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Storytelling in worlds of swords & sorcery
July 3, 2014 3:55 PM   Subscribe

After two years of public playtest and discussion, the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons makes its debut today. The Basic Rules are now available as a free PDF.

The Starter Set is available in hobby stores today and bookstores on Wednesday. The Player's Handbook is set for August 19 (just in time for Gen Con Indy) and will launch with the adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The Monster Manual hits in late September, then the next adventure The Rise of Tiamat in October and finally the Dungeon Master's Guide in November. Four pre-release 5th edition adventures are available in PDF on D&D Classics.
posted by graymouser (120 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I ran the public beta versions a couple of times. It was interesting, a step up from 4E certainly, but unless it's changed greatly from that version, ultimately may not be what people really want.
posted by JHarris at 3:59 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, it looks like Forgotten Realms is still the "default" setting of the game, judging from the adventure titles.
posted by JHarris at 4:00 PM on July 3, 2014


There's a distressing lack of crude drawings of monsters and catacombs and glittering hoards and suchlike in that PDF

I haven't played AD&D since 2nd Ed but I started listening to Nerd Poker awhile back and that was great fun. Made me nostalgic. I didn't like how all the character classes have what seem to be MMORPG-inspired special attacks on tap all the time, though.

Were there discussions of a MetaFilter play-by-email D&D game being discussed at some point, or was that a fever dream of mine?
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:05 PM on July 3, 2014


I think discussions of such got moved onto mefightclub.

My impression of 4e is that it streamlined combat at the expense of everything else. If this is more of the same... eh.
posted by mikurski at 4:15 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


5e is very much not 4e, mikurski. My impression is that it will run like 2e and 3e had a baby, and you can make it as complex or not as you like. I'm not a partisan of the edition, but I think it's noteworthy that the basic rules are completely free.
posted by graymouser at 4:26 PM on July 3, 2014


prize bull octorok: "There's a distressing lack of crude drawings of monsters and catacombs and glittering hoards and suchlike in that PDF"

DAT's dead.
posted by Sphinx at 4:31 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Skimming the free PDF it does certainly look a lot more like 3e than 4e.
posted by oddman at 4:34 PM on July 3, 2014


The Basic PDF has a great disclaimer, too:
Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of splitting up the party, sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil face, accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears, storming the feast hall of a hill giant steading, angering a dragon of any variety, or saying yes when the DM asks, “Are you really sure?”
For all the Forgotten Realms references they certainly want some Gygax street cred.
posted by graymouser at 4:36 PM on July 3, 2014 [13 favorites]


My 12-year-old and ten-year-old are agitating for me to run a game for them.

Is 5e too complex for this age bracket? I have not played in 20 + years.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:38 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Granted it is only a near-term problem, I really wish you could buy the core three books all at once instead of releasing them one-per-month August-November. Here is my wallet full of money for books...let me buy them now!

4E got me back into D&D after not playing it since the early 90's. I bought a ton of 4E books...didn't play it much 4E, but I felt the layout, art, etc was so great I just liked reading through them. Instead, my gaming group ended up using 3.5E for our campaign since that's what the DM owned the most books for. I'll probably do the same thing with 5E...buy lots of books to read but still use 3.5E rules. I've told our DM I would like to guest-DM some sessions, so maybe I'll use 5E for those.
posted by JibberJabber at 4:38 PM on July 3, 2014


Is 4e Pathfinder? I played that and it was terrible, math math MATH.
posted by vrakatar at 4:39 PM on July 3, 2014


Saving throw vs. Fear of Change
posted by um at 4:40 PM on July 3, 2014 [20 favorites]


Another of the problems with 4E, indeed one I personally hated even more than the changes to play, was their trying to split up each of the core books into multiple volumes to artificially increase sales. Some of the core classes in the "Player's Handbook," but then some more in Player's Handbook II, then even more in PHIII. Fuck that noise. (They did some of that in 3E, but the "Player's Handbook II" wasn't really core to play, it just offered some extra stuff.)

If they're also going to do that this time, I can't see 5E being very popular.
posted by JHarris at 4:44 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


4E was basically Diablo the Tabletop RPG. If that's what you want it does a great job being that, and for hack-and-slashey dungeon crawls it's a whole shitload of fun, but it pales in comparison to the earlier stuff.

Then again my group plays a semi-obscure pirate RPG that went out of print ten years ago so maybe I'm not the best judge of what's new and hot.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:48 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is 4e Pathfinder? I played that and it was terrible, math math MATH.

No, Pathfinder was a revision of 3e that Paizo, who formerly published Dragon and Dungeon magazines, put out as a reaction to 4e. They were able to do this because 3e was released under the Open Game License, which was there to encourage 3rd party supplements, but ultimately made it possible to reprint almost the entire game.
posted by graymouser at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


$50 for the Player's Handbook (320 pages). $30 for a 96-page module. What a racket.
posted by stbalbach at 4:59 PM on July 3, 2014


4E was basically Diablo the Tabletop RPG.

If I never again hear somebody conflate characters who aren't mages having something interesting to do every turn with video games, it'll be too soon.

The real problem is that 4E had a ton of combat rules and not a lot of rules for everything else, and gamers are not as creative as we'd like to pretend we are, and a lot of (groggy) types decided that having no rules for, say, how good a cook you are meant that the only thing you could do was fight. Old D&D also had no meaningful rules that weren't about dungeon-crawling and orc-slaying, but somehow making up a bunch of house rules was awesome in 1st ed and the devil in 4th. Also, a LOT of nerds for some reason decided that having a list of abilities, some of which are available every round, meant that all they could do each round is pick which of those abilities to use. Why? Hell if I know, because it's sure not in the book.

There's also a lot of nerds who really, really love the quadratic wizards/linear fighters problem because it validates their idea that the smart people should be better than the strong people, and 4E trying to fix QW/LF pissed them off because it took away their high school bullying revenge fantasies about jocks being useless people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:27 PM on July 3, 2014 [11 favorites]


Groundbreaking for this one sentence. "You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender." Rock on!
posted by ShawnStruck at 5:27 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Have they brought THAC0 back yet?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:47 PM on July 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Damn, I wish I knew where my 1st edition AD&D books have gotten to, I'd love to play with my son.
posted by mollweide at 6:08 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Groundbreaking for this one sentence. "You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender."
Glorantha wants a word with you.
But yes, rock on.
posted by CrystalDave at 6:09 PM on July 3, 2014


4E was basically Diablo the Tabletop RPG.

If I never again hear somebody conflate characters who aren't mages having something interesting to do every turn with video games, it'll be too soon.

The real problem is that 4E had a ton of combat rules and not a lot of rules for everything else, and gamers are not as creative as we'd like to pretend we are, and a lot of (groggy) types decided that having no rules for, say, how good a cook you are meant that the only thing you could do was fight.


I don't want to speak for someone else, but the thing you described as "The real problem" was exactly what I thought Itaxpica meant by "Diablo the Tabletop RPG" -- plenty of hack-and-slash rules, not so much of the RP part of "RPG."
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 PM on July 3, 2014


Thanks for this! I've been waiting for news on when this was going to come out since the last time the rules got mentioned. Been on a misspent-youth kick recently and want to play a little again.
posted by curious nu at 6:21 PM on July 3, 2014


I'm confused why the core books aren't being released at the same time. Is it just to avoid "oh man I gotta buy all these books to play" sentiment?
posted by curious nu at 6:33 PM on July 3, 2014


One reason might be to avoid sticker shock. For many $50 every six weeks (or so) is less of a concern than $150 all upfront. This may be especially true for the junior high, high school demographic that is sure a large part of their buyers.
posted by oddman at 6:37 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually found the 4e combats were more tedious than 3.5, but that could have been the group I was playing with. Lots of using At-wills every round to whittle down a big box of hp.
posted by squinty at 6:47 PM on July 3, 2014


Kids are paying for the books these days?
posted by mittens at 6:49 PM on July 3, 2014


I don't want to speak for someone else, but the thing you described as "The real problem" was exactly what I thought Itaxpica meant by "Diablo the Tabletop RPG" -- plenty of hack-and-slash rules, not so much of the RP part of "RPG."

And again, somehow this wasn't a problem in old-school D&D, which the "4E is an MMO!" crowd tends to hold up as the epitome of gaming.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:54 PM on July 3, 2014


Oh wow, $50? That seems.. higher than previous editions.

Reading through basic rules:

* boo to Forgotten Realms

* interesting that they kept it to just your basic Tolkien hero-races

* classes are alphabetical.. is this new? I feel like they've started with Fighter forever.

I definitely get more of a 2E/3E vibe. All the spell stuff is still in X feet, though, so it's not like its gone very far from its roots, no matter what else is going on.
posted by curious nu at 6:57 PM on July 3, 2014


I don't want to speak for someone else, but the thing you described as "The real problem" was exactly what I thought Itaxpica meant by "Diablo the Tabletop RPG" -- plenty of hack-and-slash rules, not so much of the RP part of "RPG."

Bingo. The system my group plays (7th Sea, if anyone's interested) has an almost opposite problem (systems for pretty much everything, but combat is actually kind of shitty and requires fairly significant house rule tweaks), and that has it's own drawbacks, but it's pretty cool that for our current campaign (a political/mercantile intrigue set in 17th century Venice, but with magic) we can take advantage of fleshed-out systems for things like reputation, networks of acquaintances and informants at court, and calling in favors - even if it does get clunky when the occasional duel rolls around.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:59 PM on July 3, 2014


It's also worth noting that my experience with 4E a few years ago was my first with D&D since 2.5E when I was 14, so I may be totally off base about the older editions.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:04 PM on July 3, 2014


The thing that ultimately bugged me about 4e is that nearly all of a player's mechanical character choices revolved around combat. The reward for attaining most levels was a new combat power, which is a shiny toy that people rightfully want to play with. That's not bad, but it means that the game pulls me towards running more fights, because the rewards for winning fights are more ways to win fights.

Of course you can run noncombat stuff, and quite successfully, but the thing is if you're going to run a lot of intrigue, for example, why are you playing a system where you do have to make up most of the rules for the things you want to do?

I don't think it's that nerds are unimaginative so much as the ways in which one mechanically advances are the ways in which one will want to play more. Even if you're giving experience rewards for social challenges, the character improvements that players get to pick from are not social improvements.

For a different example, look at Cyberpunk 2020, where the mechanical improvements took so long and so much work that, eventually, all my players cared about was making new characters, because that was the only time they really got to make system choices. New things are fun, and the kinds of new things the game hands out will dictate how players approach that game.
posted by Errant at 7:06 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


The thing that ultimately bugged me about 4e is that nearly all of a player's mechanical character choices revolved around combat.

This has ALWAYS been D&D-as-written, though. When you have 300 pages of rules in the PHB about combat and combat-related things, and everything not-combat-related is relegated to rolling a single die and comparing it against a skill number, your game is about combat. 4E just finally embraced it and ran with it.

D&D's about killing things, taking their stuff, and getting stronger so you can killer bigger, tougher things and take their even-better stuff. Anything else you manage to do with the system is off-label. Not bad or wrong! Just, you know, not what's written.

I was hoping the new edition (is it still "Next" or is it properly 5E now?) was going to branch out a bit, but going over the basic rules that doesn't seem to be the case.
posted by curious nu at 7:25 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, it looks like Forgotten Realms is still the "default" setting of the game, judging from the adventure titles.

I thought the default setting was Greyhawk?
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:46 PM on July 3, 2014


Absolutely no question that D&D is a combat game. And I stress that it's a thing that bugged me about 4e, it didn't make me hate it. But, for example, by the time I got around to 2e there were plenty of nonweapon proficiencies and social kits to tack on; even though realistically everyone in 3e concentrated on a few skills anyway, every level you had to choose to do that, as opposed to those skills just raising automatically. There's something about making those kinds of character sheet choices that, in my experience, has an impact on the way players choose to approach the game and the kinds of things they want to do.

D&D's never not going to predominantly be about combat, I think we can all take that as given. But 4e seemed, to me, to emphasize combat abilities far more than anything else, and to reward players with new combat abilities, much more so than previous versions did.

I don't think that's bad. I personally love tactical rpgs, so I'm not complaining about it. But I understand the frustration people had with 4e, and 3e for that matter, because the reliance on the miniature grid has a tendency to pull stories towards combat resolutions.
posted by Errant at 7:47 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


DWRoelands: Is 5e too complex for this age bracket? I have not played in 20 + years.

It's been designed to be modular, so the core rules are quite streamlined and the Dungeon Master's Guide will add optional complexity. The Starter Set looks like a good way to get complete newbies into it, and it's pretty cheap to see if they like it. Alternatively, I'd recommend Dungeon World (fewer stats, more narrative, less prep required) which has had an influence on 5e (the concept of "failing forward", for instance).

curious nu: Oh wow, $50? That seems.. higher than previous editions.

It's already heavily discounted from the online book shops.

curious nu: interesting that they kept it to just your basic Tolkien hero-races

Well, in the free Basic pdf, anyway. The Player's Handbook will have a bigger range of races and classes.

oddman: the junior high, high school demographic that is sure a large part of their buyers.

They wish…
posted by robcorr at 7:49 PM on July 3, 2014


Well all of my friends started when we were that age, anyway.

Also, kindly get off my lawn.
posted by oddman at 7:51 PM on July 3, 2014


Rereading my comment, I don't think I made my point very well. I have no issue with D&D characters gaining new combat abilities. I care about what a player gets to choose to improve their character when advancing that character. If noncombat abilities improve automatically, but the player must choose what kind of combat improvement they want, they will be more invested in the arena in which they made choices, and I as a DM feel compelled to create scenarios which allow them to use the things they've chosen. It's not about D&D being a combat game, it's about which mechanics encourage player investment and which mechanics discourage player attention.
posted by Errant at 8:00 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


THIS IS POTENTIALLY AWESOME

I haven't run a D&D Next game. The rules seem not-bad - a serious attempt to marry the better aspects of 2E and 3E.

I've run a D&D 4E game. I was shocked at how fun it was. It wasn't like a video game at all. It's just that the rules didn't really try to quantify noncombat situations. I actually sort of appreciated that. So did the PCs, most of whom had never played before.

Nothing, however, will top 2E's stock of material. The lost beauty of D&D lay in its extraneous details and joyfully excessive backstories. Borges would have been proud. 3E, 3.5E, and 4E have tighter books, but 2E gave us Spelljammer and Planescape. It's telling that almost all of the monsters I had used in my 4E game had been imported straight from 2E.

All in all, the dirty secret about RPGs is that rules are rarely sufficient and never perfect. For all the hissing and scratching that you'll see in internet arguments, the hidden truth is that "good enough" is good enough. There may be all kinds of reasons to prefer one system to another, but at the end of the day, if you can't have any fun with a randomly chosen edition of D&D, then maybe you're the problem.

Not even saying that out of TSR/WOTC loyalty, which I lack...
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:01 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I liked 4e. My only gripe was that the challenge ratings as given in the rules were way too favorable to the players, and most out-of-the-box encounters were too easy. This just meant you had to do a bit of balancing with monster numbers and restricting the party's ability recharge their healing surges in order to restore a sense of tension.

The system of rules didn't penalize role-playing any more than previous editions did, but I guess millions of nerds can't be wrong, etc.
posted by um at 8:04 PM on July 3, 2014


I was hoping the new edition (is it still "Next" or is it properly 5E now?) was going to branch out a bit, but going over the basic rules that doesn't seem to be the case.

Next was just the name of the playtest, though "D&D Next" is an awesome name. The actual product is D&D 5th Edition or D&D 5.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:10 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see they have put back a bunch of the noncombat spells that 4e dropped. I like this.
posted by squinty at 8:13 PM on July 3, 2014


Most of the people who complained about 4E were people who either liked "old school" D&D and were part of the Old School Renaissance, who spend all their time making their own house rules or entirely tweaked 1E clone systems, or people who liked 3.5, a system with so much rules proliferation that they might as well be making up their own rules anyway rather than buying the several dozen books worth of rules.

I enjoyed the 5E playtest, and wrote somewhere in the realm of 30 pages of house rules for it before I got back into Shadowrun. I will definitely pick up all these books and see if the stuff I fixed with my house rules got fixed in the final versions, or if I still get to use that work next time I run a game.
posted by Caduceus at 8:17 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


4e's non-combat rules were actually excellent, once they'd done a few rules passes and added backgrounds and people worked out how to do skill challenges properly (Dungeon World-style, with each skill roll being a branching route in a collaborative story).

What it did badly was magic items (endlessly fiddly to DM and either obligatory or pointless) and the graunching gear shift between in, and out, of combat. It's an excellent skirmish combat system sellotaped to a very solid rules-light roleplaying system. It was probably too bold, and they missed their chance to move the game properly online (on account of a horrifying murder/suicide) but it was extremely influential, not least in that it arguably spurred the OSR.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:56 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here is my wallet full of money for books...let me buy them now!

For the record, they did something like this back when they released Third Edition too.

The real problem is that 4E had a ton of combat rules and not a lot of rules for everything else, and gamers are not as creative as we'd like to pretend we are, and a lot of (groggy) types decided that having no rules for, say, how good a cook you are meant that the only thing you could do was fight.

This points to a substantial difference in player attitudes from the old days and the present. OD&D, and even 1E to some extent, were weird in that they weren't complete games. They were the basis of a great game, but players had to fill in the gaps themselves. This led to a strong sense of do-it-yourselfness in the early days of role-playing. More recent editions have striven to be more complete in themselves, which reached its apex in 3E, but that was also when there was a big inrush of players who didn't get their start in the old days, who weren't part of that culture of invention.

As a result, if there are no rules for it, its very omission makes it seem unimportant. One of the greatest things about my current favorite RPG, Call of Cthulhu, I think, is that the rules are extremely well-stated and laid out, and includes substantial material just on the nature of roleplaying. It's the best introduction to RPGs in general I've seen. Here, let me quote one of my favorite parts, from Edition 5.2, page 75, under "Reasonable Deduction":
        When the keeper sets a scene, his or her most important ally is invisible, one which no scenario-writer ever puts on paper. 'Reasonable deduction' consists of all which is in the room or cavern or aircraft or other physical setting which is not described as being there.
        For instance, the investigators are in the library of the mansion. Specifically mentioned are the many massive bookcases lining the walls, two leather chairs, a desk and a chair, and a billiards table. What else might be there?
        Books, certainly, and lots of them. Cues, chalk, and billiard balls. Writing material. Paintings on the walls. Lamps and light switches. Windows, maybe lots of windows. Rugs on the floor. A fireplace, and fireplace tools. Lots of odd things in the desk drawers, including scissors, a letter opener, glue, stamps, twine, tape (if it's the right era), and an address book. Matches for the fireplace. Cigars in the humidor. Brandy on the side table.
        Some of these things are usable as weapons--thrown billiard balls are quite dangerous, for instance, and a swung cue is an excellent club, as is the poker beside the fireplace. The windows offer entry or escape. One might bind a captive with twine, or with sash cord from the drapes. (There are drapes, of course, on the windows--this is a mansion.) One might spirit out the captive inside a rug. One might torch the room, or build a torch. The key to the library door will not be in the door, bu it is very likely in the desk. An electrical cord can be stripped to contacts and used (cautiously) as a weapon, so long as the electricity lasts.
        Ingenious players or keepers can come up with much more. The point is that every setting must offer things of potential use in specific situations, things which may not be specifically mentioned in the text.
This text outright says the most important things may not be explicitly printed, while D&D has tried to give the impression that here is everything you need.
posted by JHarris at 10:01 PM on July 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Reading the rules now, two pages in and they've already mentioned Ravenloft, Eberron, Dark Sun and Dragonlance. Might this mean a return to 2E's plethora of campaign settings? Will Greyhawk become one of those? How about Planescape? How about less-focused ones like Mystara, Spelljammer or Al-Qadim (which is actually part of Forgotten Realms)?
posted by JHarris at 10:09 PM on July 3, 2014


I'm confused why the core books aren't being released at the same time. Is it just to avoid "oh man I gotta buy all these books to play" sentiment?

The explanation I've read is that Wizards has limited editorial / production bandwidth and it wasn't feasible for them to do a simultaneous release of all 1,000 pages of rules (plus adventures, plus the Basic PDF, plus the starter set, plus all the blogging and online stuff they're doing, plus all the weekly play network stuff.)

If they'd done all three at once I suspect we wouldn't see any of them until November -- the DMG release date.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:29 PM on July 3, 2014


The thing that ultimately bugged me about 4e is that nearly all of a player's mechanical character choices revolved around combat. The reward for attaining most levels was a new combat power, which is a shiny toy that people rightfully want to play with. That's not bad, but it means that the game pulls me towards running more fights, because the rewards for winning fights are more ways to win fights.

The years roll on, but the edition wars will never cease!

Yeah, 4E was a fighty game, which made it super excellent for running fighty campaigns. The secret to running good a 4e campaign are two:

a) Make the themes of the campaign about fighting. "What do we fight for? Why do we fight? What is worth risking our lives for?" "When do we cut our losses and walk away?"

b) Make good encounters, with multivariant stakes, with situations that mutate by the round, with synergistic monsters that'll challenge the party, and with outcomes that feed into the themes defined in (a).

Alas, the official 4e rules texts didn't really talk about these things, and so what was a pretty great, albeit very specialized game, did not find a home in the hearts of a lot of people.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:48 PM on July 3, 2014


To be clear, I like and have run every edition of D&D except the first. I'm just commenting on what I perceive to be differences and distinctions as the game has evolved, not especially favoring one over another. Believe me, I can go on a rant about, among other things, the stupidity of 2e's unique Strength mechanic and its corresponding informal imperatives.

JHarris, 4e featured a welcome return to campaign settings already (I have FR and Eberron, I believe there were others after I stopped paying attention), and it looks like that is set to continue. The campaign books were really good last edition, with a lot of narrative and mechanical meat, so I have high hopes.
posted by Errant at 11:08 PM on July 3, 2014


The explanation I've read is that Wizards has limited editorial / production bandwidth and it wasn't feasible for them to do a simultaneous release of all 1,000 pages of rules (plus adventures, plus the Basic PDF, plus the starter set, plus all the blogging and online stuff they're doing, plus all the weekly play network stuff.)

Also folks should bear in mind that D&D is basically a hobby for Wizards that brings in a tiny, tiny fraction of their income. Magic is a towering Storm Giant next to the Nixie that is D&D.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:42 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just finished reading through the basic rules and I'm cautiously optimistic. It seems like they've kept the relatively streamlined combat, added back in the parts that appealed to us when we were kids, and gotten rid of the the "why not just play Descent instead" card game aspects. If that turns out to be the case, there may be hope for D&D yet.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:21 AM on July 4, 2014


It's funny that 3(.5)e ended up with a reputation for being bloated because when it came out it was meant to put an end to the endless rules/splat books/kits/player's option rules of AD&D. There is nothing new under the sun.

Might this mean a return to 2E's plethora of campaign settings? Will Greyhawk become one of those? How about Planescape? How about less-focused ones like Mystara, Spelljammer or Al-Qadim (which is actually part of Forgotten Realms)?

Man, no one ever remembers Birthright.
posted by ersatz at 4:20 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man, no one ever remembers Birthright.

I remember when I was talking with Erik Mona (at the time head of the RPGA, now one of the main folks at Paizo) at Gen Con in '99, he told me that Birthright had actually been intended to appeal to fans of the Greyhawk setting, but because it was sold with the "domain" gimmick it didn't catch on. It was a fine take on the D&D tropes, but there was just no fanbase. WotC didn't have the grudge against Gary Gygax that late-era TSR had, so they just published Greyhawk stuff and that seemed to be more popular.
posted by graymouser at 5:26 AM on July 4, 2014


I saw copies of the 5E Monster Manual & Player's Handbook yesterday when I picked up my copy of the Starter Set. It was only one of each, so they may have been pre-release retailer display mock-ups (I didn't look inside them, so they may have been printed with lorem ipsum or something).

As I'm reading through the PDF, robcorr is right, there is a lot of Dungeon World influence on these rules, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Less emphasis on fiddly bits (miniatures, dungeon tiles, etc) and more emphasis on actual role-playing.

This new starter set is pretty much the bees knees for newbies, BTW. Compared to the 4E Red Box, it is a wonderment of simplicity. No cards, no miniature grid map, no cardboard counters. Just the player rules, the DM rules/Learning adventure, some pre-generated character sheets and some dice. Every kid I know is getting one of these from me as a present this winter holiday season.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:39 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


A lot of hate for the Realms here. Ed Greenwood's horrible books aside, was it really that bad, that different to Greyhawk?

I'd thought that Eberron had become the default, but it's a strange multiverse.

(I loved Spelljammer, just so people know.)
posted by Mezentian at 5:53 AM on July 4, 2014


It just so happens one of my groups old players is back for visit next weekend so I'll 5 in the house for a one-day session. That starter set looks like a good deal.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:21 AM on July 4, 2014


Man, no one ever remembers Birthright.

ME. I DO.

I loved Birthright. Also Spelljammer.

re: FR versus others: I dunno, it's just such a power-creep setting, and so much if it is filled with Celebrity Characters from Greenwood, Salvatore, et al. Just not my kinda setting. Neither is Dragonlance. I like Mystara for the old-school feeling. We'll probably never see a return to it. I guess Eberron never quite caught on?

Okay I guess I have to buy the starter set. I will probably even get it from FLGS if they have it in, rather than save a few bucks on Amazon.
posted by curious nu at 6:56 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also re: FR/built-in setting: check out the rogue section. Thieves' Cant? Dunno about that.
posted by curious nu at 7:20 AM on July 4, 2014


I bought the Birthright box, and my Highlander the Series-watching self appreciated the bloodline-stealing aspect. Perhaps I should revisit it. I also played in a long-running Spelljammer campaign and am disappointed that those books aren't up on dndclassics.com.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:27 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


CTRL-F.
NO BARGLE?
posted by Mezentian at 8:54 AM on July 4, 2014


They got rid of Greyhawk as the default setting back in 4e. I don't think it was too popular anymore, I wager that most players either played Forgotten Realms or their own custom setting. I'm a big fan of alternate settings put out for 2e like Spelljammer or Dark Sun, but I don't think those would be a very good default setting.

I've played some games in the final playtest rules, which are very similar to the basic rules pdf. A couple of notes:

1. Much more "classic" D&D feel than 4e. I thought the combat in 4e was pretty good by itself, but it felt like an entirely different game. In addition, the out of combat systems were pretty bad. The skill challenge system was terrible and encouraged boring NPC encounters. The utility spell system made you use a bunch of supplies and time for anything interesting.

2. The power curve felt much flatter. In 3e (and Pathfinder), the characters get huge numbers to attack and damage. In 5e, the main bonus you get is 'advantage', which means you get to roll 2 dice and take the better roll. You still get numerical bonuses to your die roll, but giving advantage is a key principle that keeps you from remembering 5 different situational modifiers to each action. In this way, it's simpler numerically than 3e.

3. The system is designed to be more modular. The free PDF that is released is the minimal rules you need to play. The Players Handbook will have more class and race options, while the DMG will have alternate rule sub systems you can slot in if desired. D&D players are notorious for putting in house rules anyway, so maybe this will help keep the system balanced while keeping out things they don't like.
posted by demiurge at 9:17 AM on July 4, 2014


They got rid of Greyhawk as the default setting back in 4e.

4E? I thought Greyhawk got the boot in 2E?

Having flicked through it (Armour Class is no longer 10-0?) I pulled out my Basic Box Set (awwww yeah) and the Basic Player's Handbook was 68 pages (including covers) and the DMG 52 pages, and that included a lot of sweet Elmore artwork, so D&D offering this for free is so amazing.

What that I still had friends who wanted to play (and saw the need to move beyond 2E).
posted by Mezentian at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2014


3E was supposedly set in Greyhawk, but they did all the shooting in Toronto.
posted by fleacircus at 9:41 AM on July 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


Gord laughs at your meta joke.
posted by Mezentian at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2014


Since the good folk of the Duchy of Meta'filtah seem to live this sort of thing: The Basic Rules of Dungeons and Dragons Next Have Some Cool Things To Say About Gender Identity.
posted by Mezentian at 10:16 AM on July 4, 2014


I remember when I was talking with Erik Mona (at the time head of the RPGA, now one of the main folks at Paizo) at Gen Con in '99, he told me that Birthright had actually been intended to appeal to fans of the Greyhawk setting, but because it was sold with the "domain" gimmick it didn't catch on. It was a fine take on the D&D tropes, but there was just no fanbase.

Heh, it was the domain aspect that I liked since it offered systems to influence the game world in a more involved manner. Great to hear from others who liked the setting - this might be of interest.
posted by ersatz at 10:24 AM on July 4, 2014


As expected, 5E is a huge step back from 4E. I was in the playtest from almost the very beginning, and the mechanical design decisions and general direction are pretty tonedeaf. It doesn't feel like these people are actually playing their own game.

If you want a game that's aiming for many of the same things as 5E (regarding simplification of mechanics and character creation especially) but is actually doing them well, I would strongly recommend 13th Age.
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I playtested several versions of D&D next last year. I liked a lot of the ideas in it, particularly the "martial dice", which seems to be left out of this version (though maybe it's in one of the books that are coming out). My feedback to certain versions emphasized that they really needed not to water down classes. For instance, in one version it seemed that the rogue could go toe-to-toe with the fighter in a straight up melee, which just seemed wrong. I know, this is all very arbitrary, and to argue about the purity of classes is a little silly, but I do think it makes those classes seem less special if they're essential interchangeable.The barbarian and monk were, of course, overpowered (ever has it been thus) and I was more than a little annoyed that the monk could basically shoot fireballs at people. Wizards shoot fireballs. Monks punch things. I also disliked how player character healing seemed to have been beefed up so much. It really takes away a lot of the risk of getting into combat if you can can just gain all your hit points back by taking a nap. I disliked feats in previous versions and it was no different in the Next playtest. Clearly you can take or leave any rule you like, but instead of race/class/skills you had race/background/class/archetype/skills/specialty/feats... etc. etc. Character creation can be one of the more fun parts of the game, but all that extra stuff is a bit much.
I never played 4E, but listening to various roleplaying podcasts made it seem very much like a tabletop version of an MMO. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'm old(ish) school and, like many, prefer the D&D I started with.
Birthright, man oh man, I had forgotten about Birthright. I bought the box set because I thought the idea was amazing, but actually playing the game was terrible. Everything about the game drew the focus away from player characters and toward the larger happenings in these various kingdoms. It was all about gods, thrones, kingdoms, and clashing armies. And if you didn't want to be a character with a divine birthright? You're going to have a boring time. Perhaps I was just too young to make the rules work for me, but they really didn't at the time.
Planescape is still my favorite setting of all time.
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:23 AM on July 4, 2014


Splitting this up into two comments --

A lot of hate for the Realms here. Ed Greenwood's horrible books aside, was it really that bad, that different to Greyhawk?

Someone else mentioned the celebrity character aspect so I won't get into that. But it was also Gygax's setting, some aspects of D&D of old were tied up in it (the various Bigby's Hand spells, which have become the flavorless "Mage Hand," were named after a character in Gygax's campaign). And plus, Forgotten Realms tends to be afflicted far more, IMO, with Fantasy Novel Syndrome, where Magic Itself Has Vanished recently but wait it came back, and the Gods Themselves Have Died But Got Better, and other crap. That's the opposite of the mythic wonderment I look for in a fantasy setting. Drow and the Underdark are there too, with way too much made of that one Dark Elf who made good. Plus, off the top of my head, I think too much is made of Waterdeep, the "city of splendors." The Waterdeep Promotional Council needs a better sloganeer.

Why did they even drop Greyhawk? So much of the setting comes from those classic initial locations. Hommlet was home base to a legion of roleplayers -- let's dump that and give them the City Of Splendors goddammit.

They got rid of Greyhawk as the default setting back in 4e. I don't think it was too popular anymore, I wager that most players either played Forgotten Realms or their own custom setting.

I think the opposite is true. Greyhawk was D&D to a lot of people, those who never bothered with campaign settings, which each had their own strong flavor. Even Forgotten Realms was like this, just that the flavor was Ed Greenwood-tinged Novel Generic Fantasy rather than Default Game Generic Fantasy. Dragonlance was Tolkien-esque Fantasy War Generic Fantasy, Dark Sun was Post-Apocalyptic, Spelljammer was Elves In Spaaace, Planescape was finally fleshing out Gygax's D&D cosmology, etc.

4E? I thought Greyhawk got the boot in 2E?

It was brought back for 3E, where it served as the base for another generation of gamers when 3E revived the game. It's important not to undervalue 3E's popularity. It took a dying game and gave it a second life. There's a reason Paizo bothered to keep it going. If you're not an old-school grognard then, chances are, 3E is D&D to you. Remember: games don't go obsolete.
posted by JHarris at 11:29 AM on July 4, 2014


The power curve felt much flatter. In 3e (and Pathfinder), the characters get huge numbers to attack and damage. In 5e, the main bonus you get is 'advantage', which means you get to roll 2 dice and take the better roll.

We didn't get to play with that much when we tested, but flattening out the power curve is something D&D's needed for a long time.

As expected, 5E is a huge step back from 4E. I was in the playtest from almost the very beginning, and the mechanical design decisions and general direction are pretty tonedeaf.

Well, I was in that test, and I think I kind of see what you're saying. It didn't go retro-clone enough maybe, but maybe that wouldn't have worked in general, and anyway that audience is meeting their own needs. But I only got to run it a couple of times. I do disagree with what you're saying about 4E though.

And, from Pope Guilty upthread:
There's also a lot of nerds who really, really love the quadratic wizards/linear fighters problem because it validates their idea that the smart people should be better than the strong people, and 4E trying to fix QW/LF pissed them off because it took away their high school bullying revenge fantasies about jocks being useless people.

I think that's a needlessly uncharitable reading of the argument. The thing is, magic is supposed to be magic, that is, a subversion of the natural order. Wizards are supposed to be powerful. If you can do the same scale of thing with just whacking things with metal sticks then it's the beginning of the descent to the kind of everyone's-the-same equivalence that has so cheapened magic in gaming.

Of course, that doesn't solve the reverse problem. If magic really is special, then why would anyone play a fighter? Well, historically, and perhaps oddly, that was never a problem. People played fighters because they wanted to play fighters. They also played rogues, and halflings, and half-orcs, indeed demi-humans in general despite level caps, and multi-classed characters. Sub-optimal choices were quite popular, because people approached the game from the stand point of who they wanted to be more than who would have the best numerical advantage.

Anyway, in the original game, it was because wizards are squishy and need the fighters to protect them, at least at low levels. Unfortunately this meant that wizards had to "pay their dues" before they could cast any magic other than their one spell per day. I agree, it's a mistake to make players suffer through bad experiences before they're "allowed" to have fun, especially when first level was so deadly and first-level wizards were the squishiest of all, and the general atmosphere was you were frequently making new characters.

I'm not going to say that wasn't a problem. But there is value in simulating that early portion of a wizard's career, before they become nigh-omnipotent. What happened was wizards were probably over-nerfed to balance out their later power. Just giving them a D6 hit die, like in the original books, does a bit towards remedying that.

I wonder what D&D would be like if, instead of restricting magic to Wizards and a few others, you opened up magic to the classes in general? I mean, keep it as a speciality for Wizards, maybe with a couple of extra spells per day at 1st level, but give even fighters the ability to cast a spell or two eventually, INT allowing. Or maybe, as an alternate idea, abolish wizards all together, and make magic something people just sort of pick up if they find the right spells, sort of Call of Cthulhu style (without the sanity aspects). Just musing, hmm.
posted by JHarris at 11:48 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Reading the 5E rules.. there are little things I like here and there, but my general feeling is that except for proficiency, they either avoided simplifying ideas (like threat) or applied them inconsistently so they aren't simplifying. Out of the gate it feels compromised and too full of special cases.

For example, your rogue's sneak attack applies when attacking with advantage, OR "if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn't incapacitated, and you don't have disadvantage on the attack roll." Three conditions with two double negatives—have fun parsing that sentence when you have to look it up in the middle of play.
posted by fleacircus at 11:50 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eh, all that's doing is replicating the flanking rules without reference to a mini grid. Rogues want to hit the guy their friends are currently hitting or the guy on which they have the drop.

Since 3e (and cases could be made for 2e), D&D has been an exception-based system. I wouldn't have expected that to change. One of the ways to feel a sense of power is to be able to bend or break the normal rules, and as I think everyone agrees here, it's a game about feeling powerful.
posted by Errant at 12:00 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


To have a good exception-based design, you need to have broad, clear rules to hang the exception on. In the sneak attack example, it's not an exception, it's sui generis. Yes, you can see the ideas of flanking and threat in that rule (though the "not disadvantaged" part has no easy 3E equivalent), but there are no actual 5E concepts of flanking and threat to help you remember things. Here the idea of "flanking" is expressed as "within 5 feet", but what if somewhere else it's expressed as "within reach"?

Exception-based design does not mean everything describes the entirety of the rules when it applies, which I'm seeing a lot of in the 5E rules.
posted by fleacircus at 12:35 PM on July 4, 2014


I was in the playtest for a while, but then gave it up because they really just seemed to not have any core design aesthetic, but were just slapping things together. I'm also not very happy that they threw the 4E fans under the bus.

For all that though, I appreciated the note on gender, and I hope it does well. Well enough to stop the Pathfinder fans from being so dang smug.
posted by happyroach at 12:41 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The note on gender is interesting, but especially so because of the existence of the infamous "cursed" magic item, the Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity. The D&D universe is a place where one's physiological gender can be rather malleable.

I remember hearing about an official 2E NPC (from a trading card) who, early in his adventuring career, had put on such a girdle and become an attractive female, and finding a way to change back became Her Reason For Adventuring, and taking every passing flirtation (including, if I remember correctly, the amorous advances of an evil wizard) as a personal affront, getting more and more angry and bitter about it, ire increasing without limit towards infinity. Absolutely refusing to accept the situation, and would be willing to walk into the gates of hell itself if it meant a chance of getting his wing-wong back.

What is it, is there a legion of prankster wizards out there, who, caring nothing about money, create these intrinsically single-use items, and just leave them around for unsuspecting adventurers to find? Of course, when examined closely the dungeon as a setting doesn't hold up to examination (no matter what 2E tried to justify with "dungeon ecologies"), but that particularly seems like the universe itself having a joke at the character's expense.
posted by JHarris at 1:17 PM on July 4, 2014


(Yes, I see the comparison with women in our world, who have to put up with getting hit on in all kinds of situations. It's a case where there was a dozen different interesting things about that card, and I had to pick one to go with for the comment or else bloat up the thread still more. I think I still have it somewhere, I actually think I have a complete set of those trading cards....)
posted by JHarris at 1:33 PM on July 4, 2014


What is it, is there a legion of prankster wizards out there, who, caring nothing about money, create these intrinsically single-use items, and just leave them around for unsuspecting adventurers to find?

My gaming group's justification was that cursed items in particular had to have reasons for existing, and it was generally either "To screw with people who dare loot my treasure room" or "Slight mistake in the crafting process."
posted by Etrigan at 2:18 PM on July 4, 2014


Or something gone corrupt over time, or it was actually, you know, cursed. By a god or mummy or dying witch or something. Possibilities!

The thing I've never quite been able to rationalize is spell slots. The closest I come is some kind of weird pseudo-atomic model, where you get access to varying orbital shells, and the reason why you can access shell 5 a couple of times, and exhaust that shell, and then still use 6, is, uh.. quantum. Because quantum.

(I've never been able to get into the Vance books that were supposedly the inspiration for that setup so I don't know if he ever provided some explanation in his books)
posted by curious nu at 2:25 PM on July 4, 2014


The Vance magic system is that spell were immensely complex pseudo-living mathematical formulas that had to be impressed on the mind. Of course in The Dying Earth, these were so complex that a truly awesome master mage could memorize SIX spells at a time. Mages also seemed to always have memorized the right spell for the job- no "I memorized Flesh to Stone when I needed Teleport". D&D spells also seem to currently owe a debt to Amber, where spells were precast, except for a couple of keywords that could be said quickly.

The way I think of D&D spells is of incredibly complex programming routines, such that even a basic spell needs two full pages of code. I mean, can you even memorize something that complex? In this the real magic of wizards isn't the spells, it's the ability to memorize spells.
posted by happyroach at 2:57 PM on July 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the D&D magic system was "Vancian" only in a very general sense, and only with regards to part of the Dying Earth stuff. In Rhialto they seemed to basically rely on genies to do their magic.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:05 PM on July 4, 2014


happyroach is correct, and saved me from having to type that out. In fact, the greatest of the wizards in The Dying Earth, which is really the book this magic comes from (later books in that world make no mention of this magic system) would effectively be no more than Level 3 in D&D terms, in terms of spell capacity. They also spend nearly all their time finding new spells (which no one invents anymore, all being remnants of thousands of lost civilizations), which is my favorite thing about Vancian magic, and also do research to figure out which spells they'll need when they go out and do something.

That might be an interesting thing to add to D&D, in fact, the need to use research or divination to find out what spells would be best to take on the day. Most players just pick a few and hope for the best.
posted by JHarris at 3:06 PM on July 4, 2014


Another difference between Vancian and D&D magic is that Vancian spells are basically ultimates; the only thing that can resist a spell is another spell. They include things like "interstellar teleport", "kill anything within a given radius". They are basically a limited number of "Get out of plot complication free" cards. I honestly wouldn't want to try to implement this in D&D. In another game system however, I might actually hand out several "Get out of plot free" cards, representing the spells the character has memorized. Then I'd have the player describe the spell that he had memorized that solves the problem.
posted by happyroach at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like the idea that cursed items are the result of magical accidents. Imagining a scene:

The Wizard, long beard and wearing patchy gray robes, approaches his work table. His latest work complete, and having finished the fortnight aging processes needed to properly temper the magic, he holds out his Curse-O-Stat, a device not unlike Egon Spengler's PKE Meter, to see if anything has gone wrong.

The Philter of Love? Went well, soon Princess Bertha will find her suitor.

Gauntlets of Ogre Strength? Acceptable, new King Hrothgar of the Hill Giant Tribes, until now of unseeming weakness, will soon find the upper body might to ward off usurpers.

BING BING BING! Uh-oh! It seems that The Girdle Has Gone Bad! Cursed items, as anyone who's spend a leisurely afternoon walking the artifact Wal-Mart of the back pages of the 1E DM's Guide, are capricious. Some of them, just looking at them is enough for the curse to take hold. The Wizard now has on his table the magic item craftman's equivilent of toxic waste. "Igor!" the old man wheezes, "bring in... the tongs!"

Igor is a hunchback, yes, but not by birth. He has eight legs, three tentacles, and four complete sets of genitalia -- and not all of them human. His tongs are powerfully enchanted, but not perfect. Igor's not a servant of The Wizard, but a contractor. His services are in heavy demand, and he makes a lot of gold pieces, but he's thinking about getting out of the game.
posted by JHarris at 3:18 PM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Girdle of F/M sounds like a magical way to transition and rather easier than taking hormones etc. It wouldn't made half-bad roleplaying exploring how it changes a character's gender and how the character deals with their new social status.

Birthright, man oh man, I had forgotten about Birthright. I bought the box set because I thought the idea was amazing, but actually playing the game was terrible. Everything about the game drew the focus away from player characters and toward the larger happenings in these various kingdoms. It was all about gods, thrones, kingdoms, and clashing armies. And if you didn't want to be a character with a divine birthright? You're going to have a boring time. Perhaps I was just too young to make the rules work for me, but they really didn't at the time.

The strategy aspects screamed for a computer program to keep track of logistics. There were plans for a three-game series of computer RPG/strategy games by Sierra, but only the first one was ever delivered.
posted by ersatz at 3:33 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


My 12-year-old and ten-year-old are agitating for me to run a game for them.

Is 5e too complex for this age bracket?

I started DMing 4th Edition for my daughters when they were about that age, and in my opinion 5e is less complex. My daughters still play, at 15 and 13, but my 13-year-old and I play in D&D Encounters every week, using 5e rules for more than a year, and she's never had a problem with it. My two cents.

I played 4th Edition after more than 20 years of not playing D&D and enjoyed it. I like the 5th Edition rules even better. I think the exception-based system objected to earlier probably came about from feedback from the playtest. Errant is right; it's basically a simplified version of 3e/4e flanking rules. The rogue can backstab as long as another member of his/her party is fighting the same creature and thus distracting it.

...no, it doesn't count if your part member is unconscious.

...NO, you don't get to make your sneak attack when you have disadvantage due to the effects of, say, the Stinking Cloud spell.

But the basic mechanic is simple enough. One of the things I've really enjoyed about 5e is that while is supports miniatures play -- and damn well better after all the ones I bought and/or painted for 4e -- it also supports "theater of the mind" combat. Position on the grid just doesn't matter as much as it did in 3e/4e.

The discussion of gender is most welcome, too. I may actually play a Polly Oliver character next time. (In fact, TVTropes' page image of Mulan gives me an idea...give her the Soldier background and her back story practically writes itself...)
posted by Gelatin at 5:23 PM on July 4, 2014


I wonder what D&D would be like if, instead of restricting magic to Wizards and a few others, you opened up magic to the classes in general?

I imagine it'd be a lot like Runequest, which opened up magic and skills to all the character types. Which certainly has its own following.
posted by graymouser at 6:19 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but Runequest isn't Vancian. Anyway, maybe it would make Wizards too diluted, although there are other classes that get a handful of arcade spells too. Hmm....
posted by JHarris at 7:35 PM on July 4, 2014


I like the idea of magic just being this thing that all the PCs do and what magic you do is based on what will best advance your needs in what you actually do. Magic as just another tool in your toolkit rather than something you specialize in.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:10 AM on July 5, 2014


A number of other character classes do get to use magic, including rangers and paladins. The new edition of D%D cuts down on feats, but it's also possible for any character to take feats that will let them use at least a few spells.

One thing the designers seemed to want to do that contrasted with 4th Edition is re-specialize the characters. Powers in 4th Edition enabled most characters to achieve similar effects even if the source wasn't strictly magic (for example, a barbarian's shout worked a lot like Thunderwave). The choice of character class is supposed to grant certain abilities and forego others (though, for example, if you wanted to play a fighter who could cast spells, you'd play a paladin).

All that said, there will be many more options for characters once the Player's Handbook is released, judging by the playtest materials.
posted by Gelatin at 2:55 AM on July 5, 2014


I do think, if spells became available to everyone, it would have to be in a very limited fashion.

But I just realized, of course, spells are available to everyone, in 3E. If you want to be able to cast an arcane spell or two, you just take a level in Wizard or Sorcerer. The only penalties for doing so are opportunity cost (you could have had a level in something else) and, if your levels get too unbalanced with each other, a 10% experience penalty.
posted by JHarris at 3:35 AM on July 5, 2014


I finished reading the book last night, and it looks pretty good to me. I'm interested to see what the Feats end up being like, because a power you forgo 2 attribute points to get has got to be off the damn hook. I can hardly imagine what I'd give up 2 Dex for.

I also quite like the way they sort of combined cleric and mage daily spell readying into one thing. The explanation they give of it seems a little clumsy, but it looks like a good system, and opens up mages to have a few edge-case spells available instead of having to take only magic missile and sleep because they're what you know you're going to need. Plus firebolt/ray of frost as cantrips fixes "nothing for the mage to do after casting his two spells" nicely, and rituals costing time instead of spell slots is nifty. And at the high end, much faster attribute/feat accumulation should help fighters keep pace with the mages.

All in all, it seems to have nicely simplified combat away from battlemat-mandatory, and fixed other problems I had with 4th ed, while keeping 4th's solutions or creating new ones for older problems. I am excited to get a chance to play it sometime.

Oh, one thing though -- not sure I like going back to the oldest critical hit rules. I would probably instate a house rule that a natural 20 only does a double damage crit if the attacker could ordinarily hit the target with a roll of 20. If they couldn't, then they still hit, but only for normal damage.
posted by rifflesby at 4:28 AM on July 5, 2014


As far as trading ability points for feats go, you can't increase natural abilities beyond 20, so if you're getting extra ability points through levelling, that maybe makes that trade more sensible.
posted by Errant at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2014


“Basic Dungeons & Dragons,” Mike Mearls, Legends & Lore Archive, 27 May 2014
At the launch of the D&D Starter Set, Basic D&D will include the material needed to create characters and advance to 20th level. In August, with the release of the Player’s Handbook, Basic D&D will expand to include the essential monsters, magic items, and DM rules needed to run the game, along with the rules for wilderness, dungeon, and urban adventuring. (The Starter Set already covers the aspects of these rules that you need to run the included campaign.)
Okay, so… The way I read that, I should be super excited that they're going to release a new version of the PDF in August, no?
posted by ob1quixote at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2014


Sauce Trough: "Yeah, 4E was a fighty game, which made it super excellent for running fighty campaigns. "

The sad thing, at least in my group's experience, is that 4e was horribly slow.

IAmUnaware: "If you want a game that's aiming for many of the same things as 5E (regarding simplification of mechanics and character creation especially) but is actually doing them well, I would strongly recommend 13th Age."

13th Age is amazing. A much better DnD than either 3.5 or 4.

JHarris: "What is it, is there a legion of prankster wizards out there, who, caring nothing about money, create these intrinsically single-use items, and just leave them around for unsuspecting adventurers to find? "

Look at all the people who write viruses/trogans just for shits and giggles. I have no trouble at all imagining a certain type of wizard creating cursed items for the lulz. Let alone all the truly evil (in the absolute black and white way DnD often treats them) creatures out there who would create them because of their very nature. Also specifically on the sex change belt I love how Munchkin treats this item.
posted by Mitheral at 12:28 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


The sad thing, at least in my group's experience, is that 4e was horribly slow.

This is the big thing with our 3E group at the moment, which means we're going back to Call of Cthulhu for a while: with tactical miniatures combat, even a simple fight can take over an hour to resolve, which means an adventure takes multiple sessions to play through, which means we have to have the same people present every week with little to no flexibility. CoC is more suited towards one-shots, and you can finish a story in one or two sessions.

The promise of being able to do adventures in a single session is what attracted us to testing D&D 5E/Next, but it still ended up taking a bit of time, although that might have been just us getting used to the system.
posted by JHarris at 1:32 PM on July 5, 2014


So I picked up the Starter Set. The adventure looks pretty standard as these things go. Fairly fighty (the whole first part involves lots of goblin encounters). The pre-made characters aren't exciting (human folk-hero archer fighter, human noble greataxe fighter, hill dwarf mercenary cleric (on administrative leave), high elf Oghma wizard, halfling thief-rogue) but they're serviceable.

Couple of issues on first read:

* The box doesn't mention anything about suggested players, but the adventure is definitely written assuming 4-5 characters. Maybe you could get by with 2-3 if you adjusted the encounters, or had particularly resourceful players, but as-written you want a party. (Of course, some players could do double/triple-duty on that front if necessary).

* There isn't a nice map of the area for players. There IS one for DMs, but it has the secret locations already marked on it. It's weird that they didn't include a handout of just the known settlements/terrain features, since it's clearly just a separate image layer. I guess I'll scan it and try and touch it up for my players so they have something presentable to look at.
posted by curious nu at 1:40 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


curious nu: “There isn't a nice map of the area for players. […] It's weird that they didn't include a handout of just the known settlements/terrain features[.]”
Because I'm old-school, that actually makes me more excited. If the players want a map, they should draw one. Their map potentially being wrong is part of the game.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:40 PM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well yeah, until the GM says "The thing you need is in X village, and the players totally misinterpret the directIons and head off in the opposite direction. Then the GM is sitting there, looking at a blank map and having to improvise encounters.
posted by happyroach at 2:34 AM on July 6, 2014


happyroach: “Then the GM is sitting there, looking at a blank map and having to improvise encounters.”
Also known as "the fun part." I mean, I know it's overkill, but I always start with a fully formed world in mind. Back in the day I used SimEarth to create the world map with realistic continents, plate tectonics, and the whole nine yards. These days I'm sure there's something even better and much easier to incorporate into a campaign.

And if all else fails, there's always Appendix B of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.

Anyway, I'm cautiously optimistic about this new edition.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:09 AM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


The biggest thing I've seen slowing down combat in 4E is player inattention, both to the situation and their characters. I quit a 4E campaign because two of the people in it would, every combat round, need to have what had happened since the start of the fight (i.e. what they'd been watching unfold for the past several minutes) recapped, then they would need to laboriously look over their sheets, reread all their abilities, and then choose one. We'd whip through everybody else's turns and then spend that much time again on each of them watching them hem and haw and reread. And it wasn't even inexperience- I can see not being familiar with your character when you're level 1, I guess, but by the time you hit 10 you ought to have an idea of what your character is and what they can do. But no, every round, rereading each individual ability, then silently staring at the tactical mat. Eventually it became too frustrating to keep going.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:31 AM on July 6, 2014


Sphinx:
prize bull octorok: "There's a distressing lack of crude drawings of monsters and catacombs and glittering hoards and suchlike in that PDF"

DAT's dead.
DAT's drawings were the opposite of crude though. They were incredibly elegant & powerful.
posted by edheil at 8:32 AM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nitpick: This is a misuse of the term "Sword & Sorcery" which should never be used to describe something with elves, dwarves, and halflings. Sword & Sorcery is Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser, Conan, Elric, Jirel of Joiry. Not D&D.

There are RPGs about Sword & Sorcery, including Barbarians of Lemuria, Sword and Sorcerer (the supplement to Sorcerer), Swords Without Master, On Mighty Thews, and others that don't leap to mind, I'm sure. D&D is not one of them. It's something else, or several different something elses depending on which version and how you play it, but nothing with Halflings, Dwarves, and Elves is Sword & Sorcery.
posted by edheil at 8:36 AM on July 7, 2014


edheil: The title comes from the first sentence of the Basic Rules PDF. Appendix N to the 1e DMG told millions of gamers about Leiber, Howard, Moorcock and so on (although not C.L. Moore, one of several greats that got missed). Gary Gygax preferred sword & sorcery to high fantasy, even though the distinction was a new one in 1974, and didn't want the Tolkien races. But given the general popularity of The Lord of the Rings when D&D was published, he pleased his audience by leaving them in.
posted by graymouser at 1:40 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


How did I miss this thread!
posted by chunking express at 7:32 PM on July 8, 2014


D&D is interesting now because it's so self-referential. The Appendix N for modern day D&D is D&D. (As evidenced by the quotes from the Basic PDF.)

I played a bunch of 5e during the play tests last year. I liked it a lot. What they've published is more or less what i was hoping for. A much more straightforward game than 4e, that looks to be straightforward enough to muck around with to boot. It feels like a cross between 2e and 3e, or some such thing. I'm a fan so far.
posted by chunking express at 7:36 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, somebody awhile back was saying that the only thing D&D really resembles is D&D.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:00 PM on July 8, 2014


It's the novel by Generic Fantasy Writer who doesn't know history, he only reads fantasy novels.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:36 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]




This has long been a problem with video game development too.
posted by JHarris at 2:41 AM on July 9, 2014


How did I miss this thread!

You rolled a 6. Duh.
posted by graymouser at 11:02 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


edheil: "Nitpick: This is a misuse of the term "Sword & Sorcery" which should never be used to describe something with elves, dwarves, and halflings. Sword & Sorcery is Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser, Conan, Elric, Jirel of Joiry. Not D&D.

There are RPGs about Sword & Sorcery, including Barbarians of Lemuria, Sword and Sorcerer (the supplement to Sorcerer), Swords Without Master, On Mighty Thews, and others that don't leap to mind, I'm sure. D&D is not one of them. It's something else, or several different something elses depending on which version and how you play it, but nothing with Halflings, Dwarves, and Elves is Sword & Sorcery.
"

If any of you guys like both Sword & Sorcery and RPGs, you'd also do well to check out Exalted, which is a mix of pulp fantasy, sword & sorcery, and classical/ancient myth. The 1st edition developer deliberately made a choice to eschew and subvert common Tolkienesque tropes.
posted by Strass at 12:34 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]




So I got my Starter Set in the mail yesterday.

Bottom line, I could put together a list of criticisms as long as a 10' pole, but at the boxed set's price point it's actually a pretty good deal.

The main things I didn't like are the paper and covers. The covers aren't thick enough to suit me. The shiny paper between them makes it difficult to read from some angles because of the glare.

Another area where it suffers are the maps, despite my statements above — sorry curious nu. Forget not having handouts for the players, there are no decent maps for the DM. No separate maps of the encounter areas, so running the included adventure will involve a lot of flipping back and forth. Furthermore, the encounter area maps are both too small and overly "artsy" which makes them difficult to use in my opinion. Even if the adventure doesn't have a cardstock cover with the encounter maps printed on it like the old days, there should have been separate paper maps for the DM to clip to a manila folder or something.

Where the set works is that the adventure, while relatively straightforward, is actually pretty well put together. There are plenty of well written descriptions of the encounter areas and NPCs. The possible outcomes and interactions between the different encounters and factions are well documented. The included town has several sessions worth of adventures, and honestly could easily serve as the basis for a long term campaign. Sprinkled throughout are great suggestions for an inexperienced or rusty DM.

Another minor touch I really appreciated was the typography of the lists and tables, which is quite reminiscent of the original Players Handbook. Enough so that looking at them brought on a wave of nostalgia that made me eager to get into the game with my old crew.

Overall, as I said, for the price I think it's a good deal, especially since the dice might cost you a few bucks all on their own. What I worry about is that it's not really enough to tide me over until the new DMG finally comes out and I can start on my own campaign.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:14 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


“An exclusive look at the new D&D Player’s Handbook—and The Warlock,” Ethan Gilsdorf, Boing Boing, 21 July 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 12:58 PM on July 21, 2014


I'll try and add some more links later. There's been a couple other previews as well over the last couple of weeks. There's also an alpha copy of the PHB floating around but it sounds like it is significantly out of date.
posted by curious nu at 1:14 PM on July 21, 2014


And here. The @Wizards_DnD account has been posting stuff.
posted by curious nu at 6:52 PM on July 21, 2014


I think the starter set adventure is great because it encourages actually open ended play. It doesn't make assumptions that you're going to move from point to point killing everything on the way. There is an encounter with a dragon the PCs obviously can't "win". There's lots to like. It's also structured to help new DMs learn as they go.

The artist for the starter set has all his maps online, FYI. His site is crazy slow.

People are already doing lots of stuff with 5e, hacking at the like. I think people will manage without a DMG.
posted by chunking express at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


chunking express: “The artist for the starter set has all his maps online, FYI.”
For a value of "online" that means "offered to be licensed for personal-use at $1.25 each, i.e. $17.50 total for all seven maps in both DM and player versions, i.e. five dollars more than I paid for the Starter Set." Fuck that guy.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:45 PM on July 22, 2014


Fuck that guy.

OK...
posted by chunking express at 6:06 PM on July 22, 2014


So the PHB might be hitting the WOTC-network-store-places by Friday (Aug 8), so.. worth checking into towards the end of the week if that's a thing you want.

Something that's been making the rounds: the "consultants" might be terrible human beings, response from one of the targets.
posted by curious nu at 6:08 PM on August 2, 2014


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