Eternal Five Fantasy Roleplaying

First Five Fantasy Roleplaying is my retroclone of the 1991 black box Dungeons & Dragons set. When I first got into the hobby, it was surprisingly hard to find the Rules Cyclopedia in my city in Australia, or even the AD&D core books for that matter. Adventures, modules, campaign settings, etc were plentiful on the other hand – I was able to find The Poor Wizard’s Almanac II so at least I had an introduction to the world of Mystara – but it was difficult to find the rules to take my game past the limitations of the black box. When TSR shut down, even these D&D supplements disappeared from the shelves of the three combination comic book/FLGS stores which served my own city. Unlike previous basic sets, the 1991 black box took player characters to level 5, hence the name of my retroclone – a game which focusses on the first five levels of play. Unfortunately this means it gets mistaken for a game based on 5th edition, a demonstration of my shockingly misguided marketing! Since all I had was the black box, I never had a rules set for D&D characters beyond level 5 in my earlier years of playing the game. Granted, this rarely seemed to be a problem – but for the few characters who survived long enough to advance beyond the constraints of the black box, they were stuck at level 5 forever.

Many of the original player characters in my current First Five Fantasy Roleplaying campaign (for my children and their friends) are now at level 5 or nearing it rapidly. I have directed them, as I have directed purchasers of F5FR, to the Rules Cyclopedia (now available in both hard cover and soft cover through the wonders of print-on-demand – I have been very happy with my hard cover version), for rules for level 6 and beyond. But as at least one reviewer of First Five Fantasy Roleplaying has said – there’s a lot of adventure to be had at low levels, and indeed, much of the OSR seems aimed specifically at low-level play. Indeed, I have only recently become aware that back in the late 3.5 days there was a popular “hack” to 3.5 D&D to stop level progression at level 6 and instead give players feats rather than new levels as they continued to earn XP, and apparently most 5th edition D&D campaigns don’t progress much beyond level 7 and 90% stop before level 10. So I have started to think – what if the first five levels weren’t just the first five levels? What if they were the only levels?

It’s not as simple as just stopping after level 5, mind you. As the E6 designer explains in the wiki linked above, players still want there to be a sense of their characters making progress. Back in my days of being constrained entirely to the black box, once a character reached level 5, they tended to be retired/abandoned in favour of new characters who could advance. Clearly, players want their characters to make progress, it is a key motivator for play! So, below are some playtest rules for consideration if you want to keep your First Five Fantasy Roleplaying (or really, any Basic-type D&D) at level 5 forever while still allowing for some character progression:

Each character class will gain some hit points and some additional ability after level 5 every time they earn an additional quantity of experience points equal to the amount they needed to reach level 5 in the first place. The hit points and abilities given below are cumulative – thus bonuses or additional spells can be gained multiple times and “stack”.

In terms of balance – characters who continue to progress beyond level 5 will be more capable than characters who just reached level 5, but not dramatically so. In particular, the higher-level monsters in the First Five Fantasy Roleplaying game should continue to be an appropriate challenge for such characters functionally indefinitely!

Cleric

After reaching level 5, every additional 12,000 experience points earned, the Cleric gains:

  • 1 hit point (irrespective of CON modifier)
  • Choose one of:
    • One additional level 1 Cleric spell per day
    • +1 to rolls to Turn Undead

Fighter

After reaching level 5, every additional 16,000 experience points earned, the Fighter gains:

  • 2 hit points (irrespective of CON modifier)
  • A weapon specialization in a chosen weapon type, granting the Fighter a +1 bonus to rolls to hit with that weapon type. The Fighter must take three other weapon specializations before they take another specialization in the same weapon type again.

Magic-User

After reaching level 5, every additional 20,000 experience points earned, the Magic-User gains:

  • 1 hit point (irrespective of CON modifier)
  • Choose one of:
    • One additional spell of level 1, 2, or 3 in their spell book. This also takes one week of research and 1000gp per level of the spell learned.
    • One additional level 1 Magic-User spell per day.

Thief

After reaching level 5, every additional 9,600 experience points earned, the Thief gains:

  • 2 hit points (irrespective of CON modifier)
  • 30% to divide between their Thief skills – with no single Thief skill to receive more than 15%

Dwarf

After reaching level 5, every additional 17,000 experience points earned, the Dwarf gains:

  • 3 hit points (irrespective of CON modifier)
  • A weapon specialization in a chosen weapon type, granting the Dwarf a +1 bonus to rolls to hit with that weapon type. The Dwarf must take three other weapon specializations before they take another specialization in the same weapon type again.

Elf

After reaching level 5, every additional 32,000 experience points earned, the Elf gains:

  • 1 hit point (irrespective of CON modifier)
  • Choose one of:
    • One additional spell of level 1, 2, or 3 in their spell book. This also takes one week of research and 1000gp per level of the spell learned.
    • One additional level 1 Magic-User spell per day.
    • A weapon specialization in a chosen weapon type, granting the Elf a +1 bonus to rolls to hit with that weapon type. The Elf must take three other weapon specializations before they take another specialization in the same weapon type again.

Halfling

After reaching level 5, every additional 16,000 experience points earned, the Halfling gains:

  • 1 hit point (irrespective of CON modifier)
  • A weapon specialization in a chosen weapon type, granting the Halfling a +1 bonus to rolls to hit with that weapon type. The Halfling must take three other weapon specializations before they take another specialization in the same weapon type again.

PS All links to products other than my own on this page are affiliate links, not that I have ever earned a cent from the affiliate program at DriveThruRPG despite many referrals and apparent sales. I’m not complaining, I’m just letting you know that bloggers who include affiliate links are not exactly rolling in lucrative rewards for including them 🙂

One Comment on “Eternal Five Fantasy Roleplaying

  1. Andrew, I think all of those are suitable (suitably modest) and appropriate. Of course, moving on to the RC or similarly fully expanded version of “The Game” would be the obvious route as you suggest in the FFF rule book. But as you say, there’s a lot to do in a “low powered” game, if the DM is creative and players accept that 5th is tops.

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