Thoughts on 5th Edition in 2020

Inspired once again by Dungeons and Possums, I’m going to give a quick rundown on my thoughts of the game almost six years after it was released.

I know that there are problems surrounding the game itself but currently it’s my only game in town as far as being able to play goes so I’m sticking with it for now.

So, positives: –
1. The rules themselves are a decent streamlining of previous editions, and updates of others. It works.
2. Those same rules are easily modified, can be made grittier or fluffier as needed by those running or playing. Don’t like flanking? Don’t use it. Don’t like rest mechanics? Don’t use them, or change them up by making them longer. Don’t like certain races or classes? Don’t use them. It’s perfectly possible to run old-school Human/Elf/Halfling/Dwarf, Fighter/Wizard/Rogue/Cleric games (or even Fighter/Wizard/Rogue games).
3. There’s community buy-in, and it’s being fostered. Between Twitch games, YouTube, Podcasts, blogs, Facebook groups, Meetup groups, Discord servers, websites, Adventurer’s League and brick and mortar stores, there’s plenty going on. Even the D&D Beyond has its uses (more on that later though…).
4. Running the D&D Next playtest openly beforehand really helped with that buy-in too. I ran several sessions using various different versions of the rules (I do however occasionally make mistakes because something I remember being in the rules is actually from the playtest. It’s not often, but it happens). It got me excited for the new edition, and let me feel like I had some input into the game, however minimal.
5. That goes for Unearthed Arcana surveys too. I like seeing new ideas put out to the players and thrashed around. Once again, it feels like there’s input and a sense of collaboration – like this is a hobby as well as a product.

Now, the negatives: –
Will I start with D&D Beyond? I’ll start with D&D Beyond.
1. D&D Beyond! This is a fantastic resource, and it’s really helped me to check rules on the fly when I don’t have a book to hand. Great. BUT it’s not a subsidiary of Wizards, it’s a different company, so if I want to have content I already own accessible, I have to pay again, and not at a reduced price. Or get a subscription, which I don’t have the money for.
2. The D&D Beyond APP! Yes, this is so bad it’s getting a second point! The website just added dice rolling, great! That function is missing in the app, along with an actual character sheet!
Can’t you just use the website? Yes I can, which eliminates the point of the app.
BUT WAIT! They’ve just realised a SECOND APP that includes the character sheet and dice rolling… That’s just bad.
3. There’s been stuff going on behind the scenes at Wizards for years that it detracting from the brand. This has been going since before 5th Edition was released, by hiring people that would in future harm the brand, and then defending them when they did.
After BLM protests reached a height this year, there’s a lot of people talking about some bad practices in the corporate structure that aren’t being addressed. When your product is the cornerstone of a community, this should be a no-brainer. Apparently, this means that there are people running the show that need to ACTUALLY go and see the Wizard (the wonderful one).
4. We’re several years in and I’m sick of Forgotten Realms. I’m really, really hoping that in the next little while we’re going to see a book that pulls together various optional rules from Unearthed Arcana, the different adventure books, Ravnica, Theros and Eberron and just presents them in a setting neutral way.
I don’t want to buy the Theros book for the update to the piety rules, I don’t want to buy Ravnica for the update to renown, I don’t want to buy adventure books for the Realms when it’s very unlikely that I’ll actually ever run a game there (except introductory adventures, I want to homebrew).
5. Similar to above, Kobold Press has released several books at this stage that give advice to homebrewers/game designers and dungeon masters. Oh, and one more for luck. If industry veterans are willing to write essays on this kind of subject for Kobold Press, I imagine that Wizards should be able to attract someone to write essays on similar topics. Maybe make it a part of the optional and expanded rules from above.

Oh, and the Ranger needs some work. But we all know that already.

Like I’ve said before, it’s not a perfect game, but it’s very usable. And there’s plenty of unofficial content out there that can make it even more usable. Hopefully, there’s going to be a survey on that stuff soon too.

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