Friday, August 29, 2014

First Impressions of 5th Edition

Dungeons & Dragons has now officially released a 5th edition, and I finally get to play again.  Or DM, actually.  I'm DMing, and I have five actual real life players who I've never roleplayed with before (because my old group did that annoying thing where they grow up and pursue professional stuff and don't have any time anymore and moved and stuff).  Even better, two of my five players, Caelin and Aaron, have never done pen and paper roleplaying before, although the number of videogame hours they've collectively logged make my life look practically Amish...  A third, Tracy, has only rolled up one character and messed around with D&D once.  The other two, Brandie and Eric, are a couple of old hands.  Caelin has been my best friend and general partner in crime for years (since our Sophomore years of college), Brandie and Aaron are my coworkers, and Eric and Tracy are Brandie and Aaron's significant others.  Caelin also brought Aragorn Son of Arathorn the King of Gondor who is her adorable and extraordinarily friendly little dog.  He didn't play, but he liked the people.

Because I'm a roleplayer and we bitch and moan, despite the fact that this art is awesome, there should be an actual dragon on this cover.

Brandie and Eric, being long term gamers, ended up buying the 5th edition book the day prior and mostly making characters beforehand.  Having a second book was awesome, because with three newbie players, there was a lot of reading that needed to happen, despite the fact that I printed off a class/race/gear/background cheat sheets for me to read off to expedite the process.  The book, despite being really pretty and containing awesome stuff, is not awesomely laid out or indexed and does not lend itself well to trying to shepherd groups of people who don't know what a Tiefling or Warlock is through character creation.  More on that later.  Brandie drunk texted me through her character creation process the night before, and Eric had me on Facebook after he evidently wrested the book from her and her wine glass.  Brandie made a Forest Gnome Rogue with a Charlatan background.  Eric made something mysterious and stuff with an Entertainer background that only he and I know the details of, because his character's gender, class, and race are all shrouded in shawls, heavy clothes, and a turban.  He left a lot of background stuff up to me, and I plan on exploiting the crap out of it.

Aaron had talked to me previously and was pretty set on playing a Dwarf Paladin, which was awesome since I pretty much just had to flip to the right pages, and getting him through character creation was pretty easy.  He settled on an Acolyte background, we filled in some proficiency bubbles, he got a warhammer, and off we went.  Tracy and Caelin were a little more time intensive, because while Tracy had made a character before, it was in something that sounded a lot like AD&D, Caelin knew pretty much nothing about all the classes and races and backgrounds and whether she should be rolling things or not.  After reading through a lot of stuff, Caelin ended up playing a Dragonborn Wizard with the Outlander background and a weasel familiar.  Tracy is playing a Charlatan Tiefling Druid with some very aggro spell choices and a bunch of javelins.  

This is Aragorn.  He will play Caelin's weasel familiar.

Backgrounds, races, and classes, I feel, are really self explanatory, easy to figure out, and easy to plot out on character sheets in the new edition.  While it took us about three hours to make characters, it was mostly because we were explaining things, chatting, eating tasty food that I cooked (and doughnuts that Brandie and Eric brought), and snuggling a puppy that was very happy he had multiple people around him.  The only part of character creation that seemed odious was spell selection for our casters (who just so happen to be two of our newbies).  The rest of the book isn't awesomely laid out, but it's done well enough that finding things isn't a problem.  The spell section really really really needs a short description of what each spell does right next to it.  Having to page to the actual entry to figure out what some of the (very complex or poorly named) spells do is a touch annoying.  Pathfinder does it, and their PHB was printed long before 5th Edition was even in the works. The index is also kinda annoying. It has several entries that refer you to other index entries instead of just giving you a page number.

That complaint aside (as it is kinda minor, all things said and done), the system seems quite fun, easy, and easy to teach. Most of the new players already have a good idea of what their characters can do already (although I'm printing up a sheet of what their spells do for Caelin and Tracy, because they have a couple spells with different modes such as Thaumaturgy).  We didn't actually play though, mostly because of time constraints and us taking our time with character creation.  We're having our first session on Labor day coming up, so I look forward to putting them through their paces.  I do find it entertaining that three of the five characters (Caelin's Dragonborn Wizard, Tracy's Tiefling Druid, and Brandie's Gnome Rogue) are chaotic neutral and Aaron is playing his Dwarf Paladin as lawful good despite being told he doesn't have to.  I have plot hooks and stuff to make up for that disparity in the party though at least, and I have quite a bit of DM experience, so hopefully they don't kill each other.  I highly doubt they will.


  1. There is a dragon on the cover. It's dead, and being worn as a giant's armor--but it's there.

  2. While it's a bold fashion statement, and it proves that the giant is a badass and the adventurers are proper fucked, it (as has been said on the Two Nerds podcast about first impressions of 5th Edition) is a perfect cover for a Monster Manual, but not for a Player's Handbook that is the first look at a brand new edition of a game with "Dragons" in the title.