5th Edition D&D

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I’m a little late to the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons party. Many years ago I stopped playing D&D and focused on other RPGs. I glanced at 4th Edition when it came out and was not a fan of it at all. But I have recently acquired the 3 core rule books for 5th Edition and thought I would look it over.

It has been my experience that the even numbered editions have been bad ideas and not as popular with gamers. Especially with the longtime players and DM’s. While the odd numbered editions do far better with the base and new players. I liked the 1st Edition and the 3rd Edition was good as well. So let’s turn the pages in the 5th Edition.

We are still using the d20 System with the 5th Edition but a lot has changed. None of the three d20 editions are directly compatible with one another. Conversion guides are necessary if you are converting a current campaign and characters over.

The basic core concepts are there; race, class, level, alignment. And D&D’s classic fire-and-forget Vancian magic system. And as a d20 System game the core rule remains as well. There is a target number called a Difficulty Class and that number or higher must be rolled an d20 (20 sided die) in order to succeed. Additionally the basic rules to the game are still open content and usable by other publishers without having to be specifically licensed or pay a licensing fee.

I always liked the idea of non-weapon proficiencies since it was introduced as an option near the end of the development of the 1st Edition of the game. And they become core in all editions after the 1st. But now in the 5th Edition a player cannot choose which of these skills their character is proficient in, they call come from the choices the player makes with race, class, and the new concept of a background. There is some choice in those of course but it’s very limited. Also the new rules seem to echo the 1st Edition rules on non-weapon proficiencies. One is either proficient or not. There are no longer degrees of proficiency and having “max rank” in a specific skill.

Feats, another aspect that has changed in the 5th Edition. Theses were introduced in the 3rd Edition of D&D as a way of customizing the abilities of one’s character. Some of these were just further abilities of a character class or ways of expending that character with specific training or other innate abilities. Now they are optional, and there are a lot fewer of them. But those can be more powerful than the originals. Other things feats did are now built into the character’s race, class, and background.

Ability scores have been capped again in the 5th Edition. That cap is 20 for your player characters. Monsters and the gods can have higher scores still however. When a character reaches 20th level they can get Epic Boons. But this too is a new cap on levels that wasn’t previously there in 3rd Edition. Only at this point can Ability scores be raised above 20. But there is a new cap of 30.

D&D has long used the gods of the ancient world. Across the full spectrum of classical Greek and Norse mythology to others both historic and fictional. These deities were worshiped by the character and granted the Cleric class it’s spells and the very needed ability to turn the undead.

The use of these gods has given D&D some flak by fundamentalist Christian groups over the decades but its all unfounded nonsense. This is a game after all and not real life. And as a Christian myself, I see no problem with this storytelling. And any DM is certainly able to incorporate real world faiths into his game if this is wanted instead. But as it stands right now, the gods are getting the boot and are barely a few scant pages with hardly any details at all for those Clerics to use them in the game.

And the Clerics themselves have gotten a bit of the shaft as well in this new edition. Specifically with the number of times that they can turn the undead. This has been drastically limited and reduced from previous editions. Not a good thing when your DM sends a horde of undead after the party.

Another class that appears to have been downgraded is the iconic wizard. A 20th level wizard in the 3rd Edition had an arsenal of 40 spells that could be unleashed towards whatever threatened the wizard of the adventuring party. Yet here in the 5th Edition, that number has been reduced to a mere 27. I’ll admit here that 5 of those spells are 0 level cantrips that can be cast at will, but they wont do a lot of harm or help.

Many of the iconic monsters are still present, including some favorites of mine like vampires and the Mind Flayer. Some other monsters have made a comback after being absent from the d20 System editions. I haven’t yet had the time to look though all the monsters to see how they compare with previous editions yet. But I like seeing some of them still around.

One aspect is completely missing from the core rules. That is psionics. The psychic mental powers that are not magic and come from within the character. In the 1st Edition psionic powers were included in an appendix of the Player’s Handbook. These were good but the concept was greatly expanded upon with an article in Dragon Magazine, issue 78.

In the 2nd Edition, psionics got its own source book but it wasn’t treated well. It was like a bad joke compared to the expanded material in Dragon 78.

The 3rd Edition just made psionics into a terrible 3rd kind of magic. Taking the worst ideas of the 2nd Edition and running it into the ground.

Thankfully Green Ronin came along as a 3rd party d20 System publisher and created the Psychic’s Handbook. And it was brilliant. It treated psionics properly and made it usable in the d20 System again.

I’ve seen some unofficial attempts at psionics for the 5th Edition of D&D but all have come short to the high standards set by Dragon 78 and the work of Green Ronin. I hope someone does it right.

All in all the jury is still out on the 5th Edition of D&D. It has both good and bad points. And I would have to issue some homebrew rules to correct a few of those failings that I have seen if I was going to run a game with it.

But it’s not bad. Go out and adventure!

The New Doctor

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I’ve started watching the newest season of Doctor Who. The BBC’s long running science-fiction program. And I have been a fan of this show for many decades.

Each time there is a new lead actor taking over the role started by the late William Hartnell I get a little nervous. Will I like this new Doctor and the personality the actor brings to this iconic role? Does the new actor make a convincing Time Lord? Are they the Doctor?

Throughout the program’s run since it started in 1963 there have been 13 actors, including John Hurt who was the “war Doctor”, and we are now starting with the 14th actor in the lead role. But since John Hurt’s incarnation didn’t go by the name “The Doctor” the newest actor is considered to be the 13th Doctor. There are a few little tid bits in you want to get technical about the Time Lord’s regenerations but we’ll just go with the 13th Doctor for the sake of this article.

But this 13th Doctor is special. We know from previous incarnations that the Time Lords gave the Doctor additional regenerations so that isn’t what makes this one special. That was the previous Doctor’s special call. What makes this incarnation unique is that the Doctor’s regeneration made him a her. The lead role has been passed on to a woman instead of the traditional male actor playing the enigmatic Time Lord.

It was previously established that regeneration of Time Lords could result in a change in gender. This happened to the Doctor’s Time Lord nemesis, The Master, who regenerated into Missy. It is not common but it is possible.

I am not against this idea. From what I have seen so far of Jodie Whittaker, the 13th Doctor, is The Doctor. She is everything I expect to see in the Doctor. Her run in the title role will be a good one. Time will tell if she makes it into the Top 3 joining the ranks of Tom Baker and David Tennant who are the two greatest actors to ever wear the mantel of Time Lord.

I look forward to following the adventure of Jodi Whittaker as she further embarks on this season and more of Doctor Who.

Tiny D6 – A game system review

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I’ve been a gamer (table top RPGs) for a long time. Way back to the beginning of the hobby. I’ve played or GMed in countless games and dozens of systems. I’ve been a TSRO, a playtester, a kickstart backer, published a game or two of my own, and chat host of some big names in the industry.

But today I’m going to talk about one of my top 3 game systems. And surprisingly this system isn’t one of those that has been around for decades like myself. This new system hit the table top originally in 2014 by Smoking Salamander and is now being published by Gallant Knight Games and is called Tiny D6.

Tiny D6 is a minimalist system with very light rules. All the bulk of most RPGs has been stripped away. It only uses six-sided dice so anyone can easily play without needing to obtain a set of polyhedral dice.

The basic rules are simple. You roll 2 dice, if either one of them is a 5 or 6 you succeed at your task. Very simple and easy. Sometimes you have Advantage, and you get 3 dice instead. And if you have Disadvantage, you get only 1 die to roll.

Currently there are 3 games that have been published in this line. The first was Tiny Dungeons for a fantasy style game, the 2nd is Tiny Frontiers for those who want science-fiction, and a post apocalyptic rule set of Tiny Wastelands. All of these are just basic rules. There are no hard settings and a lot is left up to the GM.

A 4th game is currently in the works and was a Kickstart project, a super hero game that is called Tiny Supers. This one, like the others before it will be basic rules. But also will include a compleat setting for the first time.

These are all great fantastic games and rules for running them. I like to tinker myself with game rules. And I’ve got a game setting that is a home-brew from 1983. And when I find a rule set that I like. I always convert it over. And Tiny D6 has that honor just like the other game systems that have been my favorites before it.

I think Tiny D6 is a great game system for both new and old players. The rules are simple and easy to understand. There are genres for the basics, including the upcoming Tiny Supers. And others coming in the future as well. Everyone will be able to find a game in the line that appeals to them directly.

Even younger kids could learn this system. And it works great around the gaming table, online chat, or even play-by-post.

I personally give this my recommendation to anyone looking for an RPG that isn’t the cookie cutter variety of the big guys.

A Star Trek Discovery Review

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I have been watching the latest Star Trek series. Star Trek: Discovery. The storytelling and plot are fantastic thus far. But like the reboot movies it has a lot of continuity issues.

The Discovery takes place some 10 years before Captain James T. Kirk conducts his famous 5 year mission on the Enterprise. So I watch for things that should not be in that time period of known Star Trek history.

First off there is the use of the arrow head emblem for all of Star Fleet. This is incorrect. The arrow head emblem did not become the symbol of Star Fleet until after Captain Kirk returned from his historic 5 year mission. Prior to that event every ship in Star Fleet had it’s own symbol. The arrow head was the symbol of the U.S.S. Enterprise only.

The technology seems to improve by going back in time of Star Trek’s history. They have holographic displays and consoles. This tech is even better that the tech of the Enterprise in The Next Generation under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

The Discovery even has a small holodeck for combat training. Something that wasn’t invented until the 24th century in The Next Generation, and then it was rather new and a questionable technology. It is flawless on the Discovery.

Everyone seems to use holographic communications as well. The Federation aboard Star Fleet vessels and even the Klingons themselves. No more putting the incoming communication “on screen”. There is a 3 dimensional person to walk around and interact with while communicating, although not a physical interaction like a holodeck. This is a technology never before demonstrated in the history of Star Trek. However it is a direct rip-off (or flattery) of the HoloNet communications from Star Wars used by the Republic, the Empire, and Rebels alike for 1,000’s of years.

I do like the new look of the Imperial Kingons. However in proper Star Trek canon the very existence of these Klingons from deep within the Klingon Empire were not known to the Federation until the V’ger incident. The Klingons were well versed in the science of genetic engineering, something that the Federation banned, and they created the Klingon/Human fusions that we saw in the original series.

We also have the Discovery’s spore drive. This is basically a kind of hyperdrive or jumpdrive. Ripped-off (or more flattery) from Star Wars and/or the reimaged Battlestar Galactica. Apparently this technology was either lost in the war against the Klingons or banned afterwards due to the biological component needed to make it work properly.

At the time of this writing we have yet to see the Romulans in this incarnation of Star Trek. But we shouldn’t see them either. Star Trek history tells us that Earth and the Romulans had a war about 90 to 100 years prior to the Discovery time period. As it had been 100 years since the Romulan war when Kirk and crew encounter them in the “Balance of Terror” episode of the original series. And at that point no one knew what a Romulan looked like either. Time will tell if this canon of Star Trek gets violated by the Discovery as it was already violated by the movie reboot.

It does seem to me that there is a continuity between the Star Trek Enterprise series, the movie reboots, and the Discovery series. However this continuity breaks down greatly when compared to the original series, the Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager series.

Within the Star Trek universe this can be explained easily as an alternate timestream or a parallel universe. If it is an alternative timestream, we have yet to see the Federation Time Fleet of the future come in and correct the errors that have been made. If is just a parallel universe then there is nothing to correct and it can be accepted as such.

But overall Star Trek Discovery is a good show and worth watching despite the multiple continuity errors as seen from the eyes of an old generation Trekker. Looking forward to the season finale and next season.