Home > My Game, Reviews, System Impressions > 5th Edition And Me

5th Edition And Me

I finally had a chance to try out the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons over the weekend. In today’s post, I’m going to talk about my first impressions from the behind the DM’s screen. I want to repeat that because it’s important. These are my first impressions and so may or may not hold up over time, so take them in that spirit.

The Group

I think it’s important to talk about the make-up of this test group. My group consisted of five players with me as the Dungeon Master. All five of my players were new to the system, though one player had read through the system books before. One, my wife, is a pretty casual gamer. The rest of the group are gamers of varying experience levels. I’ve been gaming with four of the five for several years, and two of those I’ve been gaming with since I was in college.

The Creation of a Party

I walked the group through character creation and if I had had more books, I don’t think it would have taken as long as it did. I created a character for one of the players who was busy at the time and creating it myself only took about 15 to 20 minutes. I used the class and background based equipment as well, which considerably shortened things, since no one was buying their equipment piece meal. The group ended up with the following:

  • Tiefling Rogue – played by my wife
  • Dwarf Barbarian – played by one of my college friends
  • Half-Elf Warlock – played by one of my college friends
  • Drow Bard – played by the newest addition to the group
  • Half-Orc Ranger – played by one of the slightly more casual gamers in the group

The Warlock and Bard took the longest to create because they had to select spells. This is to be expected with spell casters, so it’s not really a mark against the system. And they didn’t have to pick a lot of spells. There was a distinct lack of preparation casters (like the Wizard or the Cleric) in the group, so I didn’t get to see how the changes to that system played out. We ended each character’s creation with rolling on the trinket table. Everyone seemed to like that part. We didn’t go too deeply into the items or why they had them, but one person did bring their item up during the game, so it didn’t end up just being a throwaway thing.

A party delves into a dungeon

My party wishes they were this cool. Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast Fan Site Kit

Brace For Adventure

The adventure itself was a small adventure of my own devising based on my concepts for the campaign I’ve been discussing in some of my other posts. I tried to stick fairly close to the guidelines presented for the XP budget since this was my first time DMing in this system. In general, I was pleased with the outcome. The first fight was easier than intended because I realized just how bad Sunlight Sensitivity can be for kobolds. That being said though, I did manage to nearly knock out the bard with a dropped piece of roof from a flying kobold, so things could have easily swung the monster’s way with some better rolls.

It feels like they’ve returned to encounter design being a “scientific art”. By that, I mean that there are guidelines and simple formulas, but you really have to look at the monsters you’re using and what they’re capable of and weigh that against the capabilities of the party. I threw a CR 2 lizardfolk shaman at the party (reskinned as a really big kobold) and while he managed a little bit of damage, the party handled him fairly easily.  I think for a second adventure I’ll have a better feeling for what the party can do and just how much I can push them.

While we’re on the subject of encounters, let’s talk encounter speed. I ran all the encounters as theater of the mind. We never got into a situation where the new attack of opportunity rules (attack of opportunity only on leaving a creature’s reach) came up. I ran a grand total of four encounters in about two hours, which isn’t bad in my estimation for new players with a new DM. And it’s a far cry from the maybe two encounters that that same time in 4th Edition would have gotten us. There was also a good amount of roleplaying and in-character conversation during that time frame, so I consider it full session.

From my side of the screen, things ran smoothly and I never felt like I was lost for rules. The system gave me enough to go on that I felt confident fudging anything I wasn’t sure about and moving on. In the next session, I’ll push the PCs harder and introduce the need for short rests to recover hit points, but it wasn’t really necessary this time around.

Collected Thoughts Towards Carrying On

The long story short is that I like the system. I want to do some more sessions to make sure it isn’t just the bloom on the rose. I liked 4th Edition as well when I started, but now I can’t stand it. Now that I have a better feel for how the encounters work, I feel like I can really build an adventure in the way that I want. I think I may have found the system for the story I want to tell with my old school campaign.

As a final note, I have to give a shout out to the party’s bard. Bards have an ability that allows another character in the party to roll a d6 with one of their d20 rolls sometime in the 10 minutes after the bard uses the ability. Our bard, at a loss for what to do in one encounter, decided to give the bonus to the barbarian. He picked up one of his dice and passed it across the table to the barbarian. That simple gesture struck me as a great way to handle that ability and I just wanted to publicly say, “Welcome to the group.”

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  1. May 11, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    Thanks for the overview from the DM’s perspective. Any chance one of your players might be willing to post their perspective from the other side of the screen? I am curious to know what it feels like in play, especially compared to previous versions of D&D.

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