I wanted to give a quick and dirty “opinion post” on 5e, and this is not meant to be a comprehensive review, just quick thoughts… By now I’ve had a chance (and hopefully if you’re interested in 5e, you have as well) of reading and playing with both the basic rules pdf and the Starter Set for the new 5th edition of D&D. My thoughts on the game are generally positive, and I’ve been able to see it from both sides of the screen. That said, we are still looking at a very incomplete picture here… no PHB, DMG or MM, so we must keep that in mind…
On the player’s side of things, I appreciate the new lighter approach the rules have taken. Everything is fairly streamlined, ability score bonuses play an important part in the game, and fidgety bonuses have been condensed to Advantage/Disadvantage and proficiency bonuses that don’t change too much through the character’s career. I also appreciate the game’s attempt at making backgrounds, flaws and other character traits take center stage, granting mechanical rewards for using them in play. D&D has rarely been too interested in how its players role-play, so seeing the new inspiration rule in play brings a smile to my face. I like to see good role-playing at the table, whether I am playing or DMing.
The game just including (for now) the classic races and classes is fine, in my opinion. If for example, Lord of the Rings is your only source of a fantasy frame of reference, you know what a dwarf is, or an elf. A wizard is like Gandalf and a rogue is like Bilbo. No Eladrin, Shardminds or Wilden need apply. We’ll get all that stuff later on in the game’s life, and that’s fine by me.
The short and sweet combat rules are another aspect I like, although I admit that they read to me like a grid game that purposely decides to not mention it is a grid game. Creatures still occupy a 5′ space, which is entirely arbitrary and comes from the game’s previous grid based rules. Nevertheless, the game’s attempt at not requiring a grid is fine, although I feel that there aren’t enough adequate examples for new players on how to run a combat off the grid, just using your imagination. FWIW, I used a grid when I DM’ed the game here at home. I’m also really enjoying the magic pseudo-vancian rules they’ve come up with. Some spells can be cast as rituals, and low level spells can be cast using a higher level spell slot for a stronger effect. We’ll see how the magic vs. martial thing pans out as the edition gets played, as this has been one of the biggest concerns amongst 4e players regarding 5e.
As a DM who came over from 4e, I’m missing rules on encounter building, and the elegance of the 4e stat block for the monsters. There was just something about the way that stat block was laid out that popped and drew your eyes to certain spots on the page. 5e isn’t as nice for me in that regard, and although it wasn’t hard to read or run with, I’m sticking with 4e as my favorite D&D stat block yet. The starter set includes enough in the adventure to give you a few good meaty sessions of play, so that not having the hard covers will affect your play time, but once you get past it you’ll have no use for it again. It brings no maps, tokens, or anything of the sort. It’s really meant to (A) draw in new players, and (B) give fans of D&D something to get started with and try out 5e before it’s really out later this year.
Overall, I’m happy with the direction 5e took. There’s a certain something about it that draws me back to 2e (the edition I played the most in the old days). The writing and prose used in the basic set draws me in and makes me want to tell stories in these worlds, and I know that this is entirely subjective and you may not agree with me, but that’s the feel of this game for me. Right now I’m cautiously optimistic with D&D. The tone, the attempts at inclusivity, the call backs to older fiction and worlds, and it’s attempt at reaching out to players of all editions of the game are hitting the right notes for me. I’m on board.
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I’ll review the product soon, but I wanted to post this here for now… Mike Shea from Slyflourish.com and I recorded a google hangout where we talk about the new 5e starter box for about an hour. If you’re into watching grown men talk about elves and dwarves, I invite you to check it out.
WOTC published an unboxing video today of its upcoming Starter Set box, and I have to say that at first glance, I’m impressed and hopeful that it’ll be a good product. Based on what I can see on the video, it looks like a high quality product (expected from a publisher like WOTC). Full disclosure: I’ve pre ordered one already, although I’m hoping to land a review copy anyway, but in the case I don’t, I’ve bought one to make sure I give it a thorough review here on my site. It’s time to start writing about D&D again.
I was not a fan of the 4e red box, and I’m hoping that this product really is a starter set suitable for new DMs to pick up the game and get rolling right away.
Anyway, here’s the video, and here’s a link to its Amazon’s pre-order page (in case you’d like to support the site a bit).
So one of the things I wanted to do when following up rpgKids was to do something completely different from it in every sense. I didn’t want to create rpgKids 2.0, and I wanted to move away from the “DnD” inspired fantasy trappings for the game. So I gave myself a series of challenges:
- The new game has to have a story and a setting
- Rules have to be a bit more abstract, no more counting squares and no character classes
- Can’t be all combat focused
So here’s a bit of an explanation about each of these points:
The game, unlike rpgKids (which is basically a rule toolbox), takes place in the world of Cielous, a sky world dotted by islands floating in a crimson sky, lit by a never-ending dawn due to its three suns that are always setting and rising. The people that inhabit the islands, the Triddles, need to ride and use dragons to get around from island to island, but unfortunately due to events that happened at the beginning of time, dragons only trust kids. They don’t let adults ride them. So kids are taught (by former riders) at the Dragonwyrm Academies to train and ride the dragons. That’s the core idea and premise of the game. I also created a mechanic for the game that ties into the story of the setting, further making the story an important part of the experience.
The rules are more open ended. I’ve taken a look at a lot of different systems over the past few years. Things like Fate and Fate Accelerated, 13th Age, Edge of the Empire, Fiasco, BECMI D&D, and some others all have inspired me to think beyond the d20 system for inspiration. It’s easy to see the D&D inspiration that led to rpgKids. JotDA has more in common with these other systems instead. Character creation is very open ended, for example. There are no classes, and a player can literally make a character that’s good at whatever the player wants it to be. If she wants to be good at Swordfighting, Basket weaving, and Singing, she can. Players are only limited by their imaginations. There is minimal number crunching at character creation. In fact, there are only three stats in the game (apart from health/defense). I think this will appeal to kids, since they can really be any type of character they can think of.
Combat will be a bit more abstract than rpgKids was, taking cues from games like 13th Age and Edge of the Empire. if you’ve played those games, you know the angle JotDA is going for… fast, loose and fun. No more counting 5 squares to see if a slingshot hits or not. I think this makes the game and story easier to get immersed in. But the system is designed to not just be able to resolve combats, and the same core mechanic will allow for problem solving and other challenges, which is part of the design philosophy I want to follow for adventure building and design. No more room upon room of combats a la 4e, the adventures will have the Jockeys taking part on other types of adventures as well.
The system uses a simple 3d6 resolution system. I like d6’s because they are very common and are easy to design with.
So there’s a bit more info about JotDA. I hope those of you who were aboard the rpgKids ride give this one a shot, I think you’ll like it.
Here’s some preview art to get you excited!