Dungeons and Dragons 5E–The Tyranny of the Expected

“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_5e 5e.  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









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.

14 thoughts on “Dungeons and Dragons 5E–The Tyranny of the Expected

  • July 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    So, you managed to forget what your expectations were for the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Half dwarves in space?

    • July 6, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      Nah. I save those expectations for Numenera.

    • July 6, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Sorry. Misunderstood the question. I wanted something that was original, interesting and not necessarily lifted wholesale from previous editions. What I got was rehashed, generic fantasy gaming.

  • July 6, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    What were your expectations?? Still don’t know. Isn’t that kinda important in a blog about how it didn’t meet them?

  • July 6, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    My understanding is that the basic rules/ starter is intended to provide the basics. Beyond that the Phb dmg are providing things like customization of characters, hacks for custom monsters, mass combat and loads of optional rules. Things that are uncommon to older editions.

    My guess is that your expectations from basic were doomed to fall short. Only to be met (or not) by expansive options in future books.

    Like wotc has been saying the whole time.

  • July 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    So, all I have to do is buy all the 3.5 splat/expansion books again (for the same tired campaign worlds) with a new logo and a slightly modified version of 3.5? Pass.

    • July 18, 2014 at 11:26 am

      yes. Welcome to the wonderful world of Wizards

  • July 6, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    No just the dmg

  • July 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

    The whole purpose of a BASIC set is to be…basic. If they stray from that path and created exactly what you wanted then…they would have gained the approval of exactly one person.

    D&D has always been about adding what you wanted to the basic rules. Sure, they release expansions and settings that tweak the normal basic setting (such as Dark Sun with their cannibalistic halflings) but those come after.

    You were looking for an expansion to be baked into the BASIC rules and then were disappointed it didn’t happen that way.

    • July 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      No, I was looking for something original from the largest RPG company on the planet. Settings/worlds aside, 5e is 3.5 with some rules cleanup and a couple of additions. A weak and uninspired offering at best.


  • July 7, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    So you were hoping DnD Basic would include unfamilure races, no d20s and mechanics no one recognized.

    Good luck with that.
    Also the worst business advice “the largest rpg company on the planet” or any one else has ever heard.

    • July 8, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Yes, innovation has such a miserable record throughout the business world. We should certainly have less of it.


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