Friday, July 11, 2014

Initial Impressions of D&D 5th Edition

Click HERE to check out the Basic Rules.
Last Friday, Wizards of the Coast finally released the D&D Basic Rules, a free 110-page PDF containing the most basic iteration of the rules for the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Like most people, I wasted no time and downloaded it within seconds of learning about it. For the past week or so, I've been reading through the rules, gathering my thoughts about them.

Here are some of my initial impressions towards the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Since these are only based on my reading of the rules and not actual game play, these might change after I get some time at the table with them. 

First things first, I like how this iteration places a greater importance on the character's ability scores and the implementation of the "proficiency bonus". Whenever you want to do something with a significant chance of failure, whether its attack an opponent or making a saving throw, you simply make the appropriate ability check. When performing an ability check that your character possesses a "proficiency" with, you add a modifier determined by your character's level. Instead of having a myriad of different bonuses, you mostly have one single bonus that is used for a lot of different things. I personally think that was an excellent design decision and should make things a lot easier at the table. 

The decision to include the "advantage/disadvantage" mechanic was a brilliant one as well. Unlike other editions of the game where advantages and disadvantages give you different sized modifiers, advantage/disadvantage in 5th Edition has the player roll two d20s. Depending on whether they have advantage or disadvantage, the player uses the higher or lower result from the two dice. I feel like this rule will make throwing advantages and disadvantages at players much easier from the DM's standpoint and hopefully won't slow down the game because it doesn't add any additional math to the mix like the previous iterations. 

While this might be a minor thing to most people, but I love that personality and background has its own specific chapter that is actually the same length as the chapter on combat (I actually counted the pages to be sure). The chapter talks about personality traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws you're character might have and the backgrounds they might possess. Its a minor thing, but for someone who really cares about the roleplaying side of things, this is a nice addition that I really appreciate. 

However, there are a couple of things about the PDF that I'm not too fond of. For example, I really don't like the numerous references to the Forgotten Realms within the text (especially within the Human section of the race chapter). While I have nothing against the setting itself, I would prefer these rules be as setting neutral as possible and only reference other settings sparingly. Also, I wish there were a few more options presented withing the document. This is most likely change when the Player's Handbook has been released and WoTC updates the PDF to include a few more choices found within that book, it makes me a little less likely to run the game until that happens. 

With that being said, I'm definitely liking what I'm seeing so far. While I probably won't be abandoning Pathfinder for 5th Edition anytime soon, I could definitely see this becoming my back-up fantasy system for those occasions when I don't feel like using something as rules-intensive as Pathfinder. 

WoTC has definitely got my approval for the time being. Let's hope they can keep this up.