Friday, 4 July 2014

Some Thoughts on the Release of 5e

Well, the day has come, as we all knew it would, and the first look at 5e Basic is here.

And it doesn't suck.

In fact, it exceeds my expectations, which were admittedly not all that high after the debacle that was the 4e release. The release of 5e heralds a reverse of some of the disastrous trends that began to emerge in the later 3e era, and certainly seems to be the most playable (and most entertaining to read) WotC-D&D to date. There are definitely some things here I like, and the things that I dislike are easily fixed, or at least seem to be easily fix-able on a light read-through. It does seem like WotC listened and learned. Congratulations to all the designers!

I, for one, will not be switching. This is not because the product you've put out isn't good - all indications are that it is much better than 3e or 4e - but my read-through didn't indicate a game that was better than Dungeon Crawl Classics, or even close to it. I'll be going over it with a finer-toothed comb later to see if there are materials I can cull to improve my DCC game. The table of cool objects immediately popped out, and I am sure that I can use that to spur some creativity. Or reward the odd 0-level PC heading into his first adventure.....? Something to think about.

Anyway, here is my unsolicited advice for WotC:

It is absolutely okay to reference the shared fictional space that D&D has created over the years - it's probably a great idea, in that it helps to build a sense of community. But I suggest that you take a page from DCC, and consider grounding your adventures in something other than pure "D&D fantasy". Stretch the game; take it new places. That way, at least you can sell me adventures. Seriously. For all the angst that leaping away from D&D's roots in format that came with 4e, some of the ideas in adventure content were a breath of fresh air for the very same reason.

Try to avoid making your adventures too linear. That trend started in 3e, eventually became the "Delve Format", and means that I won't be buying. Even an adventure that is narrow in its focus, and has a definite beginning, midpoint, and end, can be far from linear if the PCs have a lot of choices along the way with real impact to how the narrative unfolds. Examine Bride of the Black Manse or Sailors on the Starless Sea, by Harley Stroh, if you don't know what I mean.

Finally, answer questions about licensing sooner rather than later. Really. The 4e GSL left a sour taste in some of our mouths, and while we are fairly certain that WotC will never be going back to the OGL, making what you are doing clear as soon as possible is the best way to either (1) quell suspicion that the licensing is going to suck, or (2) if those suspicions prove true, provide an opportunity to decide whether or not the taste of the licensing is worth the medicine of using it. 

I get a lot of great materials for my game by talented third party publishers. If I was to play your game, I would have a vested interest in your licensing.

Overall, Kudos to WotC for producing something worth looking at, even if it is not going to supplant my current game. I am not seeking change for the sake of change, and even if I was, this wouldn't be my "go-to" game as it currently stands, but I think WotC has begun to steer the ship in a better direction. 

There will be people playing this game, and loving it, and that is good.


  1. Based on what I've read I feel the same.
    5e is 'better' but not best for what I want to do with a D&D-like game.
    For one thing it's got a lot of baggage... a bit of a committee-designed feel to it, trying to hard to be all things to all people, while sporting some ugly scars remaining from 3e/4e.
    Everyone I see talking about it, most liking it, mention something they'd change... and for me, I'd change so much that I don't see the point, especially when the games I want to play are already on my shelves... DCC and other OSR games among them.

    1. It could be a lot better; it could be a lot worse. This is a "take it or leave it" edition, for me, but it is certainly not an edition (from what we have seen so far) that I would despise. I could play if someone else were running it.

      Some parts remind me of things I had done for RCFG (which others had also done for other games), and that is good. I don't mind not knowing how WotC expects XP to be awarded yet, and I don't mind fighters being able to surge to regain some hit points. That you can regain ALL hit points in a relatively short span recreates a 4e problem.....that should be easy enough to deal with, if the rest of the game is good enough to make one want to give it a go.

      We will need to see how long the monster stat blocks are in adventures, which I have not seen yet. I don't want 1/4 to 1/2 a page for a simple monster.

      All in all, I agree with your assessment. 5e is not a bad version of D&D, and it is the best WotC-D&D, but it isn't the best D&D-type game out there, at least for what I want from the game. It does serve to remind me that RCFG had options that I wanted to convert to DCC. I foresee a small sourcebook in my future.