Friday, April 29, 2022


So, yeah...after very little deliberation, I've decided to re-write DL2: Dragons of Flame for use in my home campaign. As has been detailed ad nauseum (here and elsewhere) the thing has problems, most due to DragonLance in general (duh) some for stuff I just find a little nonsensical; for example, there are not one but TWO chambers containing a huge, ancient red dragon, but no easy means of egress/ingress for either (no treasure hoard in their lairs either).  


However, I rather like the Big Bad Leader, "Verminaard" (well, except for his name). I'll admit I'm a fan of "dragon highlords" as a concept anyway, but an evil 8th level patriarch battle commander is right in my wheelhouse. 

[remember I'm also a fan of Jagreen Lern]

But the "battle commander" is the important bit. Waaaaaay back when I was a kid, before I even knew there was such a thing as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" I don't remember ever having a cleric in our games...not until I got my hands on the Mentzer/Cook Expert set. Remember that my understanding of "D&D" as a concept was mostly informed by playground gossip/play (which featured fighters, magic-users, and assassins), the Dungeon! board game (elves, heroes, superheroes, and wizards), and the occasional comic strip advertisement (which, to that point, had yet to feature "Serena the Cleric" or whatever her name was). 

[films like The Hobbit, Clash of the Titans, and various Sinbad films also played a role in my understanding of "fantasy," of course]

But the cleric class? Um...huh? Doesn't really seem like Friar Tuck does it? Certainly didn't seem like my parish encounters with "the undead" at a young age were mainly limited to the occasional Dracula re-make on parents did NOT expose me to a lot of horror stuff.

And so, since I didn't have a good grasp on the concept...well, it didn't see action in my games either. 

However, this changed when I got the Expert set. All Moldvay wrote as a description was:
Clerics are humans who have dedicated themselves to the service of a god or goddess. They are trained in fighting and casting spells. As a cleric advances in level, he or she is granted the use of more and more spells. However, clerics do not receive any spells until they reach 2nd level (and have proven their devotion to their god or goddess).
Yeah, why would I want to play THAT instead of an elf?

The Expert text, on the other hand, gets things fired up:
At the first 3 levels of experience, the power of a cleric is extremely limited. As characters advance to higher levels...[they obtain more spells of greater power, having proven their faith to their god or goddess. Because of this, it is very important for clerics to be faithful to the beliefs of their religion and alignment. Should a cleric behave in a manner that is not pleasing to his or her deity, the deity may become angered and punish the offender. This punishment could take many forms...[examples]. The DM may decide what punishment might be in such a case. To regain the favor of the deity, a cleric might find it wise to donate money and magic items to the religion, build a church or temple, gain large numbers of converts, or defeat some great foe of the religion...
All that is heady, world-building stuff. This isn't just some dude with a list of healing spells and a weapon restriction...dude's got responsibilities to a god (or goddess). Failure indicates consequences! Compliances yields great rewards (like fanatically loyal FREE troops, and half-price strongholds!)! DMs are given major leeway to punish and persecute such characters, sending them on quests, whatever-whatever.

The first new character rolled up using the Expert rules (for my buddy Matt) was a cleric. I made sure of that. And because I was 10 years old and had no patience for waiting for someone to reach "name level," he was created as a 9th level character with a troop of devoted fanatics and a small stronghold. His first adventure: he and his men were ordered by his god to enter the desert and confront a blue dragon in its lair. Now, forty years later, I can't remember how the mission turned out (I suspect there was a lot of death by electricity), but I'm sure it was glorious. I know this: for the rest of the time my original group hung together (about five years, mostly AD&D), Matt nearly always played a cleric of some sort.

Fast forward to today.

I have some pretty solid opinions on the cleric class, basic assumptions on what it is, how it works/functions, and the justifications for various systems. These "solid opinions" have definitely changed/evolved over time, and I would happily enumerate their current standings if I thought anyone would really care terribly (I don't). However, I previously mentioned that one of my Lenten activities involved curating the PHB spell lists, and since the clerical list was the FIRST one I culled (and because it somewhat applies to Verminaard), I thought I'd detail a little of that particular bit.

In brief: I'm not using alignment these days. Lots of reasons for that. Nor am I using Deities & Demigods in my game, except for its rules on ability scores outside the normal range (and I'm thinking of cutting those as well). What then are clerics, and how do they function? Are they just a different type of spell-caster (i.e. another magic-user with a different list of spells and a different set of weapon/armor restrictions)?


They are still clerics...priestly types, in other words. But there is no pantheon of deities/alignments to choose from. There are acknowledged "lords of light:" life-giving, creator gods (or God, depending on the particulars of one's religion). Clerics have access to a standard list of spells based on healing and protection and generally all the (non-reversed) usual spells available in the PHB. They don't get to animate dead or cause wounds or slay living creatures...none of those powers are granted by the lords of light. They are tasked with spreading light, fighting darkness, making a better world for all. 

Pretty simple, pretty straight-forward, pretty easy. It's more-or-less "acting in aid of The Good" which doesn't necessarily mean killing orcs and building fact, sometimes it means saving orcs and destroying civilizations. But well-fed, harmonious communities growing in wisdom and acting with simple kindness to each other is...generally...the desired end result.

Then there are the anti-clerics.

Some folks just don't want to get along with others. They'd rather subjugate and destroy, dominate and command others and aggrandize themselves. Rather than follow the lords of light, they pray to diabolic or demonic powers, who can grant them many of the same powers. Many, but not all. 

Anti-clerics in my campaign world are clerics with a different spell list. They still have some of the lower level healing spells, but for the most part they use ONLY the reversed spells found in the PHB. The dark gods aren't big on creating light and life; anti-clerics cannot raise the dead for example (although they can animate corpses in a gross parody of life). In simple terms, anti-clerics are bad apples who, for whatever reason, have decided they'd rather have the power to inflict fear and death on others, though losing their soul in the process.

The whip is not an
edged weapon.
This then is Verminaard (or rather Hanse Werner...that's his name in my game world). Being an 8th level patriarch he has his own band of loyal followers (who will take the place of various draconian and hobgoblin denizens of Pax Tharkas). Seeking to carve out his own small kingdom, harboring ambitions of grand conquest, he works to rebuild an ancient elven fortress, from which he can launch attacks (especially raids for slaves and supplies) on the local communities. Control and conquest is his aim.

An adventure for 1st level characters.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Pipe Dream

So, I've decided I want to write a new book. About how to play Dungeons & Dragons. to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

[just changed the title of this post...fits better]

I am guessing this news will meet with very little fanfare or excitement...and that's okay. My normal blog readers already have a pretty good grounding (I believe) in the D&D game...or even if they don't (or play it in a different style from myself) they are experienced enough and/or set in their ways enough that such a work would be less than truly useful.

Likewise, most of the younger, hipper generation who are all about the 5E, or the Pathfinder, or the Powered by the Apocalypse, or the Into the Odd, or whatever...they are surely likely to find very little of value in such a tome.

That being said...

That being said, posting long essays on my blog about Big Concepts or a New Paradigm or blah-blah-blah...even when linked by some universal theme is...well, it's not the same as throwing a book out into the universe. Hear me out for a second: a book might be read, it might not be, it might be passed around, loaned, borrowed, picked up, stolen, found on a shelf, in a library, in a gas station restroom...anywhere. It's a piece of thought given concrete form that might be useful in the present, or some years down the road when it is discovered at a yard sale or in a used book store. 

This blog...who knows how long it will exist? I blog at the pleasure of blogger. It could disappear tomorrow without a trace, all its content being lost the way everything on G+ vanished into the ethers. *poof* I was never much of a presence (or reader) on G+, but there are other forums / internet thinktanks that carried long spiels written by Yours Truly that have disappeared and (as far as I know) gone forever.

For all its appearance of permanence...Ye Old Blog is more likely a transitory, temporary phenomenon.

SO...a book. On D&D. Advanced D&D. That's my new project. Wrote up a tentative table of contents today...should amount to somewhere between 150 and 240 pages. Which is too long, of course (for this day and age where folks don't read)...but I can always do an audio podcast of the chapters for the literacy-impaired types.

Everyone needs a hobby.

Yeah. Mark it down. 4/27/2022. Started work on the grand opus. I mean, we really don't need another retro-clone do we? Let's just teach people how to play the game that already works.

I promise I'll let folks know when it's done. Just in case they want a copy for their shelf.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Easing In

One of the real downsides of taking any extended break from blogging...or perhaps writing in the tendency to lose your train of thought. 

I had a busy weekend (no need to talk about it...the rest of my week and the coming weekend is going to be even busier. Not talking about that either). Looking back through my recent archive posts, I found some good stuff, good threads I was on, good discussions (in the comments) being had. I suppose not everyone was buying what I was selling last September / early October, but re-reading it I think I was communicating my thoughts pretty effectively. Same with the stuff at the beginning of 2022 (January and February) before my voluntary hiatus.

But blogging (and writing) is a muscle, and being away from the keyboard has led to some atrophy. Probably doesn't help that I haven't had much sleep the last couple days (going to rectify that tonight!). So, rather then get back into my discussions of "world building" or "fundamental D&D" (subjects to which I plan on returning), I think I'm going to need to start a little slow...and ramp up.

Friday's post on "Change" was a bit of table setting. I'm an AD&D guy right now. I know, I know...cue the usual complaints about labeling, edition wars, etc. But it matters, folks. When a guy spends more than a decade writing a couple thousand essays about B/X for a blog called "B/X Blackrazor," it's not just because he's writing for just ANY kind of D&'s a pretty specific ruleset. And, while much of what I've written can be applied to other forms of D&D, that really wasn't my intent. My intent was to pump up B/X, and I think I did a pretty decent job of it.

NOW...well, now I'm doing something different. 

Now, my going to be squarely on the Advanced game. So much so that I may need to do a little re-branding 'round these parts.


ANYway. "Easing back." I don't want to jump right back into the big Big Picture stuff just yet. Need to polish the chops a bit. So I'm going to write up some of the AD&D stuff I've been thinking about / working on the last couple months (while I was off-line). At the moment, I'm considering how best to start though...are readers interested in specific classes? Spells? AD&D combat stuff? The trials and tribulations of running 1st level characters? Or just a bunch of stuff that AD&D does right from the get go? Regarding the latter, there's quite a bit...might need to break the subject up into a couple posts.

In case it's unclear, I'm open to suggestions/requests. I don't have any recent stories from my own campaign to tell, because everyone is dead at the moment (again) and things aren't settled enough at home to fire up a new batch of would-be adventurers. Though I'm really, really considering a re-skinned version of DL2 as an introductory adventure (yes, for first level characters. See GusL's thoughts on the module for some cursory ideas). That should be fun...especially the treasure room full of gold bullion in the catacombs below Pax Tharkas (an interesting logistical puzzle there!).

All schedule and tired eyes are both conspiring against me at the moment. More later.

Friday, April 22, 2022


Yesterday was my daughter's 8th birthday. It was a lot of fun, lots of crazy kids running around, enjoying themselves. A house full of 2nd grade girls, doing crafting projects, making tortillas, playing hide-n-seek, breaking pinatas (well, one pinata), etc. Fun, fun, fun.

And, of course, a time for reflection and nostalgia when (later, after the guests had left) my daughter and mother and I went through photos from 2014 when she had just been born and was still a little red-faced babe with a spiky mohawk. *sigh* Change. So inevitable. So times.

My D&D journey has taken me back to the beginning of my personal history, now that I'm (pretty exclusively) playing first edition AD&D. To an outside observer I can understand how my adherence to that old edition of the game can seem like a curmudgeonly way of clenching my fists and trying to hold tight to some piece of history, resisting the inevitable march of change...of progress. I can see how the AD&D aficionado must often seem like dowager Lady Grantham pining for the pomp and tradition of the previous century (sorry...the fam has been rewatching the Downton Abbey series for, like, the third time through). 

Image of the inner
soul of a typical
first edition gamer.
But that's...not quite right. Nor is it simple nostalgia, nor is it the flighty/flakiness of the gamer of a person unwilling to commit to a single version and must constantly play and try other games. These things...obstinance, nostalgia, flakiness...are certainly present in me (all to a great degree, actually), but that's not what's going on here. And I want to talk about just what IS going least from my perspective.

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, German AD&D enthusiast Settembrini recently interviewed Trent Foster Smith (in English) for his Zock-Bock-Radio podcast. Trent's been doing the AD&D thing for a long, long time, and I think some of his insights on that edition are pretty spectacular (and, no, I'm not just talking about the bad AC numbers in the MM). However, he and Settembrini both seem to have some blind spots about B/X, its appeal, and why it seems to have taken such a strong hold on the "old school" D&D community, especially through the OSE (Old School Essentials) clone. Let me start with that, as B/X is a large and significant part of my journey.

The main difference between my beginning in the hobby and other folks starting around the same time is that I came to the game through Tom Moldvay's Basic set (the "B" of B/X) NOT the Frank Mentzer authored, two volume hand holder that started the BECMI odyssey of completeness. I would agree with Trent's assessment of the basic game feeling too staid and closed (as a system) compared to AD&D...if the discussion were limited to a comparison between Gygax's opus and Mentzer's series. But Mentzer's series...despite the B and E containing near identical content to the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B and X are quite different in terms of scope and tone. That "fuzziness around the edges" that Trent finds so inviting of addition and extrapolation is likewise found in the B/X books...books of a series that were never completed (they author's talk about a forthcoming "Companion" book that was never published until the series was re-booted by Mentzer with a shift in focus, direction, and...for my demographic). 

This is why...when I returned to "serious" D&D play, I came back to B/X rather than AD&D. Both B/X and AD&D have the ingredients that inspire. Both have the fuzziness to invite additional (design) exploration. Both of them are fairly simple to run (one more so than the other). And of the two, B/X is far more accessible to the Average Joe or Jane. That's why, when teaching the game to others, I always start with the B/X system (or Labyrinth Lord, back before B/X became readily available) is a far easier method of ingraining the basic premise and understanding of the game before moving into any sort of "advanced" play.

But as a game, B/X is limited. Sure, all D&D is limited...because there are only so many words you can put down in a text/manual and the human imagination quickly and easily surpasses the scope of that which is contained in the books. But B/X's limitations...which I found so charming and that opened so many possibilities ten years ago (back when I was writing my B/X Companion, The Complete B/X Adventurer, and blogging other material for the B/X system)...its limitations stop short of what AD&D offers, namely expanded campaign play. And while the open-ended nature of B/X certainly leaves space to develop that extended campaign play, AD&D's robust system already offers a paradigm for such, including extensive play-testing to resolve (or at least make note of) flaws of design that require addressing.

The world building cosmology on display in the AD&D books is the thing that's missing from B/X and its clones (including LL, OSE, etc.). AD&D shows the evolution of the mindset that is required to continue compelling D&D play. You see it in the extensive world-building of all three core books:
  • The MM: the hierarchies of demons, devils, the congress between lower plane denizens (night hags and their trading in souls), elementals, the various sub-races of elves and halflings, etc. and the various tribes of orcs (with their siege equipment and above-ground villages) and men (dervishes and pilgrims and whatnot).
  • The PHB: you see it in the bardic colleges, the druid and monk hierarchies, the "guilds" of thieves and assassins, the economy hinted at via the equipment lists, the sketches of the inner and outer planes and their cosmology, and various hints here and there (which races can be psionic, which races may NOT be resurrected, etc.)...all things which say SOMEthing about the world.
  • The DMG: an opening into the inner workings of the Gygax mentality regarding campaign construction and world building and yet again MORE examples of world building through the extrapolation of PHB material and the inclusion of more legendary items (artifacts and relics and whatnot) from the author's own campaign and imagination.
Without this evolution...without this attention to world building...the game becomes tired. It becomes just a matter of how one can run tricks and tart the thing up, creating new classes, creating new monsters, adding new (minor) rule tweaks and systems...none of which amount to deepening or enriching the play experience. Instead, it only amounts to sitting down at the table and saying, "well, what's our adventure tonight?"

Advanced play engrosses the participants in a way that basic play does not.

You can see this in the difference between the introductory modules T1 (for AD&D) and B2 (for Basic). T1: The Village of Hommlet spends an enormous amount of space (some would say an inordinate or excessive amount) on the village proper...its history (old and recent), its inhabitants, its various factions.  Who cares? The B/X player cries. Where can I buy a two-handed sword? When do we get to the dungeon? This is, of course, the basic approach to the does not invite players to live in the fantasy world or engage with it in more than a cursory manner.

The advanced version of the game does. And while DMs can take what B2: The Keep on the Borderlands offers and extrapolate from it, breathing life into the module, detailing the Keep's denizens, imagining the factions that might exist between Cave denizens, and the secret histories that connect various wilderness encounters with each other and the wilder world...well, most don't. It's more work than what's's more effort than the need for what the adventure was designed (i.e. an introduction to the game, its systems, its premise, etc.). It is a great introduction to the basic game...for both the players AND the DM. But trying to back-engineer it for advanced play...well, that's an interesting thought experiment, but you might as well be developing your own world.

[see, that's the part that (I think) the Greyhawk aficionados miss. DMs who dive deep into the Greyhawk lore for inspiration are, in a way, still playing just a LARGE version of Basic, juggling all the moving parts of someone else's campaign some sort of mega-normous wilderness/dungeon combo. Not all of them, of course, but...well, that's a post for another time]

I got back into old edition D&D after realizing that there was nothing really preventing me from going back and playing old edition D&D except (perhaps) the need to find willing players. Previously, I had some sort of "block" about this idea of playing "old" games. I chose B/X because it was a well-written, well-designed version of the D&D game that, while streamlined and sensible, left enough out to still fire the imagination and not shut down possibilities with what happens after level 14 (as did Mentzer's BECMI series and the later Rules Cyclopedia compilation by Aaron Alston). 

B/X alone no longer satisfies this point, only Advanced play will do. And I have settled on the 1E rules as my vehicle/delivery system of choice for that type of play experience, as later editions seem to have missed the point, instead worrying about appealing to the changing gamer demographic, most likely due to, you know, the need to make money as a business:
  • 2E tried to tell heroic stories (and sell novels/book series)
  • 3E created complex systems that incorporated universal principals and unique character builds.
  • 4E was designed to emulate MMORPG play/terminology (especially World of Warcraft)
  • 5E ORIGINALLY attempted to appeal to as many prior gamer generations as possible, seeking to reclaim market share/brand identity by reaching out to individuals who felt alienated by earlier editions and create the One Great Compromise edition. However, due to the overwhelming popularity of the video series Critical Role (and its imitators) 5E continues to morph in a direction that is more about...well, something else. Storytelling, grandstanding, performance art...I don't know. I don't really want to dig into it. It appeals to some folks...that's fine; do you. That's not what/why I play D&D.
To draw this post to a close, I'm not playing first edition AD&D because it's the game I played as a kid (I did play it as a kid, which has given me insight into just how the game is played and its potential greatness). I am not playing AD&D because it is some mark of prestige or curmudgeonly badge of honor. I'm not playing it because its systems are perfect or elegant or the height of RPG design theory. And I'm not playing it because it's the edition with which I have the most familiarity (that would probably be B/X).

No, I'm playing AD&D because I've changed my mindset about what I want from this game and what I want from this hobby, and the 1E books deliver this in a method and manner better than any of the other editions. Its root and core is sound; its author, for all his faults and flaws, was able to convey the experience of advanced gaming in a way that I have yet to see equalled (which, considering the quality, may be a sad statement about the RPG industry).

Change is uncomfortable...and inevitable. More changes, I'm sure, will come. And I'm sure this blog will continue to document my own. Cheers.
; )

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Stupid Of 5E

So in an attempt to "lighten the mood" (blogger just deleted a rather long comment I was scribbling re the conflict in Ukraine...I'll take that as "a sign"), I'm going to go ahead and denigrate the current edition of D&D for a bit. 

[how is that lightening the mood? Because my readers appear to enjoy my rantings like a crazed lunatic and, in the end, it doesn't matter terribly whether one finds an edition of Dungeons & Dragons to be "cool" or "crap." It's just a it if you like, or don't. Besides, venting appears to be good for the spleen or something]

*ahem*'s the deal: a couple posts back, I wrote about how my child purchased the 5E PHB (with my approval and blessing, though with HIS money, not mine) in order to learn the new system for a game his friend intended to run (said game never having materialized...they're 11 years old, you know?). Well, he read the book and pretty much hated a lot of much so that even when I offered to buy a copy of the DMG and MM and actually run the game he vehemently rejected to offer out of hand. 

[I have little doubt the boy would slap Satan in the chops if Ol' Scratch appeared on the road with a bag of temptations]

Anyway: I'll admit I was slightly disappointed, just because I was curious to see what would happen if I actually ran the game in the manner to which I've become accustomed...

[just by the way, I've done so little writing the last couple-three months, I'm finding my typing skills to be woefully rusty...I keep misspelling words and hitting the wrong keys and generally annoying myself. Sorry, but that needed to be vented, too...]

...a playstyle that is most assuredly NOT the type currently in fashion with the New D&D crowd. 

However, I only felt comfortable making my offer because I'd been reading the books (the DMG on-line) co-currently with the boy, doing my own studying. And I decided, early on, that I would keep a running list of all the stupid found in the 5E game. Seriously, I just started a running list on my phone's Notes app called "5E Stupid." It was last updated 3/20/2022 at 9:04 am. For posterity (and so that I can delete the thing off my phone) and for my own amusement, I present it here.

In no particular order:
  • Eldritch bolts (cantrips in general)
  • Cost of normal plate armor = cost of gauntlets of ogre power PLUS immovable rod PLUS helm of telepathy (economy)
  • Wights > Specters (and no energy drain in the game)
  • 300 days to craft plate armor (economy)
[if there's a common thread, it's the host of issues with the fantasy economy of the game. The game design seems more of arbitrary, video game economy than anything based or grounded in reality. For example, it's an easy Google search to find information on the historical forging of plate armor and, NO, it did not take ten months to manufacture. When designing a living, breathing campaign world, these details become important and their missteps become glaring]
  • Less XP needed to get from 11th level to 12th level than from 10th level to 11th level (total arbitrariness)
[again, this is just sloppy, nonsensical design]
  • Hellish rebuke (3d10 damage, 60' cantrips available to all tieflings of 3rd+ level)
  • Humans demonstrably weaker than every other race in the book (no skill proficiencies, spells, abilities, etc. for a cumulative bonus of +1.5), promoting a non-human-centric game.
[i.e. not D&D as originally conceived]
  • Staff of Withering (non-magical magic)
[again, this note...these are all just notes...requires some explanation. I'd invite unfamiliar folks to read the original description of this magic item as presented in Book 2 of the LBBs, or even the description from the DMG: so much potential for one's game, so many plots and ideas that can stem from the consequences of its use, whether against the players or prominent NPCs, so much FLAVOR in a single item of enchantment...powerful, fairy tale stuff. Contrast that with the 5E version:
The staff can be wielded as a normal quarterstaff. On a hit, it deals damage as a normal quarterstaff. and you can expend 1 charge to do an extra 2d10 necrotic damage to the target. In addition, the target must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or have disadvantage for one hour on any ability check or saving throw that uses Strength or Constitution.
That's it. That's all it does. Fail a save and you have disadvantage for an hour. The damage inflicted by the thing doesn't even do as much damage as the hellish rebuke that can be cast at will by any tiefling of 3rd level or higher. Were the designers actually trying to strip all the magic and wonder out of the D&D game? Their staff of withering is but one example]
  • Adamantine plate armor is cheaper than normal plate armor (as an "uncommon" magic item, its value is only 500 gold pieces, compared to plate armor's 1,500 g.p, value).
  • Limits of "attunement" (attuning magic items in general).
  • Evil high priest cantrips (spare the dying or chill touch are the only available options...which is appropriate)
[can't remember what I meant by "appropriate;" I think I meant it sarcastically with regard to spare the dying]
  • Average shopkeeper earns 36.5 g.p. per month (after expenses and paying salary of employee); cost for "aristocratic lifestyle" is 10 g.p. per month (making every baker and shoemaker an aristocrat).
  • Medieval bakers would be expected to bake/sell 80 (4 pound) loaves per day. To earn the AVERAGE shopkeeper income (not profit), a 5E baker would need to sell an AVERAGE of 3,475 loaves per day (2 c.p. isn't  a bad price given that 2-3 english pennies...1/240th of a fairly similar). Considering that a medieval village of 2,500 people could expect to host four bakers (and each medieval person ate roughly 1# of bread per day), that's a surplus of 11,400 pounds (more than 5.5 TONS of bread per day)...even assuming NO ONE is baking their own!
  • True polymorph allows for substantial creation of wealth (by bards, warlocks, wizards) unlike the limitations of the wish spell.
  • Wraiths > specters; wraiths only CR 5, specters CR 3.
[ha! I repeated myself. But to be fair, I was rather flabbergasted by this change, not to mention the nerfing of such (previously) feared undead phantoms]
  • All damage is attrition (HP) based; purple worm poison, or being swallowed (for example) simply do "damage" of various types. 5E appears to have a phobia of "save or die" effects.
  • AT THE SAME TIME "revivify" becomes available as a 3rd level spell (for clerics of 5th+ level) with raising carrying NO penalties, so long as the spell is used within 1 minute (10 combat rounds in 5E) of death, for a minimal (300 g.p.) cost.
[two notes: the 5E version of the vorpal sword DOES retain (somewhat) its auto-kill effect so kudos (I guess); also 300 g.p. may NOT be all that's difficult to tell with the general wonkiness of the 5E economy. However, the point remains that for a game that appears to fear PCs inadvertently dying, it sure is easy to bring folks back from the dead]
  • If you can attack me, I can attack you (re: "reach" from larger creatures).
[this was with regard to combat maneuvering. If a troll...or going to swipe at me with a long arm, it doesn't matter that I'm armed with a dagger instead of a spear. If he can "touch" me, my weapon can touch him. His effective range is zero because he's unarmed..."reach" should only come into play when using weapons (like a pike versus a knife)]

Aaaaand...that's where my notes end. They could have continued, but I think 3/20 was around the time I decided there was no use examining it further when no one in our home had any desire to play the thing.

Folks should note that ALL of these things are complaints I had with regard to actual DESIGN...there's plenty of "stupid" (IMO) regarding the way the game is written, choices of aesthetic, of focus, etc. But these decisions of design...things like the way the crafting or finances or spells or magic items are handles...are things that I see undermining any type of meaningful (or satisfying) long-term play using the 5E system. They were things I found so striking that I felt compelled to jot them down.

Of course, people DO play 5E, and have been playing it for years, so it's not really appropriate to stamp it with any type of "failure" judgment. The game has been its general aims (reclaim market share, generate returning consumers, make lots of money). It's also, clearly, not my cup of tea. 

All right, that's enough for now (deleting page of notes...and...done!). The next couple days are going to be pretty busy for me, so for folks looking for content, take a listen to Settembrini's podcast interview of Trent Foster Smith. It's about three hours long and has some fascinating insights, as well as some things I wouldn't mind addressing in my next (hopefully soon) blog post.

Later, Gators!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Rising Again

All right, I'm back. 

Mostly. It is Easter vacation, after all, so my kids are home this week (Catholic schools in the USA do Spring break after Easter/Holy Week, as opposed to during like some countries), which means I'm on entertainment duty. Still, it's raining at the moment, so they're allowed to play on my old XBox.

Even without the blogging, it's been a pretty busy few weeks. Gaming-wise, I'll go ahead and start with this: we didn't play any 5E. I did enough reading that I could probably run the system (though perhaps not super effectively), and I offered to run it for my kids. Both (especially my son) vehemently balked at the idea. Diego has a character or two made, in case his buddy ever gets around to actually running the game (he hasn't yet), but despite being willing to play (to be a good friend or whatever) he has zero desire to play when other options (like AD&D) are readily available (i.e. in our home). 

And I don't blame him. While delving into the 5E rules I kept a running list of notes on all the things in 5E that I find to be downright stupid. It is a very, very long list. As I ease back into blogging, I'm sure it'll provide good fodder for a post or two. A bone for all the haters (like me) out there. 

[I have not shown the list to the boy; his hate for 5E is all his own]

Instead of running 5E, I converted much of Icespire Peak to AD&D. Well..."conversion" might be a bit of a stretch. I retained the maps, and some of the barest ideas of places, and otherwise restocked places completely, creating a mini-"sand box" of adventure areas around the town of Rose Valley and its vicinity. Reasons for taking this approach are many (including 'time constraints' and 'laziness'), but in the main I am starting to find that it is VERY difficult to run a solid, living 1E world that is sufficiently accessible (and forgiving) for 1st level characters.  This will be a (future) post in and of itself, but for now it suffices to say TPKs in AD&D without your typical "Castle Greyhawk" (or whatever) megadungeon, makes a tough row to re-hoe over and over again. 

Welcome to, Rose Valley.

Mm. Yeah. A long post on that subject coming.

Other stuff...

Did a lot of deep diving into the AD&D systems/procedures, especially with regard to races/classes, combat, and spells. Curated lists for ALL the spell-casting classes (except rangers and paladins). Rewrote the bard from the ground up. Fixed the height and weight tables (important for grappling) based on race, sex, and strength scores. Updated age tables. Went through the entirety of the weapons/armor list with a fine-toothed comb comparing things to their real world counterparts as well as their evolution over the development of the game (starting back in Chainmail); curated the lists in a manner that I can live with. Found the druid (strangely) to be pretty much perfectly suited to the AD&D game exactly as written. Did a cursory examination of the monk and while somewhat unsatisfied also left it mostly unchanged, other than moving it back to being a subclass of cleric (as it was originally) and making sure its combat/saves are based on that class.

Have not started rewriting the spells (yet); for now, just nailing the lists down is sufficient. Clerics have two separate lists (depending on divine orientation)...amounts to about 70 spells each. Put a lot of thought into clerics recently...especially this last week, sitting in church half-a-dozen times. That'll be its own post.

Reworked my conversion of Blood Bowl to gridiron football in a way that's less crunchy, more true-to-life, and makes better use of the original systems/procedures. Game is now very fast, very fun. Needs a second (third?) pass to work out some minor kinks; however, I believe a totally free rule supplement might be seeing publication by Yours Truly in the very near future.

[yes, I know the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson. Mm. Mixed feelings on that. However, the sudden interest/attention to Blood Bowl in the last couple weeks has largely been due to excitement surrounding the impending NFL draft]

And that's (more-or-less) all I've been doing, gaming-wise. Lot of kid stuff, of, baseball, softball, flag football, school, church, etc. Sofia turns eight this week...eight!...and there's a party to prep. My son is being heavily recruited for the priesthood. We'll see if they can pull him away from his soccer dreams...had a road trip to Spokane in March for a tournament game in which they came back from a goal deficit to win win 6-1 (Diego, the team captain, scored twice from outside the box; he plays left wing). Double-header coming up this weekend with Sunday's game being in Olympia.

Mostly though, other than managing my family (wife is well, though stressed), I have spent most of my waking hours studying and paying attention to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. When not doing taxes, or watching the Sounders/Mariners, or playing with my kids, or whatever...that is the MAIN THING that's been on my mind. I've been following it closely, not so much on the news (though, of course, that's been fairly non-stop) but also reading the daily reports from ISW, listening to the podcasts from War on the Rocks (Michael Kofman is pretty amazing), tracking its impact on other countries abroad. It's a I can do, well, nothing about. Except pray, of course. For both sides. Make no mistake: regardless of the outcome here, there will be no winners in this conflict. None. The Russians dying in Ukraine are dying for...what? The ambitions of one man? Of several? Not reason enough. 

I caught myself the other day, hoping that the Ukrainians defending their homes, their loved ones, their children would kill as many Russians as possible...that they would kill so many men that the "powers that be" in Russia would find their invasion impossible to prosecute further. And then I realized how terrible, how awful and wrong such thinking is. Soldiers go to war because they're ordered to go to war; soldiers abroad fight for their fellow soldiers, for their comrade next to them. This is not an invasion of a ravenous horde of monsters and maniacs...of goblins and orcs and ogres, fantasy creatures that worship dark demons or diabolic demigods. These are humans...humans of close proximity, humans of close relation to each other, humans who tend to follow the same religion, who worship the same God in the same fashion. Humans whose friends and loved ones in Russia miss them and pray for their safety and will mourn their injury and death as much as we all mourn the suffering of those closest to us. 

Just people...people suffering and dying. Ukraine is the victim here, the ones who need all the help and support and sympathy the world can give. But there are victims on both sides of this war...all of whom need our prayers. For all the good it will do (take that as you like).

Anyway, my main thought during yesterday's Easter Mass.

Apologies for taking this long to write...the day caught up with me today and prevented me posting this till the evening. More tomorrow, I hope. Cheers, folks.