Saturday, April 28, 2018

5 Things I Like About Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition

As my regular readers know, I'm a Pathfinder main when it comes to my gaming. Hell, I even wrote a post about it titled Why Pathfinder Is My Game Of Choice a few years back. However, just because that's my main game, that doesn't mean I don't try to branch out and try other things. Which was why when I heard there was a 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons coming out I signed up for the playtest, and gave it a shot. I submitted my reactions, and never really gave it much thought beyond that at the time. But recently a friend of mine wanted to start a 5th edition game, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Sure, we'll give it a roll and see what happens.
The game itself has been going pretty well so far, as evidenced by the Table Talk installment That One Time The Party Solved The Plot With A Legal Battle. And while I've got a lot of thoughts about this particular edition (not all of them positive), I figured I'd share some of the rules I like in it for this particular Crunch update. With that said, I want to be clear; I like these rules as part of the greater structure of the game. I'm not endorsing someone cutting and pasting them into other games with different setups, whose framework isn't meant to accommodate these engine parts.

Okay? Okay.

#1: Hit Dice Are Fun

Hold on... let me catch my breath...
Most folks who've played modern incarnations of DND are familiar with the term hit dice, but in the past it's been a reference for how many dice make up your total hit points. You've got six fighter levels and you're a human, cool, you've got 6 hit dice. It was mainly used as a way to explain where your hit points came from, and as a way to determine if you were too powerful for certain spells to affect you.

In 5th edition, however, your hit dice are an actual pool of resources you can call on, which I think is a fun mechanic. You get knocked around by a hydra, take a breather, and spend three of your hit dice to heal some damage. Or, depending on the races and classes allowed at your table, you might be able to do other things with them. The trollkin from Kobold Press allow you to spend them on the fly, giving you a small measure of your ancestors' regenerative powers, for example. It feels less MMO than the healing surge from 4th edition, even though it performs the same function.

#2: I Enjoy Not Confirming Crits

Pow, right in the kisser!
Anyone who's ever sat at a table with me is aware of just how bad my dice luck is. I once rolled 11 natural 1's in a row. It doesn't matter what game I'm playing, or what numbers I need, I will roll poorly a majority of the time without fail. Which is why I tend to number crunch my PCs to ridiculous lengths... if I didn't, I'd never succeed at anything.

However, 5th edition's critical hit system is less frustrating for me in terms of rolling. If a 20 comes up (and even I roll them every now and again), then it's a crit. There is no critical range on weapons, though, so that balancing out means that while you can't crit on a 15 and up with the right weapon, there's no more worry about a natural 20 being followed by a confirmation roll of a natural 1. Still getting used to multiplying sneak attack on these hits, though.

#3: I Like Bardic Inspiration

You've got 10 minutes guys... make it count!
Bards are one of my favorite classes for a lot of reasons, but a big one is that over the years I've begun to really enjoy the support role. Partly because I rarely have to roll dice to help the party (see previous comments on me being cursed), but also because there's a certain satisfaction that comes with being the platform that elevates others. It lets them have the satisfaction of delivering the death blow, but I get to enjoy the knowledge that, without my aid, it wouldn't have landed.

Teamwork, everybody.

That's one reason I enjoy the idea of a bardic inspiration die, which is a mechanic that gives you a floating die you can roll for most checks when you need a little extra oomph. It's a flexible resource that allows you to add the bonus when you need it, and that can lead to some fun circumstances. Especially since they tend to allow you to add the bonus after you've rolled, but before you know the result. Which is why if you know you're one away from success, it's good to have an ace in the hole courtesy of your party bard.

There are also free-floating inspiration dice you can be rewarded by the DM, which gives the person behind the screen another way to help PCs succeed when appropriate.

#4: Advantage and Disadvantage Is Useful

5th edition, as a game, is a lot more dependent on the luck of the dice for success and failure. Which is a nice way of saying there aren't as many bonuses to stack, so a lot of the time you do need the dice to be hot if you want to do epic stuff. Which is why the mechanic of advantage and disadvantage can be such a game changer.

It's a pretty simple mechanic. If you have advantage, you roll 2 d20s and take the better result. Disadvantage, same thing, but the worse result. And if you have the ability to inflict this condition (such as through a barbarian's Reckless Attack, or via a Fighter's Protection fighting style) that can completely alter the course of the round. And possibly of the challenge you're currently facing. It also provides the DM with a simple way of giving you a reward, instead of trying to figure out a floating bonus for smart positioning, careful planning, etc.

#5: No Races Have Negatives To Traits (Which I Like)

Though humans still have one of the biggest draws.
There are few feelings as frustrating for me as a player than having a cool idea for a character concept, but knowing it's going to be handicapped by the character's racial choice. Such as in 3.5 when I would really want to play a half-orc, but the negatives they took to Intelligence and Charisma meant I'd be losing a lot more than I'd get if I wanted to use that race for a wizard, a sorcerer, a bard, or a lot of other classes.

5th edition solves some of that issue by making sure none of the core races takes negatives. So if you roll a really good stat, you won't have it dropped below that level if it's something your class and concept depends on. The bonuses your race gets might not help you, but they aren't going to hinder you if you want to be a little odd.

Well, That's One Shoe...

As I've said in other places on the Internet, I think 5th edition is a perfectly functional game. It does what it sets out to do, and it provides a lot of fun for a lot of folks. However, I'd like to know in the comments if folks want to see the mirror version of this article for the next Crunch installment, where I lay out some of the things I don't like about this edition, and where I think designers (or failing that, DMs) could do better.

That's all for this week's Crunch installment. If you haven't given 5th edition a try yet, give it a shot. It doesn't hurt. If you'd like to see more work by yours truly, then check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I work with other local gamers to put together skits, advice, and other tabletop videos. To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support Improved Initiative, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or just Buy Me A Ko-Fi! Either way, my eternal gratitude and some sweet gaming swag is yours.

1 comment:

  1. #5 - Kobolds have -2 STR + 2 DEX, so yeah, there are penalized races, but they're the underdog races which you play if you want those penalties