back to article Dungeons & Dragons relaunches with 'freemium' version 5.0

Dungeons & Dragons is BAAAACK – and it's brought a freemium business model with it. The venerable game was re-released yesterday, with a new Starter Pack reaching retailers and offering a rulebook for players, an “adventure book” for dungeon masters plus a handful of dice to get things going. The $19.99 kit is not, however, …

  1. James 51

    I wish when people release digital documents they would release an epub version. Saves on paper at least.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Make your own.

      1. James 51

        I did that with 6th edition 40k (typed up all the rules into an epub) and then they release an epub version of their own.

        Tried automated conversion with Necromundia years ago (pdf to epub). Results were not pretty. Though the converters might have gotten better since then.

    2. CommanderGalaxian

      There's just no satisfying some folk.

    3. Mage Silver badge


      Kindle DX is your friend.

      Also a Ghostscript powered PDF virtual printer to change margins etc.

      Assuming you can't export the PDF as text and use Mobi Creator or Calibre to make a real eBook that works on little eBook readers and phones.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Absolutely. PDFs are terrible and do not repaginate for smaller mobile devices properly especially dedicated eInk devices like Kindles.

      epub/mobi that you can read on eInk readers would be a real help to a lot of people. This goes for IT white papers and manuals.

    5. ciderbuddy

      Or use Calibre

      I thought all e-readers had PDF support anyway. I download all my uni lectures as PDF and they work fine

      1. James 51

        Re: Or use Calibre

        If a pdf has a complex layout with graphical borders, titles for pictures etc etc it can be a complete mess.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Or use Calibre

        If the pdf was designed for A6 sized paper, it will be fine. If it was designed for anything bigger than that, then it might not be fine.

  2. Skrrp

    Paper shortages

    "The freebie is 110 pages long, which may explain any unusual paper shortages in your office over recent days."

    I would hope that El Reg readers have discovered better systems than D&D by now. The Traveller you mentioned is one such. I personally prefer Alternity; the rules system is far better.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Paper shortages

      "The Traveller you mentioned is one such."

      Hoho. The rules system so primitive that there was no such thing as 'XP'?

      1. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: Paper shortages

        And the amazing character generation system that sometimes killed your character before he was finished.

        Still one of the greatest RPGs ever written though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Paper shortages

          Traveller / XP

          Not sure about the original but in later editions there were ways to improve skills (normally based on rolling all sixes or some such and another bunch of points you could earn) but the idea was you were a fully qualified professional whose done most of their learning already. But I'm pretty sure every group ends up with all its own special inhouse rules that make a good gaming group so much fun.

        2. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Paper shortages


          It doesn't matter what level of nerd-dom I manage to discover, there will be a nerd-based argument about how some sub-strata of it is better.

          Don't get me wrong, I'm a nerd too, just for slightly different things.

          (The best boardgame I ever played was Advanced Space Crusade, but never got into RPG's even with a brother mad on WH40K, several trials of DnD and no shortage of nerd-friends to play against. Sadly, even ASC is consigned to the scrapheap so that people can sell the plastic models in it for a fortune and you can never get a "full box" of it ever again, but it was a great, simple game without all the hassle of the DnD rules and having to deal with ridiculous amounts of non-rule situations.)

          1. Jagged

            Re: Paper shortages

            I'd have to go for Space Hulk or Robo Rally

            ... or maybe Ghost Party ;)

            1. Lamont Cranston

              Re: "I'd have to go for Space Hulk"

              I found Space Hulk to be a great way to alienate my friends: set up board (quite slow), explain rules (quite slow, will need revisiting in-game), they pick Space Marines (decent rationale: they have firearms and armour), game starts, Genestealers quickly massacre the Marines, game is put away.

              By the time I knew more people inclined to such pursuits, Magic: The Gathering was the big thing, and I wasn't tragic enough to be playing that.

      2. Jagged

        Re: Paper shortages

        No XP was/is a design improvement.

        1. Psyx

          Re: Paper shortages

          "No XP was/is a design improvement."

          For you, maybe. For me its the antithesis of a good game, as I want character growth and to see numbers getting bigger.

          1. Jagged

            Re: Paper shortages

            "For you, maybe. For me its the antithesis of a good game, as I want character growth and to see numbers getting bigger."

            Absolutely, bigger numbers never equalled growth. The "Bigger number" philosophy is also probably responsible for the bulk of poor computer RPG game design till the present day ;)

      3. BongoJoe

        Re: Paper shortages

        "Okay, roll a new character."

        "Doing that now"

        "You're an ensign in the Space Corpse it seems"

        "Hmm, I'll stay in three more years"

        "Oh, look Admiral of the Fleet"

        The original Traveller was great but flawed. The MegaTraveller sorted out a lot of the issues but by far the best was Snapshot, the Traveller add on close combat game.

        Anyway, I prefered Runequest.

      4. P. Lee

        Re: Paper shortages

        No XP rules...

        That's in the premium pack?

    2. Thecowking

      Re: Paper shortages

      I'm just wondering what it's better than, as in which edition of the D&D rules? And in what way?

      I've been running a 4th ed session for some co-workers recently, but there's likely to be a few leaving and some fresh blood joining so I am seeing if I can get more opinions on the options before I splash another couple of hundred on a pile of books.

      The criteria are:

      Dragons are a must.

      The rules have to be reasonably simple in the basics.

      The dice have to be within the normal set (4,6,8,10,12,20)

      Suitable for groups between 4 and 8 people.

      Any suggestions?

      1. Lobrau

        Re: Paper shortages

        I would suggest checking out Pathfinder. Basically an OGL rewrite of 3.5ed, objectively the best D&D ruleset.

        You can read most of the material over at

        1. Kalmairn

          Re: Paper shortages

          "I would suggest checking out Pathfinder"

          I second this. I greatly enjoyed 3.5ed despite a few quirks, and discovering Pathfinder re-ignited my interest in paper RPGs. Works great with minimal rules, but has as much detail as you could possibly want if you crave it - it's good for kids and adults alike. I played a simple, somewhat Monty Haul-ish game with my wife and son for years - it was more about fun than gritty realism.

          NPCs had a terrible survival rate.

          4ed seems too influenced by online gaming. I loved the concept, but it didn't seem to execute well. I'll take a look at 5ed, but I'm not impressed with WotC's stewardship of the D&D name. I'm more likely dust off my PF and give it a whirl.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: WotC's stewardship of the D&D name.

            D&D under WotC has become a Warhammer clone. If you want to play classic D&D you have to use the Pathfinder system. Or maybe Hackmaster if you can find the books.

            I haven't played regularly since AD&D, but I have friends who do. D&D is much like Churchill's assessment of Democracy. I've played both simpler and more complicated systems, more realistic and more heroic. For me D&D always hit the sweet spot: complicated enough to be interesting and challenging, not so complex you were more bogged down in bookkeeping than playing.

            I've played a system that I think works much better, but it's an unpublished system from a friend. It had stats, a skill matrix based on the stats, and skill costs. After that you rolled straight percentages for success or failure. He had a modifier system for how difficult it was (easy you would succeed at double your skill level, up to exceptionally hard which was 1/4 of your skill level). You'd have to build the skill matrix for the world though.

        2. Aitor 1

          Re: Paper shortages

          Most pple who still play that I know play Pathfinder...

        3. launcap Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Paper shortages

          >I would suggest checking out Pathfinder.

          Seconded, thirded and fourthed. Been playing D&D (and Traveller, Call of Cthulu, GURPS etc etc) since the mid-80's and Pathfinder is one of the better ones I've played).

          My other favourite was Rolemaster but it kind of lost its way.

      2. Stuart Ball

        Re: Paper shortages

        Shadowrun 3rd Edition. never quite got on with 4th, and not tried 5th Edition Shadowrun yet.

        Third Ed is my fave.

        1. stucs201

          Re: Paper shortages


        2. Matt 4

          Re: Paper shortages

          I'm all about the Gumshoe system and rules light systems nowdays.

          Games like rolemaster are great from a "system engineering" point of view but always pigs to ref (same with stuff like Anima)

          Love the old tristat system to and ofcourse the wod system is nice and lightweight.

          Technically speaking the core part of D&D has been free for some time (under the OGL) just without any of the setting. But I've always hated D20 with a burning passion and it only got more hateful.

          There are lots of nice systems out there - I really enjoyed Ingenium from a classic fantasy side of things as character gen took 5 minutes for 4 players. Need a certain kind of seat of your pants fluff stuff ref though

          1. Aitor 1

            Re: Paper shortages

            Rolemaster rocks. I played MANY long campaigns using it,

            The problem is.. we ran out of players. We just have 2 qualified players.. the usual GM an me (the backup or short campaign GM). The rest of them either don't want to learn the rules or don't have time with the kids, etc.

            So no RM for me.

      3. Psyx

        Re: Paper shortages

        "Any suggestions?"

        Give 5th Ed. a look?

        It's supposed to be quite good, and modular - so you can use what bits you like to get the game-feel you like.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Give 5th Ed. a look?

          My most game oriented geek friend reviewed a pre-release two weeks ago. He said it looks pretty much like a light re-skinning of the old game so not worth the money. His advice was to stick to whatever you're currently using. If you're just getting started he figures it would be OK.

      4. Stevie

        Re: Any suggestions

        Savage Worlds might be worth a look.

        I'm fond of a few of the non-High Fantasy SW settings as a GM (Solomon Kane, Space 1889 and Deadlands:Reloaded) but will readily concede that the magic system lacks the sheer heroic oomph of Pathfinder's, a fact that becomes apparent in those settings where Weird Scientists keep inventing the same four devices.

        Also Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but that may be too "Old School" and randomly deadly for many.

        I reckon for the average RPGer wanting to adventure in a high fantasy/Sword and Sorcery setting, Pathfinder is probably the best bang for everyone's buck. The starter box is phenomenal value for money.

        1. Paul Kinsler

          Re: Any suggestions

          Hang on, what was that rpg with all the clones, and some kind of repeating "The Google is your friend" motif..?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Any suggestions

            That would be "Paranoia" .. fabulous game, we'd often be dead before leaving the starting room!

            1. Thecowking

              Re: Any suggestions

              5th ed looks good to me, my players say no though, we did the play test and they weren't impressed.

              Pathfinder, on the radar, but I was never a fan of 3rd ed (didn't play 3.5). Shadowrun, I used to play and enjoy, wouldn't mind seeing what my players think of that.

              Paranoia is my business trip game (we send nerds to all corners of the world!) :)

              Maybe later in the year I'll run a pile of one shots, see what people think. All these suggestions are appreciated, thanks.

              1. veti Silver badge

                Re: Any suggestions

                The "basic rules" version of 5th Ed looks like "back to basics" in many ways. Back to the 9 alignments, 4 base classes, no mention of multiclassing - although I'm sure about 800 more classes, each more overpowered than the last, will be offered in the "optional" supplements, due to start appearing any second now priced around $50 each.

                I gave up on D&D after 2nd edition - 3.x was overpowered, particularly once the aforementioned supplements started appearing, and I never got to try 4 at all. I recommend Hackmaster.

              2. Glenn Amspaugh

                Re: Any suggestions

                Got to do a play through of Firefly RPG a couple of weeks ago. It's running Cortex 2 rules, tweaked to make a game seem like a television episode. Basically, no matter what you have planned, trouble will pop up and improvising will be required. Comes with a bunch of base characters as well as the tv show characters so you can drop people into a game with minimal fuss. Looking forward to getting my printed copy, one day...

            2. Glenn Amspaugh

              Re: Any suggestions

              Paranoia / Call of C'Thulu mashup games are great. Will you die before you go insane?

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Tunnels and Trolls

        Played this for years, only requires a bucket of 6 sided die. Rules have recently been re-released (a kickstarter project of course). A pretty simple system, with the bottom line being 'go with what makes sense for your group'.


        Publisher page:

      6. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Paper shortages

        "....Any suggestions?" Advanced D&D, 2nd Edition.

      7. mrjohn

        Re: Paper shortages

        It was developed with collaboration by player testers, giving feedback periodically (my D&D group did this). It was fun to be part of the development.

        The basic rules are pretty simple, the pace of play is much faster, combat is much faster, the dice are the same, it is suitable for groups but I think your group dynamics will dictate the numbers.

        Characters have backgrounds which give extra skills & round things out, making it a more flexible system if you want to use your imagination. You can have a thief who used to be an artisan, a barbarian who used to be a mason.

        All character classes are interesting up through the levels. In the previous versions magic users got more interesting as they leveled up but other classes kind of hit a plateau. Now with paths & skills each class gets some funky new abilities as they progress.

        I played basic D&D in the 70s as a kid, then came back to it a few years ago at 4E, the first playtests were very much like winding back the clock to simpler days, but as it progressed it became more rounded but not more complicated. I think they have done a great job.

        We'll be playing it tonight in Akihabara with the new rules, very happy to have helped develop them.

    3. NumptyScrub

      Re: Paper shortages

      quote: "I would hope that El Reg readers have discovered better systems than D&D by now. The Traveller you mentioned is one such. I personally prefer Alternity; the rules system is far better."

      "Better" is such a subjective term when talking about gaming systems. Some players prefer simplicity, some players prefer complexity (or a related preference for an exhaustive ruleset, which are complex by nature), some players only like sci-fi settings, some low fantasy, some prefer roleplay heavy campaigns, some prefer action oriented campaigns.

      I've played 2nd, 3rd, 3.5 and 4th ed DnD and enjoyed them. I've also played 4th ed Shadowrun, Runequest, Call of Cthulu, GURPS, Pathfinder (although that's just a reskinned DnD 3.5 with some tweaks) and Feng Shui, and enjoyed them too. If the object of playing them is to have fun, and I have had fun using all of those systems, then I can only surmise that they are all good ^^;

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "then I can only surmise that they are all good"

        Of course. But your list isn't comprehensive enough - if only you'd have played using my custom system, you'd see that it was even more fun than those others you tried :-) ...

        ... unless your own custom system was even better, naturally.

        1. wowfood

          Re: "then I can only surmise that they are all good"

          Our old group started with D&D 3.5 and stuck with it for ages. We modified the heck out of it with house rulings for bits we weren't overly fond of / felt didn't work. However that eventually started to crumble around us and made it difficult to add new people.

          Then we moved to Pathfinder which fixed most of the issues we had with D&D. Never did D&D4.0 none of us were overly enamoured with it.

          We had a stint for a year or so with WoD which was great from a roleplaying perspective ,but more difficult from a combat one we found.

          Right now we're looking at a few different systems to try, mainly GURPS which I believe is also a freemium system, and FATE which caught my interest.

          Since playing D&D 3.5 however I've been slowly building my own system that I'd like to try some day, but building a balanced system is hard, especially when I'm trying not to rip people off too much. Turns out the system I was putting together has a lot of similarities with GURPS. Thing is I keep getting to a certain point and then forgetting about i t/ losing the documents. That point is normally magic.. I'm no re-writing it all again, this time omitting magic entirely (for now) although I did have an idea of how I could implement magic in the future.

          I know there's no need for my own system, and it'll probably do more harm than good for our group but it's something that's been stuck in my mind on and off for way too long now.

        2. ricegf

          "Good" varies widely - whaddaya like?

          My kids, grandkids, and I actually added so many in-house rules that we finally just wrote and published our own manual from scratch on Amazon (called it "Elven Fire"), because it was cheaper to print a whole new book than addenda on a laser printer. Published it under CC, of course, to ensure my GREAT-grandchildren-to-be and friends can make their own variants if they like. Really, this is a great time to be alive!

          Fun for us includes using bizarre dice - in addition to 5-, 7-, 14-, and 30-sided, we've also used backgammon doubling dice and nested double-dice and 3D printed dice and special rules on max and doubles rolls to provide exponential probability distributions. (One friend who played with us drily commented, "You guys like math, don't you?" :-D )

          But in the end, the rules you adopt matter much less than the right players. We fall out of our chairs sometimes laughing at the predicaments into which we thrust out avatars sometimes, and that's what matters to us!

  3. TRT Silver badge

    I'm firmly...


    Huge pile of manuals, a stock of modules, but... no players. Mainly because I'm 45 and have a job. I find I've now outgrown it.

    1. Blane Bramble

      Re: I'm firmly...

      but... no players

      Sounds like you've not outgrown it, you're just resting...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm firmly...

        That for most gamers is the biggest problem, no damn players, I had a rather solid group of players sadly one passed away from cancer, one literally went crazy and gaming with just a ref and one player is a bit dull.

        1. Jagged

          Re: I'm firmly...

          Do I know you?

          Any way, to people looking for players (for any system)

          Maptool is great and clunky enough to excite the oldskool techy in you ;)

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: I'm firmly...

            Ha, maybe, maybe.

            I tried regular sessions of Exalted and Dungeon World, but real world commitments kept creeping in. Oh for the blank calendar of teenagehood.

      2. LucreLout
        Thumb Up

        Re: I'm firmly...

        "Sounds like you've not outgrown it, you're just resting..."

        I've not played in 20 years.... The way I see it, it'll make a great way to pass the time should I live to need a retirement home. Better than watching Jeremy Kyle on telly all day. But then, so is a kick in the nuts.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: I'm firmly...

          What a superb idea! Yes, forget chess in the park as a way to while away the hours waiting for God. A wrinkly veteran in the corner of the care home loudly proclaims "20, 20, 18! For 27. The mercenary ducks as he sees you swing, his coif flapping up from the sudden move. Your bastard sword sings as it cleaves the air, a single pure note, before neatly slipping into the gap between coif and hauberk. You barely feel the blade slow before it comes through the other side. A look of surprise crosses the fighter's face, his trademark war cry cut short by the severing of his windpipe and an explosion of red through his mail. He falls to his knees, then forwards as his life-force oozes into the mud and straw of the outpost floor."

    2. Tom 13

      Re: I'm firmly...

      I'd say, you just have other more important things consuming your time. I'm sure if tomorrow found you independently wealthy so that you were no longer required to work, with friends who were also suddenly independently wealthy and played when you did, you'd be interested in the game once again.

      1. sisk

        Re: I'm firmly...

        I'm well into adulthood and my oldest kid is almost old enough to start joining in the games (though, if my past experience with very young players holds true, probably not mature enough to do so without making all the adult players want to slap her). I still play a regular rotation of games (currently GURPS) every weekend with the same group I've been playing with for the last 20 years. The membership has changed over the years as people have moved away or new people have joined up or life has forced other priorities on people*, but it's been a constant group. To me it's become an excuse to get together every Sunday afternoon with some of my closest friends than anything else.

        *"Other priorities" in this context is mostly spouses who don't approve of the hobby, but I've been lucky in that regard. My wife games with us and is no happier about missing sessions than I am.

        1. Jagged

          Re: I'm firmly...

          "I'm well into adulthood and my oldest kid is almost old enough to start joining in the games"

          Its excellent when they do. Watching my son play his first game of D&D was great (4th Ed for him).

    3. Stevie

      Re: I'm 45 and have a job.


      I'm 59 and have a job and a college-age kid and I run two regular RPGs and play in a third. If I had more free time I have a backlog of stuff I'd like to try out too. I have from 6-8 players a game.

      Used to be I'd run a game of Call of Cthulhu for the same three people once a month, but I was getting bored and didn't get on with one of the people.

      The secret for me was relocating my gaming to a local friendly game store where I could tap into a huge player base via their "meetup" website.

      Once you have a pool of gamers to draw from you get to see the Rule in action: RPG would-be players outnumber RPG would-be GMs by at least 4-1. So getting a group together becomes an exercise in finding a game everyone wants to try out. I have dozens of the buggers lying around in boxes, but everyone can find a D&D audience in a game store (I don't run that one myself).

    4. Glenn Amspaugh

      Re: I'm firmly...

      I'm 46, with 13 year old daughter. Found my town has a gaming group (Abq RPG Gamers) and singed up for their newsletter. They do frequent one-shot games and game tests. Makes it easy to drop in on a Saturday afternoon for 4-6 hours. Ok, it is 30 miles away but this is all about geeking up my kid.

  4. graeme leggett Silver badge

    starter pack

    Showing my age here, but does it have a crayon to colour in the sides of the dice with?

    1. Tim Jenkins

      Re: starter pack

      Just moving house and found mine, unopened, in the Basic box set, 'cos I splashed out on a set of 'jewel' dice when I bought it in about '82. The crayon's gone a bit flaky, though...

  5. thomas k.

    What changes?

    A brief description of the changes the new rules bring would have been helpful.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: What changes?

      Saving throw modifiers are more complex for one example. The new system includes [You need the version of 'Saving Throws and You' designed for your race. Visit the website to purchase]. As you can see, while a little more complex, the new system does seem to more accurately reflect reality.

    2. Psyx

      Re: What changes?

      "A brief description of the changes the new rules bring would have been helpful."

      It's a free download, so perhaps they thought it best if we came to our own opinion?

      1. Stevie

        Re: perhaps they thought it best

        Well, it has been in open playtest for months now, so that would be a good guess.

  6. Colin Ritchie

    Chaosium over TSR any day.

    I played a lot of RPGs, the system I liked best was Chaosium's Runequest, used in many other iterations: Call of Cthuhlu, Stormbringer etc.

    Gumshoe, the original game was an awesome concept but not enough people play. Shame.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free systems

    There's another good reason for them doing this, there are dozens if not hundreds of free game systems, some with settings some without. They want to get people into their ecosystem first before someone plays say the d6 system (which was used for the original star wars rpgs) or the Action system (used in Mekton) etc etc etc or all the "primer" sets you get for other game worlds that come with prerolls and enough rules to play for a few levels.

  8. Jagged

    How many As in BAAAACK?

    Sorry, could not resist.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      I don't know but I want to go BAAAAAAACKKK.

      At various times in its history, Dungeons & Dragons has received negative publicity, in particular from some Christian groups, for alleged promotion of such practices as devil worship, witchcraft, suicide, and murder, and for the presence of naked breasts in drawings of female humanoids in the original AD&D manuals (mainly monsters such as Harpies, Succubi, etc.).

      Hell yeah. Innocent times.

  9. Qwelak

    I am fortunate

    enough to still have a solid gaming group. Almost never player AD&D though, started with Traveller and RuneQuest and moved on from there. Currently engaged in a Rolemaster Campaign.

  10. Steve Gill

    Every version of D&D since the wee white box has just been adding unnecessary complexity and whizzy graphics :)

    1. sisk

      I dunno about that. 3rd edition was a much simpler system than AD&D 2nd edition I thought, and the skill/feat system that replaced 2E's proficiencies was a vast improvement.

      Can't comment on anything past 3.5E though. When 4th edition came out we switched to Pathfinder for a fantasy themed games. Not only was it compatible with our 3rd edition books, but we were all in agreement that 4th edition just plain sucked after one session with it.

  11. Jagged

    Can I also add the Wizard released a Free ruleset and adventure for the last version too.

  12. Nigel Campbell

    Traveller, being written in the mid 1970's, had some quaintly amusing notions on computer technology. If I could be arsed I would post this from my TL11 Samsung Galaxy hand computer.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Ha ha! But you can't argue they were spot on with gaffer tape.

  13. Toltec

    Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

    A simple rule system that did not get in the way of game play.

    1. Whitter

      Re: Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

      They revamped Dragon Warriors a few years back: adding exactly nowt as far as I could tell. A fun wee game with a good atmosphere.

      It's still not Amber though... or even AD&D for that matter.

      1. Mr Fuzzy

        Re: Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

        Criminy, it's a long time since I've played Amber.

        I fondly remember being a wrong'un in that and running a tobacco empire on the back of enslaved hobbits.

    2. BongoJoe

      Re: Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

      Talking of simple systems: one couldn't get any simpler nor better than those in the MELEE rule book of the very underrated Fantasy Quest.

      Perhaps even in those minimal days these were considered too minimal.

      Yours still clutching his original copy of 'Red Bear White Moon'...

      1. ricegf

        Re: Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

        Ah, yes - Death Test, Silver Dragon, and other modules you could actually play solo. Wonder if anyone ever found the gold... What was it? A golden orc or something. Hidden somewhere in the Midwest USA, as I recall. Metagaming went out of business before the finder was announced, Steve Jackson went on to GURPS , and now I'll never know...

    3. BongoJoe

      Re: Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

      You mentioned Simple Systems. Going to the other extreme does anyone remember The Empire of The Petal Throne?

      Not only was it complete and complex it came with its own language.

      1. John Gamble

        Re: Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

        "Not only was it complete and complex it came with its own language."

        Appropriately enough, since it was created by the linguist M. A. R. Barker.

        If he had been a slightly better writer his works would be compared to Tolkien.

        1. gizmo23

          Re: Anyone remember Dragon Warriors?

          I'm a big fan of Empire of the Petal Throne. There's nothing like it for content and the details of the society the Professor created. Since his death the Tekumel Foundation is trying to sort through the vast amount of material he left.

  14. Tweets


    Reminds me of how GURPS was sold/handled...Dang I miss GURPS! THAT was an amazingly flexible system!

    Mind you, I think I must have played about 20 different systems, but nothing could compare to the time my leprachaun got drop-kicked into the maw of a firebreathing demon!

    1. Stevie

      Re: GURPS?

      GURPS, the RPG that makes income tax instructions look easy.

      1. John 104

        Re: GURPS?

        @ Stevie

        GURPS like a tax form? That's what I thought of when I saw 3rd edition rules. Best part of GURPS was that you could use what you wanted, and throw out the rest. Space adventure? No problem. Fantasy? Steam Punk? Whatever, change the tools, the rules stayed the same. I still can't understand why it didn't get wider adoption.

        Way back in the day we tried D&D, Rolemasters (RULEmasters is what that one should have been caled), RuneQuest (still have the original set), Traveller, and others. None compared to the simplicity of GURPS. Well, maybe RuneQuest, but combat sucked. How many times can you get clipped at the knees and end up on the ground before you have had enough? :D

        1. graeme leggett Silver badge

          Re: GURPS?

          we did refer to Rolemaster as Rulesmaster.

          Still it gave us the hilarious critical roll descriptions - "...trip over imaginary turtle..." was it on a 66 or 99?

        2. Stevie

          Re: GURPS like a tax form?


          In support of this contention I offer GURPS For Dummies in which the advice from GURPS experts to get it all into a spreadsheet is repeated for both character builds so you can finish before the GM dies of old age and for GMs conducting combat so a simple flesh wound doesn't cause a quarter hour break to refigure the combat modifiers.

          And personal experience, of course. What, you thought I'd never actually had a go?

          Also, you write of GURPS in the past tense but it is still available in the gorgeous 4th edition hardback printing. I know, 'cos I have one. Well, two, since it is a two volume set. I bought them to see if they would make the free "GURPS Lite" rules that we were using for Tales of the Solar Patrol make sense. They did, but it is debatable whether that was worth the 80-odd bucks of acquisition.

          I can't speak for 3rd edition, but the service pack, 3.5, is such a doddle it lured me back into playing D&D after a hiatus begun when I ran screaming from AD&D in 1981 and took up running Traveller, and then Call of Cthulhu. If you are saying you can make GURPS work but not 3.5 I have to question your sincerity.

          As for simple rules systems, why buy expensive rules if you are going to throw most of them away? If you don't need the fractal insanity of GURPS in its entirety, Savage Worlds offers the quickest and cheapest way into generic engine RPGs, and BRP (Gold Book) a slightly more involved one. Both are easier to assimilate and cheaper to own than GURPS.

          One thing Pathfinder and the older D&D 3.5 offer that GURPS doesn't is a comprehensive Bestiary that can save the GM oodles of time (and again, much cash). Trying to assemble a GURPS bestiary is an exercise in going slowly mad. Ask me how I know this.

          GURPS settings are lavish things, sometimes great, sometimes not - one example of a swing and miss that leaps to mind is the patently ridiculous statement that the Mini Moke taxis could do "about 40 mph maximum" in the GURPS The Prisoner sourcebook. This from an 'expert' on the background too. And I imagine everyone could live without the third edition bindings that fall apart at the drop of a hat.

          On the other hand, the Discworld and Vorkosigan Saga are works of breathtaking scope, and after Wizards of the Coast set the bar a little higher, fourth edition books have been in color on gloss paper too (bringing them up to par with Savage Worlds, D&D and Pathfinder publications). Both of those are out of print now, unfortunately.

          I just think these settings would all work better, be easier to run and be seen by a larger audience if they were run under a different game engine.

          Because GURPS looks, and is, complicated.

      2. sisk

        Re: GURPS?

        GURPS, the RPG that makes income tax instructions look easy.

        GURPS is actually one of the easier systems I've used. You have to reference the books whenever you add skills, but aside from that it's very easy. Roll 3d6 and if you're under your target number (The appropriate attribute adjusted for your skill level) you succeed. You should have all your target numbers written on your character sheet, so that's not hard at all. Even someone only passingly familiar with the system can get their character put together in 30 minutes or less.

        Compare that with Rifts, a system wherein I once finished my character in only an hour and a half and kept looking at it convinced I'd made a mistake because it should have taken twice as long.

  15. BoldMan

    Played all versions of D&D & AD&D and my current game group settled on 4th ed by default when we started up again a few years back. To be honest the game system is irrelevant to us - its just an excuse to get together every 3 weeks and take the piss out of each other, have a laugh and an enjoyable evening. Having a "game" to play just makes the social aspect more regular, otherwise there would always be some reason to miss this get together...

    We've taken a rest form D&D lately and are currently playing a Chill-based modern horror (think Charles Stoss Laundry...)

    "I rolled Double zero... is that good?"

  16. Fogcat

    Not played for a long time now, but I remember getting early copies of the "Dungeon Master Guide" imported by someone who holidayed in the USA. As my group played the rules moved more and more to our own customised versions and ZX81 wobbly RAM pack combat resolution before finally emerging into completely rule free sessions; essentially moderated story telling.

  17. Stevie


    "Your correspondent has the original, three-book, Traveller rules if anyone fancies a game."

    I've got a mint copy of Striker and 400 15mm figures from the Traveller range standing by for when you want to try a grown-up game.

  18. Dreadogastus

    Traveller 40 years ago

    I'm up for a game. But only if I can play my hot-rolled Aristocrat. [My own Starship and First Empire laser pike.]

  19. KirstarK

    WotC will pry my copy of pathfinder from my cold dead hands. And my copy of Herolabs.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-playing Game

    Might I suggest: Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-playing Game

    A group of friends and I used to play this in the school playground around 1984-1986. It was simple, fast and had the great back-story of the Fighting Fantasy game books to base adventures in.

    I played Basic D&D, AD&D 2nd Ed, Traveller, Runequest, Tunnels and Trolls, MERP and Call of Cthulhu. Of them all, I always went back to the FF book mentioned simply because I inevitably got bored with the other systems' desires for complexity over efficiency. The only other one that came close for speed of play was Tunnels and Trolls - which, incidentally, had some great humour in it too.

  21. Colin Brett


    "The Computer is your friend!"

    "Will all REG sector troubleshooters please report for termination immediately."

    "Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice day."

    At least Paranoia gives an IT angle to this story.


    PS: I am well aware of the big overlap between IT and RPGs. Hence the joke icon.

  22. JBowler


    Ouch. Couldn't afford "Mercenary" then? Cost me GBP2.95, have it in my demented hand now. Great lesson in marketing - the game is unplayable. Back to T&T.

  23. SisterClamp

    This couldn't be...

    ...because they got a whiff of the d6xd6 Kickstarter, could it?

    I've kicked in a few quid. Anyone joining me?

  24. Andalou

    Call me imaginatively challenged

    Is this the radio version? You have to use your imagination to provide illustrations.

  25. Rob Crawford

    If you are going to print it try this version

    Just the straight version for printing purposes, none of the parchment effects.

    May not save paper but will be quicker and it will save a lot of toner

  26. sawatts

    make a nostalgia saving throw

    No doubt I'll add this (D&D5) PDF to my collection.

    The heyday for me was AD&D in the 80s. There was so much material in the rule books that it could play very differently if, for example, took note of the material components required for spells. Of course, we developed our own house rules based which actually used information in the rule books - an initiative system suddenly split fighters into plate & greatsword tanks vs leather & rapier swashbucklers, as a role choice without disadvantage to either.

    I was going to list some of the other (obscure) RPGs we played during the 80s and 90s - but frankly the list is just too long, and would repeat what has been said in a lot of places.

    Often, we just made up RPGs for settings, and rolled with it. There was a great long standing campaign set in the 1640s - started as a Musketeers game, and ended up in England during the Civil War. It was always the obsurd million-to-one chance occurances which stick in the memory - in the latter case one character who still used a bow managed a multiple-critical to take out a cannon.

    On the other end of the "playability" scale was a WWI game - 30 minutes to roll up a character, detail their background, choose possessions, etc - and 1 minute in play to fail a saving throw when "going over the top"...

  27. Santa from Exeter


    I used to play Runequest for 'serious' roleplaying and Tunnels and Trolls for 'back from the pub and skin up' fun. I still fondly remember my T&T character going around with his testicles in his pouch looking for someone to sew them back on (he'd missed spotting the broken chair when jumping into the pit full of Troll shit)

  28. sisk

    It's gotta be better than the piece of garbage that is 4th edition. If I wanted to have the limitations needed to make a computerized RPG viable I probably wouldn't be playing a pen and paper game.

    Still I don't see myself or any of the rest of the group I play with switching back from Pathfinder any time soon.

  29. Deadlock Victim

    Sign me up for the Traveller game

  30. Triggerfish

    Close to the truth for an average game.

    Worth a read,

  31. Tim Mills

    Anyone for Bushido?

    Now there's a role playing game :-)

  32. Neil B

    Guys, D&D edition wars are so 2010, didn't you hear? Play what you like, leave everyone else to do the same.

  33. RayvenUK

    Wow Traveller

    I haven't played Traveller in years (sounds of rustling through boxes digging out old rule books).

    This poatser has the Paranoia rulebooks if anyone fancies a game!

  34. Omgwtfbbqtime

    I have a near mint red and blue boxes D&D (basic and expert)

    Offers please.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laserburn or Paranoia!

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