So, I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition for two months now. Both in an online West Marches style campaign, and the Solasta: Crown of the Magister video game, which is a pretty good implementation of the D&D 5th Edition SRD.
I have some very mixed feelings about D&D 5th Edition. On the one hand it looks like they really simplified it; on the other, they removed a ton of customization options and it’s really tough to build a variety of interesting characters. Feats, for example, are something you only take rarely, because you have to trade Ability Score Increases for them.
And a lot of subclasses (the 5th Edition equivalent of 3rd Editions prestige classes) show that they were just thrown together without much care or love. Even classes that should ooze style and coolness are often half-hearted messes. I am playing a Warlock who is in a pact with a Great Old One, for example, and it gets a messy jumble of more or less useless, and very bland, options to play with.
This even extends to some classes. I can’t remember having ever seen a more disgraceful implementation of the Ranger. It’s so bad, Wizards of the Coast patched it up with the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
When it comes to cool idea, flavor, and awesome themes and style, 4th Edition is probably still the go-to version of Dungeons & Dragons. I have this vision of someone going back, taking 4th Edition, and fixing it up to be more 5th Edition-like. Won’t happen, because it’s a copyright nightmare. But be that as it may, 5th Edition suffers from lazy, or rushed, writing, and a severe lack of editing.
D&D needs a capable line editor or product manager, or a better Q&A team. It’s a really bad sign when I read a rules book and go “oh yeah this needs to be house-ruled” in the first ten minutes.
Fifth Edition has been around for a while, and there are credible rumors that it will get overhauled in 2024, for the 50th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. This seems likely, given that Wizards of the Coast has changed a ton of the game’s subsystems in various splatbooks released since 2014. Races are a prime example. And not all changes are for the better; races seem to become more bland, and lose all disadvantages they may have. The participation award culture has finally come to Epic Fantasy, I guess.
I’ll still use Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Probably with some heavy modifications. At the end, it has managed to do one very good thing, and that is to get new players to the table.
But my excitement about a shiny new toy? Pretty much gone.