PDA

View Full Version : DM Help Which D&D Edition to use?



VoxRationis
2016-03-31, 06:07 AM
I am preparing a campaign for my friends wherein each of them is a warlord striving for dominance in the wake of a receding empire. PvP is highly encouraged, but cooperation and alliance is of course possible. The setting is fairly low-magic and there will definitely be a level cap. Previous campaigns in this setting have been run in D&D 3.5, which it was originally written for. However, I have access to the base mechanics, at least, of two other editions of D&D (via the 5e SRD and my AD&D books), and I'm wondering what my best bet is for this campaign style. Unfortunately, I am somewhat impoverished, so I can't really afford to get any different systems, regardless of how well-fleshed-out their mass combat and leadership rules are, so please keep suggestions limited to the parameters I am setting now.

Here is my pro/con analysis, as I can see it:
--3.5 rules are kind of high-magic by default, and demand optimization and system mastery, which might be difficult for my players, as most (if not all) of them have not played tabletop RPGs before. However, the rules are what I've based the setting around, including much of the background information and history.

--AD&D (2nd edition, late 90s printing) has a comparatively low emphasis on optimization and an emphasis on historicism, which appeals to both my tastes and the setting itself. However, it has a rather crucial flaw in that it doesn't offer very good support to Dexterity-based combatants (since Dex bonuses to AC don't really catch up with armor and there's no weapon finesse option), and the setting is filled with lightly armored combatants. I could houserule some quick fixes to that, but it might get messy and/or imbalanced.

--5th edition splits the difference in many respects between 3e and 2e, but I don't have the PHB, so I'd be forced to use only the default subclasses and subraces. Furthermore, I have, of the three, the least familiarity with the rules. However, it doesn't demand magic items yet allows for Dexterity-based martials, which works well in its favor.

To the section of the Playground which is familiar with these systems: Which system do you think I should use?

Comet
2016-03-31, 06:40 AM
If PVP means personal combat between individual characters maybe go with 3.5. That let's your players optimize and have fun with creating characters and seeing whose character is the strongest.

If PVP means playing rival warlords and managing resources and armies and trade and such go with whatever you want because none of these games really help you with that ruleswise, I think.

I'd personally go with 5e. It seems easy to make it fit into that gritty AD&D aesthetic you like and it's intuitive and easy for new players to grasp. Not having the books might or might not be a problem, I'm not sure.

But you also seem to be really comfortable with 3.5. In cases like this where different systems come equally close, or far, to the concept you want to portray it might be helpful to just go with what you know. 3.5 is definitely teachable as long as your players actually enjoy that kind of crunch-heavy play.

Lalliman
2016-03-31, 07:25 AM
To me, 3.5 seems like a terrible edition for a PvP-heavy game, due to the insane power gaps between classes. Of course, it depends heavily on the level range and the books used.

Comet
2016-03-31, 07:39 AM
To me, 3.5 seems like a terrible edition for a PvP-heavy game, due to the insane power gaps between classes. Of course, it depends heavily on the level range and the books used.

That could also be a lot of fun for new players, though. Having people pick suboptimal classes, get utterly trampled in PVP and return with another class that does a bit better until you end up with a experienced group where everyone is playing paranoid casters. Could also be super frustrating, depending on player mentality :smalltongue:

goto124
2016-03-31, 08:07 AM
3.5 System Mastery + Paranoia?

obryn
2016-03-31, 08:37 AM
Does it have to be D&D?

Keltest
2016-03-31, 09:22 AM
Honest answer, whichever edition you can get the books for the easiest. Playing 5e without a player's handbook would be exceptionally difficult. If you have the 2e books already, I would say use that, because its going to be a more friendly PvP environment, and 3.5 is a bit of a mess if youre remotely into optimization. You can just houserule in finesse as a weapon property like 5e does.

goto124
2016-03-31, 09:27 AM
5e PHB is available online for zero dollars zero cents.

Then again, seems that people here like physical books.

obryn
2016-03-31, 10:37 AM
5e PHB is available online for zero dollars zero cents.
Not completely true. The SRD is incomplete.

Mark Hall
2016-03-31, 10:50 AM
--AD&D (2nd edition, late 90s printing) has a comparatively low emphasis on optimization and an emphasis on historicism, which appeals to both my tastes and the setting itself. However, it has a rather crucial flaw in that it doesn't offer very good support to Dexterity-based combatants (since Dex bonuses to AC don't really catch up with armor and there's no weapon finesse option), and the setting is filled with lightly armored combatants. I could houserule some quick fixes to that, but it might get messy and/or imbalanced.


2e is a good option, especially if you start including Weapon Styles. They're an optional rule from Complete Fighter's Handbook, Combat and Tactics, and, crucially, with versions included in Baldur's Gate II and the Expanded Editions of BG, BGII, and IWD, meaning they're pretty widely available. Of special note to you would be the One-Handed Style, which lets you put a single slot into them and get a +1 to AC. You could also develop similar styles... the basic rules of new styles is that a single WP slot should add only a +1 to something, and that a second slot can be used to add another +1.

So, for your low-armor game, you might have people using Bonetti's Defense... a style which adds +1 to AC, or +2 to AC with two slots, but only when footing is poor. It provides a broad swath of options for specialization of skill styles, especially if weapon types are relatively limited. I could also easily see a weapon style that allowed applying one's missile attack modifier to certain melee weapons.

If you decide to go with 2e, I'd suggest your players look for the Gold and Glory retroclone, so they have access to the basic rules. Dragonsfoot.org also has some great forums dedicated to AD&D, including a fairly active 2e forum (not on the par of this for total volume, but with more for 2e).

While I know you're not looking for another system, I would also suggest Hackmaster: Basic, which is free (there's a link in my sig). Armor penalizes the active defense roll. For the next 11 days, there's also the "Bundle of Fate (https://bundleofholding.com/presents/HackMaster)", which will let you get the full Hackmaster game for $13, or $29 to also get the Hacklopedia of Beasts and the GMG... all in PDF. Hackmaster does really well at low-to-no armor, has pretty balanced mages and clerics, while resting at a lower magic point than even 2e. Add in that HM levels are about half the power of AD&D levels, and you've got a game that advances slowly, without the artificiality of a level cap.

wumpus
2016-03-31, 12:46 PM
Not completely true. The SRD is incomplete.

The Basic edition + SRD is more complete than three books of 2e (it is more complete than any set of 1e books). It would take a few more books to beat it. Unless you already have/have played 2e, I would certainly recommend 5e just after reading the books.

Did you download basic as well? The SRD is a little odd. It looks like it was meant to be complete, but is missing chunks of stuff included in basic.

VoxRationis
2016-03-31, 04:53 PM
The Basic edition + SRD is more complete than three books of 2e (it is more complete than any set of 1e books). It would take a few more books to beat it. Unless you already have/have played 2e, I would certainly recommend 5e just after reading the books.

Did you download basic as well? The SRD is a little odd. It looks like it was meant to be complete, but is missing chunks of stuff included in basic.

I looked at basic some time ago, before the full books came out, and it looked pretty bare-bones to me. What was included in it that isn't in the SRD?

commander panda
2016-03-31, 07:58 PM
i've never played either of these, but pathfinder is free online and has a module called kingmaker where the players slowly build up their own kingdom. maybe you can lift the rules from there, and alter them to include multiple expanding parties?

if you don't know pathfinder, it's basically D&D 3.7. it should be really easy to pick up for a group used to 3.5. it seems to have better and more varied options for low magic characters too.

Belac93
2016-03-31, 09:52 PM
If you want to encourage PVP, I would say 5th edition. They are all pretty good, but you are much more certain to have characters that, even if minmaxed, can still be taken down by another PC. In the other editions, an optimized character can kill everything if they can just go first.

Kane0
2016-04-01, 01:08 AM
Also voting for 5e.
Even if you only have access to the free stuff (free basic, recent SRD, elemental evil and Sword coast adventure guide pdfs + unearthed arcana) you can always scrounge up more from the forums, homebrew, etc.

Its got low magic covered for you and PvP will be fun and pretty close to fair. The dex based builds is just a bonus.

VoxRationis
2016-04-01, 04:09 AM
@commander panda: I've taken a look at the Kingdoms and War rules for Pathfinder and they're great, except that conversion of my setting to using them would be ridiculously labor-intensive. Proper use of those rules demands an incredibly detailed approach to individual settlements. I'm guessing in a campaign of this sort, you're supposed to expand from owning a single village, which is not the case for these characters, several of whom own large cities or legion-strength armies. It also demands hex-by-hex mapping of the region, and with a playable region the size of Iberia, drawing a hex grid on a scale of a few miles per hex is impractical. If I were developing a setting de novo for this campaign, or for a different one using the Kingdoms and War rules, I'd be thrilled to use them. As it stands, I'll have to go for something else.

BWR
2016-04-01, 06:10 AM
@commander panda: I've taken a look at the Kingdoms and War rules for Pathfinder and they're great, except that conversion of my setting to using them would be ridiculously labor-intensive. Proper use of those rules demands an incredibly detailed approach to individual settlements. I'm guessing in a campaign of this sort, you're supposed to expand from owning a single village, which is not the case for these characters, several of whom own large cities or legion-strength armies. It also demands hex-by-hex mapping of the region, and with a playable region the size of Iberia, drawing a hex grid on a scale of a few miles per hex is impractical. If I were developing a setting de novo for this campaign, or for a different one using the Kingdoms and War rules, I'd be thrilled to use them. As it stands, I'll have to go for something else.

I actually prefer the kingdom rules from BECMI, and War Machine is decent enough if you don't like a mass combat system which is basically just single player combat with some alterations. WM requires a fair amount of prep to determine the BR of the units, however. We found the PF domain rules to be too clunky. The main issue lies in that you are supposed to do domain events each month rather than season (which is what I'm used to from Ars Magica or AEG's domain splat 'Empire'). Another element I didn't like was how plain ability modifiers are used instead of ranks in relevant skills to determine adjustments to the Loyalty etc.

VoxRationis
2016-04-01, 06:36 AM
If PVP means personal combat between individual characters maybe go with 3.5. That let's your players optimize and have fun with creating characters and seeing whose character is the strongest.

If PVP means playing rival warlords and managing resources and armies and trade and such go with whatever you want because none of these games really help you with that ruleswise, I think.

PvP in this context means perhaps a little of the former meaning, but mostly the latter. The warlords aren't meant to all be on equal terms in a straight-on fight (though even the weaker ones won't be pushovers), and the lone wizard among their number is supposed to be weakened by her lack of useful forces. (The decided vulnerability of wizards to arrow fire in 2nd and 5th editions is a draw there.)


I'd personally go with 5e. It seems easy to make it fit into that gritty AD&D aesthetic you like and it's intuitive and easy for new players to grasp. Not having the books might or might not be a problem, I'm not sure.

But you also seem to be really comfortable with 3.5. In cases like this where different systems come equally close, or far, to the concept you want to portray it might be helpful to just go with what you know. 3.5 is definitely teachable as long as your players actually enjoy that kind of crunch-heavy play.

I'm not sure about the players' preferences, but ease of use will, I suspect, be helpful. That's part of why I thought about a different edition in the first place.

JAL_1138
2016-04-01, 06:49 AM
I really want to say 2e, since I love it to bits and it already has rules for characters having followers and strongholds, and its Birthright campaign setting would seem tailor-made for this sort of campaign. It has rules for players as nobles or other powerful folk managing kingdoms and organizations (although it's a bit high on the magic side), and its own mass combat system. 2e also had Battlesystem for mass combat rules if Birthright's system isn't suitable.

But 2e isn't without problems--high lethality, class balance issues to an extent, steep learning curve if your players aren't familiar with it already, etc--and 5e has a simpler learning curve and better PVP balance. But, at the same time, 5e doesn't have much in the way of mass combat rules at present.

I'd avoid 3.5 just due to crunch and optimization concerns.

1337 b4k4
2016-04-01, 11:58 AM
I would like to chime in with a recommendation for BECMI d&d. If you can afford the $10, the official copy of the Rules Cyclopedia is available from dtrpg. If you're broke enough to not be able to swing that (and I know the feeling) you can download the Dark Dungeons retro clone for free, which duplicates the rules almost exactly (and near enough it should matter for your purposes). Big benefits include simple od&d style classes, rules for domain management and mass combat, weapon specialization rules (which may or may not solve your red fighter problem).

runeghost
2016-04-01, 12:16 PM
I would like to chime in with a recommendation for BECMI d&d. If you can afford the $10, the official copy of the Rules Cyclopedia is available from dtrpg. If you're broke enough to not be able to swing that (and I know the feeling) you can download the Dark Dungeons retro clone for free, which duplicates the rules almost exactly (and near enough it should matter for your purposes). Big benefits include simple od&d style classes, rules for domain management and mass combat, weapon specialization rules (which may or may not solve your red fighter problem).

I'd also agree that BECMI (or a retroclone) sounds like what the OP would want.

Where can he download it? I went looking for it a while back (I was looking at all the retroclones preparing for a new game) and couldn't find a copy anywhere.

JAL_1138
2016-04-01, 12:25 PM
I'd also agree that BECMI (or a retroclone) sounds like what the OP would want.

Where can he download it? I went looking for it a while back (I was looking at all the retroclones preparing for a new game) and couldn't find a copy anywhere.


DNDClassics and DriveThruRPG should have the Rules Cyclopedia in .pdf form. RC is a compiled and rearranged version of the first four boxsets of BECMI (omitting Immortals).

1337 b4k4
2016-04-01, 02:33 PM
I'd also agree that BECMI (or a retroclone) sounds like what the OP would want.

Where can he download it? I went looking for it a while back (I was looking at all the retroclones preparing for a new game) and couldn't find a copy anywhere.

It appears the site it used to be hosted at is no longer around. If you (or the op) want it still, hit me up in a pm. I have a copy somewhere and it was all OGL so sharing is ok.

JAL_1138
2016-04-01, 03:10 PM
It appears the site it used to be hosted at is no longer around. If you (or the op) want it still, hit me up in a pm. I have a copy somewhere and it was all OGL so sharing is ok.

Found a .pdf for sale through DM's Guild, which seems to have replaced DNDClassics (DNDClassics now redirects to it). http://www.dmsguild.com/product/17171/DD-Rules-Cyclopedia-Basic?it=1&filters=45471_0_0_0_0_0

VoxRationis
2016-04-01, 03:56 PM
I really want to say 2e, since I love it to bits and it already has rules for characters having followers and strongholds, and its Birthright campaign setting would seem tailor-made for this sort of campaign. It has rules for players as nobles or other powerful folk managing kingdoms and organizations (although it's a bit high on the magic side), and its own mass combat system. 2e also had Battlesystem for mass combat rules if Birthright's system isn't suitable.

But 2e isn't without problems--high lethality, class balance issues to an extent, steep learning curve if your players aren't familiar with it already, etc--and 5e has a simpler learning curve and better PVP balance. But, at the same time, 5e doesn't have much in the way of mass combat rules at present.

I'd avoid 3.5 just due to crunch and optimization concerns.

5e is simpler to learn than 2e? How so?

1337 b4k4
2016-04-01, 05:25 PM
Found a .pdf for sale through DM's Guild, which seems to have replaced DNDClassics (DNDClassics now redirects to it). http://www.dmsguild.com/product/17171/DD-Rules-Cyclopedia-Basic?it=1&filters=45471_0_0_0_0_0

Oh yeah the wotc released pdf is still for sale (and not OGL). I meant the retro-clone didn't appear to be hosted anymore.

JAL_1138
2016-04-01, 06:13 PM
5e is simpler to learn than 2e? How so?

For completely new players, it's simpler because it's on (a heavily modified version of) the d20 engine instead of having different subsystems for things and unintuitive systems--e.g., roll under for some skills, d% skills, descending AC, sometimes a positive bonus is added and sometimes it's subtracted, sometimes a negative penalty is subtracted and sometimes it's added, etc. in 2e, versus just roll 1 or 2 d20 and higher is better. The general layout of 5e is better (easier to find noncombat information such as climbing skills, detect-noise skills, etc). Multiple attacks in 5e are easier to keep track of since they happen on the attacker's turn for the most part instead of being pushed to the end of the round (and initiative is on a d20+bonus like everything else instead of its own subsystem on a different die). Most situational bonuses in and penalties in 5e are replaced by advantage/disadvantage. Saving throws are tied to stats and are consistent, instead 2e's of spell, wand, poison, etc. which are on a table by class and get shoehorned into other attack types too.

It's just more straightforward and streamlined. It's not really any lighter, but it's not much heavier either--it's just much more consistent in mechanics, better organized, and more clearly explained in simpler more newbie-friendly terms.

I do like 2e better, but to me the disjointed nature of the many subsystems, the sometimes-impenetrable explanations (e.g., the book version of THAC0 is the least-useful, most-difficult way of using it--solving for the minimum necessary die roll instead of for the lowest AC you can hit) and the relatively poor layout give it a steep learning curve for players--and, since it pretty well lacks encounter-balancing guidelines, is harder on DMs to learn and/or use too unless they're already familiar with it enough to have a good intuitive grasp on monster strength and PC survivability.

1337 b4k4
2016-04-04, 10:29 PM
I did some hunting around and I've found the official link for Dark Dungeons again. It appears Blacky the Blackball has gone and added his stuff to DtRPG, so in the interests of supporting the author, you can officially get Dark Dungeons from http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/9745/Gurbintroll-Games and it's a PWYW.

Knaight
2016-04-04, 11:15 PM
If the only issue with different systems is that you can't afford them, there's a fair number that are completely free, and a fair few more which have free things which can be adapted. There's also a lot in the 10-15 dollar range, but I don't know whether or not that is affordable.

hamlet
2016-04-05, 09:44 AM
If you're stuck with a version of D&D, I'd recommend talking to the players and asking their opinion. Both AD&D and 5e will probably do what you're looking for.

AD&D is more strongly suited for the atmosphere that you're aiming for I think. It thrives on low magic and grittiness if you adjust just a couple of things (like the "spell a level" thing for wizards: make those mages earn their spells by prying them from the cold dead hands of their enemies!). It's actually fairly easy to learn if you put your preconceived notions behind you and just learn it as is. And For Gold and Glory is a fairly faithful clone and free and includes combat styles which are good for what you want to do as pointed out above.

I would recommend a bare minimum of splat books just to keep things sane.

The 5th edition is . . . troublesome to me. I like how it works half the time, but it rubs me raw in some of its assumptions. The whole "you are heroes from the start!" bit bothers me, but that's an aesthetic choice. On the table and for what it does, it works well, is relatively easy to learn, and nobody ever seems to be more powerful than anybody else. You might need to invent or import some realm management rules (Birthright's are good, Rules Cyclopedia are good but more abstracted and thus a touch quicker). It doesn't have a whole lot of splats.

It does, though, assume a more magical world I find, so making low magic might be a bit difficult. But then again, my definition of low magic is not somebody else's.


A thought, you might actually try either the new Pendragon or, better yet, Harn. Get a copy of Harn and you'll find that it works pretty much at what you're going for. Gritty, rough, low magic, and focuses on mostly medieval style society. You don't have to use the inborn setting, but it's full of interesting stuff you can steal. And it's not too difficult to pick up.

JAL_1138
2016-04-05, 10:33 AM
If you're stuck with a version of D&D, I'd recommend talking to the players and asking their opinion. Both AD&D and 5e will probably do what you're looking for.

AD&D is more strongly suited for the atmosphere that you're aiming for I think. It thrives on low magic and grittiness if you adjust just a couple of things (like the "spell a level" thing for wizards: make those mages earn their spells by prying them from the cold dead hands of their enemies!). It's actually fairly easy to learn if you put your preconceived notions behind you and just learn it as is. And For Gold and Glory is a fairly faithful clone and free and includes combat styles which are good for what you want to do as pointed out above.

I would recommend a bare minimum of splat books just to keep things sane.

The 5th edition is . . . troublesome to me. I like how it works half the time, but it rubs me raw in some of its assumptions. The whole "you are heroes from the start!" bit bothers me, but that's an aesthetic choice. On the table and for what it does, it works well, is relatively easy to learn, and nobody ever seems to be more powerful than anybody else. You might need to invent or import some realm management rules (Birthright's are good, Rules Cyclopedia are good but more abstracted and thus a touch quicker). It doesn't have a whole lot of splats.

It does, though, assume a more magical world I find, so making low magic might be a bit difficult. But then again, my definition of low magic is not somebody else's.


A thought, you might actually try either the new Pendragon or, better yet, Harn. Get a copy of Harn and you'll find that it works pretty much at what you're going for. Gritty, rough, low magic, and focuses on mostly medieval style society. You don't have to use the inborn setting, but it's full of interesting stuff you can steal. And it's not too difficult to pick up.


5e's magic and easy healing can be adjusted waaaay down with some DMG rules. Go for the "short rests take 8 hours, long rest takes a week" variant and spellcasters are far less potent. Slow Natural Healing, Healing Kit Dependency, Lingering Wounds, and Massive Damage make healing much harder and combats more lethal, especially when combined with the extended rest variants. I think there was a variant on death saves too that made characters much more fragile, but I don't remember off the top of my head. I don't think there was a slower leveling chart, but there was a "training required to level up" variant that cost time and gold. The 3.5 level advancement table could probably be used wholesale, not entirely sure though.

As for "heroes from the start," sure, they can say that all they want in the book, but the number of people who TPK'd in the Starter Set adventure make the claim a little bit dubious. It's more like "heroes from Level 3 or 4." Characters survive quite a bit more than 2e level-1 characters, true--but even so, three goblin archers with cover and concealment can wreak absolute havoc on a party of four first-level PCs if the dice go even a little in the goblins' favor when using the default rules.

hamlet
2016-04-05, 01:09 PM
5e's magic and easy healing can be adjusted waaaay down with some DMG rules. Go for the "short rests take 8 hours, long rest takes a week" variant and spellcasters are far less potent. Slow Natural Healing, Healing Kit Dependency, Lingering Wounds, and Massive Damage make healing much harder and combats more lethal, especially when combined with the extended rest variants. I think there was a variant on death saves too that made characters much more fragile, but I don't remember off the top of my head. I don't think there was a slower leveling chart, but there was a "training required to level up" variant that cost time and gold. The 3.5 level advancement table could probably be used wholesale, not entirely sure though.

As for "heroes from the start," sure, they can say that all they want in the book, but the number of people who TPK'd in the Starter Set adventure make the claim a little bit dubious. It's more like "heroes from Level 3 or 4." Characters survive quite a bit more than 2e level-1 characters, true--but even so, three goblin archers with cover and concealment can wreak absolute havoc on a party of four first-level PCs if the dice go even a little in the goblins' favor when using the default rules.

That's all true, but it's also true that the 1st level characters are FAR more capable than AD&D characters of 1st level and, in my experience, dramatically less vulnerable without those optional rules out of the DMG. We've been playing 5e for a while now (since its release actually) and we've had precisely one fatality in all of that. And no, the DM does not pull punches. It's a point of pride for him.

I'm merely pointing out that, in general, AD&D tends towards lower power, less "cinematics" and defaults to a bit grittier. Especially if you don't use the optional rules for individual class awards for XP. Leveling is slower, character death tends to be more sudden and closer.

Both good games and will do what is asked, but still . . .

JAL_1138
2016-04-05, 02:57 PM
That's all true, but it's also true that the 1st level characters are FAR more capable than AD&D characters of 1st level and, in my experience, dramatically less vulnerable without those optional rules out of the DMG. We've been playing 5e for a while now (since its release actually) and we've had precisely one fatality in all of that. And no, the DM does not pull punches. It's a point of pride for him.

I'm merely pointing out that, in general, AD&D tends towards lower power, less "cinematics" and defaults to a bit grittier. Especially if you don't use the optional rules for individual class awards for XP. Leveling is slower, character death tends to be more sudden and closer.

Both good games and will do what is asked, but still . . .

Oh, they survive better than 2e characters. No argument. I played a lot of AD&D, and lost characters to such things as a barnyard goat or a handful of squirrels. Wizards had 1d4 HP, 10 AC, and one spell (and no cantrips except the first-level spell called "cantrip.") I tend to agree that 2e fits the intended tone a bit better. If all the players are familiar with it and the DM has a good grip on how to balance it to avoid constant death, it'd be my pick.

My only concern with it is if the players aren't familiar with it, or especially if they're new to RPGs in general, though--or if OP doesn't know it well enough to balance encounters in the absence of meaningful working guidelines for encounter strength (which doesn't sound like is a problem here, but still)--it has an extremely steep learning curve. 5e has to be worked with a little to tone it down to something approaching the level of grittiness OP is looking for, but it's easier to learn and more newbie-friendly.

VoxRationis
2016-04-05, 05:11 PM
What is this BECMI thing people keep mentioning?

Lord Torath
2016-04-05, 05:30 PM
It's an acronym for Basic Expert Companion Master Immortals by Frank Mentzer, published as 5 boxed sets under the name D&D at the same time TRS was also publishing AD&D. The Rules Cyclopedia is a one-volume book that collected all the BECMI rules (okay, most of them) in a single book.

It's a pretty great system, and one of the best bits was that most adventure modules at the time could be run in either AD&D or D&D rule sets with only minor modifications.

Edit: Okay, there was also the Blue Book Basic boxed set by Holmes, and the Basic/Expert boxed sets by Holmes (abbreviated B/X), and again, there were small variations between those rule sets. But they are all pretty close to each other.

Telok
2016-04-05, 07:02 PM
I would argue against 5e for this. Physical combat is fine but skills are very swingy and nonproficient saves never increase. By about 10th level casters can easily be throwing dc 16 or 17 saves against Int, Wis, and Chr for lose/suck effects.

AD&Ds or the free retroclones are probably closer to what you want and often have warlord/realm management baked in or already available.

hamlet
2016-04-06, 07:48 AM
Oh, they survive better than 2e characters. No argument. I played a lot of AD&D, and lost characters to such things as a barnyard goat or a handful of squirrels. Wizards had 1d4 HP, 10 AC, and one spell (and no cantrips except the first-level spell called "cantrip.") I tend to agree that 2e fits the intended tone a bit better. If all the players are familiar with it and the DM has a good grip on how to balance it to avoid constant death, it'd be my pick.

My only concern with it is if the players aren't familiar with it, or especially if they're new to RPGs in general, though--or if OP doesn't know it well enough to balance encounters in the absence of meaningful working guidelines for encounter strength (which doesn't sound like is a problem here, but still)--it has an extremely steep learning curve. 5e has to be worked with a little to tone it down to something approaching the level of grittiness OP is looking for, but it's easier to learn and more newbie-friendly.

And I agree with that being the crux of my original post.





What is this BECMI thing people keep mentioning?

As Lord Torath mentioned, it's the compilation of the various boxed sets over the years. Rules Cyclopedia has most of them in one convenient book. It is widely regarded amongst old school gamers to be one of the best if not THE best versions of the game simply from the standpoint of completeness: you can use it for 50 years of gaming and never run out of stuff to use. However, to "modern gamers," i.e., those who learned on d20, it's going to chafe a lot for a lot of reasons, too many to go into in a short post.

Very worth reading, very worth playing.

obryn
2016-04-06, 08:48 AM
As Lord Torath mentioned, it's the compilation of the various boxed sets over the years. Rules Cyclopedia has most of them in one convenient book. It is widely regarded amongst old school gamers to be one of the best if not THE best versions of the game simply from the standpoint of completeness: you can use it for 50 years of gaming and never run out of stuff to use. However, to "modern gamers," i.e., those who learned on d20, it's going to chafe a lot for a lot of reasons, too many to go into in a short post.

Very worth reading, very worth playing.
It's not just popular among OSR folks. It's frequently on or near the top of indie gamers' favorite D&Ds, too, due to its strong design and tight focus.

It's also more commonly a basis for OSR spin-off games than AD&D.

There's a few reasons for this, but I think a big one is that most of us who grew up playing D&D in the 80's unwittingly used the BECMI/BX rules for play while using AD&D as basically a big content supplement. So we'd use the classes/races/spells/monsters/items/etc but we weren't actually playing AD&D by the rules in the DMG.

VoxRationis
2016-04-08, 07:06 PM
Thank you all for all your advice. I have elected, partly on the grounds of your advice, partly on the grounds of significant logistical concerns (not having the 5e books is a major hassle), to use AD&D 2e for the campaign. If you have further advice on realm-scale or army-scale rules development or sources for existing rules, I'd be happy to hear it.

JAL_1138
2016-04-09, 06:29 AM
Thank you all for all your advice. I have elected, partly on the grounds of your advice, partly on the grounds of significant logistical concerns (not having the 5e books is a major hassle), to use AD&D 2e for the campaign. If you have further advice on realm-scale or army-scale rules development or sources for existing rules, I'd be happy to hear it.

Birthright and Battlesystem, already mentioned, are probably the big ones for realm-scale and army-scale management. Any of the BECMI/RC material on the subject could probably be used wholesale.

It wouldn't be directly applicable due to power difference, but another one to look at for realm-management ideas might be Council of Wyrms (PCs are dragons who run a draconic kingdom).

hamlet
2016-04-11, 09:47 AM
Birthright and Battlesystem, already mentioned, are probably the big ones for realm-scale and army-scale management. Any of the BECMI/RC material on the subject could probably be used wholesale.

It wouldn't be directly applicable due to power difference, but another one to look at for realm-management ideas might be Council of Wyrms (PCs are dragons who run a draconic kingdom).

This, mostly.

There's also the "Heroes of Battle" (I think?) book from the 3.x days that had, instead of the players fighting the battle itself (i.e., break out hordes of minis and duke it out army to army) had the players earning points towards battle winning by accomplishing a set of delineated tasks. I've always thought that was a pretty good idea if you didn't want to get into the macroscopic level of battle management but focus on letting the players do their thing.

Also gives the players a chance to go after long time nemesis . . ses . . . san? . . . uhm . . . enemies by having them hunt them down through a big battle happening around them. Roadblocks like trying to push through an elite guard in time before he is able to summon more help, for instance, and trying to move quietly around a line of picketers to get the drop on the command area.

But, yes, the Birthright and Battlesystem both work pretty well. Birthright is slightly more abstracted I believe, and Battlesystem is just all kinds of crunchy and mini fun if you've got a hankering for that.

Hell, get down to it, you can probably use all of them in a mix for different purposes.

Beleriphon
2016-04-12, 03:34 PM
I looked at basic some time ago, before the full books came out, and it looked pretty bare-bones to me. What was included in it that isn't in the SRD?

Nothing, the SRD is just that an SRD. "Missing" content is essentially there to get the correct phrases into the SRD and as examples. For example the classes refernce all of the PHB classes by name, but only include a single full subclass in the document. This isn't a mistake, its very intentional in that it lets me write and sell an adventure under the OGL with a Battlemaster Fighter 8 without actually letting me reproduce the rules for that subclass.

BWR
2016-04-12, 04:48 PM
BECMI = Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal
RC = Rules Cyclopedia

The BECMI rules were originally released in separate boxed sets each covering a certain level set and introducing ever more rules for monsters, magic, adventure types, domains and followers, etc., and finally how to become and play as Immortals (gods).
Much (but not all) of this was condensed to the RC, and I have to lend my voice to the chorus of people who extol its virtues. I'm not sure I'd ever go back to playing it (for one thing I couldn't convince a number of my players to do so) but I am continually amazed by how much and how varied the information in it is. Even if you hate D&D in all its forms you should read it just to see learn something about writing a game and game manuals.