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5 Reasons to Play DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 5th Edition

You enter a dark, dreary article buried deep below the surface of With only a torch to light your way, you stumble blindly down the corridor, keeping your hand pressed flush to the wall for guidance. Tripping over a pebble in your path, you accidentally put your full weight on the rough-hewn granite of the walls and suddenly, you feel your handhold depressing into the wall. Before a poisoned quarrel can bury itself in your exposed flank, a friendly, pale-skinned author snatches it from the air.

“Greetings, traveler!” he says. “It seems you are out of your depth. This here is where we talk about Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, and why you should definitely, absolutely, positively be playing it.”

Your eyebrow instinctively raises, but you decide to listen to what this weird little hobgoblin has to say.

…Okay enough of that. That was fun though, wasn’t it? Remember how fun Dungeons & Dragons used to be? Remember when you and your group took one look at 4th Edition and you were like, “Sup, Pathfinder?” I do too, and with the release of today’s D&D 5th Edition Player’s Handbook (complete with a droolworthy Tyler Jacobson illustration of King Snurre, the titular king in 1978’s The Hall of the Fire Giant King) and Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure, I’m happy to say it’s time to come home to D&D.

5. It’s accessible to newcomers

While 4th edition tried to simplify the arcane, often obtuse labyrinth of rules that was 3rd Edition and 3.5, it missed the mark and wound up dumbing down the core gaming experience in a way that alienated many longtime players. As a result, Wizards of the Coast saw something of an exodus as people moved away from D&D and sought similar games like Pathfinder to scratch that classic pen-and-paper itch. Yet what about those who had never played before? Why should they pick up 5th Edition? Well, for starters, it is largely designed with them in mind.

While many of you are likely scoffing and saying to yourself, “Pfft, D&D isn’t that hard,” let me remind you of what a wise man named The Dude once said: “You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.” Do YOU know how to grapple in 3.5? The answer is no, no you don’t. No one does. If you said, “Yes,” give yourself forty lashes with a wet noodle for lying to the class. For example, skill checks. Hello darkness, my old friend. A returning mechanic in 5th Edition, skill checks have thankfully been greatly streamlined to allow for greater ease of play. Gone are the ranks which you would invest in potential skills like Diplomacy or Perception. Instead, they are not intrinsically tied to one of the six core ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma. While ranks weren’t necessarily all that difficult to use, they also didn’t need to exist, a fact which 5th Edition acknowledged and rectified with a quickness.

Many of my friends and colleagues had expressed a long-time interest in Dungeons & Dragons, but felt deterred by its seemingly insurmountable learning curve. What 5th Edition manages to do so well is create a feeling of pick-up-and-playability from the word “go.” During our recent livestream of the 5th Edition Starter Box, several of the players had no prior roleplaying experience. Yet, once they got a handle on the simple math at the core of the system and a few basic concepts, they were fending off ambushes, parrying blows, and adventuring with the best of them. This sense of accessibility is, perhaps, what D&D does best.


4. It finally feels like D&D again.

Yet that accessibility doesn’t mean they’ve dumbed down the game. Quite the contrary, actually. One of the biggest complaints I heard about 4th Edition is that it didn’t feel like D&D. What that meant exactly differed from person to person, but the most frequent definition was that it was “too video game-like.” Procedural rules, especially when it came to combat, were simplified and systemized, forcing players to use their class-allotted powers in order to deal the most damage on any given turn. It took the spontaneity out of combat, which is something that is ingrained into the very lifeblood of D&D itself. You know how when your characters in Final Fantasy reach a certain level, you can pretty much just hit “X” at light speed and you’ll kill your enemies in a few annoying rounds? 4th Edition was a lot like that; you pretty much knew exactly what power or ability to use each round in order to finish combat as expediently as possible.

5th Edition realized that this was a problem and has managed to streamline some of the more archaic or head-scratchingly dense rules while maintaining the integrity of previous iterations. Subjectively, this is one of the most easy-to-play, enjoyable Editions, to date, as it blends some of the best elements of past Editions to create a sum greater than its parts. This is no longer a game that merely rewards slavish devotion to intricate knowledge of rules tables or lends itself to min-maxing a la Skyrim; rather, this is a game that rewards creativity, the spirit in which the game was created in the first place and that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.


3. Advantages and Disadvantages

No, this isn’t a section about the pros and cons of 5th Edition. Rather, it’s about one of the most fascinating new additions to the ever-evolving formula that makes Dungeons & Dragons the wonderful timesink that it is. Dubbed “Advantage and Disadvantage”, the new mechanic is simple in theory: when a player who has an Advantage attempts an action during combat or while exploring, they are allowed to roll two twenty-sided dice (d20s) rather than the traditional one. To determine success, the player is allowed to use the higher of the two rolls as the result. Likewise, when a player has a Disadvantage, they roll two d20s and are made to use the lower of the two results.

As I learned the hard way, this doesn’t always work in the player’s favor (helloooo, falling damage!), but it provides Dungeon Masters with a wonderfully intuitive built-in mechanic for interpreting non-standard actions a player might take. If a rogue skulks in the shadows of a bell tower and uses his vantage point to snipe at the orcs below, he gets an Advantage as long as he maintains his position. And if you’re like me and you try to backflip out of a second-story window while wearing plate armor, well, you’d better believe that’s a Disadvantage. But that spirit of creativity is precisely what makes the game so exciting, and this is a fantastic way to give DMs the tools they need to implement those off-the-wall ideas into the game seamlessly.

2. THAC0 is still, thankfully, dead.

Enough said. Sorry, AD&D fans and mathematicians, but some things will never change.


1. The community

Back in the day, prospective players had to find an open dining room table, basement, or take refuge at their local comic book shop or gaming store if they wanted to find a quiet place in which to slay dragons, wield vorpal swords, and gallivant about the countryside. Magazines like Dungeon and Dragon opened up the hobby to a wider audience and provided a steady stream of new content and homebrew rules to keep campaigns fresh and make players feel like they were part of a shared world. Yet, as the license phased out of Paizo’s hands and those magazines went away, the Internet increasingly filled that void for lonely gamers looking to connect with other ready and willing players. Thankfully, this is something that did not go unnoticed by Wizards, who have done a tremendous job of creating a vibrant community on their website. Want to share your war stories? Play a forum-based campaign? Nerd out about the rich inner lives of mind flayers? It’s all right there at your fingertips.

In fact, Wizards is so focused on making D&D a community-oriented activity that they have made the basic rules of 5th Edition available for free in PDF form. While this isn’t quite the open D20 System license that lead to a proliferation and oversaturation of overly complex (and sometimes monumentally fun) game variants and campaign settings, it is a tremendously smart move and a way to help bring in a new audience of gamers that might be deterred by the $49.95 price tag for each of the three core books. Catering to your existing audience is important, but as Wizards well knows, the only way that the game is sustainable in the long run – especially in this era of video game dominance – is to bring in new blood. And the best way to do that is to make your product available to as large of an audience as possible.

The release of the mammoth Player’s Handbook is just the beginning. The Monster Manual, a bestiary of all the nasties in the D&D universe, arrives on September 30th, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide won’t hit shelves until November 18th.

Based on the success of our Starter Kit livestream, we’re going to be integrating Dungeons & Dragons into our Twitch livestreaming plans down the line, so hopefully, even if you can’t get a group together on your own, you can join us for those. While we’re eager to sink our teeth into the “Tyranny of Dragons” campaign arc, we’re also hoping to delve into some classic modules as well. It’s too early to tell if this is going to be the critical hit that Wizards needs for the D&D brand, but no one can deny their incredible initiative.


Will you be making the switch to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition? Why or why not? Or do you just want to share one of your favorite war stories? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Hotdawg says:

    Sure as hell not getting it and have not gotten it.
    Keeping those idiotic healing surges? Pah!
    Those are for the weak and stupid.
    I’m going HACKMASTER, baby!

  2. Chadbag says:

    It is interesting to follow the evolution of Dungeons & Dragons.   I remember first playing the basic (blue soft book in a box) D&D at a friend’s house around 8th grade ca. 79/80.    He also had these mythical books labeled Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player Handbook and Monster Manual.   After that first time we wanted to play with the AD&D books but they were incomplete.  No DMG yet.  So we played a hybrid game of the soft blue basic book and the 2 AD&D books we had.  I remember buying my own and when the DMG was finally released, asking my parents for that for Christmas.  It had the princely price of $12 on it.  My folks got it for me and I remember sneaking up into the attic to read it regularly before Christmas came.  My HS years were spent playing AD&D and I ended up with all the various books, but never did spend very much on modules, environments like Greyhawk, etc.  We just made up our own worlds.  Ah, the great feel of a pencil and graph and hex paper on your desk.  I bought a couple 2E books but we never played.  I started a 1E game (augmented with old Dragon magazine “updated” like Archer, Ranger/Archer, etc) with my son a few years back.  Unfortunately I broke my ankle soon thereafter and we stopped.   Am looking into restarting this sometime.   Saw the 5E and was wondering if it would be a good “upgrade.”   Nah.  Will stick with my 1E worlds and “campaigns.”   Not knocking 5E in any way.  Just that 1E was that mythically great open space that we used to let our imaginations run wild, and that is good enough for me.  Probably even buy some of the new 1E premium edition books.

  3. Bane says:

    Yeah, they can keep their d20, 4th and 5th editions.  I’ll take my old 1984 Basic D&D any day over everything else.  If you want to play REAL D&D, pick up the Basic Sets from ebay or buy the PDF’s.  Best version of D&D period.  Simple yet challenging, well written, play tested to perfection and all around fun.

  4. SpiltInk says:

    The biggest asset to 5th edition is what these games were meant to be…Roleplaying. Not everything is hack and slash. Sure if you found a great dungeon master and the right mix of players role play can come into any table top game. However, someone new coming into the game in 4th edition had no real clue on acting out the characters personality.

    The new edition provides help for new players on creating a rich background for players to add to. For myself that is a huge bonus while being a dm helping new players. I also love the break down on spell casters with a more diverse class system of sorcerer, warlock, and wizard. Spellcaster’s seemed very rare in 4th edition and were lucky if they made it through any campaign. 4th edition was not spell caster friendly, it was melee class heavy and not balanced at all in my opinion.

    I’ve never played Pathfinder so I cannot compare the two, but I can compare versions of D&D and I am happy they brought back the feel of the old Advanced rules. Those that complain about the newest version may not be giving it enough testing, after all the Dungeons Masters guide was only just released, and it’s a wonderful handbook, chock full of ideas for a dungeon master and much more information than 4th edition.

    And for those that may not realize much of the old mythos has been reintroduced with legendary characters from the past, and added new ones. This makes for a richer environment and a better background of each realm. Its not perfect yet, but as time marches forth more things are going to be added, I can just feel it. I am hoping for a re-intro to ravenloft, and maybe even Greyhawk. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  5. Matt says:

    4th edition rewarded creativity too. All TTRPG’s do if the GM knows how to GM. I’m so sick of 4e bashing…5e is ok, it’s what 3e should have been. 4e is a better, more balanced system (no caster superiority) with much less sacred cow silly rules and silly formatting (learning 3rd level spells at level 5?!).

  6. EvilNerdLord says:

    By 3.5 I was totally burned out and fed-up with DnD, having been at it since ’78-79 with the white box  and had moved on to other systems. Now, after sitting in a game at CONquest X and reading reviews I am actually excited. Never thought I’d feel that way about a DnD product again…

  7. Greg Brown says:

    Where’d Read Magic go?  Unnecessary now?  Where do the new spells come from for Wizards?

  8. gamemasterflash says:

    Why does everyone hate THACO?I play 5e, but I prefer to run 2e because it feels like an adventure game with lots of roleplaying. 5e still kinda feels like a game of tactical function. Easier to understand than 3.5 or 4e, but still focusing on what powers you get when you level and how they affect combat (and combat and more combat).

  9. Eothr Si'lan says:

    The short answer is a resounding “no, I will not ‘make the switch’ “.
    The long answer?
    I was introduced to D&D by way of Fourth Edition; up until that point, my ‘gaming’ consisted of home console and handheld video games, such as Zelda, Fire Emblem, and Pokemon. From -that- perspective, the heavily codified parameters of 4E were -familiar-, -comfortable-, and above all, -succinct-.
    Admittedly, I have only accumulated about 8 hours of real-world gameplay, and some intermittent months of play-by-post interactions, so my argument is wet-paper-thin at best; but I have listened to real play podcasts (namely Major Spoilers Critical Hit podcast) and have read the first and second trinity of Core sourcebooks–and I never once felt that 4E was a stagnation on creativity, role-play, or adventure.
    I heard it best from the Game Master of the podcast I listen to: the RAW of Dungeons and Dragons is -not- conducive to RP. The RP is what the players bring to the table by flavoring their PCs with backstories, accents, quirks, and other things. The books should NOT define how you cooperatively create your stories, they should ONLY provide the GUIDELINES to help -immerse- you in the stories you make.
    I -do- have a copy of the 5th Edition PHB. I’ve read through it nearly five times now–and I feel no excitement to create a character with these rules or take part in a world with PCs made from this edition; and that’s all on -me-. There’s nothing inherently -wrong- with 5th Edition. I just know that I personally don’t like it.
    That’s my thoughts, anyway. Won’t surprise me I end up the last person to play 4E, but to that I say:
    “Fourth and Proud”

  10. anon says:

    #1.  3.5 is still superior in almost every way.

    • Seidmadr says:

      I disagree on one point: Every class in 5E is useful right off the bat.
      You don’t need half a dozen or so sourcebooks to create a monk that’s actually useful. The Rogue is more than just a bundle of walking skills. The Bard as a class isn’t a trap option. The Fighter is actually useful.

      And it works in the other direction too. Clerics, Druids and Wizards are brought down from the lofty perch of being able to trivialize any encounter of even remotely close CR.

      And these are just the classes. There are tons of great ideas in there, such as bounded accuracy, or the simple wonder that is the Proficiency system.

      I’d go on talking if I thought that there was any way to convert you, but I doubt there is. Still, I feel that I should try, if nothing else for other people who read this later on. 3.5 had good points, I agree, but 5E builds on all of them, and adds good points of it’s own.

  11. Alyksandr says:

    Man, I am trusting you, I came looking for someones review who would directly criticizes 4th edition as they aren’t plants and I was welcomed by a big lebowski quote I shall trust this review and give it a try

  12. It’s a nice article but I was a part of the new D&D playtest from beginning to end and I have to say that, while this new edition is a great improvement over many of the issues you noted that many players had with 4th Edition (myself included), I saw nothing in the playtest or the final product which has lured me away from Pathfinder.

    While I agree that the new D&D is excellent for introducing new players to their first Pen and Paper RPG, I don’t think that the changes will win back any significant portion of the fan base of experienced players they lost with 4th ed.

    Additionally WoTC should rethink their starter box cause IMO the Patherfinder Beginer Box gives you more bang for the buck and is a better introduction to the rule set.

    The D&D Starter Box comes with a 64-page adventure book, a
    32-page rulebook for playing characters level 1-5
    5 pre-generated characters, with character sheets and 6 dice.

    The Pathfinder Beginner Box give you. 64-page Hero’s Handbook, (i.e. Player’s Guide), A 96-page Game Master’s Guide (with mini Monster Manual), 7 dice., 80 full-color pawns depicting both heroes and monsters
    , Four pregenerated character sheets, Four blank character sheets, a resuable, double-sided Flip-Mat play surface that works with any kind of marker
    and a 16-page Transition Guide for when you’re ready to play the full game.

    When speaking of the full set there is a big price difference as well. D&D is a three book set, PHB, DMG and MM each with an MSRP of $49.95. So at retail prices it’s $149.85 for all three books.

    Pathfinder is two books, Core Rules MSRP $49.99 and Bestiary Book (yes I know there are three more monster books but only one is needed to get started and do you really think D&D is going to stop at one MM?) MSRP $39.99 for a retail total of $89.98 so Pathfinder is $59.87 less to start then D&D. Also Pathfinder has been out for several years so gamers on a budget can always look for used copies.

    But personnel preference aside, I think the new D&D is good for for DMs with players who are totally new to PnP RPGs (or those who like simplicity) and I if I was going to start playing myself (for the first time) my choice (based on reviews) would likely be D&D, however I would have shell out more $$$ cause it’s more expensive to start then Pathfinder.

  13. hhattori says:

    I understand yout feeling but belive me this edition really brings D&D back! 

  14. Tmac says:

    4th edition was good in its own right, and it had its fans just like any other editions, you have no right to bash it just be cause you don’t know how to handle the system…

  15. tmac says:

    wow such a unique opinion… NOT… 4th edition was not WoW, it was a good game, so stop the hating. 

  16. Greg Brown says:

    Thac0 wasn’t hard.  But the advantage/disadvantage works fine.

  17. Greg Brown says:

    No, check out the cantrips.  If anything, wizards might be overbalanced.  Shocking grasp, for example, is a cantrip.  Cantrips can be cast at will.

  18. Akolotu Moeloa says:

    The “No True Scotsman” fallacy rears its ugly head.