Friday, August 19, 2022

One D&D, Character Origins

 As part of their announcement yesterday, Wizards of the Coast released the first playtest document for One DnD, Character Origins.

One Dnd Playtest

The bulk of the document is about how they are going to handle Character Races and Backgrounds in the next version of DnD. Interestingly they include snippets of other sections of the rules to give some context for the other mechanics they mentioned in the section about Origins.

Rob's Notes: So folks understand where I am coming from I care far more that the mechanics reflect the nuances of a setting or genre than "game balance. I am a strong proponent that having a consistent view of the genre or setting is more important. As opposed to making Option A, B, and C have equal weight in the campaign. 

Character Origins

It looks like they want to bind Character Race and Background more tightly in One DnD. Emphasize roleplaying more by giving background equal weight to character weight. In core 5e, background is almost an afterthought. Later Adventures in Middle Earth ditched the idea that the two are separate and combined them into cultures. For example, a dwarf of the Lonely Mountain has some things in common with a Dwarf of the Blue Mountain and some things are different. Each has its own section in the AiME books.

Controversially they shifted some of the benefits around race and background. A character race still grants distinct special abilities but now the attribute bonuses are determined by the background the player chooses. For example, picking the Guard background will get you +2 strength and +1 wisdom in addition to a set of skill proficiencies, tool proficiencies, an additional language, and what they calling a 1st level Feat. 

I think this was a poor creative choice. In DnD fantasy it is well established that elves are more dexterous, dwarves are hardier, and so on. This change doesn't feel very DnDish to me. But my choice would have been to split the bonuses between race and background. Just like in AiME a dwarven guard would have of some the same bonuses as a Dwarven Pilgrim and some that were different.

My final analysis is that in comparison to 5e core, characters are going to get a tad bit more with Character Origins. Like AiME there is more emphasis on the roleplaying details. That the difference between the 5e Core and One DnD is small and incremental in this area of the rules.

Starting Languages

One DnD Character will know common, a language from their background, and a language from the list of Standard Langauge: Common, Common Sign Language, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Gnomish, Goblin, Halfling, and Orc.

I find the addition of Sign Language interesting and plan to do some research into the historical use of sign language and incorporate that as an option for my Majestic Fantasy RPG. I also watched the movie Prey and the protagonists of the film, Comanches, also used a type of sign language.

Feat Description.

In my 5e campaigns, I didn't often use feats having a negative experience with the mechanic as a result of 3.X. But 5e's take on feat is far more laid back overall so sometimes when a player makes a good case that a particular feat fit his character background, I will allow the pick.

However when it came to AiME, they recast the feat mechanic as virtues. And it worked rather well and really enhances the feel of the system as a Middle Earth RPG.

This section includes feats like Alert, Crafter, Lucky, Magic Initiate, Musician, Savage Attacker, Skilled, Tavern Brawler and Tough. I find it to be a varied mix of combat and non-combat options that are somewhat laid back overall like the core 5e feats. Some like skilled may have to be tested in actual play to see if they are too generous or not. Skilled give three proficiencies in skills. 

Given the limited of 5e skills that could be overkill or maybe it is just right. I would judge this on the basis of "Does this make sense for the DnD fantasy genre that a character starting out to be proficient in this many skills?" compared to the overall skill list.

Feats also have a level requirement baked in as part of the standard description. Will have to see the full description of feats before making a call on whether this works out or not. 

Rules Glossary

The author explains some of the mechanics they referenced in the preceding sections.

Types of Magic

There are not three instead of two types of magic. Primal joins Arcane and Divine. Could be a good roleplaying flavor.

Tool Proficiency

They list Artisan's Tools, Gaming Set, Musical Instrument, and notes on Tool Proficiencies in general. Some observations.  

  • If you have proficiency in a relevant tool and skill you gain an advantage on the d20 roll
  • It appears One DnD is simplifying the price list and acquisition of equipment. 
  • Their attempt at terminology to avoid naming editions is to say "see 2014, Player's Handbook".

Creature Types

Like the 2014 rule books, there are creature types and certain ability may work differently for a specific type of creature.

D20 Test

One DnD will introduce D20 Test as a term to describe any use of the 1d20 high mechanics. Ability Checks,  Saving Throws, To-Hit Rolls, etc. It appears to be a way of consolidating the die rolling mechanics under a single header.


  • Rolling a 1 on anything a D20 Test is a failure
  • Rolling a 20 on anything grants inspiration.
  • Critical Hits rolling a 20 on a weapon or unarmed attack will double the damage dice. 
There is currently a lot of controversy over whether the last this applies to monsters or not. Ever since I have been involved with later editions of DnD starting with 3.0 in 2000. There have been two broad camps regarding the system. One side believes that X can happen only if it is explicitly allowed. The other side believes that unless it is specifically not allowed  X can happen. I happened to be part of the latter camp. 

The text in question says

As you can have NPCs with class and level taking this literally will lead to logical inconsistencies as to how the genre and setting are depicted. 

Grappled Condition
I think it is written up better in One DnD than in the 2014 rules. Speed is zero, attacks on anybody but the grappler are at a disadvantage, you can be moved except the grappler is considered slowed, and the escape conditions are expanded and explained better.

Incapacitated Condition
The original 2014 rule is intact and the following has been added; concentration is automatically broken, can't speak, and if you have to roll initiative while incapacitated then you roll at a disadvantage. 

Mentioning concentration is probably wise, while it stated in concentration that you lose it if you are incapacitated it makes the rulebook more user-friendly to mention it in the condition as well.

The can't speak part is stating the obvious in my opinion. 

I can see a point in mentioning the last. Combat can ensue when the character is already incapacitated and the 2014 rules taken literally would mean that the character makes a normal init roll.

Many aspects of Inspiration are the same as the 2014 rules. Spending it grants advantage on what is now called a D20 Test. It still can be awarded as a result of good roleplaying. You can only have one. There are now additional opportunities to gain Inspiration like the crit roll.  However, now you lose any Inspiration when you take a long rest.

Inspiration was a controversial part of 5e from the start. My view of this take it is that more akin to luck mechanics or system that give you some type of ongoing benefit as a result of a critical.

I used Inspiration occasionally as part of my 5e campaign. I don't see any particular issue incorporating this as an additional crit result. 

Long Rest
The same with a new addition that if you are interrupted over an hour in, you get the benefits of a short rest.

Slowed Condition
One DnD adds a new condition Slowed. 
  • spend 1 extra foot of movement for every foot you move using your Speed.
  • Attackers have advantage on you
  • Disadvantage on Dex Saves
A new sense has been added. Basically you can locate (but not see) anybody in a radius around you as long as they are in contact with the same surface as you are on.

Unarmed Strike
They combined the 2014 version of Unarmed strike, grappling, and Shove into a single ability with three choices for when you make a successful attack. Also to escape a Grapple is DC 8 + strength mod + proficiency bonus. Not the opposed skill check of the 2014 rules.

New Spell Lists
Take the cantrips and 1st level spells from the 2014 rules and divides them into the three categories of Arcane, Divine, and Primal.

Wrapping it Up
So far it looks like pretty much still 5e. If I had to guess I bet for most of you reading this it reads like somebody's list of house rules or even your own house rules. A bunch of tweaks and reformatted sections to suit the author's sensibilities. Still seems like 5e to me and more importantly doesn't alter how easy it is to hack or tweak 5e into the system you want to use. Plus some of it makes sense and would be useful like the Slowed Condition and the grappling changes. 

Next are some thoughts on DnD Digital.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

One D&D, The Announcement

So One D&D?

Today Wizards announced some details about what happening to DnD. 

The one thing they hammer on in the initial press release is that Wizard does not what you to think of it as the next edition. In the press release, they are stressing that One DnD is 100% compatible with 5e. Using Curse of Strahd as an example of something that can work equally well with the current 5e rules now and the One DnD core rules later.

I believe them. If the authors make that their goal it is totally doable given my experience dragging the Majestic Wilderlands through multiple systems. And we have actual examples of how this would work with Adventures in Middle Earth versus DnD 5e Core rulebooks. 

But there is a catch. 

A catch?
The feel of a campaign is determined by the referee's personal style, along with how the systaffand stuff work together. Using AiME as an example again, it uses the 5e system but with radically different stuff (classes, monster, abilities, etc.) that turns it into a Middle Earth RPG. 

An AiME campaign doesn't feel like a core book 5e campaign. Even if you were to use the same adventures for both. Which happened to me when I ran an adaptation of Scourge of the Demon Wolf for AiME at Con on the Cob a few years ago.

One DnD likely is 100% compatible by continuing to use the 5e system. It may have a completely different feel because of the stuff the authors choose to use for the RPG. If it is different enough my guess is that most hobbyists will consider it a new edition despite the marketing.

Another observation the closest analogy we have is the transition from 3.0 to 3.5. And that didn't go over well for 3.0 products and put the final nailing into bursting the d20 boom. But the Wizards as a company deliberately decided to design 3.5 so it is not quite compatible with 3.0.

Here the design team wants the system to remain 100% compatible limiting changes to the stuff (classes, skills, spells, etc.).

Wrapping it up

We will see how they do as they are having a somewhat open playtest on DnD Beyond.

I will have further comments later on DnD Digital and the initial playtest on Character Origins.

Next: Thoughts on the One DnD: Character Options.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Concerning Bat in the Attic Games, Voyaging into Strange New Worlds.

First I appreciate everybody's support! I wasn't expecting the amount of traffic and that the outstanding amount would be covered in only three days. I was going by past sales and I figured on triple the normal traffic. Instead, I got way more. Thanks and appreciate the business. 

What is still available?

I have Blackmarsh, The Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG, Quick Reference Cards for Swords and Wizardry, and Quick Reference Cards for the Majestic Fantasy Basic Rules at the Bat in the Attic storefront

I also have Stuff in the Attic. It is packed with a bunch of free downloads some of which probably should been released in their own right like Merchant Adventures.

What Next?

 So now that the Judges Guild license is over with, what is next for me and Bat in the Attic Games? 

I am fortunate in that prior to getting the Judges Guild license in 2009, I was working on a new setting that was built around the material that is original to me. Folks saw parts of this as Points of Light, Points of Light II, the Sunrise Sea from Goodman Games, and as well as my own Blackmarsh. Originally I was going to call it Lands of Adventures, but now it going to be the Majestic Fantasy Realms. 

The Majestic Fantasy Realms is going to build on the techniques I have learned over the past decade. Any regional map I make for the Majestic Fantasy Realms will be cropped from a much larger map that I do my drawing on. 

This map is roughly the size of the continent of Flaness in the World of Greyhawk. It has a 5 mile grid at full print size (roughly 3/8" per hex). The advantage of this will mean that all maps will align perfectly with each other. 

While I have a sketch and notes on the details of the different regions. I will be building this piecemeal at first. Basically in four map sets. When I get a couple of these done, I will probably release a World of Greyhawk style folio covering the entire setting from a high-level view. The firs 

I am doing this to keep the focus on local level detail, the part that matters for most campaigns.  Each map campaign set of four maps covers a region 300 miles by 400 miles. Enough to keep a campaign going for several levels.

The first four maps will be released as Into the Majestic Fantasy Realms and it is the main focus at this time. I am about halfway done with the writing and shooting for a fall release.

Some close up views

Currently, Into the Majestic Fantasy Realms will have 10 12" by 18" map sheets. Four referee maps, four player maps, and an additional one or two maps with town maps. Along with a guide book for the four maps. Each map will have an overall background and details on Terrain, Islands, Lairs, and Settlements keyed by hex number.

Wrapping it up

Again thanks for your support. Below is a brief list of what I have planned in the order that they will be released.

  • Scourge of the Demon Wolf, Revised & Updated (for the Majestic Fantasy rules and setting).
  • Into the Majestic Fantasy Realms
  • The Manual of Puissant Skill, a player's manual for the Majestic Fantasy RPG 
  • Deceits of the Russet Lord Adventure.
  • The remaining volumes of the Majestic Fantasy RPG (total of three more). 
  • Night's Bride Coven Adventure

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Concerning Judges Guild, To All Things an End

I appreciate the outpouring of support and patronage. As of 7:00pm eastern time, the amount of deferred royalties is enough to pay off the outstanding balance Judges Guild owes on the Wilderlands maps done by myself for the City-State Kickstarter. Accordingly, I have ceased sales of all Judges Guild licensed products.  A follow-up post will be up tomorrow. Again thank you.

Rob's Note: For what I will be doing next please see Concerning Bat in the Attic, Voyages into Strange New Worlds.

Currently, I have three main product lines two of which are produced under a license from Judges Guild. For a long time, I had a good relationship with Robert Bledsaw II, the son of Bob Bledsaw one of the founders of Judges Guild, and the current owner of the IP. 

In February of 2020, I learned that Robert Bledsaw II was making unacceptable social media posts after which I no longer wished to continue to have a business relationship with Judges Guild. The details of this can be read in the following two posts along with the sources they reference.

The problem I faced was that I was owed a substantial amount of money for the work I had done on mapping the Wilderlands of High Fantasy as a result of the issues surrounding the City-State Kickstarter. Prior to this, in March of 2018, it was resolved by Robert Bledsaw II offering to forgo his royalties until it was paid. I agreed to this and until 2020 it was working out nicely.

With much of the outstanding balance remaining, I decided not to end sales of the Majestic Wilderlands or the Judges Guild Wilderlands remakes. I did inform Robert Bledsaw II that I would no longer be producing any new Majestic Wilderlands products or asking to make another remake. That when the outstanding balance was paid, I will cease sales of all Judges Guild licensed products.

Right now the outstanding balance is less than $90. With royalty percentage for Judges Guild and DriveThruRPG percentage of sales, this is roughly around $1,500 worth of licensed products. Normally three months at the current rate of sales for me. I am aware that once I announce that sales are ending that there will be a last-minute rush. So I decided long ago that when the outstanding balance got this low that I would make the announcement then.

Accordingly, I will end sales of all Judges Guild licensed products by Monday, August 21st, 2022. That will give those interested two weekends in August to decide. It will end early if I reach $1,500 worth of sales. I apologize if this last point creates a gold rush mentality. Personally I intensely dislike sales gimmicks. Given the circumstances, it is what I am willing to do. 

Wrapping it up
Going forward I will be making another post concerning Bat in the Attic Games and the status of the projects I have been working on. 

As for the situation with Judges Guild and the behavior of Robert Bledsaw II, I will let my actions speak for themselves. I will only add that subsequent events have confirmed for me that I made the right choice in this matter.

There are two issues surrounding Judges Guild, the personal behavior of Robert Bledsaw II, and the business situation regarding the City-State Kickstarter. The reasons why both are still issues in 2022 are why I feel pursuing the Majestic Fantasy Realms and other original projects is the best course of action for me going forward.

I appreciate the support everybody has given and your kind words. Thank you for the feedback on my works and honored that you would buy my products. There is more to come that I think you will useful and above all fun!

Friday, August 5, 2022

Old School Solo Adventures for Old School Essentials

 The Fantasy Trip by Steve Jackson Games has a long tradition of offering solo adventures like Death Test. When Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic secured a 3PP license for TFT he and his authors continued that tradition with their own series of adventures.

Now he and his team of authors did the work into making these adventures compatible with Old School Essentials. Given that OSE is a hop and skip from a dozen other classic editions and close clones these adventures can be used by a wide variety of OSR systems. 

He has started a Kickstarter to fund the printing and final work on these adventures.

Old-School Solo Adventures

I was given Til Death do Us Part to try and I found it fun and interesting to play out. Its replayability is good as there are multiple paths with multiple outcomes to explore. I think leveraging the TFT community's experience with solo adventures  is a great idea and will create a fun niche for classic edition hobbyists to play with between sessions and campaigns.