D&D Returns

So, by many accounts, the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, released a few years ago, was kind of a stinker. Players have been eagerly awaiting the new Fifth edition, and that prize is now being released, in increments.

So far they’ve released a “Starter Set” that includes a short rulebook, a (surprisingly meaty) adventure, some pre-gen characters, and dice. The Player’s Handbook is coming out in August, and the remainder of the “big three” rulebooks will follow in the coming months.

What’s most interesting to me is that you can download, absolutely free, a substantially longer version of the basic rulebook. Unlike the Starter Set rulebook, this one includes rules for actually creating characters, and a lot more rules in general. I haven’t played D&D in years (decades!), but my nephew is interested in it, so I promised him I would run an adventure for him. I bought the Basic Set, so I figured I’d run him through the beginning of the included adventure — show him how it’s done — and then give him the set.

I’ve notices that the downloadable file has a few issues. Some things are pure formatting — the page numbers are on the wrong sides of the page, for example (even numbers on the right, odd numbers on the left — contrary to virtually every book published in the last century). But there are times when it seems that the authors are so close to the game that they don’t recognize when they’ve failed to actually explain how something works.

A good example is the section on saving throws: It tells you to roll a d20, and it talks about how the roll might be modified by circumstances or stats. And… that’s all it says. What do I compare the roll to? It doesn’t actually say. I’ve noted a couple other places where they’ve done similar — explaining how something works as though they assume you already know how it works.

This is probably no problem for long-time players, but it’s a problem for anybody who picks up that book as a new player and tries to learn from it. Now, this is listed as “version 0.1”, so hopefully the final books will be better proofed; but I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I’m sure I can figure things out, but I shouldn’t have to — that’s what the rule book is for!

At any rate, I hope the new edition is good. My nephew is excited to play, and I can remember how much I loved the game — especially when it was all fresh for me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go slay some orcs.

Comments are invited and encouraged

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