Days of High Adventure
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules First Impressions: The Magic Is Back

CJ Miozzi | 4 Jul 2014 03:30
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The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set hits shelves July 15th, but Wizards of the Coast today released a free PDF containing the Basic Rules of play. More so than the beta playtest packages, the Basic Rules offer a more comprehensive feeling for how the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons is shaping up. Initial impressions? Promising.

If there's one thing you can gather from the Basic Rules, it's that Wizards has listened to player feedback. After feeling the sting of the cataclysmic release of 4e, an edition that fragmented the D&D fanbase like nothing before it and gave rise to Pathfinder, the first real competition D&D has ever had, Wizards has made a real effort to give the players what they want.

While the Basic Rules don't provide enough material to play the game - there are no monsters or adventures in here - they do give players enough information to familiarize themselves with the ruleset in order to be ready to go at launch. But more importantly, they serve as a peace offering to the players Wizards spurned with 4e, a way for those players to evaluate whether 5e is worth a try without having to invest in the product.

I played both 3.5e and 4e extensively and appreciated both for what they were and what they brought to the table. 5e feels much more like the natural evolution of 3.5e, working off a strong 3.5 base while bringing in some of 4e's better elements, and taking both editions a step further - or, perhaps, backward toward the roots of D&D: roleplaying.

Decriers of 4e often aruged, "There's no roleplaying in 4e!" I disliked this argument and strongly opposed it at first. No roleplaying? There's as much roleplaying in a roleplaying game as you want there to be. Just because the vast majority of 4e's rules governed combat doesn't mean that the game somehow prevented you from roleplaying as much as you did in 3.5e.

But it's upon reading through the Basic Rules that I finally get it. I finally get why so many people said there was no roleplaying in 4e - because there's so much of it in 5e.

The problem isn't the roleplaying - it never was. The lack of roleplaying was a symptom - a symptom of a lack of flavor written into the rulebooks, a lack of focus on elements that encourage roleplaying. And, ultimately, a lack of focus on the very heart of D&D.

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