NDAed Playtest of Licensed Property

nib-illo05I have a project in the sort of ‘late beta’ stage that needs ‘read-testers’ willing to go through the books involved with a critical eye, looking for problems. This will have to be done under NDA as it is a licensed property, negotiated before I joined Chronicle City, and the project’s integrity and – current – secrecy must be maintained.

If you’re interested in participating here’s what I can publicly reveal and confirm so far.

It’s a science-fantasy game.

It’s based on the D6 system under the Open Gaming License.

It’s essentially complete and ready to go, save edits, layout and art.

It’s a completely new license.

Contact me me email (grim@postmort.demon.co.uk) or social media if you’d like to help out.

(Pic unrelated, but cool, from Michael Manning’s Nibelungen).

They See Me Rollin’ Crits – They Hatin’

tumblr_inline_n9badgmt2R1r1inynVia RPGPundit I saw a link to a post by Mandy Morbid on her Tumblr where she talks about what’s happened to her and her friends at the hands of the same people who have caused me – and so many others – trouble.

Mandy covers a lot, very eloquently and very powerfully, so I won’t speak for her I’ll let her do that herself.

The Blog’s HERE.

For what it’s worth, and as I’ve expressed before, I think Zak, Mandy and the gang are some of the best things to happen to gaming in a long time and they’ve stuck it out despite the slings and arrows of the worst arseholes of all sides.

Mandy’s a lovely, wonderful person who faces her troubles in life with a fortitude and positive outlook

Zak’s not the easiest person to get on with, but I respect him and he’s stood up for me when he didn’t have to and he does good work.

I met Satine, who worked on Machinations of the Space Princess with me, through them and she’s one of the nicest, best ambassadors for gaming I’ve ever known.

I don’t know the rest of their group, but I’m betting they’re just as wonderful and bullshit-free as people and I’m sure I’d like them if I did. None of them deserve even a fraction of the bullshit they’ve had to suffer.

Problematic Tabletop Blog is Problematic

As I’ve mentioned before, any time any one of the silly dramas in the RPG community comes up, so does every previous incarnation and the same old lies all over again. With the fuss over Zak and Pundit being credited in 5th Edition I’ve become aware of the existence of another source of ‘pig fuckery‘, a Tumblr (who could have forseen that!) called ‘Problematic Tabletop‘.

So what is Problematic Tabletop? It says it’s…

Problematic Tabletop is an archive dedicated to the absolute worst aspects of the RPG hobby. It curates racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and a whole host of other cruel things said by the people of this industry. Problematic Tabletop’s primary purpose is to show the current atmosphere of hostility, gatekeeping, unprofessionalism, and hatred found in this hobby, with the intent to lessen those things through education and change. It is meant to be an educational resource.

But what it actually appears to be is an intensely hyper-critical site of quote mines, context-free misrepresentations and right from the get-go, describing people as the ‘worst aspects of the RPG hobby’ is pre-judging and, frankly, inaccurate.

Do not harass anyone listed here. This is not a hate site. This is not about finding people to persecute, punish, harass, or harm. It’s about shedding light on the crimes that go unseen every day in the RPG industry, and perhaps make them see the error of their ways, or learn from their mistakes. Do not harass anyone.

I’m not sure who you’re fooling here, but it certainly isn’t me though this fig leaf is a necessary piece of protection. Call out culture, as we saw when Zak called out people who made entirely false accusations against me in public, only works in one direction. This blog absolutely will lead to more harassment of people and more angry reactions and it’ll perpetuate the cycle.

The site also goes on to list some ‘egregious offenders’, amongst whom I am listed.

This list consists of the most toxic people in the RPG industry. If your name appears here, you have a lot to think about. If your name is not here, DO NOT HARASS THESE PEOPLE.This is not a hate site. This is a resource.You should not support these people, you should not associate with them, and you do not want anything to do with them, but do not harass them.
Fighting fire with fire only creates more fire.
Each name links to all of their quotes on this site – take a click, and see who said what, and why you shouldn’t support these people.
Gareth Michael Skarka (GMS) – Author of Far West and other thingsRuns a blog.
James Desborough (Grimachu) – Owner of Postmortem Studios. Creator of Privilege Check,The Slayer’s Guide to Female Gamers, and many, many other things.
John Tarnowski (The RPG Pundit, Kasimir Urbanski) – Owner of RPGsite. Runs a blog.
Zak S. (Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) – runs a blog (NSFW) and The Escapist web series, I Hit It With My Ax.

After years of putting up with this nonsense, what I am thinking about is when does this bullshit end, and how can people who describe themselves as progressive be so censorious and regressive?

I know GMS, time was I’d have regarded him as one of you. We would have arguments about inclusiveness, pronoun usage in game text and many other issues and have blocked each other in the past. He’s a grumpy old bastard and a grumbly old left/liberal – like me. That you have alienated him to this extent should be a warning to you, not to him. That he reacted badly to being hounded and demonised doesn’t make him a monster, push anyone far enough and you’ll find a self-fulfilling prophecy at work.

Me? I’ll address me specifically as regards what the blog says about me.

Pundit? Pundit plays an arsehole on the internet. To a large extent the ‘Pundit’ is a persona. Yes he’s often mean spirited, nasty and uncompromising in his arguments and his scorn for indie games and much of their ethos, but I’ve never seen him dish out anything he didn’t get first. Again, we don’t get on especially well, he thinks I court this negative attention on purpose and our gaming preferences are at odds, but I like to think there’s some mutual respect. I’ve not seen him do anything genuinely awful, like, say, calling a whole wing of gamers brain-damaged.

Zak? Zak is argumentative and bullheaded about making his points and rooting out bullshit, but disagreeing with people is not a crime and that is – really – all that any of us have done. Disagreed with people. I guess(?) Zak’s involvement with porn is what triggers some people into being arseholes to him because they see porn as exploitation(?). Personally I find the judgemental attitude towards Zak and his lady friends to be far more telling of people’s prejudice. I admire Zak and Mandy hugely and I think they and their whole gang are one of the best things to happen to tabletop gaming in years, plus I met Satine (artist on MotSP) through them and I’m glad to count her as a friend too.

This hatred and misunderstanding has a life of its own now and while I don’t think it’s going to stop or that arguing back serves any useful purpose (to the point where we’re now into the gaming equivalent of a rap battle) I still feel that there’s a need to try.

So, then…


What filthy piece of shit did I do now?

According to Problematic Tabletop, my ‘current’ crimes are:

Biological Realism, which according to Problematic Tabletop is:

Explanation: Biological realism is about denying trans* people their identity, saying their birth sex is their absolute real sex. It is a form of trans* erasure. It would be very easy for James Desborough to become a misogynist, indeed.

Turns out that biological realism has a lot of different definitions, but as I meant it I meant that however you feel, whatever you believe, what you ARE comes down in no small part to your biology. I am a human, homo sapiens sapiens, as are you. No matter whether you’re a devoted creationist or not, we’re apes and share common descent with the other apes and with all other life on Earth. Physically the vast majority of people are male or female and everyone is chromosomally. This doesn’t erase trans identity or deny it to them, it is an acknowledgement of the facts which, unfortunately, put them into the position that they are in. Birth sex is immutable fact, gender identity is not. You can feel free to disagree with me, but I think the evidence is on my side. What I’m absolutely not doing is erasing trans people or saying they should be oppressed. My track record with trans people hasn’t been great, largely due to one individual, but I’ve done my best to own and move past that. It’s not fair to have one’s entire concept of a group dictated by one, awful person.

I made fun of Tumblrisms and ‘political correctness’.

The game was a way of exorcising my demons from years of putting up with this crap and of poking fun at the atmosphere of terror, indignation and two-facedness that goes on. It’s satire. Now, I know satire is dead, Poe’s Law has seen to that, but still I persist. Given that there’s criticisms of ‘Oppression Olympics‘ on all sides, I naively hoped that some people might be able to laugh at themselves. Making fun of offensive attitudes being taken as holding offensive attitudes seems like its a common problem in the kind of people who do take offence.

Also, I apparently advocate magical rape.

This spell summons a creature and binds them into your presence or that of a client long enough for a sexual act to take place. The creature summoned may not be entirely willing (some are) but is bound by the magic of the spell to do what is required and cannot return to their home save by fulfilling the demands of the spell. Beware of meeting a previously summoned creature outside the context of the spell or you may well be in trouble.

This is from Nymphology, a joke book talking about sex within an entirely fictional context of a fantasy world. The project was a little off because I was frustrated by doing comedy projects and really wanted to do something more serious (this is even more obvious in Quintessential Temptress). Tongue was required to be in cheek but I also approached the project trying to think how magic would affect human sexuality and I took my cues from reality. The internet, the abuse of drugs, snake oil claims about pheromones, hypnosis, Pick Up Artistry. Do we really think people would be any more responsible with magic, especially if its claims actually worked? Summonable sexual partners, spirits and demons are found in grimoires and ceremonial magic books going way back.

Besides, you’re happy to summon these fictional beings to fight and die for you without a second thought. If this makes you think about the consequences of magically enslaving creatures to do terrible things for you – good.  Not that you should always take games absolutely seriously.

Look, Problematic Tabletop. You’re adding to the problems here, not acting to solve any by misrepresenting and smearing people with the same old long refuted guff. This needs to become a conversation, rather than preaching, and it needs to be a conversation that’s capable of having disagreement without demonisation. As ever, if you – or anyone – wants to have that conversation, I’m here – for all the good it will do.

Artist Needed: @ctiv8 2.0


As a side project I have recently completed a draft of a new version of @ctiv8, a game of modern adventure and activism, updating it to account for the new state of the world and advanced in technology.

I’d like to add to and supplement the original art and am seeking an artist to do so.


4xA6, B&W line art, 300dpi+

Pay: $100 basic, make me an offer otherwise, more for the right artist.

Specifics to come if you’re accepted, but a somewhat low key, realistic approach, showing off the subject’s expertise or athleticism, without necessarily resorting to violence and gunplay would be the brief.

Contact via usual social media or email: grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk

Iron Kingdoms: The Hand of Fate


Jaspar Solvo, an agent of the Dorne and Fergurn Barristers and Imports Company (not his real name by any stretch) gathers the disparate characters who have been rooming and lodging within Five Fingers, the fates having brought them there. The company wishes to ‘test out’ these new people and to determine their worth and potential for future jobs. As such they have chosen them to tend to the needs of Thane Niccolo Mazini – a minor Ordic noble, well out of his depth in trying to recover his family’s fortunes.

Jaspar delivers a letter to each of them and informs them that the patron is currently staying at The Parson’s Nose. He’ll say no more than that, but will arrange to meet them there that evening to introduce them to their patron.

My friend,

The man who is delivering this note is my trusted agent. I have a task for you which must be accomplished as neatly and cleanly as possible. It is an honourable goal for any man in restoring the lost honour and dignity of a family and rumeneration shall be provided – appropriate to that cause.


Thane Niccolo Mazini


The Parson’s Nose lies on Hospice Island, near to the meat market in the Wake Bridge Bourg. It’s a narrow, wedge-shaped building that is a terrible fire hazard and has no rear exist and only one narrow front door and narrow windows up the front. It has four stories, the lower floor being the bar and kitchen and the upper three floors being cramped common rooms with rank old straw beds. A gobber sitting by the fire burns bundles of cheap herbs (rosemary and time mostly) in order to mask the smell of the meat market. On the plus side, the drink and food is cheap – even if the rum is stained pink from badly processed beetroot sugar and the stew is ‘meat’, or – if a recognisible kind of meat – twice the price.

Mazini has paid out to take an entire common room for himself, though it is barebones and dimly lit to mask his poverty. He seems finely dressed, but the clothing is more than a little worn and threadbare. His luggage looks expensive but is virtually empty. His scabbard and holster are fine but the sword and pistol he wears are rusty.

He tries to act the noble and to negotiate the contract from a position of self-assured certainty, despite being in no position to do so.

The job is to recover a lost mercenary charter, belonging to his family some two-hundred years past. His ancestor, Thane Ordo Mazzini founded The Stone Bay Hullgrinders – a now defunct company – under the auspices of King Merin Cathor III – The Pious. In a skirmish in The Gnarls the Hullgrinders (dilettante second-son nobles for the most part) were humiliated by the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, destroyed to a man – save Ordo – and had their charter stolen by a captain of the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, Belton Vascal.

Vascal’s family have kept the charter ever since, as a trophy and Mazzini has recently discovered this past of his family (a source of shame) and has sold up everything and borrowed heavily from Captain Waernuk, in hock to his syndicate to the tune of 3,000 royals. 2,000 of which remains for him to offer to the characters – maximum – though he’ll make whatever promises are necessary.

All he knows is that Grigori Vascal is the descendant and nothing more about him. Belton was a great giant of a man with fierce ginger hair and a huge beard, but there’s no guarantee Grigori looks the same.


Grigori is just back from a trip, depositing a kidnap victim for the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, several days away from the city have left him hungry for its pleasures. His river boat – twin-engined steam boat The Shame – is only just in port and needs maintenance and resupply, which will keep him busy another day or two before he can leave the Dragon’s Tongue compound.

Grigori is fairly well known as a braggart and as the captain of that particular vessel, it won’t take too long asking around about him to get a description, but being too open about it is likely to get word back to the Trading Company who will send a man or two to see who is asking around and why.

The compound has several river boats docked at any time, plenty of guards, labourjacks and workers and is a walled set of warehouses and offices. It’s a fortress and is not going to be a productive place to raid by force – nor is the charter there in any case.

When Grigori leaves the compound – late at night – with two friends – he’ll stop at The Red Barrel for a few drinks and a meal and then stop at The Two Knocks (a mid-range whorehouse) to pick up a couple of dockmops (prostitutes) before rolling up at his house.


Grigori’s House

A three storey terraced house, the houses either side and along most of the terrace are split up into three separate dwellings each, cheap and cramped and suitable for dock workers. Grigori has the whole place to himself. There’s a small ‘patio’ front and rear, surrounded by an iron fence and it backs directly onto the river with a pipe from the second storey ‘toilet’ hanging out over the water.

Ground Floor

1. The front has a heavy, rusty, creaky iron gate with waxed envelopes hanging off it, pleading notes from his landlord Phinas Schlub, asking for him to pay the arrears in his rent. It’s pleas, rather than threats because of the power of the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company. The front door is bolted from the inside.

2. The back ‘patio’ is also surrounded by an iron fence and backs onto the stinking river, full of flotsam from the docks. Two kennels here house Grigori’s pair of fighting dogs and the back door is open to let them in and out. They’re loyal, but not that well looked after. Crossbreeds between Ordic Pit Dogs and Khadoran war dogs. The back patio is full of broken animal bones and dogshit.

3. Inside the house there is a kitchen – that opens to the back door and is virtually empty and unused.

4. The front of the house has a sort of ‘reception’ room, bare bones apart from a bootscraper and a mirror.

5. The main living room is the largest room on this floor and houses the staircase. There are long couches in a three-sided bracket around the hearth and a low table. Grigori and his friends – and the dockmops – will be in here, drinking and fooling around.

Second Storey

1. Grigori’s bedroom contains old furniture from someone with far more expensive taste than he has, but perhaps fifty years out of date. There is a portrait of Grigori, a laving bowl on a washstand, a four poster bed and a wardrobe with his ‘civvies’. He keeps a spare pistol, loaded, under his pillow.

2. Grigori’s Bathroom contains a tin bath, a washstand with laving bowl and the toilet – a hole in a plank – that deposits waste out over the river, and any boats foolish enough to sale too close to the shore. The hearth for this room is in here.

3. Grigori’s trophy room is in here. It hangs with paintings and has a long table and chairs, there are also display cabinets. The cabinets contain a few skulls, claws, stones marked with runes as well as seal and signet rings and lockets (worth a total of about 750 royals full price, half that to a pawn shop, 75% of that to a fence). Pride of place is given to a painting showing a man with a broken sword, kneeling before a laughing, ginger-haired giant. The painting is painted on the back of the Hullgrinder Charter, a final humiliation, and the frame is trapped, the hook it hangs on a lever connected to a gas sprayer.

Third Storey

Two spare bedrooms and a storage room, full of miscellaneous junk.


Returning to Mazzini

Returning to Mazzini for the money they will find The Parson’s Nose closed. If they gain access they’ll find evidence Mazzini has been killed, his tongue cut out and left on his table, blood everywhere, a single silver coin resting on his tongue. His luggage is there, but empty and of him there is no sign.

Tired of his bullshit Waernuk has had him killed, though he hasn’t recovered the money (its stuffed into a nook in the edge of the island, out of sight of the bridge). It seems likely that Mazzini has ended up as sausages – apart from his expertly cut out tongue.

Waernuk will still want to recover the money, but for the time being the players have a contract, which they are now the clear and legal owners of.

Grigori Vascal
A lieutenant in the Dragon’s Tongue Trading Company, with a long history.
SPD 7, STR 5, MAT 6, RAT 5, DEF 12, ARM 14
Sword POW 3 P+S=8 – Poisoned +1D damage Vs organic targets
Pistol RNG 9, POW 11
Intimidation 5
Vitality 10
Anatomical Precision – If damage fails to exceed ARM – still take d3 damage.

Dragon’s Tongue Smugglers
Grigori’s friends and ‘boatmates’.
SPD 6, STR 5, MAT 5, RAT 5, DEF 12, ARM 13
Dirk POW 2, P+S=7
Pistol RNG 8, POW 11.
Intimidation 5
Vitality 7
Anatomical Precision – If damage fails to exceed ARM – still take d3 damage

Dockfront prostitutes, trying to scrape a living and find a gentleman – or what passes for one.
SPD 6, STR 3, MAT 4, RAT 4, DEF 13, ARM 6
Stilleto POW 1, P+S=4
Pickpocket 5, Lock Pick 5, Streetwise 5
Vitality 5
Get Away – Missed by an enemy attack other than when advancing, instead of advancing 2”, make a full advance.

Jaspar Solvo
Spy/Investigator 10
PHY 6, SPD 6, STR 4, AGL 4, PRW 4, POI 4, INT 5, PER 5
WILL 11 DEF 15 ARM 8 INIT 15
Abilities – Astute, Language (Cygnaran), Battle Plan: Shadow, Cover Identity, Language: Khadoran
Connections: Intelligence network (minor criminals).
Hyper Perception
Vitality 11
Command 6, Deception 7, Detection 7, Disguise 6, Forensic Science 6, Gambling 6, Hand Weapon 6, Interrogation 6, Intimidation 6, Law 6, Lore (Five Fingers) 6, Medicine 6, Pistol 6, Sneak 6
Holdout Pistol (on an arm rail) +1 Initiative (16) on his first turn. Attack 7, Pow 8
Fine dagger – Attack 7, Pow 5

Thane Niccolo Mazzini
Assume a base of 6 for any important rolls, but he’s destined to die and not really THAT important.

Fighting Dogs
SPD 6, STR 5, MAT 6, RAT 0, DEF 16, ARM 6
Bite: 6 Pow 4 P+S=9
Intimidation 7
Vitality 4
Powerful Jaws – If damage fails to exceed ARM – still take 1 damage

DED Talk – 5th Ed Credits Drama




Problematic Tabletop



Review: 5th Edition D&D Basic PDF

WallofText_zpse04f6526This review will go through the new D&D Basic Rules PDF, which is available for free on the Wizard’s site for download and is both existing gamer’s first encounter with 5th Edition and will – likely – be many people’s first introduction to D&D as a whole.

I’ll be going through the document in order and commenting and reviewing as I go.


This really is a ‘basic’ document. There’s no art, little in the way of layout and it’s really nothing but pure text. While this is basic and makes for a smaller, more printer friendly document it is hardly the best introduction to the game. Even the playtest documents had a bit of art to them and since this is likely to be many people’s first introduction to D&D it would have made more sense – to me – for them to have some inspirational art to stir the imagination and to excite the casual browser taking a look for the first time.

The introduction covers the usual basics, outlining how adventures work, some of the terminology, dice conventions and some very short examples of play. It’s all the usual stuff that’s needed to give a new player or Games Master a grounding but nothing worth commenting on.

Part 1 – Creating a Character

The familiar concepts are here and a character is set by race (the usual elf, dwarf, halfling etc), class (again, the usual rogue, wizard, fighter etc) and statistics and personal choices. Abilities are determined by a variety of options from rolling dice to placing a usual spread of statistics, to spending points. Races modify these but only in a positive direction – a carry-over from 4th Edition. Levels run from 1-20 as normal, divided into looser tiers of play than in 4th Edition, giving broad descriptions of the scales of adventure that are typical at those levels.

Part 2 – Races

As well as Ability bonuses, races come with various other traits and different movement rates (expressed in feet, rather than ‘squares’ – thankfully). Different races are also advised on their typical alignments, proficiencies (including non-weapon proficiencies) and other bonuses and traits. There are also sub-races, which may differ from or add to the alterations from the basic racial type.

No, there’s no gnomes. There’s also no warforged, goliaths or minotaurs. The booklet sticks to the typical, basic fantasy tropes which is something of a pity, I think I would have preferred to see one atypical example race to show that the scope can go beyond the normal Tolkienesque fantasy.

Part 3 – Classes

You get the usual D&D familiar classes – fighter, wizard, rogue and cleric – again, I’d have liked to have seen one atypical class here as an example but they’ve stuck to the absolute basics.

Class determines hit dice (d6 being the lowest, so a little higher than ‘old school’ D&D), saving throw proficiencies, armour, tool and weapon proficiencies as well as special abilities. Hit points also have a static first level, which is high to increase survivability at first level. You can also opt to take a static increase at each level.

Skills are extremely broad and characters do not get many of them, clerics and fighters, for example, only getting two.

Fighters are taken a little beyond the meat shields that they were before 3rd edition. Fighters get to choose a fighting style, have some limited ability to self heal and the option to take an extra action at a key point in a battle and this kind of ‘second chance’ and refined fighting style carries on as the fighter levels up. While this makes a fighter more effective, it doesn’t seem to make them much more interesting.

Rogues were another area of concern and the style of rogue as a skilful character rather than a thief per se continues in this edition with rogues getting more skills than anyone else and more effective skills. The rest, though, is more archetypical with sneak attacks, running and hiding options and so forth. You’ll be less able to customise a rogue into an agile fighter, but the customisations for the actual fighter may make that a better prospect for such a character.

Wizards and clerics are the most familiar of the classes with all the usual abilities you would expect. What is different is a compromise between 4e and older editions. Cantrips can now be cast at will, while more advanced spells are memorised and spent. A workable compromise that makes spells more valuable, but doesn’t reduce a spellcaster to a cowering idiot once they’ve run out of spells.

Part 4 – Personality and Background

The spectre of social justice seems to have reared its head in the ‘Sex’ section. Perhaps smarting from continued agitation from people upset at illustrations of female characters and… well, everything, the ‘sex’ paragraph is full of unnecessary reassurance and tries to cover all the bases in a way that stands out and reads rather jarringly – not because of the content but because it’s unnecessary and put upon. A simple ‘you can play any way you like’ would have sufficed. Someone is probably in an apoplectic fit over the fact their particular proclivity or presentation was missed out already. Especially since it then suggests that your size and weight might relate to your Abilities.

The sentiment behind the message is good, but by highlighting it, it has been made into an issue when it shouldn’t be an issue at all. The intended message is good, the medium is awful, the received message is of terrified hang-wringing.

But anyway…

Bringing in some ideas from Indie/story games, 5e has ‘Inspirations’ which come from your personality traits. You earn inspirations by playing up to those traits and can then spend that inspiration to gain an advantage on rolls later on.

Backgrounds describe the past of your character and come with proficiencies, languages, equipment and suggested personal characteristics. You can see these as ‘sub classes’ or specialisations, or ways to expand your class beyond its limited focus.

Part 5 – Equipment

This section discusses equipment and money and has a passable list of starting equipment. Armour can give you a disadvantage to stealth and for some items a certain level of strength is necessary. Some weapons have particular qualities beyond damage type, the most notable of which is ‘finesse’ meaning that light weapons like a rapier can attack using Dexterity, rather than Strength. A neat way of giving suitable weapon options.

Part 6 – Customisation

Multi-classing is broadly back to the simplicity of 3rd Edition which is a huge relief and should allow for many more customisable character options. There are some differences though, when you gain a new class you don’t get everything from it. Feats are also mentioned – a popular feature from 3rd Edition but you’re left to refer to the Player’s Guide.

Part 7 – Playing the Game

For the most part this is also familiar enough. Proficiencies give bonuses (closer to 4e rules) and the rule for advantage/disadvantage is new, meaning you roll two dice and take the highest or lowest, depending on the situation. Something quick and easy and guaranteed to double sales of d20s.

Skills simply allow you to add your (level dependent) proficiency to an Ability check when you do something, making skills somewhat less important than they were in 3e.

Saving throws are now Ability based – an idea a long time coming – and each class has its own proficiencies in particular saves.

Part 8 – Adventuring

A good list of the typical sorts of issues you might face while exploring, pace, the need for food and water, handling social interaction (via roleplaying and/or rolls) and rest and recuperation.

Part 9 – Combat

A good, broad coverage of typical combat situations. It’s a little light on improvisation – though its mentioned – and it’s lacking some archetypical examples of likely combat actions, tripping, aimed attacks etc.

Part 10-11 – Magic

A standard list of typical rules about casting, memorisation, preparation, cantrips and a list of spells.


The character sheet is simple looking, which is a huge relief, and conditions in combat are handily listed here.

Review Summary

The Basic PDF is just that, basic. While it contains most of what you need to play, much is missing, though you could probably improvise. If it wins on any score it is that this is free and is enough for people to play about with, especially if they also download the last playtest packet if they can find it online still. If it fails on any score it is that this is such a dry document that it is unlikely to inspire or excite casual browsers and potential new players who may happen upon the PDF.

As producers of content and fans we’re not really any closer to knowing 5e’s OGL status despite speculation, that makes it difficult to know how things will further unfold.

There’s certainly room for a lot of modification, customisation and even new games spun off this basic set of rules, whether we’ll see that remains to be seen.

Style: 2 (Pure text)
Substance: 3 (key aspects missing, background only hinted at)
Overall: 2.5 (NB: As an introductory product I’d rate this a 3. While it’s enough to pique the interest of existing gamers, it’s not a great ambassador to potential new players).

PS: My comment on the ‘controversy du jour’.