Wizards of the Coast released Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition in 2014, reducing much of the complexity found in previous versions of the tabletop role-playing game to make it more accessible to new players. But eight years later, even the game’s most dedicated fans have started to get a little bored with the system.
“We are all massive, massive, big fans of D&D,” said Russ Morrissey, owner of TTRPG news site En World and CEO of Ann Publishing. “It’s just gotten to a stage where we want it to have a little bit more depth, if you want to look a little bit further to level up your fighter. We were finding that happening in all aspects of the game.” We thought that if we felt that way, there would be more people who would feel the same way.”
That hunch led to the development of Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition, a series of rulebooks that are backward compatible with modern D&D, but can also be played as a stand-alone game system. They include a basic rule book titled Level Up: Adventurer’s Guide, Level Up: Demonic Menagerie full of new and advanced bad guys to fight, and Level Up: Trials and Treasuresresult of the system Dungeon Master Guide, Together, they add complexity to almost every aspect of the game by modifying the existing 5E system and bringing back elements of previous versions, such as the maneuvers first introduced in 3.5’s. Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords,
“When you go into a battle, the magician is selecting from a list of spells and it’s some fun choosing each round, whereas often the fighter is just, ‘Oh, I’ll go ahead and hit,’” Morrissey said. “A fighter is intentionally designed to be the simplest, easiest class to enter. But after playing a fighter for seven years, you think, ‘It would be nice if I had some options like wizard’s. would have passed. Combat maneuvers are the martial equivalent of spells, where you have a whole bunch of different things you can do, just to spice up the battle and make sure you’re doing something different each round. There’s a little bit of resource management in there. It’s a bit. We’ve generally found that it makes fighting more fun.”
level up Fourth Edition also borrows aspects from D&D – namely, the ability of difficult characters to mark enemies as a way of protecting their allies. It combines aspects of 3.5 Marshal and 4E Warlord to create a new martial class. Level Up revives 4E’s “Bloody” status, which gave monsters new abilities when they were reduced to half of their total hit points. Holding’s blog author Paul Hughes wrote Level Up: Demonic Menageriewhich provides new rules for every non-copyrighted creature in the 5th edition monster manual, It has become the top seller of Level Up’s three main books because it provides dungeon masters an easy way to spice up their game.
“We hope that people will embrace our game completely just because we are so proud of it and we think it’s great, but we are also very happy when people just take a fraction of it and make their 5E use it in sports,” Morrissey said.
To balance the all-new rules, EN Publishing gathered thousands of playtesters over the course of a year and asked for feedback through surveys. Feedback from players also helped the creators come up with some character choices, including rules for playing as a vampire or vengeful Vengeance. level up Also combines aspects of 3.5 prestige classes and 4E to provide multiclassing feats to provide new options for customizing higher level characters. A fighter/sorcerer can become a great archer, shooting arrows full of magical energy; A cleric/sorcerer can add to his magic talent.
Image: An World Publishing
The New Testament also expands significantly on D&D’s social and exploration pillars, which have traditionally been underdeveloped compared to combat. Classes gain access to more skills and the ability to use them with their primary characteristics to remain competitive as their check level.
“If you have a social scene and the barbarian has to sit and watch, or an exploration scene and the rogue is doing it all and everyone else is twiddling their thumbs, it ain’t fun for everyone at the table,” Morrissey said. “But we also wanted to make sure it made sense. So you’ll find some people who say, ‘I don’t want my gruesome dwarf to have social skills, that’s not his character.’ To that my answer is, ‘Antisocial is a kind of social.’ Your ferocious dwarf may intimidate people, resist attraction, or resist the things that other people are doing.”
A major goal was to ensure that each element of the game continued to function at a higher level of play. Level Up’s developers studied every spell to make sure exploration didn’t become irrelevant as characters became more powerful and gained the ability to teleport and generate their own food and water. Level Up: Adventurer’s Guide To ensure that players are always excited to earn gold, Morrissey’s What’s Old is New game system provides rules for strongholds.
“One of the big things people asked for in 5E was the money spent, especially as you get to the higher levels,” he said. “So we went and gave prices for every single magic item and we’ve added strongholds that give your character a place in the world to be proud of, some to come home to, some to develop. You can upgrade your defense as you go. You can even run a campaign around it. I think it’s a fun way to play.”
EN Publishing gave an open call to designers who had previously worked on 5E, and assembled a diverse team, which Morrissey said helped address some of the more dated aspects of D&D. Several designers had inefficiencies, and suggested that language proficiency included the ability to automatically sign. He also wrote rules for prosthetics and wheelchairs. The race is now divided into heritage and culture, and the barbarians, monks and Rajput classes have been replaced by fearless, accomplished and herald.
“We wanted to separate the cultural stuff from everything else,” Morrissey said. “A monk is heavily tied to Asian stereotypes. I didn’t want to say you can’t play it, but you can also play this big Irish bearded pit fighter and any other sort of unarmed character. Same with the barbarian, which is based around a Conan archetype. We had the idea of elves in armor charging into battle as invincible jugglers. It’s just expanding those areas of the design space. “
level up Offers a free license and compatibility logo to other publishers who wish to use the rules and promotes upcoming publications that add new legacies, feats, backgrounds, spells and archetypes.
“All of these publishers will make the entire ecosystem of games bigger and better,” Morrissey said. “The main publisher can’t do everything because you have to pick and choose what you’re going to do, and there are some things where a third party can be more daring, do something wacky that you haven’t thought of, Could take something in a completely different direction.”
“The third party may be more daring, may do something wacky that you haven’t thought of, may lead in a completely different direction.”
EN Publishing has a lot in the works for Level Up, including a deck of maneuver cards that will ship in August. a Dungeon Delver’s Guide Heading to Kickstarter this fall, it will add new player options and rules for 100 traps and dungeons that can be generated via random rolls.
“Many people ask, are we trying to compete with the 5E?” Morrissey said. “We’re not. We’re running with 5E, and we’re going to have an option for those who want a little more depth to it. We really, really hope people come to our system and enjoy it so much.” We get to support it with a full line of sourcebooks.”