Category Archives: 5e/Next

Stream of Annihilation – WotC Embraces The New Online World of TTRPGs

The Stream of Annihilation was an epic two twelve hour days of online D&D.  In this case “annihilation” tied in to their new adventure series that was announced, Tomb of Annihilation.  It is both an homage and a continuation of the story of Tomb of Horrors. It is available in Wizards Play Network stores on September 8, and the full release is September 19.

We’re Here!

I love the beginning. The weekend started with a very strong kick off by Joe Manganiello. This serves as an announcement by those who play TTRPGs that we aren’t a bunch of odd people living in our parents’ basement. We are everyday people who like to exercise our imaginations with others. [I don’t know who Joe Manganiello is, other than an actor in TV shows and other things I haven’t seen. He’s also been interviewed online indicating interest/involvement in a D&D movie based on the Dragon Lance novels.] All of the actors and others invited to the stream, aren’t people invited just because a potential audience might know them, but because they all play D&D and love the game!

One very interesting thing is that for one person, it was the first time they had rolled physical dice to play D&D, since they had only every played online. The world is changing and WotC is trying to stay current. They have acknowledged the value of making PDFs of old rules, modules, and other resources on OBS (One Book Shelf – DriveThruRPG & RPGNow). There are license agreements with Roll20 & FantasyGrounds. The D&D Beyond Tool is a realization that on official online tool is needed, if it isn’t too late. [I don’t know all the free tools out there for helping with 5e character creation and other such things for 5e DMs. I have seen online discussion saying it may be too little too late, and pointing out other efforts that have faltered. I have not seen any reviews for D&D Beyond, and I have not tried it myself. I’m not sure it is something I will need, but I will look into it.]

Other announcements included partnerships with various companies’ that support online play, Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and the D&D Beyond tool was announced to have Twitch support.  This last bit sort of surprised me, what will this mean for the use of Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds with Twitch games? (I don’t know enough about actually playing a game that is shared on Twitch, so that is impossible for me to gauge. There were also announcements for all kinds of other products, basically commercials between play sessions.

After the stream of annihilation, six official D&D shows on Twitch were announced. Some of the online roleplayers invited to participate in Stream of Annihilation will now be on the official D&D Twitch channel.

It is clear from this that D&D and RPGs in general are experiencing a revival. The popularity of D&D in its use in various TV shows has done a lot to remove the stigma. Recent years have seen the lack of a concerted nationwide effort to suppress D&D, as happened with the 1980’s.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I am looking to get into D&D 5th edition because it is what most new players will know. Any rules system can be played with an Old School style. After all, the 5e DMG says that the DM makes the rulings, just like the editions I have played. I can’t speak to 2nd, 3rd, or 4th editions, but I assume they have similar statements.

Catch The Re-Runs

For those interested, the Twitch channel only keeps episodes for a certain amount of time. You can see the streams for each day on the D&D YouTube Channel. Day one. Day Two.

AD&D and Other Editions to 5e Conversion Methodology

A lot of common sense stuff here. If the monster in the module is in the Monster Manual of the rules you are converting to , use that. Other creatures can be substituted for others, or converted by bits and pieces of creatures with similar stats.

The reverse can also work, taking new creatures and adventures from 5e back to older editions or even other systems.


Finally Started Reading 5th Edition Player’s Handbook

I finally started reading the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook I got a while back, that I first mentioned a couple days ago.

I Had a crazy buzy day following a day where I had to drive three hours, train a client all day, then drive three hours home. It was a beautiful, if a bit chilly day with sunshine. I set up my hammock and read for an hour or so after work. It was very relaxing.

I only made it to page 18, where the first race, dwarf, is discussed. I did not keep going. I was reading every word and soaking it in. there is no rush.

I was pleased that in natural light, the pages are not shiny like they are indoors in artificial light. This made the pages easier to read than  anticipated.  I found that I could read at most angles and distances that it was comfortable to hold.

So far, I like what I read. That was on Tuesday, and as I write this after my Wednesday night AD&D game, in the after midnight hours of Thursday morning, I have not read any more than the first 18 pages. There’s about 300 pages to go. This week is very busy with work, and the weekend will be busy with yard work and weeding my garden, if it isn’t raining. If it rains, I’ll definitely make time to read more. If I was not so tired I could read more. My plan is to read each page, not just blow through it. I want to read it with understanding, as I have a feeling I will play it.

The 5e Plunge – Manuals Arrive

There was a half off sale on the new D&D 5e manuals on Amazon, so I went ahead and ordered all three of them, plus a DM screen. I already have the starter set and the free PDF’s, that I still have yet to read.

Serendipitously, these manuals and my DCC dice arrived on the same day.

I was surprised that the manuals were not wrapped in anything to protect them from rubbing against each other in shipment, or packed together so they did not slide. There was only one “airbag” on the bottom edge of the books to limit how much they moved, but there was still nearly two inches of empty space along the top edge and about two inches of space along the edge of the spine/edge of the pages. Not a lot of space, but enough room for them to rattle around in the box.

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The front and back covers, the spine, pages, and most of the edges look fine, but there is a small area that is roughed up on the pointy corner. It is minor, and if these books get read and used at the table, worse will befall them. I just prefer that a book be in good shape when I buy it new, and that I am the one who drops it or scuffs it up through use and abuse.

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I also noticed that the edge of the pages were wavy. I don’t know if that is a manufacturing thing, or that the weather was extra humid the day the package arrived. After sitting stacked in the box on the floor in my office, the Player’s Handbook [Aff link] does not appear to have wavy pages on the long edge, but the DMG [Aff link], and Monster Manual [Aff link] do. The tops and bottoms of the edges of the pages of all three manuals had obvious “waves” in them. The Player’s Handbook was on top, with the DMG next, and the Monster Manual on the bottom, and that did not seem to press them out. I don’t know if that is a manufacturing issue or a weather issue. Again, this is minor enough that I won’t ship them back.


The manuals have slick and shiny covers, except for the half of the back cover where one’s right hand fingers would grip it while reading. Each manual has this. I assume it is to give you a better grip on the book. I was surprised by this, and at first thought there was something amiss with the cover, until I realized it was intentional. The slick, shiny part of the covers is mirror-like.

The interior pages are black ink on a colored background with shiny paper. As long as you avoid bright light shining on the page at an angle that makes the text unreadable, the text appears to be easy to read. One should definitely avoid trying to read this in low light to avoid eye strain, and most likely a headache.

The illustrations are a mix of line art and full color pictures. A quick flip through reveals some very cool images.

I will review the contents of the manuals in subsequent articles.

DM Screen

As I was taking pictures for the unboxing, I noticed that the three books were all made in the USA, but that the DM Screen [Aff link] was made in China. The shrink wrap on the DM Screen was very tight, protecting it in shipping, but also requiring care in its removal to avoid gouging the screen. Once unwrapped, I discovered that it had a cover that has the same dragon as is on the screen and the inside is what I assume is a lich “poster” advertising the D&D Adventurers League.


Unlike the AD&D DM Screen I am used to from AD&D that is two pieces with a portrait orientation and each section is approximately the size of a sheet of paper, the 5e DM Screen is one piece with four sections in landscape orientation.

One page has five tables for generating NPC’s: characteristics, ideals, bonds, flaws, and a name generator. These handy tables would work in any setting or set of rules.

A page and a half is dedicated to conditions. There are bullet points that summarize each condition. Some of the points indicate if the condition results in disadvantage or how saving throws are affected. I have not read the manuals to see any details in the manuals on the conditions, but the bullet points seem fairly straightforward. I am not sure that the conditions need spelled out here. I suppose for players that argue the rules and try to rules lawyer the DM? This section ends with a chart showing the effects of the six levels of exhaustion. Level six is death! From what I have read online about a short rest and healing, just take five and you won’t die. I’m curious about how all that works, so time will tell.

The other half of the page shared with conditions are five tables showing the DC for various difficulties, cover, obscured areas (AKA concealment), light sources, and skills and associated abilities.

The final page has five tables for travel pace, encounter distance based on terrain and how far visibility is both audibly and visibly, and damage by level and severity. Finishing the charts are two tables for something happens and quick finds. These last two tables are again something that can be used in any other game/genre.

The interior and exterior artwork of the screen is very cool.

The finish on the screen is shiny. If a light is shining directly on it, the DM side with the charts and information is unreadable. The shininess of the finish makes it mirror-like, and makes it hard to read. At normal distance from the table with it positioned like I would have it to run a game, I find that the print is small and difficult to line up my bifocals to read it without having to lean over or pick it up. Since most of the information on the screen is fairly common sense, and you won’t be generating a lot of NPC’s and events on the fly all the time, it should not be an issue for most DM’s. As a screen, it serves its purpose. The folds/creases of the screen are “tight” to begin with, so it wanted to fold up until I had it open a while. It seems too low to me, but that is because I am used to the AD&D DM screen. If one is worried about players seeing something, I think you will be worried no matter how tall your screen is.

Once I read all the rules, shame on me for not reading the quick start and the PDF’s sooner, and know more about it, I can give a better assessment of whether or not the charts and tables on the screen are the ones most needed in play.

No one at WoTC must wear bifocals or have vision that needs correction. While the manuals and screen look cool, their shininess makes them hard to use in the wrong angle and brightness of light. The target demographic is obviously one with younger eyes. This is similar to the issues with the original free PDF’s that were nearly unreadable with the full color backgrounds. Thankfully, they released the plain black text on a white background for printing, but it was also more legible. Thankfully, the actual manuals are much easier on the eyes, and easy to ready, provided you don’t have adverse lighting.

I was hoping to start reading these manuals over Memorial Day weekend, but two “quick” projects for Saturday ended up taking all day. Sunday, I played in +Roy Snyder’s DCC game. Monday, I rested up. I couldn’t keep my eyes open to read.

My Other Fantasy RPG Manuals

I have some other fantasy RPG manuals.

I have ACKS, I as a supporter, and got my name in the book and got a softcover set of the rules. ACKS has some interesting ideas that I can use.

I just got the Delving Deeper rules, I have read through the PDF, but have not sat down to enjoy this new booklet. I know that there are some interesting ideas in here.

ACKS & Delving Deeper
ACKS & Delving Deeper

I also got the D&D Next, AKA 5E Starter Set. I have opened the box, but have not made the time to read through it.

I have read through the beta rules and skimmed the version 1 PDFs. I think there are some interesting ideas in 5E, but I have not made the time to dig in and understand it. Creating a character looks to be more complex that I prefer, but I want to be able to sit down uninterrupted and read it through then try generating a character to catch all the nuances. I might play it as a player, but I’m not sure I want to invest in all the rules to run a campaign. Especially since I have spent way more than the new manuals cost just to rebuild by AD&D manuals.

5e Starter Set
5e Starter Set

I also have PDFs of the free OSR Clones: OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, Basic Fantasy RPG, Microlite 20 & 74, and several others. There are lots of interesting little tidbits in each of these rules, and they each have something to offer. I’m a melting pot of rules as a DM. I leave out those things that are too cumbersome or slow things down, and takes ideas from other DMs and other rule sets. I think we all do that. I don’t know of any DM that does everything by the book. If you did AD&D like that, it would be interesting. I am sure there are some out there that don’t understand that the point of D&D is to use the rules that work for you as a DM and for your players.

I explain RPGs to novices as “make believe with rules”. Growing up, we played cowboys & indians, cops & robbers, army, etc. The disagreements that came up were, “I shot you!” “No, you didn’t.” RPGs put rules on encounters AND have a referee to make it work so that there is some structure that puts a common framework that everyone understands that they use for the mutual experience so that all involved have fun.


D&D Next Free Rules Update

There has been an update to the free PDF D&D Next rules. Looking at the file names, only the DM volume changed with version 2, but someone wrote that there were changes in the player’s volume even though the version stayed at 2.

With the DMG coming out soon, perhaps there will be a version 3 soon.

There was lots of posting about this the last week of October. I downloaded the new PDF(s), but have not had a chance to look at them.

I plan to mine them for ideas, not sure I’ll play or not.

Cursory Impressions of 5e Basic PDF

It’s great that 5e has the basic rules for character creation available for free. As I understand it, the free PDF will be expanded to include more rules.

I paged through the PDF on my laptop at work and two things struck me:

  1. The print over a shaded background was a little hard to read. I think that they should have had input from player’s with “older” eyes, or less than “perfect” eyes give some input.
    I confirmed on my monitor at home that it is better, but still hard on the eyes. I am hoping my tablet is better.
    While it may look “cool” if it is harder to read, it will make it harder to comprehend. Am I the only almost 50 year old (in September) player with this issue?
  2. I need more time to read and digest rather than flip through, but the character generation process seems  complex. It give a point buy option for speediest generation. But there are still lots of other options. I think it will be less confusing when I have time to read it.

The experience progression for all classes appears to be the same for all classes. I read on another site that gold doesn’t count for x.p. It still seemed way too easy to level up. It also topped out at level 20, I did not see if beyond level 20 is possible. Ability scores top out at 30.

There are not as many spells as in 1e, and they call a lot of 1st level spells in 1e are now cantrips. Both clerics and wizards have 9 spell levels. There are a few new and some re-named spells. There are a few different things about spell casting and magic, but I did not completely follow with a skim.

There is the taking a level in different classes for multi-classing. I believe I read that that was a 3e thing.

I did see glimpses of a few things that I can at least adapt to my campaign, but I want to read it before I elaborate.

There may be some aspects of this that I can see using as it’s own game, but character generation was not clear to me from the play test materials what I now have in this PDF. I did not keep up with the play test, but have the final bundle and created a character for a D&D Next Roll 20 game. It took forever to figure out how to generate a character, and I missed out on understanding some things.

I was without power from about 2 AM Monday until sometime Wednesday afternoon due to a big storm. I am behind on household chores, so I’m not sure when I will get to read it.