[Review] On the Crimson Trail (5E); The Problem of Scale and Coherence Erosion in Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons as Illustrated by a Sponsored Contribution

On the Crimson Trail (2021)
Andy Marielis (Adventure Bundles)
Lvl 9 (HA!)

Disclaimer: Sponsored Content.

I am harsh on 5e. It is true. I have a preferred play-style and 5e has many violation of its central tenets built-in. But no grognard I know HATES 5e. For of all the manifold editions that emerged in the wake of the hallowed 2nd edition, 5e probably comes closest to a grand uniter, taking parts from both old and new into something that, while not sublime, is at least palatable to the bulk of DnD players.

But much damage has been done in the interval, and the children of the fifth edition carry the mark of those evil times wherever they roam.

Melodrama aside, Andy Marielis reached out to me about his new patreon project, where he endaevours to publish serialized adventures for all backers, complete with battlemaps, handouts, and materials to limit prep-time. A noble endaevour! This entry represents his first attempt, and while I will not be recommending it, the author hopes his remarks will be taken to heart and serve to better them as time goes on. One of the surest ways to improve is frequent practice!

Strathenberg stronghold is one of the most isolated structures in the known world. Situated in the very north, where in the winter the snow covers the land. There are rarely any problems here, and these are mostly wildlife or weather related. The local guards who serve baron Strathenberg have usually no problem dealing with such issues. In the past month or so, though, locals have been disappearing. Either during a hunting trip, on a firewood haul, or even while taking a walk in the forest. There has been talk about strange lights in the forest behind the stronghold. Eerie, flickering lights that peer through the fog. No local guards are willing to investigate. They are simply not trained to deal with the supernatural, and the baron knows this.

The adventure is a series of linear encounters culminating in a big boss fight. Oh dear. Linear adventure are used very often in modern editions because they are the most straightforward way to make an adventure but making good ones is actually very difficult because all the weight of the adventure comes to rest on the individual encounters, a lot of strategic trade-offs or resource management that is inherent in dungeoncrawling is suddenly missing and you have to basically figure out way to keep players from sequence breaking. 

There’s a twist of sorts. The perpetrator is not the Will ‘o the Wisps that everyone was thinking about the second they heard this description, but is actually a charmed wizard and his vampire wife. The Vampire is still very cautious and the wizard uses his illusion powers to lure the locals, kidnap them (with his bare hands), feed them to his wife, and then petrify their bodies with an overpowered wand and dump them in the lake.

Let us begin. The adventure opens with this introduction, but then spends the first 4 pages outlining the adventure, giving GM Advice, providing us with 3 hooks (of the do-gooder variety), and then the NPCs, which is by far the longest. This section is very padded. The NPCs get backstories, roleplaying hints, Roles in the adventure, motivation etc. Cut this down. If the adventure is a complicated mystery plot, or a game of intrigue with heavy faction play, then put this in. In an adventure that is mostly combat and some wilderness travelling, a few sentences and hints suffice, in particular because much of the information is re-iterated in the actual encounter.

A second point of improvement is absolutely the language. Good descriptions evoke an image, they excite the imagination, while also being short so they can be parsed easily. These descriptions are very often mundane and dull. R.e. the Baron. “He is always dressed in nobility clothes that he puts above a nicely made chain mail.” Thwack with the ruler on the fingers! Evocative; “Well-made chainmail,” is acceptable, it evokes practicality, offset by the trappings of nobility, “nicely-made” less so, implying that its merely pretty or foppish. “Nobility clothes” I don’t want to see ever again. Figure out a few specific details that evoke a scene. Deerskin gloves, silk doublet, seal-fur jacket, gold-brocaded gamebeson, tricorn cap dotted with peacock feathers etc. etc. ‘Enchanted lights’ gives the game up to soon, and how would the locals even recognize what is or is not enchanted? And don’t even get me started on the description of the baron as the questgiver. Questgiver implies artificial MMO style NPCs that dole out quests, but you have just written all those words about the NPCs and their backstories. Do it quick and without immersion if you absolutely must, but don’t do it slow AND ruin your own attempts to set a scene.

There is one detail that I recall of the description of the forest that did stuck out. Sounds. The woods are eerily still. The fresh snow muffles most of the noises. Sometimes the sound of a branch cracking underneath the weight of the snow can be heard.

That sets a mood. But its one of the few descriptions like this.

The Fortress of Strathenberg has 3 features. An inn with a bouncer that is friendly but will throw you out if you make trouble, an elven blacksmith that sells +1 armor and weapons for thousands of gold pieces in this isolated wilderness [1] and a shrine to a harvest god, but we are not told what god. There is some gameability but here it would be good to find one or two details that stick out and are memorable. Strathenburg, who built it, why is it here, so far in the frozen north? Was it perhaps constructed by some people older than man, and the Baron has merely taken possession of it? Is there something noteworthy about the Strathenburg family line? What harvest god are they worshipping? You don’t want to bore everyone with endless backstory but a single detail or so is usually enough to set a scene. Something! The shrine of the harvest god is built around the site of the world’s oldest oak! That’s not stellar but it is something memorable. Here its just blank space and that’s a shame. Same for the forest.

Although Rikvidr is home for many dangerous creatures, these hibernate throughout the winter months. So the chances of encountering them are slim. The primary danger in winter is the climate itself. Every year, news will come to the stronghold of a local who died of hypothermia or even hunger after getting lost in the forest.

So its actually not that bad then. Okay. But I am a hero. I want to go to bad locations. How about something like this.

Rikvidr stood here long before man and it will stand here long after he has gone. Grim pines armored in nigh impenetrable black bark stretch out far beyond the borders of the known world. Grudgingly it allows men take the lives of its sons for firewood, and not a few lives it takes in return by cold, hunger and the savage beasts that hide under its oppressive canopy. Things are buried here that have no name in the tongues of men, and some of them not dead, but merely sleeping.

Now that’s a forest fit for a level 9 party.Which brings me to my next point. This entire adventure seems like it is suitable for characters of levels 1-3 in terms of scope. Missing villagers? Check! Reward of a few hundred gold pieces? Check! Will o the Wisps are pretty tough, so maybe it could just be one at the end, but the other obstacles in this adventure, a river that must be forded, a cliff that you can climb down and possibly risk falling, this is all very street level stuff. The few combat encounters highten the disparity even more by seeming out of place.

The first area the PCs go to they immediately encounter 4 Will o the Wisps and an infant Remorhaz that was sleeping nearby and then wakes up and joins the attack. So the first thing we ask immediately is WHY IS THE REMORHAZ SIGHTED IN A REGION THAT IS ONLY COVERED IN SNOW BY WINTER WHEN IT IS AN ARCTIC PREDATOR WHOSE SELF GENERATED BODY HEAT IS SO GREAT IT WILL LITERALLY MELT ITSELF IN TEMPERATE CLIMATES. But other then that, the will’o the wisps are there to create a sort of red herring, only to have the PCs then return to the fortress and find another person has gone missing. So that sort of makes sense. There’s a troupe of yeti’s later on. Then five winter wolves. These types of monsters are good challenges for the party, yes, but the villagers that go about trying to collect firewood or take walks in this forest would be utterly destroyed by them. So the description of the forest and the surrounding environs doesn’t integrate with the challenges the PCs face.

Why don’t you encounter a Remorhaz 2 hours from the village? Because the two don’t go hand in hand. You either have frequent Remorhaz encounters (11 HD), or you have a village. If the situation changes, either the village A) entreats with some hero to get rid of the remorhaz or B) the Remorhaz gradually kills all of them until they move. The end. All of these wilderness encounters should have been with wild animals. Bears. Wolves. Mountain lions. Plenty of challenge for a forest in winter. Make it level 1 – 3. There you go.

Incidentally if someone were to do the OSR a favor, publish a dictionary with nothing but words and descriptions for medieval garments, medieval meals, medieval features of architecture, then names for landmarks and landscapes like hill, bog, fen, hillock, caldera, peninsula, archipelago etc. etc. etc. and medieval titles and occupations. Now THAT I would buy.

So the main body of the adventure is about 8-10 encounters that one comes upon sequentially as one is pursuing the kidnapper, a lvl 8 wizard. There is one interesting feature; the Wizard has several hour head start, and the way the PCs handle the encounters will decrease or increase this lead. That’s good. I am a bit surprised there is no mention of using horses to follow the trail but I am told 5e players don’t buy that many horses. This idea is at least good. You see a troupe of Yeti’s eating a carcass, do you sneak around them and risk detection, do you wait, do you attack them and continue your chase? The ability to at least catch up to the Wizard before he reaches his cabin is good and there is, at the very least, a penalty for failure; he does kill his prisoner after 2 hours. I am a bit surprised he doesn’t think to use the Phantom Steed he has memorized to reach the cabin faster but I don’t know if it can be used like that in 5e.

One encounter had the right idea but illustrates another problem of this adventure. It is too easy! An 80 foot river, partially frozen (so presumably rapid current), with, somewhat incredibly, an 80 foot drawbridge  [2] suspended across it that the wizard…using what is either some elaborate system of pulleys that is left out of the description or FUCKING MAGIC has single-handedly pulled up. The PCs can be smart succeed in a DC 16 Perception check and detect the lever that lets down the bridge…but if they don’t they can either find a place where the river is fordable, which sets them back an hour (?) or they can try to swim across. Quote: If the party decides to swim across, it will be easy and possible with no skill checks. However, they will need to succeed on a DC 20 Constitution saving throw or suffer hypothermia

Hypothermia gives you disadvantage until you are warmed up. This is wrong. It should be…the PCs have 5 minutes to make a fire or they die of exposure, and the river ABSOLUTELY requires a Swimming check to get across or you just drown. I can nitpick this thing to death, but the IDEA is good. The execution is lacking, but the IDEA of having to face natural hazards and circumvent them via cleverness, that is part of DnD, low level DnD. The Characters are level 9, at this point they have access to all sorts of overpowered abilities. The Druid can turn into a hawk and fly across, the Wizard can Dimension Door, some guy might have boots of levitation etc. etc. etc.

The final confrontation with the Wizard and his vampire wife is a little better because it does at least involve basic deception in an effort to ambush the characters. Detect Evil. The description of the Wizard, who is a level below the average party level, kind of makes it obvious that he knows he has no chance. Damn. Harsh. His Wife, who is a vampire, has her coffin, completely undefended, in some cave near Einar’s Cabin, with no further precautions or traps…

And then it’s done. A few new magic items, like the overpowered rod that allows you to cast either Flesh to Stone or Greater Restoration 1/day, I think but I am not sure that the wizard has some sort of tricked out dancing light custom familiar construct with powers (this might be a character option in 5e) and that’s all she wrote.

There’s several dozen things I can point to that I find lacking in this adventure but I think it behooves me to focus on the basics and leave the author to grapple with those in his next effort;

* The writing is underwhelming and there is a lack of verisimilitude. The place doesn’t feel real but more importantly, it doesn’t feel memorable. This is something that is the most difficult to fix and something you will grapple with as time goes on. If you include a place, try to include at least one memorable detail about the place.
* The adventure is simplistic. I am reminded of some White Dwarf adventures (Search for the Temple of the Golden Spire, The Curse of the Wildland etc. etc.) or even Mertylmane’s Road (which was linear but had a dungeon at the end and had good atmosphere). Part of the fun of a game is making decisions, and feeling like you are exploring something. What if instead of a straight line, this had been several trails or a hexmap?, and the PCs have to interrogate locals/that weird Nixie to find out where the wizard might be taking her? Create something that is open-ended and leave it up to the PCs how they go about it.
* The adventure is too easy for a party of 9th level characters. Maybe a Vampire at the end is real tough, I don’t play a lot of 5e, but it doesn’t feel like a party of 9th level characters would be seriously challenged. A high cliff or a broad river are good challenges for a low level party, but high level characters should have ample resources to deal with such a threat.
* The roll Perception DC 14 to notice something something something is a little irksome. I would instead say “if the players think to look for it, they notice a lever on the far side etc. etc” and if the players think to look for something, perhaps give them the advantage.

In summary, this adventure is not good. Formatting is decent, and useability is more then acceptable. Long is the road the author must walk, but there is time, and what a journey it will be. I don’t think this adventure is worthless but for a paid product the current quality is not on par, with few compensating factors. This is on the lower end of **. On the plus side, Andy is going to be releasing frequently over the next few months so there will be plenty of opportunities for practice and improvement.

Andy’s Patreon can be found here. Maybe in a few months we will swing by again and see how he is doing!

[1] Prince will now ritually denounce the existence of widely available magical item shoppes in fifth edition dungeons and dragons
[2] Presumably made of mithril or orichalcum and created as a sort of shrine to a God of Architectural Marvels


34 thoughts on “[Review] On the Crimson Trail (5E); The Problem of Scale and Coherence Erosion in Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons as Illustrated by a Sponsored Contribution

  1. Can I be the first grognard to say I hate 5E? The flipside of taking bits from previous editions in an effort to appeal to a wide demographic is that it’s the blandest shit that renowned chef Blandy McBlandface ever cooked up in La Blanderie. No amount of soy sauce, sriracha or other condiment is going to make it any more palatable. It’s Dickensian gruel, served up in gold plated dishes. It’s also badly written, and ludicrously expensive but those are separate issues.
    I like to think of it as the Roleplaying equivalent of Harry Potter.. Mystifyingly popular trash with an army of passionate/brainwashed defenders. I weep at the thought of the plethora or infinitely better books which will never be read, just like the myriad RPGs with more soul than 5E that will never be played.
    Alas,the curse of the Grognard…


    1. I think the one thing that can be said of it is that it reignited interest in D&D, and that it is more like old D&D then anything since 2e. The jury is still out on whether this was a good idea, but there you go. It’s “The Mandalorian” of D&D. It’s not exactly good, but after latter era 3.5 and all of 4e most old players will take what they can get I guess.


      1. I wonder what the conversion rate is? How many people lured in by the glossy videos and $100 rulesets ever go on to another part of the hobby? Is it even counterproductive? I know some people – longtime gamers – who’ve been sucked into it because it’s an easier sell to attract new people than trying to persuade them that Game X is much better (‘you can play a lesbian horse with a rocket launcher’). So the hive mind assimilates another victim.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s nothing wrong with hating 5e, but I think “begrudging acceptance” is a good description of the overall reception of the OSR community. At low levels, you can effectively reproduce the old-school experience if you so desire. At high levels, I would argue that even classic D&D has a hard time doing OSR.


    2. I hate to say it, but those plates aren’t even gold. My own production values are three-fold better than anything WotC puts out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As an aside – and if you could drop your trousers and assume the position so I can shamelessly rim you – the fact the City of Vermillion (did I remember the name right?) didn’t get funded on Kickstarter while endless fucking 5E splat books continue to do so (‘back RoboFoal at the 50 buck level and we’ll include a custom lesbian with rocket launcher background’) almost made me spew.


    1. Ah man, that was indeed a tragic defeat. Truth is we learned a lot about doing Kickstarters that day, and the original stretch goal of 9k was a little high for an operation of our size. Fortunately we regained initiative with Palace, which, damn, is doing pretty well. I wouldn’t count VC out just yet though. Expect Malrex to cook up another kickstarter this year, similar, if not larger in scope, and that’s not even counting Vaults of Oblivion (and something else I am working on, literally as I write this).

      My favorite 5eism is probably the combat wheelchair though admittedly the 1/day gender-changing elf is a close second. I can’t get super worked up over any of that stuff, its very divorced from what I like about D&D, and even the guys that go into 5e because its easier to sell to new players become, maybe less sharp, but they don’t exactly give up and join the Monster Mash. Probably most 5e groups are pretty normal? I think Critical Role is probably more damaging because it becomes more about preening in front of your friends and doing silly voices and anything remotely resembling playing the game or making a detailed fantasy world goes out of the window.

      I recommended Dungeon Age and The Outsider’s Wake to Andy as some examples of 5e adventures I thought at least decent. Beings from Beyond by Ben L. was also a very good bestiary.


      1. Crit Role’s fine. Silly voices is just as OSR as it is 5e, been a thing in the hobby forever. Mercer also is one of the few streaming DMs who doesn’t handwave travel, meaning if characters are on foot they are going to be slogging through all the swamps and forests and plains and mountains to get where they are going. His dungeons are linear, but that’s hardly different from everything else D&D has put out since 2e.

        And there’s the real rub. 5e suffers from a lack of institutional knowledge on how to create and run adventures, and they also don’t want to give players the keys to the kingdom because it might cost them money the next time they need to sell a shiny book.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Its not the silly voices per se, I love those, its the DnD as thespian foolathon as primary outlet. That being said, I’m not an expert so take my opinion for what it its worth.

        This not wanting to give the keys to the kingdom statement intrigues me. How do you figure its different from earlier editions?


      3. Mostly it comes to setting info and player guidance. A lot of these problems were also with 4e, but it’s more noticeable in 5e because of the slowed book production.

        5e makes sure all setting info comes boxed with the adventures. Barring fan content on DMs Guild, if an area is not visited by an adventure then it may as well not exist. It’s only in the past two years that they have started putting out Gazeteers, and those are all for new settings (save Eberron, because Keith Baker has been sitting outside WotC offices for literal years pitching Eberron).

        So people wanting to frankenstein together FR, the only setting that gets regular content, as anything other then the existing adventures has to buy the $40 books for their sections on their bits of the world, or get the previous edition books in order to figure out the world.

        I think what drives people to OSR is the fact that it’s the one facet of D&D which sticks with short modules to be dropped into the player’s world rather then 1-10 “epic” quests.


      4. [5e Campaign setting]

        I guess that sounds like a loss but knowing what I do about FR you might actually be better off, particularly the post 4e comic book apocalypse Forgotten Realms is a cluttered trashfire. Find a copy of 1e Forgotten Realms and bask in the swathes of open spaces, waiting for an inspired GM to fill them in with creations of his own design!

        [Why people move]

        Hmn, difficult. I’d be inclined to say mindset and system first, product line later, there are plenty of 5e modules that one can purchase that are not set in any official setting after all.


  3. A couple of other “it is tougher if you take detours” hot pursuit adventures that come to mind are: (i) an early Carl Sargent adventure, “In Pursuit of the Slayer” in Dungeon #15, where there is freedom of movement on a map; Scenario 2 “Locksmith” in C4 To Find a KIng (where there is a second trail, which you need to find out about, and then you can spring the ambush yourselves).
    It seems like you have given the author plenty of good advice on how to improve.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hallowed 2e? I will inform EOTB that you have taken temporary leave of your senses so that you will still be allowed to post at the Knights and Knaves Alehouse.
    Having heretic status, I am permitted to admit that core 2E has improvements like Priestly Spheres of Magic. (No more “Sweetness, cleric of the Goddess Lovely, what 5th level spell will you select today? Err, Flame Strike.) The initiative and surprise rules are much easier to understand, and don’t need extra rules. (Whether they are better is a
    matter for debate.) But I do think its merits (which are considerable) are as a house-ruled version of 1E, and it owes a great deal to that edition, which was somehow greater than its parts. But 2E was your first rule set?


    1. Oh yeah, KK is going to take my gamer card away for this. Soon its back to the kiddy pool with all the Mork Borg and O5R players.

      2e always felt very cleaned up to me, its the first edition I ever played, but it did get a bit too experimental for some and I can see that for oldschoolers its the point where D&D lost its way.


  5. Me too. For me, 5e just make the normal people and diletants think D&D is like an YouTube show.
    The greater or lesser interest of the public in D&D via MSM does not affect your game in particular, as long as you are a person who knows how to relate normally to other people. In the last few years I have had a dozen new players who didn’t even know what D&D was, let alone have a 5e. TheDM is the best session seller.
    I feel ashamed of other veteran players justifying adherence to the mediocre 5e because it “is more popular and easier to find players”. It is a confession of prostitution and a lack of confidence to present the game to normal people.


    1. Damn, guess some of the readership has more antipathy towards 5e then I realized.

      I completely agree with you that the GM above anything else is who sells the game, who pitches it in the first place, and who is the largest factor in determining a campaign’s long term success.

      I don’t know anyone whose switched to 5e for the reason you mentioned, but I know some guys who went into the game with 5e because its easy to learn and relatively straightforward. Its flaws for what they are but its very hard to hate. D&D: Filthy Casual Edition. I can imagine if you play with people other then friends (like co-workers, or online) then edition makes a big difference, but Basic DnD exists and easing players into OSR games is pretty easy.


      1. I have to confess that I was on the 5e boat between 2014-2016. I tried, but I was always looking at Gygax and Moldvay, even though I was in the hobby playing 2e. You’re right about edition making a difference when recruiting players outside of your private life. My vision is that of someone who only plays with friends and family.


  6. Yeah. I’m pretty grognardish and I HATE 5E. No, I don’t hate the players (usually)…I hate the game.

    My son, who is 10 and currently teaching his 4th grade class AD&D, gets a profound look of disgust whenever I mention “features” of the 5E game. “How is that even fun?!” he asks incredulously. He is well on his way towards hatred.

    Your sponsor’s ambition is admirable, but would be more so if directed at something else. I feel sad at the amount of effort he will spend setting perception checks in multiple thematically linked, linear hack-fests. I can only hope he makes a ton of cash and uses it to fund his Master’s Degree in social work or an iPhone app that allows the blind to see or to reopen his restaurant after this crap-tastic pandemic is over….SOMEthing useful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man, AD&D 1e as a kid would have rocked. Hell AD&D 2e as a kid rocked. I don’t know if I’d start them out on 1e or give them Basic to cut their teeth on if I ever get the chance to play with my kids. I don’t think 5e adventures have to be bad, I think we’ve seen enough examples of good ones out there, but having an influx of new players and GMs that grew up without knowing what’s possible in adventure design and habituated to linear hack fests, adventure paths and set piece battles probably caused it. Adventure a month is tough I think, you’d need either great practice or immense creativity to prevent yourself from burning out or producing the aforementioned stuff.

      The author took the review very well, and I hope it will be of use.


      1. I just read Kult Divinity Lost. NSFW plead for forgiveness. But it has the best monsters I have seen in so long with very helpful how to run this


      2. Hey, I started him with B/X (specifically Moldvay’s Basic book) as that is the best method of teaching the game. That was…hmm, about 15-18 months back. He’s only been playing AD&D since December. Personally, I think it’s a little ambitious for him to try and DM 10 year olds with Advanced, but….well, the heart wants what the heart wants, ya’ know?
        ; )


  7. What stands out to me most in this review is the example description of the nobleman. It has no specific details because the author doesn’t know anything about the medieval except what has been regurgitated. This is the same problem comics, TV, and film have – today’s writers are yesterday’s superfans, knowing nothing of the world beyond the images they’ve consumed.

    The adventure otherwise sounds typical of 5E and I am surprised the author would subject himself to a review at your hands.

    [Fifth Edition]

    I have no proper claim to be a Grognard, years wasted reading OSR blogs and a shelf full of LoftP and Prince’s own two efforts not-withstanding (I’ll manage to slot Red Prophet Rising in some day…)

    Most of my playtime is 5E at this point. The ever increasing character complexity is intolerable to OSR play – if it takes multiple hours to build a character you can’t kill them and now you have a story game. I actually think 5E works well for that, especially if the party has a tight knit set of characters built together. (Note: this is why there are no consequences for swimming in the icy river.)

    You can make 5E work to OSR standards, though, too. I ran several LoftP adventures like Better Than Any Man in 5E, by telling everyone they’re bog standard humans with no racial abilities, making them roll stats and pick a class, and eliminating feats and backgrounds. More recently I’ve house-ruled away anything that lets people take multiple actions per turn. Dungeoncraft on YouTube has a lot of good advice on stripping down 5E.

    (However you play, you must strip away the Perception Check horseshit – players must be told what they can see and hear if they are to make informed decisions. If the players can’t make informed decisions with interesting consequences, it’s all just masturbation.)

    Ultimately yes, I am looking for some other ruleset. 5E is not worth the effort just for the classes and spells, which I don’t even like. But it can be used if it must be (and owning all those expensive books triggers the sunk cost fallacy in the best of us.)

    I do suspect old school players are overall benefitting from 5E – some percentage of new blood will stumble into OSR one way or another. People do eventually tire of the needless complexity in 5E, and seek out a purer drug to hit.


    1. In fairness, it’s not like 1e had a good sense of true medievalism. I mean, even the usual geek stuff like armor is all fucked up, and let’s not get into the weak sense of social class. It’s definitely American Kid Medievalism.


      1. Fair, but if anything E.G.G. was good at creating the atmosphere and trappings of a believable society. Yes the anachronism is fucked, but there are 10 varieties of polearms! And what even is Half-plate?!?


      2. That explains by shameful polearm fetish. What are everyone’s favorite polearms? I like the pole-axe because…well, it’s a pole-axe. The bardiches look pretty rad, though.


    2. Very good distillation of the problem with the writing I think. I reached a similar conclusion discussing the matter over a beer the other day.

      R.E. The 5Etrain. Probably on point. I think the optimum for the OSR would be a cyclic state. Periodic periods of greatness and meteoric ascent, generating massive influx with resources not available to mom/pop/furry-pedomod operations interspersed with periods of cataclysmic self-loathing decadence, predatory practices, senseless pandering and open contempt for the player base driving a massive diaspora to other fandoms, most prominently the OSR.


  8. Re: Medievalism
    EGG was a reader of Oman and has not a fetish about poelarms, but about the Burgundian wars. And rightfully so, a military revolution that in some ways, reverbarates today. Also, the Swiss.
    And 1e is early Renaissance, with Knights just on the way out -> Burgundian Wars again. To a wargame, mil-history type this is very obvious starting with chainmail. Fireballs are ren howitzers, Lighting Bolts are ren Cannons. Swiss and Landsknechts get all the nice things etc.

    At least for the German Scene it has done TREMENDOUS good. A healthy influx of twenty-somethings. And they go into the D&D tradition, not the abominable DSA-Tradition, a jeux-de-ambiance that any of you would not believe how gar-bage it is, if i told you.

    Our club has set up a FLAILSNAILS-like environment called ADDKON. We have some cross-over and friendly commmunication with the German 5e online scene. There are differences, and they have next to nothing to do with rules, but with the culture. Pertinent to the dicsussion above: homebrew as something lesser cp. to DIY. Also, player wise, many players who are socialized via onlin/YT/Twitch 5e have weird boxes they put stuff in, demarcating limitations (Fluff vs. Lore vs Rules). Also, they usually expect only the current scene to be of relevance. Several players have not understood why they are not allowed to improvise the connection their characters backstory has to the magic item just found.
    BUT: there is a growing number of “kids” doing their own D&D 5E and using all THEIR influences in quite a media-savvy way to assemble their own homebrew culture. A net positive! Would I play or DM 5e? Nah. But anybody who thinks 5e is bad overlooks the positive sides and especially has forgotten how poisoned the atmosphere was during 4e. The kids back then were brought up being told EVERYHTING before 4e was EVUL. Nowadays they sometimes reinvent the wheel, and are ginorant about the olden times. But they have no strong opinion on it and are free to mix and match and learn.

    And this spirit of exploration and inquisitiveness, neither the Pathfinder-Gamind-Den CharOppies nor the Encoun4rded ever could have created.


    1. [OGG Medievalism]

      I bow before your superior grognardianism. I still contend that D&D has never had a strong sense of historicity. As for the polearms, you’ll have to pry this volge-guisarme from my cold zombie hands.


      I like your take. 5e is a step in the right direction. It’s not for me—not because of the weak setting elements (which have always been there) but because of the airbrushed quality of play, faithfully represented in the art. It just lacks grit. But I’ll play it just like I’ll gladly drink a terrible beer at a party. As long as the conversation is good, it really doesn’t matter that much.


    2. [Medievalism/Historicity/Realism]
      D&D doesn’t need a big sense of historicity to work… though it can enhance play in very intersting ways 😉

      The whole polearms thingy surely is a mixture of different circumstances.
      Gygax had his sources and inspirations… sure. But I read somewhere that medieval polarms were a hot mess from the beginning for the simple fact that names for specific types of polearms were interchangeable from region to region. So what you call a halberd is someting completely different for the fellow from a few miles away.
      See more here

      [Enhancing play through study of history]
      For myself I find that having a good grasp of some basics of history… especially military history… can enhance play in really cool ways.
      One doesn’t need to study history for this, though there are so many myths and falsehoods about medieval times that have crept up in popular culture that one is sometimes surprised by how wrong they can be.

      For me personally the Blog of Bret Deveraux ” A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry” has done wonders to help me get some things right I wouldn’t even have thought about a few years back.

      Go check it out, the dude is a historian with a good eye for military history and he is doing the good work over there.

      Some highlights for me:

      Must read for anyone having any type of military activity in his/her campaign

      These two posts help you immesely in describing armor and where hits land and such.

      Perfect for worldbuilders


      You can basically read the whole blog.
      His series on the siege of Minas thirit, the battle at helms deep and his utter destruction of the Dothraki in Game of Thrones are also brilliant… though they are quite long.


  9. @ Grutzi:

    Love ACOUP’s blog. Just reading the stuff on making bread or textiles gives huge insight into world construction, strangely enough. Just a wonderful collection of essays.

    @ Edgewise:

    I wouldn’t drink terrible beer at a party. Even good conversation isn’t worth terrible beer. Water is just fine.


    1. This is a to-each-their-own sort of thing. Me, I’d rather get a little buzzed and avoid appearing too bougie for my friend’s little soiree. I’ve been that guy who brings his own sixer of craft beer to a cookout, but I am no longer that guy.


      1. I am SO “that guy.” I like my wine cheap, my beer expensive, and my D&D old…ancient, in fact.
        ; )


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