I couldn’t hold out any longer, everyone is playing and liking Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. Module producers are selling more copies, and it was time to try it out.
Against my budget’s better judgement I freed up $65 bucks or so and ordered the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide. I decided to wait on the Monster Manual until I got through reading these first two.
I thought the logical progression would be to read the PLayer handbook (PHB) then the Dungeon Master Guide (DMG) in order. Throughout Dungeons and Dragon’s history this has been the progression to learn the game, it’s mechanics and intent.
I dove straight into the PHB eager to learn the new rules with an open mind. As I blasted through the first couple of chapters I quickly started becoming a fan. The system was streamlined, it grabbed on to some of the most common house rules and applied them (I.E. Maximum HP at first level and others). I was getting more eager than a beaver on woodcutter’s day!
I got to the section on classes and everything started to fall apart. As you go through the details of classes many game mechanics get referenced that have not been explained. Skills, skill checks and other mysterious abilities not completely covered are talked about as if they are ‘old hat’.
I quickly unraveled and was no longer able to follow the text by the time I got the the cleric class. The spell caster class has a number of abilities and game mechanic essentials that is discussed, but has not been explained prior to the entry.
It got confusing, and I put the book down for a few hours to re-group. I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but this is a problem with editing and organization of the product. If it lost me, a BECMI/1E/2E convert eager to get on board and familiar with other systems, what is happening to younger readers new to the hobby?
I believe WOTC’s (Wizards of the Coast) mistake in these books is that everyone has gone through the starter set completely. Not a wise assumption. Prior to the classes section the writing is presented as if you might be new to the game.
I thought perhaps my mistake was not going through the DMG first. perhaps game mechanics are made more clear there, perhaps that should have been my first reading. No, in the beginning of the DMG is instructs you to not read through until you are familiar with the game mechanics.
At this point, I am not sure where to go to find the game mechanics. They were grazed early in the PHB, but nor explained thoroughly. I kept hoping to see charts that summed up the functions, but they aren’t there. Perhaps charts aren’t required, but the sections of the mechanics, do need a brief summary of what it does, or a reference to the page where it is discussed in detail.
In frustration I have set the books down, and will go back to read through their free PDF starter rules. Which, I don’t think should be required when you buy the books to learn the system.
I will expand more on my thoughts on the system as I read through and figure things out. Right now – I am sure that I will be a big fan of this system. I do REALLY like the mechanics that I have read so far. Stat +/- are the same for all stats, the DC thing for DM’s will be much easier, character sheets seem simple and more.
I AM looking sternly at the editing and layout team though for discussing mechanics in the text without explaining those mechanics first or referencing their explanation in the text.
I am now off to peruse the basic instructions more, which I suspect may be just the first couple of chapters in the PHB and not clarify all the mechanics.
I believe OSR and 1E gamers could enjoy the system though, as mentioned it does things we have been home-ruling for ages. Cleric spells are not really ‘memorized’ and more.
**** EDIT**** addition
It would seem the way to use the book is what may be missing. The PHB seems to read better if you use the *Contents* section while reading to bounce around and clarify things.
While this DOES help get through it all, I have to say, I am still a fane of Frank Mentzer’s beginning text in the red box that begins, “Start here.”