Sunday, March 8, 2020

Does Edition Matter?

Big question, and I don't have a definitive answer (that's your TL/DR), but a few recent things have got me considering the effect of an edition on the play experience.

While I was in Illinois, Dean started a third campaign (still using his fractured fairy tale Eberron setting, I think) but using 4E. Now that I'm back in Korea, he asked if I wanted to join, and I declined because I'm just not that fond of 4E.

Then Jeremy started asking me if I'd play in a 4E game that he wants to run, only instead of using a standard array or point buy for ability scores, adapting my West Marches Classic D&D house rule. My rule is as follows:
  • Players may choose one of two methods to roll ability scores: roll 3d6 six times, and place the scores where you want them to go, or else roll 4d6-lowest die, in order.
This forces players to choose between slightly higher stats but not where they might like, or being sure to play the class you want, but having slightly lower scores on average. It doesn't always work out. As dice are random, sometimes a 3d6 PC has better scores than a 4d6-L PC. It happens. But in general, it works.

Now, for 4E, which was carefully crafted to be "balanced" and not easily allow you to make a crappy character, and every PC should be equally useful in a fight, I wonder if Jeremy's switch would break the game. Not enough to play in it, though, but it did help me think of this topic for a blog post.

The edition matters, I think, in this case. 5E could definitely be played that way without much hassle. The online play-by-post West Marches game that inspired my own uses random ability score rolls instead of point buy, and it plays just fine. 4E, though, I think might break down. Maybe not, though, as it does also seem to be designed for each character to rely on only one primary ability score (or at least to allow you that luxury if you choose your powers right). The fact that the game was designed assuming all characters would have equivalent scores (through the standard array or point buy limits) makes me think randomizing it wouldn't work.

Maybe I'll give it a try and see.

The other thing that got me considering the effects of edition choice on the game was my reading through 1E Dragonlance Adventures. The more I read it, the less likely I think I'd be to run a game set in Krynn using 1E. I much prefer Classic D&D over AD&D anyway, but I don't hate AD&D.

But what I would possibly do would be to try and run a game set in Krynn using 5E.

I'd posted about that idea a few years ago, even came up with rules for the white/red/black robe mages and Knights of Solamnia in 5E.

And I'm thinking 5E might be a better fit, especially for the original module series, for a few reasons. First of all, adventures in Krynn don't seem to be strongly "murderhobo." The nations use steel coins, but any ruins or monster lairs are likely to have pre-Cataclysm gold/silver/copper coins, which are pretty much useless to Krynn PCs. And since AD&D relies on treasure for the bulk of XP earned, it's harder to get in Krynn. 5E awards most XP for combat, so that's not a problem there. It actually fits better if you want a game that may actually see mid- to high-level play some day.

Secondly, the more streamlined 5E rule set is probably more suited to the more "narrative" style of an adventure path (or railroad if you prefer that term) series of adventures. Since 1E was designed with streamlining tournament play, IMO it's bogged down with a lot of rules minutia that don't really help make the game better (feel free to disagree, I know some of you will) EXCEPT in the case of tournament play, where exact and consistent rules are needed across multiple, competing tables.

For a home game? Meh.

The only thing that stops me from starting a 5E Dragonlance campaign setting right now is that I really didn't have much fun DMing 5E. But I am considering the following and wondering if it might be fun:
  • Play through the original module series
  • Using 5E with a few modifications for the setting
  • Players who are familiar with 5E and adventure path style games, but not with DL/Krynn

1 comment:

  1. From what I’ve seen of 5E, I think the fit with 1E Dragonlance adventures (the old DL modules following the War of the Lance) would be pretty good. The character advances are tailor-made “proto-Milestones” and the plot armor possessed by protagonists works well with the low death rate of 5E. Heck, I wouldn’t even be adverse to re-skinning Dragonborn characters as draconians (and vice versa), though PC draconians should probably be a no-no.

    Yeah, I think the 5E model works well with DL. Now, if you just want “scoundrel adventurers in the world of Krynn” (without the heroic story arc of DL)...well, that’s a horse of a different color. But Tanis and Tika and Raistlin, etc. (or player created PC stand-ins for the events of the War?)? I think that’s just fine.