5th Edition Basic Rules & Starter Set

Just in case you came here to see if my opinion was miraculously inverted through reading a set of finalized rules that, as far as I can tell are not at all different from the last playtest packet, I will save you the time: I still think that the game looks and plays like recycled, traditionalist shit that reeks of nostalgia (which apparently is precisely what some people were looking for).

I would say that I am surprised to see that after two years of what could laughably be described as development, the results are basically 3rd Edition with a few 4th Edition rules shoehorned in that I can only assume were deemed not too offensive to the grognards, but we already knew what the game was going to look like long before the public playtest had concluded.

Despite the playtest being a lengthy, torturous, boring slog, the one thing I can appreciate about it is that my group played it far longer than necessary to conclude that it lacked the flexibility, tension, and excitement we get from not only 4th Edition, but other games in general. Games with smaller development teams and times, no less. This means that, aside from the $20 I paid for the Starter Set, I do not have to waste any more money or time on this well-budgeted, yet still mediocre retroclone.

Now there is a lot wrong with this game, but my disappointment is for the most part due to three main reasons:
  • Needlessly restrictive classes (and to a point races)
  • Nonsense pseudo-Vancian magic
  • Boring combat and monsters

Needlessly Restrictive Classes (and Races)
For some reason they interject excerpts from various novels, like The Crystal Shard and Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Not sure if they are trying to entice you or what, but almost every Dungeons & Dragons novel I have read ranges from mediocre to really, really bad.

Also, most racial modifiers give you a +1 to something, which means that there is a chance that the stat boost does nothing at all. The dwarf is the odd man out in that he gets a +2 to Constitution, which means that it will always do something...so maybe it is a typo? As was pointed out, I was thinking of the last playtest packet. Derp. Even so, it still bugs me that the subraces only give you a +1 (though, since subraces outnumber the solid races, I guess the statement of "most racial modifiers give you a +1 is still true). Anyway, I chalk this up to more tradition rearing its ugly head.

Otherwise there's nothing new, and only the most traditionally Tolkien races get represented: dwarves are tough, elves cannot be put to sleep (why?), and humans are more boring than they have been in a long time (though a "variant" allows you to make them just slightly more worthless than they were in 4th Edition). Also, kind of oddly, they really push Forgotten Realms with them. As in, they mention appearances and names from almost ten cultures.

None of those things have anything to do with the races being needlessly restrictive, I just wanted to point them out because they also bug/confuse me. No, the restrictive part is that races are all the exact same aside from a few very minor deviations. See, what I love about 4th Edition is that it not only has racial paragon paths, but there are also racial feats you can take in order to better control how much race matters to you. There are also race-class feats that give you thematic abilities, like allowing an eladrin wizard to use a sword for an implement.

Of course that would mean some actual customization, which would require players to read and think, and we cannot have that, right?

The classes are just the worst, and seeing that they largely define your character are probably the main reason why 5th Edition bores the shit out of me. Like 3rd Edition most of the time you just get whatever the designers felt you should get. Level 2 fighter? You get action surge. Hit level 5? You get an extra attack. To be fair there are points where you get to choose what stat to increase, but since they cap at 20 I cannot see classes like the fighter really making the most out of this. Fortunately, if you are the type that both hungers for customization and is for some reason playing this game, there is an optional feat system.

WotC seems really proud of their whole sub-class thing for some reason, when all it really amounts to is you picking one thing, usually at 3rd-level, that locks in a bunch of other class features down the line. In the basic rules you can see this in the fighter, with the preset being champion. You see all those spots on the table where it says martial archetype feature? Those get locked in once you choose your martial archetype, you cannot change it later, and you not only get whatever features the subclass is packaged with, you get them in a specific order, too.

So why did they do this? I have no fucking clue. Dungeon World, Numenera, and 13th Age let you make choices (yes, even for magical types), and I do not hear anyone complaining that it is too much work. Since I am bagging on the fighter so much, here are a few other things I want to point out before moving onto the whole nonsense magic thing:
  • Damage on a "miss" is out, so the grogs can rejoice that despite all the evidence as to why it makes sense, apparently Mike agrees with your arbitrary definition of miss.
  • The fighter can essentially get limited regeneration at 18th-level: if you are reduced below half hit points you regain 5 + your Con modifier. How did this make it in if, in Mike's own bizarre interpretation of hit points are just "meat points"? I guess if in Mearl's World warlords shout limbs back on, then fighters just regrow them.
  • People selectively complained about not being able to make a ranged fighter in 4th Edition (despite a ranger being a perfect substitute in every way aside from name), but are completely mollified with the archery fighting style's all of +2 to ranged attack rolls. So...was a class that could freely choose between melee and ranged attack that did interesting stuff too much, too little, or what?
  • Fighters have both "encounter" and "daily" powers. Yeah, they use far more words than is necessary to explain it (because tradition), but it is basically once per battle or x times per day. I wonder how 5th Edition apologists are going to rationalize that?

Nonsense, Pseudo-Vancian Magic
Of course magic is based around pseudo-Vancian nonsense. Why would it be any other way? You have leveled slots which make no sense, leveled spells which make no sense, spells you can cast whenever, spells that can be used x times per day, and spells that can be used whenever you take enough time (I want to say that a wizard never created a ritual fireball because of game balance, but that is not really a D&D thing, so I defer to tradition).

What is the explanation behind this flavorless, fictionless gordian knot of pure nostalgic, antiquated game mechanics? I do not know, and apparently no one else does, either. I mean, WotC could have created a spell system that actually evoked the fiction behind The Dying Earth (instead of relying on one that continues to reference it despite having little to do with it), but then that would have made sense and been better suited for adventure pacing, and apparently either of those factors are just "not D&D".

Casting in Armor
In 3rd Edition if you wore armor you suffered a spell failure chance for spells that required gestures to cast, which marginally makes more sense than how in 2nd Edition you just could not. In 4th Edition magic was not viewed as some absolute, necessary, all-dominating force, so they just imposed the same penalties everyone else got when wearing armor you were not proficient with and it worked out just fine. In 5th Edition? We are lost in a gulf somewhere between 2nd and 3rd Edition: whether or not a spell requires gestures you must be proficient in armor to cast spells, otherwise you are too distracted or hampered to cast any spell, period.

Like, if you are concentrating on maintaining a spell you can get stabbed or breathed on by a dragon, and as long as you make a Constitution save it still works. You can apparently carry all you want, be trapped in a blizzard, or riding a galloping horse with guaranteed results, but wearing essentially heavy clothing? Regardless of your strength? Nooope. Who needs antimagic fields when you can just strap armor onto a wizard and absolutely shut them down. That would be a pretty nice "old school" trap, a device that teleports rusty full plate onto someone that tries casting a spell.

Boring Combat & Monsters
It is disappointing—but, again, expected—to see that they did not take the time to give monsters more interesting things to do, when they bother giving them anything interesting at all (Note: These are pulled from the Starter Set, as the basic rules features no monsters, so I am not sure how you are supposed to play just using it):
  • The bugbear just hits you, except that if it surprises you it can hit you harder on the first round.
  • The doppelganger is slightly different in that if it surprises you, it also has advantage on the first round. Good to see they are pushing the envelope, here.
  • The flameskull is a 5th-level wizard, complete with spells that you need to reference in another book to find out what they do. There's some "old school" feel for ya right there. It says that spellcasters fashion them from the remains of dead wizards, dead wizards which I guess always have a specific spellset. I like how they give it magic missile, despite the fact that it can shoot two blasts of fire, at will, that deal more damage each.
  • Ghouls hit you, paralyze you, and keep hitting you. Did you know that the mythological ghoul could assume the appearance of whoever it ate, and could change into scavenger animals? Sounds way more interesting then "hit, hit, hit".
  • The giant spider sometimes has a ranged attack, but otherwise just hits you.
  • Holy shit, they kept in the zombie's "make a save to not die". Wow, have fun with that

I could go on, but they are pretty much all like that. Welcome back to the day where you just stand in one spot and hit things until someone falls over. I will be over here with an edition where getting hit by an ogre means that you can knocked back, trying to flank dragons is an actually risky business, and I do not need to have two books on hand to spend a long time trying to figure out what a monster does.

Aaand The Rest
Here are some other bits that stuck out to me.

The Blunders of Magic
At the end of the Introduction there is a section titled The Wonders of Magic. This part stands out as it reinforces the artificial reliance on magical healing:

"For adventurers, though, magic is key to their survival. Without the healing magic of clerics and paladins, adventurers would quickly succumb to their wounds. Without the uplifting magical support of bards and clerics, warriors might be overwhelmed by powerful foes. Without the sheer magical power and versatility of wizards and druids, every threat would be magnified tenfold."

Right. Just like in all the non-D&D-based stories where mighty warriors have to routinely rely on someone else to keep spamming gods for divine healing in order to keep going, or have a bard on hand, standing around and strumming a lute so that they do not get overwhelmed. It is not like that in most stories the gods are distant and uncaring—when there is even someone with any reliable capacity to communicate with them at all—or warriors are able to handle themselves.

No, having a healbot/buffer on tap is more inline with digital role-playing games, which is kind of ironic. Anyway, this is one of the reasons I loathe playing older editions: all the stories that I read growing up? There is nothing about D&D that conveys the tone and feel. In 4th Edition a party could get by with whatever you wanted, not so in 5th Edition: you need a healer to heal and a wizard to save the day. Again, I will stick with the edition where warriors can overcome their own challenges without having to hold the spellcasters' hands, thank you.

This is one of two things that really stands out, partially because it is legitimately new for Dungeons & Dragons, but mostly because they would not stop fucking talking about it like it is some kind of innovation. So how did they fuck it up? The whole advantage/disadvantage mechanic is based on the misconception that the reason people have trouble remembering situational modifiers is purely because they exist. While some situations might be difficult to remember if they rarely crop up, a major contributor is that the modifiers were so varied.

In 3rd Edition you got +1 from charging, +2 from flanking, +x from the bard's bardic music, +y if you were in the radius of a cleric's buffing spell, +z if the wizard's magic weapon spell was still in effect, if the fighter switched from a long sword to a longer sword, then she lost her bonus from Weapon Focus, etc. 4th Edition tended to partition buff-effects to the encounter, but some lasted for a turn and others cropped up from certain actions (like being bloodied or killing an opponent). Sure it was easier, but there was more than one occasion where the players would forget things.

Advantage/disadvantage basically works like this: if the DM thinks that you have advantage, you roll 2d20 and keep the best result. If the DM decides you have disadvantage, you roll 2d20 and keep the lowest result. If you have both, you have neither, and it does not matter how many of either you have: you can be fighting on a slippery floor, and no matter how stacked in your favor the odds are, you just get a straight roll. Similarly, your odds of climbing a rain-slicked cliff are exactly the same if you are also in a hurricane, being screamed at by harpies, poisoned, missing half your hit points, and on fire.

So what would have fixed this? Just making every asset a +1, and every hindrance a -1. Then, instead of having to remember that one thing is a +1, something else is a +2, and yet something else is a +3, you just have to remember the grand total of assets and do some elementary addition (or just count them on your finger). If you have both assets and hindrances, well then you will have to do some...subtraction.

Proficiency Bonus
Since everyone gets the exact same proficiency bonus at a given level, this thing really has no reason to exist. They should have just axed it, and have tools and such be an asset with an actually functional advantage/disadvantage mechanic. In an edition with some actual customization, they could have even allowed you to pick class features that give you a bonus on certain checks or actions, thereby making it so that an increment means something, instead of just keeping up with the arbitrary math-arms race.

This one is not bad, but it is confusing. Not necessarily because it is there, but because of the reaction it has been getting.

This section can be found shortly in Chapter 4, and is basically two paragraphs that opens with the long-established standard that you can be a man or woman without any mechanical benefits. So far so good. The rest of it talks about how you should think about how your character does, or does not, conform to, among other things, "the broader culture's expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior".

Honestly, should you? Is sex, gender, and sexual behavior intended to be a key point of dungeon crawling, killing monsters, and taking their shit? I cannot think of any other game that has a section implying that you should take your character's notion of gender roles and sexuality into consideration, much less even mentioning it. I can see some groups wanting to flesh that sort of thing out on a case by case basis, but it seems strange to imply that it should be a standard part of character generation.

Some people think this is a big deal, while others are offended by it. Not necessarily that it exists, though I am sure they are out there, but that the wording is off or whatever (not that I think any one phrasing will appease everyone). Anyway, I have no idea why this is a big deal...well, I have an idea why, it just seems strange to laud 5th Edition as being "forward thinking", when given the tone and feel of the game it really just comes across out of place (and as far as I know no one is trying to claim that other games without a block of text giving you the "okay" are being conservative or exclusive).

As for myself I do not think it is a big deal. Similarly I also did not think it was a big deal when people were talking about how there is a black adventurer on the inside of the Player's Handbook. I honestly find it kind of counter intuitive, if the ultimate goal is to treat everyone—no matter your gender or sexuality—as a person, to keep blatantly pointing stuff like this out. I guess that is part of my thinking on treating everyone as equal: I try my best not to notice, nor care about your gender identity, sexuality, or skin color, and I am so confused why people claiming to be for equality insist on pointing these things out, as if it is some meaningful, even defining trait.

(Oddly it mentions skin color almost in passing along with hair and eye color, so by that standard I guess it means they are not diverse enough in that arena?)

Inspiration is what you get when you half-ass FATE's aspects. If you do something the DM can give you inspiration, but since WotC thinks that their players are incapable of thinking or remembering things, like advantage/disadvantage it is entirely binary: no matter how many times you do something inline with your personality or submit to a flaw, you can only have one use stored up. This immediately creates some problems, which if they actually stuck to FATE could have avoided.

The first is in how it is gained. It is up to the DM whether you get it, and you can only get it by playing "true to your personality traits, ideal, bond, and flaw". Okay, but there is no penalty for not playing to my character. Let us say I have the Criminal flaw "if there's a plan, I'll forget it. If I don't forget it, I'll ignore it". So, the party makes a plan and I forget it or ignore it and do my own thing, and thereby gain inspiration. At this point there is no incentive for me to willfully forget or ignore plans.

In FATE this is avoided by giving you a pool of Fate Points. Your character has aspects, which you develop before you start playing, possibly during the course of play, and good aspects have both good and bad sides to them. In the course of playing you can spend a Fate Point in order to "tag" an aspect applicable to the situation, either giving you a bonus or rerolling the dice, and the Storyteller can "compel" you by using an aspect to penalize you. They have to give you a Fate Point for doing this, but if you have a Fate Point you can spend one to ignore the compel (which means that if you have none, you have to accept at least one compel).

This can create a kind of back and forth, and works out a lot better than by flipping a mechanical switch on and off: you can continue to play against your character (ie, ignoring compels), but it will cost you, and there will come a time when you run out of Fate Points and have to accept a compel (though, granted, there are some times where you might really want to avoid a compel).

This leads me to the second problem: how you use inspiration. No matter what your personality trait, ideal, bond, and flaw is, you can use it on any d20 roll to gain advantage, and while the examples they give make thematic sense are probably not going to match up in the game. Like, a compassionate character can be kind, gain inspiration, and immediately turn around to intimidate someone through physical violence, spending their inspiration to gain advantage on their act of cruelty.

In FATE what you spend Fate Points on depends on what aspects you have, meaning that you are more likely to succeed by doing things and acting in a matter appropriate to the character you have developed. A character with a Kind Hearted aspect cannot tag it to intimidate someone through torture or violence.

I mentioned this already back when Mearls showcased a bit of content from the traits/ideals/bonds/flaws, but I hate how absolute some of them are: I am inflexible in my thinking; I blow up at the slightest insult; I can't keep a secret to save my life, or anyone else's. Thankfully this is just shit to get inspiration, and since you either have it or you don't there is no incentive to stick with them once you snag it. Just do whatever you want until you burn it and need to pick it up again.

Trinket Table
Like Numenera's oddities this thing is almost entirely fucking pointless. It has entries for things that the players might write down, only to forget about almost immediately, like a mummified goblin hand, tooth from an unknown beast, pair of old socks, candle that cannot be lit, and pirate flag with a dragon's skull and crossbones. Some of it could be linked to some kind of adventure hook, like the pentacle with a rat's head etched in the center or an urn with the ashes of a hero, but most of it is just utterly forgettable, random crap.

"Customization" Options
Rather than spend time designing a system by which players get to make meaningful choices (like in most games), they decided that multiclassing and feats would do the trick. So, if you want to attain arbitrarily-assigned class features from another class, here is your chance!

This is not the "edition to unite all editions". People flocked to 4th Edition for very specific reasons, reasons that it was obvious over a year ago Mike and his crew did not understand (or even willfully attempted to misinterpret). This is an edition intended to appeal, you might even say pander, to a very specific audience.

Honestly I am not sure why anyone would pay for this. If needlessly restrictive classes, mandatory magical healing, and nonsense magic appeals to you then you almost certainly already own this game in the form of 2nd and/or 3rd Edition, or one of several games just like it. You might even own a few. Of course maybe you have this strange need to just mindlessly play whatever edition of D&D is the most current?

As I have said over and over there is nothing about this game that stands out from the rest. Nothing engaging, inspiring, or innovating. Nothing exciting. I look at it, I look back on the times I played, and all I can think about is how mind-numbingly boring everything was. A stagnant mire of recycled ideas and content arbitrarily immune to criticism. A game that only seems to exist and operate a certain way because old people think it is "supposed to".

It just seems like a waste of creativity, talent, and potential. I was excited and hopeful early on, figuring that if WotC could improve on 3rd Edition with 4th Edition, that surely 5th Edition would be even better. Nope. Instead of a game that improves upon itself in leaps and bounds, what we get is something anyone could crank out in a fraction of the time and access 3rd Edition's SRD.

At any rate I want to congratulate WotC for joining Paizo's ranks, as yet another company trying to find a way to recycle and sell the same shit, likely to the very people that already own it.

And now, on to...

The Starter Set
As a quick aside, I can say confidently that this will be the last $20 WotC gets from me in a good, long while, possibly ever. Back in the day I might have had to pickup whatever they were pushing because I lived in a small town, Dungeons & Dragons was the game to play, and the internet was not really a thing, but nowadays there are plenty of games that do what I think Mearls mistakenly believes it does, but does it better, cheaper, and faster. Plus, internet, yo.

So, what do you get for your twenty bucks? Two books, four character sheets mostly filled in ahead of time (because why do that whole thinking and writing thing), and a pack of dice. Basically it is like a bag of chips, in that much of the box is just air.

Compare this to 4th Edition's Starter Set, in which you got two books, actually blank character sheets, a set of dice, a sheet of punch-out tokens, and a map to go with the included adventure. It also came with some power cards, but I figure I would just point out the edition-neutral content.

Now if I had to say something positive, it would be that the art is often pretty good. Like, the cover and most of the chapter spreads are great, not so much for the hobgoblin, ghoul, Nezznar the Black Spider, and stirge. Basically about what you would expect for Dungeons & Dragons.

Really though the best part is that since I already played the game during the playtest period and the rules are, near as I can tell completely unchanged, I do not have to round up my gaming crew and subject them to it in order to confirm anything: we already know that we are going to hate it.

The Starter Set Rulebook is 30 pages, almost half devoted to spells, because we all know what really classes matter, and tells you how to play, fight, and buy stuff.

I am not sure about the quality of the adventure. I got a bit past the part where it explains how the default adventure hook is guarding a wagon for someone, and that on the way you can find some dead horses inexplicably left in plain sight, investigate it, get ambushed by a handful of goblins, run into a snare trap that, even if triggered, only might deal a bit of damage, and eventually arrive at a goblin cave.

Sorry, but the bog standard "guard a caravan, get ambushed, and follow a plot trail to something potentially interesting" has been done to death.


  1. Man, this game become a complete clusterfuck.

    Why they made a citation about fucking Drizzt Do'under? Why, they talk about information you don't have access in the fucking book, at all? Why the rules systems its so shitastic?

    1. Just to be sure, tbe only rules we gonna get for free are from Basic Rule Set, right? Tiamat of Whatever only gonna to reprint this rules, right? Because so some dumbass is talking the Tiamat of Whatever gonna have ALL the rules in it.

      You have any information about it?

    2. I have not been keeping up with D&D much for the past few months, except to hit the site once or twice a week to see if Mearls is spewing out any more bat-shit ramblings about "good feels".

      I know that Tiamat Tries Tyranny is going to feature Tiamat, for the first time, again again, but I dunno what is going to be in it. I know the basic rules are free (despite lacking monsters), the Starter Set lacks enough rules to make your own character, and that the actual books To Run Them All will be out I don't care when.

    3. I'm in the same boat, just (trying) playing to play Mini Six (a really good d6 system classic based RPG, totally free), Fate Accelerated and M&M 3rd to gives a fuck too.

      Only to start reading the Basic Set and facepalm myself to death.

      Really, i don't pay to something, if i can gets something better for free.

  2. The cover page of the basic rules proclaims "playtesting provided by over 175,000 fans of D&D." And that's just it: it *looks* like something that 175,000 people had a hand in.

    1. ie, uninspired, uninteresting, unexciting?

    2. Its basically Twitch Playtest's D&D next...

  3. I would respect this review if I actually thought you read the rules. You did not read them. Your review has a lot of inaccuracies starting with your races complaint. All races have a +2 and a +1 in the sub-race.

    You say it is like the last packet you read and that is BS because stuff has changed in it you are just so blinded by your hatred for it and your skimming of the free pdf you would rather use your version of what you read to validate your hatred for the game.

    You can deny that all you want.

    You are uninformed. If you were informed you would know that the Basic Rules will get updates next month with DM and Monsters. You would know the basic rules were meant not to have options that it was just what you needed to run the adventures not actually give you options that the PHB would give.

    Go on though and keep spreading hatred from your uninformed position.

    You would know what the Starter Set was for before purchasing it and wasting your money on it like you claim you did. There are 5 characters in it and a blank character sheet, you would know that though if you owned it and actually looked at it.

    Have a pleasant life being an uninformed person

    1. @Frank: Hi again! I am honestly surprised how you found this when I did not even stick it on G+ yet. Well, not really. I mean let's be honest: you would not respect what I had to say, because it does not agree with you, which is what your real problem is.

      Now I did check and sure enough you are right: you do get a +2 to one stat, and a +1 to another. I am chalking that up to the other packets, since I was comparing some things and in the last one you did just get a +1. Unfortunately, not that you care (as you are more concerned with trying to attain any kind of perceived victory), I am going to point out that that is not really the crux of my argument.

      Typical for your particular brand of arguing, you claim that there are a lot of inaccuracies but only mention one. It is like you think that if you point out one thing that is not even part of what I was arguing against (restrictive races and classes), that people will be like "Whelp, Frank pointed out a minor, unrelated error, so obviously this guy has NO idea what he is saying!"

      I mean, if I only skimmed it then how would I know about the novel passages, the entire quoted passage from The Wonders of Magic, advantage/disadvantage, inspiration, the almost ten Forgotten Realms cultures, variant human, the +2 to ranged attacks for the fighter, the encounter and daily powers of the fighter, the backgrounds, damage on a miss going away, the magic absolutely fails in armor you are not proficient with, etc?

      Similarly, you claim that there was a blank character sheet in the Starter Set (something no one could possibly miss!), so therefore despite listing everything else AND quoting some very specific parts of the adventure (wagon, dead horses, goblins, pit trap that only might deal some damage) that I OBVIOUSLY did not in fact buy it.

      Seriously, just how fucking desperate are you? After I forget how many months, you still refuse to argue against what I am saying. You cannot even man up and admit that the classes are restrictive, or that magic makes no sense, because if you could then you WOULD, instead of spewing shit over and over.

    2. So Tyranny of the Dragons is set in the Forgotten Realms. Basic D&D is to be used by people who want just the basics to run the game if they feel they do not want the PHB or are just trying it out. The text is lifted straight from the PHB. The Realms will of course have references to that region since the Organized Play will focus heavily on that area. In the creating characters chapter they use examples from not just the realms but from Dragonlance.

      I can not admit classes are restrictive when I do not believe it to be the case. No matter what I say though you wont care to even remotely change your opinion so why bother? In Basic there is only one subclass. In the PHB there will be 2-3 for classes and the Cleric and Wizard will get about 8 or so domains/traditions.

      There is supposed to be a set of options on how to pick and chose from subclasses when you level rather than be set to one set as you level up and that might be in the DMG along with other optional rules.

      Magic and Armor - If you are not proficient in armor and are a caster you can not cast spells. Gain proficiency through multi-classing or a feat or through a subclass that offers a proficiency or a background you can cast wearing that armor.

      That blank character sheet is in the box on the reverse side of the advertisement look again, its the loose sheet of paper along with the 5 character pre-gens.

      I do not have to respect you when you say this "Really though the best part is that since I already played the game during the playtest period and the rules are, near as I can tell completely unchanged, I do not have to round up my gaming crew and subject them to it in order to confirm anything: we already know that we are going to hate it."

      It is not the same rules, things you can do with your actions have been reduced and clarified. Stacking of buff spells has been reduced. You are now limited to 1 bonus action on your turn, this limits the turn length which is a good thing. Movement in between attacks has been clarified. Ranged attacks both martial weapons and spells not give disadvantage when used within 5 feet of an attacker. They have added mounted combat and underwater combat rules.

      Conditions have been clarified and/or changed and exhaustion has been added (if you play darksun it comes in handy)

    3. Two Weapon Fighting was altered to be your off-hand is a bonus action which means you can only get one now on your turn.

      Negative HP are gone and you are dying and need to make a Death Saving Throw.

      Creatures for all your bitching and complaining have kept a 4e look except for how you noted spellcasters need to reference a different place to get that info. Poor DMs who can not seem to find the time to Prep might be put off by this most are not when they can use the printer friendly version of the Basic Rules and Copy and Paste into a word document and make some quick reference sheets for that particular creature.

      I will agree that the Guarding of the Caravan was done to death, especially in just about every recent adventure they have done. The rest of the adventure is pretty damn good. Tyranny of the Dragons is also spot on and was written not by WotC but Kobold Press with WotC only producing it. WotC has embraced partnerships with other companies to help with creating content.

      With the adventures and the Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws and the use of Inspiration it helps tie characters to the given adventure they are on. When they complete something they can change up to give them a new hook.

      Given how much you dislike anything Mike Mearls says and you chalk it up to desperation on his part to get people to like it. He mentions why there are no maps or tokens in the starter kit. Inherently when people see a map with miniatures on it the first thing that comes to mind if combat. While having a map and minis on a table helps give a decent picture of the encounter it can also slow things down.

      With the Starter and 5e in general the push is Theater of the Mind but options for miniatures and the grid are there with more rules for tactics in the DMG.

      Some more on Backgrounds and the shit tables they give. You are not told you have to use these. You can flesh out your own Ideals Flaws and Bonds how you see fit and if you can more power to you. Not every rule is written expressly for a veteran gamer though I am pretty sure I do not have to point that out do I? Or the fact that you can just ignore rules you do not like? Did I need to point that out?

      D&D (5e) is not for you, I am not the only one to tell you this. None of us see you post in the G+ communities for D&D and 5e anymore with obvious reasons you were either kicked out from complaints or you left because others gave you grief there.

      I pointed some things out that changed. There are several bloggers who have gone out and posted some comparisons from the last packet to Basic D&D. They are not hard to find, they have been posted on G+ and linked in Twitter and Facebook. I venture a guess you might not believe those either after all everyone who likes the game must not be admitting how bad it is.


    4. @Frank, so... your points is?

    5. @Darcy: I am going to address his non-points later tonight, as I try to limit myself to one response a day with him because otherwise it is a constant, never-ending cycle of dodging whatever your actual points/criticisms are and blathering about something at best only tangentially related.

    6. @David, i noticed that, David. Really, what the fuck he is talking about?

    7. What is this guy's deal? It's not as if the (well-reasoned) objections you've raised over the past few months have had one bit of influence on the final product of 5E. It's been clear that WOTC is catering toward a particular crowd, and it seems as if they've delivered something that will generally make them happy. If you don't like it, how does that hurt him?

      That said, I don't get the "Theater of the Mind" comment at all. In my admittedly cursory reading of the Basic Rules, I'm not seeing any greater emphasis on roleplaying than one can find in pretty much any other RPG. Dungeon World, 13th Age and FATE all appear to beat it soundly in that respect.

      I admit that I loved 4E. It was the first edition of the game I've run since 1E, and a big part of the appeal was the ease of creating balanced encounters and reskinning threats on the fly. And I loved that (for instance) Clerics didn't spend their turns lobbing healing spells; powers allowed them to be active participants in combat while maintaining the party's HP.

      So, yeah, it irks me that 4E is seen as some sort of failure even though the actual failure was the inability of the grognards to move beyond their beloved spell slots. And that despite the promises of a D&D that would somehow embrace all editions, what we got was pretty much a cleaned-up Edition 2.9. There was a huge sense of deja vu reading the Basic Rules; I've seen all of this before.

      I just don't see anything in these Basic Rules to bring me back. And I'm not sure why they'd bring anyone else back, either. Paizo is well serving the 3E folks, and the grognards have their old books and their retroclones. What is innovative or interesting about any of this? What took two years and 175,000 playtesters to produce?

      I feel as if D&D has given up on me, and I intend to return the favor. The only thing that still appeals to me is some of the IP specific to the game, and it's easy enough to port that into Dungeon World or 13th Age. (Still note sure why they didn't just license the 13th Age engine; it did a far better job of combining 3E and 4E.)

    8. Frank has had an axe to grind with me for awhile, mainly because people read what I have to say and agree more often than he would like, which is to say at all.

      The false implication is that 4E used squares, which means that you have to use minis, even though you do not (fun fact that I am sure Frank will dismiss: I never used a mini or map when I ran Sundered World, and that involved them fighting inside the bowels of a machine primordial that was getting thrown around by a dragon).

      I agree that the games you cited better support "TotM" play, particularly because they do not mention explicit ranges. Well, 13th Age might, but DW and FATE are more vague with their ranges. Plus, in games like DW you do not have a set distance you can run and such. It is pretty liberating when you do not have to meticulously track things.

      I still love 4th Edition (and am working on my own hack for it that I think will push it forward). I love how the characters have actual flexibility, how I can accurately guage the difficulty of an encounter, cook up a monster that is precisely as difficult as I want to be on the fly, how I can fairly peg the difficulty and outcome of a player's off an action not covered by the rules (despite the grog's claims that players never deviate from their sheet), how any race can be any class and it will work out perfectly fine, how you can make a party of anything and martial characters are actually competent.

      There is a lot more to it than that, but those are all things missing from 5th Edition that seem to be discarded because a bunch of old people want to play a game where spellcasters are mandatory despite the fact that it is rarely the case in stories, when they are even present at all.

      Spell slots, nonsense magic, fighters with nice things, and a bunch of other flawed, antiquated shit that is necessary to recapture that specific aroma that still wafts from the games they already have.

    9. To be fair, you have not seen it all before: advantage/disadvantage is there despite all of its flaws, and they managed to half-ass FATE's aspects to a degree that the grogs accepted it.

      Frankly some of the grogs are perfectly content with their games, as are the Pathfinder crew. Some of them are just not happy unless the "official" game is their game, even though as you say that game already exists. It is not enough that they have a game they can play, and many games like it: they want the official, "true" D&D to be the same game they have been playing for decades. They are the people that declare "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", when it in reality 4th Edition was more about "how can this be done better". They are the kind of people that fear change.

      They did not give up on you, they just think they can recapture what they perceive to be the glory days, or maybe they are so enthralled by nostalgia that they were incapable of "getting" 4th Edition. I mean, people not on WotC's payroll were able to easily convert 3rd Edition adventures to 4th Edition without a problem (I ran Expedition to Castle Ravenloft and Age of Worms). Maybe it just took a few years before they threw up their hands and declared that they are too old for this shit?

      As for me, I am...kind of done with D&D. I do not see myself buying WotC stuff again, because I am tired of buying the same boring-ass flavor content over and over again. I think 4th Edition did a great job of introducing new, evocative, interesting stuff (like the planes and such), but it is abundantly clear that they are not interested in doing anything innovative and fresh: like Paizo they are just going to churn out the shit you already own, and why not? Why do a great job when good enough will sell just fine.

      Like I said, I am working on a hack, but similar to how 4th Edition evolved the game in numerous ways, I am using that as a foundation and continuing to move forward, discarding the crap that does not work (because honestly 4E was not perfect, either), and actually changing and creating rules where necessary in order to properly convey the tone and feel that I am looking for.

    10. @Franky

      Okay Frank, just...seriously, the references to Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance are problematic because those settings have been pushed, recycled, and played to death, but not at all the crux of my issues.

      Oh, classes, something I actually mentioned as part of the big three...

      So, I said that they are restrictive because most of what you get is set in stone. Now, you can disagree without providing reasons all you want, but I am going to take this opportunity to reinforce my position:

      Cleric: 5 levels lack a class feature of any kind, and 11 are set. You pick a Divine Domain at 1st-level, which sets in 4 others.
      Fighter: You get to choose a fighting style, 9 features are set, and you choose a Martial Archetype that sets in 4 others.
      Rogue: 12 set, you get to choose a Roguish Archetype at 3rd-level that sets in 3 others.
      Wizard: 3 set, you choose an Arcane Tradition at 2nd-level that locks in 3 others, and 8 levels are blank.

      So, there you have it: in every class except the fighter by just the teeniest bit you do not get to make meaningful choices over half the time, aside from choosing the one thing that locks in everything else? Those are just stat boosts. YAWN.

      You laud the subclasses like it is a big deal, when in reality you are still in control of at best about half of your character (even less if you consider the races). And why? Because tradition? Because the grognards felt that it was too much "player entitlement" to actually have customization, to actually have characters grow in an organic fashion? Because you cannot trust the players to NOT make "uber munchkin power-gaming" decisions?

      Oh, so the DMG MIGHT allow you to choose all of 3-5 things? WOW. Just...wow. I mean, are you sure that that is okay? Are you sure that the players will not be able to, even with those 3-5 choices, cobble together some evil "roll-play" build that will ruin your game?

      Jesus fucking christ, Frank: I point out how the classes are needlessly restrictive, and the best defense you can come up with is that, well, an optional thing might exist down the line that gives you the barest fragment of customization.

    11. Okay, you're bringing up armor now. Um, I get how magic and armor "works" in 5th Edition, Frank. I actually explained that myself. I didn't say that I couldn't puzzle it out, just that it makes no goddamn sense, because like much of the game it makes no. Goddamnn. SENSE.

      That explains why I missed the sheet: I never bother looking at the ads. Not sure why you brought that up, but...thanks? *shrugs*

      I said "near as I can tell", and you can't blame me when I have had to waste my time going through 14 packets of nostalgic drivel. Again, what changes might have occured are not at all what I dislike about the game.

      Creatures have not kept a 4th Edition look. If they did then monsters would do interesting things, but they almost exclusively just stand there and hit you. Stating that you can do a bunch of prep to note what spellcasters can do does not dismiss the fact that in 4th Edition you could keep everything in one stat block, and it worked out a whole lot better.

      I mean, I thought reducing prep time and rule lookup was supposed to be a selling point (despite the fact that 4th Edition made it so that you really just needed a card with monster formulas and the page 42 table to accurately get by).

      If the start of the adventure was as uninspired as the rules, then I seriously doubt that the rest was "pretty damn good". I also don't care who Tyranny of Dragons was written by: I have not been particularly impressed by anything Kobold Press has done, and even if they constantly cranked out gem studded gold bricks I seriously doubt they could do something interesting with 5th Edition.

      When you complete something you can get a new hook?! Wow, thanks Frank! I mean, that is not at all related to my criticism about it, but...just thanks, man!

      No, seriously, go read what I wrote about how it is gained, how you can use it, and how FATE handles it sooo much better.

      "Given how much you dislike anything Mike Mearls says and you chalk it up to desperation on his part to get people to like it."

      It sounds like you meant to connect this sentence to something, but it just kind of hangs there. Mike can think and say what he wants, but it has become abundantly clear over the past few years that he has no idea what made 4th Edition worked and is just doing what Paizo did: pandering to the older edition crowd. I honestly have no idea what you are complaining about? You got what you wanted: a game that already exists in numerous forms.

      Hey, you can do TotM in 4E, and it is incredibly easy. Just ask people that have done it (like me!).

      Oh my god, you can make up your OWN backgrounds? Oh, wait, that was, again, not the crux of my criticism about them. Not that being able to make your own excuses how bad many of the defaults are. I mean, by that logic no games are bad because you can just houserule it all away, right?

      You don't see me posting on your D&D Next community because you cried to the moderator until he told me to say only nice things, and you don't see my posting because I blocked you after I got tired of dealing with your particular brand of circular arguing. You know, where you come in, say a bunch of crap, avoid addressing what I am saying, and try to convince me that popularity means objectively good.

      Yeah, you pointed out things that changed. That was not part of my criticisms. Way to fucking go.

      And no, I believe that people on other blogs believe that it is a good game. Though, truth be told, most of the blogs I go to have mixed feelings at best. Like, no one besides people like you seems to think that it is amazing or awesome. The responses are generally range from "I'll give it a shot" to "I don't know why this exists".

      But if you ever came out of your pro-5th Edition echo chamber you might have noticed that.

  4. I was looking forward to checking out the monsters in the Basic rules... that clearly didn't happen.

    But it sounds like the monsters didn't change much between the last playtest and now. Are they still about as interesting as OD&D monsters while still having much larger stat blocks?

    Because they really seemed to think they'd be changing the monsters between the end of the playtest and now. Perhaps they only meant updating the stats.


    1. I am not entirely familiar with OD&D monsters, but most of them just hit you and deal damage, and some mix it up by hitting you for more damage in certain situations (like if they surprise you).

      If figured that they would at least find a way to add in a simple way for them to do something interesting, like having an ogre knock you down if it hits you and rolls an even number, it rolls x+ damage, or even force a Strength save if it stands in one place and takes a swing.

      That last one would at least provide SOME incentive for the players to keep moving around, instead of just standing there and trading shots until someone falls over.

    2. Yeah, sounds about in line with what we saw in the playtests.

      I don't mind "Monsters that just hit you and have one gimmick" as a monster design... I'd actually say that's my favorite design for non-boss monsters. But for it to work, the gimmick has to be interesting. Sounds like they're still missing on that one.


  5. I'm going to reply down here rather than above so as not to become further entwined in what I'm sure will be a lengthy back-and-forth between you and your special friend.

    13th Age is vague about range as well. It's "nearby" and "far away;" "intercepting" and "engaged."

    One thing that hasn't made much sense--and makes even less now--is that D&D is still attempting to emulate fantasy literature that hasn't been top of mind in at least a couple of decades. The works of Howard, Moorcock, Lieber and Vance inform many of the peculiarities of the game, those basic assumptions that the grognards are so desperate to recall. That made sense in the '70s, when fantasy was a niche genre.

    I'll wager that most young people now have never read those stories. They've grown up with Harry Potter and Twilight; Buffy and Supernatural. Now, you make a good case that D&D isn't even that good at emulating Lieber or Vance, but it has no chance at all of evoking Hogwart's.

    1. One of the things I found brilliant about 4E was that it was strongly influenced by World of Warcraft. You know, a fantasy world that would be familiar to potential new players. Clearly defined roles such as tank, buffer or taunter would be much more relevant and easier to grasp than weirdo assumptions based on 70-year-old literature.

    2. And you're absolutely right that the Basic Rules offer a few "new" ideas. It's just that advantage and inspiration aren't very interesting; they're lesser implementations of mechanics that have been part of RPG design for years now. I do like the backgrounds, but again, there's nothing especially innovative there. Nothing that required two years/175,000 playtesters.

    3. In reality D&D was never good at emulating the fantasy that it purports to draw from. If it did (4th Edition was so, SO much better at this), I think the game would be MILES better.

      If you read Conan, he is competent and good at what he does, but in D&D you need a cleric to heal and a wizard to handle other things. In The Dying Earth, wizards can only ever retain a handful of spells, and they can get them back quickly and easily if they have their books on hand.

      Frankly though I would settle for having mechanics that actually evoke any form of fiction.

      I agree that having roles made it much easier to narrow down the classes: want to keep everyone safe? Play a defender! Want to make everyone better? Play a leader! I know some people criticized this, but you could just think of a concept and get a class that will at least deliver.

  6. Have you seen the stats for the 5e Hobgoblins yet? They have an AC of 18 and do +2d6 damage to anything within 5ft of one of their allies. That's a CR 1/2 humanoid monster that can outright kill a 1st level through massive damage in one hit!

    1. @Ben: It would not be the first time WotC made stupidly overpowered monsters. Remember the ghouls? Ever run up against zombies? It is baffling that they still didn't iron this shit out after two years. Since they are going largely with the 3rd Edition challenge-pegging model of slapping whatever level on there seems to work, it won't be the last.

  7. I've enjoyed following your 5E blogging, even if it has (somewhat understandably) shifted a bit on the analytical/ranting scale as the process has slogged on. And while I think I'm slightly less negative on it than you, I'm still kind of mystified at how profoundly unimpressive the final product is.

    Even the idea of the Basic Set itself was screwed up. D&D has huge brand power and they've got cash in reserve; putting out a Free-to-Play version is a great idea. But your Candy Crushes and DOTA-likes hook you with a taste before hitting you up for cash, whereas the Basic Set is a 110 (!) page Quick Start Guide that does not prepare you to actually play the game. What. The. Hell.

    Dungeon World has a fantastic chapter on running your first session, the goal of which is to actually play the game right now.. In contrast, D&D says, "Wait a few months for the DMG and MM, then spend a bunch of time meticulously laying out encounters and skill checks." The model of Plan-Now-Play-Later sucks to begin with, but sticking with it in a F2P game is mind-bogglingly stupid. Give me a system that facilitates improv and can get me rolling, or at least give me a crappy little module to run. But giving me a textbook and telling me to come back later for the whole lecture? That's an awful sales pitch even if your game is actually good.

    Beyond that, I'm struck by two things: the blandness, and the lack of trust in the audience. The former is pretty self-explanatory. You could delete all the text on Dwarves except for the headings (Short and Stout / Long Memories, Long Grudges / Gods, Gold, and Clan) nothing would be lost. Likewise for the other races, especially the entire page of Faerun ethnicities for humans. Really, that's your hook? "Some people have light skin and light hair. Others have dark skin and dark hair." Gripping.

    Even after you've slogged through character creation, you get to a chapter titled Adventuring -- rad! -- and are greeted by an explanation of how Forced Marches work -- ...less rad. Here's a thought: the intro mentions the 3 Pillars of Exploration, Social Interaction, and Combat. Why not actually structure the chapters to elaborate on those three elements? Tell me what cool stuff I can do with those, tuck class stuff in the back. It might even remind the designers to make non-combat class features.

    And re: lack of trust... A friend of mine put it as "I'm starting to realize that D&D taught us how to tell stories, not narratively, but randomly." And that's a huge sticking point when you have games like Dungeon World, FATE, Microscope, Dread, or anything else available. Some of that flares up in little things like the table to randomly determine the height and weight of an elf. But even fun stuff -- Teleport sending you to the wrong place, Earthquake destroying the terrain -- is bogged down in die roll after die roll.

    I don't need that. Dungeon World trusts me enough to say present it as "The location they teleport to is not safe," which instantly makes it Adventure O'Clock. D&D says "Calculate the distance they teleport and determine the trajectory, and derive where they land from there," which gives me busywork to do that probably ends in "Okay mark off 2 extra rations." It's just another way that they've managed to make D&D 20 minutes of fun jam-packed into 4 hours.

    On the upside, it's an improvement to the 3E chassis. Monsters look kind of boring, but at least we aren't calculating Power Attack modifiers on a claw/claw/bite routine. And CR is a little less scattershot, and the action economy looks less-hosed. I'll still take 4E in a heartbeat but I don't think I'm revolted by the prospect of a 5E game the way I am of a 3.5E one.

    1. Yeah, I blame that on a combination of around two years of Mike's confusing blog posts, vitriolic 4th Edition-haters, and toxic fans.

      I am not surprised that they screwed it up, and agree that a Basic Set would be better served actually explaining what the style and tone of the game is. I mean, there is not even a basic, introductory adventure in there. It is like they give you the rules on some very basic chargen, no monsters or magic items, and then assume you will buy the Starter Set to actually do something with it. It is pretty damned pathetic. I mean, the Starter Set does not even come with chargen rules: it is like they assumed you would get the Starter Set, then go online to get the rules to actually try making characters.

      I really like the First Session chapter, too. It does not fuck around or try to convince you that you can run "any type of game you want": it gives you the style and tone, and walks the way the game is assumed to be played. That is one of D&D's failures: what the hell is the style and tone? What are you "supposed" to do with it? I also think that 5th Edition sucks ass for improv because so much of it just seems so arbitrary.

      In 4th I could whip up monsters, entire encounters, and arbitrate improv actions with precise difficulty. In 5th Edition? When I went by the numbers in the game, even difficult encounters were incredibly easy.

      Not sure how I feel about the races. I mean, I think they should have included more interesting ones with the "traditional" mix. I also think that making elves look more different would have been nice. But, eh, pretty much every fantasy game has bog-standard, retreaded elves and dwarves.

      Dude, that is a pretty good idea. I am working on a 4E hack that strips out a lot of the needless and sheer number of complex powers for something much simpler and more streamlined. I would say it is like a bit of 4E, Apocalypse World, and FATE, and I am going to keep that organization model in mind!

    2. I do find it ironic that people claimed incorrectly that 4E just had combat powers (despite the whole Utlity class of powers), when fighters basically only get hit things, or hit things and maybe do something else on the side. It is because of Dungeon World that I am going to try to give classes non-fighty options to choose from, too.

      As written 5th Edition, and every edition before 4th are terrible for storytelling because of the unnecessary reliance on per-day stuff, in particular spells, especially when spells are mostly how you heal. In 4th encounter powers and healing surges did a lot to prevent the 15-minute day, but when everything boils down to the day you get sessions where the players run into a dungeon, clean a room or two, then go back to town to sleep. Imagine a story structured like that!

      Too many things in D&D are very explicit (like, when monsters hit you they just deal damage), which is bad because it is trying to pretend to be a fast, loose, "theatre of the mind" game. In Dungeon World monsters have various tags that do not do explicit things, meaning that you can narrate them more freely without "breaking the rules" or resulting to houserules (which, 5th Edition fans think gives it a free pass to be shit).

      Being an improvement over 3rd is not a difficult hurdle, and I would say that 5th is only marginally higher. I mean, right now there is not a lot of option bloat, fighters are less useless than 3rd Edition, but there are still numerous problems: reliance on magic for everything, per-day resources, restrictive classes, nonsense magic, etc. As much as I dislike 3rd, I think if you asked me to run 3rd or 5th, I would probably still go with 3rd because I am more familiar with it, flaws and all.

      Which is another reason I am unimpressed by 5th. It does not wow, or do anything interesting or possess any noteworthy innovations. It is just a game that is marginally cleaner than 3rd, which is nowhere near enough to warrant buying all new books, with the same crap, especially when there are cheaper, more elegant games out there (like DW, FATE, etc).

      Plus, I still got all my 4th Edition stuff.

  8. Dude, go create your own system then. I'm amazed at how critical people are regarding role playing GAMES. It's a game. I get together with my friends and play a game. It's not perfect but it does the job. We have a few beers, do some role playing and kill some monsters. We don't care about math formulas and which class is overpowered/underpowered. Check your ego's at the door. Who cares if your friends rogue is doing more damage than your cleric. You're on the same team right?
    Boring combat and magic??? That's because you and your group are boring not the system. Maybe you all suck as players and the DM has a lack of imagination and plays his NPC's and monster poorly. And the starter set isn't designed for people like you. It's geared as an introduction to D&D so yes, the caravan scenario is cliche to you and me but not to someone new to the game. Elves can't be put to sleep and you ask why? OK, make them vanilla like a human. But isn't it cooler that they can't be put to sleep, like when a mage casts a sleep spell on a group of adventurers and everyone fails except the elf? Then the elf saves the day and his companions. Makes him look like a hero doesn't it? Isn't that the purpose of heroic fantasy RPG's. Apparently not to you.
    You missed the whole point of the starter set. Wait til the PHB, DM Guide and MM come out before you criticize a portion of the whole system.

    1. @Anon: I am, but I gotta clear some other stuff off my docket first (otherwise I would get nothing done!).

      You are "amazed" that people are critical of games? There are movie, music, art, and even food critics, yet it amazes you that people would criticize games. Are you aware of Metacritic, Destructoid, Giant Bomb, or IGN? I am amazed when fans of something people dislike roll out that rhetoric: do you go to sites where people give favorable reviews and tell them to stop because it is "just a game"?

      If you disagree, tell me where and why. Don't go off on a tangent about overpowered/underpowered classes, math, or damage output. None of that has to do with why I dislike 5th Edition (well, I think the proficiency bonus is pointless, but that is not the kind of math speak you are referring to).

      I did say combat was boring, and that is because it is. You can blame it on me and my group, as 5th Edition fans so often do in order to dismiss it, but if you read play reports for our Dungeon World, 4th edition Sundered World, or Dresden Files games, combat is dynamic and engaging. In DW or even 4th Edition, everything is a lot more dynamic. Characters are moving/getting thrown about, and using the terrain to their advantage.

      In 5th Edition there is no reason to move around or do anything but hit the monster, and part of it is because monsters don't do anything interesting either: goblin, orc, ogre, dragon, they just hit you, deal damage, and you swing back when you turn comes up.


      As for magic, I said it makes no sense, because it does make no sense. I would be interested if you could explain how spell levels, leveled slots, at-will magic, at-will magic if you have enough time, and per-day magic makes sense. On that note, I also think it is boring. And lazy. Bards, wizards, clerics, druids, they ALL use the same magic system. Does a cleric phoning in her spells really sound like someone calling on her god for aid?

      So, because elves being put to sleep does not make any sense...I should just make them vanilla humans. Right. It is not like there is a HUGE middle ground between doling out random racial powers and giving them things that make sense. Gotcha.

      No, it is NOT cooler that, on the off chance and NPC wizard tries to put them to sleep that they essentially make an automatic save. "Oh, the elf is a hero because the player picked elf! Whoopie! It is not like the player did anything conciously on their part to facilitate this course of action."

      Sorry, I think it is cooler when the players actually make a plan or try something daring and succeed, as opposed to having things randomly line up because of arbitrary rules.

    2. Anonymous (Dave)
      I guess we'll agree to disagree but having re-read your comments it seems to me that you were bitter toward 5E and never really gave it an open minded chance.
      Can I correctly assume that you and your group are combat oriented? If not, forgive my assumption. I have no problem with a combat oriented campaign as everyone plays an RPG for their own reasons. I've been RP'ing with the same group of friends for many many years and there have been sessions where no weapons are drawn or spells cast and those have been some of our best adventures. Those nights are spent role playing, gathering information/interacting with NPC's and maybe some travel. We often avoid combat by being creative and our DM awards full experience points as if we fought the enemy. When it comes to combat, we work as a team, get creative on describing what we do and our DM actually goes into detail on killing blows based on the style of the players characters. It adds to the image of the character and helps flush out their style of fighting or spell casting.
      The game is only as boring and vanilla as you make it. It's up to the players and DM to make it interesting. We had a campaign with 3 fighters and they could not have been any different. One was a heavy armor, great sword wielding tank, another wore light armor, used a rapier and was more of a finesse fighter and the last fighter wore medium armor, wielded a long sword and shield and played more of a defensive roll protecting the spell casters or supporting the other fighters. Add in the personalities, mannerisms, etc. of the players and you had 3 totally different fighters who were anything but boring.
      D&D and other RPG's are what YOU make of them. We never liked the hack & slash kill everything campaigns and were more immersed in the storyline and settings presented by the DM in his world and the interactions between players and NPC's. That's how we like to play and I understand we might be in the minority in that respect but the end result is a solid campaign that keeps us coming back every week. From what we've seen in 5E and the few sessions that we have had so far, all the pieces are there for a great campaign and it works. It's not perfect but it's not broken. Don't be ruled by the rules.

  9. I guess we'll agree to disagree but having re-read your comments it seems to me that you were bitter toward 5E and never really gave it an open minded chance.

    @Anon: Really? You would have to do a bit of digging at this point, but if you actually go through the 5th Edition/playtest stuff you would see that I was hopeful and enthusiastic at first, but became more and more disatisfied when it became clear that WotC only cared about crapping out a shitastic retro-clone with better than usual art (because most retroclones I see have pretty crap art).

    Nope. Back when I ran Sundered World, even in the dreaded 4th Edition, there was often only one fight per session, maybe with a minor encounter on the side. Honestly I had more combat in 3rd Edition campaigns (ran most of Age of Worms) and the 5th Edition playtests (which included room-by-room fights against random things).

    I go through descriptions, too, but the thing is in 5th Edition there is no real benefit for trying to do anything complex beyond the DM giving you arbitrary advantage or houseruling in some kind of benefit. I compare this to Dungeon World or FATE, where descriptions and creative thinking are more consistently rewarded without having to invent benefits.

    I disagree that a game is "only as boring as you make it". I have played a lot of games with a lot of different rules, and the rules matter. They permit or even fascilitate creative thinking, and they can also inhibit it. 3rd Edition often put a lot of hurdles in place for doing creative things (you want to trip the ogre? Well it gets to attack you first, and then you are already at a -4 because of its size), and 5th Edition basically gives you nothing. You knock something prone? Okay, it just gets back and and hits you.

    You are just describing the fighters by gear, which is different, but what could they really DO differently? At 1st-level they have Second Wind and, what? One gts to reroll some damage dice, another uses Dex to hit, and the last one has a better AC? At 2nd-level they all get Action Surge, and then finally at 3rd they get to pick an archetype that finally allows for some diversity. Too bad they, for the most part, just need to stand there and hit monsters that also just need to stand there.

    It is great that you have been able to take the game in a direction that it was clearly not intended for. My complaints are not a lack of potential social interaction, but for the most part that the characters are needlessly restrictive, the magic makes no sense and is bizarrely mandatory, and the fights are boring.

    I am also not saying that you could twist 5th Edition into something playable, but that it brings nothing new or fresh to the table. It has no reason to exist, other than as a means for WotC to desperately try to rake in nostalgia-bucks, which is strange given that this game already exists for the most part in a number of retroclones (just lift advantage/disadvantage if you for some reason feel the need to).

    1. Out of curiosity what is your favorite edition of D&D?

    2. 4th. It has its share of problems, but they are less prevalent by a very wide margin.

    3. That explains a lot and please don't take that as an insult. I think it says much about why you don't like 5E and actually makes a lot of sense. There's a version for everyone and 4th works for you, I get it.

    4. Really? I am curious as to why you think that enjoying 4th Edition explains why I don't like 5th Edition. I am not trying to be snarky, but am wondering if your thoughts will match up with my reasons.

    5. Both versions are completely different--apples and oranges if you will. I'm guessing that what you liked in 4E was mostly removed in 5E so why would you like it? I personally hated 4E and like 5E so we're completely at opposite ends of both versions. I don't pretend to know your reasons and won't even attempt to match my thoughts to what your reasons are but I'd liked to hear them.

    6. See, I don't think they are completely different. Or, at least, I think both games are trying to deliver a very similar experience: delve into dungeon, beat up monsters, get loot.

      What I enjoyed about 4th Edition was that classes were flexible and balanced, party composition does not make assumptions, magic was not mandatory, monsters were more interesting, and combat was more dynamic.

      Tackling these in order, this is what I mean:

      When you make a character, you get to make a number of choices beyond race and class. Personally I think default 4E assumes too many, or at least too many too quickly, and I think the power system could be shifted to be more diverse depending on the fictional needs of what is going on. Mind you I see nothing inherently bad with the at-will, encounter, and daily model, because despite what some people say giving martial characters encounter and daily powers makes perfect sense (3rd and 5th Edition featured them, and even Rules Compendium had one or two), I just think it could be shifted towards something better.

      What you bring to the table does not matter insofar as the game will likely not grind to a halt based on what you want to play. In 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Edition, having a magical healer ranges from either absolutely mandatory to "you can get away with it via specialized builds and/or DM taking it into account" (despite stories not based on D&D or video games rarely, if ever, feature a magical healer funneling healing juice into someone during a fight). In 3rd Edition you also needed a rogue to find certain traps.

      In 4th Edition having certain classes on hand is helpful, but never required. A leader helps, but there are a bunch to choose from, so if you don't like clerics, there are also warlords, bards, ardents, and shamans to choose from. Also if you want someone to be able to crack locks or find traps effectively, anyone can burn a feat to become competent. Yeah, a rogue can do it better because of Dexterity and utility exploits, but even a fighter can get by well enough.

      In 3rd Edition having a spellcaster in general was often necessary, and in 5th Edition's Basic Rules they pretty much admit this up front despite, again, plenty of fiction where spellcasters are either not present or not a universal bag of solutions. 4th Edition never required anyone to use magic at all, and everyone gets along just fine.

      In 3rd and 5th Edition most monsters just stand there and hit you, while in 4th they often do other things (or can do other things to get other benefits). This makes combat more dynamic and interesting, something I never felt in 3rd Edition until I threw in a bunch of houserules, and never felt in 5th Edition (because I wanted to play it as it was to see if it held up).

      There were also some elegant mechanics that made the game flow better and just made sense: the bloodied condition, healing surges, and rituals that anyone could use if they spent a feat. Encounter building was less a crap shoot and more of an absolute certainty, and it was easy to develop a complex, interesting monster on the fly while making it precisely as lethal as you wanted it to be.

    7. You said:
      See, I don't think they are completely different. Or, at least, I think both games are trying to deliver a very similar experience: delve into dungeon, beat up monsters, get loot.

      I agree that they deliver a similar experience but the journey there is a lot different. Different enough that you dislike 5E and like 4E and I dislike 4E and like 5E--I think we can at least both agree on that. You make many valid points and observations but if you add them all up you have two different games. You have issues with combat, monsters and magic and character skills, i.e. lockpicking, which is the heart and soul of the game. If you don't like how those elements work, how can you possibly like the system? That's like trying to like baseball but you don't like pitching, hitting and fielding. Hey 4E works for you and 5E works for me. Neither one us is right, we just have different ideas on what makes a system enjoyable.

  10. I don't have a problem with character skills, I have a problem that, for some reason, in 3rd Edition only a rogue (and artificer, scout, ninja, and one other class) could detect traps beyond a DC of 20. PERIOD. Like, a fighter could have 10 ranks in Search, Skill Focus (search) and an Intelligence of 24 and still never, NEVER find a trap if it required a DC of 20 or higher to find. In 4th Edition? Have the fighter spend a feat to buy skill training in Perception and Thievery, and she could do it passably well.

    Again, I have no problem with characters being better at doing certain types of things, but it becomes a problem when you MUST have those specific classes (this is just one of the issues I cited). In 5th Edition, you HAVE to have a magical healer despite hit points not being absolutely indicative of physical trauma. In 4th Edition a leader was helpful, but there were also lot with their own thematic and mechanical differences.

    Your baseball analogy is not a correct. A more accurate one is it would be like if I enjoyed baseball, but I HAD to play in a specific field, use specific players, had a specific referee, could only pitch or throw a certain way, and if sliding to a base meant that I had to flip a coin to see if I was out anyway.

    That was my experience with 5th Edition: a lot of needless restrictions with a lackluster payoff.

    1. I've enjoyed the debate we have had. You write with style and passion and can back it up with facts without being insulting. It sounds like 5th Edition is not for you which to me and perhaps not to you is unfortunate. I'm glad you have 4th Edition to enjoy as we should all have a version of D&D to play. Happy gaming and I look forward to more articles on your site!

    2. I agree with you there (5E is not for me, but everyone should have their own thing to enjoy). And, yeah, for all our disagreements it is nice to see someone remaining calm and collected. :-)

      Thanks for reading!

  11. David, just gotta say I've appreciated this post and all of the critiques you have made about the playtests and The Mearls Dispatches thus far. I am still holding onto some faint hope, and I am a little more sympathetic to these products than you (I did not care for 4th edition but liked third edition), but I feel your criticisms are dead on. Vancian magic is stupid, most of the time classes do not allow for much customization within the class itself, advantage and inspiration are far too simplistic and watered down to work out right. I've got to read more myself to get an idea of the quality of the monsters and, important to me, the skill system. I am hoping that the edition will turn out swell, somehow, despite all odds, but I doubt it. So maybe my real hope is that the edition will finally inspire me to make a good homebrew RPG!


    1. Thanks for the kind words. :-)

      Yeah, that is what I am doing. I am tired of waiting/hoping for WotC to somehow make the "magical" edition for me. I enjoyed 4th quite a bit, and figured that even if 5th was not perfect it would at least be better.

      So, with all of the other hacks/clones out there, why not just make your own that does everything you want? I am guessing that there are plenty of people who would prefer it a lot more! Tastes change, so even if it is not the best for anyone, it could be a change of pace.

  12. Hi!
    Just want to thank you for your great blog. I've learned a lot of interesting things DM-wise.

    Also, after reading new Basic Rules PDF, I'm in full support of your opinion on 5E. I just don't understand why someone should want to buy this stuff. Want oldschool? Go get 2E, at least it has some of that "vintage warm flavor".
    Why should anyone want this recycled imitator?

    1. Precisely. If you want an older edition, it already exists, and in who knows how many flavors.

    2. If you don't mind answering, can you recommend me a system I can try as an alternative to D&D 4E?
      I've read about 13th Age, FATE, Dungeon World and others, but can't decide

      TL;DR I'm having a lot of fun with 4E, but it has some flaws, so I'm curios about other systems.

      I'll explain (english is not my native language, so be warned :) ).
      I'm running 4E campaign for about two years with five of my friends. Being rather inexperienced as DM, before this campaign I've only ran a couple of short adventures, using rather unusual systems, like Decipher's LoTR RPG, German "The Dark Eye", or some exotic Russian systems (I live there). I was always interested in D&D (it started them all, and etc), played some 3E games with random DM's, but somehow newer came to run one.

      But two years back star aligned and I've decided to run 4E with my wife and four close friends. It was difficult and rather daunting to start, but eventually I came to really like the process. 4E became my DM life. I love the system, its complexity and flexibility.

      But of course it has it's flaws. Combat is varied and rewarding, every PC can shine and make a difference, but every other combat encounter can take more than a half, or even 2/3 of 6-7 hour session. It's not that bad for me personally, I like because challenging battles, and designing combat encounters in 4E is really fun and streamlined process. But sometimes this can harm story flow, and distract players from RP.

      One player in my group especially dislikes 4E combats, and every now and then makes a point about how tiresome and demanding they are. At the same time, he is a very good player, with great roleplaying skills, and good understanding of game mechanics.
      Another player likes the system, but struggles with boardgame-like rules, and choice of tactics. She likes the setting and story, she is good with RP, but in combat she tends to ask other players what to do and what’s best.

      Other players have no problems, and like everything, but most of them agree, that spending 3-4 hours on one combat encounter is a little bit to much.

      Also, I have some trouble with lack of non-combat rules for skills, powers and feats. Rules Compedium has a some good guidelines on improvising with skills and using them in non-combat environment, but nothing for powers and feats. I understand, that 4E is a combat-centric RPG in it’s core, and it's all about action and epic heroic stuff. But I would really like more guidelines and tools for non-combat parts of the game.

    3. @Oleg: I have actually never played 13th Age, but I hear it is a less intensive almost 4th Edition. My problem with it is that it still uses a kind of pseudo-Vancian magic system, and you get +1 to most things at every level.

      If you want to make 4E combat less lengthy, some simple houserules I used were to reduce the defenses and overall hp of monsters (generally so that they would die in 2-5 hits depending on size). I also did away with XP, leveling up the characters after every session or when they completed a story milestone.

      This way, XP became less about killing things, combat doesn't take long, and the characters have less incentive to seek it out/kill everything. I have even run them "off the grid" pretty easily: you just kind of handwaive distances and area effects as you would with other editions and games.

      But, if you want something simple and fast that does not "need" houserules I have had a lot of fun with Dungeon World. My only problem is the spellcasters, as I am not a fan of pseudo-Vancian magic.

      Honestly I think I would have more fun with FATE, but I have more fun with default Dungeon World, it is only $10 for the pdf, and the rules are a lot simpler. I would get it, sit down, and give it a shot. If you have a blog or G+ account, I'd be interested in reading how it went down!

      As a side note, I am working on a 4th Edition hack to address the flaws I perceive with it (lengthy combat and too many options among them), so if you have any other issues let me know so I can try to work them in!

    4. Thanks for your advice.
      We are already playing without XP, I just announce level up after characters complete certain number of encounters (as advised in DMG), or when significant part of story ends. And lately am thinking about a couple of home rules to speed up combat, but I can't decide if me or my players will like them. So it will be very interesting to look at your 4E hacks!

      And I will certainly give Dungeon World a try. I've already bought the PDF version, and going to get acquainted with it on my next work-free weekend.

    5. Try this:

      Reduce monster hit points. My rule of thumb was that a non-minion Small monster should die in 1-2 hits from a typical fighter, a Medium monster should take 2-3, Large 3-4, etc. Of course it depends on what it is: undead, elementals, constructs and the like should be able to take an extra hit or two.

      Only use maps for major fights, like against a noteworthy enemy or finale. If the party runs into wolves in the woods? Just narrate it. If a player wants to climb a tree, just tell them if there is one nearby. If they want to use a tree for cover, let 'em. If they use an area-effect, let them know if they will have to move in order to avoid hitting an ally, etc.

      Both of these are pretty simple and will drastically speed up combat. Plus, when an ambush happens you won't lose tension from having to stop the game and draw the map. You can just say "something leaps out at you, knocking you to the ground, and you take x damage. Roll initiative".

      If you want to take things further, try reducing the number of powers the players have to choose from, and let them write their own. I made an invoker dedicated to the Raven Queen, and ended up changing it so that instead of gaining a new encounter power, the one I had got a bit better and I could use it twice per encounter.

      Josh did something similar with his homebrew warlord: he just kept gaining x uses of "make an ally move and attack" per encounter.

      This way, the list of stuff is smaller and they can better memorize what it does.

      Lemme know if you have any questions about Dungeon World, and especially how it plays for you: I'm always interested to see how other people run it!

  13. I am confused why you feel healing has become all important. It seems gettin half your HD back every short rest and a 100 percent heal with a full day rest is telling the healer to take their heal spells and stuff 'em...

    1. Not "all important", but it is mandatory: in all the playtest sessions I ran that went beyond one session the players had a magical healer, but even with one they could only go through a couple of encounters in a day before having to rest due to running out of spells.

      Personally I find it bizarre that for all the hate some people foisted on healing surges (despite them making perfect sense), I find it strange that they accept both Hit Dice AND the "regain all of your hp after you sleep".

  14. I don't disagree with many of your critiques (although you are a bit ranty), and I also enjoy 4th Edition to a point... but combat length sucks. The Hit Point and AC inflation guarantee a ridiculously long, grindy combat. If there is one thing 5e has for it, it is a much quicker play at the table to get through combats. I know 13th Age supposedly does this well too, but haven't had the opportunity to try it yet.

    Second, the raw number of options and power combinations also makes character creation suck. (I have this same problem with 3.x and Pathfinder, but less so). Without Character Builder, 4e character creation is a pain, and even with Character Builder it's not fun. Again, 5e does pretty well in this arena.

    I don't have the same problem with the character classes you do. With the addition of Feats and Backgrounds, I think you can make one Fighter fairly different from another... The "meaningful choices" ideal is pretty subjective of a yardstick. I don't need a ton of options during leveling (another reason I don't particularly like 3.x and Pathfinder). I want to get back to the play quickly. You don't see it that way, so, ok, to each his own. Why not house rule some additional options? You appear to be ok house ruling down options in 4e to speed up play... Why not use that same philosophy with 5e to house rule more options? If anything, 5e would appear to encourage tweaking the classes such that you don't have to follow the "official" character paths chosen at 3rd level. Make your own!

    Honestly, the one thing 5e does right is bounded accuracy. If there were a 4e style game with bounded accuracy (that also didn't rely heavily on requiring/assuming magic weapons at various levels), I would probably play that.

    1. @Marty: I agree that default combat can take awhile, but I think that 5th Edition errs to far on the side of expediency: throughout our entire 5E playtest fights started and ended too quickly for any real tension to even begin picking up. In a fight against a villain, he ended up having to run because they almost killed him on the first round.

      This is a reason I prefer having elite/solo monsters: the extra actions helps ensure that they remain viable threats by themselves.

      I also agree that the sheer number of decisions was too much, too quickly, but again 5th Edition errs WAY too far in the other direction. I see nothing wrong with giving classes a few defaults, but still allowing you to make a choice, especially at levels 2 and up. Apocalypse World and Numenera are great examples of fast, yet customization character creation and advancement.

      My analysis of classes and when you can choose stuff accounts for feats. I also never said I wanted a "ton of options during leveling". Basically, just allowing players to choose the next thing they get, instead of usually telling a player that they have to take this next thing (or giving them one choice that locks in the rest of the decision points).

      I could allow players to make choices, but that does not fix the other problems I have with the system: nonsense magic, bards that don't feel or act like a bard (unless you are basing them on what D&D has done before), clerics that don't feel miraculous, a pointless universal proficiency bonus, a botched attempt at encouraging roleplay with the whole trait/flaw/inspiration thing, lack of elite/solo monsters and more.

      It's a mess. I was able to easily resolve most of my grievances with 4th Edition with a couple of on-the-fly rulings (namely reducing hit points), and the rest of the system is solid and intuitive enough that I could create monsters and encounters on the spot, making them precisely as difficult as I want. I could also add in a persistent injury system, change spellcasting so that it costs hit points to cast spells, and even, with a bit more work, make a split vitality/wound point system.

      With 5th Edition? I would have to houserule so much more to make it even enjoyable, and since the math for monsters seems all over the place I am not even sure if/how my changes would affect the game.

      I disagree on the bounded accuracy thing. I think 5th Edition should not even bother with the proficiency bonus, as I think 4th Edition should not bother with the +1 every 2 level bonus. Just ditch the universal scaling: it has no point if everyone gets it!

  15. Thanks for the review!

    Many of the comments are good too. I had to bookmark your page so I can read them all later. Although I do agree with your review, which was obviously biased yet pretty darn accurate, I am in love with the game.

    My first actual play-through is tomorrow, but I have read the rules and I am about 90% satisfied. It seems that WotC has put together an old-timey feeling game out of 3rd and 4th edition mechanics. This makes the grognard in me very happy, and apparently I am not the only one, as 5th edition is getting pretty decent reviews.

    I really like the so-easy-a-caveman-can-do-it rules, and the streamlined character creation. The bits you hate are the parts that endear the system to me the most. To me this feels like D&D. It fills a void that has been empty since I last played AD&D over a decade ago. When I am in the mood for a crunchier game, well there are other games I play too. Is it selfish for me to be so happy with a game that brings back misty-eyed memories of games log ago? Time will tell if this retro-appeal garners enough fans to make this edition a success, but the nostalgic flavor has me hooked.

    That's not to say it's for everyone. And I do feel bad for players that went all in for 4th edition. Its not a bad game, and to see WotC's support for it hit the floor faster than a fat girl's prom dress pisses me off; and I barely even played 4th edition!

    1. I think they could have put together a game with a similar feel that still allowed for customization and magic that made sense from the game's narrative. I mean, Dungeon World certainly seems to fit the bill despite lacking a d20. It also has "caveman-easy" rules and much faster chargen (you just check a couple boxes and you're good to go).

      Out of all the "official" D&D's I enjoyed 4th Edition the most, but it had its share of issues. Thankfully in this day and age it is incredibly easy to just hack together your own clone, and maybe even make some money doing it. I think this is a natural evolution for me: I'm tired of waiting for someone else to make the game I want, so I just need to do it myself, damnit!

      Anyway, thanks for reading and hopefully you enjoy 5th Edition. Also, thanks for being more mellow about my criticisms and commentary, as I have been told that I can be ranty and a kind of curmudgeon (I think once I get a lawn and some trespassing kids I'll be all set).

  16. I have not played most of the systems you compared/contrasted with D&D in this article, and I don't know what "psuedo-Vancian" means or what The Dying Earth is. With that in mind, could you explain in simple terms what you dislike about the magic system and how it could be improved? I mean no disrespect, and my opinion on 5th ed. is undecided as yet. I just genuinely don't know what you're talking about. XD

    1. @Anon: D&D is often described as having Vancian magic, which is a reference to The Dying Earth, written by Jack Vance (hence, Vancian).

      In The Dying Earth magic was recorded into books, which wizards would reference in order to "retain" a spell in their mind. Spells were basically metaphysical instructions that forced magical entities (elementals and other things sandestins) to actually cast the spell on your behalf.

      The most powerful wizards were said to be able to contain only 4-6 spells at once, and once you cast a spell it was released, and you've have to peruse the book in order to jam it back in your head.

      I don't remember an explicit amount of time referenced as to how long the process took, but in the books it made it seem like it took a very short while, and in The Dying Earth RPG it takes like 10 minutes a spell.

      So, this is why I say D&D uses pseudo-Vancian magic: in The Dying Earth there are no spell slots or spell levels (and a bunch of other mechanics about regaining slots, changing spells into at-wills, etc), wizards can only have a handful of spells at the most, and magic is not cast on a per-day basis.

      If D&D wanted to use a "true" Vancian model, it would be incredibly simple: each spell would do one set thing, maybe improve based on the wizard's level (not spell slot or spell level), you would only be able to retain 1-5 spells over the 1-20 level spread (start with 1, gain +1 at levels 5, 10, 15, and 20), you have to have the spellbook with the spell on it, but they only take about 15 minutes to retain.

      This would be even easier in 4th Edition, where all wizard spells would be encounter spells.

  17. It's kind of miraculous to me that you have played D&D for so long and still don't understand why elves can't be put to sleep by magic. Elves do not sleep. Never. I know for certain this is written in the PHB rules in 3.5, 4th, and now 5th editions. They do not sleep. What they're called in the different editions is a tad different, but they meditate, not sleep.

    The fact that you don't seem to put any positive feedback in this at all tells me that you came in with the mindset of wanting everything to be bad. You had prior experience to say bad things about it, for sure, but if you want to be taken seriously when you do a write-up, you have to talk both sides, even if in the end one conclusively must outweigh the other. Otherwise you are just complaining or ranting. Which if this is your intention, okay. However, this is one of the top results I got when searching through Google for 5th edition, and there isn't much context here for what you're trying to accomplish with this, other than to talk down on the game.

    A lot of points you make are indeed valid. There are for sure tons of flaws that I can see in this game thus far, but you really exaggerate some of this, and from what I can see, didn't even entirely understand what product it was you were talking about. The first thing I mentioned alone, dealing with the elves, set the entire mood for this write-up for me.

    You can do what you want, but I give a humble suggestion that you take time to look at both sides and speak on their behalf, and that you make sure that you fully understand what it is you are reviewing in the future.

    1. @Anon: Mainly I'm curious why elves don't sleep at all. As with being immune to ghoul paralysis (and rust monsters, and golems being immune to magic), it sounds like a very gamist thing: they just have it because!

      One of the top Google search results? Fucking awesome!

      I honestly have nothing positive to say about it, except for maybe the cover art. The best it gets for me on the scale is at the tail end of neither good or bad, and that really only pertains to some of the art. The rest of it is bad and/or confusing.

      I have no idea what you mean by me not "entirely understanding the product". You think it's miraculous that I don't know why elves can't be put to sleep, and from there somehow arrive at the conclusion that I don't understand what I'm talking about; talk about ironic.

      I mean, it's not like I've written about D&D, my experiences, and talked about every edition for YEARS. Look, it's fine if you want to see that bit about elves and use that as an excuse to help dismiss everything else, instead of talking about the things you actually disagree with.

      After all, I'm used to that kind of 5E fanboy "rhetoric".

  18. Ok, read your issues with the game, it's obvious you're not a fan. Personally, I agree with quite a few of the things you bring up, but for me, it's not bad enough to make the game unplayable or unenjoyable. *shrug* To each their own, I guess. I don't agree it's a complete rehashing, though yes, it is a step backwards toward an earlier edition than 4th, but I disagree with your vehemence concerning the addition of the Advantage/Disadvantage and the Inspiration mechanics. They're decent ideas from other systems, and if you don't like how they're done in the basic rules, I don't see why you couldn't house-rule it to how you want it to work. We're doing so with our game. (Though, we had issues with Fate point totals in our LARP, it got pretty unmanageable, and we had to cap them at one point.)

    As far as the "theme" of the game is concerned, and how generic it is: D&D has always been a bit generic, to encompass a number of campaign worlds. Then D&D 4th edition made it frankly more difficult to do that, not that it wasn't done successfully many many times (including in my own campaign; we're still playing a Spelljammer-type 4e game where PCs can change the environment by their will alone, regardless of class). The rules are not exactly existent to explain themselves in your campaign, I would say the opposite is true, that your campaign world needs to come up with why something is the way it is. And if you don't like it (I found this from your Bard summary, which is why I bring this up again), change it. Why not have a Bard who takes both class features at lower levels? It's your game.

    In any case, I am glad to read more blogs that point out that this system isn't what Wizards is making it out to be, even if some of us are enjoying it anyway.

    1. @chorisschema: "Ok, read your issues with the game, it's obvious you're not a fan."

      Of course not, and I have NO idea why anyone would be. Is it normal to shell out a bunch of money for something you already own?

      "Personally, I agree with quite a few of the things you bring up, but for me, it's not bad enough to make the game unplayable or unenjoyable."

      It's not unplayable, it's just enjoyable or worth your time or money. If I really wanted to, I could always just play 3rd Edition or Pathfinder. I don't need a third 3rd Edition-esque set of D&D books.

      "*shrug* To each their own, I guess. I don't agree it's a complete rehashing, though yes, it is a step backwards toward an earlier edition than 4th, but I disagree with your vehemence concerning the addition of the Advantage/Disadvantage and the Inspiration mechanics. They're decent ideas from other systems, and if you don't like how they're done in the basic rules, I don't see why you couldn't house-rule it to how you want it to work. We're doing so with our game. (Though, we had issues with Fate point totals in our LARP, it got pretty unmanageable, and we had to cap them at one point.)"

      I could houserule them so that they're better, and it wouldn't be terribly difficult, but then I'm STILL saddled with a 3rd Edition ruleset, which I got tired of over 7 years ago.

      I'd be better served taking both of those ideas and just putting them into 3rd or 4th Edition, which would save a considerable chunk of cash (and waiting for WotC to crank out the same material that most have already bought).

      "As far as the "theme" of the game is concerned, and how generic it is: D&D has always been a bit generic, to encompass a number of campaign worlds. Then D&D 4th edition made it frankly more difficult to do that, not that it wasn't done successfully many many times (including in my own campaign; we're still playing a Spelljammer-type 4e game where PCs can change the environment by their will alone, regardless of class).""

      Just because D&D is willfully generic doesn't excuse it. Neither does D&D STILL calling gorgons medusa, and making gorgons metal bulls.

      How did 4th Edition make it more difficult to do, I guess something generic? 4th Edition made it simple to just do whatever you want: want a generic campaign? Okay, there ya go. Want a low-magic campaign, get rid of all divine and/or arcane classes, and the game runs perfectly fine.

      "The rules are not exactly existent to explain themselves in your campaign, I would say the opposite is true, that your campaign world needs to come up with why something is the way it is. And if you don't like it (I found this from your Bard summary, which is why I bring this up again), change it. Why not have a Bard who takes both class features at lower levels? It's your game."

      Making up a fictional explanation for rules is all well and good, but my argument is that for stuff like the bard and wizard, there is NO satisfactory explanation to be found. I've more recently gone through like, 3-4 threads in response to my 5 Things Wrong with D&D Magic article, and no proponents of the Pseudo-Vancian system were able to come up with anything.

      If I have to houserule an uninteresting, unfun game to make it enjoyable, why bother playing it?

      "In any case, I am glad to read more blogs that point out that this system isn't what Wizards is making it out to be, even if some of us are enjoying it anyway."

      I just wish WotC would have brought the game forward again. I think you can get a game that hits all the right "feels", while still making sense.

  19. Wow! The reviewer here must be an old fart. You can clearly see he already hates the product even before he bought it. So biased. The starter set isn't perfect sure, but he just bashed the whole product line even before the three books got released! Sad. Why would anyone listen to this guy for a review is beyond me.
    Side note: I bet this guy is starting to like (if he hasn't loved it already) 5th edition, but is embarassed to admit it to himself because he spoke so strongly against it before. :-D

    1. "So biased."

      As I say to all of you anonymous cowards trapped in the 3rd Edition era: what did you disagree with, and why?

      You don't have to respond. I know you won't, because you can't refute anything I'm saying, otherwise you would have.


      Said the anonymous coward.

      "Why would anyone listen to this guy for a review is beyond me."

      Given that you read the review AND took the time to hammer out a frenzied rage-post, you tell me.

      Actually, I think that's what pisses you off: you know some people WILL listen!

      "Side note: I bet this guy is starting to like (if he hasn't loved it already) 5th edition, but is embarassed to admit it to himself because he spoke so strongly against it before."

      Side Note: Why is it that you guys can't stand anyone not liking what you like? Do you feel that liking something stupid makes you a stupid person? Mind you, you didn't have to respond to this. You could have saved yourself the embarassment by doing what adults do: read it, realize that it wasn't going to simply confirm your beliefs, and just move on.

      I'm guessing you don't act like this in real-life, lashing out at anyone that doesn't think exactly like you do. No, you're a coward: you need the anonmity of the internet so that you can slink away whenever someone asks you to defend your position, because as we've seen you can't.

      But hey, tell yourself whatever you need to in order to get out of bed. Tell yourself that people that dislike 5th Edition actually secretly love it, AND that you didn't waste a shitload of money buying rebranded 3rd Edition books.

  20. I genuinely don't see 4th Ed as an improvement over 3.5, but without it, we wouldn't have Pathfinder, so it's got that going for it. It was like Book of 9 meets a MMORPG with too obvious of an intent on getting people to buy the supplements in the hopes of getting some diversity, so a lot of people hated it(my group just went back to 3.5 until we discovered Pathfinder).

    Before reading the playtest, I had low expectations. I read the playtest & was disappointed, but figured I'd check out the finished product later. Now, it's on SRD & it's still terrible beyond justification. 5th Ed tries to overly simplify everything & mixes the worst of 3.5 & 4th in the process. They aren't gonna get that many people to go away from Pathfinder for long, if at all. The lack of customization will make even the ones sick of the excessive amount of feats/classes to wish for something with more(any) options. They significantly nerfed the casters(good) but homogenized the non-casters so much casters are still a better choice just so you can customize the character some(very bad).

    Even with the 3.5 devs who went to do Pathfinder(or started on Pathfinder) starting to do 5E(now that the SRD is out), I don't see this system doing well or even becoming interesting enough to invest money in.

    1. "It was like Book of 9 meets a MMORPG with too obvious of an intent on getting people to buy the supplements in the hopes of getting some diversity, so a lot of people hated it(my group just went back to 3.5 until we discovered Pathfinder)."

      You're at the least also describing Pathfinder.

      "Before reading the playtest, I had low expectations. I read the playtest & was disappointed, but figured I'd check out the finished product later. Now, it's on SRD & it's still terrible beyond justification. 5th Ed tries to overly simplify everything & mixes the worst of 3.5 & 4th in the process."

      I like simpler games. I see no benefit to 3rd Edition's, and by extension Pathfinder's (because PF is frankly 3E by another name), ridiculous amount of mechanical minutea.

      This is a benefit of 4E: I can make anything you can make in 3E/PF, but I can do it faster, in one stat block (so I won't have to reference one or more other books), and it won't be nearly as "swingy" in difficulty.

      I don't want to sit down to make a powerful mind flayer psion, and have to pore through a bunch of books, deal with spending skill points and picking feats, then picking psychic powers (which will invariably end up with a bunch I won't use), and so on. I can get the same results in 4E by going, "Okay, party is level 13, so I'll peg him at level 17, solo controller, toss in some minions, and now all I gotta do is invent 3-5 things for him to do."

      The end result is a "boss" enemy that can give the party a good challenge, and still has all the role-playing potential that he would in another D&D edition, just without all the wasted time and useless bits (like, say, 1st- to 2nd-level whatever 3E calls psychic powers).

      "The lack of customization will make even the ones sick of the excessive amount of feats/classes to wish for something with more(any) options. They significantly nerfed the casters(good) but homogenized the non-casters so much casters are still a better choice just so you can customize the character some(very bad)."

      I can get behind you here. I don't want 3E/PF, or even 4E's degree of complexity, but I DO want customization. My benchmark would be Dungeon World or Numenera, where you get to pick a new thing every level. I don't see why they force you to pick a "subclass" early on, locking in other class features down the road.

      "Even with the 3.5 devs who went to do Pathfinder(or started on Pathfinder) starting to do 5E(now that the SRD is out), I don't see this system doing well or even becoming interesting enough to invest money in."

      I think it'll serve a niche of players who maybe liked 3E/PF, but either didn't like (or grew tired of) all the needless complexity. It's definitely a middle ground between an older edition, where you almost never got to choose anything.

      Also, tastes change over time: some people might get burnt out on PF, go to 5E, and then get burnt out on 5E and go back. I've been looking at Rules Cyclopedia, 4E, and 5E while working on my own D&D game.


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