So I’ve finally gotten the chance to finish reading the D&D Basic rule set. For those who haven’t followed the new iteration of Dungeons and Dragons, D&D Basic is a free rules pdf that allows you to create characters from level 1-20 from a handful of classes and a handful of races. For a deeper experience of D&D you’d need to buy the full Players Handbook, but for people unsure of if they want to get into D&D then this pdf is ideal for introducing them to the game and how it works.
So the rules for the game are pretty straightforward. It has a very slimmed down and streamlined feel to it. And I know normally when someone says that they mean it to be an insult but in this case I do think this was done for the better. The game doesn’t come off as overly complicated and seems to be ready made to pull in new members. You can see this in the class description when they make recommendations on how to quick build a class. Something I hope they do in the Players Handbook as it’s nice to sometimes be able to do a five minute build for someone.
You get your standard character classes of Fighter, Cleric, Wizard and Rogue. The rest of the classes will be in the core book. You also get some basic races, Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings. So you can very easily replicate the Lord of the Rings experience (well with the exception of no Ranger but otherwise). Instead of massive list of skills and bonus everything gains proficiencies bonus if you are skilled in that area. Each class offers a bonus that scales and as your character develops you gain more proficiencies in more things, such as different skills and weapons groups. So you have less math to keep track of overall. You just basically need to remember what things your character happens to be proficient in and its corresponding bonus.
The races are pretty simple and straight forward. There is the basic race description. This is then followed by sub races which add a bit more to the core race. I get the impression that everyone is meant to be a part of a sub race since the basic races in many cases kinda suck compared to their sub race counterpart. The racial descriptions are also a bit more open, though this isn’t a new thing as I’ve seen them do this even in 3rd Edition. I’ll comment more on that later though.
The classes themselves look fun. And they make you curious about the other options that are avaible to them. Many of the classes choose an archetype which defines the type of character your class is. So for instance if you play a Rogue you have the thief archetype to pick. There are of course more in the Players Handbook and I think this is where the pdf falls short. I get wanting to hold back material so that people buy the book but I do feel that each class should have been presented with two choices on archetypes. This would then give potential buyers a chance to see how different the same class can be. So in some regards this lack is kinda a letdown and does make the classes feel kind of stale.
The game adds in some role playing touches though that I haven’t seen before in a D&D product. There is less emphasis on combat and more emphasis on developing a character. I see this as a good step since Wizards of the Coast is aiming to make this the beginners’ game. Players are even rewarded for playing their characters flaws and quirks by Inspiration points. I’m not a fan of the concept as I do feel role playing should be its own reward but I like the effort they are putting into encouraging people to explore character growth.
I also feel the design of Advantage and Disadvantage was elegant. Basically if you’re in a satiation where you’d have an advantage you get to roll 2 d20s and keep the higher of the two. Flip side if you are disadvantage in a situation you roll 2 d20s and keep the lower of the two. It’s sweet and simple and has less clutter than other editions of the game.
So overall I’d have to say I am impressed with it as a rule set. I’m still waiting to get the final book though to see some of the things left out and of course to see how inclusive of a game it really is. Which brings me back to something I mentioned earlier in the article. The game does make attempts to be more inclusive. There is a discussion on how sexuality and gender work in the new D&D world, in which the game explains that it doesn’t have to be a binary male/female relationship. Wizards of the Coast also previewed a picture of a black character that you’ll see when you open the Players Handbook. This in addition to some very tastefully done artwork of some of the female characters.
And I want to stress something here, this is a good sign. My current reservations are mostly in regards to how far Wizards of the Coast goes with it. It’s one thing to show an occasional black face and make mention of different sexualities and gender identity. It’s another to follow through on that commitment. The bar for this was set very high by other companies, so it does take a bit more than just the one image to make me happy. For instance, while they say elves come in different shades do they depict this? Or will the only time we see an elf that isn’t a shade of white be when we’re looking at a Drow? These are things I don’t know but I’m very interested in seeing.