Saturday, July 05, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Rocks !

First of all, this blog has been given a new template. Many friends and readers have commented on how horrible the old design was, so I thought I'd apply a new template to see if you readers prefer this new look.

Of course, mirroring the change in my blog was no accident.

I made the changes to celebrate the launch of a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

This game, already on it's 5th Edition, can be downloaded here for free :

New generation of gamers will need to know this is not a computer game, but an old school paper and pencil RPG which I have been playing since I was 10 years old.

As there are at least 2 other financial bloggers who are old school RPGers, I will not explain how much D&D shaped my life and personal philosophy, the fact that a few fairly popular bloggers had a background playing D&D speaks volumes of its ability to spark a person's imagination and analytical ability.

Today we have just concluded my first game of D&D since quitting over the poorly designed and fairly mechanical 4th Edition rules.  Here are my findings :

a) The game is super simple and elegant.

Paper and Pencil RPGs are notorious hard to setup. This time, we could create a fresh new character within 15 minutes and start running the game. The Fighter and Rogue were relatively easier to create. The wizard and cleric took about 30 minutes as players wanted to select a list of spells to prepare for the adventure.

b) The game really encourages role-playing

TRPGs were hurt quite badly by the success of games like World of Warcraft. Designers first thought that RPGs should emulate their electronic cousins so made gameplay very mechanistic. They forgot that TRPGers are the folks who game to avoid the limited options of computer RPG gaming.

D&D5E resolves the issue by employing a mechanic called Inspiration, The Dungeon Master (DM) awards inspiration points when players allow their personality to determine their actions within the game. Inspiration points are mechanically powerful and allows players to roll two dice and take the better value in their dice-rolls, drastically increasing the odds of getting something done.

In my game today, a player who seldom role-plays took on a role of a war veteran with PTSD once he discovered that I will give a point whenever someone made their characters more believable. He "loses it" when he hears the cries of a small child and charged towards an ambush set up by a monster to get that inspiration point.

In another situation, the rogue who had a background of a folk hero, wanted to lay a murdered farmer and his family to rest by charging the farmers-turned-zombies to play up his feelings for his commoners were also awarded a point of inspiration.    

c) The game is challenging and can be quite lethal.

I sent four skeletons to attack a party of four. The fighter went down in 3 rounds and we could almost had a TPK situation. This will never happen in a 4th Edition game ( or Diablo III for that matter )

This was very similar to older editions. At lower levels, you can die from a tactical mistake or an unlucky dice roll.

d) Leveling up takes 5 minutes

The game has been very much simplified, to level up a fighter, I added 11 hit points and gave him a new Action Surge ability which allows him an additional action once every fight.

e) Playing D&D as someone preparing to go into Law School is very interesting

As I am the only guy who is crazy enough to DM an incomplete game, I can see that some of my early law school preparation has impacted the way I look at adjudicating an RPG game. In many situations, the gaming rules did not cover the situation which occurs on a gaming table.

A wizards familiar was escaping with someone's amulet. The wizard used a Mage Hand spell to grab the amulet back. I had to rule that it's an Intelligence check versus a Strength check.  It was an a situation which opposed spell-power versus muscle-power which also has to account for the weight of the amulet and the fair power for a cantrip spell - this is very similar to a legal concept like ratio decidendi which I read about a few weeks ago. This ruling would have an impact in future gaming sessions until the publication of the Player's handbook (Which reads almost like a set if statutes).

Some other rulings are not so straight-forward, the PTSD great-weapon fighter guy wanted to trigger a war flashback in every battle to get Inspiration points ( He thinks he's Rambo ). I ruled that every award of Inspiration has to entertain everyone and is given on a case by case basis. If you get Inspiration once, it does not mean that a similar situation would warrant another reward. This is eerily similar to a ruling that is orbiter dictum, does not bind the DM in future situations even if they are similar.

So I guess even if I don't get a job after graduation, the stuff I pick in Law School would make me a better DM !

Sadly, the Basic game is incomplete. I had to source for free adventures on the web and have about 4 kinds of monsters to deploy on my game next week.

On to the Level 2 game where I had to build  a manor by scratch and populate it with only 4 monsters published for the game...


  1. Awesome! Although I don't play DnD, and I only read the novels, it is good to hear that the seminal work that spawned so much rich material is alive and kicking.

  2. Nice review of early game play. I read this after the Players Handbook was released but it is still relevant as the time to create a character is longer but not that much.