So, I just had the opportunity to sample 5th edition. Something I have wanted to do since it was announced.
Making my starting point clear, just to pre-empt the cries of bias. I have been at least unimpressed with every AD&D edition after second.
So I had heard a lot of talk from fellow gamers about how all the issues from 3.5 and 4 had been fixed and how I would love it.
I was sceptical to be honest. But I had no interest in pre-judging it. Try it first. And since without knowing I like it, I have no intention of spending money on it. Phantasm gives the perfect opportunity for this.
So, my impressions.
Class structure – 3rd edition onward completely gutted the idea of class, rendering it an irrelevant window dressing. All classes progress at the same xp rate, neutralising any advantages a character may have as a simple skill set (eg fighter) by climbing faster. and the increase in power with characters like mages, was balanced by the difficulty and slowness of the climb. 4th edition ‘dealt’ with this by turning the mage into a fighter with a sword called magic missle. Leaving the mage just a fighter with low hit points that can’t wear armour. (and the armour thing was made optional in 3/3.5.
5th does seem to have addressed this to some extent. I did not see any of this ‘prestige class’ nonsense. But to be fair, I did not make the characters, nor did we deal with level advancement. I think the xp/level issue is the same as in 4th ed.
The differentiation between classes issue was not all good news however. Mages are still sickly fighters with funny named swords, and other class features have been washed out too. Take the rangers’ special ability to dual weild. In second edition, this gives the ranger 2 attacks a round, no penalties, from first level. Well 5th still does that. Only everyone can do that with almost no penalty. It’s a good thing there is no experience/climb rate difference, or people who pick specific classes that climb slower for their special abilities, find that their special abilities are as unique as pizza box stands, ubiquitous and uniform.
System feel and flow – While the same mechanic and roll for everything does make the game easier to teach to noobs, there are other systems that do this FAR better. D&D/AD&D was first built on the idea that the system was heterogeneous. A thief rolling a test on their special abilities worked off percentile. A skill/proficiency test is a D20 low, attacks are D20 high, etc. There is a window.of operation that is relatively fixed. After 2nd edition, everything was turned into a D20 high and stack system. completely open ended. And able to just keep stacking bonuses on top of bonuses to dizzying hights. As the character advances in levels, it becomes practically impossible to fail at tasks a lower level character struggles with. This system remains only slightly changed from 3-4th ed Some of the levels and layers of complexity that bloated 4th ed seems to be trimmed back a little.
Advantage/Disadvantage tests – This is a mechanic that gives a small difference in game result, it would be easily implemented in any edition. I’m undecided on it’s value, but I don’t see it hurting.
Munchkinism – 3/3.5 was truly horrid for munchkining players – also known as min-maxers. Some of this ability seems to have been kertailed, the removal of ‘feats’ helped with that and removing confusion and clutter. But some mechanics that were really quite bad were added in. The ‘Hit Dice’ ‘Short Rest’ system is horribly broken. From a GM’s perspective it neuters some gm tools and tactics. It also renders clerics/priests of less value, as characters can heal, potentially up to or over their full hitpoint total in just an hour’s rest And wile this is limited by the number of dice the character gets to roll, that is reset overnight or at least over a ‘good rest’. This makes it very hard for the gm to grind a party down and stress them. It also means that it is harder for character party to suffer consequences for over-extending their reach.
My opinion, the issues that were built into 3rd, 3.5, 4th that ruined the system, were slightly ameliorated, but certainly not significantly changed.
Out of 5 thumbs, I would give 5th edition AD&D 3 thumbs down and 2 no thumbs.
Having said all of that, I had a truly great time with the adventure I played @ phantasm. This was down too the GM and his imaginative story (The smurfs save the phoenix egg – and in this case release a truly horrible terror onto the world) his experience and skill at GM’ing and a good group, all there to have fun.
Prognosis. I have no intention or wish to purchase this system, I will not run it. I may play occasionally if a group I am involved in runs it and is a good group of players.