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209 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honestly, I think it's the best one yet
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...
Published 1 month ago by Anders

versus
17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really like some of the changes they have made with the ...
As far as content goes, I really like some of the changes they have made with the game. There are just a couple of small things that I would change that would greatly improve game-play. They don't even have to do with mechanics, just layout of the book itself. Previous editions of D&D have had page tabs that tell you what section you are in. So when you are rapidly...
Published 1 month ago by Daniel C. Harmon


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209 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honestly, I think it's the best one yet, August 19, 2014
This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
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. I tried to get into more of the indie side of the RPG genre, taking a particular interest in Burning Wheel, which I still adore as a system, though it seems too unwieldy and I was and remain hesitant to actually try and play it.

But now, after a few years of my own indifference, D&D is back. The Starter Set for fifth edition came out last month, and I bought it right away. For some reason, after years of total uninterest in Dungeons and Dragons, where any mention of the game would make me turn up my nose at such inelegant, fiddly silliness, I found myself, all at once, filled with overwhelming excitement about the coming edition. The promise of a game, both old and new, divorced from the flaws of the past, made with some fresh ideas and streamlining, aiming to take the best of each old edition and instill them into a unified whole that is at once simple, quick and varied? It filled my little heart with unexpected delight. I bought the Starter Set on the day it was released in select stores, and I was not let down. See my review of the Starter Set for details on that.

Fifth edition is, so far, and this is not hyperbole, exactly what I want the game of Dungeons and Dragons to be. The Player's Handbook is an excellent book and a perfect example of this edition's quality so far. It is concise and complete, including all of the classic archetypes and races of the past, adding some new ones and nowhere stating, "Wait for this later release before you can play your favorite class or race."

The high level of quality starts with the art design and cover, which are probably my favorite for any edition of Dungeons and Dragons. The full-cover art is great: a dynamic work, depicting movement and, for once, presenting a properly dressed adventurer woman, who, against all odds, fearlessly takes on a massive fire giant, and whose form, though significantly dwarfed by the giant's, seems just as threatening and powerful and dare I say bad-ass. It is an evocative piece, and really sets the tone for the rest of the book. This is a game about adventure, a game about facing the odds and somehow getting through to the other side, victorious--or dead, possibly, since abruptly losing is always a risk when one plays a dice game.

The pages are slick and clean, with a good amount of art, a lot of it full-page, which I quite enjoyed. The quality varies, and while some of the illustrations of halflings look odd to say the least, my overall impression was good. The art was evocative and reminiscent of illustrations of old, presenting a world that actively looked medieval as opposed to anime or steampunk or some amalgamation of traditions and time periods that managed to look disjointed and awkward at best. But when I say that there is no anime, do not despair! That does not mean that everyone depicted is a pale-faced european. Quite the opposite in fact. I commend the Wizards team for not only depicting a good number of people of color in the book, but also having some of those people--and others--dressed in garb that is obviously non-western and doing so without being exploitative or resorting to stereotypes. When we open the book we can see that Dungeons and Dragons is a game of vaguely feudal societies, but whose inspirations span the entirety of the globe, removing us from the strict adherence to Europeanism that dominated past editions. I love it. I love seeing a strong samurai woman one page and a very dark-skinned whirling dervish on another. My recurring argument for what D&D should be revolves around the game ideally being limitless, and the active inclusion of non-western cultures and peoples without lumping them into types such as "oriental" or "vaguely mesoAmerican but we are not going to call them that" really goes along with that.

So the art is good. How about the layout? Love it too. As with previous editions, the first few chapters are about character creation, detailing fantasy races--elves and dwarves and so forth--before discussing classes, backgrounds (which are new) and further customization options like optional feats and multiclassing. From there we get chapters about mechanics, exploration and finally combat, which I might note comes last after exploration and social encounters. The last two chapters are about magic, as per the norm. The order is logical and a good start for beginners, though the classes reference rules that are not detailed until much later chapters, which could be very confusing to newcomers.

Each race, aside from humans, half-elves and half-orcs, have at least one subrace to choose from, with the Elves having High Elves, Wood Elves and Drow, for example, providing each character with choices within choices right off the bat. This is a recurring theme in fifth edition, where the classes and races are each somewhat stricter than in 3rd or 4th edition, but with each providing a good deal of variety both between other races and within. Classes too each have at least two subclasses, with the class list including the Barbarian, whose mechanics of course focus around her berserker rage; the bard, who can cast spells but also gets a pool of "bardic inspiration dice" that he can spend to benefit their allies and roll to add extra bonuses to attacks, checks and saves; the Cleric, who is fairly standard, but has a lot of variety granted by what "domain" corresponds to her respective god, potentially giving abilities ranging from being excellent in combat, excellent at sneaking around(!), excellent at healing (the classic) and so forth; the druid, who can focus either in her ability to cast spells or the classic druid art of lycanthropy; the fighter, who can be a standard, simple to play warrior who is good at having hit points and hitting things, in addition to both a very 4th edition-like, Warlord-esque commander type guy, who uses a pool of special dice to trigger abilities and command his allies, and an eldritch knight, who casts spells while he slashes and smashes and stabs; the monk, who isn't really my thing but other people might like him a lot--he can either punch or cast spells; the paladin, who now swears an oath, either to a god, to nature or to herself, and draws her powers from that, manifesting as a paladin of vengeance, who loves to kill, or even a paladin of the woodland fae, confusing people with fairy-inspired charms, which are both pretty cool; the ranger, who either slaughters with his own swords or gets a lovely woodland creature to aid him; the rogue, who loves thievery, assassination or arcane tricksteriness, and who of course backstabs non-stop; the sorcerer, who either focuses on her draconic origins or the chaotic influence of wild magic, and who has special sorcery points to spend that allow her to modify spells in much the same way that 3rd edition's metamagic feats worked; the warlock, who is probably my least favorite class, though I like the thematic idea, and who combines 4th edition-esque style powers with classic Vancian casting in a way that I found particularly inelegant; and of course the wizard, who has a huge list of spells to choose from, and who gets to choose one of the classic schools of wizardry--abjuration, conjuration, necromancy et cetera--to modify spells and grant thematic special abilities. In all, the classes are great fun, are varied, contain all of the classics and manage to represent nearly every classic archetype from D&D's past, even including some of the more neglected and obscure ones.

In past editions of Dungeons and Dragons, the end of the races and classes chapters would pretty much mark the final steps in creating and customizing your character's abilities, personality and details. 3rd and 4th edition added feats to the mix, but otherwise your character was done at this point. Unlike its predecessors, fifth edition adds a further ingredient to the recipe via character backgrounds. There are number listed in the book, but I'm not going to go into them, since it actively recommends creating your own backgrounds and modifying the existing ones as needed to get the character you want. But suffice to say, there are a good number included. Each background adds at least two more skills to the skills you gain from your class, give you a few more pieces of starting equipment and add a fun narrative ability--for example, anyone with the sailor background has the narrative ability of being able to always secure passage on a ship to wherever they need to go. The backgrounds are fun, and really push the D&D towards so-called story-game territory, adding such open-ended narrative abilities. Your background also gives you examples for four new stats in fifth edition: your character's personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws. There are no numbers associated with these, and they are merely short statements describing your character and his or her feelings, outlooks and connections to the world. And, for the first time, they have mechanical benefits, where playing to your character's bonds and so forth earn a special, spendable point called Inspiration, which I will detail later on and which can give your character a pretty serious boon usable when the going gets tough. I like it a lot, though after Burning Wheel's much more in-depth versions of what is more or less the same mechanism, it feels a little shallower than I would like.

Like the past couple of editions, fifth edition has feats, which are optional this time, takable in place of automatic stat upgrades as your character levels. The feats are fewer but heftier than before, each adding several abilities or wrinkles to your character's mechanics. For the most part, feats don't seem to get in the way of what your character should be able to do naturally and don't limit other characters who would forgo them. 3rd edition style multiclassing is also included in this chapter. It too is optional, and I will probably not use it--it seems unnecessary with all of the subclasses, and like its only real purpose would be for power gaming. However, if you want to play a cleric/wizard or the like, you'd probably have to multiclass; but where in the past lower maximum levels in each class would make for lousy spell selection, the fifth edition mechanics combine spell casting for each class, letting you have your high power spells but with fewer spells in total from each respective class.

The gameplay sections of the book are relatively brief, emphasizing the rather stripped-down, to the point nature of the new edition. Pretty much everything is an ability check--rolling a twenty-sided die and adding a number based on your ability score and comparing the result with a target number. Ability checks are modified by something called proficiency, representing your character's training and experience with whatever skill or attack he or she is using. Everything works this way, from attacks to skills. Proficiency bonus also maxes out at +6, which I appreciated, resulting in the math being simpler and all the numbers being lower. I do wonder how this might affect probability in the game, however, but someone else can probably speak to that--math and the hard sciences aren't really my thing, I was always more into the humanities.

There is a lot in these chapters regarding roleplaying, cost of living, what your character's do with their downtime and other more mundane--but in my opinion still fun--activities that occur during an adventurer's life. These individual sections are fairly short, but I felt they cover everything to a reasonable degree, still allowing a lot of room for DM or player ideas. The following chapter details a D&D staple: fighting stuff.

Combat is simple and quick, and unlike the past two editions, is assumed to be more of a "theater of the mind" experience, not relying on grids or miniature figurines. This is another thing I like a lot, as I found counting hexes on a grid to be tedious and uninteresting and unnecessary. In a somewhat silly move, however, attack ranges and positioning and speed are still measured in feet, adding needless complication and increased possibility for arguments when it comes to who can reach who and who is in whose spell's area of effect. I would have much preferred a more narrativist combat positioning system that depended on more abstract zones or areas or something, but I suppose this way still allows for players who want to play with miniatures to do so.

Actual actions in combat are simple, with a more streamlined version of the past two edition's action economy. You can move and take an action, with your action being anything ranging from moving more, attacking up to your maximum number of attacks per round, casting a spell, readying an action or something else. It also allows for a certain amount of improvisation, where a player may use his or her action to try and jump on the giant's back and stab him in the eye, for example. It's simple and easy to keep track of and I like it.

The final few chapters round out magic, which returns to the old Vancian style of pre-4th edition. I am very happy with it. I'm overjoyed, in fact, that so many spells have returned and that magic feels magical again. The basic mechanic is a little difficult to describe, but is fairly elegant once you get used to it. Spell casters have spell slots that they can use to cast spells. A first level wizard, for example, has two spell slots. The wizard also has spells prepared from a list, with that same first level character probably being able to prepare around four spells. This hypothetical wizard would choose four spells from her character's spellbook and prepare them, and then, during the adventure, she can use a spell slot to cast the spell. She can use all of her spell slots to cast the same spell or she can use each slot to cast a different spell, giving her a fair amount of flexibility. Spell slots are leveled, but you can use them to cast any spell of the slot's level or lower. So, for example, a level 20 wizard could use a 9th level spell slot to cast Magic Missile, a first level spell, and since he used a high level spell slot, Magic Missile would scale and do significantly more damage than if he had used a first level spell slot or a 10th level one. There are a good number of spells included, and all of the old favorites seem represented. Also, since due to subclasses every class has the potential to cast spells, the spell list can be relevant and useful to most everyone.

The book ends with a few appendices, detailing deities from various D&D worlds, common monsters and animals the players will interact with and summon and even a list of recommended reading, containing the old classics like Tolkien but updated with fantasy novels published as recently as in the last year. The appendices aren't entirely necessary, but are a fun bonus and definitely add to the sense of the Player's Handbook actually being a complete reference.

So, after all of that, and after reading it cover to cover--a first for me in regards to a Dungeons and Dragons book--I am going to say, and this is only my opinion mind you, that the fifth edition Player's Handbook is probably the best one ever to bear the name of Dungeons and Dragons. It is concise, it feels complete, it is packed to the brim with ideas and details and suggestions, the art is great and the game manages to feel both old and new, in the best way possible. The mechanics are simple yet classes offer a wide variety of options, all while still sticking to the old sense of well-defined archetypes. You can mechanically customize your character to every detail, or you can forgo all of that and not worry about the mechanics and optimization, and both options are viable. They even added some story game elements--how weird is that!--and your character's personality and feelings, for the first time ever in D&D, have mechanical benefits. It's great. I am very happy with fifth edition so far, and I am, for the first time in a long time, actually excited to see where the brand goes.
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Character as protagonist again!, August 22, 2014
By 
Graymouser65 (Cockeysville, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
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. The mechanics most definitely have a "return to the basics that made the game great in the 70's and 80's" feel, while at the same time keeping a more elegant version of the more modern mechanics, like feats, attacks of opportunity, etc., that people generally love from 3.0 and later editions. For the most part, all of these things have been streamlined and made more elegant in application, but they are there.

I will end with my favorite thing about this book. A little background first to provide some context for my opinion. And let me say that this is just my opinion and some will disagree with me. For me, D&D started to trend downward in my enjoyment of the game at 2nd edition, and then it really did so at 3.0 and 3.5. For me, although I did not have the strong dislike for 4.0 that many people did, it just was not D&D to me anymore, I think primary because I had cut my teeth so much on 1st edition and the Basic and Expert sets in particular. D&D 5th edition has produced a steep positive trend for me for I think one general reason. When playing even 2nd edition, but very much so for 3.0, 3.5, and even 4.0, I found myself interacting with my character in the game more as a playing piece than a character in a story. Concerns about where to put skill points, and if a particular collection and order of choice for Feats began to dominate my thoughts and game choices. It was almost as if my character, and my decisions about playing the character, began to be dominated more by my interface with the rules in the book, rather than with my ideas about my character and my interaction with the game world. As my character advanced in level, I found that my focus on the book and what was written therein became more pronounced, not less as it did with earlier editions. As I reflected while playing these later editions, I found that I was not really playing a character, but instead was playing a set of rules. So far, the gift that 5th edition has given to me is a change in focus. My character has again become a protagonist in an adventure story, rather than a playing piece. I worry now more about the choices and decisions I make while interacting with the game world, and those choices making the character fun to play, rather than fretting over whether or not I have chosen the right Feats or if my modifier for a particular skill is as high as I want it to be. The way that races, and even classes, are discussed, the used of a character's background and the ideals, personality characteristics, etc. that are randomly determined from the background choice, and the lack of mathematical modifiers except for the familiar ability modifier, and the soon to be ubiquitous global proficiency modifier, instead using the elegant advantage/disadvantage mechanic all have worked to focus my attention back on my character as protagonist. For that I want to thank the play testers and writers of 5th edition. For me this has been the most nostalgic aspect of the rules, not so much the mechanics per se.

Do I like all of the rules? Absolutely not. Frankly, I think that is impossible to attain and do not expect that from any set of rpg rules. To me that's not fair to expect that of the writers. And frankly, I am not even looking for that in a set of rules anymore. As I start down the path of the twilight of my gaming career given my age, I want a set of rules that provides enough structure that a DM can make consistent rulings on the fly that fit in with the general mechanics used in the game, and that foster my appreciation as a player of the development of my character in a game world where playing the game is smooth and produces memories of an interesting character who is the protagonist in an interesting story line. Most importantly, I want a set of rules that stays out of the way of that process, and helps me to focus on the game aspects that will produce those kinds of memories.

For me, D&D 5th edition, although not perfect, will accomplish this just fine.
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75 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a Word - Fantastic, August 19, 2014
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This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
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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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get excited about D&D again, like the very first time!, August 19, 2014
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This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
I don't have a lot to add to the other excellent 5-star reviews, but I wanted to put one more out there.

This is quite simply the best edition of D&D I've ever seen or played, and I've read them all and played all 5(.5?) editions, including 1e.

It's beautifully streamlined, with as much or as little modularity as the DM and the players want, and no stickiness. Everything about the presentation of the rules encourages imagination both in play-style and DMing. The new Inspiration and Advantage/Disadvantage mechanics, and the attendant Backgrounds, are just a thing of beauty. I love the new Feats and the way they're used in this edition; not to slow the game down, but to truly give the feeling of character progression.

The game is decidedly a modern-day RPG, but somehow succeeds at feeling old-school at the same time. There are even options for adding a delightful amount of randomization to character creation! When's the last time a modern game had that as a prominent feature, outside of Mongoose Traveller or the 40k games? Awesome.

Like I said, not much to add really, but consider this one more voice of a long-time gamer truly excited about D&D again, for the first time in a long time. Enjoy!
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifth Time's the Charm, August 19, 2014
This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition has been a great experience, speaking as somebody who's been playtesting it since it first started in 2012. The system has come a long way from where it was to now, and it's going places with this brand new edition. This edition is literally a concentration of all of the best aspects of almost every edition of D&D to date into a focused and streamlined ruleset.

For those who've played before, the feeling of this edition is a loving marriage of 2E and 3E rules constructs, streamlined and touched up with some more interesting new mechanics. The most important highlights are that the math is a lot more concise and the bonuses and target numbers are smaller across the board - there's virtually no modifiers short of the ability score and a "Proficiency bonus", which is the same for every class, but applies to different things for all of them. Instead, they represent important narrative modifiers with a mechanic called "Advantage", which is essentially rolling 2d20s and taking the highest. Conversely, there is Disadvantage for when the odds are stacked against you, and you take the lowest instead.

Combat is a lot more concise; Everybody gets a move, an action, a bonus action, and a reaction. Movement is moving up to your speed, which you can break up over the course of your turn(move > attack > move, etc.) Actions can be anything from casting spells to making full attacks(which you no longer have to stand still to make. Most classes have a way to get at least two attacks, save for a few.) Bonus actions are usually spent by class features to do cool things - Fighters can spend them to get an extra free action once per encounter, Rogues can get it to disengage from combat and dash away, Bards use it to inspire and give bonuses to their friends. Reactions are your attacks of opportunity and interrupt abilities and the like.

One of the highlights is that it's as free-form as you and your DM want it to be. Narrative and description is a lot more important as the main playstyle is a "Theater of The Mind", in which everything is rich and descriptive. This has ripples and waves in combat, as it means that the main form of combat is a descriptive experience over a more visual one with Miniatures(But don't fear, the DMG coming out in October will have rules for playing with miniatures). It's a really clean way of doing things, and eventually you'll be able to go back to Miniatures if you want to.

For those new to the game, there's actually a free PDF of rules you can download off of the D&D website at http://dnd.wizards.com. This contains four races and four classes, a whole host of spells, and gives you a great package of information that you can use to start running a game. There's also a DM's version of the rules with monsters and a few magic items. The Player's Handbook greatly expands upon the content in the first PDF, and it's still got a few updates coming down the road to include even more content.

This is the best time to get into D&D. A brand new, modern-age thinking-man's RPG, with a great combination of classic feel with new mechanics, and it really encompasses the work of the playtests, bringing us to a point of fantasy roleplaying that's been long desired. It's available in part for free, and this book is an excellent sign of things to come with this new edition.
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53 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent re-envisioning of the D&D game!, August 19, 2014
This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
The new Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook is a unique form of game that transports players into a fantasy world of stout Dwarves, noble Elves, and everything in-between. It does this by using the power of the players' imaginations, along with some oddly-shaped dice (sold separately) and this rulebook. Older players will understand that it is a redesign of the legendary tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) that was originally published in 1974. Sometimes called D&D Next, 5th Edition, or just 5E, it is a significant revision of the game that plays different than any other version. Still, enough of the core mechanics remain that it can be easily learned, and none of the rules are so odd as to make the game unrecognizable.

The main focus of the revision seems to have been streamlining and focusing the game so it both plays faster and requires less rule referencing. This tends to polarize players - those that want to customize every aspect of their character (rule-focused) will be disappointed by the changes; those that are more interested in the adventure (story-focused) will probably enjoy this. Mechanics like "advantage/disadvantage" (rolling two twenty-sided dice and taking either the best or worst depending on the ad- or dis-) replace a lot of the number crunching bonuses; early character customization is more about making broad choices (Race, Class, and Background) rather than many smaller choices (example: skills/proficiencies are primarily determined by Class and Background, and you don't choose how to spend skill points every level like you did in other editions). It is definitely a change in concept, and one that makes the game easier for new players to pick up and understand.

A gaming aspect that makes a strong comeback in this edition is that of "Theater of the Mind" - that is, not using miniatures and grid maps, but having combat and other events take place through words and descriptions (in a storytelling atmosphere). 5E supports both aspects with its rules very well, so those that enjoy their figurines shouldn't be put off, either.

If this seems like a lot of changes, it is. There are, in fact, too many changes to cover in a casual product review. Additional ones include: Toril (Forgotten Realms) is now the default campaign setting; every class has been altered from previous editions; classes transition into "archetypes" that are specialized versions at about third level.

Other info: Player races include Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human, Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Tiefling (along with multiple subraces). Classes include Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. The book itself is full color.

Note: if you are unsure whether this game is right for you, Wizards of the Coast is currently providing a PDF version of what it consider the core rules for free on its website. This document has all of the information needed to create characters, advance in level, experience combat, and play the game, but only contains a limited number of races, classes, and backgrounds to choose from. Feel free to visit their website and try the free basic rules to see if you'll like the game before significantly investing in this book.

Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars. 5E can't be everything to everyone, but it is an incredible re-envisioning that manages to separate itself from all of the other editions by creating a unique play experience that can still be recognized as the venerable game it is based on. Highly recommended for all tabletop RPGers to try!
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly 3.5 with a sprinkling of 4th and a couple new concepts, August 28, 2014
By 
Christopher Butz (Madison, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
So, I have been unable to find any useful reviews of the new edition of D&D. I just wanted to know what this edition was like. How was it different from 3.5? How was it different from 4th? I searched for reviews on Google, but was unable to find anything other than "sneak peak" articles that were months old or incredibly generic reviews. So, now that I have begun to read my own 5th edition Player's Handbook, I can fill others in on what they want to know.

First off, 5th edition is basically 3.5 with some ideas from 4th and a smattering of new stuff. The Ability Scores are the same as they have always been, excepting that they cap out at 20 for mere mortals, and characters no longer get bonus spell slots for high stats. The standard races are all present (humans, dwarves, elves, half-elves, gnomes, halflings, and half-orcs) plus the two "new" standard races from 4th edition, tieflings and dragonborn. Most of the expected abilities for the races are still there, though there are no longer Ability Score penalties (though there are still bonuses).

Darkvision and low-light vision have been merged into a single ability. It's now the ability to see in dim illumination as if it were bright and in darkness as if it were dim illumination. Pretty much everyone in the D&D universe besides humans and halflings has it.

All of the standard character classes of 3.5 are present with the addition of the warlock. There are no attack bonuses or saving throw bonuses gained directly through level advancement. Instead, the class grants proficiency in armor, weapons, saving throws, skills, and tools. The proficiency bonus starts at +2 and eventually gets up to +6 at level 17. So, a 17th level fighter has a grand total attack bonus from his level of +6. This is part of the 5th edition concept of "bounded accuracy."

Characters get better as they get higher in level, but not nearly as fast as they used to. One presumes that this will be balanced by monsters not getting quite as tough at higher levels as they used to, but the Monster Manual doesn't come out for another month, so we will have to wait to see. But, the idea is that D&D characters in former editions became so powerful at higher levels that there was no question about whether they would succeed at their attack rolls or saving throws or skill checks. To keep a little more uncertainty in the game, the designers of 5th edition did not want them to get that good.

I haven't decided yet whether I like this or not. I'll have to see it in action. I have already thought about what I would do if I don't like it (if I feel that it limits the characters too severely), and the fix I would try first would be the 4th edition approach of adding a bonus equal to half the character's level to all attacks, saves, and skill checks. But, I will give bounded accuracy a shot before I decide to "fix" it.

Saving throws changed a little. Instead of three types (Reflex, Fortitude, and Will) saving throws are now tied directly to an Ability Score, so there are six different types. I'm not sure what kinds of things a Strength saving throw would be protecting you from (or Intelligence or Charisma, for that matter), but presumably there is a use for it.

Some of the classes get a class ability at every level, while some only have them for about 12 of the 20 levels, and others fall in between those extremes. Overall, though, it looks like the game designers tried to give more class abilities as characters go up in level so that characters have something to reach for within their primary class. Characters can multi-class in 5th edition much as they could in 3.5, but the system looks like it tries to encourage remaining in a single class.

Rather than skill points and skill ranks (from 3.5), 5th edition simply has skills your character is proficient at and skills he is not (like 4th edition's "trained" and "untrained" designations). Some of these skills are determined by class, while some are determined by background (which everyone now has to actually pick). The skills are few in number and broad in scope (like 4th edition).

Feats are no longer an automatic part of the game, but must be paid for (if the DM allows them--but what DM wouldn't?). They are slightly more powerful than 3.5 feats (and far more powerful than the anemic 4th edition feats). So, how do you pay for feats, you ask? At class levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19 your character's class ability is an increase in ability scores. Either +2 to a single Ability Score of the player's choice, or +1 to two different Ability Scores of the player's choice. If the alternate feat system is used, the player can give up the extra Ability Score points for a feat.

Humans start off with a +1 to each of their Ability Score points as their sole racial ability. However, if the feat system is used, there is an option for humans to start with +1 to three Ability Scores of the player's choice, one extra skill proficiency of the player's choice, and a feat. I'd go with that in a heartbeat. Just saying.

Anyway, back to character classes. Each character class also has several class abilities that are determined by a particular path that the character must choose (reminiscent of 4th edition's paragon paths). Most of the character classes have only two or three paths to choose from. Barbarians, for example, can take the Path of the Berserker or the Path of the Totem Warrior. Bards can belong to the College of Lore or the College of Valor. Paladins can take an Oath of Devotion, an Oath of the Ancients, or an Oath of Vengeance. Fighters choose from the martial archetypes of Champion, Battle Master, or Eldritch Knight.

Two classes have many more options. Clerics choose their path by choosing their domain. There are seven domains defined in the PH: Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, and War. Wizards must select one of the eight schools of magic. There are no longer generalist wizards. All wizards must now be "specialists" (who are neither cut off from any schools of magic, nor gain extra spells from their chosen school, but who get other bonuses associated with the school in question).

One presumes that the major feature of the first Player's Handbook supplement will be to greatly expand upon the path options within these character classes, as most of them are fairly limited at present. Also, I would expect the backgrounds to expand significantly. Currently, there are only 13. When one considers all of the varied places in a fantasy universe his or her character could be from, only 13 possibilities seems remarkably limited.

In addition to their earlier stated function of providing additional skill proficiencies for your character, backgrounds can provide languages and tool proficiencies. They can also provide "inspiration," a new 5th edition game concept. Because backgrounds provide you with some personality traits for your character, DM's can now reward you for inspired role-playing by rewarding the character with inspiration. You may then spend the inspiration to gain "advantage," another 5th edition concept.

When a character has advantage on any particular die roll (essentially, any d20 roll) the player rolls two dice and takes the better result. When a character is suffering from disadvantage on a particular die roll, the player rolls two dice and takes the worse result. Advantage and disadvantage do not stack. That is, if you have advantage from multiple sources, you do not roll three or four or five dice--just the two. However, they do cancel. If you have both advantage and disadvantage, you simply roll one d20.

Equipment can be purchased for the character in one of two ways: you can either roll for gold and buy your equipment ala carte, or you can simply take the equipment granted by your class and background (each contributes part of your equipment total). Armor didn't change much, other than it has become somewhat simplified. Light armor has no maximum Dex bonus. All medium armor has a +2 maximum Dex bonus. All heavy armor does not allow a Dex bonus (and most has a minimum Str requirement). Also, most armor inflicts disadvantage on Stealth checks.

I didn't notice any significant changes on weapons and tools, but then, I haven't looked at them too closely yet. Likewise, I've only scanned the chapter on combat, but nothing was jumping out at me as being a radical departure from 3.5 rules. It looks like the concept of being flat-footed is completely gone. Damage resistance and vulnerability changed. Instead of hard numbers, they simply halve or double the damage from the given source. The 4th edition concept of short and long rests has been added. Characters can roll a number of dice up to their total hit dice to spontaneously heal on a short rest, but do not get any of this dice pool refreshed until they complete a long rest (at which point, they automatically heal all damage anyway).

Spell casting changed a little. All spell casters are now, essentially, spontaneous spell casters. Those casters who were spontaneous casters in 3.5 have really limited spell selection for their known spells. Sorcerers, for example, start off with only two known 1st level spells. They gain one known spell per level (usually--sometimes they skip a level), and they can add any spell up to the maximum level that they are currently able to cast. At 17th level, sorcerers only have 15 total spells known (their maximum) for all 9 levels they can cast.

Those spell casters who had to memorize spells in 3.5, now select a number of spells equal to their class level plus their main stat bonus from their spell lists (for divine casters) or their spell book (for wizards). They can then cast these spells as many times per day as they have spell slots for just as spontaneous casters in 3.5 could. They also have the advantage of being able to change this list of prepared spells every time they take a long rest.

Spell casting also adds the concept of "rituals" from 4th edition. Certain spells may be cast normally as spells or may be cast in a longer form as rituals (water breathing, for example). The spell must be prepared already by the ritual caster (or must be in his spell book for a wizard), but does not count against the caster's daily limit of spell slots when it is cast in long form as a ritual. And, there are many fewer spells in this PH than one might have expected. That is probably something else that will change with the first release of a PH supplement.

The cosmology of the D&D universe returned to the Great Wheel model of editions 1-3 with the addition of the Feywild, the Shadowfell, and the Elemental Chaos (which now houses the individual elemental planes) from 4th edition. Gods of from the pantheons of Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Eberron (and the standard non-human deities) were listed, in addition to deities from the earthbound pantheons of Celtic, Greek, Egyptian, and Norse origins. No full blown descriptions, mind you, just a single line entry in a list for each deity.

Well, there you have it. That is what 5th edition looks like. If you loved 3.5, but hated 4th edition, it's probably worth looking at. If you loved 4th edition and thought it was a major improvement on 3rd, you are going to be really, really disappointed.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old School Meets New School?, August 19, 2014
This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
.... Since I only played 1st edition,(Advanced D&D to me and not the true original to purists), I cannot comment on the other vesions, but 5e does remind me of AD&D from the early 80's.

I like the new races and classes, and think they represent a leap forward as they separate out nicely vice the old ranger in AD&D who was too much like a basic fighter until the ARCANA book came out. Many have subclasses and subraces to further refine a character with additional bonuses or restrictions.

The combat is a bit simplified IMHO, but I actual enjoyed the -10 to 10 AC system and tables. As a DM, the math part is enjoyable to me.

The book is on very high gloss paper and the Art work is solid. Still unsure why most races and classes have females only in the artwork? Encourage women to play more?

I like how WoTC allows for the flexibilty to micromanage many aspects of a character or simply roll and play without too much detail.
If you are thinking of getting back into D&D, this is likely for you. For the price at Amazon...can't go wrong
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I haven't felt this excited about a Player's Handbook since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1978), August 19, 2014
By 
Lucien Desar (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
First, this book is beautifully constructed, the illustrations are amazing. The Player's Guide is designed with the first part about simple mechanics, race, class, weapons, and etc. The vivid descriptions for races and classes of characters helps in coming up with the motivation of your characters. This 5th edition focuses more on story and less on game mechanics. If you have never played D&D or if you haven't played in a long while, this book will get you excited about the game again.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth the Money, August 19, 2014
This review is from: Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) (Hardcover)
So! The Dungeons & Dragons Next Player’s Handbook is here! Well, not “Next”; it’s not even “D&D 5th Edition”, which it is, but Wizards of the Coast aren't calling it that, just “Dungeons and Dragons” or “D&D”. I think they’re trying to say is that this is what they want us to imagine when we say “D&D” and not any of the older editions. Marketing, amirite? Anyway, moving on…

Before the review, a word of caution: You will be reading a number of reviews here in the near future with One- or Two-Stars from Pathfinder or 4th Edition aficionados (or even fans of editions further back) who will lambaste this book based on inaccurate comparisons and half-baked arguments. Do not fall into the “Edition Wars”. I recommend that you download the free basic rules from the internet ( http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules?x=dnd/basicrules ) and/or invest in the whole $12.00 + S/H (as of this review) for the Starter Set ( http://www.amazon.com/Dungeons-Dragons-Starter-Set-Roleplaying/dp/0786965592/ref=pd_cp_b_0 ), play it, and make your own informed decision. When you’re ready to proceed to the next level and purchase the Player’s Handbook, I hope you find the following review helpful. :-)

First off I want to talk about the art. It’s nice. There are some pieces that, while fantastical, are friendly to the eyes and familiar. Then there are some pieces that are very alien (specifically the other races) that are very well done and clean and beautiful, but will challenge what your eyes are familiar with looking at. And it’s wonderful. Role-Playing, at its core, is immersing you in a setting that you’re unfamiliar with, sometimes uncomfortable with, and this art helps take you there.

Next is the layout. When I first perused the book I thought that I would have wanted to have the gameplay mechanics set up-front and then have the character generation section after. I felt that the Backgrounds and Traits should have been first before Races and Classes. After going over the book again I can see the wisdom in how the book is laid out: Choose your Abilities, Race, Class, then the traits that define your Class, buy Equipment, and finally it instructs you how to play. There are alternate rules to help customize your character as well as glimpses into the various gaming worlds (Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Eberron, etc.).

Finally, there are spell descriptions separated by the character classes (Bard, Wizard, Cleric, etc.) so you can easily look up what spells are available for your class instead of having to peruse the spell descriptions and see if you qualify for them, then there are the spell descriptions. There are then some basic monster descriptions for your DM to use in your future adventures.

A lot of the best features from all the previous versions of Dungeons & Dragons can be found in this book. If you have been following the playtest, have downloaded the free Basic Rules or have purchased the Starter Kit and you’re ready to continue, I cannot recommend this book enough. The layout makes sense, the information will help you throughout your entire D&D career (until the 6th edition) and very well worth the discounted price being sold on Amazon. :-)
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Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons) by Wizards RPG Team (Hardcover - August 19, 2014)
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