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Hello and welcome to Crash’s Course, a short form podcast where I share my thoughts and advice on playing and running tabletop role playing games in roughly about 5 minutes.
Well hey, it’s been a while! In my defense, I’ve been sick since December. I’m just getting over bronchitis! I’ve never heard my lungs creak like an old rocking chair before! I will now blame that for any decline in recording quality.
In this episode I’m not talking about the D&D OGL as enough people have done that already. (Sly Flourish, DnD Shorts, & Sherlock Hulmes made good videos about the aftermath, each is a somewhat different take.)
Instead, I’m talking about next steps.
There’s a variety of takes on this topic, but the thing to remember is they don’t have to be mutually exclusive so long as your group has some level of consensus.
Right now my group is looking into GURPS 4e, Pathfinder 2 (SRD), Cypher System (SRD), and also we might try Monster of the Week. But guess what? Like many people, we’re still playing 5e. Yes, we canceled our D&D Beyond subscriptions, but those were never needed to play the game. [Insert ominous foreshadowing music here.]
When we first got together, I had friends emailing me character sheets that were everything from pdf to Word docs to spreadsheets. I looked everything up in books covered with sticky notes, kept track of initiative and enemy HP on scraps of paper, and we all rolled actual, physical dice. Chances are good that you can do the same.
Yes, there’s some organizational benefits that D&D Beyond provided, but many of those can be replicated with a shared Google Drive folder and a few spreadsheets.
OK, maybe you don’t like Google. That’s fair. There’s also Roll20, Foundry VTT, and if you mainly want a usable online map there’s owlbear.rodeo for all your token moving needs. Oh, I love Owlbear Rodeo.
But what about all those other systems? OK, here’s the thing: Switch to a new one if you want. I intend to do so once my current campaigns wrap up, but don’t think of it as a necessity. There’s still groups out there playing 3.5 and 4e who are very happy. (Maybe not 4e, never mind.) You don’t have to dump 5e, particularly if you already have the books. If you don’t, I suspect more used copies will be entering the market soon so you can build up your library without sending more money to WotC. Or maybe go to a 3rd party publisher like Kobold Press. There’s tons of 5e compatible stuff out there.
If you do switch, don’t make it a unilateral decision. If you’re playing as a group, then it is imperative that the members of your group have input about the system or systems you’re considering. Oh, yeah, systems. Pural. There’s no reason you have to limit yourself to just one. I could have a Cypher System game and Mutants and Masterminds game going on alternate Saturdays and have a lot of fun with both.
Before you switch, plan a one-shot or two with any system you’re considering. A game can look good on paper but be convoluted in practice, or vice-versa. Have a debriefing after each session to discuss benefits and drawbacks of how things went. That’s a good idea for any session, rally, but it’s essential if you’re trying something new.
If you like a new rule set enough, you may be tempted to convert a campaign over. Critical Role did this twice, very successfully, starting with 4e, then Pathfinder, before moving eventually to 5e when they started streaming. Again, this should be a group decision. I floated the idea with my group and there were some misgivings as a different system can have a different feel. As much as I love our current campaign setting, I’ll be creating a new one when we move to our next system. (I already have a few ideas.)
With my after school D&D club, that’s another story. We may actually convert to another system, but I’ll be suggesting the move because I think their play styles are better suited towards something like Cypher or FATE (SRD) where players have even more agency in regards to plot points.
That’s all for this episode, subscribe to just this podcast at is.aaronbsmith.com/@crashscourse or all my D&D podcasts at aaronbsmith.com/cogwheel for future episodes.
Music is Deadly Windmills by JAM from modarchive.org, used with permission, as it’s public domain.
This podcast is distributed under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.
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MP3 Download: Crash’s Course Ep 06: Next Steps After the OGL