By now just about everyone has heard that Dungeons & Dragons, the bastion of RPG gaming, made a huge resurgence with the release of the 5th version of its rules system last year. This edition is a complete overhaul of the system and attempts to make it accessible to new players while retaining the core element of what makes it D&D.
By far the biggest complaint of the 4th edition was that it didn’t feel like D&D, but rather like playing a video game. When coupled with the myriad of options a player had to choose from on their turn (often causing a condition called ‘analysis paralysis’ where the game dragged on as players took growing amount of time making decisions), led to what many called a defection to the rival system, Pathfinder – which, ironically, is a system built on and from the system of the 3.5 Edition of the D&D ruleset. In short, players stopped playing the new version of D&D to play an older, more comfortable version, even if that version belonged to another company.
After a playtest that lasted over a year, in which it saw many revisions and alterations to the rules based on player feedback, the newly revised rules were finally published last year. The Starter Set hit retail stores in July and contained everything a player needed to get together with friends and start playing. In August came the Players Handbook and the current storyline, Rise of Tiamat – a storyline that brought dragons back to the forefront of the D&D mythos.
Dungeons & Dragons got its start back in 1974 as the creation of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Both were miniature war-gamers that took a chance and created a campaign with magic and fantasy creatures such as orcs and goblins instead of military armies. The other difference was that this campaign focused more on controlling individual characters rather than marshaling entire squads or battalions of troops. Needless to say, the game was an instant success. There were a few revisions over the next few years, with the famous ‘red box’ first appearing around 1984.
This was my first exposure to the game, though I didn’t actually start playing until a few years later. A friend had the box, having been given it as a gift from his father. Bored one year during school vacation we decided to open it up and learn to play; I was instantly hooked. Many times it was just the two of us playing, but eventually we found others that enjoyed the game (or were at least willing to tolerate it). As time passed we ended up buying every role playing book for every system we could, consuming them like crackers. Ultimately we ended up combining them into a single game that we created and played for years. I think our last games combined characters from the Marvel, Doctor Who and D&D universes into one. It was, capital E, Epic.
I moved several times, each time managing to find others that played. My final game was during my senior year of high school as we all thought we were too grown up to play a kids game. And so began a time span of not playing D&D that would last almost 20 years.
I tried to get back into it over the years but the sheer number of rules and massive learning curve made me feel overwhelmed and lost. When a friend suggested I try the new system that had just came out in 2014 it was like I had never left. This new system was comfortable and familiar in a lot of ways. Gone was the paralysis inducing array of options and I was able to quickly pick it up and have a great time. As it turned out, since the new system had just been released and was drastically different from the previous, no one at the table was all that familiar so we all had moments of confusion and spent time looking things up. However, those moments became fewer and fewer and the confusion became less and less as the game went on.
All in all the new system has been a load of fun. This past weekend saw New England’s largest game convention, TotalCon. This was the first major event since 5e was launched and the D&D area was packed to capacity and then some. I ended up not playing but instead running several games over the course of the event, a thing I never thought I’d be doing again.
Now, a mere seven months after playing that first game in August of last year I have 4 different characters, play in a weekly game (in which I DM on a regular basis), play in a second game that runs every other week and attended a convention in which I ran far more games than I played. In a few weeks the current story line ends and a new one begins, meaning new stories, modules and player options will become available. Personally, I think this is a perfect time to be playing D&D. And I’m not the only one that thinks so. Recently BoardGameGeek, the largest game related site on the Internet release the results of it’s list of GoldenGeek winners (Think of them as the Oscars for tabletop games) and D&D 5e won three of the four categories including Game of the Year, Best Artwork and Best Supplement.
The future once again looks bright for D&D, and aside from a few missteps and delays, the fanbase is once again growing. The community is coming back to the grandfather of RPGs and there is no better time to dive in.
If all this sounds exciting and you can’t wait to chop into a hobgoblin with your longsword then grab a copy of the free basic rules, the character sheets and go at it. If you want to get into organized play head over to the Adventurers League website or the D&D main site and look for a group. Until then, roll initiative!
Last Updated on