21 July 2014

5e Players Handbook Preview

Here is a preview of some of the art that will be in the 5th edition D&D Players Handbook.  It also includes the pages from that book that present the ‘Warlock’ class.

Overall, I think that the art is solid.  I love the scene of the wood elf forest city.  I dislike the pictures of the two wizards, both of whom are striking rather silly ‘action poses.’  The other pictures are fine, in my view, and have the virtue of portraying adventure scenes rather than adventurer poses.

On balance, based on what I’ve seen so far, I like the art for 5e a lot more than that of 3e (and, based on my limited exposure, 4e).  I never cared for the ‘dungeon punk’ look that was introduced with 3e, so I’m glad to see that it has been purged, for the most part, in the new edition.

The Warlock class looks interesting, but I’m puzzled as to why it is an ‘arcane’ spell casting class as opposed to a ‘divine’ class, given that it receives its powers via a ‘pact’ with a ‘higher-power.’  Nonetheless, the Warlock seems quite flavourful.

At some point (hopefully this summer) I’ll sit down and read through the Starter Set and the free Basic Rules in order to arrive at a judgement concerning 5e.  However, based on the snippets that I’ve read so far, I think that I like it much more than I ever did 3e (and 4e, of course, is simply beyond the Pale).

20 July 2014

Kane and Crypts and Things

I’ve been reading the ‘Kane’ short story anthologies by Karl Edward Wagner over the past few weeks.  So far I’ve finished Death Angel’s Shadow and The Book of Kane, and presently am in the midst of Night Winds.  I eventually plan to read the Kane novels as well – Bloodstone, Dark Crusade, and Darkness Weaves – though I likely will take a break after I finish up Night Winds, and so probably will not complete the entire Kane series until sometime this autumn or winter.  Based on what I’ve read so far, however, I recommend these stories to any fan of ‘swords-and-sorcery’ fiction.

Wagner is a solid writer who describes his scenes in an economical but evocative manner.  The stories generally are engaging, and sometimes have genuinely surprising twists in them.  The world in which the stories take place is a classic swords and sorcery one.  There is magic in the world – indeed, Kane himself practices sorcery at times, such as in the story “Undertow” – yet it is generally subtle, dark, and eldritch.  

Kane himself is an unsympathetic yet strangely compelling character.  He does a lot of very evil and savage stuff, yet nonetheless comes across as intelligent and even charismatic.  Evil as Kane frequently is, his enemies, including putative ‘heroes’ like the band that hunts Kane in the story “Cold Light,” often are no better, and frequently quite a bit worse.  The world of Kane is a morally grey one, with the darker shades predominant.   

I had a hard time finding any maps of Kane’s world online.  The one below is the best one that I could find.  I also could not find much information on the world itself.  It seems to be inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Hyboria, insofar as it is a mythical ‘pre-history’ version of earth.  (Wagner himself was a great Howard fan, and helped publish three anthologies of the original, unmodified versions of the Conan stories.)  

The character of ‘Kane’ seems to be based loosely upon the Biblical ‘Cain,’ though with some noteworthy differences.  For instance, in “Misericord” Kane claims that Adam was his father and that Eve was his stepmother (thus implying that his actual mother was Lilith?).  Part of Wagner’s fictional history, I suspect, is the idea that later myths concerning Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel were based roughly upon the ‘real’ Kane and his origins.

Anyhow, I’ve found myself thinking repeatedly, as I’ve been reading these stories, that the world of Kane would make a great setting for Crypts and Things (my favourite OSR ‘near-clone’ FRPG).

14 July 2014

New York Times and Guardian articles on Dungeons and Dragons

Related to the release of the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons and the game’s 40th anniversary, there were two articles on D&D in major publications yesterday: one in the New York Times, and one in the Guardian.

03 July 2014

Basic Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Free PDF

I'm sure that most people who are into RPGs already know about this, but the 'Basic Rules' for the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons are available in a free PDF here.

(Alas, I'm not sure when I'll be able to look them over, as I'm crazy busy with other stuff right now...)

28 June 2014

Magic Items of the Absurd

This article, ​"The 20 Most WTF Magical Items in Dungeons & Dragons," is a fun read.

For some inexplicable reason, I found this one especially hilarious:
13) Druid's YokeIf you're in a D&D campaign where you need to do any kind of farming, you have bigger problems than any magical item can fix. But this yoke allows characters to — when they put it on themselves — turn into an ox. Not a magical ox; a regular ox. Then you can till your field yourself! You can't do it any faster, because again, you're just a goddamned ox, but it does allow you to… do the horrible manual labor… instead of the animal you've bred for this exact purpose. So that's… something someone would totally want. The best part? Once you've put it on, you can't take the yoke off; someone else has to do it for you. Because you're a goddamned ox.

08 June 2014

RuneQuest Essentials available as Free PDF

The dynamic duo at the Design Mechanism have produced a 'basic' version of RuneQuest 6 and made the PDF available for free (though donations are appreciated).  It is available at DM's website (download page) or at DrivethruRPG.

Here is Loz's announcement from the RPGsite:
We are releasing RQ6 in a much-reduced, introductory PDF edition called RuneQuest Essentials. Designed for those who want to try RuneQuest before migrating to the full rules, it offers a great way of getting to know one of the most celebrated roleplaying game systems out there. 
What's more, RuneQuest Essentials is free. You can download it from www.thedesignmechanism.com/downloads (or via DrivethruRPG and our publisher page there). If you feel we're being overly generous, then there's a Donate button you can use to make a contribution of whatever you feel appropriate - or, at Drivethru, you can Pay What You Want. 
What we want is for you to try RuneQuest. We'll be publishing an introductory scenario, Sariniya's Curse, very soon, and there's already a wealth of additional free material available on the Downloads page. 
So if you've never tried RuneQuest before, there's no better time, and no better way, than with RuneQuest Essentials.
I think that this is a brilliant move (and, if I may be momentarily immodest, remember suggesting to Loz that he do something like this over a year ago). The Call of Cthulhu has long offered an excellent quick start free PDF. Given that WotC will be making the 'basic' version of 5e Dungeons & Dragons available as a free PDF, this seems to be the way of the future.

As I've mentioned before here, RuneQuest 6 is the best FRPG to have been published in the past two decades.  Check it out!

About Me

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I'm a Canadian philosopher, fantasy gamer, and procrastinator extraordinaire, who divides his time between Milwaukee WI and Toronto ON. I lived in Dublin Ireland 2005-2008, and still miss it very much! At least I still have Guinness.