Level Up (A5E) What Interests You about "Level Up"?


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Jmarso

Adventurer
I may have hosed myself with this kickstarter.

There were a lot of facets of LU that interested me at the outset, so I dove in. But almost at exactly the same time, I got heavily re-involved with AD&D and 2E AD&D and quickly rediscovered what made those editions so great in the first place, and how, in many ways, they kick the snot out of 5E (and by extension, LU).

I just got my physical books last week- and it's been quite a while since I hit the 'buy' button on the initial kickstarter. At this point I honestly don't know that I'll ever use/run this system, and those gorgeous books may just end up being expensive paperweights. I do intend to go back through them, however, in more detail than I did the original PDF's. I remember having good things to say about some of the stuff I read in the digital files- before I dove back into earlier editions of the game and rediscovered the simplicity, balance, and lethality I'd been missing.

All that aside, no regrets. If nothing else, it's nice to support an effort like this financially, because a tremendous amount of work went into by the creators. I'm going to be very leery about doing it again in the future, though.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Finally, I'm a little concerned that Exploration needs to be a near-constant presence, or the classes and options that rely on it become unviable. I.e., if my campaign structure is that levels 1-2 are in a town, levels 3-4 are exploration outside, levels 5-6 are in a big city, etc, does playing a Ranger or taking any knacks that focus on exploration make sense? Maybe, maybe not, but it's a concern and potentially exerts a lot of force over how I have to think about arcs, etc.
To be fair, that was always a problem with rangers--they were built for the wilderness, not the city. But LU rangers do have a variety of abilities that are useful in a civilization. And anyway, this would be a good case for telling the players that you are planning a game that spends a lot of time in a city, so they should take that into consideration when they choose their class.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
  • Finally, I'm a little concerned that Exploration needs to be a near-constant presence, or the classes and options that rely on it become unviable. I.e., if my campaign structure is that levels 1-2 are in a town, levels 3-4 are exploration outside, levels 5-6 are in a big city, etc, does playing a Ranger or taking any knacks that focus on exploration make sense? Maybe, maybe not, but it's a concern and potentially exerts a lot of force over how I have to think about arcs, etc.
I think you’re conflating “exploration pillar” with “wilderness”. You can explore dungeons and cities.

All classes have exploration knacks (they’re called something different for each class but they all have features for the exploration pillar). If you don’t use the exploration pillar of the game, it’s an even effect across the board.

The ranger might be an exception, but we have non-wilderness ranger archetypes. But if the campaign really lacks an entire pillar, I’d expect you’d tell your players in advance. If you don’t use the combat pillar, tell them before they choose a fighter. If you don’t use the social pillar, tell them before they chose an bard or a marshal. We feel these things are easy to handle.

But the basic design is — every class has combat, social, and exploration features. Whatever pillar of the game you are playing, your character can do something. We don’t like on here having to watch while other people play D&D. That’s no fun.
 


lichmaster

Adventurer
There were a lot of facets of LU that interested me at the outset, so I dove in. But almost at exactly the same time, I got heavily re-involved with AD&D and 2E AD&D and quickly rediscovered what made those editions so great in the first place, and how, in many ways, they kick the snot out of 5E (and by extension, LU).
Just out of curiosity: what made those editions so great in your opinion?
I did start playing with 2e a very long while ago, and absolutely loved it. There's some aspects of that edition that I feel were special and in some way have been lost in modern edition, but at the same time modern games' mecanichs and several design choices are just plainly better. Maybe that's because game design evolved a lot, technically, and it did improve.
But my question is genuine: what do you feel 2e has that makes it so special?
 

Retreater

Legend
Just out of curiosity: what made those editions so great in your opinion?
I know you weren't asking me directly - but here's my take.
Nostalgia: it's what I started playing.
Literary-based: the old games are more deeply connected to fantasy/swords & sorcery literature and classical mythology (instead of the D&D brand in the WotC era)
Resource management: no endless cantrips to negate the need for torches, etc.
Open interpretations of rules (esp. magic)*
Creatures with story and adventure baked in**

*Here's two examples of what I mean - there are more.
Command spell: You used to be able to issue simple commands, whatever was applicable to the situation or entertaining for the group.
Light spell: Cast it in the eyes of an opponent to blind them, instead of "it can only be used for this specific function, and you can't be creative with it."

**Here's two monsters - there are more.
Werewolves: The curse of lycanthropy was hard to be rid of, and required actual investigation to find the alpha wolf and perform a ritual. Merely defeating a werewolf required silver weapons or wolfsbane - you had to investigate what you were dealing with. Now it's just "wail away on it and eventually get through its resistance - or if you have a magic weapon you have no problem at all."
Mummies: You were unlikely to cure mummy rot. You will watch your companion slowly wither away. Now, it's easily saved against, and simple to sure. These are just a standard monster now.

So, to me, the magic of D&D is gone. It's a predictable game of balanced combat, not a world to explore and lore to uncover. The unification of rules has made the game easier to play, but also has transferred a blandness to everything. Which is why I get more excited about games like PF2 or (potentially) Level Up. If the game isn't going to have that element of wonder, it should at least be tactically interesting with lots of character options - because O5e does none of it well.

Just my 2 coppers.
 

Ondath

Adventurer
I think the reaction you had is tied to A5E using the same chassis as O5E to a great extent, which makes the two systems very similar - but only superficially. A5E uses a lot of stuff from 5E's toolbox, but usually in wildly different ways, and it's these subtle differences that really make it a different (and IMO better) system. I haven't read the comments before, so I might be repeating some stuff others have already said.
  • The exploration pillar is really fleshed out. O5E's exploration rules are fairly barebones and don't really tell you how to run interesting exploration encounters unless you already know how to do that from the earlier editions of the game. A5E adds things like specific exploration challenges, detailed region tables and general advice on how to handle travel that really fleshes out this pillar. (though I should say that as much as A5E fleshed out exploration, they similarly abandoned any guidance on social encounters. I was really disappointed by Trials & Treasures when the only guidance for social encounters was a list of traits an NPC might have. Compare that to O5E DMG's excellent guidelines on setting DCs for requests according to the difficulty of the request and the opponent's demeanor, and I really think A5E's social encounter rules feel wafer thin.)
  • A lot of player options are expanded, adding some stuff that you could theoretically homebrew to your O5E game, but which required a lot of menial work. Strongholds are the standout to me, as I couldn't find a stronghold system that satisfied me in 5E until Level Up. The fact that the strongholds' benefits come from stronghold feats that give more stuff the more money you spend also means that you've effectively got guidance on how much money you can spend to get a feat of a specific utility. You can expand on this idea to add things like special training that takes money but grants you a new feat or balancing the party's treasure with extra boons. Also, a lot more mundane item options like armour and weapons from different materials, hirelings and nonmagical healing items.
  • The Monstrous Menagerie redesigns every classic monster to make them more interesting and better balanced. The way A5E uses the CR system is much more intuitive and makes balancing encounter much easier. Hats off to Paul from Blog of Holding for that.
Overall, the system is 5E, but it almost serves like a second draft that treats the 2014 PHB-MM-DMG as a final playtest and makes some final changes according to the feedback we got over the last 7 years.
 
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Waller

Hero
(though I should say that as much as A5E fleshed out exploration, they similarly abandoned any guidance on social encounters. I was really disappointed by Trials & Treasures when the only guidance for social encounters was a list of traits an NPC might have.

Whole social stuff doesn't have the sheer amount of extra stuff that exploration does, it's there.

Every class has social abilities (or antisocial abilities!) Even the fighter and berserker have them.

Also there's a social encounter section in the exploration section of T&T.

social.png
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
Just out of curiosity: what made those editions so great in your opinion?
I did start playing with 2e a very long while ago, and absolutely loved it. There's some aspects of that edition that I feel were special and in some way have been lost in modern edition, but at the same time modern games' mecanichs and several design choices are just plainly better. Maybe that's because game design evolved a lot, technically, and it did improve.
But my question is genuine: what do you feel 2e has that makes it so special?
The simplicity in character creation and leveling up (usually less than ten minutes for either), the simplicity in NPC creation, (especially random encounters on the fly), the lethality of the game in terms of un-nerfed monsters with save-or-die threats, and spells whose effects could last in terms of weeks or months, and not be shrugged off with a save at the beginning of each round. Everything you want to do with a character in later editions you can do in the earlier ones, and you aren't limited. Same thing with backgrounds. Any outlandish act can be accomplished with a called shot, an attribute check, or something similar- it doesn't require feats or skills. And the lack of skills necessitates actual roleplaying, not players just yawning, and rolling the dice against a skill to do something like intimidate or bluff a foe. I also like the fact that combat is streamlined and faster, as players and monsters both have fewer hit points. Combat rounds with five or six players around the table don't take a half hour to resolve, due to players flipping through pages of skills and feats that allow multiple attacks and effects in a single six second round. In 2E, despite a combat round being 1minute, a table of a half dozen players can resolve the round usually in less than ten minutes, sometimes a lot faster in a cut-and-dry situation.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot that 5E gets right, and a lot left to be desired about the older systems. For example, I HATE the monetary value hauled for XP aspect of the earlier systems. But taken overall, I've re-discovered that a game of 2E or AD&D is just more fun to play, covers more ground per game session, and results in more 'fear and cheers' than an equivalent game of 5E. At this point I'm not sure I can go back to playing 5E. I'm also convinced that the perfect version of D&D lives somewhere between 2E and 5E rulesets, and could be brought forth with some effort and skull sweat.
 

Ondath

Adventurer
Whole social stuff doesn't have the sheer amount of extra stuff that exploration does, it's there.

Every class has social abilities (or antisocial abilities!) Even the fighter and berserker have them.

Also there's a social encounter section in the exploration section of T&T
The social abilities PCs get are definitely expanded, but my main gripe is with the DM guidance (or lack thereof) when it comes to social encounters. The stuff for social encounters (including the pages you linked) all give you ideas that prompt a social encounter: where and who the party might meet on the road, what traits the person they meet might have etc. Compare this to the social encounter section in the O5E DMG, that gives you guidance on how to run the social encounter mechanically (how and when you should call for checks, what the DVD should be, how traits and the kind of arguments made might factor into the mechanics etc.). I feel like A5E's social encounters section assumes you already know the guidance from O5E, which I think is not the best idea for a competing product. It's similar to O5E DMG assuming you know how to run a dungeon, which was criticised for not passing the know-how of dungeon delving to the new generation of DMs.
 

lichmaster

Adventurer
@Retreater @Jmarso having started playing in 2e, I can share a lot of your observations.
Nostalgia surely plays a huge part, but it's not just that.

I think the most important aspects that were lost during the evolution between 2e to 5e are:
- magic is magic. Magic users were fearsome because they could stack up immense amounts of bonuses and make them nigh invincible. This also reflected in the campaign setting itself, with counter magic and special tactics being part of a plausible world. From a gaming point of view, this can of course get out of hand very quickly, especially today that people play through a VTT instead of in person, and a DM may not even know who the other players are, thus the mutual trust at the table can be very low and the potential for rule abuse very high. So here we are with systems where magic has to be controlled (too) tighty. Enter concentration, and saves at every round.

- most monsters are just for grindind. One of the very interesting aspects of old monsters were their abilities to inflict conditions that were lasting (aging, diseases, death even just on sight), and the encounters with them were scary even if few hp were lost. An encounter with a wight was dreadful because you were probably going to lose a level! Losing a character due to a faild single roll sucks, though, so I can understand the rationale of removing all save or die effects and rerolling saves more often, but now those "dreadful" monsters are way less scary. EDIT: I'm still reading the Monstrous Managerie, but after this post I read LU's version of the Wight, and it perfectly captures the old school feeling of the monster. They really did a superb job with this manual. It should completely replace any Wotc attempt to 5e monsters.

- Also, monsters could easily be immune to normal weapons and even magic weapons, requiring at least a +2 or even +3 weapon to be hit. This did cause inflation, in a sense, but also made it so that they were very dangerous even for high level PCs, if not properly equipped.

On the flip side, 2e was riddled with terrible and inconsistent mechanics, tables which required a lot of page flipping, weird and often missing balance, etc, so I do honestly think that the mechanics are so much better now. It's just that some of the "feel" was lost, and it may be recovered in a smart way IMO.
 
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Jmarso

Adventurer
@Retreater @Jmarso having started playing in 2e, I can share a lot of your observations.
Nostalgia surely plays a huge part, but it's not just that.

I think the most important aspects that were lost during the evolution between 2e to 5e are:
- magic is magic. Magic users were fearsome because they could stack up immense amounts of bonuses and make them nigh invincible. This also reflected in the campaign setting itself, with counter magic and special tactics being part of a plausible world. From a gaming point of view, this can of course get out of hand very quickly, especially today that people play through a VTT instead of in person, and a DM may not even know who the other players are, thus the mutual trust at the table can be very low and the potential for rule abuse very high. So here we are with systems where magic has to be controlled (too) tighty. Enter concentration, and saves at every round.
You hit on something here I hadn't really considered before. Old school DnD, to me, always has (had) the feel of a game you sat around the table and played with family and friends, or at least people you knew from school. There was no internet to play over, and hobby stores back in the day didn't run games- at least not anywhere I lived. These days, it's fairly common for a table to be comprised of strangers who have no connection outside of them game, which requires a different mindset when it comes to rules. But still, I think the game loses something when spell effects are nerfed to the point that the spell no longer makes sense in game. MU in early editions were also balanced out with some often-times crippling restrictions: 1) Very squishy on HP count, 2) Had to stand still to cast, and any interruption could cause spell disruption and loss, 3) Casting was always a full round action, even if the casting time was less than a round, and so on. I honestly didn't play many magic users, because very few of them survived past 2nd or 3rd level. Once they get to 5th / 6th level and beyond in 2E, they do become a tremendous force multiplier and characters to be feared- as it should be.
- most monsters are just for grindind. One of the very interesting aspects of old monsters were their abilities to inflict conditions that were lasting (aging, diseases, death even just on sight), and the encounters with them were scary even if few hp were lost. An encounter with a wight was dreadful because you were probably going to lose a level! Losing a character due to a faild single roll sucks, though, so I can understand the rationale of removing all save or die effects and rerolling saves more often, but now those "dreadful" monsters are way less scary.
Exactly. Nerfing the monsters makes them less scary, and tends to just lump them all together as hit point bags that look a little different. Losing a character due to a failed roll does suck, but that used to heighten suspense to crazy good levels in a game, and back in the day at least, nobody cried or had a temper tantrum and huffed off if their character died. They just spent ten minutes rolling up a new character. One of my favorite sayings at the table is: "Never get too attached to your character, and always have the next one ready in the back of your mind."

EDIT: I'm still reading the Monstrous Managerie, but after this post I read LU's version of the Wight, and it perfectly captures the old school feeling of the monster. They really did a superb job with this manual. It should completely replace any Wotc attempt to 5e monsters.

I'm going to have to spot check some of LU's monsters and see what is what. Haven't done that yet.
- Also, monsters could easily be immune to normal weapons and even magic weapons, requiring at least a +2 or even +3 weapon to be hit. This did cause inflation, in a sense, but also made it so that they were very dangerous even for high level PCs, if not properly equipped.

Some of the most dangerous encounters were the ones where only one or two people in the party were equipped to damage a threat. Fight, or flee? Sometimes you've got to know when to walk away, and know when to run. ;)
On the flip side, 2e was riddled with terrible and inconsistent mechanics, tables which required a lot of page flipping, weird and often missing balance, etc, so I do honestly think that the mechanics are so much better now. It's just that some of the "feel" was lost, and it may be recovered in a smart way IMO.
Like Viper (2E) said to Maverick (5E): Yeah, I flew with your old man. You're a lot like he was... only better- and worse.
 




Jmarso

Adventurer
Okay, checked out the wight in the monstrous compendium and am not seeing the threat. It's most dangerous attack, level drain, fixes itself after a long rest. That = no threat, nothing to be afraid of in my book.
 

WarDriveWorley

Adventurer
Okay, checked out the wight in the monstrous compendium and am not seeing the threat. It's most dangerous attack, level drain, fixes itself after a long rest. That = no threat, nothing to be afraid of in my book.
That's the same as regular 5E. The threat is that the players may not be able to take a long rest. Also the level of strife is a greater threat than the HP loss in the long run. That doesn't necessarily get cleared on a long rest and can create major issues later on.
 

I think the reaction you had is tied to A5E using the same chassis as O5E to a great extent, which makes the two systems very similar - but only superficially. A5E uses a lot of stuff from 5E's toolbox, but usually in wildly different ways, and it's these subtle differences that really make it a different (and IMO better) system. I haven't read the comments before, so I might be repeating some stuff others have already said.
  • The exploration pillar is really fleshed out. O5E's exploration rules are fairly barebones and don't really tell you how to run interesting exploration encounters unless you already know how to do that from the earlier editions of the game. A5E adds things like specific exploration challenges, detailed region tables and general advice on how to handle travel that really fleshes out this pillar. (though I should say that as much as A5E fleshed out exploration, they similarly abandoned any guidance on social encounters. I was really disappointed by Trials & Treasures when the only guidance for social encounters was a list of traits an NPC might have. Compare that to O5E DMG's excellent guidelines on setting DCs for requests according to the difficulty of the request and the opponent's demeanor, and I really think A5E's social encounter rules feel wafer thin.)
  • A lot of player options are expanded, adding some stuff that you could theoretically homebrew to your O5E game, but which required a lot of menial work. Strongholds are the standout to me, as I couldn't find a stronghold system that satisfied me in 5E until Level Up. The fact that the strongholds' benefits come from stronghold feats that give more stuff the more money you spend also means that you've effectively got guidance on how much money you can spend to get a feat of a specific utility. You can expand on this idea to add things like special training that takes money but grants you a new feat or balancing the party's treasure with extra boons. Also, a lot more mundane item options like armour and weapons from different materials, hirelings and nonmagical healing items.
  • The Monstrous Menagerie redesigns every classic monster to make them more interesting and better balanced. The way A5E uses the CR system is much more intuitive and makes balancing encounter much easier. Hats off to Paul from Blog of Holding for that.
Overall, the system is 5E, but it almost serves like a second draft that treats the 2014 PHB-MM-DMG as a final playtest and makes some final changes according to the feedback we got over the last 7 years.
Regarding the social support, I have incorporated a version of the audience rules from The One Ring/Adventures in Middle-Earth into my game, Nd it really helps with that.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Exactly. Nerfing the monsters makes them less scary, and tends to just lump them all together as hit point bags that look a little different. Losing a character due to a failed roll does suck, but that used to heighten suspense to crazy good levels in a game, and back in the day at least, nobody cried or had a temper tantrum and huffed off if their character died. They just spent ten minutes rolling up a new character. One of my favorite sayings at the table is: "Never get too attached to your character, and always have the next one ready in the back of your mind."
I'm pretty sure people did. I was running (briefly) a 2e game back in college and inflicted blindness on a PC. The player immediately tried to have her character commit suicide. No attempt to fix the blindness or even see if it was permanent or not. Just "my character is blind, therefore she's useless, therefore she must die." It really wrecked the entire game.

I honestly can't remember anything else from that game, since it lasted for such a short time so long ago, but that bit always stuck with me.
 

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