Raven Crowking posts here about why it is important to be honest when talking about 5E: the latest rendition of Dungeons and Dragons. He rightly points out that letting people know what you don’t like about something is as important a letting them know what you do like. I agree with him, but I have a few caveats. Being negative for the sake of appearing to be cutting edge, cool, or savvy is a sign of being a jerk. The opposite pole of being a “Yes Man” and only saying positive things can be equally damaging. If one only talks about the good things, one can skip right over parts of thing that make it miserable; this is the style of Sleazy Hucksters and Sycophants. Giving an honest critique of a thing can and should lead to its improvement. I hope my post proves to be an honest critique. Thus, with this preface, I begin my “What I like and what I do not like post.”
If we take the Way Back Machine back to the Days of First Edition, we are likely to discover that most of the complaints I had about the system back then are forgotten. It was new. It was fun. It stretched our imaginations and gave us hours and hours of fun. Having said that, I must admit that I grew dissatisfied with some things in 1E. I didn’t like alignment (and still don’t). I found a great article on a relativistic alignment system in Dragon 101 by Paul Suttie: “For King and Country: An alignment system based on cause and effect.” I’ve been using that idea for alignment ever sense. I, also, felt that the minute combat round was just too abstract and was very happy when they changed it.
Second Edition, originally, offended me on aesthetic and grognard grounds. I liked having Seven Levels of clerical spells and Nine Levels of magic user spells in 1E; it corresponded nicely to the mythology and symbolism that I had developed for Realmorein. So, the change to Nine Levels for both spell casting classes really put me off for a while. In time I got over that and had a great time running 2E. TSR gave me tons of settings to use: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Al Qadim to name a few. There were loads of classes and variants to try. My only real complaint is that that not all of the systems designed for all of the variants were well thought out. Sometimes, what was written about how things worked just didn’t make sense. I know a lot of folks didn’t like THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0 (zero)); they found trying to figure out what number they needed to hit a foe perplexing…I just used the combat tables on my 1E DM screens and never really worried about it.
Third Edition! The year 2000 AD was to be a watershed year, when I was growing up. It would be the year that we got flying cars and had a colony on the moon and were prepping for interplanetary, if not interstellar flight. We got Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition; which was almost as good. I was looking forward to 3E. I had started a campaign away from Rilmorn, so that when 3E came out, we could start fresh from the ground up without any holdovers or complications (that didn’t work out, but that is another story). I failed at 3E from the word, “Go.”
I didn’t like the idea that magic item creation was now an “assembly line-style” option for spellcasters. I was poor at designing challenging combats for my players. I just didn’t get how to equip my NPCs, so that my PCs could get their stuff and be appropriately equipped for their level. I didn’t like the advancement scale; in 1E and 2E PCs remained at mid-levels for a long time and there was a lot of good play in those levels. The tactical nature of the game bored me; I am not a tactics guy. Finally, I grew to despise the idea of the Adventure Path (AP). I believe in plot arcs and character and story development, but APs with the built in assumption that the PCs would begin as nobodies, follow a particular plot, and end as…Whatevers in a completely changed setting (How many APs end with the death of a god or demon prince?), wore me down. At this moment, I can’t think of anything that I liked about 3E. (2014.07.10)
4E was a fun game, but it was not D&D, as I wanted to play it. All of the classes were balanced. Advancement seemed reasonable, not too fast and not too slow. There was a lot of good fluff to use in developing backgrounds, plot hooks, and storylines. There were bad things, IMO, about 4E, too. It was a tactics games. Magic item placement became a true joke…Don’t like the magic items provided by the GM, melt them down and make your own! The whole game was designed to fit an AP style of play (Character Class > Paragon Path > Epic Destiny). Finally and most damning is the fact that by the end all the classes had the same powers; they just had different skins on them.
DnD Next, Fifth Edition, 5E, call it what you want, so far, I like it. Magic items are once again magic. Power curve and advancement seem reasonable (may be wrong, but I’ve got to run a lot more games and find out). Classes are distinct. The only complaint I have, at the moment, is Hit Point recovery seems too easy, but I’m already using an optional rule from the play test and that seems to fix that problem. I like the basic rules. I like the play test materials. I’m looking forward to using this edition for a while.
Whatever edition or system you prefer, I hope you play it as often as you wish and enjoy it. Until next time, Game On!