5th Edition Session Zero

Yesterday evening my players and I met to speak about D&D 5th Edition, the Tal’Dorei setting, and eventually create their characters. I was actually surprised how much thought the players have already put into their characters. Overall everyone was quite excited and pretty quickly everyone had a solid concept for their characters.

We actually didn’t talk that much about Tal’Dorei, but focused more on the mechanical aspects of the game and what races and classes were available for player characters. Initially I planned to restrict the race choices to what was listed in the Tal’Dorei book, but when someone mentioned their interest in playing a Kenku rogue, I decided to allow it. Overall I have decided to give my players much more leeway when it comes to what was available to them. In the past I have probably been a bit to restrictive and in a way too protective of my vision of the campaign, but this time I wanted to be more open to their ideas. And in the end I am sure it will make them much more invested in the game which is a win for all sides.

After about 3 and a half hours of talking, laughing, number crunching, and character planning we had the following lineup: a dragonborn sorcerer, a tiefling wizard, a kenku rogue, a drow warlock, and a tiefling blood hunter. Oh my! Aside from the dragonborn sorcerer, which is lawful good, the others have more “flexible” morals, but I asked them not to make outright evil characters. One player couldn’t make it yesterday because his car broke down on the weekend, so we have another character to create before the party is complete.

At the moment the party doesn’t have a dedicated healer, so I have to be careful not to cause a TPK in the first session, but if we’re careful this shouldn’t be an issue in the long run. We already scheduled the first real session, which means I have now about one month to come up with their first adventure, prepare handouts, and create any maps needed. We agreed to try to schedule a session every month, which is a pretty relaxed pace, which suits me fine at this moment.

We also talked briefly about the tone of the game. With the character choices they already told me they are interested in a rather dark game, which suits me fine, and we also decided that intrigue and politics may be a thing, but definitely not the focus. Aside from that I can basically throw at them what I wish. At this moment I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to this new campaign. A lot of campaigns have failed in the past, or I have burned out way too quickly. But this time, I am way more relaxed and my players seem to be genuinely invested. Things are looking good!

Long Silence!

It is a long time since I have posted anything here or even commented for that matter. I have not abandoned Stargazer’s World, I have just been exceptionally busy.

Several weeks ago I was given a selection of books by Columbia Games Inc from their Hârn setting. Previously I had heard of Hârn but had never looked at the books. Most of my gaming had been done in either Middle Earth (MERP and Rolemaster),  Shadow World, Forgotten Realms (Rolemaster) or in Sci Fi settings.

When Hârn landed on my desk I was really interested in it from a developers point of view. I like writing and sharing adventures but you cannot publish material for Shadow World as Iron Crown are fairly hostile to indie developers and WotC are not really interested in letting you use their setting for different games.

Hârn on the other hand is a stand alone setting. I have never looked at HârnMaster but I am not in the market for different set of rules (actually that is not true but HârnMaster is not what I am looking for).

I have reviewed the core Hârn booklet over on my own blog but here I wanted to look at HârnManor.

One of the things l like about the HârnWorld materials is that they are fairly ‘bitesize’. Most that I have looked at have been in the 60 to 70 pages. That is manageable and I can read them in an evening.

HârnManor is 88 pages but the second half of the book is five manors fully detailed and ready to use. The first half of the book is all about manor life and how to generate a detailed manor.

Manors are where 90% of the HârnWorld population live and work and is most likely where your players are likely to start their life. The rules presented in HârnManor allow you to create a detailed manor to use as a backdrop for your setting right now to random events. The medieval manor glossary was genuinely interesting and educational!

HârnManor costs $29.99. So would I buy it? I am not entirely sure I would. When I am GMing I may well just tell you that there are fields of crops and there are peasants working the fields. I don’t need to know what the crops are and the exact yield per acre. I just don’t need to know that level of detail. For lots of GMs they love that level of detail. If you are of of those GMs then you will love this book.

If you are into HârnWorld then I suspect you will already have this. It feels like one of the core works and it was published back in 2009. As a standalone setting it is a useful addition I think to most GMs libraries.

D&D Beyond

Let’s face it: Wizard of the Coast’s track record when it comes to their digital offerings is – let’s say –  spotty at best. So it was probably a good idea that they let Curse handle D&D Beyond. Over the last few days I’ve extensively used the website and app to look up rules and to play around with the character creation tools. And I have to admit I am impressed.

But let’s get some things out of the way first: D&D Beyond is in my opinion a bit too expensive. If you want to have access to the full rules and perhaps some of the sourcebooks or modules you have to basically buy them a second time – assuming you already owned them in print. I get that WotC doesn’t want to give the materials away for free, but $90 for the digital access to the PHB, DMG, and MM is a bit steep for my tastes. On the other hand, D&D Beyond allows you to share access with your gaming group, so the offer gets quickly more affordable if you split the costs with your players.

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So what does D&D Beyond offer? Even if you don’t want to pay a dime, you get a complete rules compendium including everything the Basic Rules have to offer. This compendium is fully searchable and the display was optimized for the web (or smartphone and tablet via the app). If you buy additional material, you get access to it as well. People who have subscribed to the Master Tier are allowed to share their library with up to 12 people per campaign (up to three). This sets you back about $6/month. There’s also a cheaper Hero Tier which is meant for players (it doesn’t include the sharing feature) which is only $3/month. Free users have limited character slots and can’t use other people’s homebrew material with the character creation tool.

There are also tools for creating characters, magic items, and monsters. From what I’ve read they plan to add more features in the future, but even now, it’s a pretty nice thing to have. You can also share your homebrew materials with other players but I haven’t really looked into this part of the offer.

The app (which is available for both iOS and Android) currently only gives you access to the rules compendium functionality, but this might change at a later date. What I really like is that it allows you to download your purchased content (including the free Basic Rules) to your device, so you don’t need internet access to look stuff up. If you want to read the D&D 5th Edition rules on your commute, then the D&D Beyond app is the way to go!

Aside from the fact that I consider it a tad expensive, D&D Beyond is – to my surprise – pretty impressive and I haven’t even tried every feature. The ability to look up rules, stats, etc. and a device-optimized display alone is worth it. And even if you don’t want to put down any money, the D&D Beyond app with the Basic Rules is a must-have for any serious D&D player!

A Roleplaying Games blog

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