In case anyone's been wondering: yes, I'm still alive. I've been traveling; taking a family vacation. I won't belabor folks with tales about how wonderful it is...not when so many people around the globe lack the opportunities with which I've been blessed. But it's been fun and relaxing and a much needed break from daily stress. Especially for my poor wife, who's been asking for this for some three years now.
Now, some gaming news (while the rest of the family sleeps and while I sip coffee on a sunny lanai): I'm currently "learning" 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. I have reasons, which I will now explain.
Some time back...last year if I recall correctly...my son started a "D&D club" at his school. Interested children were many, and he began teaching them B/X and (later, this year) AD&D. He ran games for them, he did some stuff on-line. He would have the occasional boy or girl pal over to our home and have me run games for them. Many kids under the age of 12 have been introduced to the concept of Dungeons & Dragons through my family.
Unfortunately, we are living through the Plague Years, and running real campaigns with folks outside the family, with groups around a table, is a pretty tough proposition and what with "Zoom fatigue" has made such (mostly) a no-go. As playground recess is really too short to run sessions, my son has been stymied in his efforts to really get his game off the ground.
And yet kids (of course) want to play. And so they turn to their own parents. And their parents get them 5th edition. Because most parents aren't my son's parents.
Diego's buddy, Kieran, is one such kid. Over last summer his parents acquired the 5E books for him, and Kieran has been learning the game...has, in fact, been playing in a 5E game outside of school, from what I understand. And he now wants to try his hand at running his own game at school with a group of younger (4th grade) students who are outside the 5th grade D&D club, but who (again, so I've been told) own the 5E books and play 5E.
My son was, to say the least, annoyed.
I, however, told him to look at this as an opportunity. What, I asked him, do you enjoy more: playing D&D or running D&D? "Playing." So here is your chance to PLAY D&D...with your own friends/peers...and none of the stresses or responsibilities of having to be the DM. Here is your chance to play MORE D&D...and at this age, ANY D&D can be better than NO D&D. Stretch your imagination. See what a different DM has to offer. Learn things you might like, and things you don't, and file it away for the next time you run your own game.
"But it's 5E!"
Sure it is. And you've never played it. Maybe you'll enjoy it if you try...maybe you'll find you like it even better than 1E. Maybe you'll discover it's just a different way of role-playing: there are LOTS of RPGs all with their own systems. I've played (and enjoyed) many different RPGs over the years, and while I've come to my own conclusions about what is best in such games, my conclusions have been informed by my experiences. Till now, you haven't had the chance to build such experiences...why not jump at this one?
And so, after some reasoned conversations, Diego decided to put aside his pride and ask Kieran if he might play in his 5E game (and, of course, the answer was 'sure!'). So my kid bought his very own 5E PHB (with his very own money) and has been diligently reading the thing...back-to-front...while we've been on our vacation. A couple/three choice quotes from the kid:
- "There's, like, 107 pages of NOTHING here!" (referring to the excessive padding describing each race).
- "Tieflings seem like they were meant for people who just want to play 'bad guys.'"
- "I feel like this book is designed to make people lazier." (referring to how the text tells you what average hit points per level for each class is)
- "Even my equipment is supposed to have a background!"
That last refers to the 4th paragraph on page 143 which I will quote here as just an astounding block of useless padded text:
You decide how your character came by this starting equipment. It might have been an inheritance, or goods that the character purchased during his or her upbringing. You might have been equipped...as part of military service. You might even have stolen your gear. A weapon could be a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation until you character finally took up the mantle and followed in an ancestor adventurer's footsteps.
[or maybe I just bought the stuff in a shop?]
We've had a few loud guffaws at the inanities of the book, and I've done what I could to assuage his frustrations. He's only just finished the section on building a character and is FINALLY getting to the PLAYING THE GAME section of the book (Part 2, beginning on page 171), and he's excited to finally read some instruction on how the mechanics interact. I have a copy of the D&D Essentials rulebook with me (remember back when I purchased that?) but he doesn't want to read the abridged version of the rules...he wants the full monty. I'll be interested to his reaction.
Having read through the PHB5 a bit myself over the last few days, I will say this about it: it makes me excited to create a character. Which I'm sure is the point of the thing, but (to me) is a huge red flag. Because a D&D text should make you excited to play D&D, not just make characters.
Do folks understand that? I mean, the objective is to play D&D right? Shouldn't reading the books make me fired up to play? To go on (and experience) epic adventures? Or something?
The 5E PHB doesn't get me juiced up to play the game...hell, it doesn't even start explaining how to play the game until the second half of the book! But it does get me juiced to build a character: I see all sorts of potential with various fighter and rogue builds (battle masters? assassins? Right on!). Even a barbarian modeled on Frazetta's Death Dealer character would be pretty sweet. Yeah, I could happily tool around for hours making a whole host of various fantasy character types...that would be quite entertaining. I did a lot of that back in my 3E days as well. Hours of time wasting that had ZERO to do with actually playing the D&D game.
In addition to Essentials, the other D&D book I brought along on our vacation is my dog-eared copy of S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. I had this idea that I might convert the thing to 5E and try running it as a one-off, just to see how it works, and to help Diego learn the systems. But it's...mm. A bit difficult.
S4 is a GREAT AD&D adventure...very well designed, especially for (or in spite of) being a module that started life as a tournament scenario. The treasure haul is spot on for the recommended (tournament) party: more than 296,000 g.p. worth of monetary treasure in the Caverns proper, plus another 90K in magic item XP (769K in monetary value of "sold" magic items). That gives a potential range for a band of six PCs to get from 64K to nearly 177K (assuming survival), ensuring at least a level or two raise for characters of levels 6th through 10th. That's very cool...and very appropriate considering the level of danger in S4.
But 5E doesn't run on treasure. I'm not even sure what it runs on really. My reading would seem to indicate that the game is designed to engage players by A) helping them create a cool character, and B) presenting them with the opportunity to perform heroic actions (i.e. allow their cool character to do cool stuff).
So you get to play a starring role in some epic fantasy movie-ish game? Is that really it?
I suppose that's...um...neat, in it's own way. It's different from the way I play (or enjoy playing) this game called Dungeons & Dragons. It's a little off-beat even from 2nd edition's heavy railroads and 3rd edition's attention to mechanical proficiency. It really is a NEW iteration of the D&D game.
And a little weird. I was telling Diego the other day how one of the most boring things a person can be subjected to in ANY edition of D&D (since the beginning of the game's history) are stories of "how cool my character is." Nothing is more tedious, more nerdy, than being regaled with how "MY guy is UPTEENTH level and has a PLUS WHATEVER thing and was able to slay Orcus/Tiamat/Llolth/Etc. in such-and-such adventure(s)." No one wants to hear that. Mmm...slight correction: no one who's PLAYED the game extensively wants to hear that. We all have war stories, and it's fun rehashing events that happened in past game sessions...but the focus of such banter is (generally) about what happened or what was accomplished or how someone met their end or how someone else triumphed. NOT "how cool my guy is."
5E seems geared to giving you a really cool guy.
That wasn't the focus of the prior four(ish) editions of the game. Originally the focus was on adventuring. The second edition drifted into a game about playing out (the plot of) epic storylines. The third edition had a focus on system mastery, such that you could work the various game mechanics to your advantage; in this way, it shared similarities with the Magic card game of its new publishing company. 4th edition focused on combat mechanics to the exclusion of all else.
This ain't ANY of that. Which is weird. BUT...I won't call it uninteresting.
Okay, I'm out of time for writing (people are waking up). That's the update. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and I am 99% sure that I'm going to be giving up all things "blog-related" for 40 days. Yeah, that's pretty wild...a blog fast. I will still be answering emails and whatnot. Hopefully, I'll get up one more post before I turn out the light.