Sep 19, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition

So, the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons has started dropping (Player's Handbook last month, and I got my Monster Manual last night). I've been running this on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM at Maplewood Hobby for the last two years (three years in February) during the playtest, and as time has gone by I've been more and more impressed with it. It's very similar in feel (to me, anyway) to the original Basic Set D&D (and I'm talking about the purple box with the Erol Otus cover, so B/X for any OSR people) which was the most "fun" version. But the mechanics are very streamlined and simplified -- gone are different-methods-for-different-tasks, instead we're using the d20+bonus>target number method, which makes things easy.



The idea was, I believe, to keep what people liked about 3rd, 3.5, and 4th editions and attach those bits to a 2nd edition framework. It really seems to work (at least, my players are loving it). It takes about 15-20 minutes to make a character if you're in a hurry, and there are enough options to give you some room to create without paralyzing you with too many choices. The classes are well-balanced; the races maybe a little less so, but for once it's not humans who get the short end of the stick. I've seen debates online where people argue that humans are "too powerful." When was the last time you saw that argument in D&D?!?

Mike Mearls & Co. have introduced a couple of new facets to the game which vastly improve it in my opinion. The Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic is a way for the DM to impose modifiers on a situation without having to look up what the modifiers should be. If you have advantage on a roll, you roll twice and take the higher number; with disadvantage, you roll twice and take the lower one. You went to the church at the beginning of the quest and got a blessing from the high priest to defeat the Demon Lord? Maybe each of you gets advantage on the first saving throw you have to make against one of his powers. You are trying to climb out of the pit you've fallen in while it's collapsing? You might have disadvantage to the Dexterity (Athletics) check. And my favorite part of it is that you can get advantage/impose disadvantage either mechanically (as in, you got it out of a particular build, like a barbarian's Rage) or organically (growing out of the story, as in my Demon Lord blessing example above).

Another nice bit they put in was Inspiration. Tucked away in the Player's Handbook on page 125 is a new feature that I particularly like. Players are supposed to develop character personalities and denote them on the sheet -- Personality Traits, an Ideal, a Flaw, and a Bond. If a player roleplays a Flaw or Bond properly, you can give them an Inspiration token. The player can spend that token to give your character advantage on an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. So, good roleplaying is meant to be rewarded in a concrete way in the game. They had the feature in 4th edition to give players Action Points to reward roleplay, and it's nice to see that continue.

Now that I've got the Monster Manual, I'm starting to see the overall pattern of what they're trying to do. This isn't a completely modular system like 3rd edition. This isn't a wholly focused system like 4th edition. It's a happy medium, with an emphasis on ease of customization. I'm really jazzed by it, and can't wait to see how it turns out.

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