In a previous post, I reviewed the D&D Starter Set for 5th Edition, and i recommended it. Now the Player’s Handbook has been released and it brings you into the full player experience for the game. The 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons stands on the 3 pillars of adventure: exploration, social interaction, and combat. Dungeons & Dragons is a game that is driven by imagination where players are members of a party participating in various adventures. Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a role-playing game where players assume the role of a character that they create on paper and bring to life during the adventures. The players take that role and interact with one another as their character, as well as with the Dungeon Master who is a narrator of sorts and controls the actions of the environment, creatures and non-player characters (NPCs) in the game. Over the course of many adventures, the characters gain experience and advance levels, giving them new, better, and stronger abilities. There are some new concepts introduced in this edition and some refinements made over previous editions, specifically ability advantages and disadvantages, movement of the game from tactical back towards theater of the mind, and some changes with spell slots and rituals. I will cover those more in a little bit
With the 5th Edition materials released so far, the first thing that impresses me is the presentation. The artwork on the covers has been amazing. The font, layout and artwork gives a very “experienced” game a fresh and modern look. The cover art for the player’s handbook has a party having an encounter with a fire giant. The starter set had a character engaging a dragon. So the theme so far is bringing in the “BIG.” so far covers for the 5th edition have had dragons and giants. Even though the cover looks awesome, what’s inside is what matters most.
Cracking open this new edition of the Player’s Handbook (PHB), the overall look and feel is high quality. There are 316 pages of information that is useful to players while experiencing Dungeons & Dragons. My first impression of the pages was this: Nice page layout with the columns, nice font selection, line spacing and use of bold type. The pages have this nice parchment appearing background that gives the look of an old tome without being distracting to the eyes. There are lots of well-layed out tables and charts and example text boxes that have a complementing highlight that adds to ease of use. Plenty of full color artwork is spread throughout the pages to draw you deeper into the D&D multiverse.
The book is divided into 3 parts and has 5 appendices, an index and a character sheet that can be reproduced. One thing I like is that there is a color difference in the bottom margin for each section. So you can easily move between sections of the book. The three main sections are: Creating a character, Playing the Game and the Rules of Magic.
The first section on character creation gives 170 pages of information on creating a character. This covers everything from choosing a race and class, to describing traits, to developing personality and background including bonds and flaws. Bonds are there to tie a character to the multiverse and some adventures offer specific bonds that can be used as well. There is a new concept called inspiration. It is a rule where the Dungeon Master can reward a player for playing a character in a way that’s true to his or her personality traits, ideal, bond and flaw. The inspiration award can be expended as an advantage roll, meaning make 2 rolls and keeping the higher of the 2, when making attack rolls, saving throws, or ability checks. With 170 pages of information and the added incentive to play out your character fully, really drives the heart of a role-playing game. It allows for players to really take on the role of their character and let the imagination do it’s work. This section also includes equipment for your character and feats that give them extra abilities. A nice feature I found in this section, was a quick-build option for each of the classes to quickly generate a character to start playing.
Moving on the the section on playing the game, this section covers the rules that govern how everything takes place. In Dungeons and Dragons, dice are used to determine certain outcomes for encounters and events. This section covers the rules for using the dice for checking abilities, initiative in combat, attack rolls, and saving throws. The concept of advantage and disadvantage is in here. This is a new rule that affects special abilities or spells that come up. With an advantage, 2 rolls are made with the higher roll being used, and with a disadvantage, 2 rolls are made and the lower roll is kept. I like this new rule. I think it brings more to the character, exploiting either strengths or weaknesses that a character has in a way that has more of an impact of certain ability checks. The book does a nice job of explaining this concept. There are good explanations for adventuring, covering time, speed, movement. Movement is measured in feet. The 5th edition rules do not focus on a grid system like 4th edition did for determining movement and position, rather it works at moving the game back towards the theater of the mind, making it less tactical. Personally, I prefer the theater of the mind because that is how I recall playing D&D as a kid back with 1st edition. However, page 192 of the PHB does give a variant for playing on a grid. The PHB also covers resting and what to do between adventures.
The third section covers the use of spells in the game. Several classes of characters are able to use magic and cast spells and this section covers that. One nice thing that is included here is rituals. Certain types of spells are considered rituals and can be performed as a ritual by taking time in advance to prepare them, and then it does not take up a spell slot. This is great for players who can anticipate things to come and can prepare certain rituals to keep the rest of their spell energy available by keeping the slots open.
Finally, there are a number of appendices that cover different things. Appendix A provides detailed descriptions of conditions characters may be in. For example, a frightened character has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within the line of sight. These conditions incorporate the use of advantage and disadvantage. Appendix B covers the gods of the multiverse and Appendix C covers the Planes of Existence. Appendix D covers some creature stats that often times, through the use of magic, characters can transform themselves into. They can also be used as a micro monster manual for common creatures. Finally, Appendix E offers inspirational reading.
The Player’s Handbook is a no brainer when considering a purchase. This is a wealth of information that is easy to navigate and understand. I love the layout of the pages and the color division of each of the sections. The large section on character creation, really drives this game to use the imagination and offers so much information to incorporate in playing out your role. To me, I like the new rules of advantage and disadvantage as well as the inspiration rule. This just helps to further flesh out the characters and allows the full character to be experienced and played out. The improvement on the rituals for spellcasting is huge. Being able to keep spell slots open is very important for magic using characters. The 5th Edition moving towards the theater of the mind and less tactical to me streamlines the game. I am not opposed to grid play, but I like to use my mind more. I highly recommend this new edition for players who are ready to jump in to the 5th Edition rules as well as those who got the Starter Set and are ready for more.