Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd ed Advanced Player's Guide

Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide
Continuing my exploration of the Pathfinder Second Edition I am going to examine the book you all knew I was going to get to sooner or later. 

Like the previous edition of Pathfinder the Advanced Player's Guide introduces some new classes to the Pathfinder game, and like the previous edition, one of those classes introduced is the Witch.

Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide 

As before I am considering the hardcover Special Edition version of this book. The book is 272 pages and has full-color interior art.

This book is Player focused and shares a lot in common with its predecessor. It also follows the format of the Second Edition Core rules.


This introduces us to the book and gives us an overview of what we can expect.

Ancestries & Backgrounds

Now here are some neat ideas. We get five new Ancestries here. They are Catfolk, Kobolds, Orcs, Ratfolk, and Tengus.  

The Catfolk are fun and comparable to the D&D Tabaxi and Rakasta (not Rakasha).  Likewise, the Tengus are like the D&D Kenku.  Orcs are orcs, but I like what they are doing with them. Orcs has always been the "Klingons" of D&D. Someone to fight in the TOS ("The Original Series" or "The Old School") but that changed later on. We have Klingons in Starfleet in TNG and beyond and now we can have Orcs as a player race.  Orcs are still described as being mostly chaotic (which I like) and even, maybe just a little bit evil. Player Character Orcs don't have to be.  Also like Klingons, these Orcs seem to see their gods as something they should strive to kill. A little John Wick influence here? (The game designer, not the character).  These orcs would be interesting to play.  We also get Ratfolk (anthropomorphic rats) and Kobolds.  Now I will admit, I really don't like Pathfinder's ultra-reptilian Kobolds.  I am certain they have their fans, but if I am going to play a small annoying creature why would I choose anything but a goblin? 

Each ancestry gets a set of ancestry feats to choose at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.  

There are new heritages as well including the new versatile heritage which gives you lineage feats as well. I know the "feat haters" are already screaming. Yeah, that might be justified. The lineages are Changeling, Dhampir, and Planar Scions which include Aasimar, Duskwalker, and Tiefling.  These feats are also taken at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.  

More feats are given for the Core Rules ancestries as well. I think the next goblin I play is going to need the "Extra Squishy" feat.

There are more backgrounds as well including Common and Rare backgrounds. 


Ah. The real reason I bought this book!

In addition to the four new classes, Investigator, Oracle, Swashbuckler, and Witch, there are new features for the twelve Core Rules classes.

The Investigator is an interesting class and one I can see working well in an FRPG.  Basically is Sherlock Holme could fit into your game then this class has a place too.  The Oracle is a staple of classic mythology and is a divine-powered class. A nice alternative to the cleric.  The Swashbuckler is neat and all but I didn't "get it" until I started thinking of them as a DEX-based fighter as opposed to the normal STR-based one. That leaves just one more class.

The Witch

The Witch has been a great addition to Pathfinder since 1st Edition and I rather like this one too.  This witch is an Intelligence-based spellcaster. Like many interpretations of the witch she gets a Patron and Familiar.  This is how she learns her spells. Now for me this points more to Charisma, but there are a lot of Charisma-based casters in Pathfinder. Wisdom would have also been a good choice.  These witches also get Hexes which are powers they can use that are not spells but spell-like. 

While clerics are clearly divine spellcasters and wizards are arcane, witches as a class can move about these distinctions. So depending on their Patron Theme, they can be Arcane, Divine, Occult, or Primal.  A Rune Witch is arcane, but a Winter Witch is primal. This time also grants a skill, a cantrip and a spell.

In addition to spells, hexes, patrons, and loads of feats, witches also get Lessons, each lesson gives the witch a hex and their familiar a spell. Witches don't use spell books here, just their familiars.  There is so much customization I could make 1000s of witches and no two would be the same. 

Witches in Pathfinder fill the same ecological niche that Warlocks do in D&D 5.

Following the witch we get new feats for the twelve core rules classes. Typically a two- or four-page spread continues with PF2e's design aesthetic. Sorcerers, I should note get new bloodlines as well. 

There is also a section on animal companions (largely stats) and familiars. 


Like the Core Rules of PF2e this has several archetypes that can be applied to classes via the applications of various feats and skills. I do see where some of the 3.x Prestige Classes are now living on here as archetypes. There are also the multi-class archetypes for all the new classes. One of these new archetypes is the Cavalier. I can complete my "Dragon 114" duo with a human witch and an elven cavalier!  Some of these archetypes can be be taken as early as 2nd level, others (typically the former Prestige Classes) need more requirements and have to be taken at higher levels.  I would need to compare and contrast the archetypes to the old Prestige Classes to see how they work out.  I can see where you can build your own Batman now with the monk class, the investigator multi-class feat, and vigilante archetype. 

One thing though. I can see these archetype being adapted to D&D5 or even OSR D&D with some care and attention. 


Feats are either the boon or bane of Pathfinder. This chapter has more of them.


New spell casting classes mean a need for new spells. 


New magic items.

All in all this book is a lot of fun. The art is great, and the layout and design is fantastic. There are a lot of great ideas here and I would love to try them out.  Hell. I would be content in making a different PF2e witch a day just to see how many I could do.  But don't worry, I am not going to that except maybe for myself.

There is a lot here I would love to see find a home in some way for D&D, maybe for D&D6.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary
Spend any time here and you know there is one thing that is always true. I LOVE monster books. I can fairly say that monster books, bestiaries, and the like are not just my first love of RPGs but are largely why I am into RPGs, to begin with.

So I knew that even if I never bought anything else for the Pathfinder Second Edition game I was going to buy the Bestiary.  And much like it's Great-Grandfather AD&D, I picked up the Bestiary first. I grabbed the Core Rules (that I discussed yesterday) based entirely off of what I read in this book.

I guess I really should have done this one on Monday instead of a monster, but I wanted to do the core rules first.

So what does this book have and why did I like it so much?  Well, it has a lot going for it.

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover version I purchased at my FLGS.  For Pathfinder 2e I have been going with the Special Edition covers. My oldest gets the Special Ed covers of the D&D 5 books and I get the regular ones since D&D 5 is "His" game.  I normally like to get the Special Ed covers since I am a sucker for a book with a ribbon in it.  Plus he has no plans to play PF2e and we even combined our PF1e books into one collection and sold off the rest (which is how I can buy these!)

The book is 360 pages with full-color art. You know when you walk into the floor of the Gen Con trader hall and the smell of new books hits you?  That's how this book smells. Like Gen Con, but in a good way.

This book contains about 415 different monster stat blocks.  Before I get into those blocks I want to speak about the layout.  The PF1e Bestiary worked hard to get monsters down to one page per monster. Sometimes there were variations, but it was obvious the Paizo crew (and many others of the d20 boom) liked the presentation of one monster per page as in the AD&D 2nd days.  PF2e takes this design strategy and extends it to the next level.  Sometimes we get one monster per page. Many times we get a monster type (for example the Alghollthu) that extends across 2-, 4- or more pages (always an even number) that are facing each other. So in this case the Skum and Faceless Stalker.


This continues throughout the book. The practical implications here are 1.) finding something is easy IF you know the group it might be under. 2.) you can lay your book flat and have access to everything you need for the monster.  There is of course one other.  While I love my special editions, if I went to the Paizo website and got all of these as PDFs I could do the exact same thing I have done with the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums and the various S&W Monster books, I can print them all out and organize them all into one large folder.  Note you can do the same things with the D&D 4e Monster books too.  Maybe this is something I should consider when doing my Basic Bestiary. 

Continuing on.  The stat blocks are easy to read and honestly understand if you have played any form of D&D form the last 20 years.  There is the Name, it's level (which replaces HD and CR).  Under that there are the descriptor tags, this includes Alignment, Size, and Traits.  So our faceless stalker is a Chaotic Evil medium-sized aberration and it is level 4.  There are some basic "monster stats" such as skills, perception and abilities mods, and what items if any it has. It's Defence block is next with AC, saves, HP and resistances, immunities, or vulnerabilities.  It's attack block follows.  The feel is very much like that of D&D 5e.

The block is smaller than that of PF1e (thank goodness!) and all the important bits are readily visible,

Like the Core Book this features sidebars with more details. This often includes rumors, mentions of other types, and more.

About the Monsters

Most monster books take a LOT of cues from the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual. Many feature the same set of monsters. Enough that I often refer to the Demons Type I to VI and the Succubus as "The Usual Suspects."   Does this Bestiary follow suit? Almost, the Hezrou (Type II) and Nalfeshnee (Type IV) are missing but the others are here.  

Either due to space or to make the the stat blocks come out right there are a lot of creatures here that you do not normally see in a "core" monster book and some that I expected are missing. Nothing game-breaking mind you.  In fact it gives a great flavor to the book. There are many you expect, all the dragons for example, and some I didn't, like the gug and lillend. 

One of the neatest things about this book is reading over what are classical monsters too many of us and seeing how they are different not just through the lens of PF2e, but from different creators and a different world.  I have already talked about how much I enjoy Pathfinder's goblins, but they really do feel different here. This change is then reflected in other creatures like the barghest. Some are quite different, like the kobolds, and others are largely still the same, like orcs.

Speaking of orcs. A while back I did a post discussing what should be part of a universal stat-block and I used orcs as my example. The reasoning was that orcs are one creature that has appeared in all versions of D&D (yes there are others, but they are ubiquitous) and they are a good typical foe for 1st level adventurers.  How do the Pathfinder (PF1e and PF2e) orcs stack up?

More Orcs!

Orcs in D&D 3.x were (are) CR ½.  This meant they were a good, but not necessarily deadly, challenge to a party of 1st-level characters. In Pathfinder 1e they are now CR ⅓, so even easier really.   Pathfinder has the Orc Brute at Creature 0 and Orc Warrior at Creature 1 with 15 and 23 hp respectively.  Still something a group of first levels could take on, but maybe slightly harder. 

How does this book stack up to my Monster Manual test?

My Monster Manual Test is how I feel when I first open a game book. While this book can't reasonably live up to the hype of when I first picked up the AD&D Monster Manual it does do the exact same thing; It made me want to buy the system so I could know more about it.  Like PF2e Core this book is gorgeous and just wonderful to read through. The designers have made me invested in their world and I want to know more.

 Enough that I have more books to cover!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Pathfinder Second Edition
All month long I have been talking about, but more appropriately around, D&D. For the rest of this week I want to talk about D&D's, now adult, younger cousin. Pathfinder 2nd Edition.

This won't be a full review. The Pathfinder Core book is massive and absolutely packed. Plus there are plenty of reviews out there.  Instead, I am going to look at some of the changes, updates, and innovations of the game and compare and contrast it to Pathfinder 1e, D&D4, and D&D5.

A bit of history first. Pathfinder 1st Edition was published by Paizo Publishing in 2009.  It was an immediate success with the core book selling out at it's appearance at Gen Con.  Don't quote me, but I think it was some sort of record.  Since then Paizo has always had a huge presence at Gen Con.  Paizo had been one of the 3rd party publishers of choice back in the 3.x days 2000-2008. It had a license to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines and its support products for 3e were some of the best on the market. When Wizards of the Coast shifted direction and released D&D 4th Edition with no OGL backing, Paizo saw their opening.  They released Pathfinder to a huge public beta testing and took in all sorts of feedback. The Core Rules, which combined what had normally been the Player's book and the Game Masters' book into one massive tome.

It is hard to appreciate just how successful Pathfinder was.  When sales of D&D 4 spiked, but then dropped suddenly, Pathfinder took over the throne of best-selling fantasy RPG from D&D.  D&D didn't just sit on that throne, they built it, often from the bones of vanquished enemies like DragonQuest. So successful that many people began to call it D&D 3.75 and even the rightful progression of D&D 3.x.  

Pathfinder was a success and really would have been a success even without D&D4 underperforming (make no mistake D&D 4 still sold better than pretty much everything else combined). 

Fast Forward to 2012-13. Wizards announce they are holding public playtests for what they are calling D&D Next. The playtests are similar to Pathfinder's.  In 2014 D&D 5e is released to critical and commercial acclaim.  D&D retakes its throne and stays there.  Meanwhile by 2014 Pathfinder is moving along with a 14-year-old system (the 3.0 OGC). It survived the d20 boom and glut and still is the game of choice for many.  But sales are low and the true money maker of any RPG are the core books.  So in 2018 Pathfinder releases their 2nd Edition Playtest book.

Pathfinder 2e Playtest and Special Editions

It does not go over as well as the first playtest, this is the third time the market has seen this from the Big 2, but it is enough that Paizo releases Pathfinder 2nd Edition at Gen Con 2019.  That brings me to today, Pathfinder 2nd Ed in 2022.

Pathfinder Second Edition

Pathfinder 2nd Edition (PF2e here on) is the update to the best-selling, award-winning Pathfinder RPG. For this review/overview I am considering the Special Edition hardcover from my FLGS.  The book is 640 pages with full-color art.

Let's just start from the top. This book is gorgeous. The art is what you have come to expect from Pathfinder and this one does not skimp on it. 

PF2e interior art

There is an evolution here that is very interesting. It is something I call my "Modula-2 Experience."  Back in my undergrad days, I learned to program in Pascal. Not uncommon really, lots of people did that then. But later on I picked up other languages. I had already learned BASIC and Fortran so I picked up C and Modula-2.  C is very different than Pascal so keeping the syntax straight was an issue at first but then became easier. Modula-2 is almost identical to Pascal with some odd bits here and there. Picking up the syntax was a lot easier, but became harder to keep them separate as I went on.

Pathfinder follows the Modula-2 path from D&D's Pascal.  To extend the metaphor more, D&D 3 is Pascal, Pathfinder 1 is Modula-2, D&D 5 is Object Pascal/Delphi and Pathfinder 2e is Oberon. To extend my metaphor to breaking Original D&D is ALGOL.

Exploring PF2e is fascinating. There is a game here that I easily recognize and yet looks new at the same time.  All of the same abilities are here, many of the same races (now called "Ancestries & Backgrounds), and classes.  In fact, the first 240 or so pages read like D&D 3 or 5 or Pathfinder. It's when you delve into the details that differences become apparent.  

1 Introduction

This chapter introduces us to RPGs in general and the Pathfinder 2nd Edition in particular. It (and the rest of the book) features the main text and sidebars to explain the text or put it into context. For example, the text on page 7 mentions dice and the sidebar shows a picture of dice with the standard die nomenclature. 

This covers the basics of character creation such as deciding on your concept, rolling or assigning your six abilities (the classic six), figuring out your character details, and more.  We have six ancestries and twelve character classes.

Ancestries and Classes

Now I will say this. While I appreciate a good character sheet breakdown, the PF2e sheet is ugly as hell. For all the great art in this book that is one garish sheet. Wow. I'll stick with the black & white one.

2 Ancestries & Backgrounds

Modern RPGs are moving away from the concept of "race" and instead are going with Ancestries. I rather like this approach, to be honest. While "race" might be a good term, there are enough negative connotations to it (see my discussions of 19th Century Race Theory) to make it less than desirable. Plus Ancestries and Background help parse out what you get via your parents (eyes, pointy ears, and more) and what you get growing up in a culture.  

Ancestries are what older games call "race" it helps determine your ability score bonuses and sometimes penalty, your size, your speed, and what languages you might know. It also gives you "traits" and who well you see in the dark.  Heritages are sub-specialties of the Ancestries.  My favorite ancestry for PF2e right now is Goblin. Yes, you can play a Goblin in this game! The heritage I like the most is the Ironguy Goblin. You can eat anything.  I love Pathfinder goblins. 

Each ancestry gets an ancestry feat (PF2e is crazy with feats) at the first level. This helps define your character. For example, one feat is Goblin Song where you sing annoying goblin songs to distract your enemies.  You can get additional ancestry feats at 5th, 9th, and 13th levels. Some have pre-requisites. So you can't take "Very, Very Sneaky" at 13th level unless you took "Very Sneaky" before.

An interesting note here. Half-elves and Half-orcs are not an Ancestry. You take Human as your ancestry and then half-elf or half-orc as your heritage. The rule implication here is clear.  You can have mixed ancestry and heritage as the rules allow, you just need your GM to be ok with it. 

Backgrounds are chosen like a feat but are akin to the Backgrounds of 5e.  Akin, not the same.  These usually give some sort of skill, skill boost, or feat. 

Languages come from your Ancestry, heritage (sometimes) and background (sometimes).  

Your HP at level 1 is based on your Ancestry and not your class.  This is a good change since it can also apply to monsters and level-0 NPCs.

3 Classes

Here we get the classes we know from 3.x, more or less. There is the new Champion class, which replaces the Paladin (a Paladin is a type of Champion) and the new Alchemist. 


Each class has an ability boost, HD for leveling up, saves, attacks, and what skills they have access to. They are constructed very similarly to D&D 3.x/PF1e classes. Each class also has a series of feats they can take at various levels. These include Class Feats (specific to class) and General Feats (used by all). You take a Class Feat at 2nd level and every even level after. General feats are taken at 3rd level and every four levels after. There are also skill increases, ability boosts and other powers/abilities so that there is something happening at every level for all classes.   There are also sample variations on each class; these are done with the choices you make in powers, skills, and feats.  For example a Paladin is a Lawful Good Champion and Dancer is a Bard that takes ranks in Acrobatics and Perform (among others).  So customization is through the roof and no two characters of the same class need to look or feel the same. 

Seoni the Sorceress

To add to this there are even Archetypes to define your character or at 2nd level you can take a multiclass feat to add some abilities of another class to your current one. Much like D&D 4e used to do.  There is just so much to do with these classes.   No surprise then that classes take up almost a quarter to a third of this book.

I do miss the Prestige Classes from 3.x/PF1e though. Though with this level of customization they can be "thematically" folded into the existing rules here with no issues.  Want to be an Arcane Archer? I am sure there is a good skill/feat options that allow you to do that. 

4 Skills

There are 17 skills for PF2e. They are well described and include things you can do untrained and things you can do trained. There are also specific examples of things you can do with each skill and whether or not these are move actions, require concentration or other modifiers. For example, Climbing is a type of Athletics check and it is a Move action. 

5 Feats

Pathfinder isn't Pathfinder without Feats. Love them or hate them they are baked into the system here more than D&D or PF1e. And there is a lot of them. Again though great for character customization, bad for GMs needing to keep track of everything.

6 Equipment

Covers the shopping list. But also has premade Class Kits you can buy which have all the basic gear a class is likely to take. 

7 Spells

The next largest section (about 120 pages) is Spells.  All the same, schools are here, but now magic is divided into Arcane (Wizards), Divine (Clerics), Occult (Bards), and Primal (Druids) Spells.  So seeing a bit of PF1e's later material and D&D4e DNA here.  There are Spell Slots from 0 to 10 (yes 10th-level spell slots) and spells of level 0 (Cantrips) to 9. So you can heighten a spell to higher slots or sometimes a spell might need a higher slot depending on a feat. Similar to 3.x certainly but also a little feel of 5e's spell slot system.  So for example there is no Monster Summoning I to IX. There is only Summon Animal (or Construct or Fiend or Fey etc.) and you can heighten the spell at higher spell slots. So taking Summon Animal at a 7th level Spell Slot lets you summon a level 9 or lower animal. 

Spells are all listed alphabetically and tagged with various descriptors like "Cantrip," "Divination," or "Mental" and more. The description also lists what tradition(s) they belong too, Arcanes, Divine, Occult and/or Primal. 

There are also "Focus" spells that are unique to a particular Class.  Bards, Champions, Clerics, Druids, Monks, Sorcerers, and Wizards all get their own lists unique to them. Yes monks get "Ki" spells.  

Like past versions, but mostly like D&D 4e there are also Rituals. these take longer and have certain requirements that need to be met. 

8 Age of Lost Omens

This covers the very basics of Golarion, Pathfinder's game world. It includes a little history, the lands, and the gods. 

9 Playing the Game 

This is mostly the Game Master's section but there is still plenty here for players.  Covers all the rules needed to play with an emphasis on the basic d20 roll and checks. Note there is no "Natural 20 = critical hit" here, BUT score 10 higher than their DC/AC then you do have a crit! So that is kinda cool. 

10 Game Mastering

This is the Game Master's chapter. Lots of advice here on how to run PF2e games (and some of it applies to any d20-based game.)  There is a lot here yes, but obviously more could be said since there is a Game Mastery guide out as well. 

11 Crafting & Treasure

Modern gamers love to make things. I blame Minecraft. This chapter covers making things (great for the alchemists) and treasure. This is also a fairly large chapter.


We end with the Appendicies. 


This book is huge and it is packed with information.  The index is great and very useful. In fact, the entire design of the game allows ease of access to all information. This is one of the things that made 4e a well-designed game (not the same as "playable") and we see it live on in OSE as well. 

Who Should Play Pathfinder Second Edition?

Anyone who loves to play D&D in its myriad forms and also loves deep character customization.  In fact, if you love building characters and don't have a game going at the moment then Pathfinder has a lot to keep your character-building hobby very busy.

It is not a lite game. It is very, very crunchy.  While the differences between PF1e vs D&D4 were very pronounced there is less obvious differences between PF2e and D&D5 at least in terms of the types of games you can play.  I will say that if you were to play something like "Keep on the Borderlands" the differences in play between D&D5e and PF2e would be minimal and all resting on the mechanics of the game. Still, you are going to roll initiative, roll to attack an orc, roll a d20 to see if you hit, and then roll damage as indicated by your weapon type. At higher levels, these mechanical differences will become further apart, but essentially they both still have the same DNA linking them back to D&D 3 and before.

There is a lot to like about this game. There is a lot of game here too and that might not be to everyone's taste.

I can something like the Ancestries, Heritages, and Backgrounds making their way to D&D proper. It is so useful and gives so much more customization that looking back it seems like a no-brainer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Review: DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

DragonQuest First Edition
I have a history with DragonQuest. Not a complicated one or even an interesting one, but history all the same.  Back in 83 or 84 or so I would head to Belobrajdic's Bookstore in my hometown every weekend. There I would get a new edition of Dragon or whatever sci-fi novel piqued my interest and then check out all the new RPG materials.  One I kept going back to time and time again was DragonQuest.  This was the 2nd Edition softcover and looked really different than anything I had played so far.  The barbarian proudly holds the severed head of a dragon. 

The game intrigued me so much. I flipped through it many times and even it got to the point that I annoyed the owner, Paula Belobrajdic, that she told me I should buy it.  In retrospect, I wish I had.  Though had I I likely would not have picked up the great-looking first edition boxed set next to me now.

My history with the first edition is not as long or as storied. I bought it a while back and it has sat on my shelves for a bit. I did do a character write-up last year, Phygor, for DragonQuest and I really liked how the character came it. 

For this month of D&D, I figure a look into the game that tempted me so much would be neat to look into.

DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

This game was published by SPI in 1980.  SPI had been a wargame publisher and decided to get into the RPG market. I am sure they were seeing their market share being eaten away by RPGs, and D&D in particular.  This is important since this game does feel very wargamey. This includes how the rules are presented and even how combat is run. While D&D/AD&D at this time was open to minis and terrain maps this game requires them. Or at least chits and the included maps. 

DragonQuest 1st Edition Boxed Set

The boxed set I have contains three soft-cover books. Some chits. Some ads, a comment card, and a tactical hex map.  My set does not have dice, but I also don't think it originally came with dice.  I added two d10s myself.

The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat
The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat

Our first book is the smaller of the three at 32 pages.  The format is three-column and the rules are all presented in "wargame" style.  So Adventure Rationale can be coded as II.1.A.1.  I won't be using this much but it does make it easy to find any rule. A little cumbersome at first and then it gets really easy. 

This was an interesting time. The Introduction (I.) and How to Play the Game (II.) don't spend a lot of time with the "This is a Roleplaying Game" and instead gets down to business. Requirements for play are discussed as well as Game Terms (III.).

We get into Character Generation (IV.) This is not a completely random affair as D&D was at the time.  You roll and get a pool of points. Though with a high number of points, your maximum is low, likewise a small amount in a point pool will give you a higher maximum.  The traits are Physical Strength, Agility, Magical Aptitude, Manual Dexterity, Endurance, Willpower, and Appearance. Scores are 5 to 25 for the human range.  So you roll a 4d5 (1d10/2) which will generate a score from 4 to 20.  Compare this to the table under 5.1. This table gives you your point pool (82 to 98) and a Group (A to G) These groups refer to the maximums. A = 25, B = 24 and G =19.-

There are even some rules for developing other types of abilities if the Game Master desires them. After this other details are figured out; Gender (or even genderless), handiness, human or non-human (such as Dwarf, Efl, Giant, Halfling, Orc or Shape-changer), various Aspects, and Heritages.  It can be a complex character system all for what is nominally an 18-year-old.   This all covers the first dozen pages.  There are no classes (rather famously so) and more to your character from the next books.

The last half+ of this book covers combat. All movement and combat is done on a hex grid, not a square one. Gives it an interesting twist and again a holdover of their wargame roots. Plenty of diagrams and examples are given. Combat rounds are 10 seconds and can be made up of an undefined increment of time called a Pulse. There are Strike Zones, Fire Zones, and all sorts of fun bits.  I am reminded of combat in D&D 3rd Edition here to be honest. 

Damage is an equally detailed affair with damage affecting Fatigue and Endurance. When Fatigue is 0 damage starts happening to Endurance, there is a similar idea here in D&D 4th edition. Maybe when TSR bought SPI DragonQuest didn't entirely disappear.  There is also Grievous injury which is much worse. 

Personally, I feel any D&D player could get a lot out of reading this combat section, at least give it a play-through once.  

The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic
The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic

Ask anyone that has ever played both DragonQuest and D&D about what sets the two games apart the most and you are likely to hear "Magic."  In 1980 DragonQuest took an approach to magic that would not be seen in other games until much later.  What made it different then? Three pretty good reasons. Mana, different kinds of spells, and Colleges.

Mana in DragonQuest fuels the magic an Adept can use. Spell casting can be tiring and there is never a guarantee that the spell will work. It could fail or backfire. Even when it works the target can be resistant to it.  And Adepts can never wear metal to top it all off. This notion is pretty commonplace now, but then it was new and exciting. I have lost track of how many "spell points" and "mana" systems I have seen applied to AD&D over the years and that is not counting systems like Mage and WitchCraft that use some form of Essence or Quintessence. Ass expected Magical Aptitude is important here, but so is Willpower and even Endurance. 

The different sorts of spells the adept has access to. Nearly every adept has access to at least one magical talent (I'll get to that). These talents can be thought of as a power that can always be used and they are related to the Adept's college.  Then there are "normal" spells. These are the most "D&D" like and each college has its own lists and there is very little crossover, though each college has something going for it. The limiting factors here are how many spells you know.  Finally, there are rituals. These are like spells that take longer, usually much longer, require more components but have a far better chance of success.  

I have talked a bit about them already, but DragonQuest's adepts learn their magic from distinct Colleges. There are twelve colleges: Ensorcelments & Enchantments, Sorceries of the Mind, Illusions, Naming Incantations, Earth Magics, Air Magics, Fire Magics, Water Magics, Celestial Magics, Black Magics, Necromancy, and Greater Summonings.  Each college has its own requirements.  After the college descriptions, we get [xx.1] restrictions, [xx.2] modifiers, [xx.3] Talents, [xx.4] Spells, [xx.6] General Rituals and [xx.7] Special Rituals.  There are 30 pages of these.

This should all sound familiar. AD&D 2nd adopted the college idea in their schools of magic; though there is more overlap in spells.  D&D 4th Ed gave us at-will, encounter, and daily spells that mimic this setup.  All have been recombined one way or the other in 5th Edition. Again, this was all brand new in 1980.

Also, something that flies in the face of all things of the 1980s is the last 25 pages. Here we get a listing of demons straight out of the Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon. Who they are and how to summon them. And the Christians were going after D&D. 

The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure
The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure

Overtly the Game Master's book. 

Skills can be roughly thought of as professions or even, dare I say it, classes. You get professional skills like Alchemist, Assassin, Astrology, Beast Master, Courtesan, Healer, Mechanician, Merchant, Military Scientist, Navigator, Ranger, Spy, Thief, and Troubador.  Each one is covered in detail along with what each profession allows the character to do. 

Each "profession" skill gets a listing [xx.1] to [xx.9] that covers what is needed to learn each skill (prereqs), what it does, and how it does it. For example, according to 53.1, a Beast Master must have a Willpower of at least 15. In 54.1 we learn that while Courtesans do not have minimum scores there is an XP penalty if they don't meet certain requirements (Dexterity, Agility, Physical Beauty) and a bonus if they have higher scores.   The back cover of this book gives the XP expenditure to go up a rank in each. 

Personally. I think this should have been part of the Characters' book.

The next section is all about Monsters. They are divided by like types. So all the primates, apes and pre-humans are in one section, cats in another, birds and avians, land mammals, aquatics and so on all get their own sections. Dragons get their own section, naturally, but wyverns are part of reptiles.  The usual suspects are all here, but not much more than that. There are however enough points of comparison that converting an AD&D monster to DragonQuest would be easy enough. There are some differences too. Nymphs have the lower half of a goat, like that of a satyr. Gnolls are dog-faced. Kobolds look like tiny old men, neither dog nor lizard-like, and tend towards good.  Medusa and Gorgons are the same creatures. Not much in the way of "new" monsters, even for 1980.

The last section covers Adventure. For a game that has such tactical wargame DNA, I expected a little more here, but I guess I am not surprised, to be honest. We also get a few tables.


There is so much packed into this box. I can really see why this game, more than 40 years later, still has such a following. While I lament that TSR (and by extension Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro) have let this IP fall into disuse, I do see where bits of it live on in nearly all the post-1990 (AD&D 2nd ed Ed in 1989 too) versions of D&D. Schools of magic, tactical battle movement, mini use, all of these became standard.  I can't say that all of these directly came from DragonQuest, but they are certainly all headed in the directions that DragonQuest started. 

My issue right now is not counting D&D and its various forms, editions, and offsprings, I have a lot of Fantasy RPGs.  Many of my favorites are more or less dead.

Dead Fantasy RPGs

They are all great fun but with DragonQuest I am right where I was back in 1984; It's a great-looking game, but no one around me is playing it.  If I Am going to play like it was 1984 I am going to pull AD&D 1st Ed off my shelf.

The obvious reason to choose one over the other is how well does it play? Well, DragonQuest is above and beyond many of the others in terms of rules and playability. Also as I mentioned there is a huge amount of online support, informal as it is. 

There is also the idea that with DragonQuest, and adding in SPI's Demons, I could create a fun demon summoning game.  But again I have to ask, can't I do this with D&D now?


Maybe DemonQuest is a game I could try out!

What are your thoughts and memories about this game? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Review: Xanathar's Guide to Everything (D&D 5e)

Xanathar's Guide to Everything (D&D 5e)
Less of a full review but more along the lines of reveiw/my thoughts on what was essentially the Unearthed Arcana of D&D 5th Edition.

Why this particular book now?  There are a few of the classes that I am considering back-porting over to B/X era D&D that my kids have expressed an interest in playing.  I may or may not post those.  They are not OGC and I have no plans to even "file the serial numbers off" to try an post them.  Sometime I do things just for me or for fun.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything

2017, Hardcover. 192 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. 

I called this book the "Unearthed Arcana" of D&D 5 and that is more or less on point. Much of the material here appeared in the pages of the online version of Unearthed Arcana.

The book has a wide variety of tools for Players and the DM and all are listed as being optional. This was published in 2017 so there is no hint here of anything that might be "5.5" or "5r" related.

The book is divided into an introduction, three chapters and two appendices.


This covers what the book is about, and its origins from the online Unearthed Arcana. Wizards of the Coast has worked to get the layout of their D&D 5th ed books to be one of clean efficiency.  Maybe not as much as say Necrotic Gnome has with OSE, but still really nice.  For example their Table of Contents fits on a single page.

We get a (tiny) bit of background on who Xanathar is. Not being a huge FR fan I did not know but figured it had to be the same beholder from the 1st Edition AD&D Waterdeep and the North.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

There is a page on "The Core Rules" which is really nice to have. There are ten rules that cover most situations.  These are all from the PHB and DMG, but nice to have them repeated here.

Chapter 1: Character Options

We start with a listing of the 31 new subclasses for the twelve base character classes.  Now before someone start screaming "rules bloat" these are not subclasses in the way that AD&D 1st Ed meant them.  These are archetypes of the main twelve classes. So for example the Cleric has the Life and War domains (among others) in the PHB now gains the Forge and Grave domains here.  Each subclass is tailored to the main class. So with Clerics they are "Domains" for Bards they are "Colleges" and Warlocks have "Pacts."   So they are more like the AD&D 2nd Edition Kits.  Both in good and bad ways. There is not much power creep yet. 

This chapter covers about 65 or so pages, so a third of the book. Each main class gets some details that worked for any subclass of that class (Bards get more instruments, clerics have more details on their temples for example). There are a lot of classes in this book. I am not going to get into every subclass here. But I would like to point out a few.

The Bard College of Swords is the spiritual descendent of the AD&D 2nd Bard kit known as the Blade; aka the moment I knew 2nd Ed Power Creep was happening.  The Blade Kit sucked. The fiction for it sucked and the NPC they used as their iconic Blade REALLY sucked. The College of Swords Bards are also called Blades. Their AD&D 2nd ed origins are very plain, BUT there is none of the power creep and thankfully the edgy NPC "Dark" is also gone.

Grave Domain Clerics are the other side of the coin of the Life Domain Clerics.  Where the Life Cleric (PHB) tries to preserve life, the Grave Domain Clerics make sure the dead stay at rest. They are the "good" option of the Death Domain Clerics (DMG).  Cleric Domains have their origin in 2nd Ed and were expanded greatly in 3rd Ed.

Fighters now have an Arcane Archer subclass (known as a Martial Archetype here). This is the 5e update of the 3rd Edition Prestige Class.   Monks (Monastic Traditions) get a Way of the Drunken Master and a Way of the Kensei. Paladins get new Oaths. Rangers get new Archetypes including the Gloom Stalker, a Ranger adept at working in dark places but my favorite is the Monster Slayer.  Rogues get the Mastermind and Scout Archetypes.

The Sorcerers are next.  Their subclasses are known as Arcane Origins, or essentially how you became a sorcerer. In addition to these are some tables on various supernatural marks (think witch mark) and other weirdness due to your bloodline. The one I wanted to convert is the Divine Soul. You have a bit of divinity in your blood.  I would convert these as a B/X Magic-user and allow them to have some free cleric spells based on their divine blood. Cure Light Wounds and Bless for Lawful for example.  Their Charisma would need to be high, like 14 and that would be their Prime Requisite ability too.  While they get the spell for free, they can only still cast it once per day. At the 14th level, they gain their Otherworldly Wings.  There is also the Shadow Magic Sorcerer. This feel like it is from the Shadowfell Player's book from 4e. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

Warlocks also get new marks and new invocations. There is a Celestial Pact for people that want to play "good" warlocks.  Before anyone dismisses this idea remember that Aleister Crowley had a pact with an angel he called Aiwass and believed was his personal guardian angel to who he made invocations to every day. 

Wizards have Arcane Traditions that more or less equated to "Schools of Magic."

The next section of this chapter covers a variety of character background ideas such as origins and life events with lots of random tables. Like an Old-School collection of random tables.  ALL of them are also perfectly adaptable for use in ANY version of D&D.  They remind me a lot of the tables from the 1st Ed AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  

There are some new racial feats, but unlike 3e or even 4e, 5e is not feat centric. You can even have a character that never takes a feat at all.  These are largely mechanical rule manifestations of possible background ideas.  Have weird eyes? Ok, you have weird eyes, jot it down on your sheet. Do these weird eyes do something special? Well, you might need to take a feat for that then.

Honestly, I did not see anything in this chapter that I could not easily convert to an earlier edition of and D&D. 

Chapter 2: Dungeon Master's Tools

This chapter covers a wide variety of topics but mostly expands on material already in the DMG. Topics like Falling, Sleep, Tying Knots, Adamantine Weapons, and Tool Proficiencies are all discussed. Lots of tools. 

Spellcasting gets a bit of special treatment here. The area of effects on a grid is detailed. d6s are used as visual aids to show how to set up on a grid. 

Some more detail on building monster encounters is also discussed, including single and multiple different types of monsters. There is an eye towards balance, but there is no requirement to do so. The only real advice is "avoid monsters that can drop a character in a single hit."  I have seen more than a few TPKs in D&D 5e. 

Again we are treated to what I can only describe as pages of old-school-style random encounter tables. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

There is also a section on Traps that while not quite as gleeful as a Grimtooth product, will still make that Chaotic Evil DM smile. How much?  One trap has a save DC of 20 and does 24d10 damage.

There is a discussion on downtime and the reason why my youngest bought this book, magic item creation rules. More magic items are also detailed.

Chapter 3: Spells

This last full chapter covers new spells. About 30 pages worth. The spell economy of 5e is different. There are no Cure Light Wounds, Cure Moderate Wounds, and Cure Serious Wounds spells for example. There is only Cure Wounds and it is a low-level spell for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Rangers.  IF you want a more powerful version you cast it at a higher spell level. So instead of a 1st level spell, it is treated as a 5th level spell for example. This means less print space is needed for spells. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

Appendix A: Shared Campaign

This covers working on interlinked campaigns and working details out.  Not everything you need to know is here, some more could have been written, but it is a great start.

Appendix B: Character Names

This section is just tables and tables of names. Various cultures (English, French, Egyptian, and more) as well as other nonhuman ones ( Elf, Dwarf, Dragonborn, and more).  The nonhuman includes a personal name and a family or clan name as well.  I did notice that two Tieflings from "Brimstone Angels," Farideh and Havilar, are listed under the Dragonborn names.  Why? Well their adoptive father Mehen (51-52 on a d100) was a Dragonborn so he gave them Dragonborn names. 

So. I picked up this book for the various subclasses, but found a wealth here for many of my other D&D games.

I would say that most of this book is easily adaptable to any version of D&D you choose to try it with.  The exception might be 4e. There are some seriously interlinked mechanics there.

Xanathar's did quite well for a splat book and was even listed as one of Publisher's Weekly best-selling books for December of 2017

Despite his name and picture on the cover there is not a lot of material on Xanathar himself outside of the sidebars.  Wizards would later do a much better job with Tasha in her book.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything covers

The art is amazing as to be expected.  The layout is a step up from the Core Rules and shows what the design team has learned in the last few years.

You can see bits and pieces of D&D's DNA from all editions here, though this is largely true for 5th edition in general. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Review: Traveller and Cepheus SRDs

Cepheus Engine RPG
Ok. I will be honest this is much less of a review than it is an overview/analysis of the various Traveller and Traveller like SRDs and OGLs. 

Mongoose SRD

Mongoose, back in 2008 released the first version of their Traveller RPG and a version of a Traveller SRD with an Open Gaming License. This covered their First Edition game.  Later they updated it 2nd Edition.  At some point (I am not sure when really) they also created the High Guard System Reference Document and Mercenary System Reference Document.  This covers an awful lot of Traveller. 

My understanding is there is a Compatibility License though I did not find any details on it, but that is fine.

Much like the d20 SRD there are a few different copies out there.  These are the ones I have referenced the most often.

Cepheus Deluxe
Cepheus SRD / Engine

Back in 2016 Jason Kemp released the Cepheus SRD which emulated Traveller. Personally, from a game design point of view, I rather like it.  He took the Mongoose Traveller SRD and then did something I really like, he took other SRDs to get the desired effect.  Here are the various SRDs from his Section 15 of the OGL of the Cepheus Engine RPG:

Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

High Guard System Reference Document Copyright ©2008, Mongoose Publishing. Mercenary System Reference Document Copyright © 2008, Mongoose Publishing.

Modern System Reference Document Copyright 2002- 2004, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Bill Slavicsek, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, Charles Ryan, Eric Cagle, David Noonan, Stan!, Christopher Perkins, Rodney Thompson, and JD Wiker, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Richard Baker, Peter Adkison, Bruce R. Cordell, John Tynes, Andy Collins, and JD Wiker.

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, Copyright 2008, Matthew J. Finch

System Reference Document, Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

System Reference Document Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich Baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, John D. Rateliff, Thomas Reid, James Wyatt, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

T20 - The Traveller’s Handbook Copyright 2002, Quiklink Interactive, Inc. Traveller is a trademark of Far Future Enterprises and is used under license.

Traveller System Reference Document Copyright © 2008, Mongoose Publishing. Traveller is © 2008 Mongoose Publishing. Traveller and related logos, character, names, and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Far Future Enterprises unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Mongoose Publishing Ltd Authorized User.

Cepheus Engine System Reference Document, Copyright ©2016 Samardan Press; Author Jason “Flynn” Kemp

He also used the T20 and Modern d20 OGC for this. Very clever.

This was released as the Cepheus Engine RPG in 2017. It is a complete RPG, but still mostly an SRD in an RPG cover. That is fine since it's goal is not to be a game but to be a resource to make material for other games.  To continue my rather awkward D&D analogy this is all 100% OSRIC; both in form and function.

In 2021 Stellagama Publishing released the Cepheus Deluxe RPG.  Which is an RPG based on the Cepheus Engine.  Extending the analogy further to point of self-referencing, this is the Swords & Wizardry of Traveller. At least in function.  

Of these, I have the Cepheus Deluxe in POD and it compares favorably to the OSR offerings for the D&D clones. It also compares well to the Classic Traveller line.

Cepheus and Traveller Print on Demand

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Review: Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition (2016, 2022)

Traveller 2022 Edition
We are coming to the end of my journey with the Traveller rule system. Not 100% at the end, but getting there.   Today I want to talk about the newest, 2nd Edition of Mongoose Traveller.  This edition is an update to the Mongoose Traveller from 2008. Again it coexists with the T5 Traveller from Far Future Enterprises I reviewed yesterday.  The only thing I can liken it to is the coexistence of D&D 4e and Pathfinder 1st Edition. Though which one is which is a matter of opinion.

Traveller 2nd Edition was first released in 2016.  A revised update was released in 2021 and called the "2022 Edition."  Both are the same rules though the 2022 update has a few improvements in layout and editing.  For this review I am just going to consider the 2022 version and notes from the 2016 version. 

Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022

PDF. 266 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. Bookmarked and hyperlinks table of contents. 

Traveller is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. We live in time where old-school games are really popular, sci-fi is having a new golden age (have you seen all the Star Treks we now have?) and Traveller is riding that wave.  The new Traveller is best seller on DriveThru with the 2016 version a Mithral bestseller and the 2022 version a Platinum bestseller as of this writing.  I also know my FLGS sells the books hand over fist. One of the reasons I wanted to do my deep dive into Traveller now was because of all of this.

So how is the 2022 Edition?

In a word it is gorgeous.  

Mongoose, back in the early d20 boom, earned a bit of a reputation of a "spaghetti publisher" as in "throw a plate of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks."  As time went on their reputation improved. These days they get a lot of credit for not just having solid books, but also serving the d20 bust.  Though some less than perfect editing sneaks in. The 2016 edition seemed to have this problem; at least that is what I have read online.  Both books had high-quality color art, there are some pieces in the 2016 edition I actually like a little better, but in general, I am pretty happy with what I see.  Happy enough to wish I had grabbed the physical books when I was last at my FLGS. 

What about the rules?

The book is similar in many ways to Mongoose 1st Edition, but enough differences in layout and organization.  For the first time, the designer did NOT try to invoke the feeling of old Classic Traveller.  This is a GOOD thing.  To attract new players they needed to make this a new game.


This covers the various reasons why you might want to play Traveller and the different ways to play. I was hoping that among the examples of Star Trek and Starship Trooper they would include the most British of all Traveller shows, "Blake's 7." Which always was my goto example. 

There are some suggested books to read such as Traveller Companion, High Guard, The Third Imperium, and more.  I don't have those so I can't comment on them here.  What it does tell me that this version of Traveller is set in the Third Imperium. So that is something to look forward too. 

We get some game and dice conventions and descriptions of the Tech Levels.

Traveller Creation

Character creation is next as expected. This follows much along the lines of all Traveller versions. You roll your six abilities/characteristics.  We are back to our standard six from Classic Traveller with the same point spread and averages. The CCP is still here too.

You pick your background skills and then move to the next phase. There are good flow charts for character creation and the character sheet is annotated.  You go into your pre-career (aka school) and then move to your career. 

Like the first edition, careers are laid out with face pages so everything you need for a career is at a glance.

Traveller Navy

This is quite helpful really.  The careers supported in this core rules are Agent, Army, Citizen, Drifter, Entertainer, Marine, Merchant, Navy, Noble, Rouge, Scholar, and Scout.  There is an extra "career" that of Prisoner. Possibly to do that epic Stainless Steel Rat or Farscape adventure.

Various benefits and of course mishaps occur, leaving you with extra cash, some property or medical debt. 

There are some Skill Packages now.  There is a push here to get all the players and characters working to gether to make sure there is cohesion. 

We then get some examples of Alien species. The Aslan and the Vargr. 

Skills and Tasks

This chapter is combined as it really should be.  The system is basic which is what you want.  The character rolls a 2d6 and need to get greater than an 8 to succeed.  There are various Die Modifiers added and the Target number (the "8") can be be altered depending on the task difficulty. There are example throughout which works well.  An "Impossible Task" for example would require 16 or more rolled on the check.  There are also levels of success and failure. So if the roll is missed by -6 that is an "Exceptional Failure."  A roll of 6+ over the target number is an "Exceptional Success."

The amount of time spent on a skill check can alter the results and there are opposed checks as well. 

The rest of the chapter covers all the skills, their specialities and descriptions.


Combat is a always separate and it is a special case of a skill check.  What I do like about this system is that combat can rely on STR or DEX as appropriate and is not hard-coded like say D&D. For example Initiative can be modified by DEX or INT.

The combat phase is broken down into Significant, Minor, and Free actions.  You can do one Significant and one minor action per round or three minor actions.  You can perform anynumber of Reactions or Free Actions as permitted. What can be done in these actions is detailed. Attacking an opponent is Significant action, as is giving orders (Leadership). Minor actions are things like aiming, reloading, changing stance. 

Damage is discussed and it is very deadly.  

Encounters and Dangers

This combined the old Encounters and Animal Encounters chapters of Classic-era Travellers. There are all sorts of environmental dangers, diseases, high and low gravity situations, radiation, falling and so much more. Hmmm. Maybe best just to stay on your homeworld.  To quote Leonard McCoy from the 2009 Star Trek movie "Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence."

Animals are discussed and even a few examples are given. 

NPCs are also presented with the ubiquitous d66 tables of quirks, motivations and more that Traveller fans love. 


Covers the economy briefly and plenty of things to spend your precious few credits on. The list here is not highly different.  What is different here is the new level of art added to the lists.  Descriptions of arms and armor are paired with great color art of these items.  More than that there are tech items, medical equipment, computers, and survival gear.  Various toolkits are also described such as Planetary Sciences and Psionicology Toolkits.

And of course guns.

Freaking Lasers

Each bit of equipment comes with a TL rating.


Cover most moveable craft that are not Starships. Each one gets a TL rating, an associated skill needed to operate, speed factors, crew/pilot and of course cost. Nothing is free in the Imperium. 

Spacecraft Operations

A mostly alphabetical listing of everything (mostly everything) that can go on in a ship. 

Space Combat

Similar to other versions and the combat chapter above. This details how ships can fight including movement, targeting, and firing phases. Along with damage and reactions.  The chapter is not large but remarkably detailed.

Spacecraft Construction

I think I would have put this chapter before combat.  Mayb put combat after Common Spacecraft.

Distinctions are made between interplanetary and interstellar spacecraft.  Like character creation, there is a helpful flowchart. 

Common Spacecraft

I rather love this chapter. This lists all sorts of spaceships with their details and a full color picture and some deck plans. This is also laid out so many of the ships have all their details on the facing pages. 

Free Trader

Many of these ships are found in previous versions of Traveller too. So it adds a nice bit of continuity to it all. 


Stuck near the end is psionics again. There are talents and powers and the Psion Career.  I have always liked the Psionic powers section in Traveller, but this one really makes me want to play one.  The Careers are all numbered 1 through 12 with the "Prisoner" at 13 (Navy for example is 8).  The Psion career is appropriately numbered "X."


Covers basic trade between the worlds/systems/colonies.  There is a huge d66 list of Trade Goods to be used by Referees. 

World and Universe Creation

This chapter feels more like Classic Traveller than the others. Sadly no equations to apease the math geek in me but a lot of information all the same. The section is not huge and I a sure there are additional books for more worlds out there.  But there is enough here to get you started.


The index is comprehensive and hyperlinked.

Unlike previous versions of Traveller there is no included adventure here.


Ok. What can we say here at the end?  Or in other words who should buy this Traveller and what does it have over other Editions/Versions?

Who Should Buy This?

Much like D&D is synomous with Fantasy Roleplaying, Traveller is synomous with SciFi Roleplaying.  IF you want to try science fiction out then for me the obvious first step is to see what Traveller is doing.

Traveller 2nd Ed 2016 vs. 2022

Both corebooks are still on the market now.  They are the same system.  I have both and while the rules are largely the same the organization of the 2022 version is much better.

Classic Traveller vs. Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition

Ah. The old-school vs. new-school debate. We live in a time where not only you can get new Traveller in print you can get old Traveller in print as well.  Which one should you play?  I think the choice comes down to experiences.  Both games really let you play the same game. Both games are fun. Both games take on some basic assumptions but largely leave the rest of the universe to your imaginations.

IF you started with any version of Traveller and enjoy that, then stick with that, but certainly check this one out.  IF you have never played any version of Traveller before then the Mongoose 2nd Edition, 2022 version is the one to get.  You can buy it at DriveThruRPG or your FLGS.

Mongoose Traveller vs. FFE Traveller

We owe a lot to Far Future Enterprises for getting all the Traveller books from 1977 up to today scanned and added as a PDF to both their website and to DriveThruRPG.  That is a huge debt we owe them.  However, I can't exactly recommend Traveller 5 over Mongoose's version. There might be content in the FFE Traveller 5 that I could port over. But I think to show my appreciation for what they have done, I'll keep buying the older Traveller materials.

In the end, for me, Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition is, right now, the best Traveller I can buy. 

I'll make an effort to grab a print version the next time I am at my FLGS.  Right now there is no Print on Demand version for the 2022 edition.

This would be the nominal end of my Traveller reviews, but not so fast. There is still a THIRD way to play "Traveller" that is active and in print today.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Review: T5 Traveller5 Core Rules 3-Book Set (2015)

T5 Traveller5 Core Rules 3-Book Set
We are entering a strange time now. There are now two editions of Traveller on the market, the Mongoose version and now, in 2015, a new version from Far Future Enterprises, the inheritor of Game Designers' Workshop intellectual properties.  This one is designed to be a new edition of the Traveller 4 edition and thus an "unbroken line" from Classic Traveller.

I have the Traveller 5.09 version I grabbed from Far Future Enterprises and the 5.10 version from DriveThruRPG.  For the purposes of this review, I am going to be considering the 5.10 version.

T5 Traveller5 Core Rules 3-Book Set

As with Classic Traveller, this version is split up into three books.  They are not little, and the covers are not included, but they do have the same names.  So that is fine.

Each book has a comprehensive table of contents of all three books.  

Book 1: Characters and Combat

PDF. 208 pages, black & white and color interior art. 

Starting out this has a different feel than other versions.   We start with the the typical "What is a Roleplaying Game" bits and "What is Traveller" under the Traveller is a Role-Playing Game section with an example of play. What follows is a bit on the Galaxy (weird to see how little of it is charted in Traveller), A Brief History of the Universe, and The Foundations of the Universe.  The feel here is one of situating the characters in the Traveller Universe first as opposed to having the character operating in the universe as Classic Traveller does.  Thematically (not rule-wise) this makes it a bit closer to MegaTraveller.  

Traveller Uses Dice takes us back to the real world.  There seems to be some new dice mechanics being introduced here in the form of "Flux Rolls." We get bits on Money, Ranges, and Humanity.  I have to admit I admit I am not liking the organization so far.  The topics seem to come at random. 

Ok. We finally get to a chapter Characters are the Central Focus of Traveller, but not till page 46. 

Characters still have the same six basic characteristics/abilities but there are an additional two added, Psions (Psi) and Sanity. Then there are another eight that are also used that are combinations of the regular six. I can't help but feel that something that was elegant is not needlessly complicated. 

Eleven pages later we get to Characters and Careers. This covers the careers that we see in many versions of Traveller.  I do like the art on the various medals a character can get while in the service, nice touch.  The careers are comparable to previous versions.  Each carrier gets a single page of detail which is nice really, print it out and staple it to your character sheet card. There are also many tables for backgrounds.

There is a new section on Genetics. There are some lists and diagrams for family trees (genetic trees) but I am not seeing the in-game application to this yet.  I guess if your character is genetically modified this would be good. Sections on Chimeras, Synthetic Lifeforms, and Clones follow. 

Tasks are next and deal with how you do things in Traveller.  We are back to a Roll Under task resolution.  A few pages discussing how tasks are determined with an example of three character with low, medium and high dexterity. 

Skills is introduced with a Master Skill list, though "Massive Skill List" would also be appropriate. There are a lot of skills here.  Skills and their descriptions take up the next 40 pages.

Equipment is given the acronym QREBS for Quality, Reliability, Ease, Bulk/Burden, and Safety. 

We jump back to character focus with Intuitions, Personals, and The Senses. 

We get to the second half of the title 2/3 of the way into the book. Combat. Up first is Personal Combat. This covers all sorts of types of combat, conditions, environment, movement, and more. There is even an example of combat between two groups of five combatants. This is good, because I still have no real good notion of how combat works in this system. This follows by a list of weapons.

Dice is next and covers all the rolls for 1D to 10D and the Flux die.  Look I have a Master's degree in Stats, I like math, I like numbers. But this feels needlessly complicated to me. 

The book ends in an Index (but hyperlinks and the PDF is not bookmarked).

Book 2: Starships

PDF. 304 pages, black & white and color interior art. 

One of the things I love about Traveller has been their starship-building rules. It's like character building and I don't feel bad about min-maxing or even meta-gaming it.  

We start out with the basic anatomy of a stellar hex grid. Ok, that is useful. This introduced us to the section on Star Systems. We get some brief overviews of systems and some helpful charts and tables to describe them.  This is followed by Star Ports (places to go in the system) where the adventures usually begin.

Starships are next and cover all sorts of starships. The same sorts of details are here as in other versions of Traveller. I would need the rules side by side to see the differences, but it feels more like Traveller T4 than anything.  Lots of color art for the various types of ships are a nice touch.  Our old friend the Beowulf-class Free Trader is present. 

Starship Design and Construction covers how to build and pay for these ships.   All of this is recorded on the Ship Card, like a character sheet for ships. This is a feature that goes back to the beginning. 

Maneuvering is next, or how your ship is a ship and not a space station. This includes interplanetary travel.  Jump covers interstellar travel. 

Plenty of sections on how Power, Sensors, Weapons, Defenses, Fuel, and Space Combat work. Far more detail than I recall in any version of Traveller so far.

Trade and Commerce Between the Stars section is next. Traveller is built on the reality that goods and people need to move between the starts and there is an economy based on that. 

Technology and Tech Levels are discussed in detail. Followed by Lifespans of intelligent species (why wasn't this in Book 1?), Interstellar Communities, Computers, and Robots.

This book was a bit better organized than Book 1, up till the end that is.

Book 3: Worlds and Adventures

PDF. 304 pages, black & white and color interior art. 

This covers Worlds and Systems.  It seems that some of the System material from Book2 would have been better here. 

If Book 1 creates characters, and Book 2 creates Starships, then Book 3 creates worlds and systems. Again pretty detailed with charts and graphs galore. This covers the first 94 pages or so.

Makers or building things run the next 80 odd pages.  Seems like this should have been in book 2. 

Special Circumstances are next for the next 70 pages.  This includes Psionics. This covers psionic characters and their powers. This also covers the Zhodani.  

There is an interesting sub-section on Sophonts, or intelligent non-humans.  Again, this would have been better served in Book 1 I think, but I do see why it is here. 

We don't get to Adventuring until page 270 and then it is only 10 pages. Very underserved in my mind.

Each book ends with book specific Appendicies and Indexes.


So. 816 pages of PDF rules for Traveller 5.10.  (FYI my Traveller 5.09 weighs in at 760 pages).

What do I know?  Well. This version of Traveller is an interesting view of divergent evolution.  In 2015 to 2019 (and still) there are two in print, live versions of Traveller out there. Traveller 5 and Mongoose Traveller.  Both have the same ancestor, Classic Traveller, but each went on a different path.

Classic Traveller Mongoose Traveller Traveller 5

We also live in a world now where ALL versions of Traveller are easily available in PDF, Print, and POD versions. 

Given all of this, I just can't see myself playing Traveller 5. There is a LOT here I can see myself using though.  I do not regret buying it at all. Far from it. I think my goal here is to grab anything I can find that is useful that is still roughly compatible with the Classic Traveller Core.  

My issues with Traveller 5 are largely from the organization of the material and the over-complication of the rules.  I am not a fan of roll-under systems, but I can get over that for the right game. 

I give Far Future Enterprises credit for trying to expand the game in a new direction, it's just a direction I am interested in going in these days. At nearly $45 for three (four if you count the "Read me" pdf, which I don't) PDFs and no POD option is a bit rich for most people's blood. 

Still, I am a perpetual sucker for the sunk cost fallacy, so I am always looking for an excuse to use all my books. 

BTW: This is also my 5,000th post here at the Other Side!