Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

feedburner count

Why D&D 5e is Not for Me

Labels: , , ,

D&D 5e DMG coverI received an email asking me why I was continuing to run TSR editions and retroclones instead of just using 5e. Since the D&D 5e Player's Handbook was released last summer, I've had the occasional request to review 5e. Although I have the three core books and have read them, I've refrained from doing so because I just don't care enough about 5e one way or the other to write a good review. I've discovered over the years that if I don't really love something or really hate something, any review I might write of the game is going to be boring and not all that useful.

Telling people that something is "okay" or "downright average" really doesn't help anyone decide whether or not to buy it and there have been so many reviews of 5e that I really don't think anything I could say would be worth reading. However J. wasn't asking for a review, he was asking a much more interesting question -- or at least more interesting to me -- why don't I use 5e to run my games?

While I think D&D 5e is an okay game that I would be happy to play a character for in a campaign with the right group (a first for WOTC editions of D&D), it's simply not a game I want to DM. There are several reasons:

First, I run campaign settings designed for TSR editions of D&D. Changes to D&D that others might consider positive can be huge negatives for me. For example, a Sleep spell that lasts only one minute (instead of the hour or two it would usually last in TSR D&D) or a Charm person that lasts only an 1 hour (instead of the days it would last on the average person in earlier editions) simply makes some of the history and background of my settings impossible. I have no desire to rework the background of my settings or tricks and traps in dungeons to handle 5e's nerfed spells (and other seemingly minor changes) would cause.

Second: the Advantage/Disadvantage system. I know many people just love this system, but I'm not one of them. It seems to be overkill to solve the 3e/4e problem of people spending lots of time hunting for one more modifier. As I don't have min-maxers or rules lawyers in my games, this is simply a problem I've never had so I don't see much reason to replace modifiers with a system where only one modifier can apply and no matter how many positive advantages an action has, one disadvantage trumps them. This just seems to be too blunt of an instrument for the "modifier hunt" problem. In spite of my dislike for the advantage/disadvantage system, as a player I can live with it. As a DM, I can't. Many times I'm dealing with ten, twenty, thirty or more orcs, goblins, or whatever in a combat. With a modifier based system, I can roll 5 or 10 dice at time (handling the attacks of 5 or 10 monsters), eyeball the modifiers, discard the misses and roll the damage for the successes. With the advantage/disadvantage system, however, the minute the monsters have advantage or disadvantage, I have to roll two dice for each monster separately which greatly slows things down. I discovered this back in the 1980s when I tried a version of this system. Sure, I could redo all the encounters in my dungeons and wilderness areas replacing masses of low level creatures with two or three higher level ones but that would be a lot of needless work and would not even make sense in world in most cases.

Third, character creation takes too long for my games, has too many options, and requires more time and effort than I want to have to devote to it, especially with the new and/or casual players that my games attract. I realize that all the options make many players and GMs happy. I'm just not one of them. I also do not like the advancement system which blows through levels (especially lower levels) far too fast for my campaigns and has attributes inflating rapidly with levels -- especially if you opt not to use feats. Attributes are more important in 5e than I like in general.

There are a good number of other nitpicks that keep me from using D&D 5e to run my games, but the above three are the major ones. Sure, all of these issues could be worked around or I could toss out all my work and design settings specifically for D&D 5e. However, given that TSR D&D rules still exist (and with all the retroclones aren't going away) and still work just fine with all the setting material I developed in the 1970s and 1980s and still use today, there's really no rational reason for me to do so. 5e wouldn't bring anything to my table that would be worth all of the extra effort. Of course, this does not mean 5e is a bad game, it just means that 5e is not the best choice for running my campaigns.

Fantastic Adventures: Early Cleric Draft

Labels: , , ,

The only cleric in the party died in last week's Sunday Game session and the player decided to roll up a new character rather than have the party go into debt (or accept a quest from an NPC who really does not like one of the characters in the party) to get him raised. With a wisdom of 8, his new character isn't a cleric.

This is good in a way as it gives me a chance to try a new idea for clerics with an NPC. I've had a problem with clerics for some time. They seem more like a fighter/magic-user with a smaller selection of spells than a priest for a relatively low XP cost -- less than fighters. I've tried a number of options for clerics over the years, including eliminating them and folding their spells into the magic-user class as I did in Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery. However, that really will not work for any of my standard campaign worlds as clerics play important roles in my version of the Judges Guild Wilderlands, the Hidden Valley, and Arn. Therefore eliminating the Cleric is no more an option for my games than reducing the duration of the Sleep spell to 1 minute is an option.

After thinking about this for some time, I decided to try the following modified Cleric class. It's sort of a combination of the Friar from Fantastic Heroes & Witchery and some ideas I had for a cleric class with free-form divine miracles back in the 1980s. This version has the advantage of having a list of basic prayers so that everything does not have to be free-form while retaining the free-form prayers for more powerful effects.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this class is "Piety". Piety is earned by spending days in a temple serving the needs of the God and/or his worshipers. This not only makes the cleric seem more like a religious figure, but it gives yet another reason for downtime between adventurers. If I end up going with this class more or less as is, Magic-Users will probably end up with some Piety-like number than they recharge by spending days studying musty old books, although I do not yet have any great ideas as to how to work that into the class.

The other immediately noticeable change with this  draft version of the Cleric class is the XP (at 2500) is between that of the fighter (XP 2000) and the Magic-User (XP 3000).

The material in the following quoted section is Open Game Content under the OGL.Note that this is a very early draft and will likely change (perhaps completely if it does not work out in playtest). It has not been proofread and the blogger converted the table from its Word source in an odd-looking way that I'm too lazy to try to fix given the info in the table is accurate.

Comments on this early draft are welcome. Heck, other ideas are welcome as I'm certainly not married to this idea (at least not yet).

The Cleric

Clerics are armored priests who serve a particular alignment, religion, or patron deity. Players may make up the details if the Referee doesn’t use a particular mythology for the campaign. Mythologies and other details of a campaign world often come later if the Referee is just starting.

Regardless of the details, the Cleric is a champion of his faith and/or moral alignment. The character might be a sinister witch-hunter, an exorcist of demons, a shining knight of the faith, or a secret agent of some temple hierarchy. Since many of the Cleric’s abilities are oriented toward healing and protecting, they tend to play a support role during combat. However, they are able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the party’s Fighters if need be—at least for a while. Clerics must be either Lawful (good) or Chaotic (evil). There are no Neutral Clerics unless the Referee decides otherwise. Chaos, Law, and Neutrality are described further on.

Cleric Advancement Table


Exp. Points
Hit Dice
Combat Bonus
Saving Throw


Cleric Class Abilities

Weapon and Armor Restrictions: Because Clerics are forbidden the shedding of blood, they may only use blunt weapons (club, flail, mace, etc.) and the only missile weapon they are allowed is oil. Clerics have no armor restrictions.

Prayers: Clerics may pray to gain divine help. This is considered a full round action, the player must roll 1d6 + Wis modifier. Any roll over a 1 succeeds, but each subsequent prayer during the same day, adds a cumulative +1 penalty to the DC. For example, if a Cleric is praying for the third time that day, the player must roll over a 3 in order to continue receiving aid. A failure indicates that the prayer is unanswered, that no more aid will be granted for 1d6 hours (GM rolls in secret), and reduces the Cleric’s Piety by 1. At GM’s discretion, praying for unjust causes or creatures will incur a penalty to the roll (maximum: –4), but praying for a just and urgent cause may grant a bonus to the roll (maximum: +4). If a Cleric’s Piety is negative, the Cleric’s Piety also reduces the roll. Other than that, prayer rolls use a d6 at 1st and 2nd level, then a d8 at 3rd and 4th level, a d12 at 5th and 6th level, 2d8 at 7th and 8th level,  2d12 at 9th level and above. The various prayers at the Clerics’ disposal (chosen as they need them) are:

Blessing: Beneficiary is granted a +4 bonus for a single particular task (one die roll), or the next saving throw against a particular threat or creature, within one day.

Counter Prayer: Cancels sound-associated magical effects (e.g. harpy songs) within 30 feet, so long as the Cleric loudly prays.

Dispel Charm: Dispels a mind-affecting spell or effect if the Cleric rolls 1d20 + level vs. 10 + caster’s level (or creature’s HD).

Encouragement: All allies within 30 feet get a +1 bonus to attack rolls and saving throws vs. fear for a duration of 1 round per Cleric level. At 9th level, the bonus increases to +2.
Exorcism: Expels a malignant spirit from an unwilling host (use a Turn Undead roll, but after 30 minutes of loud prayers).

Guidance: Answers a question with a short vision, a few words, a coincidental sign, etc.

Healing Touch: Cures 1 BP/2 levels (round up), or grants a new save (+ Cleric’s level) to cure a disease or neutralize poison.

Sanctuary: No creature can attack the Cleric so long as he prays silently during that combat. Common creatures get no save, but supernatural foes get a Charisma save.

Turn Undead: Repels or even utterly destroys undead and sometimes demonic creatures (see Turn Undead ability p.95).

The above prayers are standard. The GM is free to alter them for specific religions in the campaign.

Minor Divine Aid: Clerics can call upon their deity to bring them opportunities and second chances in times of need (and generally in hopeless situations). This help may not kill or even injure a foe, nor involve directly magical or impossible things. It does no more than even the odds or aid in bypassing an obstacle; it does not make the Clerics more powerful, but help them face foes at full strength. For example, if the Cleric is lost in the wilderness and grievously wounded, he may find a benevolent hermit willing to help him; or if the Cleric is pursued by a troll, he could stumble onto a narrow cavern in which to take refuge, and so on. Each request for minor divine aid costs the character 1 point of Piety if answered by the deity. Roll 3 or higher on 1d6 for the deity to grant divine aid. Subtract 1 from the roll for every request for minor divine aid (whether answered or not) the Cleric has previously made that day. At GM’s discretion, praying for unjust causes or creatures will incur a penalty to the roll (maximum: –4), but praying for a just and urgent cause may grant a bonus to the roll (maximum: +4). Before rolling, Clerics may spend additional Piety to increase the chance that their deity will grant aid; each point of Piety so spend adds +2 to the roll. A cleric must have at least 1 point of Piety to request Minor Divine Aid.

Divine Intervention: Clerics can call their deity for direct intervention. This intervention could take many forms as supplicated by the Cleric depending on the circumstances. For example, the Cleric could request someone being entirely cured of all ailments and damage instantaneously, or even being brought back to life; implore that a celestial warrior is sent to assist in a desperate battle against the forces of darkness; etc. In any case, the Cleric is not assured to get any help, which entirely depends on the deity’s willingness as determined by a die roll. The Cleric must roll (21-level) or over on a D20 for success. At GM’s discretion, praying for unjust causes or creatures will incur a penalty to the roll (maximum: –4), but praying for a just and urgent cause may grant a bonus to the roll (maximum: +4). Clerics may spend additional Piety to increase the chance that their deity will grant aid; each point of Piety so spend adds +2 to the roll. A cleric must have at least 1 point of Piety to request Minor Divine Aid. If Divine Intervention is successful, the Cleric loses an additional 2d4 points of Piety.

Saving Throw: Clerics receive a +2 bonus on saving throws vs. poison and paralysis (unless the alternative “Saving Throw Matrix” is used).

Establish Temple: At tenth level, a Cleric who chooses to build and dedicate a temple to a deity may attract a body of loyal followers who swear fealty to the character. If the Cleric changes alignment after establishing a Temple, the character will lose any followers (and probably face a mutiny).

Experience Bonus for Wisdom: Wisdom is the Prime Attribute for Clerics.  Clerics with Wisdom of 15 or higher receive a 10% to experience, 5% as normal, and 5% because it is the Prime Attribute for the class.

Piety: Clerics earn Piety by spending time performing clerical duties (usually in a temple to the deity). If a cleric’s current Piety is zero or greater, each full day devoted totally to performing these duties earns one point of Piety. If a cleric’s current Piety is less than zero, it takes 1d6+1 days devoted totally to performing these duties to earn one point of Piety. The maximum Piety a Cleric can have is equal to five plus the sum of his levels (e.g. a 4th level cleric could have no more than 15 Piety (5 + [1+2+3+4]) while a 10th level cleric could have 60 Piety stored up (5 + [1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10]), etc.). Gods tend to remember things done for them longer the higher the level of the cleric.

The Apothecary's Apprentice Mini-Adventure for RetroRetroplaying Cancer Fund Donors

Labels: , , ,

For the next 30 days Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund donors will be able to download an experimental Matthew Bannock's short storygame/adventure "The Apothecary's Apprentice" from the RetroRoleplaying Forum - Downloads area of the RetroReoleplaying message board.

This short two page adventure is written as a storygame seed but has notes at the end on using it as an OSR adventure. It's a little experiment on Metthew's part to see whether it is possible to a design something that can appeal to both storygamers and OSR gamers. My initial reaction was "This will never work." However, while I can't speak from a storygame viewpoint, "The Apothecary's Apprentice" certainly does work as an OSR adventure -- and should work with almost any old school game. I'm going to drop it into my campaign as a possible "mission" characters might hear about (rumor: the apothecary shop is looking for guards for a delivery mission). I have no idea what storygamers will make of this, but I am looking forward to more of these short scenarios from Matthew.

Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund donors can download a copy of "The Apothecary's Apprentice" here. After 30 days, this download will go away and this link will no longer function.

I'd like to thank +Matthew Bannock for making this little adventure available to Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund donors.

Microlite74: Perilous Adventures Available As A RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donor Benefit

Labels: , ,

Microlite78 mockup coverIt's been several years since I last added a new "donor-only" download to the benefits of being a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donor. However, today I've released a new version of Microlite74, Microlite74: Perilous Adventures, as a new password-protected "donor only" download.

Microlite74: Perilous Adventures is Microlite74 as I would use it today in my games. It was created from my private drafts of what was originally called Fantastic Adventures last September, although it does not much resemble the one public release of Fantastic Adventures. While my current group decided they were prefer our game rules to be based on Swords & Wizardy rather than on Microlite74, the Microlite74-based rules I developed over the last six months are probably what I would personally use to run any new Microlite74 games today.

I originally thought about using them as a basis for a fourth edition of Microlite74, but decided the world did not need another edition of Microlite74 when the current third edition is popular and works quite well. Instead I decided to make another special version of Microlite74, leaving the third edition of the game alone.

Microlite74: Perilous Adventures starts with Microlite74 Basic: the three classes and spells only going to 6th level for magic-users and 5th level for clerics. The background system as used in Microlite81 Extended is added which makes it easy to create individualized characters on the fly. Want to play a thief-type character? Select a thievish background of some type for your character Want to play a ranger-like character, Select some type of outdoorsman or hunter background. Want to play a knight of the realm, select the fighter class and the "knight of the realm" background. I included a number of spell lists (magic-user, illusionist, necromancer, witch, cleric, and druid) with magic-users selecting from the first four and clerics selecting from the last two. Fighters have a number of special abilities they can select from as they level. This adds additional low complexity customization. You can play just about any type of character that fits your GM's setting by selecting the appropriate class, background, and spell list/fighter abilities, so there is no need for a large number of classes.

Rules-wise, Microlite74: Perilous Adventures uses most of the rules from Microlite74 Extended, all of the monsters from Microlite74 Extended and Companion III, and a selection of optional rules from the Companion I and Companion III. A slightly modified version of Companion II: Treasures is also included to make the system complete.

The donor-only edition of Microlite74: Perilous Adventures is 64 pages long and includes artwork by Håkan Ackegård. RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors already have the password needed to view this file and can download it from the following link:

Download the special donor-only edition of Microlite74: Perilous Adventures.

If you aren't a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donor, it is easy to become one (and get this and other special donor-only downloads). However, a version of Microlite74: Perilous Adventures with public domain art will likely be released in the future, perhaps in late 2016 or in early 2017.

Microlite78 Errata

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Microlite78 mockup coverWhen I doing final editing of Microlite78: First Edition Lite, Microsoft Word died as I was adding one last text box near the end of the document. I thought I had checked the autosaved version of the file carefully, but I missed something. The Class requirements for assassins, druids, illusionists, paladins, and rangers had reverted to what I had originally written when I was going to use all six attributes. If you have one of the first 100 or so downloads of Microlite78: First Edition Lite, you will need to make the following changes (or just download a new copy).

Assassin Requirements: STR 12+, DEX 12+, MIND 12+
Druid Requirements: MIND 12+, CHA 15+.
Illusionist Requirements: MIND 15+.
Paladin Requirements: STR 12+, MIND 11+, CHA 17+, alignment must be Law.
Ranger Requirements: MIND 12+, CON 15+.

My apologies for making a fairly stupid "user error." I've used MS Word for many years and should have known to check things more carefully after a crash. I'd like to thank +Lou Goncey for catching the above errors so quickly.

Microlite78 First Edition Lite is Now Available for Free Download (Free Old School RPG)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Microlite78 mockup coverThe final "silver release" version of Microlite78: First Edition Lite is now available for free download. Like all my games, Microlite78 is completely free to download and play and, except for a few words (like "Microlite78" and my name), is entirely open game content under the OGL.

Microlite78: First Edition Lite was created at the request of a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donor who asked me if I could piece together parts of Microlite74 to produce a complete single volume Microlite78: First Edition Lite and add a "few things" to make it more like the 1978 "First Edition" of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. It would have been simple to toss the rules from Microlite74 Extended with the descriptions from Companion II (Treasure), Companion IV (Bestiary of Monsters) and Companion V (First Edition Spells) together in one volume. However, the request is for a bit more: classes written up in more detail (as in Microlite81, including the more normal XP treatment) and some of the system altered a bit to make it more like 1e.

I agreed to do this on April 5, 2014. Unfortunately, five days later my wife’s mother passed away and we spent the next ten months dealing with the funeral, moving into her house which my wife inherited, selling our Waco house, and remodeling the new house to deal with my wife’s disabilities. This turned what should have been a one or two month Microlite78 project into a project that has taken three weeks short of a year to complete. My apologies to everyone who has been waiting and waiting for Microlite78: First Edition Lite for far longer than they (or I) expected.

I'd like to thank all the donors to the Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund who donated so generously while Microlite81 and Microlite78 games were being written. All the donors who requested to be listed are listed in the "Special Thanks to Our Sponsors" section inside the front cover. Fifty-eight donors are listed by name and thirty-five more wished to remain anonymous. I'd like to thank each and everyone one of you and I hope you have enjoyed the resulting games, the free donor downloads and, for those lucky enough to win one of our donor lotteries, any gaming goodies you may have won. Thank you very much for your help.

Now to the good part, the free download. You can download your free copy of Microlite78: First Edition Lite from the Download section of the RetroRoleplaying message board. Just click on the link below and it will take you directly to the page where you download your free copy:

Changing Wilderlands Campaign To One Based On Swords & Wizardry Whitebox

Labels: , , , ,

Swords and Wizardry Whitebox Cover coverAs many readers may have figured out from my few posts last year, I've moved to Garland, TX and have gathered a new group of old school players. Unfortunately, instead of the large group of players I've had for the past five years, I'm limited to four players due to space-to-play limitations. We've been having a good time with a campaign set in the area around the City-State of the Invincible Overlord. My original idea was to set the campaign in a different part of the Wilderlands, the Valley of the Ancients. However, my players really wanted to be based in the City-State, so that's where the campaign is set.

Everyone seems to be having a great time, but it turns out they believe they would prefer the "Fantastic Adventures" rules we are developing and using to be based more on Swords & Wizardry than on Microlite74. This is just the opposite of the way my old group went. The old group started using OD&D rules via The Grey Book but decided after trying Microlite74 that they liked it better. This always confuses me because OD&D, Swords & Wizardry, Microlite74 and to a lesser extent B/X, Labyrinth Lord, and Microlite81 seem like almost the same game to me when I'm running them. I played in house-ruled OD&D games in the 1970s that had larger differences than these games do.

This means, of course, that changing between them is no problem for me. So next week, my campaign will be running under Swords & Wizardry Whitebox rules which will be modified as needed to match what we've been doing with Fantastic Adventures.

This also means that the Fantastic Adventures rules y'all will be seeing will be something different: they will not be Microlite20-based as as Microlite74, Microlite78, and Microlite81 have been. Perhaps this is a good thing as the later games in this series have not been "microlite" in page count, they have only been "microlite" in that they were based on "Microlite20 DNA".