I recently got my copy of the new D&D 5th edition handbook and I have to say that I’m loving it. A while back I talked my way through the basic rules and most of what I said back then still stands. There are also a number of very in depth reviews of the PHB on the internet by people with far more authority than myself. Therefore, what I’m going to do today is give an example of a minor detail from each chapter that I really like; something that other reviews possibly don’t touch on, with their broader strokes. So, here we go…
Races – Drow sunlight sensitivity – I love the fact that the drow sensitivity to sunlight is now a penalty if either the drow *or their target* is exposed to sunlight. Gone are the days of wearing a hooded cloak and ignoring the disadvantage… if you want to play a dark elf, you have to deal with the fact that you don’t like the sun.
Classes – Wizard divination school – Divination has always been seen as a bit of a weak school; you almost certainly learned a few of the basic spells (detect magic, for example), but no one specialised in it. In 5th edition, diviners are actually a really solid option and I’d have no problem playing one if I had the right character concept.
Personality and background – Chaotic neutral description – Finally a description of chaotic neutral that doesn’t involve the character being insane, random, monumentally self-centred or otherwise an asshole.
Equipment – Living expenses – The equipment chapter is all fairly standard, but I do like the table of trinkets. Giving starting characters a random and mysterious item appeals to me greatly.
Customisation options – Shield master – I really like the feats in the book, but this one stood out to me. I’ve never been a big fan of shields because they’re dull; just trading a bit of damage for a bit of AC. By taking this feat, the shield suddenly acquires unique utility beyond its AC bonus (shoving with it as a bonus action; bonuses to dex saves; taking no damage, rather than half damage from certain effects on a save). This is exactly what a feat should be.
Using ability scores – Stat cap – It’s mentioned earlier in the book, but it’s re-iterated in this chapter; stats for adventurers are capped at 20. I am a big fan of this, as I hated the inflated stats of earlier editions, where characters could have a strength of 26 and a constitution of 8.
Adventuring – Non-random jumping distances – There are three issues with rolling checks for jumping. Firstly, the weedy wizard can out jump the athletic fighter given the right rolls, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Secondly, at very low levels, a really bad roll could result in jumping a shorter distance than the character could simply step. Thirdly, given the penalty for failure in a lot of situations, characters would often only jump if the distance needed was near their minimum roll anyway. I thoroughly approve of jumping being a pure function of strength; strong characters always jump further and you know whether or not you’re going to clear a gap before you try it.
Combat – Free action clarification – I like the fact that certain simple actions are now free (with a limit of one per turn), such as opening a door or drawing a weapon. Effectively, these free actions have replaced minor actions in fourth edition, but calling them free simplifies the action economy greatly.
Spellcasting – Rituals – The idea of rituals in 5th edition is great; the ability to cast certain memorised spells (detect magic, identify, that sort of thing) as 10 minute rituals without using spell slots is great. Such spells are rarely worth spending precious slots on, so this makes them far more attractive. However, the thing I really like is the wizard’s ability to cast rituals directly from the spellbook without even having to memorise them… I may actually want to play a wizard for the first time ever.
Spells – Cure wounds – I’ve picked this out as a perfect example of the spell slot system. In past editions, there were multiple versions of cure spells (cure light wounds, cure moderate wounds, cure serious wounds, etc…). In this system there is a single spell, cure wounds, that can be cast in any spell slot up to 5th level and that heals a scaling amount of damage, dependent on the slot. A very elegant implementation.
Appendices – Removal of immobilised condition – The immobilised condition in fourth edition was always confusing, as its common English usage would suggest that the character couldn’t move (as in couldn’t move at all), when all it meant was the character couldn’t move (as in relocate themselves on the map… they could still fight, cast spells and anything else as long as they stayed in the same spot). I’m glad it’s gone.
Overall, having read through the PHB, I’m very impressed with this edition. It’s slick, streamlined and has learned from previous editions (including 4th… for all the hate that edition garnered, there were some good aspects that have been pulled through into 5th). The only issue I can see is that I have no idea when I’ll get to play it.