Dungeons and Dragons 5E–The Tyranny of the Expected

July 06, 2014 | | Comments 14

“Dungeons and Dragons” released its base game last week as well as a free PDF set of rules to great fanfare.  I avoided the beta test development phase, so I went into the release with minimal knowledge of dungeons_and_Dragons_5e5e.  Given my distinct loathing for 4th Edition and the wise public beta period, I expected much from 5E.  Too bad my expectations do not match the focus groups that Wizards and Hasbro put together when they wrote this game.

5e proudly offers up  haughty elves,  sturdy dwarves and jack-of-all-trade humans as races, the standard base character classes and lots of spells and equipment.  You know, the same tired race and class cliches that populate every generic fantasy RPG.Wait, they do make it an edgy and modern game by adding a line that it is ok to have a…gasp…transgender PC.   It feels like some corporate drone checked a box marked “LGBT-friendly” on a marketing checklist before the game went to the printers.  WOTC, here is a helpful hint: young people do not care. Or was your focus group too old?

Setting and character generation aside, the rules are 3.5 with modifications. Some of the improvements were simply necessary to make the game work better (turning and grappling come to mind as nice improvements) while others did add some depth (extra d20 rolls when advantaged/disadvantaged). Overall, it is so close to 3.5 and Pathfinder that it will make for a seamless transition for those moving to the new system. Which is the point, I suppose.


WOTC took the expectations of its player base and created a game to meet those expectations. Cliched races and classes, tired intellectual property references (Dragonlance/Drizzt), a system harvested primarily from the last wildly-popular D&D release (3.5) with just a few hints of 4e to keep the 4e fans happy.

I understand the WOTC needs to sell books, but focusing on past successes and extracting the last full measure of  value from their intellectual properties’ glory days is a recipe for failure and obsolescence.  You can only tell the same story so many times before it wears out its welcome.  Innovation is the stuff of life, of the future and WOTC is trading innovation for pandering to an aging player base.

Bottom line, 5e meets the expectations of the Dungeons and Dragons player base. Too bad it did not meet mine.


Trask, The Last Tyromancer







Filed Under: 5th edition Dungeons and DragonsRole-PlayingRPG


About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.