Top positive review
Character as protagonist again!
Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2014
I am going to try to not duplicate the information provided in most of the other 5 star reviews because I agree with the vast majority of them. I am an oldster, have played every edition of D&D there has been, most of them being released when I was of legal drinking age, and IMO this is the best edition ever. I have not been this excited about a version of D&D since 2nd edition was released. It appears to me to have taken all the best, from a game design point of view, and most popular aspects of earlier editions and put them in one book. Another way to think of it is that this edition is the most true to the game principles set forth in the earlier editions, especially AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, while at the same time carrying the more modern and popular principles from 3.5 and even the much maligned 4.0.
I have to admit that I completely steered clear of the earlier play test versions, and was more than a little skeptical of the approach taken in getting feedback from so many play testers. I was worried that we would end up with a "too many cooks spoil the stew" situation; a game that was a convoluted mish-mash of everyone's "favorite rules" creating an incoherent and largely unplayable mess. I am pleasantly surprised to say that I was 100% wrong about the effectiveness of the play test process and the finished product. Contrary to the opinions in some of the lower star reviews, what I am holding in my hands and have read cover to cover is a very "tight," comprehensive, elegant, and fun set of rules.
Who is likely to like these rules? I think both the veteran player who cut his or her teeth on any version before 3.0, and a brand new player will like them. The mechanics most definitely have a "return to the basics that made the game great in the 70's and 80's" feel, while at the same time keeping a more elegant version of the more modern mechanics, like feats, attacks of opportunity, etc., that people generally love from 3.0 and later editions. For the most part, all of these things have been streamlined and made more elegant in application, but they are there.
I will end with my favorite thing about this book. A little background first to provide some context for my opinion. And let me say that this is just my opinion and some will disagree with me. For me, D&D started to trend downward in my enjoyment of the game at 2nd edition, and then it really did so at 3.0 and 3.5. For me, although I did not have the strong dislike for 4.0 that many people did, it just was not D&D to me anymore, I think primary because I had cut my teeth so much on 1st edition and the Basic and Expert sets in particular. D&D 5th edition has produced a steep positive trend for me for I think one general reason. When playing even 2nd edition, but very much so for 3.0, 3.5, and even 4.0, I found myself interacting with my character in the game more as a playing piece than a character in a story. Concerns about where to put skill points, and if a particular collection and order of choice for Feats began to dominate my thoughts and game choices. It was almost as if my character, and my decisions about playing the character, began to be dominated more by my interface with the rules in the book, rather than with my ideas about my character and my interaction with the game world. As my character advanced in level, I found that my focus on the book and what was written therein became more pronounced, not less as it did with earlier editions. As I reflected while playing these later editions, I found that I was not really playing a character, but instead was playing a set of rules. So far, the gift that 5th edition has given to me is a change in focus. My character has again become a protagonist in an adventure story, rather than a playing piece. I worry now more about the choices and decisions I make while interacting with the game world, and those choices making the character fun to play, rather than fretting over whether or not I have chosen the right Feats or if my modifier for a particular skill is as high as I want it to be. The way that races, and even classes, are discussed, the used of a character's background and the ideals, personality characteristics, etc. that are randomly determined from the background choice, and the lack of mathematical modifiers except for the familiar ability modifier, and the soon to be ubiquitous global proficiency modifier, instead using the elegant advantage/disadvantage mechanic all have worked to focus my attention back on my character as protagonist. For that I want to thank the play testers and writers of 5th edition. For me this has been the most nostalgic aspect of the rules, not so much the mechanics per se.
Do I like all of the rules? Absolutely not. Frankly, I think that is impossible to attain and do not expect that from any set of rpg rules. To me that's not fair to expect that of the writers. And frankly, I am not even looking for that in a set of rules anymore. As I start down the path of the twilight of my gaming career given my age, I want a set of rules that provides enough structure that a DM can make consistent rulings on the fly that fit in with the general mechanics used in the game, and that foster my appreciation as a player of the development of my character in a game world where playing the game is smooth and produces memories of an interesting character who is the protagonist in an interesting story line. Most importantly, I want a set of rules that stays out of the way of that process, and helps me to focus on the game aspects that will produce those kinds of memories.
For me, D&D 5th edition, although not perfect, will accomplish this just fine.