Saturday, 13 December 2014

D&D 5: Beginner PC Spellbooks

[I've made and updated version of these spellbooks, now with names!]

As mentioned in my last post, I found D&D 5 character creation to be a bit of a grind, especially with inexperienced players. Another point, which I didn't explicitly mention in the other post, was that spell selection for wizards adds a whole extra level of choices to make. Depending on the edition, this is also true of older versions of the game, so it's not a complaint specifically directed at D&D 5.

Spell selection (three cantrips and six 1st level spells, in D&D 5) is akin to the traditional method of equipping a new character: browsing big lists and trying to come up with a cohesive selection. D&D 5 has elegantly removed the list-shopping aspect of equipment selection, so I thought it could do with something similar for spell selection.

How about this: a set of pre-defined spell books with specific themes (conveniently tied to the schools of magic which the player will choose between at 2nd level).

Cantrips: Blade Ward, Light, Shocking Grasp
1st Level: Alarm, Grease, Mage Armor, Protection from Evil and Good, Shield, Sleep

Cantrips: Acid Splash, Mage Hand, Poison Spray
1st Level: Burning Hands, Find Familiar, Fog Cloud, Grease, Tenser's Floating Disk, Unseen Servant

Cantrips: Light, Prestidigitation, True Strike
1st Level: Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Identify, Magic Missile, Unseen Servant

Cantrips: Dancing Lights, Friends, Prestidigitation
1st Level: Charm Person, Chromatic Orb, Expeditious Retreat, Feather Fall, Sleep, Tasha's Hideous Laughter

Cantrips: Fire Bolt, Light, Shocking Grasp
1st Level: Burning Hands, Chromatic Orb, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Thunderwave, Witch Bolt

Cantrips: Dancing Lights, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation
1st Level: Charm Person, Color Spray, Disguise Self, Illusory Script, Silent Image, Thunderwave

Cantrips: Chill Touch, Mage Hand, Ray of Frost
1st Level: False Life, Fog Cloud, Protection from Evil and Good, Ray of Sickness, Sleep, Unseen Servant

Cantrips: Mending, Message, Prestidigitation
1st Level: Burning Hands, Disguise Self, Expeditious Retreat, Feather Fall, Jump, Longstrider

Other themed spell books could easily be created, along lines such as: frost, dimensions, energy, life, etc. Finally, here's the "standard" (quick build) mage spell book:

Cantrips: Mage Hand, Light, Ray of Frost
1st Level: Burning Hands, Charm Person, Feather Fall, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Sleep

Friday, 12 December 2014

D&D 5: Simpler Character Creation For Beginners

Last night, I had a character creation session for D&D 5 with a bunch of six largely inexperienced players. We had two players who'd "played AD&D 2nd edition a couple of times in the 90s", one who'd "played Das Schwarze Auge and Shadowrun", and three who'd never played any kind of traditional RPG.

How did D&D 5 stand up to this challenge?

In summary: mediocre / mixed.

The Good
The players responded really well to the choices of race / class / background. A lot of interesting, creative ideas emerged from this triple choice combo (plus the alternative racial backgrounds I'd prepared for the game setting).

The Bad
It's complicated. Way too complicated for beginners, in my opinion. This is coming from the perspective of someone who usually introduces new players to B/X (Labyrinth Lord). B/X character creation is super minimal, so even though the mechanical parts are a bit on the random / incohesive side, there are so few choices to make that even beginners are done with it fairly quickly. Choosing equipment is the only bit that tends to be very time consuming. Not so D&D 5. The choice of race / class / background is simple enough -- players can just go with what they think sounds cool -- but each choice brings with it a ream of traits to read and note, proficiencies and saving throws to mark, equipment to record. Admittedly, the equipment choice is simpler as it's done for you (no more shopping from lists), but overall it was a long and arduous process, compounded, unfortunately, by the fact that we only had a single PHB and no "cheat sheets" (not sure if such a thing exists for D&D 5?).

An Idea
The players were fine with making the basic choice of race, class, and background but balked at the amount of information each choice entailed they read and record. How about cutting out that second part of the equation? Something like this:
  1. Character creation session: choose race, class, and background. Do not read the sections on your selected race or background, just go from the DM's verbal description of them / your imagination. Do not record any mechanical information related to them. Just focus on understanding your class for now. Note down the equipment (and only the equipment) provided by your background.
  2. First session: play your first adventure.
  3. Second session: before the next session, read the section on your race and record any additional mechanical bits on your character sheet. Play the second session.
  4. Third session: before the next session, read the section on your background and record any additional mechanical bits on your character sheet. Congratulations, you now have a fully fledged character! Go forth and play your third session and onwards.
  5. Fourth session onwards: note to DMs: you should not allow characters to progress beyond 1st level until at least the fourth session -- with level advancement comes further choices (for some classes) and rules.
Sure, this means that, during the first couple of sessions, characters would not be at their optimal in terms of mechanics. They'd be missing things like racial stats bonuses, proficiencies from backgrounds, and so on. I don't think this would be a problem though, especially if the DM is running them through a relatively easy / forgiving introductory scenario.

ps. this is my 400th post on this blog!