Five Things I Like About 5th Edition

A criticism that I have heard more than once in the past few months is that I hate 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The two main reasons seem to be that it is different or not like 4th Edition, I guess because while drawing comparisons to other games like Dungeon World and Numenera I also mention 4th Edition in the mix.

Since most of my 5th Edition talk is directed at whatever crops up in the Legends & Lore and Wandering Monsters columns, I figure that the best way to prove that I do not hate anything and everything about it is to just make a list of at least five things because, you know, 5th Edition, five. Anyway, here is the possibly inconclusive list.

1. Races do not have penalties (right now, anyway)
What with traditional mechanics like Hit Dice and rigid class progressions making their way back, I am kind of surprised that races do not also have racial penalties to ability scores. I loved their removal in 4th Edition because it made some concepts viable (like halfling fighters), without making them just as good as other races. In other words any race could hit the baseline level of competency that you wanted, while other races were better, so you had an incentive to roll up a dwarf fighter or halfling rogue.

2. Classes (mostly) start out simpler
4th Edition is pretty simple by my standards, to the point where I can often deduce a character's bonuses to hit, defenses, and skills just by hearing the level, race, and class (and have used it to correct a character that was missing a bonus). Even so I recognize that many players have a difficult time tracking everything (the Character Builder craps out like six pages for 1st-level), and even players that can do not necessarily want to (which includes me from time to time).

5th Edition characters for the most part are simpler: instead of some class features and around four or so martial exploits, fighters start with an encounter booster and can choose from a small array of features that can give her a simple bonus or ability, and rangers get...tracking? That is it? Anyway, spellcasters can get more complicated, but I think that they are at worst still on par.

3. The math is flatter/monsters do not auto-scale
4th Edition's universal +1 bonus every two levels to almost everything basically served no purpose, as monsters and Difficulty Classes scaled with you. It would have been nice if they just dropped it and kept monsters at a certain general level range, which is what 5th Edition pretty much does.

4. Monsters die faster
This could also be phrased as "combat encounters start and stop faster". It got really irritating over the years describing characters hacking apart a kobold for a couple rounds, as even Monster Vault-era 1st-level ones have 24 hit points. I "solved" this problem when I ran A Sundered World by halving hit points/having them die in a hit or two, but it is nice to see them "officially" having only enough hit points to withstand a hit or two.

5. Magic items are more interesting/not assumed
To be fair magic items got a more interesting spread with the release of Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, technically were not assumed if you used the inherent bonus rule, and given the lack of damage resistances they were certainly not mandatory, so I guess I like that they hit these points before the game is even out. Yeah, all the per-day stuff does not make any sense, but the magic item details and odd properties like being able to walk across molten rock without any problems are really neat.

6. Art
This has nothing to do with the game mechanics, and so would be equally valid to 3rd Edition or even something like Rifts, but then I said I was only going to mention five things anyway, but the the art is awesome. I miss the Dragon's-Eye View columns where they would actually show art and let us talk about it, and while there were some really bad ones like the lizardfolk and troglodyte the majority of it is really great.

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