|Compare this to the version on page 171|
I spent hours googling the artists from the Player's Handbook to find good scans of their art. I couldn't find all the ones I like, but I found most. It almost killed me! I hope you get something out of it.
(The one piece I couldn't find that I really wanted to include is the elf casting dimension door on page 232)
How Do You Play Dungeons & Dragons?
If you are entirely new to tabletop role-playing games, here's how it works: One person runs the game. They are the "Dungeon Master". They tell you where you are, what you see, and they control every monster, shopkeeper, queen, waiter, bad guy, etc.
|Love this one: Prismatic Spray by Clint Cearley|
|Elf vs. Hellhound by Craig Elliot - The No Pants/No Shield version?|
The players should remember not to ruin the game for others by whining, cheating, or being a distraction (by creating excessive side-conversations or looking at their phone which, IMO, should be turned off during the game). Bottom line, if you're going to play D&D, play D&D. If you just want to hang out, drink and talk, then do that instead.
For a good example of how the game works, watch a little bit of this PAX convention game run by the best DM on the planet, Chris Perkins.
What Are the Changes in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition?
|Beth Trott got cut off big time|
Saving throws are all keyed to your stats. If someone casts fireball at you, you make a Dexterity saving throw. If you are poisoned, you make a Constitution saving throw. Just roll a d20 and add your ability modifier.
Attacks of Opportunity are largely gone. The only time you have to worry about them is when you try to back away from an enemy.
There is no charging, unless you have the feat known as "charger". A double move is now part of the "dash" action.
Advantage: You roll twice and take the higher of the two rolls. You can get advantage in all sorts of ways... usually getting the jump on your enemies. Disadvantage is the opposite - you roll twice and take the lower of the two rolls.
|Page 272 - they really ruined this one in the book|
Inspiration: A reward for playing up your character's background. When you have inspiration, you can use it to give yourself advantage on one roll of your choosing.
Downtime: This is an abstract system to help you handle your character's "off" days when you're not out on an adventure. I go over this in detail here.
Basically you can train, craft, recover from diseases, etc.
The Art of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
I've gone over my feelings on the art in previous columns. I'm not a fan at all of the "page rips" and the "coffee stains" that make up the background of the art in the 5e books. I also am not enamored with a lot of the art in the player's handbook. It just looks a bit blurry and uninspired. I don't know a lot about modern art techniques using tablets, but I am kind of wondering if this is simply a technology issue.
|My favorite illustration in the PH, by Alessandra Pisano|
I also couldn't help but notice that one of my favorite pieces of art - the elf vs. the hellhound - was altered. Wizards had to put pants on the elf pictured above fighting the hellhound. Here's the site of Craig Elliot, the artist. I also realized that Jesper Ejsing is pretty freaking good.
As an old fogey in his mid 30's, my idea of good D&D art is stuff by Larry Elmore, Clyde Caldwell and Tony DiTerlizzi. In my largely uninformed opinion, the 5th edition stuff does not measure up. But maybe that's just me getting old. Perhaps this new art will grow on me.
I have placed my favorite pieces of PH art throughout this column. Almost all of them look much better on their own, without the spilled coffee.
I would have liked to see some art that depicted some iconic D&D locations, like a hero in the tomb of horrors, something involving Strahd, maybe even a "crossover" piece of art with Tanis Half-Elven and Elminster talking with the Lady of Pain.
There is a "bar fight" scene on page 126 in what appears to be The Yawning Portal, the bar that contains an entrance to the mega-dungeon known as Undermountain. I don't really like the painting much but I appreciate the idea. There is a lot of art of items throughout the book, which is a nice touch, though most of it feels dull.
|Yawning Portal bar fight|
I think that wizards tried to load this book up with art like the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG book did, but in my opinion DCC hit a home run and this is maybe, at best, a double. DCC has it a little easier as they used black and white art, which I'd imagine is much cheaper to commission.
The paper they used in this book is fantastic. There's no glare and the ink doesn't smudge when my greasy paws rub it for any length of time (you should see some of my 4e adventure booklet covers.. it's like a crime scene). The paper has a sort of "wetness" to it, smooth to the touch and heavy in a weird way. Fantastic!
Random Thoughts on The Player's Handbook
Page 109 Warlocks can take on patrons like The Great Old One. Entities of this type include Ghaunadaur, Tharizdun and "Great Cthulhu". CTHULHU.
Page 114 There's a sidebar discussing spellbooks. It takes 2 hours and 50 gold per spell level to copy a spell into your book. I kind of wish they made a little random table of different types of spellbooks, like one long scroll, or a book made of dragon hide, etc.
Page 154 Tools are really odd. All that to add your proficiency bonus to certain rolls? It's so vague as to who can do what if you aren't proficient with certain tools. I guess if you use thieves' tools but you aren't proficient, you make the check with disadvantage?
|The cover art unfettered by Tyler Jacobson|
Page 168 I really hated feats in 3rd edition. But I really like these feats in this book, Particularly Mage Slayer. If you're adjacent to someone casting a spell, you can attack them. You can also disrupt their concentration and you get advantage on saves vs spells. It reminds me of the Spellslayers from Al Qadim. I think it is a cool idea to have a character who specializes in taking down spellcasters, seems like it could make for a cool campaign.
Page 175 I really wish they hadn't bothered with passive skill checks. I barely used them in 4e, and it lead to a lot of complaints by players when something bad happened that maybe/might/probably wouldn't have been auto-detected by a passive skill. In my opinion, as DM, you have to account for passive skills when preparing your adventure. You're just not going to remember them in the heat of the moment.
|This Reynolds art is half-obscured in the PH|
Page 189 Surprise is left up to the DM to a degree. You could compare a PC stealth check to the enemy's passive perception (ugh). If you win, you basically get a free round of attacks and movement.
Page 190 Getting up from prone costs half your speed!
Page 204 The little chalkboard drawing of the different Areas of Effects of spells is very helpful. Most of the stuff seems like 4e bursts and blasts (which I love) re-worded.
In the back of the book, there's a section on the planes. In 4th edition, there were four planes: The Feywild, The Shadowfell, The Astral Sea and The Elemental Chaos. In 5th edition, they've brought back a lot of the old stuff from previous editions like The Beastlands (which I always hated) and Mechanus (which I love). A lot of these planes were folded into one of the 4e "big four", but now they are all separate again.
|Magic Missile on page 200 - compare!|
I'm also very happy that they brought back the planes of positive and negative energy. If you remember, the demi-plane of minerals borders the positive energy plane and sort of fuels the creation of ioun stones. I rambled about all of this in a previous article all about ioun stones.
The book lists pantheons and deities from many settings, including the Forgotten Realms (the core seteing of 5e), Greyhawk (THE D&D setting IMO), Dragonlance, and Eberron. There's also a great list of demi-human deities. You might want to track down the old AD&D monster mythology book. You can probably get it for a couple bucks and it is a fantastic resource that has most of these non-human deities in it.
They also list Celtic, Greek, Egyptian and Norse gods. I've never been into using "real" mythology in my D&D games, but hey maybe it will work for you.
You can get the basic rules completely free here. The only difference between the basic rules and the player's handbook is that the PH has more classes, races and spells, and other extra details. The basic rules are the same as the rules in the PH.
Is Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Good?
I've run a number of playtest campaigns over the last year and we didn't have any problems.
But I have seen quite a bit of worry online that "min/maxers" will "break" this game with ease. 4th edition did a pretty fantastic job of balancing things in that regard. 5th is much more loose and it seems very likely that power gamers will do their thing.
|My favorite landscape, by Jedd Chevrier. Extreme zoom in the PH page 36|
Here's the bottom line. If you don't like power gamers, don't play with them. DMs, you can shut this behavior down. You make the rules, you are not bound by the book. This is how D&D has always been. If somebody is bending a rule to "cheat code" the game, just tell them you're not allowing it. If they can't handle this, they need to find another group.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition is really good, it's as simple as that. You should definitely check it out.