5th edition is super-popular, and that is fucking great. New blood is good blood.
The question is "How do we get all the new blood that's over there, and bring it over here?"
To that end, I'm writing up a couple posts as a way to bridge the gap between 5th edition and old-school play, as a way to encourage them into the mindset while not straying too far from the rules that they are familiar with. Ideally, it would be something that you could introduce to all those bushy-tailed, bright-eyed newbies while running sessions at the local library without scaring them all away.
- Attributes are 3d6 in order. Attribute bonuses are as in 5e.
- If the level-0 session is not meant as a funnel, you may adjust scores as you wish.
- Reaction and morale rolls are in effect.
- For level 0 characters, start with 1d4 + CON bonus HP.
- Alternatively, HP = CON, skip HP gain at level 1.
- Checks operate under Shadow of the Demon Lord rules. You need to beat 10. Add your ability modifier to d20, then apply the greatest boon or bane that was rolled.
- Initiative is also according to SotDL rules.
- Advantage and Disadvantage are replaced with boons and banes.
- Skills are out. Proficiency may be treated as a single Boon.
- Feats are for walking, not for characters.
- Backgrounds can be whatever fulfills "prior employment". Use whatever list you like. You start with a (usually makeshift) weapon and an appropriate item, DCC style.
Character RaceCharacter race is determined by die drop.
|1-5||Human (d20)||1-7: Human||Any||Kinship with dogs||1 bane to resist mutation|
|8-10: Dwarf||CON||Can identify origin of worked items||No booze = exhaustion|
|11-13: Halfling||DEX||Lucky: rerolls a 1, 1/day||Save vs lost in cities|
|14-16: Goliath||CON||Shrug off d12 damage 1/day||Too big for normal doors|
|17-18: Half-Orc||STR||Extra attack after drawing first blood||Cursed by the orc gods|
|19-20: Firbolg||WIS||Speak to animals and plants||Unmaskable smell of dirt and sweat|
|1-2: Kobold||DEX||Can squeeze into tiny spaces||Terribly nearsighted|
|3-5: Goblin||DEX||Immune to disease||Leave filth and grease everywhere|
|6: Hobgoblin||INT||Knows military hand signs||All about machismo and saving face|
|7: Bugbear||STR||Hides without detection under beds and behind doors||Terribly confused by blankets and sheets|
|8: Lizardman||CON||d6 bite, 13 AC scales||Save vs cold or 1 bane to all checks|
|9: Orc||WIS||Can survive a hit that would drop to 0 HP, 1/session||Save vs blood-frenzy|
|10: Serpentman||INT||Milk a dose of venom 1/day||Opium addiction|
|1-2: Gnome||INT||1 boon to understand, repair, and build mechanical devices||Enemies may choose to punt|
|3-4: Half-Elf||CHA||1 boon on saves vs magic||Hated by domestic animals|
|5-6: Wood Elf||DEX||Stealth boon in natural cover||Allergic to iron|
|7-8: Drow||CHA||Darkvision||Sunlight sensitivity|
|9: Sea Elf||CON||Speak with sea creatures||Sinks like a stone|
|10: High Elf||INT||Thermal vision and magnetic sense||Terrified of ugly things|
|11: Shadar-Kai||DEX||Speak with dead, lvl/day||Looks like a warmed-over corpse|
|12: Eladrin||CHA||Can make dead plants bloom||Must have permission to set foot in a building|
|1: Dragonborn||STR||2d6 dragonbreath 1/day, 15'||Breath causes 1d6 damage to self|
|2: Kenku||DEX||Mimicry of sounds and voices||Compulsion to devour carrion|
|3: Tabaxi||DEX||Darkvision||Save vs laziness|
|4: Gith||INT||Critical range 19-20 with blades||Save vs chaos or anxiety attack|
|5: Duergar||CON||1 boon vs mental effects||Alcohol triggers PTSD|
|6: Triton||CHA||Can breathe underwater||1 damage / hour if left to dry out|
|7: Aasimar||WIS||Can heal ally lvl HP||Explode when critically hit|
|8: Tiefling||CHA||Resistance to fire damage||Heavy leaden footsteps|
A Minor Extrapolation of Setting
5e comes with some implied setting bits that aren't all that common in OSR-style games: cosmopolitanism, panoplies of playable beings, and high magic all over the place. Certainly not in the tradition of Appendix N, but let's try something different.
All those angels / demons / dragons / liches / squibbly squid things / other immensely powerful beings out there? They run the world. They are the boot stomping down on everyone's neck, forever. They are the scions of a world based on inequality and systematic oppression.
Imagine a world where Jeff Bezos can resurrect himself.
You know that sort of crippling melancholy oppression found in the boat and parade sequences of Ghost in the Shell? Replace the computers with magic.
The superficial trappings are different, but the core is the same: old-school 5e characters are nobodies on the fringe, scrounging through the wilderness and the ruins of previous civilizations and societies, trying to make ends meet in a world stacked against them. It's basically scum and villainy tier Star Wars.
If the players want to be big heroes, let them. But make them earn it. No one gets to start out as Mr. Big Hero Man. Gotta work for it.
Character classes will be featured in a subsequent post. For the time being, one could easily use classes as they are in 5e, or Mateo Diaz Torres excellent Lamentations of the Fifth Princess. The final result will probably tend towards the latter over the former, but with more random tables.The aim is to get all nine core classes adapted, so that prospective players will keep the options they get in the default book.