Friday, June 6, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons On My Mind

Dungeons and Dragons, the grandaddy of all RPGs, has been on my mind quite a bit as of late. If it wasn't for D&D I probably would have never turned into a tabletop gamer, it was basically the game that started it all for me.

I started playing D&D back in the glory days of 2nd Edition (AD&D with Skills and Powers FTW!) and played 3.0, 3.5 and most recently Pathfinder. I understand that nostalgia often clouds your vision, but I felt that I had the most fun back in 2nd Ed. Granted, it was the first system I played under and the campaign we all had back then was beyond epic (I'll do a post about it later), but it just felt simpler. 3.0, 3.5 and Pathfinder were good but it felt like there was sooooo many options that it began to weigh things down.

Pathfinder wasn't as bad as 3.0/3.5 but when I took my first steps into DMing Pathfinder I felt overwhelmed. Part of it could be the group I was DMing for consisted of 8 people (yea, I know, insane) but at times I felt like I was always fighting an uphill battle trying to keep track of multiple things at once and how certain mechanics worked. Tons of charts, prestige classes up the wazoo, Dan rolling a character that did nothing but grapple (I still hate him for that) and stat blocks for enemies that were waaay too wordy in my opinion made me take a step back from DMing for the time being. I would love to do it again, even with Pathfinder, but I would have to run it with a much smaller group.

Anyone and everyone that has played or is currently playing Dungeons and Dragons knows that 5th Edition, or D&D Next, or Basic D&D or whatever the hell they are going to call it is coming out this year. I was mildly interested at first but the more I read about it, and the playtest I was part of, the more and more I became interested.

For those who don't know, the beginner box is being released in July. The other cool thing is there will be a basic PDF released at the same time for FREE! I think Wizards of the Coast made a really smart move by doing this. It will let old timers who were not part of the playtest to see what the new rules are all about. It will also let people who play other systems or have never even played a tabletop RPG to check out the rules as well. WoTC claims that the free PDF will let you go up to level 5 with your character and everything you need (to some extent I would assume) will be in there.

As for the other books, WoTC is doing a staggered release. The Players Handbook is coming out in August and the Dungeon Masters Guide is coming out in November. WoTC clams they are doing this to make sure they get every book done right before it hits the shelves. Some are disappointed with this but I can see where they are coming from. WoTC only has 15 people (not counting playtesters) working on D&D at this time, and only half are working on D&D 5th. That's a pretty small development team compared to what they had in the past. Even Paizo has double the amount of people working on Pathfinder then WoTC has working on D&D at this moment. WoTC claims that a DM won't need the DMG to run things, but who knows how that will really turn out. I hope their claim is true but I would also like them to get things right before it hits the shelves, so hopefully it's worth the wait?

WoTC also has a 2 part adventure path coming out at the same time called Rise of Tiamat that takes place in the Forgotten Realms. Two cool things about this. First, it's being written by the awesome team at Kobold Press. WoTC outsourcing things to reputable companies is a really good sign because there was barely any of that going on in 4th edition. The second is the Kobold Press guys said that the Realms will not be as high magic as it was in the past. There will be no players walking around glowing like a Christmas tree because they have a ton of magic items. A much needed change of pace IMO.

D&D 5th, from what I've gleamed so far, is a bit of a throwback to 2nd Ed. There are still elements of 3.0/3.5 and even 4th (which I never played) in it, but it dials things back a bit. There are not as many charts, countless feats and prestige classes. I understand this can change in the future but from what I've seen it's much simpler. The rules also get rid of a lot of the + and - modifiers to rolls. Instead there is Advantage and Disadvantage. Instead of having to check the DM screen or rule books to see what bonuses you get when someone is stunned or prone or dazed you just get to roll 2 D20s and you take the highest roll out of the two. Disadvantage is reversed where you take the lowest of the 2. Things like this cut out a lot of clutter and would help speed things along. I had a rough time with remembered all the bonuses and penalties in Pathfinder so you can just imagine how much I love the Advantage/Disadvantage system. Every other part of game has been either condensed or simplified.

The feeling I got from the new direction WoTC is taking is they want the game to revolve around the story and narrative more than the combat. Combat isn't really taking a step back IMO, it will just run smoother and not take up as much time as previous editions. There seems to be more of an emphasis on Role Playing then killing as many bad guys as possible.

All in all, I'm very excited and can't wait to get my hands on the rules when they come out. Hopefully I can find enough time to cut my teeth on this edition with a small, dedicated group so I can get the feel of things. If D&D 5th does indeed feel more like 2nd Ed, I will be one happy nerd!

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