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
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.
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 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
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
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
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.
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!