The Amber Diceless Roleplaying game is the greatest diceless RPG of all time. That is a statement of opinion but one that I will joyously discuss with anyone to explain the virtues of this most excellent system. To say that Amber DRPG changed my life would be a bit melodramatic. To say that it changed me as a gamer and a game master, not so much.
I had not even read the Amber novels when I was drawn into the game by the spectacular Phage Press ad which ran in Dragon Magazine. I was sold without even knowing the setting. I wanted to play this game with a “mature and demanding” character creation system and its weird auction rules that forced character creation to be both collaborative and competitive. As someone whose gaming life up until that point was dominated by D&D and GURPS, I couldn’t even imagine how profoundly I would be shaped by the ideas presented in that book and then explored through years of campaigns.
I am often skeptical of “theory” when it comes to gaming. While I agree that there is an art and a science to running a good game, the variety of what constitutes a good game and the ways to achieve that seem to be far more rooted in individual preference and group-based communication principles than game design…
That said, I am also fascinated by the variety of games in existence and the attempts to parse out the endless variety of “what happens at the table” into thoughtful mechanics. While I sometimes struggle with some of the more radical approaches to “story game,” I also find many of these creations to be overwhelmingly awesome in terms of what they are trying to accomplish.
So far, my admiration for 5e D&D has probably been pretty obvious on my blog. I’m really enjoying the game I’m running and overall, my perception of the way the game plays is very positive.
But I do have, I suppose, one complaint. It’s a really personal complaint so I don’t expect it to resonate with everyone… But it has been a stark moment for me.
I used to worry a lot about domains. When doing world building or even just character creation, I often found myself thinking about deities in terms dictated by their portfolios more than their personalities. And by their portfolios, I mean their domains. This is an affliction tied very much to the concept of domains as mechanical effects used in 3rd and 4th edition D&D (and Pathfinder) but I can see its influence in many types of design and even fiction. It’s important to have boxes we can put ideas in. Portfolios for gods serve many purposes in design and discussion.
Creating a very defined portfolio for our fictional deities is useful because it provides clear talking points for the faith. When I explain my storm god to a gamer trying to make a cleric it is pretty easy to say, “well – just imaging Thor and that’s a good place to start.” But as I mentioned in my last post, expectations can be fluid between my image of Thor and my player’s image of Thor. I mean, I might have read a lot of Thor comics and the old Deities and Demigods entry about Thor but my player might actually read Norse mythology… Turns out Thor was associated with a lot more than storms. Hold that thought… I’ll be coming back to it.
So I’ve started a D&D 5e game. And I like it. I’m a fan – as my review noted – but now with character creation and two full sessions under our belt, it seems that 5e is going to work for me. A few of my immediate observations, which I’m looking forward to writing about more, have to do with the incredible ease of character creation (the first player I helped create a character we were done in under 10 minutes), and the easy, freewheeling sense I have that I can just do whatever the heck I want (and so can my players) during a session. I don’t feel the obsessive, painful need for three full working days worth of prep just to get an adventure right. Maybe I was doing that to myself… but maybe the games I was playing had something to do with it as well. I think it’s a little of both.
Anyway, my real inspiration for this post came when one of my players – during character creation – asked a pivotal question of his fellow gamers, “Do you pronounce it Drow or Drow?”
The range of responses was pretty spectacular, from “what is that?” to “Oh, definitely this way.” to “does it matter?” Of course it matters!
Whew. Been sick as a dog for going on two weeks now. It’s been unpleasant. Finally, here is the last part of my ruminations on the new, 5th Edition Player’s Handbook.
PART THREE: Magic!
As I mentioned in my other posts, I’m a huge fan of what I’m seeing from 5e. I’ve also alluded to the fact that some of my favorite changes are in the way magic works. I finally get to talk about why.
My continuing exploration of the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook. As you know from Part One, I’m a fan. I really enjoyed what I saw in Character Creation with the variety of options, the balance of simple choices against more fiddly choices to appeal to a broader range of players and the addition of the backgrounds which add without creating weird pigeonholes. Now I want to look at Part Two of the book.
Anyone familiar with Fantasy Flight RPGs knows that while they are pretty good at making good games… the Force is not particularly strong with their editorial teams. The more I run my Age of Rebellion game (and my experiences with Edge of the Empire added on) I realize that while many things about the system are very well done, the core rulebooks have some… quirks. I thought I’d touch on a few of these today and see how others are addressing these things in their games or what suggestions those familiar with the system might have.
Today, I wanted to write about the 5e D&D Player’s Handbook. But something else has a hold of me and I need to start getting it out of my system.
I’m still thinking about player skill vs. character skill but I want to take a slightly different tack with it. I want to take the “vs.” part out and replace it with something else – some way to join the two that makes the experience more seamless – perhaps player skill (+) character skill. Not quite there but getting there.
I have a friend who hates using the d20. He pretty much hates any version of the d20 system. His primary gripe – although there are many other well-founded ones – is rooted in the randomness of rolling a single d20 to determine outcomes. Basically, no matter how good he is, bad rolling can ruin that at any time.
My own gripes with the d20 system(s) trend toward a different direction but ultimately, the randomness of these activities really grates on me as well, sometimes doing a disservice to another convenient part of many d20 related games – Niche Protection.