A Review of the 5e Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook- Part Two

For Part One- go here.


53 art


Yesterday I covered chapters 1-4 (basically character creation and to get the PC’s up and adventurin’).  Today I will hit chapters 5-11 and the Appendixes.


Chapter 5 is the equipment chapter.  If you’re familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, I really don’t need to touch on this chapter.  The one cool thing I’ll mention about it is at the end of this chapter there is a d100 table of trinkets.  Each player receives one trinket when they create their character.  These are cool.  They could be the jumping off point of a plot hook of the character.  Is it magical?  Is it cursed?  Totally up to the DM to flesh these out (or not).

Another thing is the finesse feat of 3.x is now attached to the weapon itself (like daggers and rapiers) rather than something that the player needs to take to be functional.

Chapter 6 is about customization options for characters- these are rules that the DM can state whether or not they are allowed in their game.

Multiclassing functions a bit like it did in 3.x.  Your levels in each class add together to your actual level (IE a 3rd level fighter that takes a level of rogue is now a 4th level character).  The cool thing is that there is Ability Score minimums required to multiclass- I dig.

The chapter then touches on Feats.  I really dug what they have done.  First off the Feats section is only 4 pages long.  Again, these are an optional rule.  How it works is that Classes don’t get feats. As with 3.x (and maybe 4e- not sure about that) when a character gets to level 4 they are able to raise an Ability score.  The player can either raise one Ability by 2, or two Abilities by 1. If the GM allows the optional rule of feats you can take one instead of raising an Ability score.  So the first level you are even getting a feat is at lvl 4.  Very cool.  Again- this speeds up chargen and doesn’t overwhelm a beginning player with too many options.

Chapter 7 is about Ability scores- this covers modifiers, the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic (which is awesome), Proficiency bonuses, Skills, and Saves.

As a major fan of OSR-style play (fast rules, simplicity, and fast women) I was really happy with these rules.  Gone are the numerous saves and weird bonuses and long skill lists.  Everything is traced back to your Abilities and Proficiencies.  All saves are now handled by your Ability score.  Each class has at least two Abilities scores that they are Proficient in for saves.  As the class levels up, so does their proficiency score- to cap out at +6 for ALL CLASSES by level 17.

When a PC is required to roll a save they roll a d20+ the appropriate ability modifier+ proficiency bonus (if applicable) to beat the determined DC.  Very easy.  I feel was inspired by Castles and Crusades.

Ability checks are done the same route and if you have a skill (determined by class) that is applicable you apply the same formula as stated above.   While it isn’t touched upon here, this is also the same for toolkits.  Your race, class, and background may give you proficiency with a toolkit.  If someone needs to pick a lock they require a thieves toolkit..  A fighter with this toolkit would roll a d2o+dexterity modifier and hope they hit the DC.  A thief is proficient with the thieves toolkit, so they would also add their proficiency bonus to the roll- making them better than others at opening locks (or disabling traps).

I really like this approach.  There isn’t the skill list wIith too many options (some redundant) of the 3.x era, and everything boils down to an Ability roll.  Everyone can try anything.  You wanna swim in a strong current?  Roll a strength check.  Oh you have the Athletics skill- go ahead and add your proficiency bonus to that then.  Done.  It’s simple and elegant.

One of the coolest mechanics in the game is the Advantage/Disadvantage system.  I really think that it was inspired by the mechanics of Barbarians of Lemuria. If you have the advantage on a target (and there are multiple things that grant this) you roll two d20s and take the higher of the two.  If you are at a disadvantage, you roll two d20s and take the lower of the two.  You can’t have more than one advantage or disadvantage at a time.  If a situation arises where you have both- you simply roll your d20 (even if you have three things giving you advantage and two giving you disadvantage).  I love this, because it’s not going to slow things down with people trying to figure out what cancels what and what’s left over, etc.  It’s a DONE DEAL.  Move on.  Roll your d20 and kill shit!  It’s a great, simple, and rewarding mechanic!

Chapter 8 is all about adventuring.  It discusses travel (broken down into times that work for dungeon crawls, city crawls, and hexcrawls), movement, vision and light sources, environmental factors, resting, and activities between adventures.




I’m just resting… See?


Resting is broken down into a Short Rest and a Long Rest.  Short rests are for an hour more when there is no strenuous activity other than eating, drinking, or pooping.  During this time a wizard can recover a select number of spells (class ability), some other classes have things that refresh from a short rest.  Also PC’s can access their Hit Dice pool and get some healing.

I think that this is the evolution of healing surges from 4e, but I could be wrong.  Each character has a pool of dice equal to their maximum HD (IE a level 5 warlock has 5 HD pool).  The player can spend a number up to the maximum of their HD pool and roll those dice, and adds their Con modifier to each one- and that replenishes their health.  Expended Hit dice from the pool are replenished at 1/2 of level with a long rest (IE a the 5th level Warlock could regain 2 HD to their pool back with a long rest).

Long rests are a good night sleep- 8 hours.  This replenishes casters spell slots (more on this in the magic section), refreshes some class abilities, and replenishes ALL lost hit points.  I remember this rule from 4e.

I’ll be honest- when I read this, my OSR brain had the reaction in the meme below:


It causes my normal instinct of brutality and death and chaos that is prevalent in my Hubris campaign to twitch a little.  It may be too forgiving for my tastes, but honestly I haven’t played it yet and I can’t make a judgement.  It’s easy to houserule it to NO HP back or maybe I won’t be such a prick and let them have 1/2 back, but I won’t make that houserule until I play it RAW so I can actually made an educated decision.  Also I’ll concede that while 5e takes many inspirations from old school games, it still is more heroic than games like DCC or LotFP.  Level 1 characters aren’t Luke Skywalker on the moisture farm on Tattooine, they are Luke from Empire Strikes Back.  And hey- that’s fine- I’m just so used to gritty death and maiming that I have to recalibrate the way I think about things.

It also touches on things to do between sessions such as crafting, cost of living and lifestyle expenses.  These are SIMPLE rules and I love it.  Gone are the skills or feats needed to do anything…  Simple and down to one paragraph.

Now onto Chapter 9…  the big one… the thing that is on every veteran D&D player’s mind… Combat!   I was actually really surprised by the rules for combat…  why?  Because it is only takes up 10 pages in 5e (actually 9 if you count the two half pages as one page)!  It makes me weep (in a good way- not looking at myself naked in a mirror kinda way).  It’s so small and lite compared to 3.x and 4e.

Combat pretty much runs the same from 3.x and 4e days- roll your d20, add your Strength or Dex mod and beat the targets AC.  If your character is proficient with a weapon- add your proficiency bonus.

However some changes have been made, and I have to say- I like them.

Here’s a few to highlight:

  • It looks like drawing a weapon is no longer a move action. It’s just part of the attack action. Likewise sheathing one weapon is like drawing one. Sheathing a second weapon in the same rounds counts for 5′ of your movement action.
  • Same with drinking a potion- running over to kill a goblin, but need a potion?  Drink it on the way to shove your boot down his throat.
  • Movement has been broken down into 5′ increments. So you could move 10′, attack, and then move up to another 20′.  Took a page from Savage Worlds (or the Spring Attack Feat from 3.x)on that one.
  • Falling prone is no longer a movement action- getting up costs 50% of your movement (IE- if you move at 30ft, it takes 15ft of your movement).  I really like this and I know many of my players will too because you can still be effective when you get up and still move half your rating and attack or cast a spell or whatever.
  • There are still attacks of opportunity by there isn’t a SHIT TON of ways to provoke them.  It’s simply attempting to run away in combat, but you can use the Disengage action and not attack and your enemy doesn’t get a AoO.
  • Invisible attackers- there are no longer a ton of modifiers that need to be figured out when an invisible assailant is throttling your ass.  They get Advantage when attacking you and you suffer disadvantage when attacking them.  Easy peasy.
  • The above statement also is true when firing into melee at close range.
  • Everyone can two weapon fight now!  And again there is no plethora of modifiers, you just roll your normal attack.  If you hit you don’t get to add your strength modifier (unless it’s a negative) to your roll.  I’m actually surprised that they didn’t make the second attack at a Disadvantage.  There are class features in several classes (IE- Fighter and Ranger) that grant the bonus damage back.


Death in 5e is handled differently than I’ve seen in any other edition.  Gone are they days of negative HP tracking.  Once you are at 0 HP, you are unconscious and dying.  When in this state you roll a d20 (no modifiers, this is purely luck now) and if you roll a 10 or above, you mark it as a success.  9 or below is a failure.  Once you have three successes you wake up with 1 HP.  If you get three failures before three successes you are maggot food.  Rolling a 20 on this roll automatically stabilizes you, whereas rolling a 1 counts as two failures.

Another way to die is from massive damage.  If you are dropped to zero and there is enough damage to equal or exceeds your maximum HP you are toasted instantly, no saves.  I like this because it keeps the threat of death for early level play, but diminishes with each level as you grow stronger.

Chapter 10 moves into spellcasting rules.  While certain things remain familiar to veteran D&D players- the way spells are now handled has changed.  Instead of having spells per day and having spells that scale as you level up, you now have spell slots.  These slots are how many spells you can cast per day.  Several classes (IE- Bard, sorcerer, etc) have spells that they know, whereas a wizard doesn’t- because they have their big badass tome of spells.

When you cast Magic Missile as a level one spell, you conjure two missiles that automatically hit and do 1d4+1 damage each.  You can choose to cast Magic Missile as a level two spell (thus taking up one of your level two spell slots) and do more damage.  The spell (and this is how any spell that follows this formula is described) states that at higher level spell slots it does 1 more dart.  So you could cast this as a ninth level spell and have 10 bolts that do 1d4+1 damage.  Higher level spells can never occupy a lower level spell slot.

This is a cool way to do things and I think will add a bit more versatility to a spellcaster.

All spellcasters can also use cantrips, basically level 0 spells.  These have unlimited use and gain in ability as the caster levels.  While it seems, to me, that casters have less spells they can cast in a day, the added bonus of cantrips, their versatility, and scaling growth keeps casters in the game even after their spells have run out.

Chapter 11 is the spell descriptions.  This is (as with any D&D book- or clone) the bulk of the book, weighing in at a whopping 82 pages.  I’m not really going to talk about the spells as I didn’t read all of them, but perused them here and there…  There are changes to some spells, some new ones, etc.  However any caster will be happy to frolic through this section.

We now move to the Appendixes- the first one is conditions- and funnily enough this is where my favorite art in the book is.  They are just simple sketches, but I really enjoy them.  The book covers the 14 conditions that are possible in 5e, and most of them are old hat to veteran players, even if in older editions we didn’t refer to them as a “condition.”

Appendix B is the gods of the multiverse.  5e touches on the deities of Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Eberron.  Then it goes on to touch on deities of our world (nice touch) including Celtic, Greek, Egyptian, and Norse deities.

Appendix C is the planes of D&D, touches on planar travel and the like.

Appendix D is creature stats- while it’s not a bestiary and more of what a caster can summon, it still gives you a glimpse of how stat blocks work in 5e.  For some free enemies go here.

Appendix E is inspirational reading…  How sad that they didn’t call this Appendix N…  Tsk tsk.

Then there is an index.  Huzzah… I HATE books that don’t include an index.

My Beef

Now I’ll touch on the one thing in the book that really didn’t do anything for me…  And that is the art.  I’m not saying it’s bad…  It’s technically skilled and has a decent aesthetic, but I just feel it is pretty “meh.”  I understand that D&D is attempting to be the gateway and attract a large audience (and that is what D&D does best), but the art didn’t conjure any visceral emotions for me.  I didn’t get a “holy shit!  I want my character to do that shit!”  I just feel the art is too save….

Truth be told I’ve become spoiled by the amazing art by the many talented artists active in the indie RPG/OSR area.


People like:


Doug Kovacs
15_DKovacs_GreenMary_Sample 16_DKovacs_DwarvenTrap_sample


Jason Sholtis

wight1 antlerman Deadgiantjungle


Zak Smith

zak_alice_connie zakess hatter Voivodja_MAp


Jez “the Man” Gordon

scenicdunnsmouth03 scenicdunnsmouth02 scenicdunnsmouth01 dreamaskewcover DEADWEST02_bw

And David Lewis “the Beast” Johnson

goblins gnome 2 final avarian-1 avarian


I just prefer art that gets my blood boiling with excitement and inspires me to write shit for my players…  The art in 5e just doesn’t do that for me…

In Conclusion– From what I have read (I haven’t played it yet), 5e is a solid and great addition to the worlds greatest RPG.  I am excited to play this game and run my players through it.  It’ll be a good change from the chaos and grit that is constant in their lives (in a good way) with DCC and my Hubris session.

Is this version of D&D in the “heroic” vein that 3e and 4e were…?  Yes…  but rather than super powers of 4e, it pays homage to the grittier and deadlier days of yore and then moves forward to the heroics, firmly acknowledging both types of play and creating a happy place for all.

I tip my hat to the people at Wizards of the Coast and the consultants that aided in making this a great game and all their hard work.  Thank you.


Now I’ll have to have my girlfriend add another panel to this strip she did for me a few years ago.




About wrathofzombie

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn. View all posts by wrathofzombie

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