I have been playing D&D5 for something like five months now, even though I don’t play very often. Here are a few things that struck me; most of it is compared with third edition, as the basic d20 mechanics are quite close and it’s what I played most in not-so-ancient times.

Ease of play

First, the game feels much faster than third edition. I guess the single most important factor here is the advantage/disadvantage system; basically, you just have it or you don’t, but you don’t waste time computing bonuses and penalties for every single die roll. This is not to say I use it exactly as written; last time we played, the PCs firing crossbows at goblins at long range and through trees did get the disadvantage even though they also had the higher ground. But my point is, as a DM, I can use common sense rather than look up modifiers in a table.

Character abilities

I don’t use the facts optional rule yet. I will probably allow players to pick facts as their characters get to level 4, but I didn’t allow them at first level. So I can’t really compare the new-style facts to the third edition system here; we’ll see as we use them in actual play.

One big difference with what I have known before, notably for fighter-types, is the use of special abilities rather than facts (second wind comes to mind). Another one is the unlimited use of cantrips for “pure” spellcasters (I think Pathfinder has the same kind of rule but I have never played it). Together, these give the game something of a video game feel. I thought this would bother me but somehow it works quite well in actual play.

Rules organization

The rules may be quite simple, but the books have a tendency to split parts of the same rule on different pages, sometimes even in different chapters. For instance, the PHB says on p. 182 that climbing adds 1’ of movement cost to each 1’ of actual movement, and on p. 190 that moving through difficult terrain does the same, so moving on a steep wooded slope costs 3’ of movement for each 1’ of actual move. I was unable to find the two modifiers listed in a single place, though.

Same goes for the use of scrolls; the DMG states on p. 139 that anyone able to read can use magic scrolls, and on p. 200 that spell scrolls can only be used by a spell caster of the right class. I must confess I can’t remember if there were other scrolls beside the spell variety in D&D3; in fifth edition, as far as I can tell, the only other kind is the scrolls of protection. This rule may seem obvious to many, but as for me, I didn’t even imagine they were non-spell scrolls when I first read p. 139.

Rules I forget

OK, so this part is not about the game itself but about the way I play it. Apart from the issues I mentionned in the previous paragraph, I still haven’t managed to use the inspiration rule. I make a mental note about it before each game, and I still manage to forget it during play. I have pinned a big fat note that just reads “inspiration” behind my DM screen; we’ll see if I still can manage to forget it next time.

That’s about it for this time; the next post will probably be about my actual campaign. See you then!