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[Let's Read] 5E Player's Handbook

Kiiratam

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#1
S Silvercat Moonpaw asked after one of these, and I figured, what the heck, I'm running a 5E game while having only read through the book once. I should probably fix that. And I may as well do that in a public venue.

So, here's the backstory. I started D&D with Baldur's Gate. As you may know, the game manual was complete enough to be used as a AD&D rules reference document (See the EE version here, about half-way down). From there, I picked up the AD&D Diablo boxed set, because the game store I went to had sold out of the PHB, and weren't restocking, since 3.0 was very close. I got into 3.0, then 3.5, and there I stayed, eventually working on various 3.75s with gaming friends. Played a bit of Pathfinder, Mutants & Masterminds, D6 systems. Oddly enough, my gaming group tried 4E when I was away fro the summer, and when I got back, they'd sworn it off entirely.

When 5E came out, lured by good comments here, I tried 4E - starting with Essentials, and branching out when I realized almost all the 4E books were $5 on Amazon. Don't bother looking, those days are past. But I got hooked by 4E good. I'd moved away from my old gaming group, so I tried to introduce the new gaming group to 4E. They were also 3.5 fans - or really, they learned 3.5, and it does what they want. It... didn't really work. Too tactical for their taste. (It's still like catnip for me, though. And I've run a successful one-shot based on 4E for them, but not so much for an ongoing campaign).

Eventually, new gaming group with almost all new players. I went with 5E because it was a very casual group, and I didn't want to work too hard DMing. I may have run the last six months of the game without actually having access to the DMG or MM, just using online resources, and the Monstrous Index. But I finally got the rest of the core for Christmas, so!

Enough rambling, time to read!

The cover depicts a caster in a bad spot, in melee with a fire giant. Hell hounds and a warrior exist in the foreground and background. The title page has a warrior (looking very North African in styling) fighting a parcel of goblins. I notice that the interior art doesn't have the artist credits listed, as 3rd did.

The art credits have many names I recognize There's some cross-pollination from MtG art (Steve Argyle), as well as two of the big artists of previous editions: Wayne Reynolds and William O'Connor. Plus, folks I recognize from the saved art on my hard-drive (Jesper Ejsing, Ralph Horsley, Claudio Pozas, Eva Widermann).

There's a lovely disclaimer:
5E PHB said:
Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of splitting up the party, sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil fce, accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears, storming the feats hall of a hill giant steading, angering a dragon of any variety, or saying yes when the DM asks "Are you really sure?"
Ooh, there are appendices. I'm a sucker for appendices. I blame Tolkien. There's also an index, which is always helpful. As traditional, there's a blank character sheet in the back.

The Preface has a telling bit:
Mike Mearls said:
To play D&D, and to play it well, you don't need to read all the rules, memorize every detail of the game, or master the fine art of rolling funny looking dice. None of those things have any bearing on what's best about the game.
Which, yeah, sure, he goes on to talk about collective storytelling, and how making your character is a skill that you'll develop, but dude. I have bought this for the rules. Players not reading the rules hacks me off. Don't encourage it in the preface, they don't need the help.

The Introduction is the standard how-to roleplaying 101. Interestingly, it name-drops Castle Ravenloft, then goes on to talk about the multiverse, and all the various settings - the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Mystara and Eberron. Have they released anything for Dragonlance, Greyhawk or Mystara yet? I'm not surprised that Spelljammer and Planescape don't get a mention - they have weird cosmological needs. There's a nice bit about your DM having the final say on canon. Which, even with that, I'm not a huge fan of running in existing settings. But it's a nice bit of groundwork.

It breaks down the book into three parts - part one will be creating a character, including races, classes, backgrounds, equipment, and other customization options. I plan to make at least one character as demonstration, maybe more. Part two is the rules - dice rolling, exploration, interaction and combat. We'll be using our demonstration character here. The third part is all about magic - the nature of D&D magic, spellcasting rules, and the spell lists. And then there are the appendices.

We get the basic breakdown of play: 1) The DM describes the environment. The phrase they have is 'the basic scope of options that present themselves.'
2) The players describe what they want to do. This is where the dice-rolling happens.
3) The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. They mention here the use of sound effects, art and music, as well as the use of a battlemap and minis. We'll see exactly how necessary those are (or aren't) later.

A bit on reading and rolling dice, and what to do with 1d3s and 1d2s. Oddly enough, 1d2s are not 'use a coin.' 1d3s are specifically divide by two, contrary to my usual method of 'roll 1d4, and reroll 4s.'

Ability scores are mentioned, and typically range from 3-18 for adventurers, and monsters from 1-30. Not sure if '-' ability scores are gone, but the ridiculous ability scores of, say, giants, seem to be out. Ability checks (using the ability modifier), attack rolls and saving throws are the typical d20 rolls, and that hasn't changed since 3rd. 1d20+modifier+circumstances versus target number (Difficulty Class/DC for ability checks and saves, and Armor Class/AC for attack rolls).

Now, the big 5E thing: Advantage/Disadvantage. Roll 2d20, take the higher if you have advantage, the lower if you have disadvantage. It's a great mechanic, and I have absolutely stolen it for non 5E games as soon as I learned it.

Two more general axioms: Specific beats General, and always Round Down. Good to be explicit about the first. Never dealing with fractions is always a good idea. People are, as a rule, bad with math. I have given up assuming folks can do mental math at my job, and just point out the calculator.

They talk about about Adventures - in the absolutely most general terms, as befits a game with a very broad focus. They vaguely allude to the three pillars of combat, interaction and exploration. But they can't seem to decide how long an adventure is, and what separates a very long adventure from a campaign, which they refer to as a string of adventures.

Aaand right after that, they get specifically present the Three Pillars of Adventure. Maybe I should read ahead a tiny bit before writing. Anyway, Exploration is more accurately termed environmental interaction, given that it includes everything from traipsing about the plains, skulking through the Underdark, and pulling a strange lever in a dungeon. Social interaction is all the talky bits, from interrogations, to freeing prisoners, yielding to foes, and interacting with a talking magical item. Notably absent is politicking, intriguing and, really oddly, lying. It's really weird that they chose to include "pleading for mercy from an orc chieftain", given that I can count the number of PC surrenders on one hand. PCs lying... is basically their ground state. Combat, or antisocial interaction, is called out as the most structured, rules-wise. They do call out Legolas' shield-skakeboarding as a wacky stunt, something that combat allows for, in addition to the possibility of exploration and social interaction. Thus, I propose the fourth pillar of adventure: wacky stunts.

Lastly, there's a bit on magic. It makes it very obvious that this is a setting with a lot of player-facing magic. Either good (and most of the casting classes get a shout-out, except rangers and sorcerers, and warlocks), or bad, and they offer a few villainous plots involving magic:
  • A cult leader trying to awaken a slumbering god in the ocean (Punch Cthulhu!)
  • A hag kidnaps youths to drain them of their vitality (I don't know if using 'hag' instead of 'witch' is much of an improvement, folks. At least the kidnapees are generic youths instead of virgins. Also, get another schtick, the foocubi have this territory locked down.)
  • A mad wizard creating a robot golem army (Hey, I've played this one. We lost, big time. Pro-tip - fighting a warforged army with commoners is a losing game.)
  • A dragon begins a ritual to become a god of destruction (Bit higher power than I usually deal with. I feel like this may be a reference to the Tyranny of Dragons adventure path, but I have no idea.).
There's a piece of art in two pieces across the last two pages - two goblins and a bugbear using a set of dice as cover from arrowfire. Bit more meta than usual, but more interesting than just a picture of dice, and more relevant than a random bit of art.

And that's the Introduction. Come back next time for Chapter 1 - Step-By-Step Characters (And maybe some of Chapter 2 - Races).
 

Crinos

Be inspired!
Validated User
#4
I love the art from this new book, so expect that to be the thing I comment on.

Also: Good on you for doing this.
 

Davies

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Validated User
#8
The Introduction is the standard how-to roleplaying 101. Interestingly, it name-drops Castle Ravenloft, then goes on to talk about the multiverse, and all the various settings - the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Mystara and Eberron. Have they released anything for Dragonlance, Greyhawk or Mystara yet?
In order -- no, sort of, and sort of. The latter two have been referenced in the adventures published to date, while Krynn has not been. One of Mystara's signature races, the Tortles, got an entire short adventure devoted to them.
 

Crinos

Be inspired!
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#9
Krynn has gotten some mention, IIRC in tales of the Yawning Portal They have a sidebar at the start of each dungeon that tells where to place the dungeon in Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Eberron or Forgotten realms. Also the Gods of Krynn are listed in the back of the book with the Gods of the afformentioned settings (and some real world mythological deities) as sample Gods for Clerics.

Also IIRC Kender were part of the DnD Next playtest, but haven't proper showed up except as being briefly mentioned alongside Halflings.
 

NobodyImportant

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#10
Krynn has gotten some mention, IIRC in tales of the Yawning Portal They have a sidebar at the start of each dungeon that tells where to place the dungeon in Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Eberron or Forgotten realms. Also the Gods of Krynn are listed in the back of the book with the Gods of the afformentioned settings (and some real world mythological deities) as sample Gods for Clerics.

Also IIRC Kender were part of the DnD Next playtest, but haven't proper showed up except as being briefly mentioned alongside Halflings.
A victory for good taste everywhere, I’m sure.
 
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