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parsantium crest
Now that my Wordpress blog at parsantium.com has been going strong for a year, I'm going to stop crossposting Parsantium content here, and go back to using this Livejournal primarily for session logs from my D&D games.

If you want to keep up to date on Parsantium: City at the Crossroads, please visit parsantium.com.

You can buy Parsantium in PDF and print online at drivethrurpg.com, paizo.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.com and d20pfsrd.com.

If you want to support your FLGS, print copies are in stock in London's Leisure Games and Orc's Nest.

D&D Next Planes & Worlds

Green Man

There’s an interesting new article by Mike Mearls on the D&D website which talks about The Many Worlds of D&D. So far, we’ve had over a year’s worth of rules, and some cool articles from James Wyatt on the monsters of D&D but there’s been little as yet about campaign setting(s) or planes in the new edition. This article explains how the new cosmology will work, and also how the classic Ravenloft, Planescape and Spelljammer settings fit into it.

Back in December, I ran a #5eplanes blog carnival to talk about what we wanted to see in the Next cosmology so I was keen to read what the WotC team have come up with. The approach, as with monsters (and, some would argue the rules too, 4e mostly excepted) seems to be to blend the various different editions together and keep the cool stuff from all of them. There is an elegant solution to the elemental planes issue, involving three concentric rings that allows for separate elemental planes and the elemental chaos, and the Feywild stays too (huzzah!). I’m much less convinced by having Ravenloft as the bridge between the Negative and Prime planes with the Shadowfell within it – surely this should be the other way round with the Domains of Dread inside the Shadow Plane?

As we’ve long suspected, Planescape and the Great Wheel will be the default for the Outer Planes. This is good news, although some people are sure to get wound up all over again about the factions, the cant and the Blood War. I loved Planescape so I’m happy with this. As long as there are modrons in Mechanus, and not formians, berk.

The other thing I’m less sure about is what Mike says about Spelljammer. Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled Spelljammer gets mentioned, but he talks about downplaying the concept that it connects the D&D worlds such as the Realms, Greyhawk etc. I actually think this was one of the fun things about the setting – my SJ campaign started off in Cormyr before heading off into the stars. All that’s needed here is to not include any spelljamming ports or ships in Realms & Greyhawk books – just put them in the Spelljammer stuff* so it doesn’t jar with those not using it. Coming up with its own setting is absolutely right too – the Astromundi Cluster was awesome but should have been one of the first releases for the line, not on of the last.

No mention here of Forgotten Realms being the default world for the game, but I guess that still holds. Overall, interesting stuff and very promising.

celestialscolour

* really hope there will be Spelljammer stuff ;)

Art by @symatt

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gith

I've been chatting on Twitter today with @Tim_Eagon, @TriskalJM and @rrockman about the D&D cosmology and where it might go with #dndnext. If WotC go back to the Great Wheel, what happens to the cool stuff from the 4e iteration of the planes like the Shadowfell, Feywild and the Astral Sea? Do we really have to have the Ethereal Plane back again? Should demons go back to being fiends or do they carry on as elementals? What about Concordant Opposition and the primordials? In or out?

Trying to discuss all this in 140 characters is tricky so we thought a series of blog posts might be appropriate. If you want to join in, please do. Imagine Mike Mearls has given you the job of coming up with the #dndnext cosmology. What would you keep from prior editions and what would you bin?

The carnival will run from 1st to 15th December. Post on your own blog or I can host here if you are blog-less – just let me know via the comments if you are interested in taking part. Now to see if @symatt can come up with a funky logo.....

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

Please WotC, take my money!

Green Man drinking

Yesterday's In the Works column on the WotC site talked about the forthcoming Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms, an edition neutral (systemless, even) book full of Realmslore which, judging by the excerpts, is going to be fun to read and rather good. It also seems to be the only new D&D book we've got coming in the next five months.The column announced a reprint of the original AD&D Unearthed Arcana coming in February next year but no other books.

This year and since the D&D Next announcement, three new D&D books have been released - two 4e supplements and one system neutral Forgotten Realms book. Everything else has been reprints (1e & 3.5), tiles, poster map packs, fortune cards & Dungeon Command.

Dungeon Command isn't what I'm looking for, and, although tiles and maps are cool, I'm soon going to be at the point where where I have "enough" - just like the point me and many others got to with D&D Minis. I have all my older edition books still so I don't need reprints of them either. I'm in the position of wanting to spend my money on D&D stuff but there's nothing I want to buy.

So what would I spend my hard-earned money on? Well, 4e D&D books for a start. Like a lot of people, I'm playtesting D&D Next and we've had some really fun sessions, but I can't get that invested in characters that I'm making for a couple of sessions, then changing to fit the latest playtest packet or abandoning in favour of a new class/race/background/speciality combo. But I'm still running a regular 4e game set in Parsantium, with a second one paused but due to resume in the new year.

After four years of play, both groups of PCs are still in the early paragon tier and there are more stories to be told so I'm not done with 4e yet. More 4e books, particularly DM-focused ones would be great. Judging by the response to the Midgard Bestiary for 4th Edition I'm not the only one who feels this way. With nearly two years before D&D Next is released, surely designers and space on the schedule could be found for a few more 4e books? What about a Shadowfell-sized Feywild book or boxed set? Or an epic tier focused DMG3?

If Wizards really don't want to go down this route - and this seems almost certain - perhaps Elminster's Forgotten Realms could lead to other system neutral campaign setting books - for Planescape, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Al-Qadim et al. A brand new, nicely printed book with great maps and art for each setting could then be supported by the digital release of the relevant back catalogue. Then, when D&D Next comes out, any setting-specific rules elements (classes, races, monsters etc) could be released digitally to further support the world.

Whatever happens, I've got my fingers crossed that we get some new D&D books in the next two years. If we don't I think a lot of gamers could lose interest in the world's oldest (and most fun) RPG.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

DMing #Dndnext

gobbo
Last night I ran my first session of D&D Next (although I’ve played a few sessions of the current and previous playtest rules beforehand). I went for a “theatre of the mind” approach, although I did draw a sketch map of the ravine and some of the interior of the cave. We had minis for the PCs which we lined up to show party order but that’s all we did with them. That was pretty much all we did with them back in my 1e days too!

Three of the five players play in my regular Monday night 4e campaign, one was an old friend who used to play 3.x with us and the other hadn’t played any version of D&D much at all.  We started off the game with each of them picking one of the pregen PCs. I explained that the group had left the city of Parsantium far behind and headed west to the Keep on the Borderlands in search of adventure. Our party of bold adventurers consisted of:

    •    Rado, male halfling thief
    •    Friedrich, male high elf wizard
    •    Thorin, male dwarf fighter
    •    Ulf, male dwarf cleric of Moradin
    •    Fidoodle, female human cleric of Ra (because there was no way lucybrant was going to play a cleric of Pelor)

The PCs arrived at the KEEP (as it is always referred to in B2!), talked to the gate guards and met with Stark the Sheriff. I have a copy of B2 but for the purpose of this session, I just used Sly Flourish’s excellent crib sheet of NPCs & rumours for the personalities in the KEEP.  After listening to Stark’s warnings about venturing too deeply into the Caves of Chaos, the party made their way to the Green Gem Tavern where they chatted to the seemingly cowardly paladin, Sir Ector Trueheart, the one-eyed female dwarf Valgard Stonyfist, and the barkeep Torin, picking up some rumours about what might await them in the caves. Despite Ulf’s attempts to add extra muscle to the party, none of these NPCs were interested in accompanying him. I asked for a few ability checks during this roleplaying – to recognize the Trueheart family crest and so on – and this led to a discussion about not having a proper skill list as in 4e or 3.x, something at least two of the group weren’t keen on.

The next morning, the intrepid adventures set off for the Caves of Chaos, arriving in the ravine as the sun started getting low in the sky. Rado the thief sneaked up on the first cave entrance they came to and peered in to see if they were any traps. Rado has a low Wisdom (8, -1 modifier), giving him just +2 on his find traps roll, compared to +4 for Fidoodle the cleric. Everyone thought this was a bit odd.

After Rado gave the all-clear, Thorin and Friedrich moved up to the entrance fairly quietly, but the noisy Ulf drew the attention of the goblins inside the cave. With a shout of “Bree-Yark!”, they ran outside, only for five of the six to fall down to Friedrich’s sleep spell. We got to test out the coup de grace rules as Thorin went round killing the helpless sleeping humanoids while the other PCs took down the one left standing.

After looting the bodies, the PCs entered the caves, heading left into a guard chamber where another six goblins armed with spears attacked the party. Fidoodle used her searing light to blow a massive hole in one of them, before realising radiant lance did enough damage to kill them. Friedrich used his magic missile while Ulf and Thorin went into melee. Ulf used his Defender feat to give the goblin attacking Thorin disadvantage – a pretty cool ability. This combat went pretty fast, with Thorin and Friedrich wounded at the end of it. Fidoodle used her healer’s kit to patch the two of them up, with both PCs spending their one and only hit dice. I liked this mechanic – we used to roll 1d6 (IIRC) for binding wounds in our 1e & 2e games and this reminded me of that, as well as the 4e short rest.

From here it all went tragically wrong for our heroes. The two dwarves ignored Friedrich’s wise words about not going upstairs and charged down the barred door leading to the hobgoblin quarters where 13 hoboblins and three non-combatants were resting. Our heroes surprised the humanoids, allowing Friedrich to cast burning hands  on a few of them, but the PCs were soon in big trouble. Fidoodle was hit by three arrows, taking her down to 1 hp, and the wizard went down to 3 hp. With four hobgoblins killed (plus one poor little hobgoblin kid), the PCs decided it was time to make a run for it. There are no opportunity attacks in D&D Next so they made an attack each and then broke off from the fight, retreating back outside to the ravine.

We managed to fit some roleplaying in the KEEP, three combats and a fair amount of discussion of the rules vs previous D&D incarnations into a relatively short session of approximately 2.5 hours. It was fun in an old skool, 1e way (as the other playtests have been) but I think there is a lot that still needs to happen to turn the game into something I would be happy to play in preference to 4e or 3.x/Pathfinder. The fast combats, advantage/disadvantage and backgrounds and themes are all very cool, but there are not enough interesting options for the fighter, and my players really didn't like the change to skills. I am worried about how monsters are going to work. Will they be as easy to run and build as they are in 4e?

Looking forward to seeing more in the next iteration. I think having character creation rules will help.



Comments from the players

“I quite enjoyed it. Simple and fairly straightforward. The old-school dungeon crawl adventure wasn't really interesting, but I guess that's not what we were playtesting anyway.

There are a lot of unknowns as far as character creation and level progression goes.

With low skill scores it luck comes into play a lot more since the variation of the result on a D20 is a lot higher than the skill score. This obviously depends on if the skill modifiers go up as you level up or not, but as it is now it feels very random.

I think the way you used actions in 4e was clearer and better. Every power clearly states what kind of action is required to use it and the rules for "exchanging" actions are clear. I was thinking about Ulf’s shield where he could protect someone else as a reaction and my ability to hide and then attack from hiding to gain advantage. If any of those require a full action they are pretty crap (since you need to spend your whole round doing it), but if they are free they can be too powerful (at least the rogue’s hiding thing). Currently there's nothing in the rules that can make it somewhere in between.

I think the-non spellcasters need a bit more variety to what they can do. The fighter had one option in combat "attack", I had two options "hide or attack", but as I said before the hide isn't really worth it if it takes a whole round for me. Again, not sure if that changes as you level up.”


“ It was fine, but there are far too many unanswered questions about character progression. However, as a combat – I like the simplicity.  Although I foresee 3.5 levels of bookkeeping for spell casters.”


“I thought hard about this on the way home and actually I think I liked it more than I thought I did!”

#Dndnext Playtest: Evil Shrines of Moradin

Green Man drinking
I took part in my first playtest session for the latest iteration of the D&D Next rules, which have been refined from the earlier "Friends & Family" playtest which I also played a few sessions of.  My character was a female dwarf fighter named Valgard Stonyfist, and the game was DM'ed very capably by Robin Stacey (@greywulf).

This is his write up. Oh, and it was me that picked up the cursed chalice, failed the save, and now has a glowing backpack!

I enjoyed the game, but this was down to the other people I was playing with and the ten foot pole jokes. The D&D Next system has not yet clicked with me. This could be because of the limited options available to my character – #dndnext fighters can hit things very hard and that's about it – or the fact we are playing B2, an old skool dungeon crawl filled with nameless NPCs and monsters, with pregen characters. Sophisticated, story-centric 21st century roleplaying it is not.

I think I need to try out some of the more complex character classes and also run it myself, perhaps using a different adventure to see if it that helps. I felt the same way about 4e too when I first played that so there is every chance these initial impressions will change. I'm also keen to try out 13th Age by way of comparison and see what that D&D variant plays like.

In the meantime, I'm running kb98 through Halls of Undermountain tomorrow using 4e, our first one-on-one game since 2009 when we finished The Banewarrens. Looking forward to it.

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First impressions: #dndnext

ixitxachitl
After a fair bit of faffing around, I managed to download the D&D Next playtest stuff this evening, and am pleased to say it was worth the wait, having had a quick read through of the nine documents included in the pack.

Having played in several of closed playtest games, it's good to see that the rules set has improved considerably based on feedback received, and things like when to roll an ability check and when to handwave it now make much more sense than previously.

I liked themes and backgrounds in the original playtest and we can see some of these here in the five pregen characters, giving an indication of how two PCs from the same class can be quite different from each other. The mechanic for advantage and disadvantage, rolling 2d20 and taking the best roll (advantage) or the worst roll (disadvantage) is neat – I need to see it in play but it should work well – and the new rules for healing and resting seem much improved, with spending hit dice to heal during a short rest reminiscent of 4e's healing surges. I like the new rules for dying too – three death saves made and you stabilize, as opposed to 4e's three strikes and you're out, and the "hovering at death's door" rules in previous editions.

So, so far, so good. I'm looking forward to running Caves of Chaos for either or both sets of Parsantium players. Anyone brought up on the balanced encounters of 3.x or 4e is sure to enjoy blundering into a chamber populated by "up to 40" kobolds ;)

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Pics from our #dndnext game at #ukt3

Green Man

Thanks to @adampageuk for running a great game of #dndnext! Felt very old skool (in a good way) with some nice nods to 3e & 4e.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

banewarrens, spire, intrigue

Very interesting and illuminating account from the playtest games at D&D XP here

Makes what's been said about ability scores and the flatter power curve much clearer, and the speed of play sounds like a big improvement (although at low levels). Very promising....


EDIT: when I posted this I had no idea I'd be playing #dndnext the following day at #ukt3. Combat is MUCH faster.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

#DnDNext Blog - Time to Heal

Mignola
Bruce Cordell asks what everyone thinks about clerical healing here.

Personally, I'm pretty happy with how it works in 4e – allowing classes like the warlord to heal means no one is forced to play the cleric, and a leader can use his healing word or equivalent as a minor action so he can also do something more interesting on his turn. I think these are good things on the whole - the only caveat is that with a healing-focused character, such as Bolval the dwarf cleric in the Black Horse Parsantium campaign, I found myself having to increase monster damage output to keep things challenging. Once I'd worked this out, though, things were fine.

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Green Man drinking
This is the last summary of the D&D XP seminars on D&D Next pulled together by Morrus for ENWorld:

Seminar Transcript - Reimagining Skills and Ability Scores - EN World: Your Daily RPG Magazine

There's some interesting stuff here again: ability scores are more important – each links to a different type of saving throw for example – and there's some discussion about when the player needs to roll to do stuff and when he doesn't. I've always been a fan of getting players to roleplay what they say to the king or the officious town guard, not just rolling Diplomacy and having done with it, and it looks like Monte and co. are on the same wavelength. The equivalent of "taking 10" looks like it's back too – if a PC has a high Strength, he doesn't need to roll to open a normal door. I'm not so sure about the way saving throws outlined here will work though - if the attacker rolls to set the DC and the defender has to roll to save, that's surely going to slow combat down and we need to speed it up! I thought 4e's Fort, Ref & Will defenses were a big improvement over 3.x where an attacker sometimes had to roll to hit, overcome SR and then hope the opponent didn't make his saving throw.

Oh, and Rob Schwalb wants to bring back the Great Wheel. Huzzah!

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doom, red hand
Another day, another very interesting D&D Next seminar at D&DXP, this time on character classes. Morrus has pulled together an excellent transcript for ENWorld from tweets again here:

Seminar Transcript - Class Design: From Assassins to Wizards - EN World: Your Daily RPG Magazine

Very cool to hear that WotC are planning to include every class that appeared in a PHB1 in the player's book so we get to keep the warlord and warlock, as well as welcoming back the illusionist and the assassin. What I'm really not sure about is Monte's enthusiasm for Vancian magic, bringing it back for the wizard (fair enough) and the cleric (not keen). One of 4e's best innovations was to make healing word a minor action and I hope this is something that carries over into the new edition too. I'm not sure it will though - from the transcript it seems as if not much 4e will be in this edition but I guess it's early days. There will be at-will powers for these Vancian casters available via feats so maybe that will do the trick. On the whole, however, the designers do seem to be thinking very carefully about what D&D is all about, and I'm sure the new edition will be worth the wait.

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ixitxachitl
@criticalhits, @chattydm and a number of others were live-tweeting during the D&D Next seminar at DDXP which was really interesting and quite exciting to read through. I thought about pulling all of these tweets into a blog post but @morrus from ENWorld beat me to it:

Seminar Transcript - Charting the Course: An Edition for all Editions - EN World: Your Daily RPG Magazine

Worth checking this out. It's still all very theoretical, with a lot of "if we do this right" talk about modularity, but it sounds like they are looking at the right things, particularly allowing people to decide the split between roleplaying, exploration and combat in their games. There's one particular tweet missing where Monte talked about "that guy" who takes 10 minutes to resolve his turn in combat. Everyone has a "that guy" in their group, so it's great that speeding up combat is one of the things they're looking at for the new iteration of D&D.

Open playtest will be at some point in the Spring - looking forward to getting involved!

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gith
Very interesting post from the author of the original Manual of the Planes, co-author on the Forgotten Realms Grey Box and creator of the much-missed Spelljammer, arguing that edition wars and internal competition have always been part of D&D's history:

GRUBB STREET: A Game Divided Against Itself

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The Sky's Falling In 2 #dndnext

ixitxachitl

Back in 2007, I wrote a Sky's Falling In post following the announcement of 4e. By that time, having run and played Epic 3.5 and got increasingly frustrated with the amount of DM prep time needed before a game, even at low levels, I was kind of ready for a new version of D&D, if somewhat trepidacious.

This time round, the announcement has come less than 4 years since the 4e rules came out and we're just getting to grips with the paragon tier. DM prep time has been reduced by the excellent Compendium and the simpler approach to monster design - an approach that made it possible for me to write half a monster book for Open Design. I like 4e and found it just as good a vehicle for telling the stories I want to tell as previous D&Ds. As a player, I like the extra tactical options.

But not everyone feels like this - kb98 isn't keen on the wargamey aspects and thinks the longer combats mean less time and emphasis on roleplaying. She's got a point. Lots of other gamers weren't happy either and stuck with 3.5 in the form of Pathfinder. And Essentials, the simpler 4e we got a couple of years after the initial release, felt like what we should have started with.

All this makes it not that surprising that WotC are working on a new edition. What makes me feel excited and positive is that they're going to do a lot of open playtesting, and have been talking about a modular approach to the game. Hopefully this will allow each group to pick the level of rules complexity that works fur them. Fingers crossed! I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

kaidan
Some interesting thoughts on what 5e should do to improve on 4e here:

critical_rss: Five Wishes for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

Faster combats would be my top pick from these suggestions - it would be great if only the important, big climactic encounters took an hour plus to play through.

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Richard Green

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