Saturday, February 3, 2024

Tales of the Valiant: The New Hotness

As we get closer to release, it is clear that Tales of the Valiant is the new "hotness" and has the buzz around it. The Kobold Press team put in a lot of work, and as the flagship Open 5E game, this is a super high-quality release worthy of leading the pack.

What I like about ToV is the pre-existing support. Already out of the game, we have magic books, player option books, adventures, a game world, three (four if you count the one in the Kickstarter) monster books, and a shelf full of great stuff to read and collect. They start ahead of where Paizo started with Pathfinder 1e, and you can pull in all your other 3rd party books to use with the system.

They are brilliant for not linking the game to Midgard. They are trying to keep the core line as world-neutral as possible, and since 70% of groups (by my last research) play in their worlds - and not a published campaign world - this is a solid decision. Midgard is always there, and we have 5E Midgard-focused options books that will convert over for now.

They are trying to create a standard-bearer in Open 5E, which Old School Essentials did for B/X. This is way harder in 5E because of the page count needed for a thorough job; you are talking about 1,000 pages. This is in monsters, spells, character options, magic items, and all the other necessary parts. In B/X, you can do this with about 100 pages, which one person can do. But ten times the page count does not translate into ten times the work; it is more like 100 times the work since there are so many cross-references and other dependencies. Those pages need to be proofread and laid out, have art added to them, and so much more. For a decent Open 5E version done right, you are taking the effort of a small to mid-sized company easily.

I am behind ToV because the gaming community needs this project. Nobody knows what will happen with the Wizards team, especially after last year and the layoffs. I hate spreading FUD, but D&D is a Wall Street property that will be bought and sold until the end of time - the "open use rights" of D&D will always be in question. The following company to "own the brand" has no guarantee of being as friendly, which is relative to the events of 2023.

An Open 5E will never be questioned.

If you sit there saying, "I play 5E, so I can always find a game," - think ten years out. Can you say that about D&D? With the OSR and Open 5E, I can answer that with a "yes" today. I want players and myself to say yes, 10, 20, and even 30+ years from now.

For me, the community is more important than giving a company money.

And the 5E CC SRD is not enough. That can't be played as-is because it lacks critical play components, like most subclasses and character options. We need a complete game implementation that anyone can "pick up and play." You can't ask the average consumer to download an SRD and expect them to make up the missing parts.

Even community online character creators will not be enough to play D&D - they cannot use all the options excluded from the SRD. Do you want an open game that people of all backgrounds and income levels can play? Or do you like the paywall that pushes haves and have-nots? An open implementation creates a game that aligns with values that support equality of game access regardless of income.

Those missing parts will also be a source of incompatibility with base 5E. People who create Open 5E versions will need to rebuild what Wizards left out, and often, these rebuilds will be better done and more robust than the Wizards versions. OSE has specific changes from B/X, and the community accepts them as the price of having an open game. Those parts can't be taken as they are; they need to be rebuilt with things everyone can use and build upon.

And I always have Level Up Advanced 5E, a great old-school-inspired version of 5E. This is worth mentioning since the team with this game rewrote everything, so they have no SRD or license dependencies. ToV has better 3rd party compatibility, and it is a more accessible game to grasp and understand since it is written for a beginner audience. LU A5E is more for an advanced audience familiar with 5E, like 5E's AD&D. It is hard to recommend A5E to beginning players, but the new beginner box (coming out this year) should help solve that issue.

Level Up A5E is my Labyrinth Lord to ToV's OSE.

The Kobold Press team focusing on making the game easy to learn puts this on a cut above even 2024 D&D. This is forward-thinking. They are selling to new players, not just people tired of 2014. Given that 2024 is 2024 + 10 years of expansions, you aren't solving any systemic problems.

ToV's GM Guide adds optional rules that cover some of what A5E covers for social encounters, survival, and exploration. So I hope these cover the play styles that I prefer and that A5E does well. I am open to using one set of rules for everything, but A5E will always be one of my favorites since it pulls in many favorite options from 3.5 and 4E.

I am feeling the gravitational pull of ToV, and the 2024 D&D books are off my radar, nor will I be purchasing them. The lack of communication, open betas, previews, or even what will be CC in the 2024 D&D version is noticeable. People and 3rd parties making ToV adventures have a beta SRD right now.

I have all my bases covered with ToV and an equally excellent A5E. ToV is easy to invest in, and its design goals put your homebrew worlds first. Kobold's expansions, like Wastes of Chaos, only have a few pages at the end, which suggests possible chaos wastes in Midgard - the rest of the book is setting agnostic. It is nice to have a company that puts your ideas first.

I am feeling the ToV excitement here.

And it is nice to be excited about a game again.


  1. I think that what makes OSR great is that most of the stuff is cross-compatible. There are several systems which use B/X as a baseline and where the stats are useable without any modification. I think part of that is because B/X is 40 years old and so has clout as a "traditional default", but also B/X just seems really rugged: the core is pretty simple and reacts to tinkering and ill-advised houserules pretty well. I wonder though if 5E is too fine-tuned of a system to allow this kind of easy cross compatibility. Is ToV and A5E cross compatible--and are they easy-to-no-modification compatible with the Wizard 5E library? I guess that's my main hang up. I would be happy playing B/X-type stuff forever, but my friends love 5E and I want to be able to keep those games going post-Wizards without needing to log-in to some website.

    1. I have that problem with 5E being too fine-tuned as well. ToV will be on a +1 CR power level over straight 5E, just like Pathfinder 1e was to 3.5E. So, 5E encounters, as written, will be too easy (unless you use ToV versions of monsters, if you have them). Otherwise, buff the old 5E encounters. A5E sticks to the original 5E math but is a niche game (and far less known). A5E is less compatible with 5E 3rd party character options, and I suspect ToV will be better there.

      B/X is always my go-to game. The original hp and damage scale can't be improved on, and every version of Wizard's D&D either multiplied hp or put them on a logarithmic scale. And anything from any version drops right in, like classes and monsters. B/X will be around forever.

      What I would like to do with 5E is find a non-Wizards system and play the books I own, and without electronic sheets. The VTT design of the 2024 system will encourage sign-ups, and it will move away from pen-and-paper character creation. They could put OP 'gotta have' character options as website exclusives, and if we play without those, our games look uncool and 'not with it.'

      4E was like that. You used their website and they patched the electronic character tool with all the errata first. The books (on release) were worthless since they made invalid characters. Funny those are what we have left of the game.