Thursday, July 24, 2014

3 Defining Features: Dungeons and Dragons 5th Basic

Here we are, presented with the 5th Edition, Dungeons and Dragons Basic set.  The Basic set is given free of charge from Wizards of the Coast's website, in a sort of generous but perhaps brilliant maneuver.  They realize people can play a stripped down D&D for free from a multitude of areas, but by giving away the Basic 5th for free, its more likely that the pool of 5th players will grow.  If the amount of people able to play 5th grows, then the paying customers will have more chance to use the material, and maybe buy more or grow brand loyalty.  Good stuff.

Defining Feature #1: D20 Base

This is Dungeons and Dragons that feels like Dungeons and Dragons.  This is accomplished by being rooted in 3.X's D20 system.  Grid combat and 4th Edition ability systems are thrown out and we go back to the evolution of 1st(through Unearthed Arcana), 2nd(through revised) and 3rd's game systems.  You have your 6 Abilities, you have saving throws(though now based on your 6 abilities), you have DC checks.  Your characters level, and have a class.  Combat is a round consisting of turns taking in initiative order.  You roll D20 to make your attacks, to make your saving throws, and to determine outcomes of various types.  You characters have hitpoints and fight with monsters to reduce one side's hit points to zero before the other.  You have armor classes and dexterity bonuses for avoiding damage.  If you've played Dungeons and Dragons, you pretty much know how it goes.

Defining Feature #2: Advantage and Disadvantage

When I read people's reactions to Advantage and Disadvantage at first, they think its just a simple re-roll gimmick.  They assume its a Savage Worlds "Benny" mechanic or some sort of Fate thing.  They are right to an extent, but what you're not prepared for is how pervasive the Advantage and Disadvantage system permeates the game.  Basically you roll 2D20.  If you have Advantage, you take the higher number.  If you have Disadvantage you must take the lower number.  You think this is mainly for combat, and you'd be wrong.  If you help someone with a skill, you give them Advantage.  If you get distracted, you get Disadvantage.  If another player inspires you, you get to use Advantage.  So much math and sub-system equations are eliminated by the use of Advantage and Disadvantage.  The best part?  It scales PERFECTLY.  In former games, if you get a +2 for helping, eventually you outlevel that, and a system has to be placed in so that at higher levels you get more.  At low levels a -2 to hit on a creature is a huge deal, but later you basically ignore it.  With Advantage and Disadvantage, they stay the same from level 1 to level 30.  Having disadvantage sucks just as much at high levels as low levels, without the need for modifiers.  Having Advantage is awesome no matter when you get it.

Defining Feature #3: Backgrounds

The new character creation system was invented to satisfy the old fans and the new when it comes to roleplaying.  A full new genre of games is very popular, and there's an argument that "story telling" games are a rejection of the miniature wargame style rules of D&D 4th.  Role Playing gets put back into the game with 5th.  When you make a character, you choose a Background.  These Backgrounds supply an origin story, a personality, an ideal to live by, and a flaw that hinders you.  Maybe you are a folk hero, a peasant that saved a town through your brave action.  Maybe you are a criminal, a forger of documents that guilds turn to for their services.  Maybe you were raised in a demon church and now reject their teachings.  Backgrounds are great and they affect your choices for skill and equipment use, and guide you in making your decisions while playing.  I can see companies making entire books of backgrounds with the random tables that help you create your character as presented in the Basic PDF.  I would buy it, and I know many others that would as well.   As presented, Backgrounds are more guidance than hard rule, but with a few tweaks you will have your Role Playing tied to your Roll Playing very easily.

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