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Introducing Enlightened Grognard


First Post
Does this sound familiar?

"I prefer Pathfinder, but the majority of players in my group want to play 4e."

"I really like some of the 4e game mechanics, but I feel like 4e characters are all the same."

"Trailblazer was a good start, but I wish they'd done something about the complexity. It just gets too bogged down a high levels. Combat takes _forever_."

"I've invested way too much money in books for 3.5e and d20. But there are so many annoyances in the 3.5e rules."

I hear stuff like this on ENWorld all the time. 18 months ago, I was inspired to really create the D&D game that I believe many of us wish we had. I call the result Enlightened Grognard. E.G. has been tempered with over 6 months of playtesting. Feedback has been enthusiasticly positive. I encourage you to give this a try.

Want to know more? Read on. Or download the beta-version of Enlightened Grognard: View attachment EnlightenedGrognard_PDFs_08Jan2011.zip (3.0MB)

[sblock=Design Approach]
More focus on the game, less focus on the rules. When designing a role-playing game, one of the fundamental conflicts is between realism and ease of play. Experienced roleplayers are all too familiar with scenarios like this one:

Player: I rolled a 12 with +7 that makes a 19.
DM: As you swing your axe at the beast it ...
Player: Wait! I forgot about my amulet. It's actually a 21.
DM: In that case, ..
Player: Oh, wait! Are we in an "outdoor environment?" I get a bonus for that.
DM: I guess so.
Player: Oh then I really rolled a ...
DM: Wait, did you remember to roll your miss chance?
Other Players: *collective groan*

My solution is to keep the complexity in character design but opt for simpler rules when dealing with events that occur during a play session.
[sblock=Major steps I've taken to accomplish this are:]
  • A token system is used to turn temporary modifiers to attacks, defenses, saving throws and skills into a currency that is readily visible to all and can be hoarded, shared or spent as the players desire. Thus, the problem is addressed while simultaneously adding a compelling tactical layer to combat encounters. As a result, every player at the table is engaged in the combat all the time rather than stacking dice or sending text messages while they wait for their next turn.
  • If you have to pause your primary action to make an auxiliary check or resolve some contingent effect, then it's likely you're diluting the excitement. Common culprits include: spell resistance checks, concentration checks, calculating spell ranges, miss chances, spell durations and figuring out just where to place a complex-shaped area-of-effect. I've taken many steps to repair or eliminate distractions like this that add only a little realism to the game at too great a cost.
  • Complex actions like grapple and overrun that require one or more players to stop and look up the procedure in a rulebook make everyone lose focus. While such actions can't be eliminated without over-simplifying the game, I've observed that a modest effort to simplify them and make them consistent helps a lot.

Engaging, fast-paced combat. A frequent complaint is that high level combat takes too long and, worse, each player has to wait too long for her next turn. Just making a combat turn shorter is not sufficient if it leads to “grind” where combat rounds go quickly but aren't tactically interesting. My approach is to keep the combat system mostly intact, but look for ways to carefully limit the number of actions you can take in a round and also limit the number of dice rolls associated with any given action. I also look for ways to keep the tactical situation in constant flux so that it's never repetitive or boring. As a result, a single turn in EG goes much faster but is still varied and interesting.
[sblock=Some of the major changes that I made to speed up combat include:]
  • Remove rules that allow many attacks with a single action. You won't find full round attacks in Enlightened Grognard.
  • I've introduced a clever mechanic for area-of-effect attacks that avoids making a separate roll for every target of the attack.
  • I've streamlined rules for cohorts, animal companions and other non-PCs. These rules used to make one player's turn take forever.
  • One of the biggest reasons for the slowdown in high level combat is the huge number of free-action and no-action benefits that each player has access to on every turn. Everything from activating those boots of speed to entering a barbarian rage takes a little bit of time to adjudicate. At high level those seconds really start to add up. In contrast, very few benefits come automatically or as a free action in E.G. Instead, every benefit you get or effect you might create costs an action. This even includes benefits like an attack bonus for flanking or an AC bonus for taking cover. In addition to a dramatic speed up in high level combats, this change creates an economy of actions. Players must make difficult, tactically important choices about what to use their actions for each round.

Character design that is both flexible and balanced. Given the sheer number of rules that have been added to the game and the wonderfully rich multiclassing system that's in place, some unbalanced character builds have inevitably arisen.

[sblock=My approach to this is has these core elements:]
  • I've taken the obvious step of altering or removing overpowered rules items.
  • I've adjusted the design of character classes so that so that you can't “cherry pick” powerful abilities via multiclassing.
  • I've smoothed the rate of bonuses to the base attack bonus and saving throws (now called defenses) so you can't inflate a character's statistics by taking a level in another class.
  • I've greatly expanded the feat system so that characters aren't handcuffed to a particular subset of must-have feats. Not only do characters have many more feats, but I've added many many feats to the game that are designed to make both combat and non-combat encounters richer and full of tactical intrigue. Many feats from non-core rules sources are still compatible too. For example, with this system a fighter can be a noble fencer, a brutal street thug, a polearm specialist, a spinning knife hurler, an armored knight, a gladiator, an acrobatic dodger, a deadeye archer, a tactician, a whirling dervish, or one of the myriad combinations of those.

Eliminate the “15 minutes workday.” With E.G., adventurers no longer have a strong incentive to stop and rest after every combat. I've accomplished this with two fundamental changes. First, the frequency with which spells, magic items and feats can be used is rarely limited to once per day. Some are always on, other reset every encounter and some can be used an unlimited number of times. Second, the damage and healing mechanics in E.G. are subtly but significantly different. Hit point recovery is quick and does not require magic or long-term rest. Actual physical injury occurs when hit point damage is severe. The result, is that PCs recover quickly from individual combats but still need rest eventually.

Reevaluate spells. Several spells and spell mechanics have been improved. Here are the highlights:
[sblock=Here are the highlights:]
  • Spells that allow the caster to fight better than a fighter or find traps better than a rogue ruin the fun for the players. I've identified and repaired spells like this.
  • Some divination spells allow the caster to ruin a good plot. Simultaneously, taking divination away from the players spoils the opportunity for some exciting revelations. My solution is to remove or adjust the oft-abused divinations but keep the others intact.
  • The fact that spell levels do not line up with character levels is confusing to new players and even some old players too. I've done the obvious and created 18 spell levels instead of 9.
  • Spells that provide a long term improvement in character ability (often called "buff" spells) cause too much frustration everyone as the players constantly try to meta-game when the next combat will be so they can be prepared in advance. I've changed the rules so this is both impossible and unnecessary.
  • Polymorph. If you can be any monster, why not be the most overpowered beast in the book?
  • I've adjusted the power level of many spells to bring the power level of a spellcasting character in line with martial characters.

Oh, Christmas Tree! Everyone loves the mystery and excitement of finding items imbued with magical power. However, a problem arises when a character can't get along without them. In too many cases, I've seen a player happy to sacrifice his PC's life in order to save his PC's magical gear. I've addressed this by making some fundamental benefits always inherent to the character and never available via magic items.

Teamwork. A fun game is one where everyone gets a chance at the spotlight and every PC gets a little help from his friends. Many of the mechanics changes I've mentioned so far are also designed with this in mind. The playtests I've conducted show that it works very well. Victories more reliably feel like team victories rather than a collection of individual successes.

Familiarity. I am a grognard after all. I've created a system where you'll be just as comfortable running a classic adventure as you would running something that was published yesterday. All the familiar tropes are here. Dwarves are dour, barbarians rage and magic missile always hits.
[sblock=Top 10 Things about Enlightened Grognard that Surprise Experienced Players]
  1. Tokens. Be sure to carefully review the token rules in Chapter 7: Combat. Tokens are a currency that represents advantage in combat. You can gain tokens in many ways, including just moving around on the battlefield or spending a swift or standard action for that purpose. As a rule of thumb, anything that used to grant a bonus to attacks rolls, defenses or saving throws now grants tokens intead.
  2. The swift action is tactically critical. Benefits due to the conditions of the battlefield (e.g., flanking or a prone opponent) now require a swift action to acquire. Many more spells have a swift action casting time. Several different basic actions also require a swift action. You only get one swift action per turn so interesting tactical choices arise in deciding how to spend your swift action. You may trade your standard action for a second swift action. You may NOT trade your move action for a swift action.
  3. Many class abilities are now feats. If, for example, you want to be a druid with an animal companion you must take the appropriate feat. The roles of the classes have shifted a little as a result. The biggest shift is that rogues, rather than fighters, receive the most combat feats. Fighters now have a favored weapon mechanic, instead, that reflects a singular focus on raw combat ability rather than fancy tricks. Of course, you get a lot more feats with E.G. This approach lets you build a character exactly way you want.
  4. The saving throw mechanic is significantly revised. Saving throws are not used as a defense versus an attack (though those defenses exist as well). However, most ongoing effects with a duration can be removed with a saving throw. Making a saving throw is a swift action.
  5. The skill system has been overhauled. Diplomacy and Intimidate don't exist any more. Craft, Knowledge, Linguistics and Profession skills use a specialty-based mechanic. There is no longer such thing as rolling a Knowledge check. Being "trained" in a skill has a different meaning. Overall, you'll find the system familiar and yet completely different. These are changes designed to make the skill system encourage roleplay and fit your character not the other way round.
  6. You don't "memorize" spells anymore. You just know them. Many spells can be cast an unlimited number of times per day. Others have a casting frequency of once per encounter or once per day. Spell durations also tend to be one of the following: instantaneous, encounter, 24 hours or permanent.
  7. The death and dying mechanics have been revised. There are some actions you can still take while unconscious. You can also regain hit points much more easily, death comes from Constitution damage gained due to hit point damage. Review the death and dying rules in Chapter 7: Combat.
  8. Area-of-effect attacks use a novel three-dice mechanic. See Area-of-Effect attacks in Chapter 7: Combat.
  9. Ability damage/drain does not affect your ability score. Instead it works like hit points. You're fine until you reach zero. Then you're unconscious (or possibly dead).
  10. The rules for vision and light have been altered. Light sources no longer have a radius. Darkvision provides no benefit in low-light conditions so that both low-light vision and darkvision have a distinct "niche" where they are valuable.
[sblock=How to Read the Enlightened Grognard Rules in Half an Hour]

While it looks like the rule system is huge (hundreds of pages) it's actually about the same amount of content as your Player's Handbook.

Nonetheless, it's easy to skim the most important parts in a half hour and get a good picture of what E.G. is all about. Most chapters have a section at the very top titled "Changes from the Core Rules" which is usually only a page or two. Read these sections to find out what the big changes are. If something makes your eyebrows raise, skip to the corresponding section about it in that chapter and read more.

[sblock=Answers to Common Questions]
Q. Who the heck are you? How do you know what kind of game system I like?
A. I'm nobody special but I have logged thousands and thousands of hours at the gaming table. I've played many different systems in many ways. But I think the biggest pitch I can make is E.G. itself. Give it a try and see if you aren't won over.

Q. Enlighted Grognard reminds me of D&D 4e / Pathfinder / D&D Essentials / Trailblazer / Iron Heroes / Champions / Fantasy Craft / AD&D / GURPS / etc. and etc.
A. Yes. Yes it does. It's also different from any of those systems. I've drawn from my experiences with many different game systems when I built Enlightened Grognard.

Q. Is this "compatible" with my favorite version of D&D?
A. The Open Game License forbids me to make claims one way or the other. I encourage you to read the conversion guide and decide for yourself.

Q. Hey! Where's the art?!?
A. Sadly I am worse that bad at art. Donated art is welcome though.


[sblock=More Quotes (aka Accidental Testimonials)]
Sometimes it's painful to read EnWorld posts because people continue to complain about problems I feel EG does an excellent job of addressing.

  • "High level DnD is leaving me cold. My group is playing an adventure path (Age of Worms) and we've hit 14th level and frankly I'm finding it dull. It takes so long for any character to do anything. ... I think the combination of sssllllloooowwwww combat and reduced choice is making me want to leave the game." -- DrunkOnDuty
  • "I'm on record as being a fairly strong supporter of the 3.x / Pathfinder rules. But more and more I'm coming to believe that if there's one thing 4e did right, it was ditching Vancian magic. " -- innerdude
  • "There are certain things about 3.x that I don't miss, especially the emphasis on 'system mastery' and the workload involved in DM preparation, both elements which I'm pretty sure Pathfinder hasn't drastically changed." -- Mercurius (considering "defecting" from 4e to Pathfinder)
  • "D&D is supposed to be complex but it has become complicated, not just through endless splats and rules options, but more than anything (imo) through the countless modifiers, conditions and adjustments that come through feats and powers (including spells). This is why it is virtually impossible for anyone but a very knowledgeable D&D player to create a high level character from scratch and play it without looking up rules for every action. " -- Mercurius


Beta Testers Wanted!
If you're planning on running a gaming session with Enlightened Grognard, I want to know what you think! Please send me a private message.
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After a quick skim through the beta... I have to say that this seems like you have started with 4e and then 3.5ified it. (or vice versa?)

That being said, I like it. Personally I like 4e as it is, but I can see you put a lot of thought and work into this, and it looks like you may have just managed to combine a lot of the best traits of the 2 editions.

I will keep reading through it to see if there is anything I want to steal for my own games as a house rule.

Nice work!

PS: I would play, even DM this. I cannot say the same for 3.5.


First Post
After a quick skim through the beta... I have to say that this seems like you have started with 4e and then 3.5ified it. (or vice versa?)

If I started with anything, it was the SRD. I did add mechanics that I liked from several different game systems including 4e. However, some mechanics are completely new.

I drew my playtesters from people who both like and do not like 4e. Responses were positive in both cases.


The EN World kitten
If nothing else, you certainly make a great pitch - I'm going to download and read through EG based on the strength of your initial post. ;)


First Post
EG works

Speaking as a person who has played and is playing the EG rules set. It does have elements of both 3.5 and 4e.

To me it has some of the oustomization of 3.5 yet some of the simplistic play of 4e. So it is the best of both worlds.

It may seem complicated, but really there are very few differences, and once you get used to them, they play quite well together.


First Post
Thanks for the kind comments.

steeldragons: Yes, I'd love to have some art for this system. I'm so incapable with visual media that I always view artists as something like sorcerers. I'll contact you off list.


First Post
EG Is Awesome

Having played EG for a bit on Google Wave I'd like to lend my support; it really has the same breadth of character creation as 3.5/Pathfinder, with some great added depth. The token system is very engaging, and makes each combat round interesting to every player, whether they've set up their character's special abilities that round or not.

My one criticism is that I really enjoy the 4E concept of "At-Will" attacks/powers that starting level characters have that are tactically interesting (push/pull/slide/bonus/etc.), and my Cleric doesn't have much that has that feel. Of course, I've talked to amnuxoll about this, and he happily agreed to consider any feats I can come up with that might give EG that same kind of component. In fact, if anyone has suggestions after reading the rule set, I'd encourage you to present them; amnuxoll has been very open to suggestions, and he has a clear vision of what he's trying to achieve, and how they might fit.

The upshot is that I'd play EG over Pathfinder or 3.5 any day, and I'm currently playing in a very fun Pathfinder game. If anyone has any player-perspective questions to ask, I'd be happy to respond via post or PM.


First Post
Thank you animus, wiseblood and Grimstaff. I'm glad to hear the positive reviews. I've been holding my breath.

If there are particular things you like or dislike I'd like know.



Thank you animus, wiseblood and Grimstaff. I'm glad to hear the positive reviews. I've been holding my breath.

If there are particular things you like or dislike I'd like know.


Well after skimming the doc I am even more impressed. It's not 4e or 3.5, it's not IH or Pathfinder; but yet it's all of them at once. You seem to have a good feel for what is fun.

BTW, this is Ron. We played some LG together in Michigan ;).

P.S. Can we see some example characters? That would be great.
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The EN World kitten
Will future releases have a monsters chapter? I realize that'd be a ton of work, but as it stands now using d20 monsters in EG wouldn't be something you could do on the fly (notwithstanding the conversion notes in chapter 12).


First Post
Will future releases have a monsters chapter? I realize that'd be a ton of work, but as it stands now using d20 monsters in EG wouldn't be something you could do on the fly (notwithstanding the conversion notes in chapter 12).

For what it's worth, conversion really is close to trivial. I ran one playtest using Pathfinder's Kingmaker and had very little monster conversion to do at all. Most of the time I just ran them as written using the trick of creating defenses by "taking 10" on the saving throws.

The DM who is running my current playtest group hasn't talked to me much about what he's doing since I'm one of the players but I get the impression his experience is the same because he has yet to ask me a single question about how to do conversion. He's having fun building up some creative fully-statted NPCs too.

However, I realize that it's handy to have pre-stated monsters around. I have a stat block format already done. What I'm debating is whether I should
a) convert the SRD monsters
b) write an adventure path (which would come with stat blocks)

Which would make you more inclined to give EG a try?

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