For the past few days, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster. I met new and interesting people. I made a new friend. A stranger in need asked me for help. The local tavern called me a hero and hosted a celebration in my honor. Then, I was falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned.
Also, I killed a Doppleganger with my sword and watched a fighter lady play whack-a-mole with some goblins my friend had just put to sleep with a magic spell. Good times, and all thanks to a little game known colloquially as “D&D.”
I have had a long, flirtatious courtship with the aforementioned originator of the tabletop roleplaying game for well over 5 years now. At first, it was curious glances. After a while, I caught myself staring and, embarrassed, awkwardly pretended to be doing something else. Before long, I was asking all sorts of questions that betrayed my attempts to keep my burgeoning crush a close secret.
And then I was caught completely off-guard.
I saw her, shiny and new at Gen Con 2014, and I knew right then and there that I was head-over-heels. Formerly code-named “D&D Next,” 5E was released to near universal acclaim and massive sales. I bought a Starter Box at my local comic shop (Ann Arbor’s prestigious Vault of Midnight) as soon as I got home. Included within are all the basics you need to get up and running with the game.
In the box you’ll find pre-made character sheets, a book for the rules, a book with a fully realized adventure in it, and a full set of polyhedral dice. You provide the friends, pencils, a bit of scrap paper, and a table and you’re good to play. This harkens back to the early days of D&D and serves to juxtapose the minimal material requirement with the richness of an experience being shared within a collective imagination.
Within a week of my purchase, after the feverish reading of the included manuals, I got the game to the table. Normally there is a fear for first time Dungeon Masters, the folks in charge of the game, to both implement and teach the rules correctly as well as provide a fun experience for the players. I can proudly say that the Starter Set eased me into the role and off I went. I successfully ran a game for my sister and dad and they had a total blast playing their first RPG.
After that experience, I was compelled to dive deeper into the world of D&D. The Starter Set was good, but it lacks a personal touch. The heart of D&D is its ability to foster creativity by letting you create characters and worlds and adventures–and every conceivable bit of minutiae– and then play with and within each of those aspects. For the first dip into that ocean, I picked up the “PHB,” better known as the ubiquitous Player’s Handbook. And then the Dungeon Master’s Guide… And then the Monster Manual. All in one go.
So I got a little bit carried away, but at this point, after my initial couple of plays I was sold. I knew in my heart with a lover’s certainty that I wanted more of it. Or all of it.
Each one of these books has the same excellent standard of quality. It’s bound in a hard cover with a mix of glossy art on the front, with a matte finish on the back for the informative text. Within these books, the pages are laid out with gorgeous art, bold, eye-catching text and tastefully worn looking background.
Each one of the core books, while looking like an intimidating read, lays out everything you need to know in a truly thoughtful and intuitive manner. On top of that, each book offers tons of delicious, savory bits of flavor text strewn throughout. You can’t go wrong with just purchasing all of them.
Of course, I had to grab a shield, too. No DM can be considered properly equipped without his or her trusty screen, obscuring from player’s view your possibly sinister machinations. Within the screen are handy tables for creating non-player characters on the fly, rules for status ailments, a difficulty class table, and a ton of other useful info you’ll find yourself glancing at quite often. And of course, just like the books, it’s all laid out thoughtfully and gorgeously.
Moving into DM’ing of course means that you want things to go as smoothly for the players as possible. In D&D, the use of magic is one of the most mechanically rich and diverse aspects of the game. To help streamline this for yourself as a player, or your players as a DM, I’d recommend the official Spell Cards. Produced in part with Gale Force 9, a quality purveyor of roleplaying and war game products, these glossy cards serve as a quick reference card for every spell in the game.
The cards are dry-erasable and sorted by spell level and type. The Arcane box has a good bunch of the general spells, however, there are individual boxes for the Ranger, Cleric, and Druid (not pictured as I haven’t had any druids in my game.) The cards also have a number on the back to help you keep track of spell-slot expenditure. I’d say these are essential for how well-priced and easily utilized they are.
So, yes, I went all in on D&D 5th Edition and pretty quickly, too. There are a ton of quality products surrounding an amazingly developed game. You can get started with all this, as I mentioned above, with just the Starter– but you’re going to want more. I cannot say enough great things about what WotC has put out, here.
In summary, the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is Wizards of the Coasts return to form for their beloved and ever-popular roleplaying game. Rigorously play-tested, its ability to both streamline the rules and maintain what made D&D such a revelation in the first place, 5E is a truly great product for anyone newly interested or already harboring a long-time love for the roleplaying game hobby.