Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Completionism: Or how 5e's release schedule saved my life

I'm something of an obsessive-compulsive when it comes to D&D-- I want the game to feel complete, like nothing is missing or unaccounted for, like it's all thought through.

Sometimes this works for me. Sometimes it compels me to pull at threads and I get a fun, insightful article that gives me (and hopefully you) a greater appreciation for the game, or an interesting new way of handling things. Other times it just causes a lot of trouble and stress for me as suddenly it occurs to me that I overlooked something, and now its absence gnaws at me and leaves me dissatisfied.

This, as a matter of fact, is why I haven't really followed the OSR too closely since my big hiatus. I spent long nights cribbing from every blog post, retroclone, zine, and supplement out there-- and occasionally from the WOTC editions that formed the bulk of my background-- until I lost sight of the simplicity and fun of the game and developed a veritable Frankenstein's monster of house rules, custom classes, and edge cases, every bit as bulky and inaccessible as late-period 3.5 or tax law.

Enter 5th edition. A new D&D, compatible enough to be familiar, or even to reuse old material when necessary, but different enough from TSR!D&D to not allow for direct porting, containing very nearly everything I expect D&D to include in its toolkit, it gave me an opportunity to cast off all the cruft I let myself accumulate-- the cruft I would have had to make a significant effort to stop myself accumulating. It was a breath of fresh air.

There was, during the fall, an expectation that this Elemental Evil/Princes of the Apocalypse campaign they're now preparing to launch would include a supplement, an "Adventurer's Handbook." Whether this was the actual plan and they changed their minds or the whole thing was just misguided speculation isn't for me to know, but either way there's no Adventuer's Handbook planned, either for Elemental Evil or for any future offerings, and there never will be. For the foreseeable future, 5e is just those three books.

Of course there will in all likelihood be new options for Elemental Evil, in all likelihood released through the web (and the monthly Unearthed Arcana column as well, of course.) But the ethos of 5e has so far been very-core focused, so I expect they will not be too many or too sweeping and I also expect they will be treated in a more optional fashion than supplemental rules have been in the past. As such I do not feel the same pressure to keep up with them as I did when I played 3.x and 4e. And furthermore since I feel like I don't have anything vital to my conception of D&D missing, only things I might like, I don't feel the same pressure to incorporate additional options that fell outside of the traditional OSR purview that I felt from about 2011 onwards.

For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like I'm having to extensively kitbash or run the Red Queen's race to get the game I need. Instead, I have everything I need and am being presented with an occasional spate of extras if the mood should strike me.

Now if only I can start feeling ready to accept a little vagueness when I'm worldbuilding...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Great Karameikos Campaign

Over at RPGnet, the inestimably clever Blacky the Blackball and NPCDave have been doing a retrospective of each Mystara/Known World setting product in turn. Reading it has helped me to gain a new appreciation for a setting I've traditionally been somewhat ambivalent about. Today Dave posted the writeup for the AD&D2e Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure box set, largely focusing (logically, since obviously much of the rest of the information is similar) on the changes that did-- and occasionally inexplicably didn't-- happen during the 12 in-setting years that passed between Karameikos's previous iteration in the GAZ series. There's actually quite a bit, from Karameikos seceding from Thyatis to the disappearance of Alphatia. Either way, it was eventful enough, as were some of his remarks on the smaller details of the setting that seemingly stagnated during that time, that it got my mind moving a little.

One of the most beloved RPG supplements of all time is Pendragon's The Great Pendragon Campaign, a massive volume largely concerned with detailing the events of the 8 decades between Uther's rise to power and the end of Camelot. The sense of grand, sweeping, momentous history happening with the players right in the thick of events is a big reason why the Campaign is so beloved. Although not quite as grand, either in scope or in scale, as the entirety of the Matter of Britain, those dozen years offer no shortage of interesting times. Why, indeed, could one not create a similar detailed project about Karameikos, perhaps taking more or less inspiration from some of the BECMI modules set in the region?

I dunno, just something I've been thinking about the last few hours. Maybe it'll go somewhere. Maybe not. I should probably take this to the Piazza or Vaults of Pandius or something, surely it'll either fire the imaginations of the community or drag out the obsessive lore-experts to shout me down and point out exactly how and why it's utterly misbegotten.