Maps, 5e, and a campaign on life support

I was putting the finishing touches on issue 50 of the fanzine today and I just uploaded a zip file with the maps for this issue.

There seem to be two aspects to maps. The first is having the talent to come up with a really cool idea for the map in the first place. The second is having the talent make it look good once you have had the idea.

I fail on both counts.

What I have hit upon is grabbing some of the Dyson Logos maps, and using them to ‘trace’ over using Dungeondraft.

This is the original map.

and this is my take on it.

I think it looks half decent!

The actual image is 1800px x 1800px so you can add your own grid in your favourite VTT in hexes of squares, whichever you prefer.

I recreated the underground area as well and that looks pretty cool as well.

To 5e or not to 5e?

I have been playing in a 5e campaign recently. We are up to 4th level and about half way to 5th.

We have three players, two of us have played D&D before and one is new, having only played Rolemaster/Spacemaster before.

Last night, the new to D&D player declared that he didn’t want to play D&D any more. It wasn’t the same as Rolemaster, and he just didn’t like the system.

Where this leaves our 5e game, I don’t know. He is chatting with the DM today. I dislike games that die without warning. I find it very dissatisfying.

I am still running my RMC game. The map above is from on of the locations in that game. I am running an open sandbox where the players can do what they want. Now they have their healer, they are getting a bit braver.

I am also playing in Shadow World where I have a 3rd level Druid.

So, I am not without a game or two, but I still think it is a pity if the game ends, which is what I expect to happen. It is a no win situation. If the game carries on with just the two players, we risk losing the excluded player, but the only other alternative is to end the game.

I do feel for the DM, he has spent a lot of money buying the 5e Fantasy Ground rules, an ultimate license for FG, and the adventure path.

The 5e rules seemed OK to me. 5e is a bit gung-ho, with everyone being some kind of spell user, or near magic abilities, and healing being two a penny. Is it a bad thing? Well, killing stuff is generally fun, sitting around unable to do anything because you are all down to 1hp is not so fun.

One suggested solution seems to be that we play Call of Cthulhu instead. With these players I cannot see that turning out too well. The other two players are real power gamers who have been known to sulk if there characters take a kicking. In CoC, you are always going to take a kicking, and it never ends well.

I should find out on Tuesday what the fall out is going to be.

12 Replies to “Maps, 5e, and a campaign on life support”

  1. Do you have more information on what the player didn’t like about 5e specifically? I prefer RM myself, especially the way it is less binary and you have more flexibility in character options. In my experience, ex rolemaster players often assume that because d&d doesn’t have a rule or table for something they can’t do it. Then they feel limited. In reality, d&d tries to encourage you to do anything you can imagine, and the DM is supposed to decide what stat would apply and how hard it sounds. But in practice, players rarely ask and not all DMs are created equal.

    I just think, there might be a way to recover. Might not, but shame to give up.

    1. No, the player just said he wasn’t enjoying the system. Nothing more specific than that.

      I do wonder if we were playing around a table and he could read the rules for himself if it would have been different. VTTs can make things a bit of a black box.

  2. Hi
    I just found your blog, it’s really fantastic. We’ve been playing RM/SM pretty consistently since the mid -eighties. I wasn’t sure if there was anyone else who still plays them and it was great to find someone who still is.

    A few years back we had some players move away and decided that we needed to revive our gaming lives by a) finding some new players, and b) taking on 5e as our platform of choice. The first has gone really well, and our 5e group has been a smashing success. We formed a 7 person party, and half the party were strangers to each other when we started. We’ve become friends, had great adventures, and the group has really gotten us all through the pandemic. A lot of this had to do with 5e. It’s a very easy system to get into from scratch. Anyone of any gaming experience ‘level’ can roll a character that contributes to a party. Everyone finds something to like. The simplicity of the system means we can easily play sessions with seven players plus GM, something that the byzantine structure of RM makes difficult.

    Then the question of RM/SM started to creep in. The three of us who had been playing RM for 30 years missed playing it. I was getting bored of GM’ing in the ‘generic fantasy’ settings that D&D begets. I wanted to explore settings that don’t feel like World of Warcraft and stories that don’t feel like generic videogame quests.

    I got the group into playing a Spacemaster campaign. It seems to be going well. But I can see how RM must be an absolute chaotic mess to new players. It’s not suited to playing via zoom calls. It isn’t so much a set of rules, as much as it is a whole bunch of often conflicting rules, which a GM picks and chooses from. But you can tell stories that 5e just can’t.

    I’ve worked as a designer in the videogame industry for 26 years, and I can dissect a system pretty easily. D&D was made to sell product. It is kind of like a Subway sandwich; broad in it’s appeal, easy on the stomach, little in the way of risk. Not much variety or surprise. I’m fairly certain that in a particular way, every one of the millions of D&D sessions that get played every day are, at their cores, pretty similar. RM is like going to an experimental pop-up restaurant; it’s challenging, unpredictable.

    My growing feeling is that one really needs to find the right players for each system, separate them into respective groups, and give each group what they want.

    1. Welcome to the Blog Pazmodeus!

      I ran a Spacemaster campaign c. 2013, when the beta of the new version of Rolemaster (RMU) first came out. It was a lot of fun.

      Our group has run a full RMU campaign on the Table Top, but the pandemic sent us to the VTT world, where we desperately learned Roll20. It is definitely easier to run DnD in Roll20. However, we are now making the leap to RMU. We are using Google Drive and my own homemade character sheets for levelling and tracking long-term changes to characters, but just using the generic Roll20 character sheets and token actions/macros for maps and battles. It seems to be working reasonably well.

      There is currently good support for RM2/Classic on Fantasy Grounds, and good support for RMSS on Roll20 (a good character sheet). ICE also offers the Electronic Roleplaying Assistant for RM2/Classic and RMSS, and will offer a full RMU module once RMU is released (my best guess is later this year).

      Hope you are having fun!

  3. Sad to hear that the player is not loving 5e, but I can definitely sympathize. 5e is probably my least favourite edition of DnD (yes, I actually liked 4e better!). I find it too simplistic where I want options and crunch (e.g. character creation and development; magic items and loot), and too complicated when I prefer smooth lines (e.g. each class seems to have its own subsystems or minigames). But most importantly I just really dislike the ‘rulings not rules’ approach to game design. I can always make rulings myself; what I’m paying them for is rules, darnit!

    As fate would have it, I am currently a player in a Cthulhu game. The mechanics are in some ways similar to Rolemaster (percentile dice, skill-based). I think they are based on the Runequest rules?

    1. Yes, most Cthulhu games use the RuneQuest rules at their core. I think Delta Green or Apocthulhu are my favorite Cthulhu systems.
      I have played Basic/Expert D&D and AD&D back when I was at school, and 5e now, and nothing in-between.
      As an inexperienced player 5e does throw a lot of different actions at you, all of which seem to behave differently.

      1. Yes, the 5e action economy is partly the reason why I’ve been pushing RMU to just spend Action Points for movement.

        5e needlessly complicates its action economy imho by not counting movement as an action. In 5e, movement is instead its own thing (don’t call it an action!). However, Dash is an action in 5e… even though it’s sole function is to increase your movement (which again, remember, is not an ‘action’!). This gets quite tiresome and confusing very quickly.

        Making movement be an action just like any other action — as Pathfinder 2 does, and as RMU does when you just charge AP for movement — allows you to avoid all these issues.

        1. BTW, just to show how ridiculous the 5e system can get: Since the ‘Incapacitated’ condition in 5e just says ‘can’t take actions or reactions’, and movement isn’t an action, an Incapacitated creature in 5e can still move its full movement rate.

            1. If I understand you correctly: Yes, it does. So, for example, the Wind Walk spell can’t just cause a character to be ‘incapacitated’; it has to specify that the character is ‘incapacitated AND CAN’T MOVE’ [my caps]. Because in 5e, ‘incapacitated’ creatures can still move their movement rate.

              Note that, as a result, if your Wild Magic Sorcerer turns him/herself into a Potted Plant (as per the rules for Spell Bombardment), this means that you can still move your full movement rate… even though you are literally a potted plant.

  4. Convert the game to 1st edition AD&D, possibly with some pre-AD&D materials from Dragon magazine and such (Classic stuff) mixed in.

    Not a fan of 5e at all. The quirkiness of old D&D is a feature, not a bug. Everything since/including Unearthed Arcana ‘1.5e’ has been corporate blandness.

    No tieflings. No dragonborn. No concentration. No watered-down ‘every class feels the same’ MMO experience.

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