Dungeons & Dragons: 5E Player’s Handbook and Adventuer’s League experiences

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Last Wednesday I played my first actual game of Dungeons & Dragons in almost twenty years. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had an interest in Dungeons & Dragons since I was around eleven years old. I played my first games with some family friends, a bunch of young AirForce guys. Through them, I learned the basics. We played a few AD&D 1E games, then switched over the brand new 2nd Edition. This occurred while I still living in Japan. Once I got back to the states, I still collected the books, but I had a very hard time finding a dedicated group. A lot of the kids my age didn’t share my maturity level and when I did manage to get a game together, it ended up being filled with people making dick jokes, or pseudo-sexually roleplaying. Not my cup of tea. By the time 3rd Edition came out, I did catch wind of some serious groups in my area, but by then, my interest had shifted to other things.

Over the years, 3rd edition split into 3.5 and then 4th. 3.5 loyalists made their own game; Pathfinder, and it got very fragmented and confusing. But, once I learned a 5th edition was coming, my interest was sparked.

I decided that instead of falling into the trap of trying to get friends to play, I would seek out a group of serious gamers. I used Meetup.com to find an official group in my area, I RSVP’d and took the plunge.  Here’s how it went down:

 

After registering, I went and bought myself a copy of the Player’s Handbook and spent a good part of the afternoon reading over it, and making a character. For the most part the process was fairly straightforward. I did get confused at some points when it came to ability modifiers. I wasn’t sure how to record these accurately at first. Rolling stats was easy. Then came the racial modifiers. Ok. Done. Then came the class modifiers. Ok… Proficiencies were next. I was told to choose four. Then, I find out that some are assigned to me automatically. Did I need to change my original choices if there was overlap? Were these additional to the original four? I found myself jumping between two or three chapters just trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to record.

When it came to equipping my character, I was given a list of starting items. Then, ANOTHER list when choosing a character background. It was clear as mud at first. It wasn’t until I actually got to the game table and asked other players did things start to clear up.

I guess my biggest gripe is, there’s really no clear cut step 1, step2, step 3, etc, in the PHB. No one is going to read it cover to cover. It is a reference manual. Maybe the basic version of the game or the version in the starter set is a bit clearer, I don’t know. Regardless, that is my big gripe.

The options included in the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook are mixture of both old and new.  Back when I last played in the 2E days, official options were limited to Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief – to start. There were also “advanced classes” that consisted of; Paladin, Ranger, Specialist Wizards, Druids, Specialist Priests, and Bards. Character race options back then were; Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Dwarf,  Halfling and Gnome. (Later releases saw additional options and variants of both classes and races, but these were the base ones that I was familiar with). Today, the 5E PHB offers the following playable races: Human, Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling, Gnome, Dragonborn, Half-Orc, and Tiefling.  – I was familiar with Half-Orcs from back in the old 1E days, but Dragonborn and Tieflings were both new additions to me.  When it comes to classes, the 5e PHB offers the following: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. – Lots of changes here! Again, I recognized Barbarian and Monk from my time with first-edition. But some of these other new additions took me by surprise. “Wizard” seemed to be your classic Mage, but Sorcerer and Warlock were new types of magic users I was unfamiliar with at first. Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed with all the new options and rules. D&D had matured past the point of comfort for me.

Upon arriving at the hobby shop, I went to the game room in the back. There were five tables and they were already filling up. Four games of 5E D&D and one Pathfinder game. Everyone was friendly and handshakes went around as you might expect. Shortly after taking a seat, I was handed a DCI enrollment card. This is apparently to officially register me in the DCI rankings for Wizards of the Coast. My membership number allows me to participate in official convention games as well as track my progress in the new “Adventurer’s League”. Upon registering on the website later that day, I didn’t really see any way to keep up with this, however.

The game ran for two hours. I didn’t really expect much to get done honestly, but we did actually play for a while. For the record, I rolled a Tiefling Rogue. I’ve always enjoyed playing “thief” type characters, and the Tiefling race was new to me. This was something we didn’t have in the old days. The game we started was the Tyranny of Dragons. This is official storyline/module that is running between now and March of 2015. For more information on this, click here: Tyranny of Dragons

The official game-world in fifth edition is Forgotten Realms. This felt comfortable to me from my days playing 1e and 2e. Not a lot of backstory was provided, I get the feeling that the Dungeon Master was a bit of a rookie… I heard a lot more detail coming from some of the other tables. But, I’m not going to complain. At this point, I’m certainly no pro. I’ve been out of the game for a long long time, and I had PLENTY of questions. Everyone was nice enough to take the time to answer them, so again, no complaints. I was given a print-out with a description of several factions. I was told I could choose a faction to align my character with if I wished. I picked one and then was given a very nice folder to keep. Inside were some official character sheets, a description of the faction and some sort of registrations codes. One was to redeem an item in the D&D Neverwinter MMO, the other… I’m still not sure what it’s for yet. Still, it was a nice unexpected freebie.

The gist of our night was this: rumors of a town being ransacked by bands of Kobolds. Call to arms for all abled adventurers, etc etc. Upon arriving, we do indeed find a town in peril. Smoke is billowing from the ruined city and a dragon is circling the skies overhead. Our party made it’s way into the city and joined up with a group of characters that were being attacked by roaming bands of Kobolds. Battles ensued. Then another, and another and another…. the rest of the night was basically battles as we made our way through the town towards the keep. Despite what seems to be slow progress, I had a lot of fun. It was a blast.

There was a lot more combat right out of the gate than I expected. The DM seemed unclear on certain things when asked, but overall it went very well. At this point, I’m still in the learning stage so I’m not taking things too seriously. I plan to attend this week and I will again post my assessment of this week’s game as well.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Comics: STAR WARS – Darth Maul; Son of Dathomir

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Today saw the release of the fourth and final issue of Dark Horse’s Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic book. To hear why this is significant, keep reading.

There have been many Star Wars comics printed in the last thirty plus years, so why do I make a big deal out of this one? Well, Dark Horse has been publishing fantastic Star Wars comics for years, but since the introduction of the unified Star Wars canon, this four-part comic series is the first 100% official comic book under the new banner.

Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir was created using an unused story-arc that was intended for inclusion in the ill-fated 6th season of the Clone Wars cartoon. It wraps up the saga of Darth Maul and his newly created army of thieves and mercenaries as he executes his plot for revenge against Darth Sidious.

Like always, Dark Horse has done a fantastic job with this book. The writing and artwork are spot on. I started reading this almost immediately after finishing the Clone Wars series and this book picks up perfectly where the series left off. It truly carries the spirit of both the classic EU comics and the Clone Wars television series. Quite an odd combination actually. But it works well here.

As Star Wars fans patiently wait for upcoming content, this comic is a fantastic way to pass the time. I have purchased all four individual issues, but I expect to sell them in the near future and replace them with the trade paperback collection that is being released in October.

Keep in mind, if you’re a Star Wars fan who is interested in reading the comics, this is the PERFECT starting point. Being the first official release in the new canon, you can get in on the ground floor right here. This book is the last Star Wars comic Dark Horse will be publishing. Starting next year, Marvel takes over the comic book license and a handful of new books will hit the shelves.

Artwork: Excellent. Good use of color, artwork is true to the source material.

Story: Excellent overall. Ending still leaves some loose ends. No definitive end to the Darth Maul story. I’m unsure exactly how the Lucas Story Group plans to handle Maul in the future. So, time will tell.

Recommended:  YES

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is here

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Updates to the site have been slow lately because I’ve been grinding away at some pretty big games. So in the meantime, I’ll take a quick break from the video games to talk about the new D&D. That’s right, it’s finally here: Dungeons & Dragons 5E!

Initially, when I discussed D&D I expressed some concern over pricing. It’s true the that new core rulebooks will carry a hefty pricetag, but thankfully Wizards of the Coast did something I never expected. They have announced that the basic version of the game will be available for FREE.

That’s right, all you have to do to mozy on down to www.wizards.com/dnd to download a free PDF version of the basic D&D rules. This covers character creation, magic rules, combat rules, and a little bit more. It’s certainly enough to teach the very basic mechanics and get a character prepared.

In just a few days, an inexpensive Starter Box Set will also be available for purchase in most book stores. For $20.00 you will get a printed and slightly expanded version of the rules, a set of game dice and a few other trinkets and tokens. This package is meant for new players or anyone who wants to get their hands dirty a bit before the full rule books are released in the coming months. However, to be clear, Wizards is stating that the free PDF is all a PLAYER will need to actually enjoy the game.

So what am I taking away from all this? Well, I think the move of making a free version of the game is a good idea. But I get the feeling that Wizards is trying to steer people into the direction of playing their “live hobby store events” instead of focusing on the classic “play at home” players. What I mean by this is simply this: Wizards of the Coast wants you to download the PDF, create a character and then take your character to your nearest authorized retailer where you will then join other players in an officially sponsored event. Participation gets you a certificate and the whole nine yards. If I understand thing correctly, your character can be used at ANY officially sponsored event regardless of location. Now I guess that’s cool. But I’m not used to playing D&D that way.

Of course, people can still play their own campaigns at home. And they most certainly will. But I worry that the allure of playing an “official” campaign combined with the potential roadblocks of finding an open seat, and locating a shop to play in may also turn some players off. Thus, making the ranks of D&D players dwindle rather than swell.

Personally for me, the nearest WotC sponsored game is over 40 miles away. That makes it difficult.

Ok enough ranting. I’m impressed by what I’ve seen with the 5E rules. It is most certainly a new and fresh take on the game mechanics. Yet, it manages to have a touch of that old school 1E feel that I love. I have high hopes for this edition.

I will certainly be buying the starter set. Once I do, I’m going to start keeping my eyes peeled for a game. Be it some local people or one of these official events. I WANT TO PLAY.

October, Dracula, and Castlevania…

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Well, here we are: October. Probably my favorite month of the year. There’s just something about the change of the seasons that appeal to me. I enjoy the crisp bite in the autumn air, the sound of the breeze through the leaves, and something childlike in me really enjoys the creepy feeling that you get late at night that makes you want to turn off all the lights and put on a cheesy horror flick. Oh, and let’s not forget the great beer that comes along with Oktoberfest…

As a child, I was never really one for spooky or slasher movies. But I did enjoy Halloween quite a bit. For some reason, I always had a thing for Count Dracula. One of the earliest Halloween outings I can remember, I dressed in a black cape with a plastic pair of fangs stuffed into my mouth.

When I was around 11 or 12, still living in Okinawa, Japan, I found an old green, fabric-bound copy of Dracula and Frankenstein at the library on the Air Force base. I checked it out and read it. Now, at that age, I can admit that some of it did go over my head. After all, the book was almost 100 years old. But, I had pretty good vocabulary for my age, and I was able to understand it quite well. In fact, I fell in love with the book. To this day, Dracula, by Bram Stoker is my favorite novel of all time. I’ve read it probably a total of ten times in the last twenty years.

A couple of years ago, a distant descendant of Bram Stoker published an “official sequel”… and let’s just say, I personally feel that it is not very true to the original. But, in all honesty, it’s not a bad book in its own right. Regardless, I don’t considering it to be a true heir to the story of Dracula.

My love for this book, attracted me to a video game that many reader of this blog probably know and love: Castlevania. The Castlevania series is built off of the legend of Dracula, and again, in its own right, it’s a pretty interesting tale.

So far with this blog, I have largely spent time reviewing classic NES games from my youth. Of course, I’ve taken breaks to discuss some other titles, just to kind of change up the flow a bit. This month, I’m going to do something a bit different… October is going to be Castlevania month. While my original plan was to cover the NES games from my youth, and then the move on to SNES, and so on; I’m going to break the rules and provide extensive coverage of the Castlevania series as a whole. Then, starting in November, on the Samhain (traditional Pagan New Year), I will tackle the latest installment in the series, and also the series new reboot title: Castlevania – Lord of Shadow.

The Castlevania series has had it share of ups and downs over the years. Several titles in the series were retroactively removed, and then a handful of those were added back later on. So, the whole thing can be very confusing. For the sake of this playthrough, I’ll only be reviewing the games that are considered “canon”, with perhaps one exception.

The coverage starts tomorrow, so if this is your kind of thing, stay tuned.