Let’s party like its 1999 – 5th Edition reflections

It has been just over 2 years since 5th Edition D&D came out, and I thought I would share my impressions of it.

The Good

  1. The advantage system is great – it really makes it so much easier to run. Instead of calculating modifiers, you just say “take advantage on the roll” (or disadvantage, of course).
  2. It really has the feeling of a modernised AD&D (hence the title of this blog post).
  3. Its easy to convert classic D&D modules (and you can buy PDFs of these online at Drivethru). The most difficult part are classed characters who don’t fit into the archetypes at the back of the Monster Manual. For example, I am converting Dragon Mountain at the moment, and I had to provide stats for a Paladin. I just modified a Knight. You can even convert on the fly, once you get used to it (and 1st/2nd edition monster numbers seem to work most of the time). I did this for a lot of Night Below.
  4. Some of the adventures are very good (Lost Mines, Out of the Abyss, Princes of the Apocalypse, Storm King’s Thunder I have played or read, and Curse of Strahd by all accounts is good too).
  5. The rules are pretty simple – I have gone whole sessions just referring to the Monster Manual.
  6. Backgrounds. An excellent and flavourful idea 🙂
  7. Basic rules available for free!

The Bad

  1. Some of the adventures are very bad (the two Tiamat ones for example).
  2. It can be hard tracking background personality, bonds, ideals and flaws for the inspiration mechanic
  3. Some of the monsters can be a bit “samey” in play.
  4. Casters are still supreme (but not as much as in 3.x and Pathfinder).

The ugly

  1. Slow release schedule – this is both a downside and an upside, to be honest. Supplement bloat can cause unforeseen synergy issues, but its always nice to see new options :-).
  2. Bloody Forgotten Bloody Realms. Although its easy enough to run in other campaign worlds, especially Greyhawk.

Dragonrage Review

[Archived from www.thehexedgamer.co.uk]

Publisher: Flatlined Games (only available direct)

Designer: Lewis Pulsipher
Developers: Eric Hanuise and Lewis Pulsipher

Dragon Rage is a remake of a game originally published in 1982, shortly before the then publisher (Dwarfstar games) went out of business. I had a copy of the original game (no longer, unfortunately!), so I was intrigued when I heard about the remake.

What’s in the box?

You get a lot of bang for your buck – a mounted, double-sided board, with a Human city on one side and an Orc oppidum on the other, 2 rule books, 213 counters, 4 monster cards and a player-aid card. The counters are thick, with rounded corners, and feel like they can take a lot of play! They are double-sided, with the original artwork on the back.

Gameplay

The basic scenario (covered by one rulebook) has 2 dragons attacking the city – large monsters like Dragons have several hit locations and attacks, so the scenario is well balanced. The Dragons have to make hit and run attacks, and avoid being caught on the ground. Other scenarios (in the other rulebook) have various combinations of units attacking the city or oppidum, and there are also point-buy and campaign options.
The way the large monsters work reminds me very much of the Steve Jackson games Ogre and GEV. They have several hit locations, and damage affects the movement modes (walking, flying, bounding or crawling, in the case of Dragons) and the attacks it can make (Bite, Wings and Legs, for Dragons). Other large monsters are Rocs, Wurms, T-Rexs and Sea-Serpents. Each has its own combination of hit-locations and attacks. Giants (Minor Monsters) have several wound points, but only one attack.

Combat is a case of rolling against a target number. If the target is a Major or Minor monster, wound points are reduced according to the attack score of the attacker. Normal units die if attacked successfully.
One or both sides may have a Hero and/or a Wizard. Heroes are ‘super’ units, able to provide leadership and take on monsters single-handed. They die after 2 hits. Wizards cast spells.

The rules are pretty comprehensive, with rules for breaching gates, scaling walls etc. There are some confusions, but these can be resolved by agreement. Each unit has its own section – this can cause a lot of flipping between pages in early games. There is a lot of fun little rules which add a lot to the atmosphere (Orcs and Goblins can only scale walls once, as they leave their ladders behind!), but the complexity is low (Eric Hanuise has stated that this was developed as a introductory wargame).

The victory conditions confused me somewhat – the attacker gets Victory Points by destroying important buildings, the defender wins by destroying the attackers – what happens if both things happen? I decided that the attacker can declare victory once he has reached the VP target. If he wants a better victory, he will need to continue and risk being destroyed.

This is an excellent game, and I recommend it as both an introductory wargame and a fun game which you can play to a conclusion in a couple of hours.

Traveller Starports Review

[Archived from www.thehexedgamer.co.uk]

 Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Author: Carl Walmsley

Traveller Starports is a supplement for Mongoose Traveller, about, well, Starports. It is tagged as a Third Imperium product, but could be used in any campaign.
The book is softback, and has 118 pages, divided into 6 chapters: Introduction, Starport Encounters, Designing Starports, Sample Starports, New Ships and Reference Manual.

Introduction

This outlines the different types of Starport, and the (Imperial) Starport Authority (SPA). It explains what travellers can expect to find at the various classes of Starports (E to A), and Highports and Downports.
The SPA covers the organisation of the Authority at Imperial Starports, its objectives, customs law and links with other Imperial organisations. The Imperial Starport Organisation details the directorates within the SPA at each Starport, from Administration to Traffic and Flight Control. In a small Starport, employees will cover multiple roles, whilst the largest Starports will have hundreds or thousands in each directorate.
Finally, other Starports (Scout, Naval, Naval Depots, X-Boat Station, Independent Ports and Private Starports) are covered briefly.

Starport Encounters

The bulk of this chapter is devoted to tables for encounters at Starports, from Backwater Locations to Metropolis Locations. Each group of encounters is divided into General (day-to-day) and Significant (unusual and/or perilous). Some are patron encounters, environmental encounters, opportunities to buy unusual goods, and others are specific passengers.
Finally, it includes tables for local character details, the Starport Governor and Starport Quirks.

Designing Starports

This entire chapter is given over to designing Starports, and their associated costs. It is pretty comprehensive, covering everything from landing pads to security holding cells. Each Starport has a Profile, which may be filled out by the GM when creating it.
Starports are expensive – even a Class E Starport will cost upwards of MCr 1.
The chapter ends with a couple of examples: a Class E built from scratch and a Class E upgraded to a Class C.

Sample Starports

This includes details of 9 Starports created under the rules of the Designing Starports chapter. These are detailed with adventure hooks and important locations and personalities at the Starport. However, despite what the chapter introduction says, the do not include maps, which is a bit of a let-down. This from Mongoose, who provide plans for every ship they details (even 200,000 tonne warships!). Poor show.
The Starports range from Rhylantinople, the city-sized Starport of Rhylandor, to The Boneyard, an independent Starport built into the hulk of the Imperial battleship Megalith by a group of radicals (called the Dregs) from Querrion.
All the Starports have their place in the OTU, but could be transposed elsewhere with a little work. This is probably the most Third-Imperium centred chapter of the whole book.

New Ships

This includes 4 new ships: Dreg Fighter, Dreg Hunter (both associated with The Boneyard detailed in the previous chapter), Recovery ship and Tanker, all with associated rules and ship plans. New equipment is also included: Fuel Transfer Equipment and Magnetic Grapples, both of which may be included in other ships.

Reference Material

This has example Starports of each type, both Downports and (where appropriate) Highports. It also has basic schematics of each class Starport.

Conclusion

A good, solid supplement, aside from the now inevitable Mongoose typos: why can’t Mongoose hire proof readers (they jump out of the page at you, so a once-over would have revealed the problems). Still, it’s nowhere as bad as the Universe of Babylon 5 sourcebook! The lack of maps in the Sample Starports chapter is also a disappointment.
I would recommend this supplement to anyone running a campaign in the Third Imperium.