Is your dungeon crawl becoming labored and dull? Maybe you need some fresh content. Five Torches Deep is a new rule-system based on the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, with extras to make your next adventure one to remember. Let’s take a look at what makes Five Torches Deep special, and how it can enhance your gameplay in a variety of ways.
Diving Deep Into Five Torches Deep
Dungeon crawl style games are traditionally played on a tabletop and use a lot of imagination and creativity. Players will assume the role of their character, choosing a class such as a warrior, elf, wizard, etc. and proceed to explore a world.
Another player usually called the “DM” or dungeon master controls the setting of each adventure, presents obstacles for the players to overcome, and advances the story. While there is a lot of freedom in what the DM can do, there are certain baseline rules of the game – and that’s what Five Torches Deep offers. With the new rules, you can put a fresh coat of paint on that dingy old dungeon, and add a new shine to those goblin spears!
Starting With a Good Foundation
Five Torches Deep builds upon the basic structure of Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules. The fifth edition D&D rule set is generally considered to be one of the most balanced, so Five Torches stands on a solid foundation.
From the first few pages of the book, you will pick up on the spirit of what Five Torches is all about: reviving classic OSR-style gameplay. For those not familiar, OSR stands for “old-school-renaissance,” and it refers to the classic quests of slaying dragons and amassing loot. Every change, tweak, and addition in Five Torches revolves around this kind of theme.
Player characters are generally weaker and less like a tank. Magic is much riskier to use, and you need to pay more attention to resources. Everything combined heightens the sense of exhilaration and danger, which can be a welcome change to those looking for a bit more excitement in their adventure.
If Five Torches Deep stopped there, it would be pretty good, but it also has some additions that sweeten the pot. Before we get into that, though, let’s talk about the initial impressions. The artwork in this set is quite stunning! Everything is well-drawn with excellent detail. Though the artwork is not very important to the gameplay, little touches like this add that extra level to the experience. Since the first thing you will see is the artwork, it helps to draw you into the mythos, and inspire your imagination for the game world.
Added Creatures and Features
Now it’s time to get into what truly sets Five Torches Deep apart, and that’s the feature set. A wonderfully illustrated manual is included here, which details the character races all on one page. For new players, this page will be a nice reference aid.
There are four classes included in Five Torches: warrior, mage, zealot, and thief. Each class includes several sub-types, so you have a lot of diversity when creating your character. And of course, you can create your own unique types as well. That’s one of the strengths of D&D.
The Game is Sleeker, But You Start Weaker
Many of the changes in Five Torches are designed to simplify gameplay and inventory management. While the changes are effective, they can also make certain scenarios more difficult. One of the biggest changes is that all magic now requires a difficulty class roll. Miss your DC, and let’s just say there might be some unpleasant side-effects. Additionally, the default DC is 11.
A similar change exists for level one classes, which now only start with six health points or less typically. This can make it tough to gain momentum early on in the game.
However, there’s also a new durability rule that allows you to sacrifice your shield durability for some extra hit points. So this introduces some new elements of strategy into your character’s armament, and the actions you decide to take. You might want to think twice before rushing into that unexplored area with swords and arrows flying, and plan your ambush a bit better!
Speaking of inventory, Five Torches Deep also offers some extra inventory tracking. For example, you can now keep track of how many torches you have (imagine that!), as well as other sundries. All of this adds to the overall strategy, causing you to weigh the risk versus reward value of that next move more than usual.
This is the overarching theme of the set. The focus is on the OSR adventure, and not becoming an over-powered demigod. To that end, your maximum character level is 9 in Five Torches, which is still fairly strong, but not so much that you are immortal. So while you still can become a very experienced spelunker, you will never reach a point where the danger isn’t real. Real threats could always be lurking around the corner, or behind that door up ahead.
As for monsters, the manual includes a section outlining how to modify existing D&D monsters to make them fit into the Five Torches rules. This section is not very expansive and doesn’t cover everything, although you honestly don’t need it. Most players will not have any trouble making the necessary adjustments, or even creating their own monsters.
Simplicity is a Strength
Some people may balk at the fact that most of the manual sections are only one page, almost like glorified reference cards. However, this simplicity is one of Five Torches Deep’s strength, because it doesn’t box you in or put limits on your adventure. Five Torches provides an outline with some interesting rules, and then there’s “Here you go! Now do what you want!” This is the very spirit and essence of D&D play, allowing you to create a world and adventure of your imagination.
Another aspect of this style of game is that if you don’t like a rule, you can simply change it! For example, many groups tend to change certain rules regarding a character death. Yeah sure, death is final – you die and that’s it! However, when your character dies can be a point of contention.
In Five Torches, the default rule is that your character dies immediately when their hit points drops below zero. While that rule is the default, it doesn’t need to remain that way. You can change this rule (or pretty much any rule) to suit your group of players. This is why simplicity is a strength because the system doesn’t get in your way. You are free to create and play how you choose.
It’s a Clean Sweep For Five Torches Deep!
So is Five Torches Deep worth playing? We think so. It’s a great way to add variety to the standard Dungeons & Dragons 5E rules with some new strategic elements. It provides a great skeleton rule set that you can play as-is, or build upon to create something new.
None of the changes in Five Torches are drastically different, but there’s enough new content here to make it a worthy choice. If you enjoy 5E D&D, then it’s safe to say that you will also be pleased with Five Torches Deep.
So don’t wait another minute. Pick up Five Torches Deep and make your next quest one of the best.