Posted by : David Guyll October 09, 2012

The new playtest packet went up yesterday, along with a Legend & Lore article on the same topic. Most of it concerns magic items, though some monster traits have been changed and XP values reduced. I guess the Caves of Chaos adventure got updated to reflect these changes, too.

Bestiary
When I say that the XP values have been reduced, I mean by 100 or more points. Goblins go from 120 to 10, bugbears from 480 to 140...the orc leader goes from a lofty 670 to 290. Admittedly I have not actually looked at the XP chart until now (well, since the first playtest release anyway), and it is nice to see that players will no longer level up after killing a gaggle of highly ineffectual of zombies (which are now worth a 10th as much).

Beyond XP most monsters seem to have something new, even if that new thing is an altered trait. For example orcs get to stick around for another turn before dying, gnolls get reaction attacks when something dies nearby, goblins get advantage for a turn if they go first, Mob Tactics caps at +5, Bruiser (formerly Armor Piercing) now triggers on a 5+, etc.

Some things are a lot more dangerous in spite of reduced XP; the wight takes half damage from non-magical weapons (oh, and its attacks reduce your max hit points for a day), the troll has Skill Mastery for sensing hidden creatures, and the minotaur can take disadvantage on an attack to deal +10 damage...even the ogre loses its Dense trait (disadvantage on Intelligence saves.


Magic Items
The real treasure this time around is the magic item document, which runs a hefty 27 pages (beating out any other doc by about 10 pages).

The default assumption is that magic items are not assumed to be part of character advancement (so you do not need to include them) and that they are exceedingly rare (so there is no real market for them). Like 4th Edition there is a rarity system involved, but unlike 4E there are six categories: common, uncommon, rare, very rare, legendary, and artifact. Each category has a gold piece range instead of a fixed value, and there are random tables that vary by encounter difficulty (easy, average, or tough).

So far, so good.

Hrmm...identifying items, you say? Here is where I can see some disparity between players. In 2nd Edition I remember having to use an identify spell to get things done. 3rd Edition let you get away with detect magic and an educated guess...in some cases, at least. 4th Edition made things even easier by allowing a simple Arcana check (or skipping the middle man and just telling them what it was).

Next takes a more varied approach. You can require divination magic, trial and error, examination, allow certain skill checks, or whatever combination you want (to the point where in some cases the item might just reveal its properties). Basically all the bases are covered, so even if you do not like having characters doing the whole taste-test and jump routine, you have other options. Personally I like that more than a singular spell/skill being called out as being an option for analyzing magic items. 

Magic item attunement is a new thing. Some items require that you be attuned to them, which takes 10 minutes, and you can only be attuned to a set amount (either three or your Charisma modifier, depending on how the DM wants to play things). In particular I like the Test of Wills experimental rule

I really like the four tables of magic item details, which help you determine who made it, its nature, and minor properties and quirks. While some results are purely cosmetic--especially on the Creator and Nature tables--most provide some sort of mechanical impact; Draconic items grow warm when a dragon is within 100 feet, elven (and drow and air elemental) items weigh half as much, and slothful items impose a -2 to Initiative.

The next 19 pages are devoted to sample magic items. Nineteen pages. While there is a random table for the generic +1 fare, almost all of them are specific types. For example, efreeti chain is a rare suit of chainmail that gives you a +2 bonus to AC, fire resistance, allows you to walk on molten rock as if it were solid, and let you speak, read, and write Draconic and Primordial (oh hi 4E shout out).

Items with charges seem like a mix of 3rd and 4th Edition; most items have set charges by default, regain a variable amount each day, and have a 1 in d20 chance of crumbling if you use them all up. Personally I loved focus items from 4th Edition and would like to see them return, but this is a nice concession from the wand/staff-as-gun trope from 3rd Edition.

What else...oh, there is a potion miscibility optional rule for 2nd Edition fans, rings that grant small AC and save bonuses, scrolls (and a scroll mishap optional rule), gauntlets of ogre power that set your Strength to a set value (19 in this case), ioun stones that increase your stats, and more stuff from past editions. I was never a fan of stat-boosters in 3rd Edition given the reliance and assumptions about stats, but seeing as treasure is not assumed and just cannot be purchased I do not think it will bother me as much this time around.

There currently are no rules for creating magic items. I would not mind seeing something similar to 3rd Edition, which provided more flexibility and allowed you to lump item properties and powers together. Even some guidelines on general power levels so that I can have some sort of eyeballing foundation to work with. Yeah, it was prone to abuse, but I actually liked it more than 4th's largely stripped down items (which was kind of fixed by the later run of books introducing Rare items).

Whelp, now to go update Keep on the Shadowfell...again.


{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. "Whelp, now to go update Keep on the Shadowfell...again."

    I don't know how often you are told this, but thanks. Thanks for your blog and thanks for your Shadowfell conversion. I don't follow a lot of PnP blogs... I often read your posts before Mearls' (I'm sure I'm doing it wrong).

    And thanks for your Next conversion of Shadowfell. It was a big help a couple months ago when I ran a game for a friend and my two daughters (aged 5 and 7). Thought you might get a kick out of that. The five year old played a homebrewed "Princess in Disguise", the 7 year old a Sorcerer, and our family friend played a Fighter. I even gave your module a shoutout when I completed a survey for Wizards.

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  2. I actually do not get told thanks very often, but it is always nice to hear that my effort is appreciated. I would actually be interested to hear how the game played out (I have two kids, though only ages 2 and 4).

    I am about a third of the way done with Thunderspire Labyrinth (I was hoping that the playtest would go to level 10 by now), so any criticisms about Keep on the Shadowfell--layout and such--would be welcome.

    Also, thanks for the shoutout. It is especially nice to hear that what I have done was considered for feedback. :-)

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  3. Found your G+ profile and posted there.

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