Over the holidays, I recommended picking up the 5th Edition D&D Player’s Handbook. I failed to realize that I hadn’t really talked about the book here on Ideology of Madness.
Allow me to remedy that mistake.
Let’s start with the book itself. The Player’s Handbook is a 316 page full color hardback book. The book retails at $49.95. The cover illustration of a giant fighting with a hero is just gorgeous and the back cover art of the Hell Hound growling at the melee is also well done. The binding of the book is sturdy and has held up well to multiple references by different people. I mention this because I have purchased books in the past where the binding begins deteriorating after a few uses and this books does not have this issue. The interior are picks up on the promise of the cover and carries it throughout the book. One of the problems I had with prior editions of Dungeons & Dragon was the use of recycled art in the newer base books. This is not the case here. In particular, I like the wide variety of characters that is presented throughout the book. We get tribal warriors, half-orc paladins, female samurai, and a whole host of diverse characters which just made the book sing.
The mechanics of the game are still familiar as Dungeons & Dragons. They have a feel more in line with what we had back in 2.5 with the addition of more narrative focused element in the use of personality traits, ideals, bonds, flaws, and inspiration. Personality traits are just what they seem, how your character acts. they are short phrases or descriptors that help drive your interaction with the story. Ideals are something that your character values highly. Bonds are things which your character is connected and flaws are things that can easily get your character into more trouble. These are important as they are the thing that drives your character acquire inspiration. Inspiration is a benefit accrued by playing to these things in the game. If you get into difficulties because of your flaw, your character gets inspiration. Inspiration can be spent to give you advantage on a roll. this means that you get to roll two D20’s and keep the better of the two results. this is important as this gives a bit more power to the player in avoiding the whiff factor that can be problematic in roleplaying games at low levels. The system is still a simple D20 roll wherein you add the appropriate ability modifier and your proficiency bonus, if any, to come up with a number. If the total meets or exceeds the target number, you succeed. The rules for things that adjust the rolls are simple and easily to keep track.
Character creation is simple and after the first time through would only require about fifteen minutes of time and effort to complete. You generate your attributes based upon how the group has decided. There are arrays presented in the book that can be used or dice can be rolled. You then pick your race, class, and background and pick gear. Skills are based up on the background you choose and have more in common with the old proficiency system than 3.5’s skill points. If a skill would apply to a roll, the player gets to add their proficiency bonus to the check. Easy to remember and no messy points to keep track of. I was very pleased to see that 5th Edition kept the Dragonborn and Tiefling in the mix. These were my two new favorite races that appeared in 4th edition and was afraid that they may not remain in this iteration. The classes are ones that previous players from older editions will be familiar. They range from the Bard to the Wizard and cover a variety of complexity levels. For those who want an easy entrance, they can take a fighter and a be ready to go quickly. For those with a penchant for the rules, the wizards provides something more complex to tackle at the outset.
I also enjoyed that references to the different settings from the past are made throughout the book. It makes it easier for those with knowledge of those settings to use them without any official setting books as they are incorporated into the Player’s Handbook from the outset. This also raises my hopes that we will see much more from these older settings as time passes.
All in all, I stand by my earlier recommendation. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is an excellent entry into this illustrious line. It is something easy to understand, quick to pick up and play, and the productions values are stupendous. If I had to find fault, It would be with the price. For $10 less, one could pick up the Pathfinder base book which is a bigger book as well. Hopefully, the books after the basic books will be a little more friendly to the wallet.