Saturday, July 26, 2014

Battle of the box sets: East Mark versus 5e Starter

The “Adventures in the East Mark” boxed set showed up Tuesday while I was still struggling to put together my analysis of the 5th edition “Dungeons and Dragons”. I though what better than an old fashioned wrestling cage match to decide who was better. So in this corner we have: the “Boast from the Coast”; the “Rattle from Seattle”; four time world champion Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) 5th Edition “Dungeons and Dragons” Starter Set. And in this corner we have the “Game from Spain”; “Windmill Tilter Extraordinaire”; `Extra-Dimensional Publishing “Adventures in the East Mark” Red Box English translation. Let’s get ready to ruuuumbleeee!!!!!!

Round 1 Box
12x12x1.5 East Mark
9x12x2 Starter
Advantage Starter (fits in the Magazine box I organize stuff with)
Round 2 Box Cover
East Mark Guy with sword and shield fights Red dragon
Starter Guy with sword and shield fights Green Dragon
Round 3 Box Contents
East Mark 1 book, 1 pencil, dice, crayon, dungeon masters screen
Starter 2 books, dice, 5 pregens, 1 flyer/blank character sheet, cardboard (to fill that extra 0.5”)
Advantage East Mark because who needs cardboard. Seriously use that 10 cents for cardboard on 10 pages of content
Round 4 Dice
East Mark “old” school red dice with white dice crayon
Starter prepainted blue dice
Advantage Starter because I hate coloring dice
Round 5 Celebrity introduction
East Mark Frank Mentzer
Starter we don’t need no celebrities (besides we fired them all at one time or another)
Advantage East Mark
Round 7 Attributes
Same Six both ways
Round 8 Combat
East Mark Old school side vs side initiative, crazy ass movement slowed by three because
Starter Individual initiative, smaller movement
Advantage: Depends East Mark is true its old school roots I have found more modern approaches more playable
Round 9 Adventures
East Mark Large sandbox region and two beginner adventures
Starter Small town and four linked adventures
Draw I am more excited about the East Mark, but the Starter has more content.
Round 10 Equipment
East Mark has stuff and boats
Starter has stuff
Advantage East Mark
Round 11 Character Creation
East Mark full rules
Starter five Pregens
Advantage East Mark
Round 12 Adventuring
East Mark rest. Carry capacity, illumination, doors, traps, outdoors, getting lost, climbing, swimming, air travel hirelings
Starter travel, jumping, climbing, swimming, resting
Advantage East Mark
Round 13 Levels
East Mark experience to level 20
Starter experience to level 5
Advantage East Mark
Round 14 Spells
East Mark to level 6 arranged by level and class
Starter to level 3 arranged alphabetically
Advantage East Mark
Round 15 Monsters
East Mark 60+ monster descriptions
Starter 27 monsters including some NPCs
Advantage East Mark
Round 16 Treasure
East Mark Gems, Jewels 80+ magic items up to +5
Starter 13 magic items!? Nothing better than +1
Advantage East Mark K.O!!!

Looks like Starter is going down for the count, no there’s the tag in, leaping into the ring Basic Edition web download

Round 10a Equipment
East Mark has stuff and boats
Basic has stuff and boats
Round 11a Character creation
East Mark full rules
Basic full rules
Round 12a Adventuring
East Mark rest. Carry capacity, illumination, doors, traps, outdoors, getting lost, climbing, swimming, air travel hirelings
Starter travel, jumping, climbing, swimming, the environment, illumination, food and water, social interactions, resting, between adventures, lifestyle expenses, downtime activities
Advantage East Mark hirelings more important than that other stuff.
Round 13a Level
East Mark experience to level 20
Basic exp to level 20
Round 14a Spells
East Mark to level 6 arranged by level and class
Basic to level 8 arranged alphabetically
Draw 8th is better than 6 but a long way down the pike. By level is better than alphabetic

No help on round 15 monsters or round 16 treasure

Round 17 Races
East Mark Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfing
Basic Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfing, but subraces
Draw Slight advantage basic for subraces but who cares
Round 18 Classes
East Mark Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Halfing, explorer, mage, paladin, thief, warrior
Basic Cleric, Fighter, Rouge, Wizard
Advantage East Mark I am not a big fan of the class as race system, but even with those classes knocked out East Mark has more variety than Basic. Basic hold a glimmer of hope with subclasses, but since only one choice of subclass per class was included; this does not yet expand the variety.
Round 19 Alignment
East Mark Law Neutral Chaos
Basic the full nine
Advantage Basic
Round 20 Personality and Background
East Mark none
Basic whole chapter for randomly rolled features
Advantage East Mark because who needs that junk

Final score card
East Mark versus Starter: 9 rounds East Mark, 2 Rounds Starter, 5 drawn
East Mark versus Starter and Basic:7 rounds East mark, 4 rounds Starter and Basic 9 drawn
So the judges decision goes to EAST MARK. 

Seriously East Mark as a mostly complete game is a better box set, than the incomplete Starter set. Starter gives enough of a taste to run the canned adventure but then leaves you hanging. The downloadable Basic does at least allow you to generate your own characters, but does not include enough extra for someone to write their own follow-on adventure. I would have been happier with the starter, if they had added the 32 useful (without that personality and background junk) pages on character creation to the game rules. Now I have to print them out myself. People on the web appear to be using print-on-demand to produce their own Basic rulebook, another revenue stream lost to WoTC (given that they already on DrivethruRPG, I think it might of taken WoTC a whole day to set up a print-on-demand option themselves). Perhaps I am being “Old School” in wanting a dead tree version, but wait a minute WoTC went “Old School” by producing a dead tree boxed set to begin with.

P.S. I was going include a round of "over 175,000 fans of DnD" who may have opened the .zip file they downloaded versus 427 folk who had to put their money were their mouth was, but I am clearly too biased to judge fairly.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No comment on 5e

Unlike some blogs on the web I will not be commenting on 5e, until I have an actual copy of the rules to read. I am working on reviews for Barebones fantasy, Beyonder, and the Emerald spire "Superdugeon". Hope to have them done soon, although I am currently tied up working on a technical paper for work. She-who-must-be-obeyed had some weird idea for a cartoon for a regular dungeon ripping its t-shirt to reveal the "Super" dungeon, but actually sketching it seemed too much like work to her, so I guess you'll have to draw your own.
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