I’ve been playing D&D for a long long time. I started with the red box, then 2nd edition, and Pathfinder and 4th edition and DungeonWorld, and SimpleDnd and on and on and on. Lately everyone has been tripping over themselves about how amazing 5th edition is. So, like everyone else, I did the play test, I bought the new Player’s Handbook (PHB) and tried to love it. However I’m struggling to see the upside of the game.
Recently I’ve been DM’ing a game at the local comic book store. The choice was made to go with 5e instead of other editions because so many people were asking for it. Having read through the starter box, the PHB and the Monster Manual, I jumped at the chance. This is where it all became real.
The first game was set to start at 5:30pm, we didn’t start playing until after 7pm due to the extended character creation period. I keep encountering this issue with new players. The PHB is very nice, but creating a character is cumbersome to say the least. So many things to add and roll up – things that have little or no impact on the gameplay are baked into the process. Players end up frustrated and burned out before the first monster is ever encountered. Unless you get off on doing all that work as part of the game it can be trying.
The quick build options really offer little more than to take away any choice from a new player, you still have to look up all of the items, damage, spells and such. IMO it would have been better to include some pre-gens in the PHB as opposed to having me hunt them down on the internet or purchase the box set. Would it kill WotC to add page tips so you can easily jump around when creating a character? ex: Sorcerer Character – find you spells on page 204 or Pick a Primary Weapon: staff 1d8 dmg, dagger 1d4 damage, etc.
Not only that, but adding backgrounds and inspiration and trinkets? Talk about taking the fun out of making the character your own. There is lots of variety, but it’s all fluff and adds next to nothing to the game. At least the first adventure most player experience is solid: The Lost Mine of Phandelver.
Let’s take a minute to chat about the POS that is the character sheet.
It’s the Pathfinder character sheet, but with the ability bonuses repeated and some important info moved to the back of the sheet. Things are not grouped by use or function, they’re just randomly designed to look good. Most games we spend about 10-15% of the time pointing out where to look for bonuses and rolls.
Gameplay overall feels more like Pathfinder 2nd Edition that something fresh and new. Everyone talks about Pathfinder and munchkinization and how it killed D&D. That is 100% here. The first couple of levels feels like Old School D&D (YEAH!), then 3rd Level BAM! the munchkin is out of the box. On top of that as a DM there are a multitude of special rules that come into effect at 3rd level.
Is it fun? Maybe. Is it fresh? No. I’m finding it very difficult to go through all the pain right now for just a few adventures when I can pickup Pathfinder or my AD&D books and have tons of variety and adventures right at my finger tips. As new content comes out I will revisit 5e, but for now I’ll pass.
Just don’t get me started on the Free Basic Rules…