I’m still learning the platform, and I’ve realized my Blogger Mind is way out of shape. I’m still messing around with how I want to handle these posts. Apologies for the dust.
OK, well then. As a reward for achieving a few exercise goals, I picked up Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Until recently, I don’t think I would have considered myself a 5E fan. I probably still wouldn’t call myself a fan, but my stance on it has softened.
Maybe I came at 5E from a different place than so much of the D&D community. I burned out hard back in the 90s, having grown up on being bewildered by a Blue Box copy my parents picked up in a yard sale, slowly stumbling through AD&D 1E, and finding a comfortable adolescent niche playing and running 2E games. I completely skipped 3.xE, thanks to a blend of contrarian spite (embarrassing in hindsight), a disinterest in fantasy (eh, it happens), and some strong concerns about some of the rules (I still think that Prestige Classes were a bad idea). I spent my time playing other games (mostly White Wolf, because it was the late 90s-early 00s and that’s what you did), eventually landing with a group of neighbors who were friends through my now-wife who played all sorts of games. (We still do. Hi if you’re reading this.)
This all leads up to one Sunday night, after getting increasingly frustrated with a campaign of the Descent board game that we’d been trudging through. One of our group suggested we give 4E a try. So I held down my D&Disdain and rolled up a Wizard.
We had an absolute blast.
I had an absolute blast. Mostly by absolutely blasting things.
This love affair continued for the entirety of 4E’s lifecycle. I was well aware of the anti-4E attitude of a good chunk of the gaming Internet. I saw their “It’s not real D&D!!” and “It’s just a boardgame!!” and I didn’t care. I was playing really cool, complex characters on amazing and badass adventures, and combats, though admittedly longer than they ought to be, were still a ton of fun.
So I was hesitant to move on, especially with all of the murmurings of the next edition of D&D jettisoning a lot of what I felt made 4E special. And when I got the game, my heart sank. Where’s the tactical combat? Where are all of the options for people who don’t like big spell lists? Where’s my freaking Warlord?! So I played other games. I latched onto 13th Age as my go-to d20 game, since it included most of the elements I liked from 4E.
This brings me to Xanathar’s Guide. It’s a lovely book, full of interesting and oddball class options, some encounter-building tools that actually seem fun to use, and a whole lot more. It’s worth picking up if you haven’t done so already and you like 5E. However, I wouldn’t have purchased it if I hadn’t had a change of heart about the game.
Even when I was less charitable to 5E, I liked a lot of the core concepts. I thought Inspiration was a simple way to encourage good role-playing, and it seemed obviously inspired by Drama Point systems of other games I liked. I also liked the Backgrounds system. It was the “Y Axis” of character design that I didn’t realize a game like D&D needed. And the Quick Builds section of each class is a godsend for hitting the ground running with minimal fuss.
The other parts – the parts I didn’t like? I’ve come around on some of them. The tactical combat is largely gone, but there are more class options to allow for interesting tactics at the table (and you can still use a grid map for battles). I still think they didn’t do the Warlord justice by smooshing it into the Fighter, but thankfully well-designed third-party classes exist. As for spells? Still don’t like how they’re organized, but I’ve got options. Spellbooks is a clever smartphone app, and there are always those spell cards Gale Force 9 makes. I was initially put off by the idea that I would have to shell out even more money to play archetypes that I like to play, but then I remembered that I gladly plunked down a bunch of money – yearly! – for access to the D&D Character Builder.
Is it my favorite edition? No, it never could replace the place 4E holds, and 13th Age currently maintains. But is it good enough? Sure, I’ll play it. It’s got a lot going for it, it’s got a few pretty glaring missteps, but it’s overall a pretty agreeable release.