Wednesday, September 16, 2015

5e's Report Card

I saw a thread on a forum about grading 5e as an edition. Might as well! This is probably as close to a review of 5e as I'm willing to do.

Actually, I'm just using this to string together some thoughts I've had about 5e that aren't worthy of their own individual posts. Sukkas!

- Class progression & design, including archetypes: B+
For my purposes, the array of classes in the PHB is perfect. I'm glad the warlock made the cut; I don't care either way that the warlord didn't. 

Some of the subclasses don't seem to pack the same amount of oomph as others in their cohort, but to be honest I think 5e is one of the better balanced editions of D&D. I haven't encountered any instances of anything being egregiously under-powered or even weaker in a noteworthy way. Most charop arguments I've seen over 5e have been over who does ten more points of damage at high levels--at which point, who cares?

I tend to approach class-balance the same way I approach balance in fighting games: if everyone is at least in the same ballpark, and there are no clearly superior choices to be made, we're good to go.

- Backgrounds: A-
Man, what a great addition to D&D these are.

- Skills/proficiency: A-
The trimmed-down skill list is pretty perfect for how I like to run games. I might have cut a few more, but this is good as-is. More guidelines for tool proficiencies would have been nice, but I can wing it.

- Feats: A-
Totally optional, small list of flexible options? Yes, please.

- Combat: B+

The thing that matters most to me about combat is pacing, and 5e combat moves along at a good clip. 

One thing I wish was in the PHB was some advice for new players about the basic, assumed tactics of the various character classes. It's pretty clear now that the ranger is meant to drop hunter's mark on his enemies and then wreck their day, so why not point that sort of thing out upfront?

- Magic: B

5e has a good variety of spells, and there are some interesting new limits on spells, but there are still too many spells that just deal some flavor of direct damage, and some spells that seem a little bit like "trap" choices or are overly fiddly.

- Overall satisfaction of leveling up: A-

Every level gives you something new and fun, without overloading the Christmas tree.

- Ease of play: B+

5e isn't the simplest game, but it's not a heavy behemoth either.

- Ease of DMing: B+

See above. And I don't really care about the CR system all that much.

- Innovation: B

I don't really expect innovation from D&D--that way lies folly--but the way they've made some old ideas feel new and fresh should count as innovative by some measure.

- Monster design: B+

Monsters seem well designed to me and I don't get the criticisms about them being boring. I do wish that the monster-building advice in the DMG was better, however.

- potential for house rules: B

5e is solidly in-between old-school D&D (where it's easy to see all the moving parts) and 3.x/4e (which strike me as a bad combination of esoteric and baroque).

- game balance/math: B+

Pretty balanced, as I stated above, but also, I don't think anyone plays D&D for the balance. "That was a really fun game! The math was great!" said no one, ever. And if they did, they aren't welcome at my table. Or in my house. Or even in my line of sight. 

- product support: B-

The product cycle for 5e has been slow. I'm totally fine with that. It drives some people mad, but...I also don't understand the idea that you need to be buying into D&D to be playing D&D. I really, really don't understand that "I hate this edition and am super pissed that there isn't more of it to buy" mindset.

- artwork & graphic design: A-

To be honest, I don't like the art in most editions of D&D. I don't like a LOT of old-school art, and I don't like the feathered hair aesthetic of 2e D&D or the dungeonpunk stuff of 3e. 5e has the best art of any edition of D&D by my standards; it's not super flavorful or distinct, but it's really good for a glossy mass product. And I love that the graphic design doesn't remind me of a college textbook the way 4e did.

Also, I love these so much:

The best picture to ever appear in a DMG? Yes, yes it is.

It's hard to make a mummy look not-goofy, but this? This is terrifying.

Those haunted eyes tho.

I saw some guy on a forum proclaim that this picture is what made him swear to never play 5e. Can you imagine having to play a game with someone like that? This pic is wonderful, and apparently it is weeding out the weak-minded.

- overall enjoyment provided by the game: A-
Been having a great time, thanks for asking.

- other (your own topics)

Can we talk about the bindings of the 5e books for a second? A book that expensive should have a more durable binding. The covers on my books don't even close when laid on their side. SEE ME AFTER CLASS.