Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons: The Review Edition

So these are my final thoughts on the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I've already covered how I've felt about the diversity of the core book and if you've read the basic rules then you have a good handle on what this book is offering. Rules wise there isn't much new that you hadn't already read. The Dungeon's Master Guide will have more rules crunchy stuff to consider when it releases in October. That leaves multiclassing and feats as the only new crunchy stuff (oh and of course an expanded spell list).

What the PHB does is gives you more opitions on what you already got from the basic. So you are getting an additional five races. Considered uncommon you are picking up the Dragonborn (which I do like), Gnome, Half Elf, Half Orc and Tiefling. I'm left wondering why the Aasimar were not included. I think if you're going to have Tiefling then you really need to have the Aasimar. It adds symmetry in my opinion.

There are eight new classes to chose from as well and this is where the meat of the book comes in. You get the Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Sorcerer and Warlock. The Warlock is by far my favorite class, mostly due to the fact that I can realize the concept of Raziel from the Legacy of Kain series. This alone makes the game worth playing. The other classes from the basic rules also gets more archetypes.
My next character, a warlock.
Archetypes are the new way in which the classes can differentiate themselves. Overall I like it. This means that two fighters don't have to be the same. The only problem I have is that the classes themselves feel pretty lean. Most of the classes have two or three archetypes to work with. I am sure that more will be coming in future books but having 3 choices feels light. The only classes that felt complete based on just the core book was the Cleric, the Fighter and the Wizard. Everyone else I feel could have used more, especially the Sorcerer. I was also not pleased with just about every class gaining access to spells. It makes magic feel far to common. These additional casting archetypes for classes like Fighter and Rogue aren't powerful per se, far from it. Just I would liked fewer magic options for classes not devoted to magic.

Multiclassing is pretty straight forward. Each class has ability score prerequisites if you wish to multiclass into it. Otherwise its very straight forward. Proficiency level is determined by character level and since everyone moves up the same track it makes combining classes easier. It only gets tricky when you're adding casting classes.

I liked the feats. Feats are powerful and useful. Gone are long feat trees and chains. Instead for the most part its just the single feat. Since you are swapping out an ability score improvement to have one it's good to know that you aren't losing out. This is also good for Human characters as I was unsure of their bonuses were worthwhile. With the Human variant option you can gain a starting feat and overall I feel that makes the Human race more appealing. I didn't have that feeling when during my first read of them from basic.

I'm not sure if this game will regain the audience it lost to Pathfinder but I do think it has enough merit to create it's own niche with new players. I think overall those coming over from 4th Edition will be happy with it as well as many people who played 2nd Edition. The mechanics are straight forward and dare I say elegant.

With all that said I am left somewhat underwhelmed. To be frank the book is just too light on material. While the Appendixes are useful (they cover such issues as conditions to the planes and pantheons) there isn't much else to sink your teeth into. There is no advice on running a game. Nothing for creating your own adventures. No world building advice or hell even a world to toss players into. No real listing of monsters. It just feels incomplete with out the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Masters Guide. If you're new to gaming overall you almost have to buy the adventure books and the starter set.  And this shouldn't be the case.

Most other games have long adapted to making the core book the only book you really need. Pathfinder core is a huge book in comparison and it's filled with a lot more useful stuff. Yes they sale you a DMG and an MM but you can get by with just the core. The same can be said of 13th Age ( a game I don't even like). 13th Age gives you everything you need to run a game in just it's core. Setting info, gaming advice, monsters, magic items etc etc. Take a look at Edge of Empire, Age of Rebellion and Shadowrun (all games recently released with in the past two to three years) and you can see that these games are all selling you a complete experience.

For all the good of the rules themselves Wizards of the Coast falls flat on providing a complete and full game. For this reason an otherwise fun and awesome game is reduced to something that I feel is a mediocre product. I don't think it had to be this way which is sad. So overall I would rank it at 3 fro's out of a possible of 5. If you're just player then the PHB is a nice book. If you're a GM (and a new one at that) then you are gonna have to buy two other books. And I feel we are now in an age of gaming where a publisher should strive for providing you with a full experience in the core book and use its other books to develop on the idea's all present in the core.


  1. D&D 5th ed seems to be an in-between. From what I've read about it so far, it's not as crunchy as PF but gives more customization than OSR. I might get it eventually, but normally I'll want either one or the other (plenty of complexity and customization or just old-school simplicity with race as class if need be.). I dunno. Spoony's review of it in Counter Monkey has made me more hesitant to pick it up. Not that I agreed with everything he said, but apparently it's a bit too easy to make an armored mage with little consequence. Can anyone confirm if that's true?

    1. I haven't been able to fiddle around with the builds enough to confirm it. Though it would surprise me. Though I'll have to check out Counter Monkey's review.

      All things considered I don't think it's a bad game. A lot of people seem to be getting that impression based on my disappointment with what was left out. I just kinda expect more these days. Maybe other companies have spoiled me. Who knows. But I do think it's fun. I've been playing through one of the pre mades with my gaming group and we are having a blast.

  2. Tieflings without aasimar, plus warlock class = final stake in the heart of Satanic Panic overreaction.

    1. That sounds like a wonderful idea for a paper.