After getting a play session in, I had some additional insights into what would make this game better. It has come a long way from its humble roots. I give you the May 20 update for the Crumbling Epoch system, designed to be compatible with B/X Dungeons and Dragons and retroclones.
Why play Crumbling Epoch? Well, here are the reasons I would play it instead of B/X or another system based on the original. You can decide what you think for yourself.
- Combat is a struggle where foes may tie, or one may dominate another, or they may whittle each other down, or they may strike at each other with disregard for their own safety. The fiction is represented mechanically, rather than feeling like two pinatas trading hits until one bursts with experience candy.
- Armor is damage reduction. Combat skill helps you not get hit.
- You can have an attack or defense stance, and you can protect people.
- Multiple combat feels like one against many, and there is an advantage to ganging up on tougher foes. Also, many less significant foes can be folded into a single roll, speeding combat greatly.
- I never liked “cast and forget” magic. If you have the slot, you can casually toss a fireball with no physical engagement beyond hand gestures. This magic is fueled by hit points. Also, wands and staves for wizards become important.
- Classes get simple scalable abilities. Higher level characters do not necessarily get more complex to play, but they do get cooler.
- The thief is democratized; the skills can be spread around the party. Anyone can backstab if they attack someone who has already acted in the round. Since characters can take a new skill instead of hit points when they level, a lower-hit-point fighter or martial artist (or whatever) with more skills becomes thief-like.
- A simple skill system is bolted on and accessible to everyone.
- Simple paired weapon rules that do not involve multiple attacks.
- Fresh new spells.
- A movement system that allows characters to decide how fast or how slow they will move–decide to be cautious or stealthy or mapping, instead of having a single movement rate that assumes they will be.
- Simple unified experience for all classes, at a less brutally punishing rate than the slow experience awards assumed in the basic books.
- Everybody can use weapons and armor. Fighters are just better at it.
- I enjoy the lightbringer and thirster concepts. Also, I like having martial artists that don’t have to be monks.
I think there is a lot to love here. If anybody uses this, I’d love to hear how it works for your group.