5th Edition

Apologies for my delayed post following the release of the 5th edition Basic Rules and Starter Set. Between being at a convention and seeing my family off on their annual summer road trip, things have been hectic here at the Grognard’s lair.

So there are basically two things at issue, it seems to me. First is the question of the game itself, and second is the question of the people who helped write it.

As far as the game itself goes, I like it. I like it a lot. I’ve played various incarnations of the playtest rules, at low level, high level, and in between, and it’s a lot of fun to play. I certainly don’t know it as well as I know 1st edition, but I suspect that mechanical proficiency will come in time. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it’s not an unplayable wreck like 4th edition (oh shut up – I tried it, I hated it, I’m entitled to my opinion).

There are a lot of hit points, both for monsters and PCs, and the math seems to have been inflated across the board to accommodate that, much like pinball machines. I’m also not a fan of the seeming speed with which the lower experience levels seem intended to fly by, but they made a conscious choice to say that 3rd level was the “real” starting level, and I can live with it.

Things I especially like include the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. That’s something that is so blindingly obvious that I am astounded it hasn’t been thought of and widely adopted ere now. It’s also something that could be used in a 0E or 1E game with little trouble, and I might well do so.

Something else I like are backgrounds. They’re somewhat analogous to 2nd Edition’s kits, but they’re not class-specific. There is a lot of potential in the background mechanic for setting-specific material, and I expect to see a ton of expansion in this area in short order. Not only new backgrounds that are unique to particular campaign settings and locales therein, but expansions of the ones we have (particularly larger lists of personality traits).

I like the relative emphasis on role playing overall. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s nice to see that everything isn’t about combat and bonuses and movement and pushing 3 squares and the like.

So count me on the 5th Edition bandwagon.

Now as to the second point, it seems like some people have brought out their axes and are vigorously grinding them. I count myself as being on good terms with folks on both sides of the kerfluffle, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s someone telling me that I can’t be friends with you if I’m also friends with that other person.

But I’ve got to say it really looks like the people who are going berserk about the RPGPundit (who pisses a lot of people off, but knows his stuff, and he and I agree probably 75% of the time) and Zak S (whose stuff isn’t really my cup of tea, but more power to him) being listed as consultants for the new edition don’t really have any legs to stand on, factually. They’re not racists, or homophobes, or misogynists, or whatever the hell else their detractors are saying tonight.

Those detractors seem to be desperately looking for anything and everything they can possibly say because they have a personal animus against the two of them, probably because “they’re mean jerks” isn’t a bad enough charge to justify their hopping up and down and beating their collective breast. So please cool it, guys. “I won’t buy your game because someone I don’t like is in the credits”? C’mon. I mean, it’s not like they listed Marion Zimmer Bradley or Ed Kramer as consultants…

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

10 thoughts on “5th Edition

  1. Yeah I am in the same camp; liking what I see so far and just not 100% with the rules yet to run it like I run AD&D.

    But I am happy with what I see so far.

  2. Agreed. I'm really liking 5th and want to play it NOW! 4th had it's points (liked how characters always had something they could contribute in combat), but it was a MMO for the tabletop and mostly useless.

  3. First a disclaimer: I don't have the Starter set; I haven't been involved in the playtesting; I haven't seen 5e an informed DM perspective.

    But I have studied the Basic set pretty thoroughly and while I see some positive things, overall I don't like it. I've commentted a bit about it at

    If I had to choose the one thing that annoys me the most, it would have to be Backgrounds. They are not like 2e Kits. Kits were analogous to Prestige Classes. Backgrounds are like 2e Comeplte XYz Guide "Personalities" — a very optional section intended to be used only by first time players as an aid to learning to roleplay.

    What happened to DIY? It feels like a massive part of the imagination, creativity and fun of designing and playing my character has been ripped out and a set of cheesy cardboard cutouts left in its place.

  4. I'm definitely in favor of it. I had originally planned to wait for the DMG, but I'm thinking as soon as the PHB and the rest of Basic are available I'm going to have to get off the ground with it.

  5. I'm a fan of 5e as well. There are a few things I'm not really fond of (like the quick advancement you mentioned), but the nature of 5e makes it far easier to houserule than, say, 3-4e where so much of the math was tied into needing plus x to hit or save at level y.

    Adjusting monsters on the fly (adding a goblin shaman by giving him a couple of low level spells for instance) is soooo much simpler than 3-4e as well.

    My group has had more fun playing 5e than we have in more than a decade!

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