D&D 5E Impressions: Everything old is new again


Last weekend, Gary Gygax Day, to be precise, I had the chance to participate in my first 5E D&D game. Wizards of the Coast were nice enough to send us the 5E Starter Pack and, since we had a game day with our friends set up anyway, we decided to give this baby a whirl.

Firstly, looking at it as if I were a new player trying D&D for the first time, the 5E set really has everything you need to try it out, for an insanely reasonable price. AUD $25 nets you five pre-generated character sheets, a basic set of rules, your beginners adventure and a set of your very own dice.

Reconnect with roleplaying

Your pre-gen characters are pretty basic –  a couple of human fighters, halfling rogue, dwarven cleric and an elven wizard. Pretty stock standard. What’s interesting though, is that each has their own backstory, goals and tie to the story in the starter set, which immediately puts some the emphasis on roleplaying rather than stats and dice rolls, which is something not everyone is thinking about the first time they play. Suddenly our pretty stock standard human fighter is arguing for taking the attacking goblins alive because is that really what his character would do?

It’s obviously not the deepest roleplaying experience, but that emphasis on motivation and background is a great place for new players to start from, rather than your, “I attack the goblin! I got a 16!”

The more things change…

I don’t have a lot of experience with 4E as I personally just couldn’t get into it. So I came into 5E directly from the Pathfinder roleplaying system which, if you don’t know, is referred to jokingly as 3.75E as it’s sort of halfway between 3.5E and 4E.

As such, the first thing I noticed about 5E was how much of it was the same as 3.5/Pathfinder and not the differences. Having only skimmed the rules before play, I was constantly on the lookout for changes so I didn’t do something wrong. “How does this work in 5E?” I would ask Tim, GMing for us that day,  over and over. But more often than not, the answer was, “The same way it usually does.”

That’s not to say there aren’t changes, and some of them are big changes. The advantage/disadvantage mechanic, for example. But for the most part it seems there is more tweaking and streamlining of existing mechanics and less complete overhauls.

Now, this can be good but it can also be a bad thing. You see, when I ask myself, “Would you play 5E again?” my answer is obviously yes. I had a good time, everything was laid out in a clear and concise way, I liked what changes were made, etc etc etc.

The bottom line

But would I go out of my way to start playing a 5E game when we have an existing Pathfinder game running? Or even a new campaign? Honestly, probably not. I feel like it doesn’t add enough to the experience that I would learn a new set of rules that are only slightly different when I could keep playing the rules I know and have the same experience.

Obviously, this is just the Starter Pack, so it’s going to be a little basic. When the Player’s Handbook comes out, we’ll take a closer look at that as well. Some of the more complex classes are looking very interesting, so it might be that it adds more to the experience that we didn’t get to see here.

Having said all that, if you’re new to the D&D experience or have been out of the game for a while, I can’t recommend picking up this starter pack enough. It’s a great introduction to a new system for a great price and if you’re thinking of starting up again, there’s no time like the present, when everyone’s as much of a newbie as you are.

The D&D 5E Starter Set was provided to us by Wizards of the Coast.

Comments (1)

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    Having only played D&D for a little over a year now I really enjoyed this game. The character sheets are really well set out on a single double page. Also having not played a character who has proper spells to prepare etc, it was quite easy to read through the small booklet provided and choose them. I found it a really comfortable experience in general and it even seemed like something a newer player could DM if you had a whole group of newer players.

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