My Impressions of 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons

February 5, 2015 - Dungeons and Dragons Next / Table Top Games

As an avid role-player for the past few decades (not going to say because I don’t want to admit how many years it has been since elementary school), I have played a lot of games, including all the editions of Dungeons and Dragons.  In general , I’m going to say that in my view, I think they’ve done a lot of things right this time around.

What they got right:

1 – XP system.  Simple for DM’s to understand and follow.  The level progression is swift early on to ensure that players stay motivated and aren’t stuck fighting their way through 100 goblins to reach level 2.  Of course this tapers as characters advance, but that is just how it should be.

2 – Unique character classes – I don’t mean that the classes are new and original, you will still see fighter, rogue, wizard, etc.  What I mean is that each class is really its own class.  The ranger isn’t just a fighter and the sorcerer isn’t just a wizard who gets his spells later.  Each class truly offers unique abilities that aren’t available to other classes and that have an impact on the game, both in terms of role-playing and in terms of combat.

3 – Backgrounds.  Way back in 2nd edition there were some optional background rules that tried to add flavor, but more often than not character creation was nothing more than throwing around some dice and then tossing in an odd sounding name.  With backgrounds, not only are you encouraged to role-play the back story of your character and create a reason for them to exist in the world, you get rewarded with skills and equipment that make sense.

4 – Simplified Combat – Especially for new players, understanding the rules of combat can be daunting.  3rd edition brought so many rules that players ignored many of them or just gave up and made their own.  D&D Next keeps things simple enough that you don’t need to keep track of a dozen different modifiers, but you can still have a realistic experience.

What could be improved:

1 – Magic Items.  Specifically magic item creation.  The Dungeon Master’s guide offers limited options for spending that hard earned cash, specifically limiting the option to purchase magic items.  White I certainly agree with this idea (you don’t want to run over powered games), it does offer the option for characters to create significantly discounted magic items with virtually no penalty.  With the range of items limited to what you find in dungeons, and almost no other options to spend on gold, and above all with no XP or other penalty than passing game time (i.e. about 2 seconds in real time), parties can easily band together to create just about anything they want – with the DM’s approval, of course.

2 – Optional abilities? I really didn’t see any purpose in even including the optional ability scores for honor and sanity – these are functions that really could best be served in some other way, perhaps similar to levels of exhaustion.  Many of the optional rules, could have been omitted or saved for a later book, which brings me to my final point.

3 – Starter dungeon – where is it?  To really get people started, there should be a starter dungeon in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, a short, complete dungeon to give everyone a quick taste of the game and to really help new DM’s familiarize themselves with the rules.

Overall, I have a very positive impression of 5th edition.  I’m excited and happy that Wizards of the Coast has gone through this effort to help us all forget 4th edition.

› tags: Dungeons and Dragons / Dungeons and Dragons 5th /

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