I had a very interesting weekend.
(By the way, Happy Independence Day USA! Um...belated ^ ^; )
Sunday I taught the first classes of my summer program at the tutoring center in Brooklyn where I work on weekends. In addition to reading and writing, my morning class of second to fourth grade students created characters for Faery's Tale Deluxe. Hopefully I will tell you more about that in the near future.
Saturday my group and I played the second session of our new Champions Superhero campaign, Champions: REBIRTH. Not all of those in the first session were able to make it, although my friend Hans did, which was awesome. We also added a new player, which, well, I'll address my feelings on that in an upcoming post.
Looks like I already have some great material for my next few blog entries.
On Friday, July 4th, I went to New Jersey (yes, on purpose!), in order to run a game for some ol' friends, including my ex-wife. The game?
Basic D&D, using the free PDF of Wizard of the Coast's 5th Edition rules set.
In honor of it being the fifth edition, I'm going to break down my thoughts into five, small sections. Here goes:
Disclaimer: This is not exactly a review. This is a combination of first impressions, how play went, and the opinions I, and the other players, had after the game session was over. Your mileage my vary. Widely.
Wait...before I begin, rant coming...
I have to say, I am really glad I do not consider myself part of the D&D fan community.
In the handful of days since the PDF has been available...
There is already a controversy over some of the people who were involved. I'm not going to speak on the subject, as I have not really come face-to-face with the negative nature of those people. Why not? How did I avoid it? One has always been nice to me, even when we've disagreed (which is often), and the other, well, is a D&D person. I don't go to the blogs of too many strictly D&D people. Old Schoolers even less so.
I was treated like a newb on Google+ for asking exactly where on Wizards of the Coast's site you would go to download the basic rules (I asked 'where', and was mostly answered with when. Attention D&Ders: It has come to my attention that you were not informed of this as children, but time and place is NOT the same thing. They are in fact, two DIFFERENT things. You're welcome. Glad I could help).
When I asked for the opinions of those fans of older D&D games, who also liked what they'd read in 5E, how I could best use new elements that they found interesting, I was given the most generic answers possible. Stuff like, "The rules are a tool. You have a new hammer, with a handle, head, and claw that are a little different than the one before. The hammer design might excite you a little, might not, but what you're making with the hammer better light your fire." Gee thanks. If only I were an adult, Human being with over thirty-seven years of gaming experience I would've known that. Wait...yeah.
I can only surmise that much like DC Comics has absolutely no clue what makes their characters and universe cool, a large number of D&D fans don't know why they like D&D. It was first, so they do. I've always thought that was the case. Now I know for sure.
Zak Smith himself responded with, "I think that's a bad way to go in--you're basically asking for preconceptions. Just read the rules and do what you're gonna do." Yes Zak, that is EXACTLY what I am asking for! If I were going to 'do what I'm gonna do', I'd not bother with 5E at all. I'd just as soon go play Champions, Star Trek, Star Wars, Traveller, Teenagers from Outer Space, InSpectres, Mekton, Faery's Tale Deluxe, my Galaxy Quest game, my Muppets RPG...you get the picture. Thing is, I promised some gaming friends I like gaming with that I'd run the new 5E rules that were recently released. Not being a D&D fan, I thought (foolishly it seems) that those who ARE fans might give me some ideas for what to do with some gamers who share their preference for the beast.
Honestly though, Zak's advice was the best I received.
I am glad I gave 5E a go, and I had fun thanks to the players involved, but trying to get real assistance and a genuine 'sense of community' from the D&D community at large is a no go. I won't bother in the future. It's like trying to get a straight, and truthful answer out of a politician. Forget about it. It'll just harsh your mellow.
Now, on to the actual post...
When I first read through the Basic Rules for 5E (and this was the first I'd ever seen of it), I was a little disappointed.
I had not been part of the playtest, and had no real interest in most of the posts about interviews with the creators, rules reveals, or the like. I would love to say my expectations were low, but some recent conversations with Charles Atkins of the blog Dyvers, had gotten me a little excited. He made it sound really cool. Plus, Zak was involved, and I thought, 'Well, Zak has cool ideas so, maybe this will be good.'
It's not that it wasn't. It just wasn't exciting. It was nothing really special. Nothing stood out. Nothing grabbed me. I felt like I was reading a blog post of some one's campaign who had thrown some indie stuff into their D&D game. OK. That's all though. Only OK.
Number Five Is Alive
After trying (unsuccessfully - see above) to get some help and some ideas percolating, I put together a really simple story idea I've used before for other D&D and similar games. I created a couple of monsters, and rolled up an NPC to balance out the party. I was going to have three players, and I already knew they wanted to play a Halfling Fighter, a Dwarf Cleric, and a Human Rogue. I made an Elf Wizard, and the party was good to go.
Character creation, while quicker than some of the previous editions, still took much longer than I expected.
As I mentioned, one of the players was my ex-wife. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't just dislike D&D, I would hate it with a passion. She likes it, and she has a way of making me like it while we're playing together in the same game.
This was no different. She took to the new rules pretty quickly, and liked several of the new mechanics. She especially like the Inspiration related character elements. I like that part too, though I have seen its like many, many times before.
She made the game come to life really, as her excitement over there being a new edition made me excited to be running it.
Five For Fighting
Two things I do like about the new edition is that it isn't all about fighting, but when the fighting does start, it moves pretty smoothly, and quickly. Now granted, this is the basic rules at their most basic. Very likely, additional rules and options in the Player's Handbook will slow down the easy breezy feel of the basic rule set quite a bit, but still, this is a vast improvement over the grinding, 'button-mashing' feeling of 4E, and 3E+'s gluttony of feats.
The Fifth Element
I have to say that my favorite thing about Fifth Edition is that it isn't Fourth Edition. I am not sure I can say that I can identify it's particular, unique flavor as of yet, but it does not feel as MMO-video gamey as it's predecessor. At the same time, it does have a few features that my MMORPG obsessed buddy found both familiar and interesting. I find that refreshing. Maybe, without trying so hard to appeal to both the table top and laptop gaming, WotC will be able to actually accomplish that feat.
Give Me Five
I am glad I downloaded the basic rules, and it was fun to play. Not Champions fun, or Mutants & Masterminds fun, or even Marvel Heroic fun, but fun. If I had to play D&D, or else my eyes with be poked out with red-hot chopsticks, I would prefer to play this.
I am highly unlikely to purchase the game, but I think my ex-wife definitely will. It is possible at least one of the other two players will as well.
Good work Wizards of the Coast.
I was hoping for something a little different, but what you have works.