D&D Starter Set Walkthrough: What’s In the Box

Over the weekend during a monthly Lamentations of the Flame Princess Game run by a good friend, I was gifted the recently available D&D Starter Set for the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules set. I was very excited to get this as I had already planned on purchasing it on Amazon, where you can currently get it for under $12.

Since this is a major release of one of the original role playing games, I am going to review this, step by step, in a kind of a walk through.  This first article in this series covers the presentation of the game. It will go into much greater detail than the final review, but Ill link back to these individual posts. Continue reading D&D Starter Set Walkthrough: What’s In the Box

Basic D&D (D&D 5) Will Be Free

According to WotC / Hasbro Senior Manager for Research, D&D Mike Mearls, Basic Dungeons & Dragons will be free in PDF format. This makes a whole lot of sense.  A great number of games including Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder RPG have versions you can download in PDF format or access for free online, as well as the many great retro-clones of D&D.

D&D 5 (WotC wants to strip away the “5” for marketing purposes, but we need to know what version we are talking about), is due later 2014 with the release of the D&D Starter Set, Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Non-Human Cleric Limits in AD&D 1st Edition

A peculiarity of AD&D is that players can only play human, half-elf and half-orc clerics. Only humans have no limits on levels they achieve as Clerics; half elves are limited to 5th level and half-orcs are limited to 4th level. Players aren’t allowed to play elf (max 7th level), dwarf (max 8th level) and gnome (max 7th level) clerics. Players cannot play halfling clerics at all, and halfling druids can only reach up to 5th level. Continue reading Non-Human Cleric Limits in AD&D 1st Edition

Superior Requirements for Magic Users & Clerics

Want to make spell casters more exotic? Increase the minimum ability requirements. That’s what I did in my 950 AD alternate history campaign. To gain levels in those classes, the minimum score is 15. If you are using the 4d6 drop the lowest die method of generating characters, the chances are of getting a store of 15 or higher is roughly 23.2%. If your game master allows you to assign ability scores as you like, chances are good that your party will have a Magic User or Cleric in it.

Using the straight up method of 3d6 though, like the NPC population, chances drop to 9.3%, and that makes no guarantee that the 15 or higher stat is in Intelligence or Wisdom. Now also take into account the following factors:

  • There may be a literacy requirement before any order of Clerics or Magic Users will admit a student
  • There may be limitations based on gender or race
  • There may be limits based on age (making it harder for someone to pick up a level later)

If you are running a low magic campaign, its worth it to consider raising the bar.


D&D Next Competes with All Previous Incarnations of D&D

Mike Mearl’s This Week in D&D: Feats and Skills and Options, Oh My! takes an interesting look at how D&D 5 / D&D Next works. I have recapped his bullet points of the system here with some edits for clarity:

  • All characters gain a +1 bonus to an ability score of their choice at various levels, depending on the class.
  • You can trade a +1 bonus to an ability score for a feat if your group uses feats.

In other words, Feats are optional and don’t appear in the basic game.

  • Skills are an optional system that your DM might want to use.
  • Skills are optional and don’t appear in the basic game.

Skills therefore go hand in hand with Feats.

  • Backgrounds give out a combination of areas of knowledge, proficiencies with tools and objects, and special benefits.
  • An area of knowledge is a situational, +10 bonus to Intelligence checks.
  • A proficiency indicates you know how to use an item.
  • The unique benefits are social connections, tricks, and other abilities.

Backgrounds do appear separate from Classes, and seem to fill in what might have previously been a sub-class in previous incarnations of D&D. If I am reading this correctly though, backgrounds by their nature of what they cover subsume the need for separate Skill and Feat systems.

So the competition here is quite interesting. This is how I see it:

  • Basic D&D maps to the new Basic Game – Backgrounds – Races as Classes
  • AD&D 1st Edition & early AD&D 2nd Edition maps to the Basic Game + Backgrounds (for effective sub-classing, weapon proficiencies)
  • Later AD&D 2nd Edition (Skills Option Era) & D&D 3.x map to the full rules set with Skills and Feats

This is a fascinating way to update the game, since it effectively provides a great way to scale your existing game to a new version of the system without that much work – just what Old School type players would want.

There are some interesting threads on this topic over on TheRPGSite as well.