Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5e feels familiar

I've had the 5th Edition (or D&D Next! or New D&D, or whatever they're calling it) playtest docs in my hands for about as long as anyone else.  Haven't actually played with it yet, but a few scattered impressions:

  • Reminds me a lot of second edition AD&D.  This is very nostalgic for me, personally, because 2nd ed. AD&D was what was out and what I was playing when I got into roleplaying games.
  • The OSR seems to have won the day.  Wizards is still claiming that the final version of the game will support styles of play that accommodate people who like the 4e style of play, but what they're giving people as their first taste of the game looks as little like 4e as 4e looked like 3rd edition.  Instead, we get something that looks like the style of game TSR published 20 years ago, with a few modernish tweaks.
  • That being said, I know that AD&D 2nd Edition is where things really "went wrong" in the minds of some OSR purists (growth of tons of player options that unbalanced the game, endless supplements and official settings, added "realism", novel tie-ins, the Dragonlance "game is story" railroad, etc.).
  • Based on looking over the book and the character sheet, I can see teaching someone 5e who was new to gaming.  It seems like a single character sheet actually contains enough information to give a newbie a reasonable idea of how to run their character.  I don't feel like I can say the same about 3e or 4e.  4e seemed to cater to kids who grew up with the Magic-style "cards are powers" paradigm, but not everyone who comes to an RPG is going to know collectible card games.
  • Waiting for character creation rules to see how far back we're going on the race/class/level restriction stuff- will Dwarf Wizards and Elf Paladins get the heave-ho again?  Will we see the return of limited progression in non-favored classes?  Personally I hope not- I always found those things to be a pointless barrier to playing the sort of character that you want to play.
  • Waiting with anxiety to see what indignity is going to be inflicted on my beloved gnomes by this new edition.  Current guess: left out of the core races for the 5e equivalent of the PBH, gain bug eyes and rock crystals instead of hair, favored class continues to be Bard, some obscure interaction between a STR penalty, size levels, and encumbrance renders them incapable of carrying both a missile weapon and sufficient ammunition for it.  You heard it here first.
  • Backgrounds and themes/schemes look interesting.  Backgrounds look like an attempt to merge the old 2e Secondary Skills with the skill/proficiency system,  and Themes/Schemes hopefully prevent infinite class proliferation.  The difference between Themes and Schemes looks a bit unclear at the moment.
Read on for my take on the game as a whole and thoughts for the future.