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D&D 5th (next) – Post Game Thoughts

Overall, I think I give the system a failing grade.

There are certainly things I enjoyed, and aspects I was a fan of, but overall the system seemed really overbalanced in a couple of major ways.

First, the whole no attributes, just bonuses, was a major loss for me.  The need to roll under an ability was a major component of D&D all along.  I really don’t appreciate how close they made the tests, regardless of level.  In “classic” D&D, a 15 in a stat was worlds above a 10, and actually made you 75% likely to pass a skill check, instead of 50%.  Now a 15 is only 2 points or +10% to a roll.  Everything comes down to that roll now, and the ability score is virtually non-impactful.

Frankly, since they are never referenced, or used in any way, why does this system even have ability scores?  Just list a modifier.

I’m also not a fan of the whole +2 proficiency bonus across the board.  Fighters should be proficient with certain weapons or classes of weapons, and should be far better at using them than the other classes.  Clerics and Wizards should get more “tool” or non-weapon proficiencies, or be better at them in some way.  Also, whatever happened to thief skills?  How does a thief notice, or disarm a trap?  We found Steath as a skill, but nothing else, really.

Along those lines, it seems that the passive Wisdom (Perception) skill was critical.  The included scenario used it extensively to notice LOTS of things about the environment, ambushes, traps, and the like.  That one skill score was far more valuable than anything else in the game, and that felt very wrong.

Damage seemed to be heavily ramped up as well.  Goblins, as 1 HD monsters, had a +2 prof check to their hits, and also had a baseline dex and str to add a +2 to hit, and DAMAGE at ranged, and close combat, meaning they hit on a 10+ to most of the party (most were AC 14).  Then they’d also get 1D6 +2 damage, which generally could incapacitate in 2 hits.  Going back, a 1st level monster was 20 THAC0, attacking a party member with AC 6 (the old equivalent) would need a 14 to hit, an almost 50% harder hit.  Again, with no damage bonus, that straight D6 damage will average to a 3.5, which a character can react to better than the 5.5 average that the 5th ed goblins dish out.

Anyway, enough negative.

Here are a few things I like (and frankly, all of which are easy to cut out and use in other editions, or even other systems):

Equipment kits.  A great simple way to output characters faster.  It’s optional, but gives characters (especially new players to the game) what they need to get in, and start playing.

Advantage.  Because this system was all or nothing on the die roll, advantage/disadvantage was devastating in play.  With a system that used higher starting values to test against, it would be advantageous, but not game shatteringly so.  Same for disadvantage.

Backgrounds.  The fact that these archtypes added an additional aspect to each of the character classes, AND an in game, tangible benefit was very nice.  The traits, ideals and bonds really added additional depth.  These were pre-gen characters without even a name, but because of this part of the system, they had depth, and personality.

Things I’m a little more on the fence about:

Cantrips.  Unlimited casting is nice, so the wizard / cleric can still be contributing to the game when their 1 or 2 spells is exhausted.  The cantrips in this edition were WAY too powerful though.

One cleric ranged cantrip was a 60’ D8 damage.  Better than my Halfling archer could do  (even if the monster got a save to remove damage).  The cleric didn’t even need a clear line of sight.

Another allowed for minor earthquakes, throwing a voice, trippling the voices volume, and throwing lights or other distractions, up to 3 effects at a time.  A shrewd player could cause all KINDS of havoc with that.

Anyone else have some thoughts to share?


D&D 5th (next) First thoughts

I generally play AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, was very not fond of 2.5, 3, 3.5 and 4, so I got interested when it was mentioned that the 5th Edition, also referred to as Next, and simply Dungeons and Dragons, would be more reminicient of those earlier days.

I snagged the free rulebook off wizard’s site (, which I thought was a great way to get people excited about a new edition, and then I also grabbed the starter set, very reasonably priced at $20.

So, with those 2 resources, here’s my initial impression (pre-play) from a AD&D 2nd perspective:


Advantage/Disadvantage:  If the DM thinks you’re in either of these 2 scenarios, you roll 2 D20, and pick the highest if you’re in advantage, and lower if you’re in disadvantage.  A lot of the old racial traits (elven charm resistance, Halfling bravery) have been changed to advantage rolls.  Sneak Attack for thieves requires you to be in “advantage” status.

Trait checks:  Everything is now a positive number, always.  To test traits, you roll a D20, and add your trait bonus against a difficulty number.  No more rolling UNDER your trait. This means a stat of 10 and a stat of 13 only have 1 difference on your die rolls (+0 for 10, +1 for 13).

Proficiency: there are now tool proficiencies in addition to weapon proficiencies.  Prof Bonuses are also the same for all classes now, and based on level (I think this will probably be a basic only rule, and will probably be dropped in the PHB).  If you are proficient in something, you roll your die, add any trait bonus, and add any proficiency bonus.  (ie. Attack Roll 12, +1 for strength, +2 for prof bonus = 15).

  • Targeted Spells also get a proficiency bonus.
  • No negatives for NOT being proficient, just no bonus.

Rests:  There are now short rests and long rests.  Short rests allow characters to “spend” Hit Dice to roll a hit die + their constitution and recover that many HPs.  “Spent” HD recover after a long rest.  You still need long rests to do spells.  Fighters also have a “second wind” ability they can use to recover 1HD worth of HP any turn, which refreshes with a short rest (Basically, a lot of this seems to be taking the cleric / healing potion need away).

Death:  No more -10.  Unconscious at 0, dead at your –total hit points.  So for a first level thief at 6hp, he’s dead at -6.  For a 10th lvl fighter at 54 hps, he gets to go all the way to -54.  You can also “self stabilize” if you succeed in a special save vs death roll 3 times.

Saving Throws: Speaking of saves, there really aren’t any any more.  Casters set the difficulty of the resistance to their spells, based on their level (the 2 pre-gen casters are both resisted at a DC 13).  I presume traps will also


  • No more speed factor.  Initiative in combat is just D20 + Dex modifier.
  • Ranged weapons all have melee stats to be used as an improvised club (lol).
  • One move, one action in either order, each round.  It can even be broken up (move 10ft, attack, move 20ft).
  • Some fairly extensive free actions as well (withdraw a potion from your backpack is a free action?  That seems really involved).
  • Critical hits now roll dice twice, then add modifiers, instead of doubling damage. (dagger crit is 2d4+bonus, instead of (1d4+bonus)*2).


That’s a pretty broad understanding of the changes so far, I’ll report back after my first game with some impressions, and any other changes.



Games Workshop January 2014 Releases

Product Type Date US/$ CA/$
TYRANID HARPY Plastic Box 1/11/2014 80 95
TYRANID HIVE GUARD Plastic Box 1/11/2014 70 84
TYRANID HARUSPEX Plastic Box 1/11/2014 73 88
TYRANID WARRIORS Plastic Box 1/11/2014 51 61
TYRANID SWARM Plastic Box 1/11/2014 170 205
TYRANID TERMAGANT BROOD Plastic Box 1/11/2014 44 52
TYRANID HORMAGAUNT BROOD Plastic Box 1/11/2014 44 52
TYRANID CARNIFEX BROOD Plastic Box 1/11/2014 90 110
THE MASTER OF LAKE-TOWN Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 20 25
ALFRID THE COUNCILLOR Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 20 25
BARD THE BOWMAN Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 20 25
LAKE-TOWN CAPTAIN Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 15 20
LAKE-TOWN GUARD SWORDSMEN Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 25 30
GANDALF THE GREY Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 20 25
LAKE-TOWN GUARD SPEARMEN Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 25 30
LAKE-TOWN GUARD BOWMEN Finecast Clam 1/11/2014 25 30
CODEX: TYRANIDS (ENGLISH) Book (HB) 1/11/2014 49.5 59.5

Creating a Digital Campaign Map – Part 1

I’m writing this article to talk about the campaign maps that I’ve created for Warhammer Fantasy, but the methods and tools used here can relate to any other Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or other setting.

Source Image

The first step of course, is to find a high resolution image of the region that you wish to base the campaign on.  The higher resolution that you can find, the better.  It’s likely that other components that you use or output resolutions will be smaller, but it’s far better to lower a resolution than try to increase one.
digitalmap1For Warhammer, this is often found via the resources published for the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game, which has some really great high resolution images.  If you’re using Google, you can tell it only to return images of a certain resolution or higher, which is an excellent way to filter search results.

Of course, if you have access to source books, a really high resolution scanner can do wonders in making your own campaign map directly from the source materials.  If you don’t have your own, a college campus is a great resource both at this stage, and at the printing stage.  For example, our college campus prints Posters for $10 USD flat, while the local Fed Ex Office store is $1 a square foot.  If you’re not a student, I’ll bet you can find one at your FLGS. :)

Grid / Overlay

After obtaining a source image, you need a overlay in whatever format you’re using.  Most campaigns prefer a Hex overlay, but there are certainly maps that follow natural borders (which would have to be overlaid by hand), or squares.  The important part here is that your space between the overlay is TRANSPARENT, not white, which many grids use.  This will allow it to land over your map without having to delete all the hex internals (which you certainly don’t want to do).  It also allows you to do “fills” with your chosen army colors, to show ownership as it shifts throughout the campaign.  Size isn’t AS critical here, as you can resize a hex fairly simply to make it fit better.

There is a good sample transparent grid here:;sa=view&id=19 which I’ll re-host here in case the source goes down. hex-transparent

For a square, Here’s a dot based grid: linked locally to the right.dotgridtransparent

Or a more traditional “line” grid here:


For my projects I’ve used Photoshop (full version), but I’d expect that Gimp, or Photoshop Express might work well.  The critical thing you really need is software that can handle layers, and hopefully layer grouping.

You’ll want a:

  • blank (preferably transparent) background layer
  • a base layer for your map image
  • a “map modify layer” where you’d add roads, villages, move mountains, or whatever other “structural” changes you want.
  • A “base overlay” layer, which you might have to play with a lot, re-sizing and re-importing until your overlay is the exact size you want, to separate the map components properly.
  • One layer (at least, we’ll talk on this more) PER ARMY that is a duplicate of the base overlay.  These layers will be partially transparent, and if you have “stronger” colors that require different levels of transparency, this give you that capability.
  • One layer for labeling your overlay (numbered hexes, or a A-Z and 1-00 column row system).  You could also add the Legend to this layer, or make it it’s own.
  • One layer per “icon” or playing piece you’ll simulate moving around the board.  Much easier than cutting and pasting as you change turns.  If army tokens are destroyed, and need to regenerate at capitals, you can also just hide the layer for a turn before re positioning.

I’ll try and put together a quick video of this process.  If so, I’ll link it here instead of this text.

Next section, coming soon!

EPIC – Ork Vehicles

I still play the original Space Marine game  (not this newer Epic Armageddon), and one of the largest problems I have is keeping track of all of my Ork vehicles.

They have a massive variety of very similar looking and sounding vehicles, and I play just enough to forget every time.

So, I took a very simple step to remedy that,

Print out some names on 6pt font, and just glue them to the bottom of your vehicles!  It also works great keeping all your clan stands separate, especially if you’re still mostly unpainted like most of mine are.

2013-08-09 18.47.46

Gaming Tables – Part 2

As I mentioned in the first article (, a very easy modification to these 4′ tables is to add a drop leaf (or, if you’re getting another 8′ sheet of MDF, 2 drop leaves!)

As a warning, this does add significant weight to the tables, and makes it harder to move them around.  Unless you find a hinge that contains a removeable pin, you’ll also be unable to easily dissemble them any more, even if you used my bolt method for your legs.

Anyway, enough with the warnings, start in with the materials:

1 8′ x 4′ 3/4″ MDF Board. (There are TONS of ranges of material and thicknesses here, pick what ever dimensions you used for the original tabletop).

2 x 8′ x 2″ x 4″ (Two By Fours). Again, lots of variety, but get some that are straight.

3 “gate hinges” per drop leaf (so 12, if you want to all all 4 leaves).

This set of components lets you turn each of the tables into 8′ x 4′ playing surfaces, for those really big campaigns, or Apocalypse games!

Just like last time, take advantage of your Wood Shop’s pre-cut policy.  Lowes will turn that 8’x4′ board into 4 boards at 2′ x 4′ for no extra.

Start by flipping your table over, onto it’s top.

2013-10-02 17.31.00

Slide one of your pre-cut 4′ x 2′ boards flush against your chosen side (doesn’t really matter this time).

Measure 1.5′ in from the side of your join, and center your first hinge there, repeat from the other side.

Screw the hinges in with some of the wood screws left over from your table construction :)

2013-10-02 17.30.41Switch to the outside edge of your leaf (the 4′ side away from the table).

Measure to the middle of your leaf (2′), and mark a good deep mark.

Cut a 3′ length off one of your 2x4s, assuming you went with 3′ lengths on your other table legs.

Stand up your 2×4 piece on the leaf, wide side centered against the very edge, over your mark.

Screw the third gate hinge to your leg, and then to the table.

Done!  Now the leg will swing under the table when not in use.  You can prop it up on something, or build a kind of harness if you’d like, so it’s not freely swinging, but it’s just fine on it’s own as well.


Digital Tools for Roleplaying

Inspired by this recent article ( and the shipment of my brand new Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook, I decided to take a look at the realm of digital tools for roleplaying.  I used to run WEG Star wars games via IRC, complete with dice bots and private messages, but the landscape of digital roleplaying has changed significantly since those days.

I’ll try and review at a simple level the products I tested, and what I liked and disliked about each of them.  Since I don’t have a EotE campaign yet, I ported over some details from our current AD&D Campaign (which I’m a player in, not a GM) as a test bed, and so that I can evaluate what I’m dealing with.

Additionally, I only evaluated the free tools (most of which have pay in options).  Ed mentions a wonderful notes system for novels he uses, but $40 to evaluate the system seemed quite excessive to me.  I’ll also talk about things that have worked in the past, or that I expect will be useful in the future.

At the most basic level, evernote is a storage for clips, snippets, and lists.  I attempted to use the above article as a guide to store NPCs, listed in grouped notes by their location, and found it cumbersome.  I think Evernote would work well during game, for the DM to make really quick snippet style notes that he can move to the real site location later, and add detail / crosslink as needed, but as a long term repository I found it lacking.  I also was bothered by the fact that items cut and pasted from websites (like this blog) retained their formatting, even if it wasn’t visible in the note, and that there didn’t appear to be any method of “clear formatting” like I’d expect in most word processors (see image).

I was also disappointed that all the notes per “book” can’t be stored in any hierarchy within the book.  I understand that this is an artifact of where the product came from.  Books are chapter after chapter, not sub grouped.  However, I’d prefer something that can sub section things like NPCs, Cities, etc all in their own folders, and in the same book.  I also had issue with that fact that it’s fairly hard to share notes or details with players.  (frankly the worst application for this).

And, as expected, it’s also not a “In Game” tool, not that anybody expected it to be.  This means you can’t show players a description, picture, map, roll dice, or any of the other things these other tools can offer.


roll20The second “Tool” I tried was one I’d already signed up for an account on, but never used.‎ is a website explicitly designed for remote players to play their favorite games entirely within the site.  It has a video camera engine, or allows Google+ Hangouts (a great idea), a chat window that allows you to send messages to all, roll dice, and decide completely on who sees what you do (roll dice, but only display to GM and I).  The chat interface reminds me a LOT of my IRC days, or the recent tool we used to manage a Warhammer Fantasy Battle Campaign ( which allows you to make just the chat portion of this, with dice rolling, and save the log).

This was a great basic interface for gaming, but I was never able to see how to upload a map, instead of using their “marketplace” to display one, though you can use a built in search engine to do a web search and include the map (though I’m not clear on how it filters it’s search results).

This being said, the click and drag interface was very intuitive, and made bringing elements from the marketplace into the main screen very simple, as well as rotating, resizing, markups and all of that jazz.  It also has a “fog of war” setting which is very clever, allowing a GM to load a whole map, and then slowly introduce sections as the players moved around.

After chatting, and laying out “onscreen art”, there is a tab for journal, which is where character information is stored, and “handouts”.  Each handout can be flagged as readable and editable by any # of players, or just the GM, which is a nice touch.  A selected handout can also be “shown to players” which presumably displays it on their screen, over the map playing surface.

Unfortunately, much like Endnote, there is no depth here.  Individual handouts have no organizational structure, and can’t be hyperlinked to each other (Bob, a merchant of City has contracted the party for X) should be a very simple thing in this kind of tool.  But again, ultimately, I think this handout page will get way too cluttered, no matter how many crosslinks things get built into them.

The site also offers a jukebox, and a card deck system, which are both nice additions, if a GM used them, which I’m not sure I would, in most systems (Classic Deadlands?).

Overall, I found the site to be a good “active” playing surface for a game as it’s underway (especially for remote games), and it’s very actively under construction, so even more tools will be forthcoming, which is good to see.  Unfortunately, once the session is over, I’m not convinced there is any real value until you’re in session again, and even then somewhat limited, since I think the debris will fill up your panels way too fast (especially Journals).


If you’ve been following my details about the AD&D campaign before, you’ll know I posted a few articles here already, as detailed posts with the same category, so it’s easy for me to reopen.  With the simple editor, and easy draft work, it’s a good simple interface.  However, like Roll20 and Evernote, there is no crosslinking, you have to open each article to read about a NPC, then about the city he’s from, then another article to read about what items he’s given the party, etc.  All of these links need to be constantly and individually updated as well, as situations change (which I’ve been fairly terrible about).

Also, there is no ability to have a DM and a player interface, no interactivity, and it’s fairly hard to hide information, and then “present” it to the party (saving a draft, and then publishing it on the fly isn’t very dramatic, or functional).  With this in mind, campaigns that use digital tools would be ill served by a blog only (unless players use one as adventure recaps).

Obsidian Portal

The next web tool I tried was another online campaign management system, but much more heavily drawn to maintaining the entirety of the campaign, instead of a single playing session.  It allows you to create campaigns, invite players, define the game system, store characters (actually a fairly developed AD&D 2e character sheet system), blog adventurer notes, has a wiki for campaign details, notes, pictures, whatever, a specific page for items, a forum, calendar (for scheduling gaming sessions, though I’d prefer to use a calendar to track in game time hmm…), and a comments page.

I’d imagine most campaigns would only use maybe  4 of these 9 tabs, so it would be nice if you could hide ones you aren’t using, but that’s a fairly minor annoyance.

My big draw here was the wiki, because this is the ideal way to store campaign details.  The OP uses standard wiki interfacing, so if you surround a word in double brackets, it’ll link it to that [[Page]] automatically.  If there isn’t a page named that, it’ll prompt you to make one!

These features make it a very comprehensive campaign tracking system, though not a very great “during game play” site.

In Conclusion

So, where does that leave us?

I wasn’t able to find a single tool that did what I would have wanted for a campaign, in it’s entirety.  Instead, I found that multiple tools used together would probably provide a complete gaming experience.

Evernote (or a notepad at the GM’s side) to store “on the fly” details during a gaming session, to be fleshed out in more detail later.  Wordpress or a OP/Roll20 portal page to layout the campaign idea / list specific rules variations (ie. things that aren’t going to change or need updating).

Roll20 to play a game together remotely.  GM can import “handouts”, and then export them back out to the campaign, can use the “fog of war” to slowly display a map, and interact with the characters.  This step is unnecessary if the game meets in person.

And finally, a Obisdian Portal site to use the wiki for location,  NPC, and other important crosslinked data.  If the players want to create a In Character blog, it has that.  Long term maps can be stored here (instead of displayed via Roll20) for locations like common towns, regional maps, etc.  GM can track magical or “unknown items” as well, with the items page, and a GM note on same page.

That leaves character sheets, which can go just about anywhere, and in game calendaring (which I hinted that I’d use the Obsidian Portal calendar for instead of real game time).  Other private player to player or player to GM conversations can go via email, IM, texting, or whatever the people involved feel like using.

Disagree?  Did I miss something?

Please let me know!  I’d love a comment back on this, or details on a tool that I missed.  It’s an ever changing world, hopefully just like your campaign!


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