I wanted to give a quick and dirty “opinion post” on 5e, and this is not meant to be a comprehensive review, just quick thoughts… By now I’ve had a chance (and hopefully if you’re interested in 5e, you have as well) of reading and playing with both the basic rules pdf and the Starter Set for the new 5th edition of D&D. My thoughts on the game are generally positive, and I’ve been able to see it from both sides of the screen. That said, we are still looking at a very incomplete picture here… no PHB, DMG or MM, so we must keep that in mind…
On the player’s side of things, I appreciate the new lighter approach the rules have taken. Everything is fairly streamlined, ability score bonuses play an important part in the game, and fidgety bonuses have been condensed to Advantage/Disadvantage and proficiency bonuses that don’t change too much through the character’s career. I also appreciate the game’s attempt at making backgrounds, flaws and other character traits take center stage, granting mechanical rewards for using them in play. D&D has rarely been too interested in how its players role-play, so seeing the new inspiration rule in play brings a smile to my face. I like to see good role-playing at the table, whether I am playing or DMing.
The game just including (for now) the classic races and classes is fine, in my opinion. If for example, Lord of the Rings is your only source of a fantasy frame of reference, you know what a dwarf is, or an elf. A wizard is like Gandalf and a rogue is like Bilbo. No Eladrin, Shardminds or Wilden need apply. We’ll get all that stuff later on in the game’s life, and that’s fine by me.
The short and sweet combat rules are another aspect I like, although I admit that they read to me like a grid game that purposely decides to not mention it is a grid game. Creatures still occupy a 5′ space, which is entirely arbitrary and comes from the game’s previous grid based rules. Nevertheless, the game’s attempt at not requiring a grid is fine, although I feel that there aren’t enough adequate examples for new players on how to run a combat off the grid, just using your imagination. FWIW, I used a grid when I DM’ed the game here at home. I’m also really enjoying the magic pseudo-vancian rules they’ve come up with. Some spells can be cast as rituals, and low level spells can be cast using a higher level spell slot for a stronger effect. We’ll see how the magic vs. martial thing pans out as the edition gets played, as this has been one of the biggest concerns amongst 4e players regarding 5e.
As a DM who came over from 4e, I’m missing rules on encounter building, and the elegance of the 4e stat block for the monsters. There was just something about the way that stat block was laid out that popped and drew your eyes to certain spots on the page. 5e isn’t as nice for me in that regard, and although it wasn’t hard to read or run with, I’m sticking with 4e as my favorite D&D stat block yet. The starter set includes enough in the adventure to give you a few good meaty sessions of play, so that not having the hard covers will affect your play time, but once you get past it you’ll have no use for it again. It brings no maps, tokens, or anything of the sort. It’s really meant to (A) draw in new players, and (B) give fans of D&D something to get started with and try out 5e before it’s really out later this year.
Overall, I’m happy with the direction 5e took. There’s a certain something about it that draws me back to 2e (the edition I played the most in the old days). The writing and prose used in the basic set draws me in and makes me want to tell stories in these worlds, and I know that this is entirely subjective and you may not agree with me, but that’s the feel of this game for me. Right now I’m cautiously optimistic with D&D. The tone, the attempts at inclusivity, the call backs to older fiction and worlds, and it’s attempt at reaching out to players of all editions of the game are hitting the right notes for me. I’m on board.
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