First off, let me say that I like it. In fact, I couldn’t be more pleased.
During the development and beta testing phases, I was more than a little concerned. It sounded like they were heading in the wrong direction. I really expected to be disappointed.
I have never been so happy to be wrong.
In early 2012, WotC announced that they were developing a new version. They stated what they wanted to do. Some of it I liked. Some of it I didn’t. Much of it I doubted was possible. But I was glad they were trying. It sounded like they had good intentions.
But as the development process moved along, the more I lost faith in the product. I found the playtest packets disappointing and the surveys were outright infuriating. In most cases the questions seemed to take on the form “Do you like Option A, Option B, or a combination thereof?” where I hated both options and a combination would be worse. There was no way to select an Option C or give any real feedback. Clearly, they weren’t listening to the player base so much as trying to rationalize choices that had already been made.
After a while I just quit listening. They would come up with something eventually. Either I’d like it or I wouldn’t. No point in worrying about it. After all, I really had no intention of playing it either way.
Now that’s an odd thing to say. Why would I have any interest at all if I didn’t intend to play it?
To be honest, I think the real question is why would any of the existing player base *want* to play it? If you enjoy d&d, you already have a version that you are partial to. This new edition claims that it will bring all the editions together. I suspect that most DMs already run the version they prefer with bits they like from the others thrown in. So why do any of them care about a new version?
I do care. And there are two reasons for that. They are probably the same reasons that a great many other DMs care.
First off, I want to see if they’ve come up with any new innovative ideas that I haven’t thought of. My game incorporates ideas I’ve gotten from all sorts of sources. So, to me, every edition is basically just source material. And I’m very happy to say that 5e does in fact have lots of interesting new ideas!
Secondly, and far more importantly, I want 5e to develop the kind of players that I would want to invite into my game.
The best place in which to seek new players is a store that sells the related products and sponsers gaming events. When 4e was the current version, gaming stores sold 4e products and sponsored 4e gaming events. If I were to recruit a player from one of these 4e gaming events, odds are that our gaming styles would not mesh and neither of us would be happy.
Naturally, I want these stores to sponsor gaming events that will attract players who enjoy a rule set similar to my own. Since these stores will be sponsoring 5e events, I now have a very vested interest in seeing what 5e will be.
Fortunately, WotC developed 5e into something more similar to my own game that I could have hoped for. There are endless differences of course, but the features and core ideas that I think are important are shared between the two.
5e supports the idea of house rules (optional rules), the DM as the final arbiter, magical items as rare and special (opposed to commodities), ability-based skills, and simplicity. These are all things that I’ve held to be important and I’m very glad to see that 5e has embraced them.
There are many things I don’t like but it would be impossible to create a product that everyone is 100% happy with. These are things that are easily removed/changed and most are actually fairly minor. In many cases, I like these “rules I don’t care for” in that they will give me many things to write about down the road : )
Overall, the good vastly outweighs the bad. Although, as I’ve said, I’m looking for source material and not a new game to play, I wouldn’t mind being a 5e player once in a while. It looks very enjoyable exactly the way it is.
In closing, I’d like to add that I am very happy with the physical product itself. The books, like all recent WotC books, have a sturdy binding and a quality cover. There is an astounding number of images throughout the book. Most are very good. Some are spectacular. Some not so much. But overall the artwork is splendid. My only critique really is that the artwork for the three covers doesn’t make any sense to me. None of these images describes the associated book. They could be randomly interchanged and be just as appropriate. Not especially important, but I think it would be nice if the cover artwork was meaningful to the content of each book.
The layout is also very good. The sections follow a logical order and it is easy to find what you are looking for. The player information is in the PHB and the DM information is back in the DMG. Each entry in the Monster Manual has its own stat block, which I really like. Beholders, for instance, having a shared stat block in earlier editions always annoyed me. Similarly, each monster has its own image. However, it is difficult to show players a picture of a monster (or magic item for that matter) from the books without giving away other information. There is a lot of wonderful artwork and it is wasted if you can’t easily show it to your players. I would really appreciate it if the books included a CD of the images (or preferably the ability to download them from the WotC website).
I expect to write about many aspects of this edition in the future. It may sound like I am picking apart little bits here and there but as a whole I think 5e is an absolute success.
Kudos Wizards of the Coast. Well done!