Last month, Wizards of the Coast released it’s 5th edition D&D Starter Set. This month, they’re releasing the Player’s Handbook I’m about to review; next month, The Monster Manual, and The Dungeon Master’s Guide in November
The Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook is everything you need to know about creating characters for D&D 5th edition. Now, first, I want to preface this review by saying that I am fairly new to D&D. I have played other D&D board games such as “Wrath of Ashardalon”, “Conquest of Nerath”, and “Dungeon Command”; but as far as the RPG, I’ve only been playing about a month. I’ve only played this new edition and some of the playtesting for it, so I am not familiar with the first 4 editions at all, so I can’t and won’t make any comparisons between them. Feel free to discuss the merits of one over the other in the comments below, but I don’t have enough knowledge to join in. I’m simply giving my impression of the handbook from the eyes of a new player getting into the game.
First off, let’s start with the artwork. The book itself is beautiful. The front cover is a couple of heroes trying to take down a pretty awesome fire giant. The cover art was designed by Tyler Jacobson. Every page has an old parchment look to it and every chapter has several different pieces of artwork. There are lots of character drawings and no empty spaces. Every page is filled with something. I’m very impressed by the design of the book.
Now, onto the handbook itself. I haven’t played any of the other editions, but I believe the goal of Wizards was to create a more streamlined, simplified version of the game. Essentially, a reboot combining all the good stuff from the previous 4 editions and dumping the bad, overcomplicated rules. With my limited experience with the game, I was still able to sit down with this book and create a character fairly easily. I mean, it still took me a couple of hours, and I still got a headache, but everything was pretty straightforward. There’s a lot of flipping back and forth through chapters, but that’s mainly because everything is cataloged together and neatly organized.
The book is split into 3 parts: character creation, adventuring, and spells. Chapter 1 gives you a step-by-step sample of how to create a character. Each step tells you which chapter of which part you need to be looking at in order to complete that step. So, yeah, there is a lot of flipping back and forth, but I think that’s better than cramming all the information in one chapter. There are detailed descriptions of every class and race, detailed descriptions of what your character is allowed to choose from (spells, weapons, armor, etc.), and there are charts to help you for everything.
Chapter 2 teaches you how to play the game, and chapter 3 contains all the spells. There are a lot of spells. I didn’t really get into that chapter because my current character does not use spells. The adventuring chapter is pretty detailed. There were a few parts that were written as if the reader was already familiar with the game, which was kind of annoying if you’re just learning, but overall I think that a newb could read this book and get a pretty good handle on the game, as long as they’ve got someone familiar with things to fill in the blanks.
As for the 5th edition itself–or just Dungeons and Dragons, as they’re calling it–I love it. Character creation was easy and flexible. You’re given plenty of options to create your character, making it whatever you want it to be. Considering what I’d heard of edition 4, I expected the game to be complex, but it’s really not. Like I said, not familiar with the other editions, but this one seems very polished to me. The rules are fairly simple. Combat isn’t complicated, skills aren’t that difficult to figure out, and leveling up is not complex. I like it. If you’re on the fence about this edition, you can download the basic rules for it and see how well that fits your playstyle before buying the handbook. $50 is kind of a steep price (currently selling for $29.97 on Amazon), but it’s not unusual for these types of books. So, if you’re interested, the Player’s Handbook is available today