Posts Tagged With: 1e

The Source(s) of Magic

I am now reminded of another key and significant difference between 5e and 1e – where “magic” comes from.

According to 5e, all magic is the same and the different classes merely represent three broad methods for manipulating it – “Divine Magic” merely means that you see the act of manipulating the supernatural in terms of worship or veneration, while “Arcane Magic” means that you see it in terms of a science, while “Mysticism” means you view it as a more of an superpower or inherent ability.

All magic is magic, drawn from the same well. It is what makes the multi-class rules spellcasting rules work, and over all creates a simplified vision of the metaphysics underlying the game universe.

This is fundamentally different from 1e, where Divine Magic, Arcane Magic, and Psionics are quite different things. In 1e, Divine Magic is divine energy or mana that the cleric or druid channeled for their Deity. In fact, in the old nomenclature of Demi-, Lesser, and Greater Gods there were restrictions on the level spell that could be granted based on the power of the Deity – plus the higher level spell were granted (by daily prayer) either by a powerful minion of the Deity or by the Deity Itself.

Arcane Magic in 1e is pretty much like it is described in 5e, the individual caster learns how to manipulate the supernatural energies of magic through the use of formula that involve material, somatic, and verbal components. It’s a science, and the magic-users have learned it, and they are limited merely by their willpower to advance in level.

Psionics in 1e isn’t magic at all, it’s psychic abilities and operated on an entirely different premise.

But all of this just reaffirms the core differences underlying the rules and engine of the game. Now unlike, the Heroic Character of last post which I can totally get behind this “all magic is the same magic, drawn from the same well” is something that I’m not very enamored with. For example, in my old friend SD’s game, clerics were at a disadvantage if they were in an area where there wasn’t any worship of their Deity or there where no shrines or temples in Their Name. It made for an interesting thread in one bit of his campaign.

Currently, I’m experimenting with KR and her Druid/Wizard to allocate her spell levels like 1e instead of 5e. So instead of being a 11th level spell-caster with access to all of those spell-levels (including levels beyond what she can nominally cast save as boosted spells of lower level) we’re trying her out as  5th level caster and a 6th level caster whose spells are tracked separately and cannot “cross pollinate” as it were. It seems like it is working fine and if we don’t find any hidden problems that’s what I’ll stick with.

In any case, that’s my thoughts on the matter,





Categories: Game Design, Game Play | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystic, Psionics, and 5E vs AD&D Balance

So, the playtest of the full, 20-level, Mystic came out via Unearthed Arcana last week and it looks pretty decent. I’m not sure I like all of it, but I like most of it and I find the whole package quite workable even if I have some qualms about specific Disciplines and don’t think there are enough Talents.

I also don’t like that there is no “psionic vs. psionic” combat – all psionic attacks work against anyone, and there is seemingly no benefit in being psionic when it comes to resisting psionic attacks or damage.

Part of this is because I want to keep some of the flavor of AD&D psionics, and there are a handful of things which don’t translate well or haven’t been translated at all – and there are some things which I like a great deal and because I never played 3E or 4E or even any 2E Psionics, I never had any exposure to them. I played with a “Psionics as the random extra” straight out of the Player’s Handbook and the Psionicist class out of the Dragon Magazine. I also used the Deryni from the same issue and adapted various races do include an innately psionic component.

Now, you could certainly adapt Feats as a way to grant some access to psionics without having to go full-Mystic or even have to adopt a psionic subclass (which I am sure will appear sooner or later, I’m pretty sure that’s what the Soul Knife is going to end up as). There are the Magic Initiate and Ritual Caster Feats and some analogy would be easy enough to develop.

But I’m also a fan of the “psionics as a rare and random extra” for characters. So my current thought experiment is that there is a percentage chance equal to the total of the character’s modifiers for Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma that the character is psionic. This might be too high, I haven’t checked against the old chances in 1E.

And then a table both for total number and for random Disciplines and Talents – similar to the old 1E method of handling things. I’d probably make Psionic Strength Points a multiplier of level rather than the completely random method used in 1E, perhaps 2x or 3x level, so that it is always lower than an actual Mystic.

5E has attempted (and failed, as usual) to keep characters tightly balanced. The action economy, the mostly nonsense of bounded accuracy, the general increase of hit points, and the overall nerfing of spell-casting (fewer slots, concentration, etc). The problem is that even with spell-casters being nerfed, they still outclass other classes in Tier 3 & 4 play. Some are positively sickening such as the Eldritch Blast Warlock, and the non-caster melee types simply pale in comparison.

As broken as Exalted was (is), this is where it was amazing with it’s Charms, you could play a melee character and it was as bad-ass as a spell-caster (possibly more so in some ways, but that was the nature of the wuxia-inspired system).

So, as an old 1E AD&D DM, I’m much more comfortable with characters of unequal power, and in fact with characters that are fundamentally more powerful than they are in 5E. Heck, I have a campaign world somewhat predicated on it, there’s some wriggle-room, but I really wouldn’t want to depend on a 5E Tier 4 character for the fate of the multiverse…

Pretty much all my house rules continue in the vein of making 5E characters more powerful, especially the spell-casters. We are miles away from the quadratic casters of earlier editions, but I simply have no problems with the idea of high-level casters being significantly more powerful than melee-types.

When I think of high-level spell-casters I’m thinking Gandalf fighting 1v1 with the Balarog (yes, yes, I know that they’re both really angels, but you know what I mean) or Ged fighting multiple dragons by himself, or Elric, or Pug, or even Doctor Strange. These are characters you really can’t replicate any more given the power restrictions of 5E.


Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Casting spells and wearing armor (5e)

So, as I go through the list of things that I like about 5e as compared to 1e, and things I like much, much better in 1e the whole concept of wearing armor and casting spells comes up. In 5e, this is simply a matter of proficiency – if you are proficient in the armor, then it doesn’t interfere in your spell-casting. Now, in 1e spell-casting and armor was severely limited and was one of the great balancers for non-human races, fundamentally for Arcane Magic.

Now, truthfully, there are all sorts of different flavors of Arcane Magic now (and we’ll ignore my “historical game” switched all sorts of things up, like Druids using Arcane Magic, blah, blah, blah…) but, in the quest to nerf the idea of level-dipping, and continue to add back at least some of the verisimilitude that made my campaign world make sense…

Divine Magic has no inherent limits on armor (just like 1e), it is simply a matter of the armor training you get from your class. A character Deity is happy to pump divine energy into you, whatever you’re wearing, as long as you’re doing “the right stuff”!

Arcane Magic is where it gets wonky…

Wizards, Eldritch Knights, Arcane Tricksters, and Sorcerers may only wear only wear Ultralight Armor.

Bards and Warlocks may wear Ultralight and Light Armor.

Elves, High Men, Half-Elves, Sh’dai, Dwarrow, the Old Race, and Gnomes (this could expand as additional races are detailed) may wear non-metallic Light and Medium Armor and cast Arcane Magic, they may also wear enchanted metallic armor of the same types.

This gets us back to the image of locking wizards into specially-made suits of armor as a way to neutralize them without having to cut their tongues out or cut off their fingers and hands… It’s also the reason why these races are likely to get targeted first by tactically knowledgeable opponents, they are going to be assumed to be spell-casters, no matter what they actually are, and are perceived as mysterious, dangerous, and the most significant threat sans any more obvious target.



Categories: Game Design, Game Play, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unearthed Arcana, 5e Playtest Material, and Min-Maxing

I have to say that while I enjoy reading the various material that come through Unearthed Arcana, and even approve of most of them – reading people utterly flip out on EnWorld about them is probably more enjoyable. It’s a collection of folks freaking out as they come up with every possible Min-Maxed way that something could be or should be broken, complaints about the flavor text, and just general Internet fan-boy hysteria.

The latest one, with the Hexblade Patron, the Raven Queen Patron, the extra Eldritch Boons, and the then Lore Master Arcane Tradition for Wizards has people’s heads exploding. Personally I don’t find any of them particularly bad and kind of like them, I can certainly see some of the complaints – but when you grew up with quadratic magic-users I’m not exactly intimidated by these.

Part of the issue is the idea of level-dipping, an annoying metagamey artifact of 3E D&D. This is a problem only if the DM is dumb enough (or inexperienced enough) to allow it unchecked. Those of us raised and nourished in the halcyon days of 1E pretty much view any ability to “switch classes” after character creation to be a gift from the gods (aka the DM, often via an actual act of deity). As such, at least in my campaign, it’s should never be viewed as a given (or a “right”) it should be viewed as illustration of character development.

Case in point, if your Fighter character really starts thinking like a Paladin and you wanted to “multiclass” I’d be much more tempted to simply switch the character’s class than have a “Fighter/Paladin” – same thing with Cleric in many cases.  If your Cleric wants to train as a Monk… well, yeah, that takes awhile and you’re probably going to have a Cleric/Monk…

Also, in my campaign, multi-classing is generally going to result in a significant investment of time on the part of the character (months, not days or weeks) – which means that they are going to lag behind in level if the rest of the party has continued adventuring. Let be serious, 5e characters are already amazing overpowered compared to 1E and 2E (and, by accounts, to 3E & 4E as well), multi-classing makes them even more powerful – so yes, I’m going to make players work for it a bit.

Which, as anyone who knows me, doesn’t mean that I particularly care about powerful PC’s – I love players having powerful PC’s and I have yet to meet one that I can’t kill or otherwise deal with if I really wanted to. I threw out CR awhile ago as broken and most creatures in my games are not Monster Manual standard – another artifact of a long-running campaign world. In fact the majority of the “problems” in my current campaign has been from one of two sources, hewing to closely to some of the 5e assumptions regarding game balance, and trying to hard to follow the actual adventure path for the Age of Worms.

I should probably update my page for House Rules to address all of the various articles as to which are allowed and which aren’t.



Categories: Game Design, House Rules, Review | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Death and the Player Character (5E DnD)

So, as I study for the EPPP, part of my brain recovery (or cushioning more likely) has been watching Matthew Colville’s Running the Game series and the odd video or three from Web DM. I strongly recommend both sets of videos, for a variety of reasons – you can decide on your own. Now, that said, this has more to do with the recent release of Matt Mercer’s Resurrection rules from Critical Whatever. I don’t watch it, but the rules came across my feed.

It force me to think about this in my game, as well as reflecting on some of the differences between 1E and 5E. In the old 1E games, things were much more lethal, and characters were a bit more careful as result. In 5E, healing is much more available, dying is much harder (mechanically), and there are none of the limitations or costs on Raising that previously existed (System Shocks, Con loss, racial limitations). We are finally at the level where Raise Dead is available (or will be soon) and while I like the idea of Matt Mercer’s rules they are just way to fiddly in some ways. 5E DnD has done a lot to get rid of fiddly in some ways and his rules actually seem more fiddly than 1E AD&D was.

I’ve also been thinking about simply how easy it is to bring back people from death or it’s brink in 5E. I like this flavor to tell the truth, but the Gentle Repose and Revivify combo is a, um, “killer” on top of the normal magical curing, healing kits, and Spare the Dying cantrip. It is really pretty darn hard to die and they’ve made it pretty darn easy to come back from it…

Perhaps too easy for my evolved campaign setting.

Now, one suggestion is to make diamonds (the material component for Revivify, Raise Dead, Resurrection, and True Resurrection) much less common and very difficult to find. Truthfully, I already know exactly had rare they are and they already aren’t that common. But I also don’t exactly mind Revivify given the time limitations involved. I do miss the System Shock rolls of the old Raise Dead spells, as well as the racial limitations – these are huge social and cultural limiting factors in my campaign.

Note, this is also all in my search to re-humanize my world a bit. It is intended to be humanocentric world, and there is no mechanical reason for this in 5E unlike the reasons why this would be in 1E.

So, normal rules of dealing with near death still apply. Dropping to 0HP is just like the rules. Healing from that works as normal and Revivify works as normal. A Saving Throw on the part of the character being brought back from death is required for Gentle Repose + Revivify, Raise Dead, and Resurrection. There is no Saving Throw needed for True Resurrection or Reincarnate. For purposes of effects, any time you are Revivified outside of the base timing of the spell because of some other spell or magic item in the mix, you need to make the Ability Check.

The ability that the Ability Check is rolled on is chosen by the player of the character being brought back as long as they can justify it. The Ability Check is Medium (15), using Bywater-grade diamonds (basically industrial quality) incurs Disadvantage, while 1st Water diamonds grant Advantage. For what it is worth, Bywater is pretty much all that is available in Towns (and probably only enough for one casting of Revivify) while 2nd and 3rd Water are available Cities, and 1st Water diamonds are generally only available (at normal price) in Great Cities.

Things that normally affect Ability Checks will also affect this one – meaning that a group of companions pleading with their deities, cleansing the area spiritually, calling out psychically to help the spirit find it’s way to the body, whatever, can potentially help this roll (see p175 “Working Together” in the Player’s Handbook).

Jewelry with an appropriately-sized diamond in it is very “fashionable” for many adventurers and usually able to be found in most cities.

In the realm of verisimilitude and Gygaxian Naturalism, these sorts of spells also incurs a significant bit of interest in a divine caster’s deity, even if unconscious. So bringing character back from death that do not worship the same deity, are of significant different alignments, etc., etc., etc. can have significant repercussions for everyone involved. Geasa, religious conversion, spell refusal/failure, and the like are all possible and should be expected. This is beyond how some cultures and races view and deal with death. For example, Dwarves can be Raised, but culturally are loath to come back and see it as a curse rather than a blessing. There is also, invariably, some other cost to coming back from the dead – ability score penalty, insanity, whatever. It really depends upon the situation and context – hacked to death by swords is a bit more traumatic than a quiet backstab that killed someone instantly, but assume that dying is troubling to the emotional well-being of a character and even their spiritual health.

I’m slowly updating the write-ups of the character races with their relationship with death.



Categories: Game Design, Game Play, House Rules, Magic Spell | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ouch! So that’s not going to work…

Well, the term “palace revolt” isn’t quite the right term but boy howdy, the gaming group really didn’t like the different experience point system. Fundamentally, the complaints boiled down to the sense that it wasn’t fair. Tying XP to personal damage done and taken, even with group awards based on overall totals and creatures defeated had various players feeling as if characters who primarily buffed, hexed, or healed were being penalized for choosing to do something other than fighting and doing damage.

So, back to the drawing board – and by that I mean the CR Chart.

Fundamentally, even more so in 5E than even in 1E, the D&D experience system is essentially blood magic. I kill it (or defeat it), and I steal it’s power, and I get stronger (at least in 1E you also got XP for cash and magical items) – little creatures have less of the élan vital, powerful creatures have more. I was totally willing to grant an increase in XP if it was tied to damage (and seriously, I think the “damage taken” is really elegant idea and solution to a couple of problems that come from the actual game mechanics of how combat works in the game), but the moment we try to tie XP to “things my character does” any hope of creating a balanced system that scales to the characters levels and abilities is flushed right down the porcelain altar (and, fundamentally, gets away from the basic underpinning of the D&D experience system).

Or at least, I’m an utterly uninterested in doing the statistical analysis of spells, class abilities, and skills as matrixed to proficiency bonus and/or mechanic equally matrixed to either monster combat rating or, again, damage done and damage taken.

Ugh, just thinking about the multivariate stats involved makes my head hurt…

So, I took a long hard look at the CR evaluation rules in the DMG and figure I’ll just run with the first, very basic system they suggest for figuring out a monster based on the CR you want it to be. I’ll basically reverse the process, and just run with it. It’s kludgy, it is really, really rough – but it’s not like the CR system is any paragon of elegance or even mediocre game design in the first place (it’s actually more like some vestigial remnant left from 3E or 3.5E as best I figure).

But I’ll be able to figure out the CR, and thus the XP for any monster I make. The slightly modified chart (to account for my change in the Dexterity & Armor Class rules, plus the full range of possible attack bonuses – both of which merely tweak the progression in the CR20 to CR30 range) fits on a single printed page.

C’est la vie!



Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Ok, this is an experience system that works ok…

After examining Alexis’ system (as mentioned last post) and crunching some numbers in 5e I have a surprising conclusion. I actually have to reduce the XP award to bring it from a 1e based game and into the realm of 5e.

I was originally thinking that I might have to boost the award for the “big creatures” but based on Deva (CR10) and a Solar (CR20) the XP reward based on damage dealt and damage received (plus bonuses for defeating the creature and total party damage, both to be split evenly across characters) the 10XP/20XP award came to just over double the CR10 XP for the Deva and just under triple the CR20 XP for the Solar.

So, I’m cutting the awards in half – which also make the awards for low CR creatures less egregiously high compared to their nominal CR XP value. Characters get 5XP per point of damage that they deal in combat (spell-casters get the “best ” result from area effect spells, but not XP for every creature damaged), and then if the party defeats the creature there is a bonus split amongst the participating characters equal to 5XP per HP of the creature. Similarly, characters gain 10XP per point of damage that they take, and at the end of combat the total damage that the party has taken is totaled and multiplied by 10XP with all the characters who participated in the combat splitting that total as well.

Yes, this generally awards more experience than normal for 5e system. But it has the benefit that it is more closely tied to character risk and actually experience. Quick fights where the players outclass a target or mob it with little damage to themselves result in less experience while fights where characters are brought near death (even when fighting “little monsters”) while slaying mobs of creatures result in more experience. It also closely links character XP  to character behavior – while still providing a group bonus for those characters who hang back. Characters which prefer to play support and avoid getting “skin in the game” still advance, but slower than those who are “stuck in” while hitting and getting hit.

And, frankly, I don’t care if the players are advancing “quicker” than normal 5e – I’m confident of my ability to give my players a good game, and I tend to load my games with “lower CR” creatures in 5e terms. I’m guessing that, looking at the XP tables, characters will naturally slow down a bit around 5th or 6th level unless they start seeking out “higher CR” creatures – and in my game those are pretty nasty in combat. I’d expect to start seeing characters dropping if that was the plan.

In normal 5e I have to start “stocking the dungeons” with higher and higher CR creatures to building those “average adventuring day” encounters. Now, I just have to make encounters that make sense in terms of Gygaxian Naturalism, trust that I can run them in an enjoyable way, and let the players decide what an “average adventuring day” looks like.

Plus, I can run NPC’s with character classes as opponents now and don’t have to try and figure out what their CR is!



Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Experience, CR, and the whole unholy mess…

I just want to say that I hate the whole CR and Monster Creation process in 5e again.

So I’ve been thinking about alternates.

On the one hand I could probably come up with some sort of analogy for the 1E system. The biggest issue is that there is not a linear progression either from CR0 to CR30 creatures, or even from CR0 to CR24 creatures (which is where the ancient red and gold dragons sit). That has the ubiquity of being something I’m familiar with and I just need to work so the XP for a monster is roughly the same in either game.

The problem with that is that I’ve already been burned by the 1e system before. I do still like the utter and complete simplicity of Alexis’ XP system, but then I run into the problem that 1e also grants XP for treasure and in 5e XP only comes from defeating monsters. His game runs roughly 40% XP for creatures and 60% XP for treasure, so I’d need to double the gains for it to balance out (assuming I wanted to balance things per his campaign style). Plus, XP in general is inflated from 1e numbers and the XP needed to level is greatly reduced. I haven’t done any number crunching yet in 5e terms, but I suspect that the balance would be off even if I did something like tie ??xp per HP of the creature (so that the party got bonus XP for the monster in the same way ).

Alternately, I would just accept that the XP system gets inverted a bit – just as Alexis was trying to address. I think the real place to address things is to grant some sort of XP reward for inflicting Conditions being that they are essentially “quasi-damage” in many respects. This would also solve the problem of “combat effective but not damage producing spells” – how do we reward that?

Now, yes, this system would speed up the already ramped up advancement of the lower levels in 5e and have slowed down advancement at higher levels – maybe… Those humanoid minions are actually “worth something” now in the greater XP picture – a lot of something.

It is so gosh darn simple…





Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Run you clever boys…

So, via Trollsmyth I made my way to Strange Magic where I am once again convinced that something went seriously, seriously wrong with 3.0+ D&D, including the current 5E with it’s clearly misbegotten CR tables and encounter construction rules…

So, as might be imagined, yes – I used those tables (and might be again for that matter) and nobody complained. I never found there to be a problem with the characters know that there were “things out there” that were more powerful than they were. I should really post an old encounter table or two, simply to explain my style of DMing.

They found out by role-playing – looking for the well-worn sword hilt, or the stance that betrayed an experienced warrior, or a mage with a powerful aura, or the beggar with a couple too-many daggers on their person. Of course I have a game world where “politeness matters” and being seen or known as a dishonorable sort has significant social ramifications.

The game-play benefit of this is actually somewhat paradoxical, as is the whole of the 1E style of encounters. When encounters are built on a budget, it places the DM and the players in an actively adversarial stance towards each other. The DM is specifically matching things to combat the players at whatever level of deadliness that they have chosen. The players know this, and all negative results are either “bad rolls” or “the DM’s fault” because “they made the encounter too hard.” Plus there is the conscious or unconscious expectation that all encounters are “beatable” because they are all constructed using a scale that makes this implicit.

In a random encounter world, the players know that what they meet is a matter of luck. They also know that things “in the wild” are also likely to be in the same boat. In the Gygaxian Naturalism of 1E when you roll “goblins” you don’t meet a goblin, you meet large number of them – because they might be running into a dragon as well and would like to be prepared!

All in all, this also demanded DM’s and players that thrived on more than a diet of pabulum. You could simply have the PC’s encounter a dragon out in the wilderness (I’ve certainly done it), or you could have them run across signs of dragon, or have the dragon merely fly over head and give them the chance to hide. In the city, have the thieves flashing gang sign back and forth, or the mages noting the sigils on the auras of other spellcasters, the fighters can be aware of the local mercenary companies and their devices, or the names of the local duelists and bravos.

Again, this is dependent upon both the DM and the players being willing to role-play. The DM has to do something other than plop opponents down in front of the characters to kill, and the players have to be willing to do something other than killing everything that they interact with. It means that DM’s need to run NPC’s and monsters like something other than Daleks, and the players will have to make like the Doctor and learn how to “run like clever boys” and not simply stand and fight everything to the death because that death could easily be theirs!

I am very glad to see that 5E wants people to do this – but they are going to have a devil of a time weaning people off the CR nonsense that has invaded the game.




Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wizards and Spells

I’ve been reading the Player’s Handbook a fair amount lately as one might imagine – and I’m in the odd spot of thinking that they made one spot almost a little bit too much in the player’s favor. That’s Wizard’s learning new spells – the bit where they just “get” two spells everyone level they advance. This is evidently for the mere cost in time and materials that it takes to record a new spell.

I don’t like this.

The difficulty or at least the dynamics involved in gaining new spells was one of the few restrictions or limitations on the Wizard class as they grew in power. It made the “search for spellbooks” one of the most pressing of issues in being a mage – and I made the point of coming up with a compromise between the “spell learning” rules of the canon game and the idea that it made sense that wizards had a common corpus of spells that they all knew of the various levels. The idea of this was that there were a series of standard spellbooks that where known as “codices” (singular “codex”) as opposed to the “Grimoire” in which Wizards record their personal spells.

I think that the idea of two spells every level is ultimately fine, but they don’t come from “nowhere” – the Wizard either has to own a copy of Codex of some sort (in which they are free to copy as many spells out it as they like or are able), they have to be members in good standing of a Mages Guild with access to their library and codices (which gets them the two spells each level, or more if they pay for them), or they have to have cultivated a good relationship with another mage or retained a good relationship with their Master (in which case they will grant them the two spells per level, possibly more depending upon the relationship).

I’ve talked to my players and they really didn’t like the “roll to know spells” from 1E, so I’m not going so far as to return to those rules (though I was tempted). But I think that the need to decipher the poor handwriting, odd codes, turns of phrase, hidden formulas, and similar issues – all perhaps in one or more languages that the character may or may not know is trouble and complication enough for players with Wizards. I really do see this as similar to reading tomes in Call of Cthulhu – with some of the same potential side effects…

The one thing really lacking in either the Player’s Handbook or the Dungeon Master’s Guide were rules for spell research on the player’s part. Knowing my players I am positive that I’ll end up having to improvise this at some point or another.



Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at