DCC RPG 4th Edition First Impressions

It is finally in my hands! It is massive, and gorgeous. I could hardly be more pleased. I was an early backer of the kickstarter, and was delighted to see all the stretch goals being met. First I would like to get one minor criticism out of the way. On first open, I noticed that my slip cover has a crease and a slight tear in one corner. The packing box seemed a little inadequate. There, now I have made all the complaints I am going to make.

First the unboxing experience. The cardboard shipping box itself is handsomely stamped with a black DCC RPG Skull logo. I carefully slit the packing tape over the box-lid tabs, and eased them open. Beneath was revealed my Tome, in all it’s glory. I say Tome, because that is the best word for this phonebook sized piece of mammoth printing. As I said at the top, I immediately noticed the slight damage to the slip cover, and I could see that it corresponded to the slightly crushed corner of the packing box.

Beneath the main book, I found my extra (6) adventure modules, judges screen just as ordered. Also a handsome character-sheet cover (featuring Peter Mullen’s alternate cover art for DCC RPG 4th printing), a pad of character sheets for 0-levels (printed 4 up), and a single set of full sized character sheets one for each class option and one 4-up 0-level. Additionally, there were 3 large Skull logo print stickers, and two pages of participation stickers for judges to award to players, and finally a bookmark that included a 0-level character sheet printed on the back! All this cost me just $40 plus $12 shipping and handling. Apparently there are pencils, dice and a dice bag still to come. Yay!

I am extremely pleased with the swag, and its appearance.

The book itself looks fantastic, with the brightly printed slip cover, and elegant gold foil edges with the scalloped page indices. The book opens and lays flat easily – perhaps the best bound RPG book I have ever seen. It comes with not one but two bookmarks built in – perfect.

So far, I have read the character creation rules, and skimmed the rest of the book. I am still very impressed. Goodman games seem to have built the game I have been dreaming about for years. One where rules stay out of the way of creativity, but support a graphic and gritty game. They do not go out of their way to provide “compleat” coverage of all the possible issues in game – which is fine by me. What they do is provide enough rules to satisfy the basics, and leave a lot of room for the imagination.

There are no feats (which always bug me by essentially eliminating any creative player suggestions as to daring actions). Instead, there are mighty deeds for martial types. A Warrior or Dwarf can attempt any kind of additional action by a declaration (actions include but are not limited to trip, shove, disarm, blind), and checking the result of the d20 roll and the deed dice. The mighty deed succeeds if both the attack hits and the deed dice is 3 or greater. There – try whatever you like, no feat required. The game is both stripped down, and yet highly evocative. What rules there are seem carefully (and minimalistically) designed to support a certain type of game play. One that feels at home in settings as diverse as Tolkien’s middle earth, or Moorcock’s Melnibone. Zelazny’s Amber, or Howard’s Cimmeria. Which is right and fitting, since these are all mentioned in Appendix N.

Character classes are limited to Warrior, Rogue, Wizard and Cleric, plus Halfling, Dwarf and Elf (which are treated as classes).

I love how the magic system looks. I always wanted a system that felt like the one in the books such as the Dragonlance series featuring Raistlin – that magic is an effort, and takes something. Now every spell requires a check to succeed. Rolling a one risks corruption – your character may grow boils, or another deformity. Success may mean you get to recast the spell later. Failure may mean you lose the spell for the day. Great success means you do more with the spell.

There is a luck ability (and a mechanic). All characters can “burn” luck to avoid a bad situation. But you don’t want your luck to run out. Bad things will ensue. Rogues and Halflings have a simple mechanism to restore spent luck. Others – not so much.

Magic is intended to be rare, and special. There are no magic shops. Wizards can create stuff at high enough level – staffs (for themselves), potions, even swords – but they would be rare and probably owned by someone. All swords (for example) have personality. There are no plain “+1 swords”. Chances are your sword will want to kill someone or a whole race. Any magic item may draw the attention of the gods. Powerful items – more so.

Clerics can earn disapproval – failure is cumulative and can require penance. Alignment is on a simple Law – Neutral – Chaos axis; more concerned with actions than morality. Straying from alignment has more consequences for clerics than others (they must share alignment with their gods).

Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

A few years ago in 2012, before the release of 5th edition, I made a couple of posts about the failings of Wizards of the Coast to satisfy its’ market needs or wants, and the opportunity missed in sitting on the most important brand in tabletop RPGs. Then the strangest thing happened. I felt like the powers that be at Wizards were actually reading my blog. The new edition has been released, and the company policy and strategy seems to have re-aligned to tackle pretty much every criticism I made.

The 5th edition has been with us now for 2 years, and I have been surprised. Rarely does a company correct itself, particularly in matters of corporate culture (of which which I think scale and ambition is a crucial component). Wizards has satisfied itself with only the three core rule books in terms of game-crunch product releases. Those rule books (especially the Players Handbook) are probably the best and deepest ever released for Dungeons & Dragons, although the rules are noticeably streamlined from earlier editions. What is most significant, is the non-release of “splat” books. No “Player’s Handbook II”, or “Arcane Power”. What has been released are adventure campaigns, each with a specific theme. We have had Tyranny of Dragons line with Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat (Q4 2014), Elemental Evil with Princes of the Apocalypse and the Player’s Companion (Q2 2015), Rages of Demons with Out of the Abyss (Q3 2015), and Ravenloft with Curse of Strahd (Q1 2016).

The only “crunch” book since launch is the setting specific Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (Q4 2015), which is mostly fluff about the Forgotten Realms (bringing the data up to date with the latest events), and adding FR details such as factions, a few new class variations (such as Bladesinger, Purple Dragon Knights) and some spells.

This release structure is radically different from past editions. WotC has clearly changed strategy here, and has focused on a powerful core, and supporting ongoing play with professional adventures concentrated on one main setting. The RPGA has been reset as the Adventurer’s League with much success. Control of the adventurer’s league has been vested even more in its volunteers and players. WotC has also published an SRD, allowing 3rd party publishers to create accessories for the game under well understood rules. Another sign of their increased openness is the release of a “Fan Site kit”, allowing fan sites to use D&D logos and imagery to emblazon their web sites.

The rules themselves represent a more modern, streamlined game yet with all the old elements present, and a dialling back of the somewhat colourful mechanics and power creep of 4th edition. Something called “bounded accuracy” shrinks the power scale down to a fraction of past editions to offer a strong likelihood of meaningful adventuring at the game’s highest levels. The sacred cows have been resurrected (or preserved), whereas the more troubling mechanics have been streamlined or sidestepped.

I personally have had no trouble introducing the new game to newcomers, and veterans or returning gamers. The new two hour format of adventurer’s league games allows for even more casual play at game stores. I have noticed an attitude amongst hardcore pathfinder players of “I’ll just wait until they release some more splatbooks before I commit”, or “I don’t like what they did with X class”. However, those gamers who have always been flexible (“I’ll play whatever the DM is running”) have jumped in with enthusiasm. It is definitely recognisable as the same old Dungeons & Dragons, and it has definitely benefited from a face-lift.

I like the new Dungeons and Dragons. In fact I think it is the best release ever. I give it 5 stars. I take back my earlier predictions of doom and gloom for it. Wizards of the Coast themselves have adjusted – evolved even, and turned the tide with a product that may be well on its way to re-uniting the fractured strands of the community.

Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

Game design wish list

I am a fan of gritty game design, where death and madness may lie only a miss-step away. I am OK with magic – even high magic, but for me it might as well be off-stage. Some games I love include:

  • Pendragon
  • Traveller
  • 3:16 Carnage amongst the stars

I am a huge fan of Tolkien, but I feel that his world is too “done” and too closed to be viable for game design. I also like high fantasy – Elric and the eternal champion series, but the part I love is the character development and the internal tension between the desires of the hero and the motivations of their magical artefacts.

I like quirky worlds, like Mervyn Peake’s Gormengast, and some of Asimov’s creations from the Foundation series. I love classic and pulp such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells or Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In terms of system, I love systems whose mechanics reflect the character description and development (such as Pendragon), where acting in character is supported and encouraged directly by the mechanics, and acting out of character is a stretch that requires you to actively defeat the mechanics against the odds.

I do not like characters to be more limited than their creators – with few exceptions most players cannot play a character less intelligent or resourceful than they are themselves. It is one thing to play a character mightier than once is – it is no great stretch to understand that if one was stronger – one hits harder. However, it is difficult to know exactly what puzzles an unintelligent character could or couldn’t solve. Resolving this by dice throw seems somehow unsatisfying.

Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

Building a gaming table

We moved into our “new” 1930s built home a little over a year ago, and we had way too much furniture to begin with. As the place not only stayed cluttered but got more cluttered with time as we tried to buy our way out of clutter (with organizers and such), and my daughter gained new toys, my wife eventually gave in and we started selling excess furniture. As a result, our basement now has enough room to divide the “family room” into a gaming room and a modest play room for Maddy. Hence the title for the post. Hitherto we have made use of an old 30″ x 5′ table for gaming. It fills most of my available space (especially lengthwise), and has awkwardly placed legs. Meanwhile, I have always gazed in awe at the massive and beautiful gaming tables for the well healed shown at such places as Gencon.

Not having that kind of moola at the moment, I am thus tempted to “roll my own”. I firstly want to swap around a couple of design parameters from what I have seen. I want the player’s book/writing surface to be a little below the gaming/map surface. This would have the effect of making the map more accessible to everyone (reach being easier), and also it would isolate each gamer’s book and elbow space a little. I think we all know a gamer or two that takes all available space and then some more (and I am guilty of this as DM).

I think a 3’6″ x 5′ table will fit comfortably in my space. Looking at desks and my own table use, I figure a space about 18″ wide by 12″ deep for one’s books/character sheet, dice, pencils etc. would be just enough, isolated from the next player over by a plinth about 12″ wide – so in effect, each player would be 30″ on centre apart on a side.

I would want as much “in table” storage space as I could get – and having the centre plateau higher than the player spots would mean space under that raised surface. I would want the DM to have more space than the players, but each player would have a slot for books and characters, and a small drawer for dice, pencils, minis etc.

Of course the downside of such a structured table would be a fixed maximum capacity. My design has room for 5 players + DM. On the other hand, the existing table wouldn’t support more than that – when we have had more people, we press the main dining table into service. The basement room is just too small for a larger table. However, I can see from my early sketches how the tabletop could be made modular, allowing +2 spaces for each 30″ added on (from a base of 60″). I probably won’t build it that way, since I would not have room for an extension – but I can draw the plans allowing for the possibility. For support (legs), obviously one doesn’t want the legs to bump peoples knees. Either a central trestle that stays at least a foot in from the ends and edges, or a leg in each corner would work – I prefer the trestle, as its bracing would stay away from the knees, and allow for possible under-table drawers.

As a first run, I can design and build the surface portion and simply place it on my existing table for playtesting.

Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

Epic Death

The death mechanics in D&D, and many other games do not leave much in the way of options for role play. You are usually told you are incapacitated and unconscious, and a few die-rolls or rounds later, unless tended to, you will be more or less permanently dead.

Fiction, and even historical descriptions have much more interesting death stories. Dying blows (and simultaneous kills), lingering deaths, crippling injuries, deathbed speeches are all staples of lore. Here I introduce a simple table for adding a little colour to the story of your character’s demise.

At any time your character receives an injury or effect that would move their current hit point total into negatives, roll on the following table:

Roll Result
1 You are unconscious and automatically fail a death saving throw.
2 You are incapacitated and unconscious. The normal dying rules apply.
3-5 You are incapacitated but conscious. You can make Last Words, and the normal dying rules apply.
6-8 You are crippled, dying but conscious. You may take Dying Actions, but cannot stand or walk.
9-12 Although you remain up, you are bleeding out and the normal dying rules apply. You may take Dying Actions.
13-15 Your wound is mortal but slow. You may take Dying Actions, or you will die a Lingering Death over the next d20 minutes.
16-18 Although you remain up, you cannot survive the damage you have taken. You may take Dying Actions, or you will die a Lingering Death over the next d20 hours.
19 Although you remain standing, the damage you have taken will cause a Lingering Death over the next d20 days.
20 The attack somehow failed to penetrate your vitals. You are at 1 HP.

Dying Actions
The character remains conscious, and may continue to take actions. Each round the character remains conscious, he will lose one HP. Each move he makes he will lose 1d3 HP. For each action taken he will lose 1d6 HP and make a death saving throw.

Last words
The character remains conscious but incapacitated. She may speak, losing HP at the rate of 1 per round spent talking.

Lingering death and healing
The character will stop making death saves. Magical healing will stop the dying process as usual. Use of the healing skill (by another) may also halt the dying process – if successful. If untreated, the character will remain in the condition stated, and die after the time rolled.

Scarring and Disability

Once you have suffered a near death injury, you may be permanently scarred or disabled. If you have had to roll on the previous table, add the number rolled to another d20 roll and consult the following table.

Roll Result
1 – 2 You are permanently maimed. Heavy scarring covers a large part of your lower body. You are permanently slowed, reduce your Constitution score by 2.1
3 – 4 Heavy scarring covers a large part of your body, and your full strength never recovers. Reduce your Strength score by 2.2
5 – 6 Heavy scarring covers your arms and hands impairing your flexibility. Reduce your Dexterity score by 2.2
7 – 8 Heavy scarring disfigures your torso and your health is impaired. Reduce your Constitution score by 2.2
9 – 10 The after-effects of a head wound cause forgetfulness and distraction – lose 2 points of Intelligence.3
11 – 12 The after effects of concussion cause your behaviour to change – you take more risks and develop a nasty temper. Lose 2 points of Wisdom.3
13 – 14 Scars disfigure your face. Lose 2 points of Charisma.3
15 – 16 You are never quite the same. Lose 1 point of Strength.3
17 – 20 Your wind is impaired. Lose 1 point of Constitution.3
21 – 24 It hurts to extend. Lose 1 point of Dexterity.3
25 – 28 The blows to your head cause you to lose 1 point of Intelligence.3
29 – 32 The blows to your head cause you to lose 1 point of Wisdom.3
33 – 36 You have a noticeable scar that serves to give you a no-nonsense demeanour. Gain a +2 circumstance bonus to Intimidate.
37 – 40 There are no visible or invisible after-effects from your brush with death, except a great story to earn drinks with.

1 Regeneration will remove one of these afflictions per casting.
2 Regeneration will restore the affected attributes.
3 Restoration will restore 1 point of the affected attribute per casting.

Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

Behind the Screen: 5th Edition Mechanics

I was answering an objection to 5th Edition from a friend. Granted his objections were rather vague, but that does not make them less real. He was not comfortable with the replacement of BAB with Proficiencies. And he did not care for Archetypes such as Eldritch Knight replacing prestige classes. He felt that they removed some of his control of his character design.

This caused me to consider the design choices carefully in the light these objections. After all, they are both fairly radical departures in design (proficiencies more so, in my opinion).

So for BAB vs proficiency: in earlier versions there were 3 progressions of BAB or “proficiency” – good (fighter, ranger, pally), moderate (cleric, druid, rogue) and weak (wizard). Now there are just 2. Proficient, and non-proficient. As well, proficiency is vastly dialed down. The best progression (Proficient) goes from +2 to +6 at level 17. Non proficient just stays at a flat 0 throughout. Note that I am considering proficiencies as applied as a replacement for BAB initially.

Here are my ¢2 on why this can be a good thing.

  • Proficient characters will get better at things as they level up, but not to the extent that the scale needs to be moved.

    The differences in classes won’t be focused on doing their thing better, but doing it differently.

    By this I mean that the rogue will likely hit just as often as the fighter, but the effect (brutally cutting through armour, or defensively wearing down the enemy – vs. ruthlessly exploiting a weak spot for maximum effect) will be different.

  • Any magic item will still also remain very relevant (assuming that the old +1 – +5 scale remains).

    Interestingly, a first level fighter with a +4 magical sword could hit as well as a 17th level fighter without one, whereas in older editions, a first level fighter with the same sword would be about as good at hitting as a 5th level fighter.

    This answers one of my long term objections to the high magic variety of D&D is that a treasured item at say 3rd level gets tossed for the next shiny thing as soon as 7th level.

  • The overall power creep of the game is dialed down.

    Going from 1 to 20 BAB, down to 2 to 6 is a large magnitude adjustment. I think it makes the game FAR more likely to be playable for 20 levels.

  • The world does not need to be adjusted as you level up.

    What I am seeing here is that a 20th level wizard will not get better at jumping things than a first level one, unless he increases his attributes or uses some magic.

    Difficulty tables will be the same no matter what your level is!

For the question of base classes with archetypes replacing what used to be prestige classes.

So he was saying is that he would rather build a multi-class character leading towards a prestige character, than play a class which creates the target concept out of the gate.

I see no issue with that – it is a personal preference. That said, I also see nothing wrong in multi-classing as before. Perhaps you can multi-class two archetypes of the same class? (IDHTBIFOM).

However, concerning multi-classing and prestige classes, there was always a problem in prior editions with most prestige classes being too weak compared to others, or pretty much irrelevant. By the end of the day, only a very short list of prestige classes have remained decent compared to full on character classes (strong casters I am looking at you), or multi-classed martial types.

They always sounded good, but usually failed to live up to their potential unless for a pretty specialised campaign.

By basically creating the concept as a base class through an archetype, the designers have created a path to more balance and more playability, such that new material will be less likely to render a concept obsolete.

The down side is a lost concept. The idea of prestige classes always sounded cool. After many adventures, tuning and honing your skills – you could discover, or train into a new way. The exclusivity of joining a new club, gaining an unexpected range of new capabilities, or simply departing from the standard track of progression seems cool. I don’t know what Wizards have in store for us down the line. Perhaps prestige classes will come back in another form? The DMG might have some surprises in it.

Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

Dungeons & Dragons (Okay, okay, 5th edition)

I had occasion to run a couple of tables of the latest iteration of Dungeons & Dragons at a local convention here in Hamilton, Ontario – ConBravo.

I ran the beginning of the introductory adventure right out of the Starter Set, using the pre-generated characters. The first thing I will note is that as an experienced DM (of all editions), it was easy to run with a relatively cold start (I spent a total of about 2 hours perusing the rules, and I had played one previous play test version).

The player’s had a good time. Most comments were favourable about the game and the rules itself. Several people were quite relieved that the game was simple and fast. They were able to pick up on their character’s abilities quickly and easily. We only discovered one or two minor lacuna in the rules (situations which the rules did not appear to explicitly cover), which we quickly glossed over with the +2/-2 rule. Otherwise, the rules, while simple seemed surprisingly comprehensive. I must say, that the Basic Rules free download pdf is more complete than the rules in the Starter Set – providing rules for character creation for example.

What is the same?
D20s for determining success or failure. 20 levels with a continuous progression in capabilities. Iconic races and classes. Equipment remains more or less the same. Spells are largely recognizable. Saving throws have returned in modified form. Second wind (from 4th edition) in modified form, is now a fighter only capability. Initiative remains the same.

What has changed?
The mechanism for advancing capability character (progression) is revamped, while still being the level based system of old. All character classes share the same “proficiency bonus” progression, which starts at +2 and taps out at +6 in the higher levels. This proficiency bonus is added to the the roll for anything the character is proficient at, including attacks, spells, saving throws and skills. This implies that character classes are starting out from a balanced position. Differentiation will come from other sources than base attack bonus (which is now essentially proficiency bonus). Indeed, the fighter gains second wind, and additional attacks. Rogues gain sneak attack damage, Clerics and Wizards gain spells and other iconic class abilities.

The turn framework has been streamlined: one’s turn consists of a standard action and a move action. There are no “5 foot steps”. There is the withdraw action, which is a standard action that allows one to move out of combat without triggering an opportunity attack. There is no “Full round attack” (and there are no iterative attacks).

The skill system is revamped, with all skill-like abilities being tested against an ability check. If the particular action being attempted fits a specific skill the character is trained in, then the character may add their proficiency bonus to the roll. Character backgrounds add skills (sometimes as many as the class does). They are greatly increased in importance (as in from next to none, to some).

Saving throws can be based on any ability (and characters can be proficient in certain ability saves) – speaking of which, 4e players will note that the game has reverted to players making saving throws, vs the 4e style attack vs a fixed ability based defense.

There is an interesting new role-playing mechanic called inspiration. The player gets to choose a “hook” for their character. When the situation resembles the hook, the character can be inspired, which will confer advantage on a roll. I didn’t get to call this one out in our sessions – there was enough to do staying straight with the other rules. Not that they were complex, but when you are steeped in the lore of 5 or 6 editions, one can make assumptions that are not actually written in a particular ruleset.

What’s Missing?
Here I don’t mean “Hardcover Rulebooks”, or game content or even character classes and races. I mean that already there is a subtle, but very important omission that almost goes unnoticed at first glance. Item Creation. There are no item creation abilities, not even scrolls or potions. There is no Use Magic Device type skill. There is no class-list of items (so any class can use any item?).

Reading Mike Mearl’s 2012 blog on Item Creation, this certainly fits the design intent at that time – items won’t be required to keep characters on some power curve. That they will be special, and limited.

Will it please everybody? No way. Haters are gonna hate. I am a 4e fan, but my gaming group is already split by the edition wars, and I play Pathfinder and 4e in almost equal measures and in truth find neither fully to my tastes, although 4e comes closer especially in terms of convenience for quick setup (as a DM and as a player leveling up). While I personally don’t mind planning a character out over a dozen levels or so (and adjusting those plans periodically as certain items or situations show up), I have friends who are either terrible at it, or, like my wife, don’t consider it part of the game at all, and just want to get down at the table and kill things!

When all is said and done, I think it is a decent start. I am starting a campaign using these rules, based in the Eberron campaign setting (I have never cared too much for Forgotten Realms). I will blog periodically here about my experiences. The campaign can also be followed on Obsidian Portal.

Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

Towards a Better D20 Fantasy Game

So here is the task: make a d20 game, true to its roots, but more playable, and without the flaws of other systems out there.

  • Be instantly recognizable to a player of the D20 SRD or earlier D&D edition.
  • Allow for quick and easy preparation before the game: create viable and interesting characters in 30 minutes or less.
  • Allow for detailed customization without power creep.
  • Encourage creativity, tactics and role-play at the table.
  • Have swift combat resolution, in both TotM or grid and minis styles – target 30 minute combat with 5 typical players.
  • Be fun and playable over all 20 levels of character development.
  • Easy preparation for the DM – encounters should take no more than 30 minutes to set up and should provide an appropriate (predictable to the DM) challenge to the player characters.
  • Now I understand if folks out there feel that the game that meets their criteria is already out there and they are playing it – although I wouldn’t mind hearing from them too. This is for the folks who aren’t quite satisfied with the status quo.

    So, for you budding game designers: what other criteria for the next d20 fantasy RPG should I consider?

    Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

    Review – Marc Miller’s Traveller 5

    This is my hands on review of Traveller 5 by Marc Miller. I received my copy via subscribing to the Kickstarter project, as detailed in my previous “first impressions” blog post.

    Starting at page 1, the first thing I notice that is extraordinary is a list of those who are no longer with us. A list of gamers and writers who have made huge contributions to Traveller and since passed away – including Donald Rapp, the author of Scouts and Assassins, a supplement which I have to this day, and a tribute to Gary Gygax as founder of the hobby. A nice touch, in my view.

    I will follow this with a brief summary of each chapter, and then get into describing my impression of the detailed mechanics.

    Task Resolution (die rolling mechanics)

    The new system is similar, yet quite different. Gone are moderate = 8, hard = 10 etc. Now you roll under your ability (characteristic + skill) to succeed. And if the task is easy, you roll 1d6, moderate, 2d6, difficult 3d6 and so on. So the familiar d6 lives on, and the mechanic remains fairly simple, but quite different in practice.

    To add variability there is a new Flux mechanism. 1d6 – 1d6 generates a bell curve between -5 and +5 centred on 0. This is used to create variability such as quality, time, accuracy etc. Then there is good flux (subtract smaller from larger) and bad flux (subtract larger from smaller).

    You can take longer to do something, and reduce its difficulty. If something takes more dice than you have skill points, “This Is Hard!” kicks in, making it one category harder for you. If you roll 3 sixes, you succeed in some spectacular way, and if you roll 3 ones you botch it in equally dramatic fashion.

    I quite like how these variations look on paper. I look forward to seeing how they work out in game.

    Character generation

    There is some streamlining of character careers when compared to most modern Traveller editions, or even the classic with expansions, but there are a wide variety of basic types available. All types effectively come with advanced generation style options, so there will not be a big discrepancy between characters generated by different generators, or even different careers. The choices are little different than in prior versions – some being slightly broader in definition, so Soldier covers both Army and Mercenary – and Spacer would cover both Navy and Spacer from earlier editions.

    Career choices

    • Craftsman
    • Scholar
    • Entertainer
    • Citizen
    • Scout
    • Merchant
    • Spacer
    • Soldier
    • Agent
    • Rogue
    • Noble
    • Marine
    • Functionary

    Race selection

    Here is one place where we see the new philosophy being applied. There are no specific alien race frameworks for character building presented here. Instead, we have the sophont maker – a set of rules that allow for flexible creation of templates for intelligent beings as characters. As far as I can tell, each of the previous editions major races could be created using these rules – but those races are not presented (other than as historical or astrographical data).

    Equipment

    A wide but sparse list of items are given here – so characters could be reasonably equipped in short order. Again, rules are presented under “ThingMaker” to create new pieces of equipment of almost anykind. Vehicles, Guns and Armour are each given their own subsystem – VehicleMaker, GunMaker and ArmorMaker respectively.

    Combat

    One noticeable change is the definition of combat round – 10 rounds will be 10 minutes – but the text is deliberately vague on exactly how long a particular round is. Initiative is dealt with in a unique fashion – the “winner” can be negotiated, and gains a bonus in that if he hits a target, that target may not fire back that round. However, either way, all other enemies get a +1 mod against the first attacker (to show himself). Attacks are resolved using the task resolution system. Ranges are dealt with in an abstract sense using bands, so theatre of the mind is the default order of the day.

    Wounds are dealt with in a per-damage-type way, with some damage being dealt to the traditional physical stats, and other types being very specific. Hit locations are dealt with (at least for PCs) and wounding as always is significant and consequential.

    Starship design

    Again we see few concrete builds of starships (some iconic examples are provided), but no specific price and feature lists. The design and building rules are detailed, and one can create any class of ship from traditional sources, as well as have some whole new capabilities. Tech levels beyond 16 have been fleshed out in a much more detailed way (over prior editions) so it is (relatively) easy for the GM to create new alien or ancient technology.

    World building

    The core book has very little in the way of sector, subsector or star-system information. The complete world-building system is fleshed out, including some great detail on world mapping, population spread and demographics.

    Economics

    Conclusion

    Although huge, the core rules book is relatively light on encyclopedic specifics (races, starships, arms and armour) and heavy on meta-builders – rules to create new things. Gamers who delight in designing new ships, weapons, even races and monsters will find this book very much to their liking, and even perhaps the only text they need on the subject.

    I think we can expect the future to hold a slew of supplements which read like the Sear’s catalog (or the SuSAG catalog).

    Posted in gaming | Leave a comment

    Marc Miller’s Traveller 5 – First Looks

    My long awaited (kickstarter) Traveller 5 kit arrived in my cross-border drop off, and I hastened to pick it up yesterday.

    Here are my first impresssions.

    The book is big, and beautiful. at 654 pages, it is heavy, but well made and nicely bound. The cover is classic with the black background, red and white lettering and lines. The book seems very comprehensive, with loads of generators for specific things – obviously characters, starships, worlds, star-systems, vehicles, and adding guns, aliens, sophonts (including androids, clones, synthetics) – and a generic universal “ThingMaker” system. There is even an entire (short) chapter on the probabilities involved in the various die rolling mechanisms used (all variations and modifiers to the classic d6 mechanism).

    There are some very interesting concepts here, which will take some in depth study before I can really come to grips with them.

    Overall, I would say 4 out of 5 for presentation and layout (1 star deducted for some slightly primitive graphics, and some reproduction issues where the background of some line-images looks “dirty”). There are several pages at the end of full colour images of various starships in space and on planets. Throughout the book there are loads of tables (as always) and clear explanations for how to use them.

    5/5 for quality and binding (feels great, strong looking binding).

    Rules for character generation include the standard military types from classic traveller, and the newer more civillian types players of later editions are familiar with.

    I also received a CDRom, 4 dice (black, red, white and yellow) with futuristic (but highly readable) lettering within an imperial sunburst, and cards for membership in TAS, an imperial patent of nobility, two 25 Cr coins, and a specific Patent of Nobility (rank Baron) for one of my favourite player characters! Take that, mister GM. These were “swag” as rewards for my contribution to the kickstarter.

    I will post a more in depth review when I have completed my cover to cover read and played a few games – I think I will create that iteratively by editing and adding to the (new) blog post over time. I will add a link here for that review.

    Posted in gaming | Leave a comment