Monday, October 27, 2014

Looking at the 5E Player's Handbook - part 1

There's finally been enough time to get started reading the new edition.

Cover - I'm still undecided about the cover. It is quiet good fantasy art, but is it D&D? The fire giant on the cover is far too large unless they are going to radically increase the the size of giants in the new monstr manual. Fire giants have always been about 12' tall and this one is at least 30' tall. I know I'm nitpicking, but having seen far too many manga-esque drawings in which ordinary humans are shown using giant swords that would weigh more than they do, any exaggeration of size seems silly.

The text on the back cover is simple and enticing - no problems there. And the odd smooth to rough transition on the back cover is noticeable, but really unimportant.

Cost - $49.95 for 328 pages (counting covers and blank pages). Ouch! If anyone wonders why it's so difficult to recruit new players, the rather steep entry fee might be a factor.  

Binding - Having had more than one game book fall apart after heavy reading, I've started to appreciate quality binding. Although only time will determine how well it lasts, this seems to be exceptionally well bound and unlikely to fall apart.

Preface - There's not too much to say about a preface, but with quotes like "collaborative creation," "create epic stories," and "strengthen friendships" in the text, it's clear the game is again on the right track. D&D isn't a video game; it's better than that, and should emphasize it.

Introduction -  It's difficult to remember not knowing what a role-playing game is, so it's really impossible for me to judge how effective the introduction is at explaining this. It seems to good with one exception. The overused, and frankly insulting, comparison to "childhood games of make-believe" serves no positive purpose and gives outsiders a completely wrong idea of what gaming is. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson weren't outside playing a fantasy equivalent to "Cowboys and Indians" and decided to make some rules to see who fireballed who first. absurd. It is wargaming with elements of theatrical method acting and collaborative storytelling mixed in, the proportion of each of these varying from group to group. Still, despite that pet-peeve, the introduction seems pretty good overall.

Step-by-step characters - As the title notes, this small section gives an overview of the steps in creating a character. There's nothing unusual here and each step is covered in more detail later in the book.

Races - Here we start getting to the meat of the book. All the old races from 1e are here, although gnomes half-elves, and half-orcs are considered "uncommon." There are only two "new" races, and both have appeared before. Tieflings have been around so long that they are almost "old school." I don't really care much one way or another about them, though it is interesting that they made it into the core and aasimar didn't. And unfortunately, dragonborn did make it  into the latest edition. This race has always seemed to be little more than munchkin bait for those who want a character who has a breath weapon. Although an exceptional role-player could turn one into an interesting character, far more if these will be played walking flame (or acid, lightning, ect.) throwers.

One thing I really like about the races is that there was clearly an effort made to make each race feel different through descriptions and rules. With different traits, as well as stat bonuses, each race is subtly different and has its own flavor.

While I do gave a few curmudgeonly complaints, so far this new edition is quite impressive and a vast improvement over the fourth edition.

Next time - Classes,