Professor Jimbles Presents!: D&D 5E Review

So while our esteemed host has been trying more esoteric systems like “East Texas University”, I was introduced (read: Dragged screaming away from WoD and Pathfinder) to 5th Edition D&D/”D&D Next”.

Note from the Editor: I wouldn’t exactly call Savage Worlds (the system that East Texas University uses) “esoteric”. It’s just a very solid generic RPG system that can be adapted to a variety of settings with a minimum of effort. I’ll write about it more later.

In short: It’s good. It’s really good. It pokes all my favourite happy buttons.

In long: It was the best of times, it was the worst of tim-   

Anyway – 5th Edition.

I read through the Player’s Handbook and I’m floored. I read it in a single day and was so pleased. The endless lists of modifiers? Gone. Alignment restrictions? Gone. Obvious bias to casters? Poof.

So, yeah. I’m excited. I’m also pretty sure this huge shift away from what is traditionally associated with D&D (Huge crunch, expansive rules and character options, little focus on roleplaying.) is:

  1. Good for D&D.
  2. Good for Pathfinder.
  3. Very controversial.

Pathfinder and D&D 3.5/4 have been holding the same niche in roleplaying for a little while now.  Mechanics heavy fantasy roleplaying with years of experience and a wide community to build tools. (Hero Lab; for example.)

This divergence into a simpler, more open ruleset REALLY helps D&D as the “Beginner’s game” reputation it owns as being the longest running and most visible in the media. The option to make it more complicated is available… By trying Pathfinder.

Pathfinder currently has 89 (At my super-rough count.) books available, not including campaign setting and adventure paths. 89 books worth of customization and additional rules are available for you if you love your mechanics. (Another Editor’s Note: It’s worth pointing out that many of these books are very short, highly focused Player Companions, not full sized splats)

But of course, this means 5E doesn’t look much like D&D anymore. It’s not like the punishing 2nd Ed Tomb of Horrors; the expansive 3.5 filled with ridiculous feats from a third party or even the tactical MMORPG style gameplay of 4th Ed.

And while it’s not Open Gaming Licence, additional crunch is added with each new book. Princes of the Apocolypse has added Elemental races like Genasi. At what point does the scale tip? When does 5E start looking like 3.5?

Reign of Winter – GM Perspective.

So, I fucked it.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but certainly, running a Pathfinder game was far more work than I expected, and it makes me appreciate the sheer amount of extra effort Keegan puts in above what the adventure path gives him.

Firstly, I haven’t run a rules heavy system since I was 14, where I mangled d20 Modern to represent school. It trainwrecked horribly, but it at least made some people laugh for a session. After that, I entered my WoD phase, being one of those oft-cursed eternal players demanding to be entertained. After some time I began writing Bard: The Crescendo (a WoD template, like Vampire, Geist and Changeling) with some friends. Eventually it fell to me to test the system. It went okay.

When Keegan wanted a turn playing Pathfinder, he thought I could do a decent job (uhh?) of running an adventure path, and gently pressured me into taking the job. What can I say, I can be an entitled jerk. He set me up with the core, our copy of Hero Lab and The Snows of Summer to bone up on.

Much like a Puritan high school, there was less boning up than would be healthy for everyone involved.

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Shattered Star: The Crew.

Our Blog-master decided my post was competent, and made him want to post here more himself. Perhaps in a manly “possession” sense. I can dig it. Because of that, it’s now my job to throw the occasional ham-fisted attempt at bloggery.

I’m playing in the Shattered Star game. I’ve played Aeros Rasta (Remember that guy who smacked himself in the face with a hammer?) finding a cool image and writing a simple fun backstory for him before we all died in the spider-holocaust. And yet… I wasn’t that upset when he died. Actually, I was a little pleased. It seems healing is not for me, or… Change is fascinating.

In an attempt to make this new party more permanent, evocative and interesting, I’d like to set out a small outline, and perhaps a brief description of each of the characters in our new party.

[Editors Note: having read this, it occurs to me that Jimbles has been adding a few flourishes to these characters that don’t exist in the personalities that the actual players have given them in game. And by a few flourishes, I mean he’s making stuff up out of whole cloth. That said, it’s pretty awesome… so I’ll allow it.]

Michael Best
Benjamin Dawson
Michael Aranda
Evan Radovanovic
Myself, James Woodman.

The paladin Gregor Roth, worshipper of the mighty god ____ known for his philosophy of “manning up” and “getting the fuck on with it, our paladin also exemplifies these traits. seeming something similar yo Sten the Qunari. on many an occasion, he has “cut the knot” by stating something similar to “It’s a devil. Kill it.” He fights with a massive falchion, given as a present from his order, the reward for being the strongest candidate in a year.

Zogalypse, Wildblooded Sorcerer of Umbra: A dark man, some say born from shadow, darkness and power, Zogalypse lives to prove himself and bring glory to the Pathfinder society. Collecting the Shards is a good start. Burning things to the ground is only just a means to an end. Dominion over the forces raging through him is a the only reason people can see past his dark heritage, and that used to hurt. Perhaps he can ride these idiots to glory.

Azaezel Blightblade the Magus: Another party member of demonic heritage, Azaezel has seemingly made a pact with a blade of dark, hypnotic metal. He’s found a way to cast some spells THROUGH the weapon. He makes devastating huge swings that crackle with Eldritch energy, lightning being a favourite. And yet, this power hides an even darker secret: Azaezel is not sure of himself. How should he react to hellspawn? Why does he feel uncomfortable in churches occasionally? And more importantly, why does Gregor seem less scary on some days?

Zamnil Blackaxe the spell-less Ranger:
Zamnil Blackaxe is a dwarf hailing from a century of trench warfare in the most brutal fashion possible. It has carved a name in his soul and mood. As a lead trail-blazer, the underground became his home and parade ground. While Zamnil can track smoother than an elf, he feels no kinship with the earth. He has learned the texture and feel because it was life or death… Mostly death. Zamnil wields hand axes with a talent borne of experience. He sees these companions as a way to earn a living without having to see Orcblood ever again.

Keira Strongarm, Human Archer: Keira lives in a world that was supposed to be denied to her. At first it was “You are too weak to use the longbow effectively.” When she drew the night watchman’s longbow at 8, it changed. “Your… Body makes true mastery out of your reach.” When she skewered an apple at 60 paces, the complaint changed. Father took away her weapon, and stated “You have duties at home, stop pretending to be a soldier.” She snuck away at night and carved her own bow, starting a life of a traveling trapper. It was only natural to come across the pathfinders.

That’s the basics. We’ve managed a few sessions without dying horribly, though Gregor came close. While we are relatively devoid of healing (PALLY IS FOR FITE) we are playing cautious.

Any questions?

Listening to: Hands Like Houses’ new album. I can’t place a genre on these beauties, but I do know they’ve matched the power and energy of the first album, avoiding the “Sophomore slump” like pros.