I really like the direction that art has gone for the new D&D. So far nothing that looks like World of Warcraft or anime that I hated so much from previous recent editions. I like the painterly quality of the Tiefling image.
Now that D&D is getting near completion there have been some posts over at EN World summarizing what we know of the new edition so far. Although, there will probably also be some unforeseen changes to the final game as well.
Here are two summaries that really help explain whats been going on with the new D&D to those who haven't been following.
#1 Posted to EN World forums by Mistwell: It's like a traditional TSR-era D&D with some more modern elements thrown in.
It plays fast. Encounters no longer are measured in hours, but are instead measured in minutes. Combat lasts from 5-20 minutes or so (or even less).
You can play without a grid and miniatures fairly easily (and all videos of WOTC playtests are done that way).
A new philosophy was used to govern to-hit (attack) bonuses, and AC. This philosophy is called Bounded Accuracy, and it means bonuses don't ever get very high, AC doesn't ever get very high, and low level things can remain a threat the entire game if you increase the quantity of those things. You do get better at attacking with higher levels, but that progression is much slower and within a much tighter range.
Magic items are more rare, and more unique in nature. There is no +5 sword and plate mail, but there are +1 weapons, and they usually have a name, background, and perhaps a minor ability and minor draw-back.
Here is an example of a recent +1 battleaxe one of my players found:
This hardened true-silver battleaxe is of ancient Dwarven make. It bears ruins of power along the shaft, and gives off a silvery-blue sheen when exposed to moonlight.
This battleaxe must have belonged to a leader of the dwarves. In addition to striking truly (+1 attack and damage), it imbues an unusual trait on the bearer: he can cause his voice to carry clearly for up to 500 feet.
Unfortunately, this battleaxe does have one side effect. The item’s bearer tends to become obsessed with material wealth, increasingly so the longer he owns it.
- It is a traditional class-based system, with the important addition of subclasses (exact name varies for each class) as a tool to create significantly different characters of the same class. Your class determines your general features and a large number of benefits at different levels. A subclass is something you choose at a level between 1st and 3rd (depends on the class) and determines a series of specific features/benefits at various levels later on. All classes have no "dead levels": if you don't get a class benefit or subclass benefit at a certain level, then you get the choice of either an ability score boost or a feat.
- The second-most important character choice is your background. This is the main delivery method for skills proficiencies. Essentially, by encapsulating most of your PC's skills, backgrounds make your (overall) skill choices indipendent from class.
- Races follow the tradition of one-time packages of bonuses, but many of them need to also choose a subrace.
- Proficiencies follow a new unified approach that covers weapons, armors, skills, tools, languages and saving throws using the same rules. You are either proficient in something or not. If you are proficient, you apply your proficiency bonus to all applicable rolls (armor and languages don't require roll, and work differently). The key point is that the proficiency bonus is always the same for all your proficiencies, and depends only on your total character level but does not depend on your class.
- Alignment has largely no mechanical consequences.
- Feats are as large as 2-3 feats of previous editions, but otherwise are still simple additions to represent any kind of extra character feature. Feats can be used to control the complexity of your PC, since some of them grant one simple passive but large benefit, while others may grant multiple benefits, situational benefits, proactive abilities and even a complete subsystem (e.g. fighting maneuvers). Furthermore, you are never required to take feats, and can take ability score bumps instead. This new feats system is mostly motivated by the purpose of allowing simple and complex PC coexist at the same table, leaving the choice to each player, but being balanced against each other.
- Multiclassing largely follows the 3e level-based mechanic, but the major difference is that spellcasting classes get their spell slots "merged", i.e. a multiclass spellcaster uses the same spells per day table (there is only one table for all full spellcasting classes anyway) and can use it to cast spells from either class.
PLAYING THE GAME
- Bounded Accuracy is the general concept of keeping number inflation limited, when it comes to bonuses to d20 rolls (including attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks etc.). The difference between two characters (or between the same character at 1st and 20th level) in terms of those bonuses is much lower than in the previous 2 editions of the game. Reducing the differences was done mainly to increase the level range at which the same monsters or challenges can be used, and to reduce situations where the difference between the best and worst characters means a challenge is insta-win for some and insta-lose for others.
- There is a turn-based system of exploration rules, so that during dungeon/wilderness explorations you can assign tasks to each PC, and put all checks into a time frame.
- There is a system of interaction rules based on defining character attitudes/motivations/etc. to handle conversations with NPC without putting too much stakes on single dice rolls.
- Advantage/disadvantage is the common rule for handling favorable/unfavorable situation, and it means "roll twice and take the best/worst". Bonuses to rolls are much less common than in previous editions, to largely reduce the number of calculations needed during the game.
- Very light action economy. One action and one move. Everything significant (attack, spell, using an item) takes your action, minor things are free (e.g. changing weapons).
- Movement in combat is very loose. Essentially you are free to split your max moved distance the way you want. There are still "opportunity attacks" but limited only to prevent running away from or past the enemies with impunity. There are no penalties for casting spells or using ranged weapons in melee.
- Spellcasting rules are not vancian anymore. Casters normally have a chart of daily slots based on spells level, but instead prepare spells indipendently on that chart. You simply prepare a total number of spells (depending on your class level) of any level you can cast. You choose which one to cast on the fly, and it will "use up" an appropriate daily slot.
- Cantrips are at-will. Some spells can be cast as Rituals which also means at-will but take a longer time to cast (hence, not in combat).
- Everyone can cast spells in armor, but only if you are proficient with such armor (no difference between arcane and divine casters here).
- A lot of buffing spells require concentration which doesn't prevent any other action, but simply means that casting another spell also requiring concetration will make the previous spell ends. This is to largely prevent stacking buffs.
- On the other hand, all spells effects and magic items effects stack (except presumably with themselves).
- There is no assumption on the equipment value a character should have at any level. Hence magic items are not assumed, and could in theory be freely decided by each gaming group.
- Polymorph, wildshape and similar spells generally work by completely superseding the target's stats, and disappear after a certain amount of damage is taken (in a sense working like temporary hit points).
The adventurers, guided by the mystical Scroll of Myrthas, have stormed the ancient fastness of the long dead archmage now known as the Howling Tower. They are joined by the vengeful wood elf warrior Biriel and their perplexing companion Azmyth. Inside the crumbling marble tower they have faced wonders and nightmares. A mournful howling echoes through the halls and dusty chambers seeming to grow louder as the party has climbed upward. Ghosts, devils, and bizarre magic that has gone foul over the course centuries has tried to thwart and assail them. Over all these they have prevailed.
Nevertheless, the quest is not over. For at the top of the the colossal four hundred and fifty foot tower they know awaits an enemy that few would dare to confront. It is the green dragon Verdraal. The dragon has been a terror to the sylvan elves of the Duskwood for over fifty years. He has made the pinnacle of the ancient tower his lair with kobolds and urds (winged kobolds) serving and worshipping him as a demigod.
The adventurers have reason to climb to the top and dare this peril however. They know that at the top is a vault holding the Staff of Myrthas (or the Staff of Mastery as the party has begun to call it). They know that the staff is the key to a secret plan concocted by Myrthas to stop the Shadow Dragon that has begun his assault upon the lands of Malavon.
The adventurers have encountered many things during their time in the tower. Here is some of what occurred in their travels.
(Hold on to your hats as I sort of blaze through this)
Entry is gained through a narrow pool at the base of the tower. As the party approached it with the Scroll of Myrthas is their possession the water parted revealing a submerged stone door that opened as they drew near. Once they entered, the door closed tight behind them and the pool returned to its normal state.
Lightning traps. Mirror that creates crazed evil doppleganger that attacks anyone who looks into it.
Flesh golem that was with a sentient ball of electrical energy that could speak. Battle ensued, flesh golem destroyed, ball creature fled and escaped.
Party finds old parchment mentioning Myrthas’ friendship with a wizard from another dimension named Stephen Amber.
Found magic pentacle surrounded by crystalline monoliths. Fought and defeated shadow monsters.Using Scroll of Myrthas summoned what appeared to be the shade of Myrthas. Knocked unconscious, awoke having advanced a level of experience!
Ground Level 1
Wights, skeletons, and foul vulture men that crawled up from fissures and cracks. Ash monster in cage. Ghostly human-headed snake creatures. All defeated.
Svarnos tries to read found spell book. Hit by a Sepia Snake Sigil spell and is out of action while trapped by the spell.
Dome with swirling mist on pedestal. Figure made of mist seems to beckon to adventures. Magnetic pull as party approaches it. Party ties a rope to Lono to see how close he can get . Lono almost sucked in. Lono saw what he thought was a palace seen from above through the mists. The party avoids this.
Shrine to Numora. Prayer book found. Lighting candles and praying here can perform miracles.
Indoor mushroom forest. Some are sentient and mobile. The party learns that they are creatures called myconids that were treated cruelly by Myrthas in the past. The myconids will help free Svarnos from the spell if the adventurers slay a giant venomous water snake that lives in the lake in the center of the garden. Party does this and Svarnos is freed. Adventurers promise to help the myconids to leave the tower when their quest is done. The myconids can make healing and magic dispelling elixirs.
Treasure room found. Among the jewels and magic items is note from Stephen Amber to Myrthas.
Level 2 (50’ from ground level)
Bony devilswith scorpion tails teleporting and casting spells. Chain clad devils driving twisted malformed wormlike creatures to attack the party. Svarnos and Martijn caught under the influence of devilish charm spells. The devilscome from a smoky portal to some hellish plane (The Nine Hells?). Party defeats them and closes the portal.
Dead wizard trapped in the wall. Brought to a semblance of undead life by striking a gong. Wizard (named Kothmet) answers many questions about Myrthas and the tower.The group begins to think that Myrthas was evil. Party eventually frees wizard by destroying the gong.
Room with 3’ diameter crystal ball. Svarnos uses it to see other levels of the tower. He sees a level filled with water and floating boats. A large white wolf is seen crossing a vast chamber on the level above that. He sees Verdraal and the dragon senses this!
Room is found with six statues surrounding a fountain. The statues are of the party!
Tapestry depicting a barren woods with a castle on a hill. Gargoyle-like shapes move in the tapestry and emerge to attack the party.
Alchemical lab found. Among potions a silver ewer with a strange silvery luminous liquid that cannot be poured out is found. The party never figures this one out.
Ghostly mage in bed. Calls for his master. When he sees the adventurers are not his master he attacks with terror and spells. A horrific battle ensues.
Bones of human arm in a glass case with plaque that reads. “True power requires sacrifice.”
Weird jellyfish creature is freed from a cylindrical chamber and befriends party. Tries to show them a way out. Leaves little pink jellies that heal wounds when eaten. Leads them to a illusionary wall with a ladder that leads out of the tower. The jellyfish creature flies away. Party is unsure but it seemed grateful.
Level 3 (150’ from ground level)
Walkways on pillars dominate this level that is filled with sea water. The place defies any logic as the amount of water would surely collapse the tower.
Fought water elemental. Freed female triton (kind of like a mermaid). Learned more about the evil experiments of Myrthas.
Found sunken galley. Smaller rowboats made of odd petrified wood still in good working order.
Cave mouth on one side of the cave. Party learns from triton that it is a way to the Stormwind Sea which is many miles away. Galy and Martijn escort the triton using a boat and go through the cave mouth. They appear at the coast outside Senion.They say farewell to the triton who tells them that they can call her people with the conch shell which is back in the tower.
Galy and Martijn are hailed by knights on the shore. They turn out to be Knights of the Sword that serve Malavon. The pair decide to go to knights encampment where they are given provisions and new clothes. They learn that time has been passing faster in the tower than in the outside world (months have passed even though it has only been a little over a week in the tower). They also learn that the Shadow Dragon has begun his assault, Grisoan and Arrain are already under his wing.
The pair also see Princess Moralana Malavon returning from a failed meeting with the lords of Senion.
They return to the party through the hidden magic cave and tell their tale.
Level 4 ( 250’ from ground level)
This level is very cold. The very stones are slick with frost and ice.
Half eaten frozen corpses are found in a huge arena-like room. They appear to be red and yellow haired Korthian barbarians from the far north of Malavon. Fionnula uses her spell speak with dead to find out what happened to the barbarians. She learns they were killed by a creature they call a Wendigo that is described as “a man that has become a beast.” This is also the place that Svarnos saw a great white wolf through the crystal ball.
A doorway leads out of the chamber into what appears to be a snowy tundra. This is obviously a magic portal.
Level 5 (350’ from ground level)
Attacked by kobolds! A kobold wizard strikes the party with a searing magic fireball. The groups bag of holding is destroyed and lost along with all the treasures inside it. Fionnula laments the loss greatly while they others try to convince her that they still carry their most potent magic items.
The howling of the tower is louder here.
Party finds an illusionary wall that hides a way in (and out) of the tower along with a very long adamantine rope ladder which can be lowered to the ground level. This has been giving access to the tower for the kobolds.
Party is almost blasted by Verdraal’s acidic chlorine gas breath as they try to pull up the ladder but they hear his breathing and escape just in time. They try to fool the dragon into thinking he got them by screaming.
The party is watched by pairs of large blue eyes from the darkness of the main halls.
An adamantine door blocked by heavy rocks is found. In bas-relief upon the doors is an image of a fiery meteor crashing into the side of a mountain along with elvish script that reads ,”Artifacts from Mount Rivenstone”.
Past the doors are walkways winding through a mist and web-filled cavernous chamber. Strange items on pedestals under glass are found — A green glowing sphere gripped in a organic looking “gun” shaped device along with another green sphere (this was taken) — a moving tentacle in a jar labeled “right arm” and an empty jar labeled “left arm” (this was left alone)— a dull black stone labeled “Rivenstone Meteor” that seems to suck arcane magic into it (the party left this as well).
Large spiders with glowing blue orbs for eyes attack. They appear to flicker between being solid or transparent. Svarnos recognizes them as phase spiders that pass into the ethereal plane 50% of the time making them very difficult to strike. Fionulla’s ghost touch mace proves to be a great boon in this fight. Lono pulls off some dastardly sneak attacks as well. The phase spiders are defeated. The party realizes that the spiders were the “eyes” they saw in the hallway.
After the spider battle the party approached a large 60’ circular platform surrounded by mist and webs. On the platform was a large section of what appeared to be a circular dark metallic object. The object seemed to have an almost organic quality to it as if it was natural and not constructed. It seemed to be a broken piece of something larger. There was a brass label on a stand before it that read “Sky Ship”. Yet, what really caught their attention was a 10’ diameter, 10’ high glass dome with a chain attached to the top leading up into the mist enshrouded ceiling. A lever built into the floor of the platform flanked the dome. All that could be seen inside the dome was a swirling dark green gas. The dome had a brass label on a stand before it as well that read, “ Specimen from Sky Ship”.
And that is where we last left our valiant adventurers.