Posted on September 25th, 2016
Welcome back ladies and gentlemen to another stupendously amazing edition of A Roll of The Dice board game reviews, with your game guru of greatness, Fat Adam! This week I want to take on a powerhouse in the industry. A name that almost every nerd knows, and most of the normies know too, Dungeons and Dragons! That’s right ladies and germs, we are diving into the amazingly intricate world created by the players and the DM (Dungeon Master) themselves.
I want to focus on Fifth Edition for the most part, but it would be hard to give you a proper review and comparison of why I believe Dungeons and Dragons NEEDED a Fifth Edition, without giving a brief overview of their rise and fall to power. I’ll make it quick, so strap in and read on!
– Dungeons and Dragons was one of the first pen and paper RPG systems, and it was amazingly popular among nerds and geeks like you and me.
– First Edition was a masterpiece for its time, and was not really rivalled by any other games that came around the same time. It gave the players the ability to live out a fantasy world, while escaping every day life, even if only for a few hours.
– Dungeons and Dragons second edition cleaned up some of the rules of first, making it a bit more user friendly. It added an even further level of gaming by introducing a few more class and race combinations, but for the most part fine tuning the combat system. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D as it was called) added skills and powers, but also made it possible to multi-class, also adding additional classes (As DnD 1st ed started only with Cleric, Fighter, and Magic User).
– Third Edition is when the powerhouse company Wizards of the Coast stepped in and basically took over. They fine tuned the levelling system for cross classing your character, they added feats which gave an amazing depth of additional features for character creation and development, and they also introduced what is the modern standard for most Pen and Paper RPG’s nowadays. I mean of course, the D20 system of rolling. I assume they did this in part to sell a hell of a lot more dice, but I could be wrong.
– DnD 3.5 (Or the most popular of the DnD world at the time) came next, and really just added a lot of supplements to the core Third Edition. Giving the users the ability to use additional feats, amazing prestige classes, and further developing multi class ability. This is actually the version that gave birth to the game that would eventually take DnD’s spot as the RPG powerhouse : Pathfinder.
– Pathfinder (Or DnD 3.75 as a lot of users call it) took what DnD 3.5 had done, and made it so much more in depth). It created a world in which there was HUNDREDS of supplements for the game, using dozens of races (pre created and the ability to create your own), dozens of classes (again with the ability to use third party created classes if the DM allows it), and just fine tuned the shit out of everything DnD had left either confusing, or questionable at best. Pathfinder quickly dethroned the 20+ year king in a couple of years, and reigned supreme since.
– DnD, in a desperate move to regain control, tried coming out with a brand new system in DnD Fourth Edition. The were trying to simplify the game itself and focus more on the roleplay of it all, and while some believe this to be a major improvement, most actually went the other way. Most critics and players alike coined this the worst DnD (a few actually said top three worst RPG’s) of all time. The giant took a swing at Pathfinder, missing horribly, and the rumor mill went abuzz wondering if Wizards was going to drop the now dying Dragon, and try to find a partnership elsewhere.
– No give up for Dungeons and Dragons, and they came out (quite quickly in my opinion) with Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. This is where our story starts, and we find out in this one player/DM’s opinion. Was this finally the start of a climb back to relevancy, or had DnD run its course and tried to give one final fan effort.
There are FAR too many to list. I know this is the place where I always do a breakdown of the rule system, but seriously this would be a Six part review if we went in depth, so why don’t I list a few of the more fun rules instead!
Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition did take a separate route from its brothers and while making the game easier to get into even then Fourth, it still kept its amazing flavour, and ability to create a lot of customization (although not nearly as much as 3.5). You are really only limited to your own imagination, and a set of guidelines that assist in making you a real character.
The biggest “rule” differences are the fact that skills are now fast tracked. There is no more massive chart of 30 skills to use, and instead you just use the relevant attributes to add together for a skill roll (that has worked really well for games like 7th Sea which uses a similar style). This makes the skill rolling a lot easier and takes away from having to create a specific type of skill monkey, making most characters have more broadened roles in the party.
The addition of the Advantage and Disadvantage system was brand new and has been seen as an amazing addition to the game (my thoughts on this later). Essentially what they’ve done is add flavor for roleplaying. If you have an advantage on hitting an enemy, you would roll two D20’s and take the higher roll, if you had disadvantage you would do the opposite taking the lower of the two. It makes putting yourself into bad situations an even worse idea than before.
Finally my third change I will be discussing is the addition of the roll system for death. It used to work that you were down at -1 hit points and dead at minus your Constitution score hit points. You could bleed out, and it made it a bit easier for newer players, while seasoned players would have so many more hit points. Now? You roll dice and too many fails equals death, or you may live, all based on the luck of the dice.
I have a lot to say about these three rule changes, and we will get there in the actual review, and while these are not the only changes by far, these are the three that I noticed having a big impact on the game itself. The three most players talk about the most, so they stick out more than others.
The turn system is fairly straight forward. Each player rolls what is called Initiative, adding any bonuses they may get to this D20 roll, and in doing so the “turn order” is decided. Highest Initiative goes first, second goes second, and so on. This also includes the rolls that are done by the Monsters you are fighting, so a low rolling team may get caught unaware, while an initiative based team may strike an enemy down before he/she even gets a chance to act!
When it is your turn to act, you need to actually plan out how you want things to go. Are you a ranged fighter who wants to fire down hell from afar, but make sure you are not caught by an enemy? Do you bull rush your enemies, crushing their spirit and soul, knowing that the others will follow you into the heat of battle? Do you hide in the shadows, waiting for others to strike first, then dealing the deadly final blow? Either way there are a lot of things you can do on a turn.
The turn is split into two main parts. A move action, and a standard action.
MOVE ACTION :
You can move, up to your given speed, anywhere on the battlefield. Your speed will be on the character sheet under, you guessed it, Movement Speed!
STANDARD ACTION :
Meat and Potatoes of your actions. This is where you will be attacking, ranged or melee, and also where you would be casting the majority of your spells. Each player gets one standard action (unless they have feats or class abilities for bonus actions).
BONUS ACTION :
This is where class features, and feats come into play. There are some that allow a bonus action or specific event that can be done based on the situation. You may only take ONE bonus action on your turn, so it may not be beneficial to take three separate feats that allow bonus actions, unless they all require a different situation to apply.
Certain abilities and actions will only trigger if another action has already taken place. These special actions are called Reactions. The attack of opportunity for instance is a perfect example. If an enemy moves through a space that you are threatening (that your melee attack can reach) then you get a free attack on them before they get to continue moving. This will only be allowed on one enemy one time per turn.
This is the basics of a single turn of combat, with there being a lot of other things you can do. Talk, drink a potion, read, or anything else allowed to be done in six seconds. Make sure to gain the Dungeon Masters approval before doing anything that is not normally done by your character.
+ The artwork inside the book is absolutely phenomenal, as with most Wizards of the Coast material. They took a long look at the fantasy genre, and re-invented it quite a bit.
+ The game was stripped down to a simpler, but more well rounded version of itself. Making it easily accessible for all players, and not just the hardcore number crunchers.
+ The design of the improved (in my opinion) skill trees, added together with the advantage and disadvantage opportunities are absolutely the right decision. It adds a lot of ability for the Dungeon Master to make a more challenging or less challenging scenario for the players.
– I absolutely find the biggest pitfall in this game is the new death and life tracker when you’re downed. Other than hit points being different, you are making it so a level one will die at the same chances of a level twenty, which to me is absolutely crazy. That is the one rule I would have axed if given the choice.
– For anyone who has been following and buying Dungeons and Dragons over the years, your pocket book must be getting sore from all of the add-ons they keep tossing out. People complain about World of Warcraft coming out with a 60$ expansion once a year or two, but Dungeons and Dragons comes out with a new 50 to 60$ book every few months.
+ Being a pen and paper RPG the replay value is through the stars. You can always play a new class, race, character, or even just rebuild some one you liked before with minor adjustments to them. There is literally no limit to the customization of the universe in Dungeons and Dragons. Only limited to your own imagination.
+ When being a player bores you (I don’t know how it ever could, unless you never wanted to play in the first place) then you can always try your hand at being a Dungeon Master, which will also add an infinite amount of options to you.
+ The length it takes to do a full campaign (there are one shot stories as well) can be months or even years, so you will be playing sessions for the foreseeable future. Each one being different, and fun in it’s own right.
– The only negative I find for replay is if you want to keep building a newer and more relatable character, you need to invest time and money into the research of the newest books, and of course to actually buying the books themselves.
+It puts you into a fantasy world, freeing you from the constraints of every day life. You get to be whatever and whoever you have ever wanted to, and with the right group, that spell is not broken until the end of the session. It is, by far, one of the most immersive games I have ever had the joy of playing.
+ With the character customization, you can create anything you really want to. You can have free reign on what makes your character fight, and what may cause him to even turn evil. Your choices in the game, will help dictate who you will become by the time the campaign is coming to an end.
+ The camaraderie from one another (most of the time anyways) helps build lasting friendships among players that possibly never knew each other before the game started.
– It is SUPER frustrating when a character you have put your heart and soul into dies because of chance happenstance. This is life though, so be prepared to face the worst to get the best results.
– With the wrong group, as in any RPG, it can become a battle hungry, no RP game. This is no fun to a player like myself, who enjoys the flavour of a well rounded game. Make sure you are a fit for the group BEFORE joining. Ask to watch a session or two and see how the personalities mesh with one another, and how they may mesh with you.
There is absolutely no regret with this game. This is something you play for fun, for joy, and for the ability to do almost anything you want to do. The world and choices are endless, but working towards a common goal is even more amazing in the long run. I have NEVER felt more fulfillment from a game, then when you complete a campaign in any Pen and Paper RPG, but I would place Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition at the top (or very least second) of the list.
DnD is back, and in my opinion, has just started a long, but absolutely needed return. I am looking forward to seeing what is to come from the giants, and I hope that this is more than enough to stick with Wizards of the Coast for the long haul. I look forward to seeing what is next!
Thanks for checking into this review, I hope you found it fair and informative, and please stop by your local Comic Hunter to pick up your copies of the books. I’ll see you out there adventurer, and may you rise up among those chosen to fight for the cause, be it noble or not. Strike fear into your enemies, no matter how far their reach!