I’m a little late to the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons party. Many years ago I stopped playing D&D and focused on other RPGs. I glanced at 4th Edition when it came out and was not a fan of it at all. But I have recently acquired the 3 core rule books for 5th Edition and thought I would look it over.
It has been my experience that the even numbered editions have been bad ideas and not as popular with gamers. Especially with the longtime players and DM’s. While the odd numbered editions do far better with the base and new players. I liked the 1st Edition and the 3rd Edition was good as well. So let’s turn the pages in the 5th Edition.
We are still using the d20 System with the 5th Edition but a lot has changed. None of the three d20 editions are directly compatible with one another. Conversion guides are necessary if you are converting a current campaign and characters over.
The basic core concepts are there; race, class, level, alignment. And D&D’s classic fire-and-forget Vancian magic system. And as a d20 System game the core rule remains as well. There is a target number called a Difficulty Class and that number or higher must be rolled an d20 (20 sided die) in order to succeed. Additionally the basic rules to the game are still open content and usable by other publishers without having to be specifically licensed or pay a licensing fee.
I always liked the idea of non-weapon proficiencies since it was introduced as an option near the end of the development of the 1st Edition of the game. And they become core in all editions after the 1st. But now in the 5th Edition a player cannot choose which of these skills their character is proficient in, they call come from the choices the player makes with race, class, and the new concept of a background. There is some choice in those of course but it’s very limited. Also the new rules seem to echo the 1st Edition rules on non-weapon proficiencies. One is either proficient or not. There are no longer degrees of proficiency and having “max rank” in a specific skill.
Feats, another aspect that has changed in the 5th Edition. Theses were introduced in the 3rd Edition of D&D as a way of customizing the abilities of one’s character. Some of these were just further abilities of a character class or ways of expending that character with specific training or other innate abilities. Now they are optional, and there are a lot fewer of them. But those can be more powerful than the originals. Other things feats did are now built into the character’s race, class, and background.
Ability scores have been capped again in the 5th Edition. That cap is 20 for your player characters. Monsters and the gods can have higher scores still however. When a character reaches 20th level they can get Epic Boons. But this too is a new cap on levels that wasn’t previously there in 3rd Edition. Only at this point can Ability scores be raised above 20. But there is a new cap of 30.
D&D has long used the gods of the ancient world. Across the full spectrum of classical Greek and Norse mythology to others both historic and fictional. These deities were worshiped by the character and granted the Cleric class it’s spells and the very needed ability to turn the undead.
The use of these gods has given D&D some flak by fundamentalist Christian groups over the decades but its all unfounded nonsense. This is a game after all and not real life. And as a Christian myself, I see no problem with this storytelling. And any DM is certainly able to incorporate real world faiths into his game if this is wanted instead. But as it stands right now, the gods are getting the boot and are barely a few scant pages with hardly any details at all for those Clerics to use them in the game.
And the Clerics themselves have gotten a bit of the shaft as well in this new edition. Specifically with the number of times that they can turn the undead. This has been drastically limited and reduced from previous editions. Not a good thing when your DM sends a horde of undead after the party.
Another class that appears to have been downgraded is the iconic wizard. A 20th level wizard in the 3rd Edition had an arsenal of 40 spells that could be unleashed towards whatever threatened the wizard of the adventuring party. Yet here in the 5th Edition, that number has been reduced to a mere 27. I’ll admit here that 5 of those spells are 0 level cantrips that can be cast at will, but they wont do a lot of harm or help.
Many of the iconic monsters are still present, including some favorites of mine like vampires and the Mind Flayer. Some other monsters have made a comback after being absent from the d20 System editions. I haven’t yet had the time to look though all the monsters to see how they compare with previous editions yet. But I like seeing some of them still around.
One aspect is completely missing from the core rules. That is psionics. The psychic mental powers that are not magic and come from within the character. In the 1st Edition psionic powers were included in an appendix of the Player’s Handbook. These were good but the concept was greatly expanded upon with an article in Dragon Magazine, issue 78.
In the 2nd Edition, psionics got its own source book but it wasn’t treated well. It was like a bad joke compared to the expanded material in Dragon 78.
The 3rd Edition just made psionics into a terrible 3rd kind of magic. Taking the worst ideas of the 2nd Edition and running it into the ground.
Thankfully Green Ronin came along as a 3rd party d20 System publisher and created the Psychic’s Handbook. And it was brilliant. It treated psionics properly and made it usable in the d20 System again.
I’ve seen some unofficial attempts at psionics for the 5th Edition of D&D but all have come short to the high standards set by Dragon 78 and the work of Green Ronin. I hope someone does it right.
All in all the jury is still out on the 5th Edition of D&D. It has both good and bad points. And I would have to issue some homebrew rules to correct a few of those failings that I have seen if I was going to run a game with it.
But it’s not bad. Go out and adventure!