This is one of several reviews I am doing this year of various table top roll playing games. I am specifically comparing them to D&D 5e. I am doing this with the assumption that my readers are already familiar with D&D 5e. The following review is based only upon my reading of the rulebook. I haven’t played this yet, but I will be posting my opinion after I get a chance to play test it.
I am referring here to the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons as 5E and to Five Torches Deep as FTD. This information is for evaluation purposes, it should not be considered official rules of the game. You can assume things that I don’t list here are basically like 5E with only minor differences.
In FTD the Dungeon Master is called the Game Master.
Summary of the game system
According to the FTD rulebook “FTD is meant to ease the introduction of OSR (old-school renaissance or revival) mechanics and principles to those familiar with 5e. The classes and monsters are (largely) compatible with 5e, and can be plugged in and out as you see fit. The more FTD you add, the more “OSR” it feels.”
Primary differences between Five Torches Deep and D&D 5e
Pick race: Human, Dwarf, Elf or Halfling: Each race has a different way to determine ability scores, and has ability requirements by class. Races have no other mechanical impact.
Humans roll 3d6 in order: STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA. Swap up to two.
Dwarves CON and STR are 13. Then roll 2d6+3 in DEX, INT, WIS, CHA order.
Elves DEX and INT are 13. Then roll 2d6+3 in STR, CON, WIS, CHA order.
Halflings WIS and CHA are 13. Then roll 2d6+3 in STR, DEX, CON, INT order.
Pick class: Warrior, Thief, Zealot, or Mage
Humans have no class restrictions. Other races have a minimum 13+ ability requirement to be certain classes.
Define or pick equipment : For example, as a Warrior you get the armor of your choice, a shield, 2 one handed weapons, 1 two handed weapon, a smith’s kit, a healer’s kit, 5 rations, 3 rolls on the sundries table, and additional supplies based on your INT score.
Decide on supplies carried and determine total load: Refer to “Supply and Load” below.
Pick spells if applicable: Zealots and Mages get 3 cantrips and 1 spell at first level. The number and level of the spells known increase as the character advances in level. Refer to “Magic and Spell Casting” below.
Fill out your character sheet: Fill in your character’s name, hit points, etc.
Classes and Archetypes
Upon reaching third level you choose one of three archetypes.
The Warrior Class chooses Barbarian, Fighter or Ranger
The Thief Class chooses Assassin, Bard or Rogue
The Zealot Class chooses Cleric, Druid or Paladin
The Mage Class chooses Sorcerer, Warlock or Wizard
Each Archetype has a simple set of abilities and features. As an example, here is the entire description of the Warlock Archetype.
You gain your proficiency bonus to profane magic, intimidate, and stealth related checks.
You gain one of these features at level 3 and 7:
Wear light armor
Adv to intimidate
No need to eat
Sacrifice: damage self (max lvl) to gain an equal bonus to next damage
Equipment – Supply and Load
Items and weight are tracked in terms of load. Each item the size of a human head or 5 lbs is considered 1 load. PCs are able to carry load equal to their STR score without issue.
Each PC has supply (SUP) up to their INT score.
Five SUP is one load. SUP is rounded to the nearest 5 per load (e.g. 14 SUP is 3 load, and 11 SUP is 2 load).
Heavy armor is 5 load, light armor is 2 load. Items and weapons are 1 load each hand used when holding or wielding that item.
There are 18 items (other than 3 armors and 19 weapons) with their SUP costs to replace or refill them. There is no listed cost but their cost is usually 1 gp per SUP.
Weapons and Armor have a durability score. Whenever there is a critical failed save, or a critical success attack, the item loses one durability point. When it reached 0, it is destroyed.
There are rules for repairing and crafting equipment.
XP and character level advancement
XP is gained primarily for treasure (in gold pieces).
The class levels range from 1 to 9.
Each round of combat
Initiative: Each character and monster acts in order of their DEX score, highest going first.
Actions: Each combatant gets 3 actions.
Movement action: you can move up to your speed (usually 30’). You can split up this distance throughout your turn.
Active action: most proactive actions that require a check (stealth, attack, cast).
Quick action: brief actions, actions triggered off others, anything that takes a second.
Healing and Death
Natural Healing: Characters recover 1 hit point of damage for every night of rest, or 1 HP for each character level for each night of rest in a safe place.
Stabilizing & Injuries: If your character isn’t stabilized within one minute, he is dead. Once stabilized, by companions ability check, magic, or otherwise, you must roll a d20 on the Injury Table. On a 1 you are dead. On a 20 you are standing and heal 1d8 HP. All other rolls result in something bad – ranging from disadvantage on ability checks to looing a body part.
The Spells: Spell go from level 1 to level 5, and cantrips. All of the spells and their descriptions are presented on two pages – one for Devine spells and one for Arcane spells. For each there are exactly 5 cantrips, and 5 of each level spell. For an example, here is the entire description for the third level Arcane spell Furyfire: “All (including allies) in 20’ area take 1d6/lvl damage. Atk”
Spell Preparation: You don’t have to prepare spells. You can attempt to cast any spell you know whenever you would like.
Spellcasting Checks: Spells require a spellcasting check with a DC = 10 + spell’s level. Failure triggers a mishap rolled on the Magical Mishap Table.
Other Rules and Tools
There are rules for Converting and Building Monsters, Acquiring and using Retainers, Morale, Chases, and Retreat. There is also a nice section on overland and overwater travel.
What you need to get started
All you need is the rulebook. You can find FTD on DriveThruRPG in both PDF and softcover print-on-demand. It is only 49 pages and 13 of them are full page graphics.
No Darkvision – some monsters have darksight and a Warlock can get it as their feature on reaching level 3 or level 7.
FTD must assume that you are using 5e as a reference for many things.
Weapons and equipment. For example, it says that chainmail has a duration value of 3 and says that the 3 armor types are heavy, light and shield, but doesn’t say anywhere which armor type chainmail belongs to.
It states “5e and OSR spells can be used as written, per their spell level (with max usable spell level 5)”.
Monsters. There is one page with 6 sample monsters, and rules for creating or converting existing monsters.
There are places in the book that refer to other pages by page number, but there are no page numbers printed on the pages.
No skill system – no ranks or skill points
No opportunity attacks
No death saves
I bought the PDF, but I don’t think I will playtest this one. In attempting to strip 5e down to its basics it has also inserted some new rules of its own. As an example, the equipment Supply and Load rules are a good attempt at streamlining encumbrance, but it introduces a brand new confusing system. If you already know the 5e rules, you can make Five Torches Deep work, but if you are new to table top role playing games, these rules alone would not be sufficient to play their game. It’s not much like the older versions of D&D and if you are just looking for a simpler version of 5e you should check out my D&D 5E – Simplified Rules.