D&D General Ready for playtest: a "5E-lite" retroclone

I just wanted to note that there alternatives besides 5e and OSR. From early days, game design has shared the motto of gonzo world music band 3 Mustaphas 3: “Forward in all directions!” Take 13th Age and Pathfinder: neither is evolving to parallel D&D development, and neither is evolving to be more like older games. [1] they’re diversifying, going in directions their particular creators find interesting. That, I think, is your space: neither forward nor backward along a line some other games are on.

[1]: You in the back, saying something about Space Opera and PF2. Yes, you. Shut up with that. :)

AAH! Bruce Baugh! AAH!

Yeah, my setting is definitely a bit more gonzo than standard 5E or OSR (one player described it as "Fallout meets Adventure Time"), but I'm still trying to "find my voice" - a lot of the criticism I get when I try to describe it as "like what Pathfinder was trying to do" is "yeah but you're not Paizo."

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A lot of it is that someone before mentioned that I need to develop a "thicker skin", but I'm not sure where the line is between humility and weakness, so I'm trying to avoid making too bold of claims or defending my ideas too aggressively.

I'd be inclined to just ignore anyone who's only contribution is saying they don't like it or arguing about whether it's "5e-like" enough or not. (*)

Or, at most, thanking them for their thoughts and leaving it at that.

(*) Except insofar as it relates to how you plan to pitch the game. In which case getting others' impressions of how your pitch matches what the game looks like based on reading the rules or how it feels in play is helpful. As long as you don't get lost in the weeds of semantics.


Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
A lot of it is that someone before mentioned that I need to develop a "thicker skin", but I'm not sure where the line is between humility and weakness, so I'm trying to avoid making too bold of claims or defending my ideas too aggressively.
Lots of us never do feel like we get the balance very right. It is one of the hardest problems in the craft and business of game making.

So, I suppose I should try and "sell" my thing a little more? Here's some of what I think are the highlights:

- a tighter coupling between "narrative" and "mechanics" than standard D&D, especially as regarding Vancian magic - i.e., deliberately giving the player a better handle on "okay, my wizard has to prepare spells at certain times, and can only prepare so many, but why?"

- faster, more streamlined character creation and advancement than 5E-style D&D, so you can get up and playing in minutes, without making every Thief feel "the same" as every other Thief.

- a stronger sense of balance between open-world exploration and dungeon-crawling, social interaction and negotiation, and combat encounters

Okay! I feel like this is actually a finished product now.

Some highlights:
Classes - There are only 3 character classes (Warrior, Expert, and Magic-User); each character class has three subclasses to choose from at level 1, so your total first-level options are:
-- Warrior: Knight, Adept, or Berserker
-- Expert: Thief, Artisan, or Performer
-- Magic-User: Wizard, Cleric, or Druid

Levels - Each class has 10 levels; past character level 10, a character can keep progressing in their proficiencies, but does not gain hit points or class features.

Dual-Classing - Dual-classing is simple and reasonably straightforward, letting you play a class that mixes Warrior, Expert, and Magic-User features. For example, the Paladin is a dual-classed Knight/Cleric, and the Alchemist is a dual-classed Artisan/Wizard.

4E Style "Encounter Powers" - Each class gain various powers at level 3 which replenish after a one-hour rest, ensuring that no one completely "runs out" of features during the day.
-- All Experts get a feature called 'Reliable Talent', which lets them nearly automatically succeed at a single mundane task.
-- Warriors get a feature depending on their subclass - Stamina for Knights, Focus for Adepts, or Rage for Berserkers - which can be spent to perform various subclass-appropriate battlefield maneuvers.
-- Magic-Users get a feature depending on their subclass - Arcane Recovery for Wizards, Faith for Clerics, or Mana for Druids, which lets them replenish some of their magic.

Vancian Magic - Magic-users have three "circles" of spells, gaining first-circle spells at level 1, second-circle spells at level 5, and third-circle spells at level 9. Most spells can also be performed as one-hour 'rituals', allowing a spellcaster to perform magic outside of combat without using a "spell slot". Spellcasting, and spell preparation, are designed to be evocative and flavorful - the design goal was to help "ground" the player into the game world, and give them a sense of what their character is actually doing when performing magic.
-- Wizard spellcasting is purely Vancian, with each spell being prepared into a specific 'spell slot'; wizards start with 2 spell slots and by level 10 have as many as six spell slots. Their level 3 class feature allows them to re-prepare spells from their chosen school during a one-hour rest, so being limited to 6 spells at a time does not necessarily mean 6 spells per day.
-- Cleric spellcasting is mostly Vancian, with miracles being prepared into specific 'spell slots' like wizards, but a Cleric's level 3 class feature gives them a divine Domain with a smaller set of miracles, and a pool of 'Faith' to spontaneously cast Domain miracles with.
-- Druid spellcasting is mostly spontaneous, with druid spells falling into one of six 'elements': Stone, Water, Wood, Air, Flame, and Fey. A druid prepares elemental "spell charges" rather than specific 'spell slots'; each spell charge can be used to cast any spell aligned with its element. Druids also get wild shape transformation, and a wellspring of 'Mana' at level 3 which lets them heal themselves while in wild shape, or cast higher-circle spells.

Exploration Rules - There are reasonably detailed rules for "hex-crawling" through the wilderness, dungeon exploration, and combat, each happening at their own "scale". The game assumes a 5' grid, referring to most distances in terms of five-foot "paces".

Combat System - Combat is a scaled-down version of 5E, with detail removed from some areas and added to others. In particular, "bonus actions" are gone; during your turn something either costs your action, or can be done in addition to your action. Reactions have been beefed up significantly, with many different options for how to use your reaction (and a few class features that allow certain classes to perform specific reactions more than once in a turn).

Style & Flavor - the default setting is something like "Dark Miyazaki fantasy", with the mundane world sandwiched between a deadly-but-whimsical Faerie and a somber-and-mysterious Underworld. Medieval kingdoms are rebuilding after a thousand year 'dark age' brought about by the collapse of the magical-steampunk flavored 'Old Empire'; ruins of an ancient civilization dot the landscape, fey and undead threats lurk in the wilderness, and your king is probably a power-crazed madman who wants to be the next Emperor of the World. But with enough pluck and a strong heart, you can do something to change all that!

Good luck!

Also, because I know some people have some strong feelings about this:

The entire art for this project was generated in MidJourneys, prompted with my own sketchwork. (I'm an artist, just not a good artist; I wanted the book to evoke a certain 'style' that I'm not quite capable of managing at my skill level)

Here are a few excerpts:




Voidrunner's Codex

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