Monday, July 29, 2019

ba5ic: Corrected & Edited Draft

Thanks to everyone who commented and helped when I posted my (very) rough draft. I have gone through and re-read the entire book. I found a bunch of stuff referencing things not included in the rules, a number of missing items and the expected plethora of spelling errors. For ease of use, I have also rotated the monster section in the .pdf so that it is much easier to read and use. I also added a Character Sheet.

As I stated in my last post, this is the first project I have done that I really want POD. Any useful tips for those with experience?

Cover art by James Shields
You can find the latest draft here.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

ba5ic: A Rough Draft of a 5e Continual Light

As I noted in my last post, I am itching to sink my teeth into the D&D Essentials Kit in order to glean a simpler, cleaner version of 5e. Truth be told, this not a new desire. As can be seen here and here, I started a similar effort over a year ago.

I actually have a flawed version of these ideas that is about 64 pages long that I dubbed ba5ic; however, I was never really satisfied with it. More importantly, I found that I really didn’t want to play it. So, despite sending it off to a couple people to get their opinion, I never went back to fix the many problems that it had.

That is, until now. I realized that I could plug in the three “Sidekick” classes from the Essentials Kit into what I already put together last year. In process, not only could I trim some of the fat, but I would have to trim a lot of the fat by virtue of the simplicity of the three classes.

I now have a rough draft that sits at 43 pages. This includes 2 splash pages, a one-page Sample Wilderness and a one-page Sample Dungeon.

Cover Art by James Shields

Truth be told, I think more fat could be trimmed if I knew the system better. I just haven’t played enough 5e to be able to capably simplify some of its subsystems.

That being said, this is something I would love to see get a POD treatment. To that end, I would ask your help. Read it. Spot the multiple typos that I know exist. Spot places that fat can be easily trimmed, and suggest ways to trim even more fat. One obvious place is the equipment list. What stays, what goes? Necessarily, I kept the list of magic items short. Good list? Bad list? What shouldn’t be there and what is missing?

You can download the rough draft here.

Thanks and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

5e Continual Light: D&D Essentials Kit

I have a confession to make. When Robert Conley wrote up a blurb about the D&D Essentials Kit, I got really excited. In it I saw a version of 5e that I could really sink my teeth into and actually play with a level of enthusiasm that I usually only have for B/X, 0e, and their clones. The idea of having a version of a paired-down 5e with only 5 classes that only goes to sixth level all bundled in a 64 page rule book is right up my alley. So, I scrounged up the money, went to my local store and bought it.

I have to admit that I am really happy with it.  The rules do exactly what I want them to do: be 5e without all the extra rules and fluff that I will never use. I much prefer low-to-mid level play and have very rarely seen characters, either as a player or a referee, get beyond 6-7th level. I will grant that the rules do not include monsters or magic items, but I don't see this a an issue. There are a number of monsters included in the adventure that comes with the kit. Additionally, I have so many monster tomes from a plethora of editions that I will never be lacking in that particular department. The kit also comes with a nice selection of Magic Item Cards, which is a nice touch, literally. There is something wonderfully tactile about getting a card for a potion that one then "turns in" when used.

The thing that I really love about this box set, though, is that there is an even simpler game hidden within. I make no bones about the fact that one of my favorite versions of this game is Tenkar's Swords & Wizardry Continual Light. It strips down the rules of classic D&D to its essentials and still allows us to play the classic game. The D&D Essentials Kit introduces a new rule that paves the way for creating a "Continual Light" version of 5e.

On pages 63 and 64 of the Essentials Rulebook is Appendix A: Sidekicks. It re-introduces and re-skins the classic ideas of the henchmen and hireling with an interesting twist. It takes some of the NPC classes from 3e and converts them to 5e. There are three: the Expert, the Spellcaster, and the Warrior. These are presented in a monster stat-bloc with rules to advance them all the way to 6th level.

In other words, you have three stripped down classes: a Rogue-type, a Wizard-type,  and a Fighter-type. The spell list is simple:
0 level:
Fire Bolt
Mage Hand
Sacred Flame

1st level:
Burning Hands
Cure Wounds
Shield of Faith

2nd level:
That's it.

I suppose one could introduce Backgrounds and/or more choice with Skills, but neither is at all necessary. If one just uses the Skills available to these three Classes, this is all you need to know:
Slight of Hand
Thieves' Tools

I have to admit, I am sore tempted to typeset a "Continual Light" edition of the 5eSRD using these three NPC classes as a jumping off point. Before I go down that rabbit hole, however, I wonder how many would be interested in such a thing?

Would you?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

On Being a Referee and a Christian

In my extended absence from writing anything on my blog, I recently got this comment from David B. and it deserves its own post:
Greetings Father. I don't know exactly where to post this but I had question for you regarding the cosmological portion of your universe. I'm running a West Marches game type since last year and, I'll be honest, I stole your three main divinity when I read about them (Frumos, Arta and Tizan). I think it's great.

I'm playing with friends used to D&D and such so it's all good. But I was wondering about the long-term: my wife and I will have children, and I want to use D&D as a game and an educational tool. What would be the thing to do regarding the world and the cosmology of it ?

Pseudo-historical RPG set in Christian kingdom/mpire ? Analogical/allegorical like yours ? Or straight up remote to create a form of mythopoesis like Tolkien ?

Which one do you think has more value ? The goal is not to teach the creed through the game, that I understand very well, but mostly to make sure that the background imagination landscape, so to speak, it cohesive with the whole of education. What do you think ?

Thank you.
First of all, thank you for letting me know that you have implemented one of my various attempts at a metaphorical trinitarian cosmology. Not only do I think it’s awesome, it makes me really happy that it’s being used in actual game play by someone not me. Again, thank you!

To get to your question, let’s compare the Bible, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. All three take different approaches to infusing God and Christianity into their stories. All three tell terrific yarns. All three plant the seeds of Christian values. So the answer really isn’t about which approach works best. Rather, in context of playing an RPG, what is going to be the most fun for you and your players, because fun games get played. The longer a game gets played, the more you and your players get to wrestle with God at the gaming table.

Personally, I find that players like the approach you and I generally use at the table — we use a metaphor for the Trinity and as a stand-in for the Christian Church. This makes the fantasy world approachable. Not only is it familiar (it feels a lot like institutions we already have in the real world), but it is alien enough that we aren’t obligated to engage in a real-world kind of way. Devout Christians can explore characters that make choices they would be reluctant to if we were actually invoking the name of Christ. Secularists and atheists can explore religious characters because they don’t feel obligated to reject Christ and His Church as they do in their own life.

Once players bypass their own real world prejudices, it gives everyone the freedom to explore the moral landscape of human experience with little of the real world consequences. To make this work, you as the Referee need to consistently offer your players the freedom to do what they want, but be firm with the consequences of those choices. The only time I Refereed an actual TPK was when the first level thief decided to try out his Pick Pocket skills and got caught. Then the rest of the party decided to try and fight their way out of the situation. That group of players was a lot more cautious about following the laws while in town after that.

The other thing that makes campaigns like this interesting is offering moral dilemmas — situations that have no right answer. Introduce NPCs like the Operative from Serenitypeople who know they are monsters doing monstrous things for the greater good. Which is worse, allowing these NPCs to be monsters or allowing the greater evil they are keeping at bay to have one less obstacle to getting their tentacles into Civilization?

In this way, you allow players to embrace the image and likeness of God and to wrestle with God. Freedom and consequence, when done consistently and well, will go a long way to making your game fun and something people will want to come back to. Moral dilemmas will also not only be fun, but will be chewed on for years to come.

I hope that helps.