By Trevor Law
I love Dungeons and Dragons. I started out on 3.5 in college and really enjoyed the game. Then came Pathfinder and boy did I fall in love with not just the system, but also the campaign setting itself. It has so many options in just the core book, that since I started playing it in 2008 that I can still find and play a unique and interesting character using just the core, “FEAR MY PALADIN, ABYSSAL BLOODLINE SORCERER!” As I was falling in love with Pathfinder, I developed a love/hate relationship with DnD 4th edition. I found the system too cookie cutter and the abilities so generic it didn’t even seem to matter what class did what. They were however the only source for one of the best campaign settings of all time, Faerun. So I would have to check out 4th edition stuff just so I could keep up with what was going on in that universe. I will admit I am not a big fan of Wizards of the Coast and even less of a fan of Hasbro who bought them. They make some good board games but I loath Magic the Gathering and I feel they are among the worst at splitting up things needlessly so you are forced to buy more crap. So my initial thoughts on 5th edition were not very positive and my assumptions were not kind at all. Then, me and a few friends got our hands on the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual, as well as an adventure path about the Drow called Out of the Abyss.
We started out just building a few characters and one of us just running a few goof off sessions. I built a Half-Orc Barbarian and at first I was really underwhelmed by the character building options. All I could think was “I’d rather be playing Pathfinder. I could do soooo much more with this guy.” We started playing and I found the combat somewhat challenging, and the rules were pretty simple. I found it to be a simple system that was pretty bare bones. As we played around with it though, I noticed I was roleplaying a little differently than I normally would. I was more immersed in my character and more focused on dealing with the Non-Player Characters. Here I was, an experienced roleplayer, feeling like I was roleplaying for the first time.
I then decided to begin the adventure path. I am an experienced Dungeon Master so it didn’t take me very long to get everything setup. I also had an inexperienced player and it took her 30 minutes to build a level one character with very little help. I realized then that this system might have a lot more perks than I thought. We played our first session and a good time was had. The party made it to level two and began their fight for freedom against the evil Drow. As a D.M., I was annoyed that they didn’t have the NPCs fully built but it wasn’t very hard for me to piece them together and when things got started, it didn’t really slow things down once the NPCs were written out . The party members didn’t need to check the rules very often, because there weren’t a lot of modifiers to deal with.
This brings me to the craziest part of the whole thing. DnD 5th ed. brings a lot more roleplaying back into the game BECAUSE of a lack of customization. Normally you are having to keep track of so much that it distracts from the actual game and so it lends itself more towards powergaming than actually rping and playing a character. I rarely saw any metagame moments from my experienced players and even my new player didn’t do it very often. The system really is a breath of fresh air for experienced players like myself and is a great way to introduce new players to the idea of pencil and paper RPGs.
Of course this wouldn’t be without some controversy. A lot of people are complaining about how Wizards is just trying to create a system that will appeal to the lowest common denominator and they are trying to use it to expand the brand into other games. Essentially trying to suck gamers into spending more money on DnD. To those I say “I’m glad they are doing just that.” Getting more people interested in roleplaying and Dungeons and Dragons is a GOOD thing, and of course a company is going to expand their brand to make more money. However unlike Magic the Gathering where you are required to spend money to be a great player, all you still need is a one time investment with 5th ed. If you see a board game you like, then great play it, but you don’t HAVE to buy it to be good at, or enjoy the game. I enjoy some of the board games based around Faerun and have found them to be fun and very engaging.
I went into this review expecting to launch into a vicious attack of the system and I have been proven wrong and I am a fan of it. I still love Pathfinder and I still enjoy the system, but now I have a causal system that I can use to ease new players into the idea. This is a great system to play with your kids, and is great for people who have never cracked open a PHB. I give this system a thumbs up, look forward to playing more of it, and can’t wait for more books to be relesed. Well done Wizards of the Coast, you money grubbing Dwarves! You have found yet another way to take my money!