Shovel Knight is amazing.
It sure is
So it’s been just over a week since the basic rules came out. As well as consuming that information almost immediately, I have been reading other articles, looking at how this would combine with the beta play test information and generally improving my understanding. This post is a result of that. Generally this edition feels much more streamlined, less power gamey and more geared towards roleplaying/flavour.
The characterisation of PCs seems to have been greatly improved. The first thing that you notice is that part of the character building system involves specifying a background, traits, ideals, things the character feels strongly about and flaws. These are used to indicate roughly how you should role-play your character, and there is a system in place (inspiration) for the DM rewarding players for being true to their characters.
While most of these are purely for role-playing, the background of the character (much like 4e) gives additional proficiencies in skills and tools, possible additional languages, set equipment (from your past) and possible ‘features’. For example a criminal gets proficiencies in stealth, thieves tools, gets a crowbar and a reliable and trustworthy contact in the underworld you can get information from / communicate to. These backgrounds also have suggested traits, ideals, bonds and flaws.
(Please note I can only comment on races in the basic rules) The races in 5e feel like they have a lot more ‘flavour’. In the basic rules there are pages dedicated to talking about size, weight, behaviour, social standing, communities, history and names. The traits that follow this also give the same feeling. For example, Halflings and described as ‘usually setting out on the adventurer’s path to defend their communities’, and thus a trait for the race is ‘you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened’.
On top of this, almost all races seem to have a ‘branching path’, an idea which echos throughout all of the edition. For example dwarves have a hill dwarf sub race, or a mountain dwarf sub race. One is a more intuitive based race, with bonuses to wisdom and health, while the other is a more rugged kind of race, with bonuses to armour and strength.
In general races give a small bonus towards a stat, and are more based around proficiencies and traits. For example, by choosing a high elf you get darkvision, perception, saving throws against charm, immunity from sleep, a special trance ability (halves the length of a long rest), a dexterity bonus, an intelligence bonus, proficiency in the longsword, shortsword, longbow and shortbow, and the ability to learn a wizard cantrip. This means you can end up with a fighter knowing some basic parlour magic.
Generally these race bonuses mean you can pair any race with any class (although small races still have the limitation on weapons)
The classes match a blend of 4e and 3.5e. All spell casting seems to have reverted to a 3.5e ‘you have a spell book, learn spells and they get consumed’, but grants you the equivalent of some ‘at will’ spells via the cantrips (this is for druids, clerics and wizards). Martial classes are more focused on combat, with every level giving them a noticeable bonus to fighting (extra attacks, extra actions, ability boosts, new combat choices). For example a fighter gets: Self healing, extra abilities, many ability score improvements, extra attacks, re-rolls of saving throws etc.
All classes also have a ‘branching’ archetype system as well. Warriors can chose to become champions (extra crits and survival) or arcane warriors (can learn wizard spells and cast them during combat), while wizards get to specialise in a casting group (evocation, illusion, abjuration etc.). These remind me heavily of the prestige classes of 4e, but you get them from level 3, instead of level 11.
Feats are (oddly) optional now, you can literally level to 20 without ever seeing one. They are purchased by leveling up on a level where you gain an ability score improvement, which you pass up in order to gain a feat. All feats are based off largely changing the way your character works. For example, Arcane Archer lets you imbue arrows with any level 1 or higher spell you can cast. The arrow holds the effect until your next long rest or when it is consumed by firing at the enemy. This means the enemy takes the normal arrow damage before the spell goes off, also causing an effect.
Another example is the Pole-arm master. It grants proficiency with the quarterstaff, the glaive, the halberd, the lance and the pike. It also grants you the ability to take opportunity attacks when an enemy enters a square you threaten (instead of when they leave them), completely changing you into a reactive combat ready character with reach.
Stats seem to be heavily lowered. For example in 4e you often ended up saying stats below 12 are your ‘useless stats’, when according to the rules was an above average stat. At the lowest you might get an 8, which is just a little below average, while the highest could be 20+ which is godlike. In 5e, your lowest stat can be a 3, while getting a stat higher than 15 is difficult. This makes your character feel like a normal mortal who has taken it on themselves to have an adventure, rather than a god among men. I love this change, as flaws in characters are just as fun as being powerful.
Combat has been simplified, and altered greatly from what we saw in 4e. You now get:
Action - An action is your basic activity. You can attack, cast a spell, lend aid, hide, ready, search, use an object, dash, disengage or dodge. Dashing is consuming your action for double movement, disengage means you don’t grant attacks of opportunity while moving this turn and dodging forces disadvantage to attacks against you and advantage to any saving throws using dexterity.
Movement - You can move your full speed during your turn, you can use it up before anything else, after anything else or a combination of the two as long as you do not exceed your full speed
Bonus action - This is granted to you via proficiencies, spells and features. For example striking with an offhand weapon consumes this, the cunning action feature of the rogue class consumes this etc. This is mainly in place to stop players stacking bonus actions.
Reactions - Another activity granted to you via abilities, spells or situations. For example, an opportunity attack consumes this action.
Flourish - A flourish is a tiny activity, and it the equivalent of a minor/free action from 4e. You can communicate or interaction with one object or feature of the environment. For example, drawing a weapon, opening a door, pulling a level, speaking all consume this activity.
These work really well to combine into a flashy turn. For example a fighter could run up to a door, kick it open, run to the enemy and strike with both weapons while preparing a counter attack against an enemy.
Saves were a big part of 4e. You had a score for AC, Will, Reflex and Fortitude. Unfortunately this gave the impression that no matter what happened, your reflex was always going to be a ‘14’ instead of being slightly better or slightly worse sometimes. 5e has abolished this with the only flat stat being your AC (your armour doesn’t randomly change at all). Instead of having the other saves you get saving throws based on other stats. For example you could have a dex saving throw (roll d20 plus your dex mod) instead of a reflex number. Any stat can be used this way. And you can become proficient in a saving throw just like you can with armour, weapons or skills.
So health is pretty self explanatory, but has returned to a hit die situation. For example a rogue has a hit die of 1d8 per level.
This means when they level up they get 1d8 + constitution mod more hit points.
These hit dice can be consumed to heal up during short rests as well (in this case, a level 3 rogue can roll 3 1d8 + con mod rolls to recover health. But these hit dice are now consumed until they can be recovered).
The hit dice are bit harder to recover however, as you can only recover half your level worth of hit dice per long rest (so the rogue can only recover 1 hit dice as everything rounds down).
Spells are so much fun, but the wording is quite confusing. It is broken up into 4 values: Spell levels, Spells known, spells prepared, spell slots.
Spell levels - These levels indicate how hard a spell is to cast / how experienced you need to be to cast it. They work apart from your own level. You can cast lower level spells at a higher level, giving them specific bonuses.
Spells known - These are spells written in your spell-book. Every spell must be found and scribed in your book (which costs gold) in order for you to be able to do anything with it. If you do not know the spell you cannot cast it, you also cannot know a spell outside your available spell level range.
Spells prepared - These are spells that at the start of the day you sat down and said ‘I want to have these spells ready for the day’. You can only prepare each kind of spell once, and how many you can prepare is normally your spell casting stat modifier + your level (so a level 3 cleric with a 4 mod to wisdom can prepare 7 spells).
Spell slots - Think of this as how many spells you can cast before you are exhausted. The are divided by spell level and are specific to your class. For example a level 3 cleric has 4 level 1 slots and 2 level 2. So they can only cast this number of spells before running out of juice. You can consume a higher level slot to cast a lower level spell.
You can also cast a spell as a ritual. This isn’t a exhausting as a traditional spell as so does not consume a spell slot, but takes 10 minutes longer to cast.
Spells also require components to cast. If you do not have these components you cannot cast them. These spells could use a somatic component (cannot cast if restrained or with their hands full), a verbal component (cannot cast if silenced or gagged) or a material component (an object, that may or may not be consumed during the cast depending on the spell). For example, to cast chain lightning you need to speak a command, wave your hands around and have a bit of fur, a piece of amber, glass or a crystal rod on hand as well as three silver pins.
Spells also can consume your concentration. If a spell is marked as required concentration it means while the spell is in effect you need to concentrate. Taking damage will break this concentration, and you cannot concentrate on multiple spells at once. This means you can no longer stack area effects or buffs like you once could in 3.5e
Skills still exist, and follow much of the same vein that they did in 4e. You can become proficient in them via backgrounds, races or classes. The biggest change is that the DM can vary the stat that is used. For example the player is treading water in the ocean, the DM may ask for a Athletics(Constitution) roll instead of a Athletics(Strength) roll. This means anyone proficient in athletics can still get the bonus, but the stat rolled may change.
Due to the way proficiencies work (next section) as well as the lack of bonuses to leveling up, this means if you have 3 strength you still get a -4 to all swimming rolls. Being physically weak echoes throughout everything you do (as it should). This makes characters balanced between weaknesses and strengths, instead of the 4e version where every character has at least +1 to every skill by level 4.
This is a big one for me. 4e saw players needing to stack bonuses in order to roll anything good. To hit a creature they needed to get a bonus via a feat, a bonus via their stat and a bonus via their weapon to increase their chances massively (turning into +12-16 bonus at level 10). This was echoed throughout the edition creating incredibly specified characters (I can destroy people with a repair or acrobatics, but I can’t do anything else).
5e has solved this by making a stat called proficiency. This starts at +2 and goes up by 1 every 4 levels. Whenever you have proficiency in something (a skill, a tool, a weapon, armour) this is the bonus you give to it. This represents you becoming better at what you train at slowly over time much better than ‘I do nothing but practice my rapier 24/7’ and gives you a more balanced character. This is not to say that stats are irrelevant. A character with 8 strength and a proficiency in athletics still ends up with a +1 for the first 4 levels, while a character with 14 strength is already at +2 without any proficiency.
Advantage / disadvantage
Instead of having +2, -2, -1, +3 and all those other modifiers that you may get in combat you now either have advantage or disadvantage. Advantage means you roll 2 die and chose the higher roll. Disadvantage means you roll 2 die and chose the lower. These cannot be stacked, you can only have advantage, disadvantage or neutral.
Magic items are magic items, they don’t change too much. However there is a new aspect called ‘attunement’ (this is based off the beta, not the basic rules). Attunement requires you to spend time getting to know the item and activating it’s abilities. Depending on the rules, you can either attune a maximum of 3 items, or you can attune your charisma modifier (min 1) worth of items. There is also option rules for a test of wills between a player and the magic item. Generally the magic items seem to be based more about flavour and traits than just the +1 longsword we are traditionally used to.
Last one! Exhaustion is a stat that can be built up by abilities, environmental hazards, starvation etc. For example, you get exhausted by force marching past a certain point. A long rest reduces exhaustion by 1. Exhaustion gives the following disadvantage.
1 point - Disadvantage on ability checks
2 point - Speed halved
3 point - Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws
4 point - Health maximum halved
5 point - Speed reduced to 0
6 point - Death
Overall I really like this editions rules, and I’m excited for what is to come. Especially after seeing things from the beta rules. For example, the rules for bards, sorcerers and warlocks look… well.. amazing.
I just finished reading through the new rules that were released online today and so I thought I would put some notes together.
Things I Liked
- Exhaustion rules, I like that a group could literally force march themselves to death.
- Preset lifestyle expenses. This makes a lot of things a lot easier for the DM.
- A return to spell levels. The flexibility of being able to cast spells at different strengths is a great way to massively increase a spells flexibility.
- Ways to focus a class (wizards can focus in schools, fighters can choose fighting styles and fighter characteristics, rogues can choose characteristics, clerics get a whole bunch of things based off god worshiped)
- Warriors become a powerhouse of attacks as they level, gaining more attacks per round till they become a whirlwind of steel
- A ton of non combat specific spells. Things like Locate creature and Otto’s Irresistible dance
- Movement not limited to ‘a single movement’ but can be done anytime during the turn (half before the attack, half after etc.)
- The return of touch based attacks and heals (Yay! You can make a bad touch cleric again)
- Spells are precious again. There are no ‘encounter’ spells, there are cantrips (tiny attacks/abilities that don’t get consumed) and there are spells. When you cast a spell a cast is consumed and some of these casts can be recovered during rests.
- Varying spell casting lengths!
- Short rests give you the ability to recover a bit more (wizards can recover a spell or two, others can recover a bit of health)
- And extended rest is not a ‘everything is better’ situation anymore! Your ability to heal and recover spells is limited, and an incredibly tough day leaves you weaker the next day
Things I am not sure about
- I like the idea of the blanket proficiency bonus (you have a base bonus, and then this applies to anything you have proficiency in) but I am slightly worried about how this simplifies things. I’m pretty sure it will be fine though.
Thing I didn’t like
- There didn’t seem to be any info about touch attack hits, but I could be wrong. From what I gather, it’s just as hard to hit someone with a weapon and get past the armour than it is to touch someone. As I said, could be wrong about this.
- I know it was a bit of a blanket bleh, but I miss the second wind. It’s now an ability that only warriors have.
Now I really liked basically everything I saw, but it is very limited. They had a section for each of the four races and four classes, but none of the variants (for example the cleric only had rules for a cleric worshiping a life based deity). I really can’t wait to see the finished player’s handbook and DM handbook.
I have been waiting for this for ages! God I love the Dresden Files, even when they are being accused of jumping the shark every chapter is wonderful.
For those not familiar with the series, the Dresden Files is about a wizard named Harry Dresden who also operates a small private investigation firm. With the help of his friends (a team who grows throughout the currently 15 book series) he continues to push through huge supernatural entities including necromancers, vampires, werewolves, the entire fae courts, old norse and greek gods and so much more. While note being overly so, the books also emit this noir feel that I can never get over. Even during the darkest moments Dresden is pulling out some kind of wisecrack.
This book in particular covers Dresden’s forced co-operation with the black denarians (a group of demons made up of willing humans paired with cursed coins) in breaking into to Hades’s vault in the underworld. The book feels a little like Ocean’s 11, with Dresden traveling around recruiting members and bringing together all the elements of the plan he needs.
Jim Butcher will forever be one of those authors that gets to have his books on my ‘good’ bookshelf.
Enjoyment during: 5/5
Enjoyment after: 4/5
Would buy: 5/5
Please note! Since I have reached the half way point I am going to be tackling Malazan. This means I will not be updating again for quite a while (10 books, averaging above 1k pages each, densest sentences I have ever read).
Brave New World is an interesting dystopian novel. In the words of the author, he was amused by HG Well’s wonderful utopian future stories and wanted to write a satirical version of such a world. However he got carried away with his own writing and what he ended up with is a wonderfully cheeky look at achieving perfection in society and efficiency.
The novel looks at a world where even the humans born are farmed and grown for a particular purpose. While ‘Alpha’s are given a full supply of oxygen while developing, lesser classes are intentionally starved of oxygen to create a class with a forced lesser intelligence. By creating such a system society ends up with tiers not just consisting of status, but physical and mental attributes.
However such a world does not end there, all humans are encouraged to do everything to excess, as a Utopian world may not be a profitable one. Babies are taught (via encouragement, sleep hypnosis and shock therapy) exactly what they should and shouldn’t think, while some adults are payed in Soma (an incredibly powerful and hangover free hallucinogenic).
Excellent world building, I really enjoyed pondering on what I had read.
Enjoyment during: 4/5
Enjoyment after: 4/5
Would buy: 3/5
Current Progress: 50 Read
Foundation is one of ‘those’ series. You know the kind, generally considered to be a great classic, yet you get warned to stop after novel X. In this case, I was warned to stop after book 3.
Foundation is a series about the galaxy falling into chaos with the fall of the great galactic empire. Foundation is the name of a civilisation that has been founded at the very end of the galaxy, with the intent to save what is possible of the current empire so that the fall is shortened from 30,000 years to a mere 1,000. The man behind this plan has even plotted out exactly what will happen for these 1,000, but must keep this a secret from the members of foundation for fear of changing his planned outcomes.
Each book / era shows the civilisation in a different stage, ranging from merchant hub to holders of divine power and it is wonderful to see all these possible ways to retain power over the ignorance of the rest of the galaxy.
One thing that I really enjoyed about these books is that no real action takes place during the narration. The books focus on the diplomatic functions and the relationships built, even when war threatens the novels never care about the battles. I found this refreshing and it creates what amounts to a galactic drama.
However unlike some of the other books I have read, this one didn’t stick around in my head much after finishing it. It was a fun read, but it wasn’t necessarily ‘thoughful’.
Enjoyment during: 4/5
Enjoyment after: 3/5
Would buy: 4/5
Current Progress: 49 Read
I have been putting this off. Not because I was worried, but because as a kid my father always encouraged me to read Anne McCaffrey and because of this I have literally read dozens of her books, with Nimisha’s ship being one of my favourites.
I vaguely knew this story, having read many of the dragon riders of pern novels before and getting the idea from their histories, but still this book just enthralled me. To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it I did not glance once at the page number, and anyone who knows me will know that my traditionally reading technique involves looking at the page number, doing calculations in my head about percentage complete and therefor time remaining (my e-reader does this itself, but I turned those options off as it ruins half the fun).
It was quite refreshing to read a book with a strong female lead after 5 or so books with no major female characters, although the idea of a woman’s place is still apparent throughout the narrative. I get the impression that a woman is allowed to go off on adventures and lead the way as long as she doesn’t skimp on tending to her man.
Once again there was the fun involved in reading a technologically regressed society deal with old world technology, such as when they find the old documents stating ‘'Flamethrowing fire lizards to wipe out the spores. Q.E.D.’ or when the word flame thrower is introduced to the people and they wonder about this ‘Thrower of flame’.
Overall a fun enjoyable ride through the world of Pern, unlike the last few books this one took me on a ride where I was not expected to worry about anything but the narrative presented to me.
Enjoyment during: 5/5
Enjoyment after: 3/5
Would buy: 4/5
Current Progress: 48 Read
Note: While I’m here, how do you exactly define a book as sci fi or fantasy when it’s about descendants from interstellar travel who now ride magical dragons? This is a similar problem to the one I have with the discworld novels.