th ed? This would explain their strange decision to release a new game using the old 4th edition rules many months after their new rules were available on the public market? Certainly, the quick fix changes to the latter boardgame feel hurried, almost an afterthought by the producers. Yes, the changes DO work, and feel like a tool box for players of that game system to make the relevant changes for themselves. Such as the new “Advantaged” and “Disadvantaged” rule: and the inclusion of a simplistic character levelling system, now (happily) contained within the box. And the latest boardgame rule book is obviously meant to replace the earlier versions of the booklets, i.e. the ones found in Castle Ravenloft, The Wrath of Ashardalon, and The Legend of Drizzt. But again, the whole thing feels unfinished, almost footnotes of incomplete ideas for the poor players to try to decipher for themselves, and create their own adventure paths using the ad-hoc fixes available. Shame really.
But for us now having moving into 5th edition of the game, this throws a huge spanner in the works, mostly because of the spell system! The boardgame uses 4th edition spells which are set into three categories “Daily” powers, “At Will” and “Utility.” And the boardgames all come with a host of lovely spell cards which players are meant to place beside their character sheets so they know which spells they have available and at their disposal during the game. But guess what, the new 5th edition does away with all this entirely, and goes back, yet again, to the old days of D&D, uuuugh!!! Now our 4th edition spell cards are obsolete, except within the framework of boardgames themselves. But this means it is utterly impossible to get a true 5th edition feel to the game, and alienates the boardgames even further from D&D proper, by having two utterly dissimilar spell systems in play. And this is meant to be the same game? I think not.. so double uuuuugh!!!

So how have we gotten over this?
Actually, fairly simply. We took a load of the spell cards to the print shop, got a dozen full colour A3 sheets printed out.. which gives us literally hundreds of spares (showing only the backs of the cards:which has the  “Daily” “At Will” and “Utility.” Clearly marked), and now we make our OWN spells up to add to the existing ones in the boardgames. The boardgames never ran with a full spell list anyway, only a hundred or so of the several hundred available in The Players Handbook: so this gives us plenty of room always to expand and convert to the game. All we do is flip the cards over, and write neatly, by hand (on the white unprinted side) any new spell we introduce into the game.
Incidentally, we did the same with the monster cards a well, and we now have the ability to add in an unlimited number of our own creations whenever we want.
                                                                              So that is how we do it.

There are still differences between the two editions, but nothing we can’t overlook, and the games really don’t suffer because of it. I think the key here is `willingness to adapt and overcome.` another might be `where there  will there’s a way.

Article by Hilary



  1. Interesting post Hils, I had no idea what you were going to write for this one. So obviously, I have a very keen interest in what is (at the end of the day) my all time favourite game system ever. I`m not sure how many here are familiar with or into D&D though, so I`m not sure how much feedback you will get in comments... loads I hope. It’s in depth, detailed, and very accurate, and I thoroughly enjoyed every word... `cos I`m massively into D&D, as you, the world, and the neighbour’s cat all know hahahaha

    Oh sure, I love so many other games, and depending on the moment, I will often call such and such my fav game. But end of the day, if I think about it for a few moments any time... D&D is my first and long term love.

    ,,, and you of course xx

    1. nice save and recovery at the end there *glares*

      Thanks Stevie, I thought you might enjoy this one. Also a subtle hint... when we playing the next session of our Ravenloft *dig..dig*

    2. Zombies the coming week end. um... lets see, Next Barovia game session mid week-ish after the following week end sound okay?

  2. Very interesting, Hils. As the release of 3rd edition happened at the same time my gaming group dispersed across the country, I'm not that familiar with any edition beyond 2nd. Whilst I did try and keep up with what was happening with the game, as it received quite a lot of bad press and from what I'd seen, it seemed to be pandering to the computer gaming community with feats and whatnot, I didn't feel it was still the game I'd grown=up loving. However, having said that, I get the impression that Wizards, like Games Workshop, have realised that in order for their 'brand' to continue, they have to start listening to their customer base and make reasonably priced games that people actually WANT to play. Being an open=minded sort of fellow, I'm always prepared to give a company another chance (note I said company = there are certain companies I refuse to deal with because the people in charge of them are thoroughly despicable beings), so ask believe you can download a free copy of the 5th edition rules, I may very well do so.
    And on a related note, I now have my 'avatar' for your campaign, as when I saw him 'in the flesh' as Warfare, he was perfect. Might need to bone up on 5th edition now, so I can work out what class(?) He should be.

  3. Hi Jez hun, and thanks for the cool comments. Always so highly appreciated.

    Oh you played D&D at its height then. I don’t mean financial heights (I`m sure the company made far more as Wizards of the Coast than TSR even did in its entire history of their game), but I mean the elated joy of D&D at its emotional peak, when the gasp of wonder at its mere name, was enough to send nerds (like I was) into fits of euphoria.. I don’t think these glory days have ever been topped since. When Wizards of the Coast took over, it was at a time when gaming was suddenly seen by the world of commerce as a commodity to be tapped into. Whereas before, the game was a product made by gamers for other gamers. Suddenly the `hobby` became a commercially viable thing to exploit - to make big money out of (by executive conglomerates) and we the gamers became the market to be exploited.

    3rd edition was their new baby. A marked diversion from Gary Gygax`s and Dave Arneson`s original creation, it was a pretty wondrous, if not ponderous beast.. riddled with errors. So much so that soon after its release they pulled it from the shelves and came out with 3.1 edition. But two years later, and they started all over again with 3.5. Uuuugh, it amazes me that hobbyist still stayed with the game at that stage.

    4th edition was the one that tried to mimic Multi Media On Line computer games (World of Warcraft, noticeably) and it was a total flop. Designed after Wizards opened the flood gates of Open Licence, they made a grave error: and they started to lose money by it, not make it. And then Paizo embarrassed them still further by doing D&D better (Pathfinder) than Wizards themselves were able to do. Sooooo what did they do? They couldn’t reverse Open Licence (which allowed any free lancer to write “D20” D&D material) so they CHANGED the entire format of D&D instead, which technically by law didn’t have open licence and basically stopped the freelancers in its tracks from jumping on board.. or so they hoped. However D&D 4ed was a total financial flop. So suddenly the company was is deep Bantha poo-doo. Hence... 5th edition. No open Licence, but finally back on track with a game that feels like a bit of a mix between 2nd and 3rd edition.

    Me personally, I still like 1st ed D&D (kept alive by cool retro clones like OSRIC).

    Oooo I`m so happy you got your avatar now. I can`t wait to see him. If you need a PDF of 5th ed Players Handbook, let me know. I can let you have all three core books that way if you like. Just let me know? I`m talking the FULL (colour) books, not just the free cut down version available on line.

  4. Ooooh, 1st edition = now that takes me back. I still have the first ever AD&D book I ever bought = the Fiend Folio = which is in almost pristine condition. As this was my first exposure to role=playing, I do have a soft spot for 1st edition.

    Since I posted my first comment, I have downloaded the basic player and DMG rules and after a quick skim, it does FEEL familiar enough for me to declare "this is D&D".

    Hmm, might have to look at my half=finished 'sourcebook' for playing D&D in Mythic India and see if I can port it across. Why Mythic India? Why not! Lol

  5. The Fiend Folio is a classic. I can still remember the adverts for it in White Dwarf (back in the 70`s) like it were only yesterday. Okay now I`m showing my age too much lol. They made a pretty decent attempt at recreating the Folio in the 3rd edition version MM, but nothing will ever compare to that original tome. And you have a near pristine copy *gasps* that's so very highly cool.

    But I can match you Jez. I (well.. we) got a copy of the first ever original white box D&D bought from Gen Con 1973 (not bought by us, I should add, but was bought there none the less).

    wow, you didn't mess about waiting to download. That was quick going. You`re pretty serous about your D&D revival then?

    As for a mythical India, hmmm actually, I can really see that working out.

  6. Okay, you win. One of the things I like about the 'information age' is the ability to download rules at the drop of a hat to my tablet, which I can carry about wherever I want.
    As for Mythic India, there was a series of articles in Dragon magazine presenting kits, spells and magic items for this setting, a further article about arms and armour of the Indian subcontinent, a section in Deities and Demigod on Indian gods, an adventure published by TSR titled 'The Star of Kolhapur' set in India and a mini-campaign setting that I found on the Wizards website which I combined into a cohesive whole. I also added the Domain of SrI Raji from Ravenloft to it, as it made more sense to be part of this. It's even got a map! And evil snake-men! AND mongoose people! It's cool!!!

    1. I have completely forgotten that Dragon article series, although s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g is knocking on my brain saying "wake up, you DO remember it" least I have a vague recollection, but as to the contents, that's lost to the nation I`m afraid. But wow, what a cool notion: and Ravenloft-able too, how super.

      I had every issue of Dragon and Dungeon at one stage, but lost them all to extreme damn and mice nibbles (that`ll teach me to have kept them out in a garage, many years ago).

    2. make that damp, not damn... but damn as well.

    3. Jez, anything with evil snake-men and mongoose people just HAS to be cool!!!

    4. It also has wise monkey-folk, evil were-tigers, a huge ruined city on a lake similar to Angkhor Watford (not sure i've spelt that correctly) and the paladin equivalent can have elephants as their bonded mount! Definitely going to have to review my notes and see how easy it would be to port across.
      Oooh, and I definitely think my character for the Ravenloft campaign will have the 'Haunted One' Background...

    5. "Angkhor Watford"? Best. Predictive Text. Ever. Lol

    6. Sorry to keep banging on about 'Indian Adventures', but I did find that I've actually typed up the majority of this 'campaign setting'. The mongoose people are called Nakula and the monkey-folk Vanara. The sub-continent of Rahasia is divided into several kingdoms and includes two 'lost' kingdoms, which were cursed by the Gods for hubris and off the coast lies the insular island of Sri Rajha...which isn't always there. Quite happy to send you across a copy if you fancy a look, although it's a 'work in progress' - even more so now that it needs to be converted to 5th edition. The PHB and MM have made it onto my Christmas list...

    7. Sorry to keep banging on about 'Indian Adventures', but I did find that I've actually typed up the majority of this 'campaign setting'. The mongoose people are called Nakula and the monkey-folk Vanara. The sub-continent of Rahasia is divided into several kingdoms and includes two 'lost' kingdoms, which were cursed by the Gods for hubris and off the coast lies the insular island of Sri Rajha...which isn't always there. Quite happy to send you across a copy if you fancy a look, although it's a 'work in progress' - even more so now that it needs to be converted to 5th edition. The PHB and MM have made it onto my Christmas list...

    8. Wow, the ole` bird and Angkhor Watford. I`m amazed to hear that mentioned here lol. Wise old owl aren`t you.

      You campaign sounds intriguing and I WANT to know more. I`d also be delighted to see your collection of info on it (though I wouldn't `steal` it, this is your baby and I would respect that). But a peep at it would be delightful. Nakula, Vanara, Sri Rajha.. all of it is a wealth of unwritten adventure waiting to be tapped. Your idea quite excites me. Also why stop at hubris, you could do a Mervyn Peake and cover all the attributes.. both the `qualities` and the `vices.`

      Remember, I have the PH, DMG and MM on DPF if you want them. Just let me know and I`ll happily send you a disc with them all included. Though there is nothing quite like holding an actual, real life book in your hands.

    9. oh dear, that's PDF I meant. DPF is something entirely different lol.

    10. I think you are onto something here Jez. India is an area of rpg rarely dig into, which in my honest opinion is a bit of a shame. It holds a veritable wealth of history, mythology and ecology, and geographically it is stunningly breath-taking (not too many places left on earth that give such real life panoramic utopia for us to enjoy). There is literally years of material here to work on: and an entire awe inspiring hobby in itself.

    11. While its not a genre I would pursue myself (only because there are too many other things on my plate), I am massively interested in hearing what you do for it in your branch of the hobby Jez. Tar` has her passion for the Orient and her intricate Asian style adventures (which she has still to write about here I might add), and Hil has her interest in Romano British and Arthurian, and me... we`ll my interests are different again (Victorian-esque): I think the world is prime and ready for Indian Adventures and YOU are the man to do it Jez.


    12. {{Oooh, and I definitely think my character for the Ravenloft campaign will have the 'Haunted One' Background...}}

      Haunted One:

      You are haunted by something so terrible that you dare not speak of it. You’ve tried to bury it and flee from it, to no avail. This thing that haunts you can’t be slain with a sword or banished with a spell. It might come to you as a shadow on the wall, a bloodcurdling nightmare, a memory that refuses to die, or a demonic whisper in the dark. The burden has taken its toll, isolating you from others and making you question your sanity. You must find a way to overcome it before it destroys you.

      Skill Proficiencies: Choose two from among Arcana, Investigation, Religion, and Survival

      Languages: Choose one exotic language (Abyssal, Celestial, Deep Speech, Draconic, Infernal, Primordial, Sylvan, or Undercommon)

      Equipment: A monster hunter’s pack, a set of common clothes, and one trinket of special significance

      Feature: Heart of Darkness:

      Those who look into your eyes can see that you have faced unimaginable horror and that you are no stranger to darkness. Though they might fear you, commoners will extend you every courtesy and do their utmost to help you. Unless you have shown yourself to be a danger to them, they will even take up arms to fight alongside you, should you find yourself facing an enemy alone.

      Harrowing Event:

      Prior to becoming an adventurer, your path in life was defined by one dark moment, one fateful decision, or one tragedy. Now you feel a darkness threatening to consume you, and you fear there may be no hope of escape. Choose a harrowing event that haunts you, or roll one on the Harrowing Events table.

    13. Thank you all for your kind words. Obviously, this is Fantasy India (or Rahasia), so whilst it uses the mythology of India, it is filtered through Western eyes. However, i've tried to stay true to it's roots, whilst still providing a setting that is interesting and exciting to adventure in. I'll email the file over when I get a chance. Now, who wants to be a Yeti hunter?

    14. me, me, me!!

  7. My daughter is the D&D player in my house so I'm not following the discussion. I only ever really read the forgotten realms books so......

    My next rpg will actually be Judge Dredd sorry guys

    1. Wise daughter then. And no worries Andy. And good luck with the JD.

  8. I'm sorry but I have to agree with Andy. I fell out of love with AD&D in the early 1990's and I can't see me ever getting back to it again. I'm massively into Judge Dredd right now. That said, I wish you guys good luck with your campaign, especially as it is something you love so much.

    1. I totally understand Bryan, though am confused. You say you fell out of love with AD&D in the 1990`s, but when Stevie went and got the D&D Adventure System Boardgames a few years back, you went and bought them too, right away?

      But absolute best of luck with your Dredd, I`m sure it will be super when its all painted and ready to go.

    2. I only bought the Ravenloft boardgame, Hil, and that was primarily because of my love of all things undead. Ravenloft was my favourite AD&D setting so it made sense to buy that particular one. Much as I enjoy that one boardgame, I am not tempted to buy any of the others.

  9. ah I get it now. I was confused there a moment lol.

    I`m personally very VERY interested in Cubicle 7`s new 5th edition D&D Middle Earth, but there is absolutely no way I would ever buy it. The moment you look into it you realise there are book after book after book coming out for this Middle Earth crossover to D&D, and you`d need them all to have a complete Middle Earth (very clever marketing ploy and a real money trap for us the customer if you commit to this game). But WHY I am (well, was) deeply interested is because it encourages Ravenloft be used for Angmar (the Witch King`s domain), and the D&D eastern lands of Kara-Tur and the D&D equivalent of Arabia (Al-Qadim) be used for Umber and the lands of the east. So this would have been of intense interest to us, as we are huge LotR buffs. However, the entry fee to jump on that band wagon with Cubicle 7 was just too prohibitive, sadly :(

    sorry for the waffle. I just saw the Ravenloft tie in, and lost myself to talk talk there for a moment.

    1. No need to apologise for waffling. It is lovely to see someone chatting so passionately about a subject they very much love. I can see your problem with Cubicle 7 and their money pit. That has to be a tough call for you. It would certainly make me think twice about committing to them or not.