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Coming Back Home Again

February 22, 2018

godfatherThis past Christmas, I finally moved on a decision I had been contemplating for some time, but hadn’t committed to yet. It was an important decision, probably the most important one I would make for the next twenty minutes or so. It has probably changed my life.

I purchased the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition core books (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual) and a new set of screens.

Then I bought the Tal’Dorei setting, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

And a membership with D&D Beyond online.

A-hem. So, yeah. That’s one reason why it was such a momentous decision. When I commit to a new game, I tend to go whole hog. And, I’ve already invested untold dollars into my Pathfinder collection (it’s pretty much complete with the exception of setting-specific guides, as I homebrew my setting).

Also, I like Pathfinder. It’s got some flaws (what game doesn’t) but it is a solid fantasy roleplaying system. I still think that it caters to the min/max set, but I’ve basically made my peace with the game and enjoy it quite a bit.

But, ever since 5e had come out, I had been curious. In all of my online venues, I was hearing good things. Even those that had some complaint about it seemed to complain about things that I thought would be a benefit.

For example, “It’s a simplified version of the game…” people would bemoan, but I would think “Isn’t that a good thing?” Complex does not necessarily equal better and I do get modifier fatigue from calculating all the various options available in Pathfinder. In my experience, it is nigh impossible to make a character “on the fly” as a GM in Pathfinder–there are too many variables to calculate and keep track of. Maybe a simplified version would alleviate this. Further, it would allow more new players to get rolling dice earlier.

So, yeah, curious. Also, there was a little of that “first love nostalgia” going on as well.

You see, I started my RPG passion with D&D’s infamous “Red Box” back in the 1980s. It opened the doors of the hobby to me. I was hooked. In high school, when I moved to a new town and new school, I played 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) with my friends–friends I still play with today, almost thirty years later. I moved onto 2nd edition AD&D and then…other shiny objects.

I had gone to college by this point and was getting into to other games, other genres. I played Star Frontiers, Vampire the Masquerade, Paranoia, Warhammer Fantasy, RuneQuest, Torg, Ars Magica, and Tales from the Floating Vagabond. Also, my friends and I were scratching our fantasy itch with a homebrew game a member of the group had written.

Fast forward to the new century, and we’re still playing the homebrew game. Meanwhile, D&D has gone into 3rd edition, 3.5 edition, and finally evolved into Pathfinder. I’m hearing good things about them, but continue in my homebrew game. Then D&D comes out with 4e and the internet explodes. People either seem to love it or hate it, but there is little indifference. Grognards like me tended to dismiss it as a tabletop MMOG, but I was still curious. Still, I never got an opportunity to try it out. C’est la vie.

Eventually I decide to try out Pathfinder…and I fall in love again. I homebrew a setting and I’m off and running. That campaign has been going on for the past 5 years.

Meanwhile, D&D comes out with its 5e and my curiosity is piqued. “It’s more role-play oriented,” I’m hearing. “It’s a more streamlined system,” I’m hearing. Still, some grognards don’t care for it because of its seeming lack of complexity, but I’m hearing a siren call. I desperately want to try this game. My old love was looking good, striding confidently, and I wanted to be on her arm again.

So I tried it out at a convention. The scenario was less than ideal and the DM not the greatest, but I got a sense of the game. It was simple–but elegant in its way. There were some ideas I was intrigued with–passive senses, inspiration, etc. Very interesting–but I’d never get my players on board. Plus, I’d already invested so much in Pathfinder. We’d have to meet again some time in a used bookstore, if at all.

Then I started watching Critical Role. I saw the game in action with a stellar DM and a great set of players. That did it. I HAD TO PLAY THIS GAME!

So, I dropped the dime on the rule books at Christmas and have been playing it with my wife for the past two months.

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D&D has come back to its roots in many ways and also opened the doors to the future of roleplaying. It really is a simple, yet elegant system that puts a lot of control in the hands of the DM and also moves the game away from “optimization“–a plus with my style of play (though you certainly still can optimize if that’s your cup of tea). It removes some of the number-crunching and makes more room for fun. It truly love what they’ve done with this edition. I highly recommend it.


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