OneD&D: Hot Takes on the Upcoming Non-Edition

The internet and his mother all seem to have an opinion on the latest “D&DNext” iteration – from hoary old grognards comparing it to 2e to players who’ve only ever known 5e reacting angrily at their first encounter with edition wars. And, as with everything on the internet, there seems to be a lot of nonsense being spoken. So, here’s why I think some of those hot takes are going to be, in the words of the Grognards, bobbins. Stay with me while I unpack 5 myths about the latest D&D.

“It’s just a money-making scam!”

Probably not this like this one

Oh my sweet summer child. How do you think Call of Cthulhu got to 6th edition before changing any of the rules? In an industry where it’s pretty tricky to make money, refreshing the product with a new edition is a tale as old as time. Yes, it’s an opportunity for Wizards to make yet more money, but so is everything they do – until the revolution and the socialist TTRPG republic gets formed, selling rules, books, and bumf is what makes the industry exist and bring new shiny product to us.

They’ve waited a long time for this too – 5e will last unchanged for 10 years, and 1st ed. AD&D only lasted 12 before 2e came out (and time was different back then in those days of black and white TVs, so I’m told by my elders). Yes, inevitably there is a business model behind this creative decision, but there is with everything.

“D&D Beyond will spell ruin for local game stores / the print medium / other TTRPGs”

A lot of comments from older gamers on the integration of D&D Beyond miss an important fact – D&D Beyond was already super integrated into the hobby before Wizards acquired it. Go down to your local Geek Retreat and you’ll find keeping your PC on D&D Beyond, and using it to level up, is a standard tool used by players. 

I’m with the grognards in that I like to do my own maths and workings out, and prefer a pencil to a spreadsheet for my character sheet – but the additional integration they are promising is nothing new, and will not be an industry-changing development. If you want to run a published D&D adventure on a VTT, you’d be paying for the pack anyway – this will just add extra integration. Which brings us on to…

“The 3D VTT will spell ruin for all other VTTs / online play in general”

Definitely not like this one

My take on the 3D VTT that’s being talked about is that I expect it won’t be very good, but even putting that aside, the VTT market is hardly somewhere where a new competitor is likely to push everyone else aside. From super-simple systems like Owlbear Rodeo, to brain-achingly nerdy options like Foundry (Roll20 sits in the happy middle ground for me), there’s a wide range of options, and new things being added all the time.

I don’t think the new VTT will be a hit, by the way, because I just don’t think there’s the appetite for a 3D image of the game. A lot of play takes place in theatre of the mind, and D&D’s biggest public image representative, Critical Role, aren’t often counting squares and having 4e-style battlefield fights anyway – I expect a significant proportion of D&D play is theatre of the mind, which will have no interest in this.

Now, there is a scenario where support for D&D drops from Roll20 and the other platforms, but that won’t happen, because the OGL stuff will still be there. DMs Guild is too big a part of Wizards offering for them to let it drop, and the ongoing support it offers for some of its books.

“All my old books will be obsolete”

Okay, this is what a new edition does, right? The PHB, DMG, MM will all be replaced (although I think there’s a fair chance that the more recent designs in Monsters of the Multiverse and other publications have been explicitly designed to be fully compatible)… and they’ve said that other sourcebooks will be backwards compatible. Now, I see commenters doubting this, and suggesting a bit of work might still need to be done, but on the other hand…

Every edition of D&D is backwards compatible. Converting a 1st ed adventure to 5e involves replacing the monsters and traps with their new stats, and… that’s it. As I’d always strongly recommend checking and tweaking the monsters and traps in 5e published adventures (as some are very weirdly balanced), this really isn’t a big deal.

“This isn’t my game anymore! They’ve added tieflings with elf ears and pronouns to the core races…”

Oh shut up. Too right it’s not your game anymore – it never was, anyway. Go and cry about Thaco the Clown somewhere else.

So, I hope that clarifies what I confidently predict won’t happen with OneD&D; watch this space as in a couple of years I may well have egg on my face from this, when you’re reading this on an archived .pdf file within D&D Beyond where all TTRPG blogs now have to hosted. What do you think? Personally, everything I’ve read – including the playtest stuff they are releasing gradually – tells me OneD&D will be good. I doubt it’ll become my best version of D&D ever (13th Age is still there), but, like 5e, I expect a decent system that’s sure to be well-supported with some great stuff. So let’s see.

Running Games At Conventions

We are well into the RPG convention season – a big range of residential cons and one-day meetups are happening, and the schedule seems to be recovering well in the aftermath of Covid restrictions. It’s over 5 years since I first posted about running at conventions, so I thought I’d revisit this, more focussed now on the convention as a whole rather than individual games.

While you’re reading this, I should tell you about my Patreon. Patrons get access to content 7 days before they hit this site, the chance to request articles or content, and the chance to play in one-shot games, for a very reasonable backer level of £2 per month. If you like what you read, want to support the blog, and have the funds for it, please consider supporting here. Telling people about the blog, and sharing links/retweeting is much appreciated also – thanks!

I’m talking here about going beyond just running one or two games at meetups or cons, to being an actual ‘convention GM’ – running multiple games at events, and being a part of delivering the experience of conventions. If you want to do this, here are some tips.

Go To Multiple Conventions

Don’t just restrict yourself to the one meetup – explore online options, too. To get better at convention GMing, you need to practise it, so make a commitment to some conventions and book some games in. Don’t just think of the bigger face-to-face conventions (in fact, these can sometimes be frustrating to GM at) – look at online options and small local one-day cons as well. 

Play (At Least) As Much As You Run

Time was when some convention GMs would sign up to run every slot. You still see this model encouraged by some big cons – UK Games Expo offers free accommodation to GMs who complete such a punishing schedule of GMing. Running every slot is a terrible idea. Conventions shouldn’t be supporting it – I’d be happier if they had a limit on how much one person can GM. Play convention games at the same time, and use this time to research and craft how to run your games.

Run Games More Than Once

As you might think from the name of the blog, I used to just run my convention games once. I happily avoid that now – I have plastic folders filled with prep notes ready to run that I can pull out and revisit for a pickup game with minimal prep. If you’ve got pregens, consider laminating them if you want to use them again to save printing again, and buy some cheap dry wipe markers for players to use. If you’re thinking you’ll run a game multiple times, consider this in your prep and think about multiple means of resolution to keep it interesting for you as well.

One Game A Day

I’d go further than the above and say that one game per day is the standard, baseline you should be aiming for if you want to be a con GM. It’s what I try to stick to, and it helps keep all of those games fresh and perky, and you won’t lose your voice. I occasionally get carried away and make exceptions (running 6 games out of 10 at The Kraken was the result of offering additional games at the event, and even then I did duplicate some systems and prep), but I always regret it if I end up running two games in a day.

Run Parallel / Linked Games

As well as running games multiple times, you can make things easier for yourself by running the same (or similar) systems multiple times. I’ve offered, for instance, three 13th Age games before – which helped me get the system internalised really easily. You can also re-use pregens, and even if you get the same players this will be as much a feature as a bug as they get to see what another character plays like. Again, laminating these is a good move.

So, some tips for convention GMing to step up to being a regular. Conventions need GMs, and it’s great to get more people stepping up to run regularly. Is there any other advice you’d give, or concerns? Let me know.

Temporarily Living, Breathing NPCs – A Deep Dive of Shadows Over Bogenhafen, Part 2

As I talked about here, I’m committing to only reviewing RPG products I’ve actually used – so, run or played – and in Part 1 I talked about how I ran and adapted the second half of the first part of the classic WFRP Enemy Within campaign. If you’re interested in the first half of the first part, you’ll want to look at my deep dive of Mistaken Identity here and here. In this part, I’m going to more generally review the adventure, and see what gems we can steal for our own games from it. It’s in Enemy in Shadows, and is available from Cubicle 7 here.

While you’re reading this, I should tell you about my Patreon. Patrons get access to content 7 days before they hit this site, the chance to request articles or content, and the chance to play in one-shot games, for a very reasonable backer level of £2 per month. If you like what you read, want to support the blog, and have the funds for it, please consider supporting here. Telling people about the blog, and sharing links/retweeting is much appreciated also – thanks!

As with Part 1, below is full of spoilers – if you’re still wanting to play it “fresh,” 35+ years after it was first published, you might want to look away now!

This is, as you’d expect, a well presented adventure – and generally organised well to run it. I did find it a bit of an ovelarge sandbox to work with – as the adventure basically gives you access to the entire city to ask around – but every other section was relatively simple to parse and deliver at the table.

There Are Some Old-School Roadblocks

There’s a couple of structural things that stood out for me that I altered. The whole investigation segment relies on the PCs, after lengthy legwork, hitting a brick wall, and Magerius telling them everything that they’ve been trying to find out. This is weak, and I let my players have a shot at sneaking into the council meeting themselves to find out first hand – a shot that they singularly failed to succeed at, but a shot nonetheless. 

Similarly, when they disturb the Cult of Ranald, as written there’s a weird no-roll-to-prevent bit about being ambushed and tied up, which again is weak, and entirely unnecessary – the Cult are ideal allies later in the adventure. So, again, I took this out. The summoning circle in the sewers has an undetectable (and unopenable) secret door, and an odd roadblock to find where in the city it actually is, which I wasn’t able to find a way around – other than by making sure they had plenty of other leads to pursue when they got back to the surface.

There’s the odd other bit – like the goblin escaping with no roll possible to stop him – I can live with that as a plot necessity to kick the adventure off – but there are points where this adventure shows its age a bit. Indeed, the scene-by-scene progression which started in Mistaken Identity when they were literally point-crawling (or sometimes pub-crawling) along a sequence of encounters makes the loose sandboxing of the exploration segment sit oddly.

Great NPCs – While They Last

As with Mistaken Identity, there’s some great NPCs in here, sketched out well and fun to play at the table. This feels like a living, breathing world; except that many of those NPCs don’t breathe for too long after the PCs meet them. It’s a slight exaggeration to say that everyone dies shortly after encountering the players… but almost everyone does, which gives a grimdark edge that isn’t far from farce at the table. I tried to make sure that some plot-adjacent NPCs survived, just to give some continuity from game to game, but didn’t always manage.

Friedrich Magerius, a deus ex machina clue machine (deceased, obviously)

A Good Sewer Dungeon!

It’s a cliche now, but fighting rats in the sewers really is fun. There’s a plot reason for the sewers to be dangerous (the council has stopped the watch going there so they don’t find their summoning circle), and the sewers feel genuinely alien and weird – while still very close to the city, which as already established, is plenty dangerous enough on its own. 

Fighting a man-sized rat while knee-deep in effluent felt really desperate and dangerous at the table, in part because of the shadow of the disease rules hanging over the players. And encountering the Cult of Ranald’s cellar – and in fact the summoning circle – reinforced that the PCs were very close to the hustling, bustling, dangerous city above them.

Why Stay in Bogenhafen?

Given that Mistaken Identity ends with the PCs being nearly killed by a witch hunter and then saved by a ravening demon of Tzeentch, it’s not entirely clear why they’d want to stick around or poke their heads up investigating stuff around the town. While my players responded well to the expectation that the adventure’s name is Shadows Over Bogenhafen, not Shadows over Weissbruck, there was a bit of dissonance reported from them, with some commenting that even Altdorf felt safer. And they were really scared in Altdorf.

Overall, it’s a good adventure that has just about stood the test of time. I didn’t make as much use of the Grognard Boxes as I did in Mistaken Identity, mainly because they didn’t seem to address the problems I saw in the ways I wanted to, but it ran smoothly and came to a satisfying conclusion. We’ll be revisiting Death on the Reik next year, with a plan to do the whole adventure – so look forward to those write-ups!

Have you run or played Shadows Over Bogenhafen? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.