Saturday, September 27, 2014

First Thoughts: Dungeons and Dragons 5

I’m not going to review the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Ok I lied. I totally wrote a review. I’m a liar, though. This is the opposite of news. But it was an accidental lie. Which is a step in the right direction if you ask me. I’ve been playing with this system all summer thanks to the playtest information. I can give it my recommendation wholeheartedly. If you like tabletop gaming and want an excellent system that encourages and supports roleplaying then go buy the handbook.

I do want to talk about my favorite things about this system. The reasons why, in my opinion, it is good and not bad and also it’s awesome. There are a few key ways D&D 5 stands out above a system like Pathfinder.

Advantage and Disadvantage

If you’ve been reading any information about D&D 5 then you have heard these words. Of all the new changes to Dungeons and Dragons the introduction of the advantage system is the single most important. The advantage system does away with the complex calculus every gamer has to know and understand before they can calculate how much damage their shortsword attack does. Gone are the days of having 4 different +2 modifiers to add to an attack based on situational differences.

Having Advantage means that in a situation where you would roll 1d20 to test the success of an action you instead roll 2d20 and take the better roll. Disadvantage is the opposite: you roll 2d20 and you take the worse. It’s remarkably simple but it completely changes the pace of a game.

Do you have some sort of situational benefit? Then you have advantage.

Do you have some sort of situational drawback? Then you have disadvantage.

Regular situation? You and your opponent have equal benefits and drawbacks? Business as usual, then.

My group loves this system. As a Dungeon Master I love this system. A player successfully does a cool flip kick off a wall into combat? Advantage! A player describes a cool and unique attack? Advantage! A player is standing in waist high water and wants to cast a lightning spell? Disadvantage. A player is lying on their back trying to shoot a longbow? Disadvantage. It has made my life so very easy.


I have a series of charts that I make players roll or choose from when they first make a character to help them establish their character’s background, fear, impulse, goal, and bonds. I developed this over the summer so that my D&D Next group would be able to flesh out their characters easier. Dungeons and Dragons 5 included backgrounds, ideals, flaws, and traits as a core concept with its own section in the handbook. I may have cried of joy.

If you have read this blog at all then you know I loves me some o’ that there roleplayin’. It is, in my opinion, the most important part of any ROLEPLAYING Game. But I may be reading something into the name. Maybe to other people RPG’s are all about math or something. Sounds like school to me.

Anyway, I like to incorporate character backgrounds and traits into the situations I provide for them so that players have to think carefully and creatively about what they are going to do. You have an estranged father that you still love but don’t talk to? Guess who just recently joined the villainous dragon cult?! You’re searching the world over for your master’s murderer and you only know they have nine fingers? Guess who sees nine-fingered people everywhere?! You’re a half-orc? Guess who’s going to see other half-orcs to fight with?!

Those are just some examples but I take this sort of thing very seriously in my own way.

The Classes and Races

I like diversity in my RPG world. Humans and elves and dwarves are great but in a world of gods, dragons, devils, demons, mythological creatures, and a thing called the Underdark I want something a little more spicy when it comes to race options. Like gnomes at least.

D&D 5 does not skimp on the racial options. Dragonborn (half-dragon folks) and Tieflings (half-devil folks) are in the core races alongside halflings and half-elfs. Drow are a sub race of elves (because of course they should be). Usually humans are a solid choice because of their racial abilities but with the options presented in this handbook, I have actually made very few humans and seen very few get made. It’s a nice departure from tradition.

But what about classes you ask? Thank you for getting me back on track. The magic classes are all diverse and have more options from the start than ever before. A Sorcerer doesn’t feel like a Wizard and they both don’t feel like Warlocks. Druids kick ass and take names. Clerics and Paladins … are still doing their thing. And every class has some method of getting spells without requiring you to take levels in Wizard. Eldritch Knight (a fighter with spell abilities) is just a sub-class of Fighters. Arcane Trickster is a sub-class of Rogue. Monks have two different paths that lead to two different kinds of spells.

I like the races and classes. I thirst for more but I’m not disappointed by what I have been provided. I hope future handbooks offer me some Psionic options and I still long for the day when 4th edition’s Warlord class sees the respect it deserves.

This is getting a bit wordy so I’ll close things up with my final thoughts. Tabletop gaming is all about coming together as a group and exploring cool worlds with dragons and magic and treasure. It should be something accessible and fun while still being challenging and intricate. D&D 5 is all of these things.

See, I’m a liar. But not about D&D 5. It’s totally bitchin'.

Farmane, Papa Dungeon Master

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