Monday, 23 April 2018

Thoughts about using 5th edition D&D in Glorantha

13th Age in Glorantha
On Saturday I played in a game of Adventures in Middle-earth which got me thinking about whether it would be possible to run a 5e Dungeons and Dragons game in Glorantha. I've managed to umpire a semi-successful game in Glorantha using Monte Cook's Cypher system, which went well, but if I have one criticism of the Cypher system, it is the important role played by the cyphers themselves, and how they might be harder to wedge into the kind of Glorantha game I had in mind.

D&D 5.0 has the advantage of being quite simple and flexible and thus easier to adapt to other settings and ways of playing. There are some things I still don't like about it - for example, the relationship between inspiration and backgrounds, which seems to fall by the wayside more often than not - i.e. it can reasonably be ignored by players in the heat of game play, leaving one to question what it's there for in the first place.

13th Age in Glorantha

I have turned to the pages of 13th Age in Glorantha, which I backed on Kickstarter, and which I now have in PDF, although it is not clear when the hard copy will arrive. A revised version of the PDF was only issued to backers at the start of this month. Still, the game is interesting in that it seeks to blend 13th Age with the Glorantha setting. It is quite specific in this, creating a series of brand new classes for 13th Age, some of which are highly complex, with the Earth Priestess taking the biscuit here.

In 13th Age each class is almost a mini game unto itself. Some, like the Barbarian, are relatively simple to play, but others, like the Rogue, require quite a bit of concentration to get right and to properly optimise. On top of this 13th Age has some of its inspiration from 4e D&D, and that game's stress on set piece combat encounters. This can lead to a situation where you are faced with the prospect of an armed encounter with 30-40 minutes left in a game session and decide that it would be better to finish early rather than break out the miniatures for another epic contest.

Talislanta - the Savage Land

Talislanta - the Savage Land
5e has the advantage of streamlining battles somewhat. Going further, however, I also received a copy of the new edition of Talislanta - the Savage Land in PDF recently. I've received the 5e version, although other versions are being published for Savage Worlds and D6 Fantasy. Talislanta has some additional interesting mechanics for 5e. First of all, it has rules for building and managing a tribe. The game uses a very post-apocalyptic setting, where a civilization built by a race of sorcerers has collapsed, leaving the races they created / enslaved to squabble over the ruins.

Talislanta has many races for players to choose from, more than your traditional D&D setting, although none of the traditional D&D races are here. The great thing is that even if each player in your group takes a different race, you'll still have plenty of opposition to draw on from the other races they didn't pick. There is no need in Talislanta for goblins or orcs to make up the sword fodder. But Talislanta also argues that, rather than opt for the classes in D&D, players can use a basic profile and then build their characters by selecting a range of abilities. As they advance, they add more abilities. Ultimately you drop the whole D&D class restrictions entirely.

Revolutionary, eh? This got me thinking about an alternative approach to d20 Glorantha, whereby the players start off with a basic profile and can then add abilities from a list defined by level. Some abilities can be generic - anyone can get them - while others would require membership of a cult. Cult initiates would get access to specific spells and capabilities that would be taught to them during downtime periods.

A typical campaign would therefore start the adventurers off with the option to also be initiates of some of the cults with religious centres in their campaign area. For example, 13AG ties many of the barbarian's abilities to the Storm Bull cult, which is very appropriate. It may also make sense to make cantrips freely available to characters as part of the Battle Magic they learn in the course of growing up. They might start with only a couple of cantrips each, but it means all characters have access to magic from the beginning.

Why go to all this trouble? 

I have a couple of criticisms of 13AG: I think it is slightly harder for players to access, due to the complexity of the character classes. Secondly, it is written for a very specific time and place in the history of Glorantha, namely the Hero Wars in Dragon Pass. It requires GM work to take it anyplace or anytime else, although the authors include plenty of additional advice on using the new classes in other settings, including the Dragon Empire of the core 13th Age rules. If you wanted to play a tribal campaign in Prax, for example, you'd need to do a bit of work. That's not to say that I wouldn't want to run this beast - I like a challenge!

I'm going to take a look at seeing whether my approach to character generation would work, using the idea of a Praxian tribal campaign - i.e. the characters are all members of one of the nomadic tribes that wander the wastelands of Prax. It would leverage much of the content of the 5e PHB, but also some of the ideas out of Talislanta and 13AG. I'd need to work out how attunement with runes would work as well.

More on this when I have it. Updates on this, 13AG and Talislanta, will be posted on the blog.

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to 13AG but I have to admit I'm a little intimidated by the size of the book; 450-plus pages and it also requires the 13th Age rules to play! I fear it will be too unwieldy at the table.