This afternoon, I will be violating the principles of my alignment (Neutral Oldschool) and participating in a Fifth Edition D&D game. Exciting to me is the fact that I will be a PLAYER, not a Dungeon Master. I am pretty sure that I have not been a PLAYER in a game of D&D since 1989 or 1990. I’m a little apprehensive, actually.
I’ve written before about my initial reading of the 5E Stranger Things Starter Set and how I was pleasantly surprised by it, but I haven’t mentioned how I picked up the 5E Player’s Handbook when I got invited to play with a group a friend games with. The PHB seems fine, and I’m sure that I will make plenty of use of it, but it is quite a monster. After the introductory sections (which I liked) I’ve basically been saying “Oh, for fuck’s sake” every four or five minutes as I slog through the races and classes and character creation. My impression was that this was the core game, the options added in the early years, and the mid-life Unearthed Arcana-type expansions all jammed into the PHB. Way too much stuff, and way too much depth for the too many things. Even the free PDF of Basic Rules seemed pretty excessive. I had honestly reached the point of “Well, I said I’d play and I guess I should at least check it out one time,” but I was expecting that it might be a one-and-done for me and 5E.
What I’d skipped over due to timing and the fact that I’ve been playing B/X two or three days a week lately is the Essentials Set. I’d bought it but not even opened it, then dove into the PHB because the session was getting close.
I wish I’d started with the Essentials Set. As a player who knows these sorts of games, I’d personally say that the Starter Set should really be called the “Introductory Set” and the Essentials Set should really be called “Starter Set” or “Basic Set.”
The Starter Set(s) use pre-generated characters and include only the spells and monsters used by those characters or in the included introductory adventure. The classes and races are described on the included character sheets, and there is no character generation included in the set at all. The Essentials Set is a stripped-down full game, with basic classes and a few of the options for each of them in a 64-page book plus an introductory adventure. The spell list is likewise limited, as are the monsters and magic items, but it appears that the Essentials Set is a full game that could provide a fair amount of gaming, similar to B/X’s or Mentzer’s Basic book.
I’m really looking forward to playing for a change. I love DMing and I love B/X but this is a great way for me to broaden my horizons a bit. Plus I think it will be a lot of fun to just relax a bit and run a single character for a session. Plus, I’m making a point to use my veteran purple dice from the mid-80s. Adventure awaits.