Tabletop Highlight: First Reactions to Fifth Edition

Over the weekend, I took my first deep dive into D&D Fifth Edition. I’ve made characters and even briefly played it before, but this was the first time I actually explored characters rather than rushing through the process. Carefully considered each class and, after looking at what I had to work with, settled on playing a Sorcerer. The first D&D character I ever played and the most fun D&D character I ever played were both sorcerers, so the class is near and dear to my heart.

My initial impression was that the system is complex, strange, and makes very little sense. Over time, though, that shifted. The more time I spent with it, the easier the system seemed. So many of the 3.5 rules I know by heart and so many of the choices I’d made in a 3.5 campaign just aren’t options. Feats are entirely optional, ability scores cannot be increased over 20 via natural level progression, and everything in the system feels a lot more balanced. My past remarks about the 5th edition being more like addition than 3.5’s multiplication still stands, but that means that all of the classes still wind up in more or less the same neighborhood.

The biggest revelation I had while exploring the system more fully was the way it lends itself toward role-playing. 3.5 can be entirely numbers with no role-playing unless the players and DM are specifically making room for it. 5th edition doesn’t necessitate role-playing, but it does make it a much more regimented part of the character creation process. There’s room on the standard character sheet for flavor text about who your character is, the backgrounds provide a basis for less experienced players, and even the class features help you figure out who your character is based on what specializations you pick.

The hardest thing for me to learn is the new rules around combat and actions. I’m used to poison results being specific to the poison used and much more complicated skills that play off of each other and are full of conditional modifiers. The simplified “advantage, neutral, or disadvantage” system takes all of the conditional stuff and wraps it up in one neat little package. I can see combat and skill encounters are going to be much easier for new players to handle since the math isn’t as potentially complicated. I’m going to miss my ridiculous bonuses and OP bullshit that I can pull when I’m feeling petulant in 3.5, but I can see myself running a lot of 5th edition games because it’ll be so much simpler. Instead of spending time looking up rules players are asking about, I can focus on storytelling, good encounters, and keeping the game moving along. I’m really looking forward to how the pacing changes between the two systems.

That being said, I think I’m going to stick to 3.5 for my big story campaigns. 5th edition is still relatively new and I can’t find as many resources for it as I can find for 3.5, so it would be a lot harder to make up some of the stuff I have for 3.5.  5th edition’s power scales are too linear to be able to just fudge a few numbers and make it work, even at mid to high levels.

This past weekend, I stuck to mostly first level things for my sorcerer (and a rogue as a backup character for when my aggressive, “think’s he’s a tank,” sorcerer gets smeared on a dungeon floor). Next weekend, if I’ve got the time, I’m going to look into future levels, magic items, and how all the rules have changed so I can start planning out a campaign to run in 5th edition. I’ve got a lot of friends who want to play now and 5th edition seems like it would lend itself well to online play, so I might actually be able to help my friends who don’t have anyone to play with in their areas, finally. That’d be great. I like running big games full of organized chaos and laughter. Even if I can’t see everyone’s face, I think this would be a lot of fun to do.

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