Friday, 11 July 2014

The Choice - 5E or B/X?

Although my blogging has not been as productive recently as it used to be when I first started, I still feel like keeping it going. Now that 5E has come out, I'm faced with a choice. Do I stick with B/X and it's OSR progeny, Labyrinth Lord, or do I change to 5E?

The thoughts that spring to mind include:
  • From what I've seen of 5E, it looks like quite a good system, not too far removed from previous editions. I feel I could work with it. 
  • Increased viewing figures for the blog. This is quite shallow, and I know it should not be important, but I cannot completely ignore it. 
  • There is the feeling of joining in with a whole lot of people in a common pastime. When a whole lot of people are enthusiastic about something, its easier to be enthusiastic about it oneself.  
  • In a previous post I mentioned having a simple core, with many options. I can treat 5E Basic Rules as the core, from which new options can spring. 
  • 5E Basic rules are free for download. I could easily stick to those and ignore the expensive hardbacks, as I suspect a few players and DMs will do. 


  • The B/X and Labyrinth Lord niche is quite small. As such I felt quite comfortable making suggestions and putting ideas out there. The rule of thumb is that the smaller the group, the less likely there will be some psycho who gets offended or gets mean about my efforts. 5E could involve thousands of players and DMs, and quite honestly putting ideas out there seems more intimidating. 
  • 5E is a new system which I am not familiar with. Yes there are some similarities and commonalities with other editions, but I'm still cautious and uncertain about some of the rules. I've had B/X for over 30 years. Maybe I should stick with what I know. Being told I've got the rules wrong can make me feel a fool, and put a dampener on any enthusiasm.
  • 5E is still in the process of being released, both in terms of the 5E Basic rules and the full rulebooks (PHB, DMG & MM). Should I be writing for something when my ideas could be rendered irrelevant or redundant because of official releases I am not yet aware of?
  • Although WotC is unlikely to get its legal knickers in a twist over blogs that do not make money, nonetheless, with Labyrinth Lord and 3.X I felt protected by the OGL. 5E does not seem to have that sort of license. 
  • There may be an ongoing interest in B/X and Labyrinth Lord regardless of 5E. I could carry on providing ideas for them. 
  • There are enough differences between 5E and B/X that I would feel the need to start a new world. Kaelaross is heavily dependent on the three alignment system, not nine, and assumes that the forces of Chaos are evil, and the forces of Law are good. 

Then again:

  • Maybe I am taking myself too seriously. This is a hobby, not a job. I am not getting paid for this, nor does anyone's lives or livelihoods depend on my blog. 
  • Starting a new world could be quite entertaining. 
  • The rules are not as important as having cool ideas. 
  • A lot of the rules between the editions are common enough that anything written for B/X can be converted (with a bit of thought) to 5E and vice versa. 
  • This is my blog. As I mentioned before, I am the primary audience. So what do I want to do? What do I think is fun?
  • With the emphasis away from strict rules and more towards optional rules, I may not need to stick to official 5E, and could do a sort of 5E/B/X mash-up.

Friday, 4 July 2014

My first impressions of 5E Basic Rules

I've just downloaded the 5E Basic rules here.
What I've seen looks pretty good. And it's free, at least the Basic version is.
Some observations that spring to mind:

  • Ability scores get bonuses like 3E. However, the default way of generating them is first choose race and class, then roll 6 stats (4d6 and drop lowest) and assign to whichever ability scores you wish.  
  • Demihumans all get +2 to one stat (Subraces get an extra +1 or +2 to another stat). Humans, however, get +1 to each stat. Is this balanced? Purely in terms of stats, no, but I suspect that other demihuman abilities (such as infravision) do keep things balanced. 
  • Quite a bit more flavour and fluff than I was expecting. This is not an SRD collection of rules but a proper book for DMs and players to learn about the game. 
  • There are many references to the Forgotten Realms, and a few to Greyhawk, Dragonlance and other campaign settings. 
  • Clerics are modified - no longer restricted to blunt weapons, they now use any simple weapon. Interestingly they don't use heavy armour, only light or medium armour. 
  • Only one domain is given for clerics, the Life Domain. Incidentally this domain allows clerics to use heavy armour. 
  • Fighters get Martial Archetypes, though only one is given, the Champion. 
  • Rogues also get Roguish Archetypes, and the only one given in the Basic rules is the Thief. 
  • Wizards get Arcane Traditions (perhaps similar to 2E schools). The one given in the Basic rules is Evocation.
  • The Nine Alignments are back! Thank goodness. I know not everyone likes or uses alignments, but what 4E did just seemed so wrong. 
  • Backgrounds include Acolyte, Criminal, Folk Hero, Sage & Soldier. These all have a big impact on equipment, skills and other aspects. 
  • Strength requirements for heavy armour? Interesting. 
  • Armour Class is ascending. 
  • Premade equipment packs allow adventurers to start quicker. 
  • Trinkets are a whimsical addition to equipment
  • Feats are mentioned as being in the PHB but are not part of the Basic rules. 
  • Multiclassing is sort of discussed, but certain details are left to the PHB. Enterprising DMs could probably house-rule it without the PHB. 
  • Proficiency Bonus becomes quite important. Still haven't worked out exactly how. They seem to crop up in all sorts of situations, particularly in skills and combat. 
  • Ability Scores get discussed in chapter 7, after race, class, alignment and equipment. Interesting choice. 
  • Saving throws get a short section, with no examples given. 
  • Rounds are 6 seconds long. 
  • Spell lists are reduced in size, as befits a Basic Rules set. I'm sure more spells will appear in the PHB. 
  • There is a blank 2-sided character sheet and an extra sheet for spells at the end.  

So for me this raises the question - do I stick with B/X Classic D&D, or make the jump to 5E ? I have not decided yet, but a new edition would benefit from a new campaign setting.