1. Splatter-Elf is way cooler
2. I'm awful at writing reviews
3. I haven't read it
Terrible, right? I mean, the basic rules are free, and the Starter Set is available for under 20 bucks, so what's my excuse? I could give you a list, but instead I'll just blame climate change. Or maybe fracking. According to my Facebook feed, those are the root cause of all the problems in the world today.
So without further ado, I'm going to buckle down and share with you my very carefully-thought-out and entirely scientific breakdown of what we've seen so far in 5th Edition (or as I like to call it, the "Grognard-Bearded-Bastard-Spawn of 4th Edition.")
The first major change to note is the new and rather extensive step during character creation between generating your attributes and rolling your hit points: Deciding your character's gender identity, sexual orientation and predilection toward "catching" or "pitching." These new and refreshingly-detailed tables and charts may or may not have been inspired by certain rules from F.A.T.A.L., but since the last time I opened that book dark ominous clouds began to gather in the sky behind me, I refuse to examine it again even in the interest of research and fact-checking.
The biggest controversy surrounding this progressive and free-thinking (if expansive) addition to the rule set is that the Wizards (of Wizards of the Coast fame) apparently developed this multi-chapter section of the book through in-depth conversation with a known degenerate and excommunicated pariah of the gaming community. Personally I enjoy his blog and his work, but what do I know? I'm the guy who's a month late writing a review of 5E, so my opinion matters about as much as a pimply 14-year who's buying D&D for the first time and running home to play it with his cousin and friends and is obviously going to play it wrong because he doesn't have four decades of history and background to do it the proper and correct way.
Moving along, I realize more and more that the "video gamification" that plagued 4th Edition is much, much worse in this new iteration. Sure, in 4E we had to contend with the WoW-style "tanks, DPS and healers" bullshit that made every single ranger look exactly the same despite several hundred possible options (any MMORPGer will tell you there's a "right" way to play), but the core problem that has plagued every video game released in the last 10 years has now crept into our pen-and-paper games as well: The release of knowingly-bug-infested content that REQUIRES patches straight out the box in order to play it properly.
The Wizards spent two years in open beta testing, and yet they're rolling out an incomplete game that crashes left, right and sideways. It constantly references things that don't exist yet, has a hard cap to your progression (once you hit level five the game just completely falls apart and you have to start over) and it doesn't really even have monsters in it! In order to really get anything out of this game you have to roll up lots of clerics and rogues and have them fight each other, Mortal Kombat-style! (Again, totally video-gamificating the genre).
The platform is so bad that The Wizards are already planning THREE ENTIRE BOOKS of errata over the next few months. Apparently while the first book fixes some of the glitches, it creates even more inconsistencies and discrepancies that requires yet another $50 hardcover of errata, which in turn will create more bugs and the cycle just continues. If this is The Wizards' new marketing campaign and product plan, give me back the stupid $10-a-month character generator from 4E. Or maybe I'll go play Magic: The Gathering.
Speaking of the Wizards' money-grubbing ploys to scam you of your hard-earned cash, one of the most-lauded changes to the rules is the "Advantage/Disadvantage" mechanic where you roll TWO twenty-sided dice and take the higher or lower depending on the situation. Unfortunately this is quite simply a horrible and mean-spirited addition to the game. Don't get me wrong, I love rolling as many D-twennies as humanly possible just as much as the next guy (which I'm sure is what they claim is the purpose behind this rule), but did anyone else notice how many d20's actually come in the Starter Set box?
One f*cking d20, when every other page tells you to roll two.
While this is obviously a deplorable cash grab, many of you will argue that you have literal shit-tons of dice (a shit-ton being exactly 1077.5 kilograms) so finding an extra one to roll is not a problem. But I'm not talking to you dirty old grognards who have enough Doritos-dusted polyhedrons to use as the foundation for a house (I won't front - I'm just as guilty of dice hoarding, and most of them taste like Zesty Taco), I'm talking about that pimply-faced 14-year-old kid I mentioned earlier. You know, the new player, to whom a "starter set" is ostensibly directed? This kid will probably only have the dice that comes with the box, ergo, he will be missing the tools required to use one of the coolest features.
What do you do? Ignore the Advantage/Disadvantage rule? I suspect it will continue to grow in importance with each successive release of errata. Buy more dice? Maybe, but if my parents just shilled out twenty bucks for a box full of nerdy dragon stuff, I wouldn't be asking them for any more money (well, maybe I would, but I'd feel bad about it). Does he just roll the d20 twice? That would be shameful, because all of his friends are going to see him doing it, and they're going to know that his family can't afford to buy him a second d20, and he's going to know that they know, and even if it doesn't devolve into violent harassment and cyber-bullying (we know it will), the kid will still feel like shit and require months, if not years of therapy in their early thirties in order to deal with the residual feelings of inadequacy.
And all because WotC wouldn't spring for an extra goddamn d20 in their starter box.
Speaking of the box, why is there so much Chinese air in it? I mean, the box itself is pretty substantial, but there's only a couple of thin booklets and a few sheets of paper in there, so why such a large box? Was this a conscious choice on the part of the Wizards, or did someone in the print shop overseas "accidentally" make the box larger in order to fit as much "air" in there as possible. Did it smell funny to anyone when they opened it? Has anyone sent a copy to the CDC, just in case? I mean, they will probably just end up playing it in the break room on their lunch (you know those eggheads are into this shit), but maybe they could check it out. You know, just in case.
I could go on, about how the Wizards are shunning their devoted 4E gamers (all 11 of them) in an attempt to win back the nihilistic and cynical grognards that are just going to house-rule the shit out of it if they play it at all, or how the book was laid out by Phoenican typesetters (page numbers on the wrong side? What kind of heathen barbarian would do that?), or how they are insidiously sneaking some new-age, new-school extrinsic rewards systems into the ancient and rotting OCD-riddled infrastructure of D&D, but I should probably quit now and get around to actually reading the damn thing. Are there gnomes in this one? Assassins? Man, I hope they brought back the original rules for making a bard.
Stay tuned for Part 2! In about 4-6 months.