Friday, July 20, 2018

Something Old is New Again- D&D 5th edition

I was recently invited to try Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) at a new local gaming store, Battle Command Games.  D&D is nothing new to me, in fact it is a very old friend.  So old in fact, that I have not played in 30+ years.  I do not really recall the last time I actually played, but I am sure it was before I graduated High School, so mid to late 1980s and it was Advanced Dungeon and Dragons (AD&D) at the time. 
5th Edition Players Handbook
I was first introduced to Basic D&D and then AD&D in middle school and played regularly for about 5 years with my friends.  Then cars, girls, college and life in general came along and my books sat in a box until I finally sold them online several years ago as collector items.  I even remember back in the day when  D&D exploded in popularity there was a lot of controversy around the game and it made the news several times.  I had to explain to my grandmother that it was not devil worship when I asked for the books as a birthday present.  :)
AD&D Player's Handbook from when I last played
As stated I fell away, but still observed from a distance as I returned more to my historical gaming.  I would talk to gaming friends and see all the new material at hobby stores and conventions.  More recently, I became internet friends with one of the game designers at Wizard of the Coast(WotC),  who was also the lead designer of one of the games that brought me back to historical miniature gaming, Axis and Allies War at Sea.  In the process, I learned about the split of D&D and Pathfinder with the failure of D&D 4th edition and my fiend was laid off as a result, which unfortunately ended the game I loved as he was the lead designer for War at Sea for WoTC .

5th Edition Starter Set
More recently, some of my friends mentioned they were returning to D&D.  My interest was sparked with TV shows like Big Bang Theory and the Netflix series Stranger Things.  A few years ago my younger son even expressed interest and when I offered to get the D&D starter box he decided he was not that interested and I was busy with historical gaming projects anyway.
First Reaper Minis
So a few weeks ago I went and checked out Battle Command Games as they carry both historical genre as well as fantasy. While there I learned a bit more about 5th edition and the concept of D&D Adventure League, where you did not have to have your own group, but could just show up and play.  Some friends encouraged me to try so I broke down and spent $20 on a starter and bought a couple Reaper minis to paint.   I figured I could always get my money back by selling the painted minis.  Besides, I am all about supporting a new local game store.

I read through the basic rules, found some online resources including more reference material, and really liked what I read.  Despite all the bad things I had heard about D&D failing, 5th edition seemed more streamlined and less complicated then what I recall from AD&D, but had a classic D&D feel to it.

Last Friday was the first session of Adventure League at Battle Command Games.  I showed up prepared with my Pre-Generated character from the starter which I had transferred to a free fillable PDF.  I had added background material along with my painted figures and was ready to play.  There was a crowd of about 12-15, but only a few were ready to play as many still needed to generate characters. 

One of the players, Matt, was ready to run an Adventure module for those ready to go.  My friends wanted to stay together and were still building characters, so I thought why not, and sat down with five total strangers and had one of the best gaming experiences in recent years.
First D&D die roll in many years
By the time we concluded my Dwarf Cleric, Thoradin, had taken down two goblins and aided the party with several others along with a troublesome hill giant.  I even ventured into role playing mode and helped one of our party heal and befriend a shrunken cave bear who she now has as a companion.
Thoradin's first goblin victim
I was hooked!  The problem is the store currently only plans to run Adventure League monthly.  I want more and I want it now!  :) 

As a result, I found the core books and started reading some more.  I also found reaper miniatures that match the equipment and armor of the five pre-generated characters that come with the starter.  In a single night I can complete multiple figures where it usually takes a few days to complete historical units.  The nice thing is you really only need a few minis as a player. 
Collection quickly growing
I also learned another local store, Goblin Valley Games, runs Adventure League weekly, so I went and checked it out.  Again, I joined a party of total strangers in a adventure that was probably a bit tougher than my 1st level Cleric should have taken on after only one adventure.  Fortunately everyone else was 2nd through 4th level.  This adventure involved more detective work and role playing.  It also went on much longer (about four hours) and ended with a final encounter that almost saw the demise of Thoradin twice.  Thanks to some great cooperative play Thoradin  survived while helping to take down a goblin, two Orcs and the lead bad guy with a final blow.  The rest of the party battled multiple other goblins, orcs and a nasty ogre.  We all survived, although very battered.  As a result Thoradin earned enough XP to jump him up to 3rd level with what he had earned in the first adventure.
Second Adventure
For my regular readers, do not worry I am not leaving historical miniature gaming, but D&D will definitely be part of my gaming  line up for the foreseeable future.  I am really enjoying both the gaming and hobby aspect.  Already I have made some new gaming friends and have even been invited to play in a private group by Matt, my first DM, which I am eager to try.

I have already come to the realization that I will want to DM again some day, so I have read through the module that comes with the starter set, "The Lost Mines of Phandelver", and begun to collect the monsters and characters needed so I can run a memorable adventure for the players.

Adventure Module form the starter
I cannot believe it has taken 30 years to come back to D&D, but I am glad I did.  I am also happy I am doing it now.  Having learned the history of D&D over the last 30 years I am not sure I would have stayed and enjoyed it as much as 5th edition.  This edition just feels right and it seems like you have the flexibility to make D&D what your group wants. 

Current painted Characters from Reaper
If you like the role playing aspect you can focus more on that.  If you like the combat, there are plenty of opportunities.  If  miniatures are your thing, they seem to have more of a place in D&D than they did when I was first learning to paint 30 years ago.  Technology has come along way, so 3D printing seems big in the hobby to customize characters to your liking.  If you are not a painter, there are a ton of pre-painted minis out there.  I plan to use many of the more affordable pre-painted creatures for my adventure and then just touch them up so they look even better.

So if you are like me and have avoided D&D in the past because it just looks overwhelming and you do not have the time, I encourage you to think again.  Get ahold of a Players handbook and give it a read.  I was surprised at how fast I was playing again and really enjoying it.

D&D is back.  I think 5th edition is a winner that will be around for awhile and is bringing more people back to the hobby.


  1. My son started playing 5thEd with some friends and talked about it constantly. I bought the starter box to check it out and came away much as you did. Thinking 5th Ed is pretty sweet. Streamlined rules .Detailed character creation. Tons of options. Trying to fit it into my gaming life!

  2. I started with Holmes Basic, mostly played 1e, and dropped out after 2e. Like you, I'm finally back with 5e, and agree with all of your positive impressions - this one is what I had hoped 3e would be.

  3. Great post. I started with the "blue box" edition circa 1979 (Holmes/Cook) and then moved over to the new AD&D (1st ed) when it came out. After 2e came out, I actually switched over to Basic D&D (the Mentor BECMI boxed sets and the Mentzer/Allston Cyclopedia), but then I got married and my old high-school through college gang went our separate ways, so that ended my D&D days for awhile.

    Today I use 5e with teens at the local library where I lead an "Introduction to D&D" program every summer. We have a large collection of 5e books and accessories, and have spawned 6 (and now 7) different D&D gaming groups.

    I am still an Old School D&Der at heart, but 5e is a definite improvement over the previous two (and a half) editions. Combat is clean and easy, and the teens love the various abilities and class features they gain as their characters advance. They're happy and playing D&D, and that's what we want! So if you're new to D&D or returning after a long hiatus, 5e is a great system to choose. If you're an Old Schooler like me,

  4. funny, I am going exactly though the same process as you, and exact same timing.
    5th edition really looks streamlined and easier to play without giving up too much flavor.