So, the fifth edition of the venerable Dungeons and Dragons game is officially out, with the Player's Handbook ready to be picked up, combed through and played by the world. Is it good?
I think it's good. I think it's a great implementation of all of the game's best and most beloved ideas. I think it might be my favorite edition yet.
To give a little background (and you can feel free to skip this paragraph if you want to get to the meat of the review), I started with 3rd edition, which came out all the way back in 2000, when I was in middle school. I played it through high school and college, and enjoyed it well enough, but eventually the weight of its mechanics began to grate on me. By the end I gave up on 3rd edition, finding it bloated and horrendously inelegant. When 4th edition was released in `08, I was excited. I bought all the books at once and devoured them. I wasn't sold on the powers mechanics and the intense focus on combat, but my buddies and I tried it out. We gave up after a couple months and I sold the books. It was okay, but not my cup of tea. In the end, I, like a lot of folks, gained interest in the older editions of the games, the ones that predated my own D&D experiences, the ones that sounded to me like ancient, esoteric and arcane books of mystery, whose rambling prose and absurdly convoluted mechanics became somehow enticing. We played a little bit of the older editions, mostly the old Basic edition of the game, and had a lot of fun, though it was more due to the ability to ignore the rules entirely than to any intended strength of the system. Still, after a few games we gave up on tabletop roleplaying games all together.Read more ›
I am going to try to not duplicate the information provided in most of the other 5 star reviews because I agree with the vast majority of them. I am an oldster, have played every edition of D&D there has been, most of them being released when I was of legal drinking age, and IMO this is the best edition ever. I have not been this excited about a version of D&D since 2nd edition was released. It appears to me to have taken all the best, from a game design point of view, and most popular aspects of earlier editions and put them in one book. Another way to think of it is that this edition is the most true to the game principles set forth in the earlier editions, especially AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, while at the same time carrying the more modern and popular principles from 3.5 and even the much maligned 4.0.
I have to admit that I completely steered clear of the earlier play test versions, and was more than a little skeptical of the approach taken in getting feedback from so many play testers. I was worried that we would end up with a "too many cooks spoil the stew" situation; a game that was a convoluted mish-mash of everyone's "favorite rules" creating an incoherent and largely unplayable mess. I am pleasantly surprised to say that I was 100% wrong about the effectiveness of the play test process and the finished product. Contrary to the opinions in some of the lower star reviews, what I am holding in my hands and have read cover to cover is a very "tight," comprehensive, elegant, and fun set of rules.
Who is likely to like these rules? I think both the veteran player who cut his or her teeth on any version before 3.0, and a brand new player will like them.Read more ›
I'm sold. Not only is it meaty and high quality, but WotC did a terrific job of taking traditional D&D and modernizing it in numerous ways without changing it beyond recognition. It's very quintessentially old school D&D for the 21st century. Even the art is spot on, IMO.
I'm a huge fan of the renovated Vancian casting, the powerful feats, and the myriad class options (I can play a semi-magical Fighter without muticlassing!). New rules are typically either flavorful additions (like Inspiration or various class-unique mechanics), or are very elegant solutions to problems that persisted throughout earlier editions (like Advantage/Disadvantage). The numeric scaling is on a shallower curve than both 3rd and 4th, which I love because it's more 'realistic' and also more flexible with regard to encounter balance. I also like how they divorced magic items from the core system. Magical equipment was so heavily structured into 4e's core system that magic items and gearing became trite and uninteresting, the opposite feeling it is supposed to elicit.
My main concern during the playtest period was that they were going to discard my favorite innovations of 4th edition since it was controversial, such as rituals, better healing systems, non-magical powers, and the new planes, but they managed to integrate many of the best aspects of 4th very fluidly with a system that is overall much more reminiscent of older editions.
Other than highly subjective, nitpicky things (Bards with 9 level spell progression? hmm.....) my only complaints so far revolve around minor missing features or rules that are likely to be introduced in future books, such as better feat options and more optional rules to simulate grit/realism, like an injury system.
I highly, highly recommend this to people even remotely interested in D&D or getting into RPGs, or to people who are even slightly tired of whatever system they've been using.
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