Public Domain Monster: Mouseling

Mouseling (Swords & Wizardry stats)

HD: 2d6, AC: 6[13], Attacks: Nip (d4) or Weapon (d6), Save: 16, Morale: 8, Move: 12, Align: Chaos, CL/XP: 2/30.

Demi-humanoids with mouse-like features, no more than 3′ tall. Surprisingly robust and rubbery, they can survive being stretched, dropped, bounced down stairs, hooked with cargo winches. As characters, they may be Thieves (max Level 6), Fighters (max Level 4, HD d6), or apprentice Magic-Users (max Level 3). Giant-sized attackers have a –4 penalty to hit them.

Mickey Mouse

Mouseling Thief 2, Special: musical animals, CL/XP: 3/60.

Wannabe riverboat captain, and musician. Relentlessly cruel to other animals, and can use them to make musical instruments. All who hear this performance must save vs Paralysis or be stunned until the end of the peformance, or 2d4 rounds.

Dungeons & Falling

As noted in Review: Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised, there’s no rules for falling damage. Never have been. Referees just rely on folklore and other games to figure it out.

Researching OD&D sources is frustrating, but if I’ve read all this, you should too!

It never clearly says in OD&D (books 1-3, supp 1-4, nor Holmes). In Book III, there’s a Chainmail example of 1 die save on 5 or 6 per level (10′?) fallen.

AD&D Player’s Handbook (1978, but non-canon to me), it’s 1d6 for each 10′, and the commentary makes it clear that’s the meaning intended. You wouldn’t say “this is not realistic” if falling was super dangerous.

FALLING DAMAGE
Falling into pits, from ledges, down shafts, and so forth will certainly cause damage unless the fall is broken. While such falls could break limbs and other bones, it is probable that your referee will simply use a hit points damage computation based on 1d6 for each 10′ of distance fallen to a maximum of 20d6, plus or minus adjustments for the surface fallen upon, This treatment gives characters a better survival chance, although it is not as “realistic” as systems to determine breaks, sprains, dislocations, internal organ damage, etc.

Basic Dungeons & Dragons (1981), same. Interesting note that climbing is per 100′!

Climb Steep Surfaces, when failed, will result in a fall. The thief will take 1-6 (1d6) points of damage for each 10 feet fallen. This roll should only be made once per 100′ of climb attempted. If failed, the fall will be from halfway up the surface.

Suddenly in Dragon # 69 (Jan 1983), in a sidebox in the Thief-Acrobat class, Gygax claims that it was cumulative ALL ALONG.

Falling damage
The correct procedure for determining falling damage in the AD&D game system is to roll 1d6 per 10′ fallen, cumulative. Since a falling body accelerates quickly, the damage mounts geometrically: 2d6 for the second 10 feet fallen, 3d6 for the third 10 feet, etc. The maximum of 20d6 is therefore reached after a fall of approximately 60 feet for most characters. A thief-acrobat can often fall further distances, but the same 20d6 maximum should be applied. The rationale behind this system will discussed in the next issue (# 70) of DRAGON Magazine.

Note you would also not use 20d6 as a limit if you were counting 1d6, 3d6, 6d6, 10d6, 15d6, 21d6 all along.

Next issue (Feb 1983), he makes Frank Mentzer carry his water and blames some editor (Mike Carr?).

Gary has always used a geometrically increasing system for falling damage in AD&D games; the trouble arose because that system simply never made it into the rule books. When the AD&D Players Handbook was being assembled, a brief section on falling damage was included: a mere 7 1⁄2 lines that offers more advice on broken bones and sprains than on falling damage. As we now understand the event, the section was not included in the first draft, and the editors requested a brief insert on this frequently referred-to topic. So Gary hastily wrote a sentence describing damage as “1d6 per 10’ for each 10’ fallen.” Someone removed the “per 10’” as being (so it was thought) redundant, and off we went. That section was later quoted in passing in the Aerial Adventures section of the Dungeon Masters Guide, thereby becoming further entrenched in our game procedures.

My bullshit meter goes off the scale at this sudden Invention of Lying level retcon. But is it a better rule?

AD&D 2nd Edition (1989, again non-canon to me) has this lengthy rebuttal:

Player characters have a marvelous (and, to the DM, vastly amusing) tendency to fall off things. generally from great heights and almost always onto hard surfaces. While the falling is harmless, the abrupt stop at the end tends to cause damage.
When a character falls. he suffers 1d6 points of damage for every 10 feet fallen, to a maximum of 20d6 (which for game purposes can be considered terminal velocity).
This method is simple and it provides all the realism necessary in the game. It is not a scientific calculation of the rate of acceleration, exact terminal velocity, mass, impact energy, etc. of the falling body.
The fact of the matter is that physical laws may describe the exact motion of a body as it falls through space, but relatively little is known about the effects of impact. The distance fallen is not the only determining factor in how badly a person is hurt. Other factors may include elasticity of the falling body and the ground, angle of impact, shock wave through the falling body, dumb luck, and more.
People have actually fallen from great heights and survived, albeit very rarely. The current record-holder, Vesna Vulovic, survived a fall from a height of 31,33O feet in 1972, although she was severely injured. Flight Sergeant Nicholas S. Alkemade actually fell 18,000 feet—almost 3.5 miles—without a parachute and landed uninjured!
The point of all this is roll the dice, as described above, and don’t worry too much about science.

The 3.0 SRD is typically boring, legalistic, but continues this standard:

FALLING
Falling Damage: The basic rule is simple: 1d6 points of damage per 10 feet fallen, to a maximum of 20d6.
If a character deliberately jumps instead of merely slipping or falling, the damage is the same but the first 1d6 is nonlethal damage. A DC 15 Jump check or DC 15 Tumble check allows the character to avoid any damage from the first 10 feet fallen and converts any damage from the second 10 feet to nonlethal damage. Thus, a character who slips from a ledge 30 feet up takes 3d6 damage. If the same character deliberately jumped, he takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage and 2d6 points of lethal damage. And if the character leaps down with a successful Jump or Tumble check, he takes only 1d6 points of nonlethal damage and 1d6 points of lethal damage from the plunge.
Falls onto yielding surfaces (soft ground, mud) also convert the first 1d6 of damage to nonlethal damage. This reduction is cumulative with reduced damage due to deliberate jumps and the Jump skill.
Falling into Water: Falls into water are handled somewhat differently. If the water is at least 10 feet deep, the first 20 feet of falling do no damage. The next 20 feet do nonlethal damage (1d3 per 10-foot increment). Beyond that, falling damage is lethal damage (1d6 per additional 10-foot increment).
Characters who deliberately dive into water take no damage on a successful DC 15 Swim check or DC 15 Tumble check, so long as the water is at least 10 feet deep for every 30 feet fallen. However, the DC of the check increases by 5 for every 50 feet of the dive.

Arduin Grimoire has a complex table, RCH = Random Critical Hit (Arduin crits are murder), others are Broken, Crushed, Dislocated, bruisE, Fracture, Multi, No damage, Sprain. I would never use this, but it’s on par with linear damage until far up.

Conclusion

I’m certainly going to stick with 1d6 per 10′ linear, but it should increase some chance of injury or death. At low Levels the HP damage is going to be the deadly factor, so it doesn’t matter if there’s also injury. At higher Levels, falling damage equivalent to your Level should be highly risky, and even moderate falls should have some risk.

Falling

Characters who fall more than 5′ take d6 damage per 10′ to a maximum of 20d6. If fallen 20′ or more, make a Save vs Paralysis, + DEX bonus, –1 per 10′ past the first, on failure roll d6 to see what you landed on:

  1. Head. Instant death. You needed that, roll a new character.
  2. Left arm. Broken, cannot hold shield or 2-handed weapon, or cast spells.
  3. Right arm. Broken, cannot hold weapon, or cast spells.
  4. Torso. Broken ribs, half STR, CON.
  5. Left leg. Broken, cannot move.
  6. Right leg. Broken, cannot move.

Cure Serious Wounds or Restoration will repair all but the head, otherwise takes 2d4 weeks recovery.

(note I don’t have Clerics, but there are items or rituals which can produce these effects)

I made a table to better understand the odds here (assuming Save 15 at 1st-Level, +1 bonus for Paralysis), and I think I’m good with this. A 3rd-Level Thief with DEX 15 has a 50% chance to drop 50′ with nothing broken, a 1st-Level Magic-User has 20%. HP damage is much more likely to kill them.

Distance Level: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
20′ 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6
30′ 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7
40′ 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8
50′ 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9
60′ 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10
70′ 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
80′ 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12
90′ 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13
100′ 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14

Review: Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised

I funded the kickstarter, still waiting for my lovely print book, but you can get PDF now, and I assume print-on-demand (POD) will come eventually.

S&W was one of the first “Old-School Renaissance” games. Matt Finch had worked on OSRIC (an AD&D-like retro-clone) in 2006, and took that and applied it to the original game.

I’m going to review the new book by looking at three (plus a bit) editions over time.

Swords & Wizardry Core in 2008, had most of OD&D (Original D&D, 1974) and fragments of Greyhawk (Supplement I, 1975):

  • Stats (“Ability Scores”): Uses the “modern” order of STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA (instead of SIWDCCh), but rolls 3d6 for each. Like OD&D, bonuses are only -1 to +1. INT has reduced extra languages, which I prefer to replace with CHA-10 languages. Has a bizarre new EP bonus system, where WIS, CHA, and class Prime give +5% each, no penalties for low stats. M-U with INT 15+, and Clerics with WIS 15+, get an extra 1st-Level spell.

  • Classes: Only Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, and a few non-Human species (“Race”, as was the fashion at the time): Dwarf (with their own class table), Elf (with their own class table), Halfling (barely defined, Fighter up to 4th-Level). Fighter has a base save 14, everyone else has 15, Dwarfs only get +4 save against magic; in OD&D they get +4 levels against all saves (which varies from +2 to +4 bonus depending on level).

  • Combat: Mostly OD&D-like, but opinionated because there are not clear procedures in the original. For both legal and modernization reasons, it changed Armor Class from descending 9 (unprotected) down to 2 (plate+shield), to combination ascending, 9[10] (unprotected) to 2[17] (plate+shield); saving throws went from five different numbers for Death, Wands, Petrify, Dragon Breath, Spells & Staves, to a single target number, with bonuses for some classes and species.

    Turn Undead is a new table, based on the D20 SRD, using a d20 chance to turn all of the same type. It’s pretty generous, and makes Clerics OP against Undead and Demons!

    You know what’s hilarious? There’s no rules for falling, fire, or disease. Some monsters list damage for poisons, others it does death. How is Neutralize Poison useful? It’s unknown.

  • High-Level Adventuring: Followers, mass combat, spell research, all very brief.

  • Magic: Almost all of the OD&D + Greyhawk + some later spells. Notably, Magic Missile has both variants, auto-hit for d4+1 damage, or to-hit as a +1 arrow.

  • Referee: How to design a dungeon, very light. Two sample maps, side-layout lines, and small dungeon. Random dungeon & a couple terrain-specifc encounter tables, but no overall wilderness encounter table.

  • Monsters: Most of the OD&D monsters, but not the under-defined “Maybe dinosaurs, giant bugs, robots, Martian Thoats” entry. As in later games, but contradicting OD&D, Skeletons are 1 HD not 1/2 HD, Zombies are 2 HD, not 1 HD. There’s only 2 Demons, Lemures & Balrog (“Baalroch”). Dragons are Black, Blue, Gold, Green, Red, White, Turtle.

    Officially it uses d8 hit dice. OD&D was unclear, Holmes and later specify d8 hit dice, but I continue to use d6 for all except very tough monsters (Dragons x3 HP, Demons, Elementals, Giants get larger HD by type).

  • Treasure: Core through Complete (unrevised) used a system of giving GP = 2-3x monster XP, with trade-outs that almost never (5%) generated magic items. The item lists are minimal compared even to OD&D, intelligent magic swords almost never happen (1/1440 of major treasures!) and only have a 10% chance of spell-casting.

Core’s fine for a quick and very minimalist game, and has higher-Level options almost all other retro-clones ignore, but you need to add a lot to finish it.

Offshoot: There’s also a White Box variant, cutting out even more of that material, and later another publisher made White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game (FMAG), which is more variant, adds Thieves, and limited to 10th-Level (12 for M-U), but it’s very compact, a good pick-up game system; while apparently some people have run long games with FMAG, you’d do better with Core/Complete/Revised.

Swords & Wizardry Complete in 2010, was a major upgrade. Where I don’t mention, it was the same as Core, but often expanded and rewritten for clarity. Boxes sometimes explain the rationale for rules, which at least helps you write house rules to change them!

  • Stats: Adds more of the Greyhawk tables, increasing power of STR but doesn’t add the 18/d100 mechanic so that’s… overpowered but not the worst. INT removes the M-U bonus spell, and adds a bunch of stupid spell choice mechanics. I hate the INT table, so much. I give M-U Detect Magic, Read Magic, 2 spells of choice, +1 spell for INT 15+. Done. Never make spell gain rolls. WTF Gary Gygax, let’s not perpetuate this.

  • Classes: All the classes of the OD&D supplements, Ranger (stupidly overpowered) from The Strategic Review/Dragon, but not Bard, Illusionist, or Barbarian. Stat minumums for the “better” classes are an optional rule, but listed. Non-Humans are standard classes or multiclass, and Half-Elves are added. “Halflings” are still garbage. Multi-classing is explained clearly, tho not necessarily the way I like. But it’s A system.

    The Cleric spells/day table changed, more like OD&D, but I think this is a design error. In Core, 5th is 2/2/1, 6th is 2/2/1/1, Complete jumps from 5th is 2/2 to 6th is 2/2/1/1; inexplicably gives 2 spell levels at once.

  • Alignment: Defined as a juvenile, He-Man, Law-good, Chaos-bad thing. I reject this, I’m more Moorcockian where everyone is bad except maybe Balance (and, you know, not everyone likes my Captain Planet “replace Humans with trees” definition of good).

  • Combat: Has an alternate version of the OD&D saving throws, tho they’re not integrated into the rules. If you do want to use these, understand that the deadliest, most environmental things are easiest to save against, mere inconveniences are harder, directed effects are hardest. You can read hardest to easiest if you’re a bastard DM, easiest to hardest if you’re tolerant.

    There remain no rules for falling, disease, and minimal for fire and poison. Starting fires is listed under Lamp Oil (which is ridiculous, lamp oil is not napalm or Greek Fire). The use of poisons is barely touched on in Assassins, but not their effects.

    Surprise is completely rewritten and expanded, and includes a hard-to-read monster reaction roll.

    Initiative rewrites the Core mechanic, and then presents two alternate systems: Holmes-like DEX rank (which is what I use), and Eldritch Wizardry activity points. All 3 systems are still using a 1-minute round which isn’t clear in OD&D, contrary to Holmes and B/X which are 10-second, I use the 10-second round (and 100-second combat turn) from Holmes.

    Turning undead uses almost the same table (slightly harder at Level 9+), but changes from d20 to 2d10, and turns only 2d6 Undead (no Demons), so now high-powered Undead are up to 10x harder to turn.

  • High-Level Adventuring: Followers, strongholds. Research is moved to Magic, rest is moved to Referee.

  • Magic: Same spell list, with minor changes.

  • Referee: All-new dungeon examples, an evocative side-view cross-section, a much better detailed dungeon, and a sketchy part of Rappan Athuk with no key, but good design. Better dungeon encounter tables (from 6 to 10 options) and adds a very good, detailed wilderness encounter system. Mass warfare, siege warfare, aerial combat, ship combat are all fleshed out and quite usable; tho in practice I’ve always used the GAZ4 Kingdom of Ierendi larger-scale naval system.

  • Monsters: Adds many classic monsters:

    • Bulette (ludicrously lists Tim Kask’s pr. “boo-LAY”, when French pr. would be “bu-let”)
    • Crocodiles
    • Demons (13, from Manes to Orcus)
    • Clay Golem
    • Leech (which drain a life level like undead!)
    • Naga
    • Rakshasa
    • Fish, Octopus, Squid, Sea Monsters (adds a 30 HD variant! Screw you! Never get on a boat! Never go in the water!)
    • Shambling Mound
    • Shrieker, Lurker, Piercer, Slithering Tracker, Trapper (screw you to dungeoneers)
    • Yeti
  • Treasure: A few more items, swords are now intelligent more often, but there’s no real mechanics for this. Adds cursed scrolls.

I’ve run S&W Complete for 11 years, I use the nice blue-cover kickstarter edition (look under “Troll Slayer” in the back), it’s a very solid OD&D-that-doesn’t-suck. I don’t use everything, but it’s nice to have the options. It’s easy to extend into a “modern” (2nd-gen or later) RPG, adding professions & skills, more character background options, situational rules, and there’s not many interacting parts to stop you. Very importantly, saving throws are basically D20’s “DC 15” skill roll. Just add a stat or skill modifier, and Level bonus is built in.

See under “Previously Swords & Wizardry” my notebook of Olde House Rules for Complete. I’m currently hacking up all my character & referee notes for a new version. If you like opinionated house rules, you’ll like that when I’m done.

Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised has just completed its kickstarter. It’s the same size book, 144 pages, but more usable pages: 140 vs 125 in Complete. This is because there’s No Fucking Index. Complete’s 2-page index wasn’t the most useful thing ever, everything’s listed in contents and reasonably organized, but occasionally I have to search in PDF instead of checking the index. SIGH, why, Matt? No kickstarter credits in new book, either.

Many places in the book now go from 2-column to 3-column layout, which can be helpful or too tight. It’s fine for spells & monsters which have a lot of data fields, less great for species.

  • Character Sheet: New sheet is a fillable form, many more boxes, but less aesthetic than the old one. In any case, I just use James V West’s character sheets, many of which have single-save boxes. I will note, the new one lists AC from 0 to 9, instead of 9[10] to 0[19] order & labelling. I really dislike that.

  • Stats: Same as Complete. CHA does get a new use for follower morale.

  • Class: Cleric spell table remains in design error. Fighters now have a standard 15 save, BUT get a +1 bonus against all except spells, which is a little better balanced, more OD&D. Monks no longer have stat minimums, BUT most of their powers require higher stats, so an average-Joe Monk would have only minimal skills. There’s no stat minimum for Paladin, except when a Fighter takes vows they need CHA 17, inconsistent.

    Thieves remain up to 10d4 HD (while Assassins are up to 13d6!), but have a +2% chance to Climb Walls, Dwarf Thieves get a +15 on Traps, no +10 bonus on Pick Locks, finally this travesty is corrected! Must-buy for this change! :) Seriously, all the classes are pretty close.

    There’s an argument here “Why Would I Play a Fighter?” that Rangers & Paladins are not Fighters, so don’t get Fighter STR bonuses, etc. I’d rather that it just went back to stat minumums, so you can’t be one of these advanced classes unless you roll well. Especially this makes no sense for Paladins, who are JUST Fighters who’ve taken holy vows; why would they suddenly lose their fighting skills?

    The non-Human species (now “Character Ancestry”) are the same; this is a little disappointing since there was room to improve the class/levels permitted from long dialogues to clearer lists:

    Dwarven player characters must be Fighters or Fighter-Thieves. Multi-classed Fight- er-Thieves are limited to 6th level as Fight- ers, and may not advance beyond this point. (For more information on multi-classed char- acters, see below.) A Dwarf who is purely a Fighter may advance beyond 6th level only if the warrior has Strength of 17 (maximum 7th level) or 18 (maximum 8th level). Such a Fighter may also take advantage of any XP bonus due to a high Strength score to gain experience more quickly.

    Could be cleaned up to:

    • Fighter (max Level 6th, 7th if STR 17, 8th if STR 18), Prime requisite bonus applies.
    • Fighter/Thief (max Level 6th/unlimited)
  • Movement: Encumbrance & movement has been changed, and now combat speed is faster, 60-120′ per 1-minute round (Core was 3-12′, Complete was 10-40′!), walking & running out-of-combat are still per 10-minute turn. Combat speed is now nearly plausible if you use a 10-second round, Usain Bolt did 100m in 10 seconds, so 1/3 rate for equipped normals is fine. The per-turn speeds are still nonsense, even with mapping it should be 10x or more. There’s a collected movement chart here that is much clearer.

  • Combat: Morale rules have been added, and a morale stat to every monster. Now, here’s the thing: It copies B/X (Basic/Expert, 1981) in using roll 2d6 under morale to save. OD&D almost always had roll high good, and Chainmail’s morale system was roll 2d6 high over a number determined by troop type. I would have greatly preferred a standard d20 save with morale modifier per monster, or some such. But the presence of any morale rule and stat is helpful.

    There’s arguments, most recently on Wandering DMs, about the use of morale, but I think it’s an essential tool, both as wargame simulation, where people in battle do sometimes just crap their pants and “Run away! Run away!”; and narratively as a way to avoid mass-murdering everyone you ever meet and fight.

    There remain no rules for falling, disease, and minimal for fire and poison.

    Healing has been reduced back to OD&D rate of 1 HP per 2 days, 4 weeks heals all. Death is at –1 HP, with an optional rule for survival to negative Level. Whoof. Since I don’t use Clerics, that’s not really practical.

  • Magic: Magic item creation is detailed, including the very popular rule from Holmes that Magic-Users and Clerics can write their own scrolls at 100 GP per Level, which makes a massive improvement to their quality of life. All new layout and a spell index, which since they’re in alphabetical order I didn’t really need. The page numbers could’ve been on the spell list instead!

  • Referee: Alas, the side-view dungeon & Rappan Athuk maps are gone, the dungeon from Complete is kept in 1-page dungeon form. Which is convenient for design, but less in depth for training new Referees.

    A new system for generating random castles, inspired by OD&D Book 3, is very welcome. And there are stats for generic high-Level NPCs, with sometimes magical equipment, spell lists, etc.

    A Referee Session Log (“control sheet” as I call them) is added, with fillable form fields, which may be very helpful to new Referees. There’s no explanation of its use, but at least they can see how to organize information for a game. There’s no time tracker on this one, I use a 6×24 chunk of graph paper in Turns for mine.

  • Monsters: Each monster now has Morale, Number Encountered, % in Lair (but I prefer % is Liar from OD&D and Arduin), and a full stat line you can copy-paste out:

    Bugbear: HD 3+1; AC 5[14]; Atk bite (2d4) or weapon (1d8+1); Move 9; Save 14; Morale 9; AL C; CL/XP 4/120; Special: surprise opponents (1–3 on d6).

    New monsters:

    • Dinosaurs: Ankylosaurus, Brontosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex. They’ve always been 20% of the Clear encounters (Oof!), but weren’t defined in previous editions.
    • Horse finally gets full stats.
    • Mammoth
    • Night Hag
    • Nightmare
    • Otyugh

    Designing monsters, there’s new CL modifiers, EP values for CL 8+ have increased a bit, and the table goes up to 21+ now, more fairly rewarding very powerful monsters.

  • Treasure: System has been totally redesigned. You now roll on GP value tables, which give more specific coin & gem results, and many more of them have chances for magic items. At 4001-7000 GPV, you now have a 1/6 chance to get a major item, 1/6 to get a medium item, 2/6 to get a minor item. I’m not really gonna complain it’s too rich now, but it’s a big jump from 5%.

    Intelligent weapons are at the same rate as Complete, but now there’s actually rules for ego contests.

    Items seem to be the same.

Book abruptly ends. So, the current license situation is there’s no license (“all rights reserved”). There will be a Mythmere license very like the old OGL, or ORC with an SRD, or something, in the very near future, as a downloadable thing.

Conclusion

So this has been a long haul over a few days comparing PDFs until my eyes bleed out. I can’t speak to the print book condition until I get it; my old blue book is in perfect (well, Very Good) condition after a decade of hard use, but printers are random.

There’s several other retro-clones of OD&D, in particular Fantastic Medieval Campaigns which is VERY precise at copying warts and all of the original books, with minimal spackle over the rough spots. There’s a lot, a kaiju-sized shitload, of B/X clones, which have a goofier, overpowered style, poorly adapted to swords & sorcery; I have played some Basic Fantasy lately and it was fine, very candy-coated Saturday morning D&D cartoon tone, but not a replacement.

Swords & Wizardry is much more eclectic and opinionated. It’s also much more playable, more hackable, and more easily used as a “modern” RPG (I always air-quote that, but RPG design has moved on from Dave Arneson’s game that Gary Gygax published & ripped off). There’s still a lot of weird little gaps.

★★★★½ — S&W is a really great “dnd”-like to run, and Complete Revised is the best of these. I really dislike not having an index. I still need a booklet of house rules to play.

Covers: One last thing, the cover art over the editions is… not the best progression. I think the Core rules cover was the most D&D-like, an homage to the AD&D cover but grimmer. The Erol Otus blue book cover was fun, the electric demon and portal are eerie. The old city is meh, you can barely see the adventurers. The flying polyp thing is hideous. Giants are amateur. FMAG has gone thru many variants, they all look like (often are) clip art with airbrushing. The new edition comes in a green embossed cover, classy but boring, or a POD cover with maybe the most hideous art I’ve ever seen; only the teeny preview is available, and that’s a blessing like Langford’s Parrot basilisk.

Fighters Are Not Boring, Players Are

My infrequent commentary on role-playing games, in particular the Old-School Renaissance.

I don’t understand how fighters can be “boring”? They’re up front fighting, which is the most exciting role for most people. They can be mechanically simple, but of course you role-play and make up your actions to be interesting.

And what I’m seeing as arguments from the “other side” is they only mean in tactical wargames without role-playing. As if they can’t do anything that isn’t listed as a specific rule and skill. That’s not what RPGs are for!

A Fighter should be role-playing during fights, as players should at all times. Not looking at your dice, stats, feats, skills, magic powers, equipment. BE THERE. BE Ichi the Bushi, or whatever you named your “generic Level 1 Fighter”. Describe what you’re doing. Run up stairs to get a height advantage (or be able to fight a giant above the knees), or swing on a chandelier, or kick furniture at someone, or throw dirt, tactically de-advance into an ambush, etc. If you’re fencing, you compare styles, observe the enemy’s preferred moves, do a riposte against that. Don’t be boring.

Then the Referee tells you what happens; that might involve your usual attack roll with a bonus, more damage, more defense, or just narrate what happens.

Non-fighters can do those things, too, but they mostly miss against any competent foe, and can’t take a hit back, so it’s fairly pointless. How often does a Thief get in position to get their backstab bonus & damage, the one mechanical chance they have to be effective in combat? Basically never. If they do, they die the next round because they stood up in melee.

Magic items also differentiate them. Only Fighters and Thieves can use most magic weapons, and in OD&D even the most simplistic +1 magic sword makes a pig farmer into a hero, and allows fighting ghosts and werewolves! And you’d never waste a sword on a Thief who can’t hit.

You don’t need giant stacks of rules & mechanics to be interesting! Even my SIX WORD RPG! is all you need, and your fighter will be effective if you role-play effectively.

As always, read Matt Finch’s Primer, he says almost exactly what I’d say (esp. the Ninja example & Abstract Combat-Fu):

And some inspirational “be a Fighter” music, with Army of Darkness video:

ORCs Versus the Evil Wizards

A summary of this thing I’ve been angry about on fediverse all week/month, and how it affects my plans.

So, Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro had been working on their “One D&D”/6E playtest/previews, which has been previously held in only moderate contempt here. And then they decided to update the license.

Since 2000, we’ve had the Open Game License (OGL) 1.0a, which lets you reuse anything else put under it, like the System Reference Document (SRD) of D&D 3.0; I used that in my Stone Halls & Serpent Men game, mainly to copy spells & monsters. This has allowed a massive ecosystem of vaguely-D&D-ish games to flourish, as well as used for very not-D&D games like Legend and OpenQuest, and Cepheus Engine.

  • 2022-12-21, WotC announced a new OGL 1.1, with onerous financial terms on big earners, and no creative use outside books & ebooks. Nobody liked this, but we could keep using the 1.0a license, right? I started making plans to migrate off their SRD, but otherwise not super concerned. Future of OGL games is in some peril.

  • OGL 1.1 fiasco timeline

  • Saturday 2023-01-07, Basic Fantasy RPG started rewriting their books to get out from under the OGL, and go full CC-BY-SA. This is a pretty drastic solution, but legally the safest. It looks to me like BFRPG might be the new post-WotC “core OSR book”.

  • Monday, the actual license was leaked, and it’s a clusterfuck.
    Registering with WotC, revocation of 1.0a licenses, WotC gets to moral-police you and shut down anything they don’t like; screwed if you like weird horror, sex, drugs, or violence in your games.

    Gizmodo report is pretty reasonable.

    The claim they can revoke the 1.0a license is the rough part. The original license was meant to be irrevokable, but that wasn’t in the licenses it copied from (GPL, etc.), so it doesn’t say that.

  • Tim Cask

    the money-grubbing pomposity of Hasbro and WotC trying to squeeze third-party produces to death — don’t they make enough already? Could their insipid releases be the cause of their reduced revenues, or is it those nasty little third-party guys that have kept the hobby alive and growing? The new OGL 1.1.

    Tim Cask encourages WotC to fuck off

  • Matt Finch on how this affects Swords & Wizardry

  • Ryan Dancey, formerly of WotC and creator of the OGL, said:

    Yeah my public opinion is that Hasbro does not have the power to deauthorize a version of the OGL. If that had been a power that we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have enumerated it in the license. I am on record numerous places in email and blogs and interviews saying that the license could never be revoked.

  • ArsTechnica RPG fans irate

  • Thursday, a leak from inside WotC circulated:

ogl leak

  • Then WotC cancelled their livestream, while an angry mob gathered on Roll for Combat’s livestream. Yes, Dr Frankenstein, the villagers are coming for you and your monster.

  • At which time, Paizo announced their own Open RPG Creative License (ORC) … Paizo doesn’t use a CDN, so their site’s been down most of the day from being hugged to death, in the mean time quoted here.

Paizo does not believe that the OGL 1.0a can be “deauthorized,” ever. While we are prepared to argue that point in a court of law if need be, we don’t want to have to do that, and we know that many of our fellow publishers are not in a position to do so.
We have no interest whatsoever in Wizards’ new OGL. Instead, we have a plan that we believe will irrevocably and unquestionably keep alive the spirit of the Open Game License. …
In addition to Paizo, Kobold Press, Chaosium, Legendary Games, and a growing list of publishers have already agreed to participate in the Open RPG Creative License, and in the coming days we hope and expect to add substantially to this group. …
We’ll be there at your side. You can count on us not to go back on our word.

I’m slightly disappointed their promo image is their dumb Human Fighter “iconic” leading the charge, and not an Orc.

WELL THEN

So my retroclone is toast. I’d have to scrub a lot of monster & spell text to get rid of the SRD, and that’s being done better by BFRPG. I can package some of what I wrote as a sourcebook for that. It’s B/X-ish, not Holmes, but I’m adaptable, and I can fix some of the tone by making new species-as-class combinations and minor rules tweaks. Might be a good zine type thing.

My roguelike is based on my retroclone, but it’s mostly naming issues, easily fixed. Fucking Hasbro claiming OGL doesn’t cover videogames, I’ll show them a pantomime.

I toyed with shifting to d100 and I can borrow more from OpenQuest than Legend and be legally safer, but I dunno if that’s useful to anyone. Just play OpenQuest, delete all the divine & shaman nonsense, and throw 50% more zombies at everyone, and it’s just like I’d done it!

My sword & planet game I’ll keep working on, and either release as CC-BY-SA, or ORC, depending on how that looks.

UPDATE 50 MINUTES LATER

Oh, WotC’s PR flacks sweated this all night:

However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1.

[canned Big Bang Theory laff trak, meme face of Sheldon looking cross but robotic]

It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles. So, here is what we are doing.

[paraphrasing]

  1. Removing our principles.
  2. Doubling down on extortion over non-book products and anything Pat Pulling would’ve objected to.
  3. Fuck over “major corporations” some other way.

RPG Tilemap

I had a useful JavaScript utility hidden away in the source for my Stone Halls & Serpent Men game, so I extracted it into its own thing:

Especially with people doing the challenge, it may be helpful for quickly drawing a dungeon, roguelike style.

I’m pondering doing a full wilderness + dungeon adventure again sometime soon, and I’ll likely use Tilemap for it, but I sure won’t be doing a room a day or anything like that!

Game Project Status Report

OK, thinking about projects time, what I’ve done with my 3-year summer vacation (extended, 2022 edition).

  • Scheme for local problems, sysadmin tasks, just general dorking around on the computer: ?, best decision I’ve made in some time. In case it’s not clear, Chez Scheme and Thunderchez.

    Schemers in general are annoying but less annoying than LISPers, so if the LISP community pissed you off, Scheme’s might be 50% less toxic. I still have to block some people in IRC because they won’t STFU or tolerate anyone Doing Things in Unapproved Manner. You know what would be amazing? A language as technically awesome as Scheme, with Python’s friendly community. Python the language is trash, tho.

  • Haunted Dungeon, Scheme roguelike. Needs at most weeks of work, and then I can take a day and grind out binaries for various platforms (UUUUuuuugh Windows & Linux suck so much to interact with; Mac does for different reasons), ship it. It ballooned past my original tiny roguelike design long ago, but it’s still not that big.

  • Multiple small Scheme programs & games, once I do that ship day I may just make a bunch of binaries. None of these are amazing but some are nice. Don’t ask a developer to praise their own software, you know?

  • New Perilar CRPG, also Scheme. I have this at like 60% functionality, map generation’s beautiful, and fuck-all for story, it’s fine, same shipping problems, so much I need to think about if I get it to a playable state. Or it may be a learning experience.

  • Little Atari 8-bit game. Dungeon crawler with no purpose but it’s cute, was meant to be a ZX SpecNext game but that’s still not shipped after 2 years so… It’s now at like 30% done, but I have some vision for it.

  • Open world action-adventure game I’ve got a bit of design for (in my paper sketchpad! Not even on the computer!), it could either be Scheme or Atari 8-bit or whatever. I don’t actually know of anything like this design, tho original Zelda & Metroid are the parents (I clearly don’t understand genetics) of all such games. Needs so much mapping & writing before I even start, but all the technical side is easy for me.

    Currently Atari stuff’s in TurboBASIC-XL which is less bad than you’d think, but still really sucks compared to having a modern language; both Pascals and C’s I have access to are less useful. I’ve been borderline to making a new language that compiles to 6502 ASM, but I know I’m lazy at tools-to-make-tools support.

    One nice part with Atari 8-bits is, shipping is easy. Put it in an ATR file, with an Atari emulator as seen on archive.org. One click, any browser shows it. Down side is, can’t really charge money for this. Beg for patreon support; which I need to be better about giving you goodies in return for your cash, my fine patrons. Shall I write thee a sonnet?

  • Update & reupload my iPhone stuff. Should I even bother with Castles? I liked the underlying game but the UI is unbelievably shit, I had no idea what I was doing and limited by iPhone 1 screen/UI constraints. But Perilar, and some utility stuff, and maybe patch Brigand to be paid-up-front instead of IAP and say “this is what you could’ve had!”. And I have my 3D game which never got shipped, just shown as demos. Worth spending some time on this and then never looking at it again.

  • Tabletop RPGs. Fuck this third goddamned plague year, which has made playing & playtesting RPGs just a nightmare. Every online group I try flakes out so fast they may be composed entirely of microscopic black holes. So I have my “original dungeon game” retroclone, and my much nicer sword & planet game, and a couple tiny gamelets. And with Hasbro’s sabre-rattling at the OGL and “One D&D”, I’m inclined to just ship only the sword & planet game, and turn the rest into world books for it. But I’d like to test it more than once with other Humans and also not get infected with plague. So. State of that world is uncertain.

Unearthed Experts

New Unearthed Arcana playtest document, see previously.

Characters who have levels in a Class are exceptional; most of the inhabitants of the multiverse aren’t members of a Class.

Hooray, 0-level NPCs are back. With no rules yet (how many HP?). This is good, in some ways, that a 1st-Level “hero” is useful for something, the town Blacksmith isn’t necessarily a 15th-Level Expert who will stomp you into the ground. It’s also awful, in that it leads right back to murderhoboing, squads of low- to mid-Level PCs literally being able to murder & loot hundreds of townsfolk before anyone can stop them.

There’s a better balance somewhere above this. I tend to assume anywhere from 10-25% of a population are Level 1, and 10-25% of that number are higher. In tougher game areas, I make everyone at least 1st-Level, and up to 5th-Level in deadly areas; you simply don’t live in northern Hyperborea if you can’t wrassle a bear for breakfast.

WHAT’S AHEAD IN THE ONE D&D PLAYTEST?
Forty-eight Subclasses, including the Subclasses in this article

HOLY SHITBALLS. I’m a fan of simplifying down to 3 classes in my OD&D-based game (kind of 4), and no classes in my skill-based RPG (well, kind of 2, Magicians and Dilettantes). I didn’t object to having a few more in Swords & Wizardry (equivalent to OD&D + supplements/Dragon magazine), but this is excessive. And they’re in weird groupings:

Class Group OD&D Classes 5.5E Classes
Expert/Rogue Thief, Assassin, Bard Bard, Ranger, Rogue
Mage Magic-User, Illusionist Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
Priest Cleric, Druid, Monk Cleric, Druid, Paladin
Warrior Fighter, Paladin, Ranger Barbarian, Fighter, Monk

A little history. In OD&D, the classic 3 classes were Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric.

  • Thieves were in Greyhawk (Supplement I), in some ways the first super-class, every “race” could be a Thief with unlimited Level! (which often didn’t make sense, why is a woodsy Elf a better Thief than Fighter/Magic-User?!), ton of weird skills. But they were well-balanced by being weak, glass cannons in combat.
  • Paladins were in Greyhawk (Supplement I), as a special bonus for Lawful Fighters, not even a separate class at this time.
  • Monks were in Blackmoor (Supplement II) as a subclass of Cleric, even tho they’re much more like Thieves being weak, non-magical, skill-based, and having most Thief skills! Everyone cheated to make a Monk at some point. My character Liu Shao (named after a one-season assassin Chinese emperor) had a lot of bad-guy monk adventures, got poisoned by a shitty player (I got some revenge later, but not enough).
  • Assassins were in Blackmoor (Supplement II) (long before religious nuts scared TSR into wussing out) as a Thief subclass, but their low Thief skills made them ineffective at their job. Everyone loves Assassins even if the class sucks, mostly due to Jhereg and Shadow of the Torturer.
  • Druids were in Eldritch Wizardry (Supplement III) as a subclass of Cleric. Despite a giant pile of powers, very few people played them, they were awkward to unusable in dungeons.
  • Rangers were in The Strategic Review (TSR) V1N2, as a subclass of Fighter; grossly overpowered, with an extra hit die (!), a very few spells from Cleric & Magic-User (WEIRD!) at 8th-Level, skills everyone needs outdoors, but then useless in a dungeon. Favored enemy initially was “Giant Class (Kobolds – Giants)”, which is a bizarre range. Incredibly weirdly required to be Lawful like Paladins, when Neutral is the obvious alignment for Elf-friends. It’s Strider from Tolkien, you know my distaste for that guy, Ranger should never have been added and the correct version is just a Fighter with a background of Hunter.
  • Illusionists were in TSR V1N4, as a subclass of Magic-User, great spell list with no real problems. My first character in 1978, Grecal the Grey Wizard, class-changed from Magic-User to Illusionist eventually (had a high DEX to start with).
  • Bards were in TSR V2N1, as an adaptation of the Celtic bards of history with limited skills: Charm & Lore at Level x 10%, Thief skills equal to 1/2 Level, M-U spells at about 1/2 M-U table (1 Fireball at 10th-Level), and some special magic instruments. A very solid, slow-developing class, that fit well with the classic classes. That wouldn’t last long.
  • Barbarians were in Dragon #63 (1982), a subclass of Fighter based explicitly on Conan, so entirely about toughness, survival, and anti-magic, and actively destroy any magic they find, won’t work with Magic-Users. They were basically unusable in a normal party, but fun as solo or with a sidekick Cleric, Thief, or normal Fighter, literally as seen in Robert E. Howard’s stories.

Rangers got toned down and up again in every edition, Illusionists were left alone until they got forgotten, Bards were mutilated badly by AD&D 1E, reverted sorta in 2E, turned into generic musician jack’O’trades in 3E and on, there’s a reason everyone hates spoony Bards if all they know is 3E and 5E. Barbarians were turned into generic fighters with berserking in later editions, so you can have them with a normal party, totally discarding the only thing that made them fun.

When creating a party of adventurers, one way to form a well-rounded group is to include at least one member of each Class Group. That said, mix and match Classes to your heart’s content!

So in 5.5E there’s 4 groups, 3 classes per group, 4 subclasses per class = 48 subclasses. Which lets you drill down a bit easier than just picking from 48 options, but it’s still insane, they could trivially stop at the classes and have a 4x better game.

The 3 “Expert” classes are in this packet, and only one subclass for each.

In all classes, skills are listed as specific choices “or any X skills from this list”. Spells are “you have these spells, or choose…”, and a long list of exactly what spells are prepared at each Level, unless you change them. Equipment is a pre-chosen package, “or spend X GP”. I like packages and pregens for pick-up games, so that’s fine, but I don’t like that it presents the package first, the actual range of options later.

  • Rogue: HP are d8, median for 5E, fine. Weapons are limited to “Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons that have the Finesse Property”; in OD&D Thieves had no weapon restrictions, but AD&D 2E has a similarly limited list. Armor is restricted to light, and looking at the glossary, that now just gives disadvantage on STR & DEX rolls, and can’t cast spells, so a Thief in plate might be viable for stand-up fights.

Sneak Attack (for all Rogues) is mechanically simple to get: You need either advantage (which if you’re not an idiot, you always have), or an ally adjacent, and gives +1d6 per 2 Levels(!).

The experience table gives you a specific class feature at each Level, tho many of them are “Feat”, “Expertise”, etc. where you pick from the lists. The Thief subclass gives you mostly the classic Thief features, the one weird part is you have to CHOOSE between Fast Hands (pickpocket) or Second-Story Work (climb walls).

  • Bard: HP are d8. Bardic Inspiration lets you magically rap, scratch, or twerk someone within 60′ to boost a die or heal someone. This is beyond nonsense. Bard magic is now OP, 2 Fears at 5th-Level, double a classic Magic-User table, who knows what the actual Wizard will look like. They’re limited at first to Divination, Enchantment, Illusion, Transmutation schools; but at 11th Level can take “Magical Secrets” and unlock all schools, or Divine or Primal, which is even wackier, and I would expect a “Learn one other school” Feat will be along pretty quick, so you can get Evocation and Fireballs.

At 2nd-Level and up, Bards get healing spells, only 1 use per day, but still utterly disconnected from the historical figures. Bards get no real special features, nothing to do with music or lore or prophecy here. I doubt anyone in WotC has ever read of Taliesin.

I Taliesin, chief of bards,
With a sapient Druid’s words,
Will set kind Elphin free
From haughty tyrant’s bonds.
—Mabinogion

The subclass given here is College of Lore, which at least puts a little knowledge-based skill in them, a whole proficiency bonus to a few generic skills woo. Mostly a combat-based “Cutting Words”, tho, basically Sarcastro’s power from The Tick. WTF does that have to do with a loremaster?

  • Ranger: HP are d10, but just one per Level. Favored Enemy is now just a free Hunter’s Mark spell, usable on anyone, you don’t hate Orcs or whatever else, as in Tolkien & Gygax’s genocidal games. Spells start at 1st-Level, but are much slower than Bard, giving 2 Conjure Barrages at 9th-Level (they use the Primal spell list now). Some of the special abilities aren’t bad, movement speed, extra attacks, temporary HP. Their 18th-Level power increases Hunter’s Mark to d10 instead of d6, which is pathetic by itself, but possibly with Barrage it’s a good upgrade?

Hunter subclass is OK, just extra damage and Barrage spells. Very boring and phoned-in. How about traps? Or some special tracking? An ambush bonus? Preparing extra meat from hunted game? Nope, dullness. Ranger will continue to be the most ignored class in 5.5E.

  • Feats: I’m going to ignore most of these for now. Feats were a bad idea in 2.5E, 3E, and 5E, and I’m sure they continue to be broken in 5.5E, let’s just move on.

Epic Feats are new, all the class super-powers got moved down to 18th-Level, and you get an Epic Feat at 20th-Level. First, WTF kind of game is getting past 10th-Level anyway? In OD&D, my view was that you reach Lord at 9th-Level, maybe a bit higher as 10th- to 12th-Level, and that’s about it. I’d rate Elric as an 8th-Level Fighter/12th-Level Magic-User (ignoring that as an Elf he’s limited to 4/8), and Conan as a 10th-Level Barbarian at his heroic peak, prior to becoming fat old King Conan. B/X ended at 14th-Level, BECMI extended that to 36th and then Immortals, but that was extremely broken past 12th-Level, especially for non-Humans, AD&D simply didn’t work above 10th-Level, and Gygax claimed nobody was above that in his games, except some NPCs/retired PCs. 3E routinely did push Levels higher, but then Epic 6 scaled that back down to a fun game at 1st- to 6th-Levels.

So anyway, if you are playing superheroes in Forgettable Realms or whatever, and aren’t cunning enough to go play Exalted which is much more suited to this. These are very boring, and most suck:

  • Epic Boon of Combat Prowess: Auto-hit melee 1x/round. Pretty good, but high-Level characters always hit anyway.
  • Epic Boon of Dimensional Travel: Dimension Door 1x/round. Tactically interesting, especially for a mage or archer keeping range. 100% of magic foes should have Dimensional Anchor to stop this nonsense.
  • Epic Boon of Energy Resistance: Ignore one element type. Pretty obnoxious if you can do Fire when going to Hell, etc.
  • Epic Boon of Fortitude: +40 HP. That’s only half a max-level Fireball, so meh.
  • Epic Boon of Irresistible Offense: Ignore target’s resistance. Might be broken, you could fistfight a Tarrasque.
  • Epic Boon of Luck: Free Bardic Inspiration shit.
  • Epic Boon of Night Spirit: Invisibility 1x/action. You can literally cloak, sneak attack, cloak, sneak attack.
  • Epic Boon of Peerless Aim: Auto-hit missiles 1x/round. Pretty good, but high-Level characters always hit anyway.
  • Epic Boon of Recovery: Heal 1/2 HP, 1x/long rest. Don’t you have, like, potions and Clerics and shit?
  • Epic Boon of Skill Proficiency: Bonus to all skills. “Whoah, I know BASKET WEAVING!” Lamest of the lame.
  • Epic Boon of Speed: +30′ move, which is like a single Ranger bonus but less than a potion of Haste.
  • Epic Boon of Undetectability: Shitty version of Invisibility.
  • Epic Boon of Unfettered: Can ungrapple as a bonus action. Given how OP and Level-breaking grappling is, this might be a good idea.

  • Spell Lists: Now with some School of Magic changes, woo.

  • Rules Glossary, which totally replaces the previous document’s:

  • Ability Checks no longer say “automatic win/lose” for DC 5 or 30. “The default DC for a check is 15, and it is rarely worth calling for an Ability Check if the DC is as low as 5, unless the potential failure is narratively interesting.” They’ve removed crit on 20, fumble on 1, except in combat.

  • Now rolling a 1 on any “d20 Test” gives “Heroic Inspiration”, and you can also get one whenever the DM says so. I don’t mind Luck/Benny/Fate points, especially in heroic genres where you can “succeed forward” — jumping from a plane onto a moving train and punching a Nazi is cool so you can pay some resource to succeed at that. But Inspiration in 5E is pretty limited, and you can only have 1 point of it, and getting it by fumbling is weird.

This is definitely some kind of improvement over the origins booklet, and walking back the most controversial mechanical changes, but the classes are so heavy, make completely meaningless non-lore-based distinctions, and just make the game worse the more are added.

Unearthed Like a Graverobber

A few more thoughts on Unearthed Arcana

WotC is doing “physical/digital bundles” for the Dragonlance stuff. Are they finally doing PDFs like every other game company?! Fuck no, it’s a “D&D Beyond” gulag access code. Can’t use your ebook without gigabit Internet access. That’s how they get you. “One D&D” will just update your ebooks to the official standard forever. Print and ownership are dead.

Excuse me while I go hug this little GOZR book and PDF instead. I’ll review GOZR soon, it’s cool.

Humans:
Size: Medium (about 4–7 feet tall) or Small
(about 2–4 feet tall), chosen when you select
this Race

Dwarfs with Dwarfism? NO. Big Halflings or Gnomes? NO. Humans range from 2-7′ tall, no change in stats (but then, Gnomes are as strong as Humans now). Warwick Davis approves, I’m sure.

Also, Orcs are now 6-7′ tall. Back in the day, they were smaller than Humans, just heavier. Steroid abuse.

ROLLING A 20
A player character also gains Inspiration when rolling the 20, thanks to the remarkable success.
CRITICAL HITS
Weapons and Unarmed Strikes* have a special feature for player characters: Critical Hits.

Reddit’s going crazy over this, but it doesn’t say other attacks don’t get crits, just these do. And every NPC is a player character to the DM. Ain’t no problem if my favorite Goblin Chuck gets a crit and guts your Ardling Paladin open, screaming for his momma on the dungeon floor. Gotta teach the punks respect.

The DM determines whether a d20 Test is warranted in any given circumstance. To be warranted, a d20 Test must have a target number no less than 5 and no greater than 30.

Yes, this avoids the “5% chance to jump over the Moon” problem, but a hard rule prevents awesome bonus characters from doing great things, too. Very badly written/thought out rule.

UNARMED STRIKE
… On a hit, your Unarmed Strike causes one of the following effects of your choice:
Shove. You either push the target 5 feet away or knock the target Prone. This shove is possible only if the target is no more than one Size larger than you.

Great! You can just push an Ogre down, it has no resistance, it loses its action, buddies curb-stomp it while it gets up. Grapple is nearly as good, you can just move the target around anywhere. Every edition’s unarmed rules are dumber than the last.

Nth Edition D&D

Was Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast bought by Microsoft? They’re calling the next edition of D&D, 5.5 in any reasonable terms, “One D&D”, just like Xbox One (third of that line).

To some extent I don’t care, I don’t do 5E, it’s 1000 pages of rules to do what retro games do in 64 or less. But I keep up with the news!

I will note, I tried to sign in with Apple, and it failed on their end, untested crap code. So I signed in with Twitch, which makes no sense at all. That they can’t manage their own sign-in and need oauth, eh, fine, but at least test every one!

“Unearthed Arcana” (the shittiest AD&D book, revived for 5E!), “by Jeremy Crawford, with Christopher Perkins and Ray Winninger”. Well, Ray’s a bright point, at least. But I’m guessing there won’t be anything like Underground in this pablum.

Right now there’s Character Origins up.

Superhero monster races, but now nothing mentions that your culture is mostly chaotic or evil. Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnomes, Hobbits alflings, as usual. Dark Elves are only called Drow, and nothing mentioned of the ALL ARE EVIL except for unspoken reasons these jerks “shun”:

Drow. Known for their white hair and dusky- gray skin tones, drow typically dwell in the Underdark. Noteworthy exceptions include DRIZZLE DOO-WAH-DIDDY and JAR-JAR BINKS [ed.], two drow adventurers of the Forgettable[ed.] Realms who shun their subterranean homeland.

I often forget just how Disney-level singing-and-dancing treacly sweet official TSR/WotC/FR stuff is, the “Halflings” are all happy farm workers, not the grubby, thieving, murderous, sawed-off, shoeless scum of Mary Gentle’s Grunts or JD’s Finieous Fingers. Oh, under “many worlds”:

For every sequestered halfling shire tucked away in some unspoiled corner of the world, there’s a halfling crime syndicate like the Boromar Clan on the world of Eberron or a territorial [ed: cannibalistic] mob of halflings like those found on the world of Athas.

Ardling (animal-headed god-spawn):

An ardling gains a measure of magical power from their celestial legacy, as well as the ability to manifest spectral wings. An ardling’s moral and ethical outlook is self-determined, however, not fixed by ancestry.

Fucking Dragonborn. I hated DragonNewts in RuneQuest, clearly Stafford just powergaming and almost jerking off into the page over his immortal lizard-babies, and they’re just the worst PCs or NPCs in any game that’s picked them up since. Why don’t people steal Ducks from RuneQuest?! Ducks are awesome, hilarious and petty and venal little shits, and not OP fan-wank. Anyway, I get distracted. Fuck Dragonborn (except scalies, quit fucking Dragonborn).

Orcs. As previously mentioned. Heroical but not nice background somewhat implied, which is about as strong as WotC can be anymore:

Young orcs are often told about their ancestors’ ancient conflicts with elves in forests, dwarves under mountains, and invaders from evil planes of existence. Inspired by those tales, young orcs often wonder when Gruumsh will call on them to match the heroic deeds of their ancestors, and if they will prove worthy of the One-Eyed God’s grace.

Tieflings. Like the Ardlings:

This connection to the Lower Planes is, for better or worse, the tiefling’s fiendish legacy, which comes with the promise of power yet has no effect on the tiefling’s moral outlook.

While I don’t like the monsters-only-party tone of this stuff, I have nothing against Ardling & Tiefling characters for high/stoner fantasy games, they’re OP but they fit. We all liked Thundercats. The wussing out of Orcs & Drow is, sigh, sadly necessary, to quit giving shelter to actual fucking racists.

I just adamantly oppose making a monster race like Dragon-spawn into PCs. That’s a KOS (Kill On Sight) monster, as in Dragonlance. OH! They’re doing Dragonlance (Railroad Choo-Choo!) as next year’s campaign setting. Awk…ward. Run a few Draconians (“DRAGONMEN” as DL1-Dragons of Despair called them) up against the party, see how they feel about hanging out with a scaly traitor. And KENDER! Oh, here’s a nuclear hand grenade character to throw into parties of unsuspecting 5E noobs. Suddenly the railroad becomes more of a trainwreck, and I’m keen to watch it explode.

None of the “races” (which term they should abandon for “Species” as I do, or “Kindred” as Ken St. Andre does) have any stat mods, but most do give advantage on saves for 1-3 stats, which is like a +8 stat mod (giving a +4 bonus, equal to advantage) mechanically, so it’s far far worse. Total fail on toning down the species superiority complex.

Backgrounds are careers, and give ability score bonuses, proficiency bonus to some skills & tools, feats, and equipment. They’re like a whole second class. There’s a weak version of these in the 5E rules, but much more powerful here. Who cares if you’re a Human or an Orc, when Gladiator or Laborer makes you a tank; I will say at least they mostly paired one useful stat with a dump stat (WIS or CHA), but several add to two primary stats, and have a synergistic feat. Laborer’s trivial, right? No, it gives +2 CON, +1 STR, Feat Tough (+2 HP per Level), for a total of at least +3 HP per Level. Cultist gives +2 INT, +1 CHA, Magical Initiate (+1 Arcane 1st level spell/day). Backgrounds just went from optional cute story thing, to more meta than race.

Feats are pretty standard, but several are extremely easy to abuse and get too much power from, at least on an OSR-scale. Against other 5E stuff, it’s probably nerfed a bit, but getting a free Feat from background is the problem.

Spells are now merged into just 3 lists, Arcane (magic-users, spoony bards, etc), Divine (useless clerics & racist paladins), and Primal (hey nonny nonny dancin’ skyclad in the woods rangers & druids). That’s actually a good change, back to the simplicity of OSR. Of course, what’s even simpler is deleting Clerics and having one spell list, but WotC’s not ready for that yet. “Two D&D” in 2030, perhaps.