I learned about
the Into the Unknown fantasy role-playing game last summer at the RPG
Pub. Intrigued, I ordered it from DrivethruRPG (both PDF and print
versions). When it arrived, I looked through it, liked what I saw, and considered
converting my current World of Greyhawk campaign over to it. I did not
do so at the time because a few of the changes looked like they would be a bit
too much. Specifically, ItU adhered to a few elements from the “Basic” and
“Expert” versions of old school D&D that did not seem to mesh well with the
Greyhawk setting (e.g., three alignments, races-as-classes).
But when WotC
threatened to pull the OGL a couple of months ago, I decided to make the shift
away from “official” 5e D&D. Given the compatibility of ItU with 5e, it was
easy to keep the things that I wanted from 5e for the sake of the setting
(e.g., nine alignments, the distinction between races and classes) and
continuity (the ‘sub-classes’ already selected by the players for their
characters). Hence what we’re playing now is a kind of ItU-5e hybrid, with a
few house rules mixed in.
others who like elements of 5e D&D but who also like old school D&D to
check out Into the Unknown. There is a summary of the main differences
between the 5e D&D rules and ItU provided on page 52 (Book 1) of the latter.
I’ve reproduced and edited it below, along with some of my own notes (in a different font) to
indicate some of the changes I’ve made for my campaign.
· No race choice – These have been converted
into their own optional classes.
kept the race-class distinction. But I’ve also kept the ‘racial classes’ as
special classes for non-human characters of the appropriate race, renaming them
‘Dwarven Defender’, ‘Elven Mystic’, and ‘Halfling Wanderer’. I’m especially
impressed by what ItU did for the ‘Elven’ spell list, mixing certain druid and
magic-user spells into something that feels more ‘fey’ in nature overall than
· No Sub-classes – To have fewer sub-systems.
will be keeping those sub-classes (abjurer, battle master, etc.) that already
have been used (see my forthcoming house rules post for more information).
· Fewer classes – For similar reasons as
above, ItU restricts itself to the original four core classes and relies on a
Features – A mechanical choice at 1st level that defines your class. It
replaces sub-class and wide range of classes and feats, though it strives to be
the ‘class features’ mechanic, ItU divides priests into ‘cleric’ and ‘druids’
(with different spell lists), and also allows for quite different kinds of
rogues and magic-users.
· No Feats – To reduce decision points
during character creation, to have fewer different mechanics in play and to
augment the maxim that “anyone can try anything”.
weren’t using feats already. (I so hate feats…)
· No Skills – Replaced by “Proficiency
Areas” to give fewer decision points in character creation and emphasize
proficiency as meaningful aspects of characters.
· Only goes to 10th level – most games never
go beyond 9th level. ItU is focused on where 95% of the gameplay lies and
supports the kind of play seen at those levels. The Companion rules, to
be released later, will cover high level play.
· Simpler & fewer backgrounds – To keep
decision points manageable, ItU has a smaller selection. It is simpler, yet
allows flexibility to cover all bases.
backgrounds are quite nice. When combined with the classes, it is possible to
construct a wide range of different kinds of characters, but without all the “fiddliness”
of standard 5e.
· No Multi-classing – A simple multiclassing
system will be found in the Companion.
· Condensed weapons list – ItU folds many
different weapons into basically being the same weapon mechanically, with
differences between weapons being mechanically distinct.
· Gold for XP – To give players incentives
other than killing things on the way to completing an adventurer goal, ItU
relies on Gold-for-XP as the main source of XP.
been using the “milestone” system for XP in my Greyhawk campaign and will
continue to do so. That said, I’m quite impressed with the experience system presented
in ItU. I’d certainly consider using it in a future campaign.
· No spellcasting focus or trivial spell
components – Detracts from simplicity.
· Simpler encumbrance system – ItU tracks
encumbrance in Stones and Items carried, rather than tracking pounds of many
· Different overland travel system – ItU
focuses on hex-based overland travel to focus more on the element of
exploration and uses a simple unified track to manage encumbrance, weather,
quite like the travel system presented in ItU. It provides a simple but
engaging mechanic for handling overland travel.
· Reaction rolls – ItU’s default assumption
is that initial encounter reactions have an element of unpredictability and
that not all enemies necessarily want to fight you.
is something I quite like in earlier versions of A/D&D, and I’m glad that
ItU has a simple system for it.
· Morale – All creatures have a morale
score, reflecting that not all creatures will necessarily want to fight to the
had developed an ad hoc morale system for my 5e game already, but I like ItU’s
system better and have been happy to switch over to it.
· Henchmen – ItU assumes the party may want
to hire henchmen to help keep them alive and has basic rules to address this.
· Harsher Healing rules – Hit dice for
healing is a sparser resource.
recovering all their hit points after long rests is one of the things
that strikes me as the most ‘cartoonish’ about 5e. In ItU, PCs have to spend
hit dice to recover hit points even after a long rest (although they gain ‘advantage’
in doing so if they spend their hit dice immediately after they rest).
· Shorter Short Rests – These usually take only
10 minutes, but the GM may decide that different circumstances change the time
required for long and shorts rests.
· Proficient Saving Throws - All PCs add
their proficiency bonus to any saving throw.
· Simpler reach rules – Rather than having
to track exact distance between opponents, battle map style, reach weapons
simply provoke opportunity attacks when opponents move within 5 feet of you.
· More coverage of improvised attacks –
Since everyone can try anything, ItU has more focus on stunts and improvised
attacks. It also encourages fighters to get creative by giving them proficiency
with any improvised attack.
· Time Tracking – ItU has a strong focus on
time tracking to keep pacing in the game.
simple but helpful time tracking system will be familiar to anyone who’s played
B/X D&D or AD&D.
· Full Compatibility – The changes made in
ItU are balanced towards retaining full compatibility to 5e, so that a 5e
character easily can join a game table playing ItU with no conversion needed
and vice versa.
that we’ve been using so far (e.g., spells, magic items, etc.) that are not in
the ItU rules were simply be ported over to ItU.
between 5e and ItU strangely not mentioned in the summary is that ItU uses only three alignments
(Chaotic, Neutral, and Lawful). Obviously, it’s easy enough to stick with the
standard nine alignments (which we’ve done in our campaign).
As I mentioned above,
I’ve added a few house rules to ItU. I’ll post them here in the very near