Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: The Kids Are (Going To Be) Alright

The Starter Set for 5th Edition D&D isn’t actually designed for the likes of me. Mike Mearls and his team’s declared intention with the product is to produce something you can give to a beginner and which can train them to be a Dungeon Master from the get-go. At the same time, it comes bundled with a 5E adventure (Lost Mine of Phandelver) intended to take characters from level 1 to level 5 – a substantial prospect in its own right – and it comes at a low enough price that I didn’t see any harm in picking it up.

Overall I’m impressed. Yes, the box is a little big for the rather sparse contents – a set of dice, a 32 page set of starter rules, a 64 page adventure, 5 pregen PCs and a blank character sheet with an advert for the D&D Encounters organised play network on the back. But when you take out the spacer at the bottom you end up with a nice deep box to stash your other 5E bits in – whether you end up getting the full-bore Player’s Handbook and other core books or just print out the Basic D&D PDF that Wizards have put out for free. And the actual contents themselves are perhaps the best introduction to D&D that Wizards has ever put out.

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Thoughts On Ars Magica Ahead of a Campaign

It’s beginning to look like I’m going to be running some Ars Magica for my Monday night group, having wrapped up my Traveller campaign for the time being. A big reason is that membership of the Monday evening group has been fluid for a good long while, so the ship’s crew in Traveller was becoming cluttered with former player characters and my planning was littered with exciting backstories generated by the Traveller lifepath system that I couldn’t really address properly due to the absence of the players in question. Ars Magica, conversely, is a bit more suited to PCs appearing and disappearing; even an important player character could conceivably get lost in Wizard’s Twilight for years or get sent by their House to the other end of Europe on a mission, and not every PC will participate in every adventure anyway if you go with the aspect of “troupe-style” play which has each player potentially running multiple characters.

The other big reason is that Ars Magica is awesome, so when the Monday gang mentioned enjoying it in the past I jumped at the chance to run some.

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ENWorld’s Hot Roleplaying Games – July 2014

For a while here I was keeping track of ENWorld’s chart of the “hottest RPGs” – hotness, in this case, being based on what’s being actively discussed on as wide a pool of internet fora and blogs as they can find RSS feeds for. I haven’t kept up the monthly updates for a while, because… well, just check out what’s going on down there.

Remember: this isn’t tracking sales, and it isn’t even tracking popularity (because conceivably a game could get onto the chart if there were a sufficiently virulent negative reaction to it). Note that I’m presenting here the scores assigned to each game, not the percentages.

RANK	GAME					SCORE
1	D&D 5th Edition				522
2	Pathfinder RPG				133
3	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			121
4	D&D 4th Edition				 44
5	Old School Revival (OSR)		 20
6	13th Age				 18
7	Savage Worlds				 14
8	Shadowrun				 12
9	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	 10
10	FATE					  9
11	AD&D 2nd Edition			  8
11	AD&D 1st Edition			  8
13	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			  7
14	World of Darkness			  6
15	Numenera				  4
15	Star Wars: Edge of the Empire		  4
15	GURPS					  4
15	Dungeon World				  4
19	Castles & Crusades			  3
19	d20 Modern				  3
19	Warhammer FRP				  3
22	Traveller				  2
22	The One Ring				  2
22	Runequest				  2
22	Colonial Gothic				  2
22	Dungeon Crawl Classics			  2
22	OD&D					  2
28	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			  1
28	Other Superhero RPGs			  1
28	Rotted Capes				  1
28	Star Trek				  1
28	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	  1
28	Hackmaster				  1
28	Call of Cthulhu				  1
28	RIFTS					  1
28	Paranoia				  1
28	Firefly					  1
38	DC Heroes				  0
38	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	  0
38	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		  0
38	Brave New World				  0
38	HERO System / Champions			  0
38	Aberrant				  0
38	Ashen Stars				  0
38	Apocalypse World			  0
38	ICONS					  0
38	Gumshoe					  0
38	Marvel SAGA				  0
38	Smallville				  0
38	TMNT					  0
38	Villians & Vigilantes			  0
38	Silver Age Sentinels			  0
38	Gamma World				  0
38	Deadlands				  0
38	Marvel Super Heroes			  0
38	Alternity				  0
38	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		  0
38	Dragon Age				  0
38	Fading Suns				  0
38	True20					  0
38	Warhammer 40K				  0
38	Mutant Chronicles			  0
38	The Strange				  0
38	Stars Without Number			  0
38	Exalted					  0
38	Star Wars (d6)				  0
38	Eclipse Phase				  0
38	Earthdawn				  0
38	CORTEX System				  0
38	Ars Magica				  0
38	BESM					  0
38	d20 Future				  0
38	Hobomancer				  0
38	Chainmail				  0
38	Iron Kingdoms				  0
38	Feng Shui				  0
38	Dread					  0
38	A Song of Ice & Fire			  0
--	Dnd/Pathfinder				DNC
--	Stage					DNC
*DNC = Did Not Chart

Note that according to the chart page a 0 score doesn’t mean nobody’s mentioned a particular game –  a statistically significant sample has shown up but no more than that. For sanity’s sake I’m only tracking zero-scores which previously scored. Games which did not chart presumably either failed to even yield a statistically significant sample or have had their categories retired from the chart (as appears to be the case with the redundant Dnd/Pathfinder category).

At the moment, let’s face it, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is the big story. It’s got a higher score than every other game in the chart combined, which means that over half of all the conversations tracked by ENWorld’s algorithms involve D&D 5E in some respect. The gulf between it and every other game may even be greater than it looks here; ENWorld don’t publicise how the underpinnings of this chart works precisely, presumably to stop people spoofing them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of the score for PathfinderD&D 4ED&D 3E and other D&D-alikes like the OSR games and 13th Age actually arise from discussions where people are directly comparing 5E to those games.

Either way, because of the way the scores work, every other game that isn’t 5E or directly peripheral to the 5E conversation has had its score crash. That doesn’t mean people aren’t talking about those games – it just means that people are talking a lot about 5E. It shot to the top of the chart soon after the product line was released, its score has only increased since, and I suspect that the staggered release of the three core rulebooks will keep the conversation going strong until at least the end of the year. Either way, I’m not going to give a comparison of where each individual game has moved since the last chart because I suspect the scores aren’t very comparable; what is clear is that thanks to the elephant in the room regenerating Doctor Who style, the state of the dialogue within the RPG community is in flux, and it’ll be a while until things die down back to normal. The big question is what “normal” will look like with the new D&D exerting itself.