Incarna Worlds

Incarna Worlds
Incarna Worlds

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Decision to Convert to a 5th Eddition DnD Variant

Its obvious that the DnD 5th Edition borrowed from Incarna and other games or at least players familiar with the concepts in mine and other independent game developers had a say in the re-crafting of the most venerable of all RPGs. Its the most perfect edition of DnD ever - I could not have done better myself. They have created a framework that's well balanced, class based but not class limiting, a set of powers and pathways of development that's both fulfilling and a framework to easily extend.  I think it can be leveraged in ways that let TSR do the heavy lifting, not me, allowing me to focus on the things i always wanted to do the most.  Thinking about what I love and what I prefer to spend my time on - world building, character development, and adventure writing, and I reached a decision that I'd prefer to adopt 5th ed. The positives now far outweigh the negatives - I can build my world, home brew rules, and write adventures without having the stress of mechanics. I first played Dnd 5th for several months and have not made this decision without a lot of testing and analysis.

Firstly - Incarna wont die - as a site or idea.
The plan is to take a lot of the things we like best about the Incarna system mechanics and story elements and adapt them to the framework within D20 DnD 5th Edition as a "Variant".
Let me categorically state that I still prefer the Incarna mechanics - its just too much for me to upkeep.

I know its a lot of years and work... but I dont have 40 extra hours a week any more. And when you see a version of DnD as well balanced as this, its hard not to adopt. Even a +1 is significant in this version of DnD - the attack/defense balance is near perfect... in some ways its more lethal than any other version because it was expected for you to have +2/+3 weapons and armor by the time you are 6th level in previous ones - playing the "gritty realism" perspective did not work well previously. The latest edition compresses the range to a more mature and realistic one.

A ran through a lot of agonizing scenarios in this one. Some relevant notes are...
  • I still don't like hit points that go by level, but I can kill a powerful creature with clever low level work. 
  • You can improve abilities, no one is limited by class, its NOT 4th ed endless pluses - in fact its harder than 3rd edition to gain lots of bonuses - its about damage and tactics, not having super characters (5th ed are very underpowered - more like 1st edition). The DMG offers some work around on leveling and using the class based system. 
  • Theres also still durability of goods in general and AC, which i think is THE weakest point of the game. Armor does not make you harder to hit, it just protects you from damage. I already have ideas around that without adding too much complexity.   
  • Its almost not a class based system and more of a group skill buy. If all you consider classes as are a bunch of related skills at X level of relative competence then you have 5th ed. The old days of not getting improvements over long level hauls is pretty much gone. Its rebalanced REALLY well. Thats said, its still leveling and at higher levels you can go a long time with no change. I am working on some ideas for minor point buy systems  based on the idea of a group mechanic and minor abilities.
  • The DMG is rife with Incarna like approaches. It adds sanity and other key elements as core variants. Its actually worth the money to buy now. There's not a focus on insane items (there is a few) as commonplace. 
  • The races and some things still don't make any sense and I would be fixing that. The Monster Manual is VERY well done though and provides lots of good options. 
  • Everything is so well balanced and easily categorized into concepts that cross player, monster, and effect - this framework is nicely put together.
  • The impact of not advancing each session is mitigated by a larger emphasis on story and not creating uber characters. And it can be mitigated using some home brew... but really, the emphasis has swung back towards story telling and imagination.
  • Resolution is simple like Incarna, and they have adapted quality/success into a single optional mechanic (using an "average" result mechanism), but its not insane like Krendel or some others  where you have to stop and think for 5 minutes to maximize your result. Its really well balanced. Its EASY for new players to approach and learn.
  • The worst part is buying the books - but only one of us in a group need do that, i have players guide on PDF. Published books people still pay for, and the RPG industry does not seem to be moving away soon.
It takes a lot of pressure off me this way. It takes a person a lot to admit when they have been matched, but if i had write a class based system, 5th ed would be my choice.

See The "Incarna" flavor/variant of DnD 5th Edition.

Leaving me to do what I do best

I would focus on world building, character customization, and adventure writing - the heart of story telling. TSR just did it better, learning from their fans and with a huge staff to work on it, looking at sites like Incarna and listening to players. Mechanics cannot make money online - web content is generally expected to be free - like it or leave it.
  1. Character Development - all aspects; making the races logical, adding Incarna concepts for adaptations and abilities + adopting 5e DMG variants that reflect a lot of Incrna/Krendel/other independent system approaches
  2. Essence - KEY missing element should get added in, includes idea of sparks
  3. Leadership/Lackey/Group dynamic - Also key, should get added in
  4. Item durability and Armor Class; AC has to stay, but armor should have an emphasis on stopping damage and be a $ sink in its upkeep.
  5. Lethality - Can use both increase and decrease depending on situation
  6. Improvements between levels - slow pace of advancement/sense of waiting for ever at mid-high levels... character stays static the whole time, this is frustrating
  7. World building - portraying the world (characters/races) in way compatible with 5e mechanics
Round 2:
  • Cohesive party - faith 
  • Spirits and Spark (primal)

The Incarna web site's Future

The base older Incarna rules I can easily make available, but it would stop developing the mechanics. Incarna becomes a wordpress site (where you guys can help me collaborate still), and is where all the previous work goes and with a new focus on being a home brew extension of 5th ed. the Steel Realms and other worlds, and a bunch of conceptual materials gets moved over. 
  • I can put ads on the site and maybe make enough to pay for hosting - DnD has a huge product derivative and user base that ads would appeal to. 
  • Also appeal to wider audience due to easier integration into their existing campaigns.


William Altman said...

"its not insane like BJ's where you have to stop and think for 5 minutes." Hey... OK, not an entirely unfair observation, but like any system, when you are new to it things take a while and once you get used to it things flow much faster.

That said, I'm only a bit surprised by the move, and even then only because of the time you sunk into Incarna. Your main love and drive for the system has always seemed to be a way to present your game world, a world originally built in D&D. So things have come full circle, and I'm glad you have found a system that works for what you want. Sure, not all the mechanics fit, and I'm sure I'll save those comments for a later post.

P.S. Expect Krendel revision and game using Dwarven Forge scenery when I return in 2 years! You can even try to sell my on 5th ed then, since I won't have time to play it until then.

Kelly Berger said...

Flavor, flavor, flavor. I've given up on flavor. Its time to see whats most important and what was a luxury i could afford at one point and cannot now. Incarna 1-2 used to take forever to figure out combat as it had speed and rank for initiative, reach and other things. Then each weapon had options for attack. I wont say i'm not as guilty as taking a long time... but you want as few barriers to entry as possible. In looking back, i loved mechanics. Now the focus is on telling a story. I will try and sell you on it, but also, it depends on what you want out of your life in 2 years!

William Altman said...

No arguments from me on combat taking forever in early Incarna. I was the one that put the pre-built combat combinations on the back of the character sheet to help manage 60 strike ranks per round =)