Pleading with 5th is an opinion piece about my personal experiences with the Dungeons and Dragons: 5th Edition Roleplaying System and the events of my gaming group that I explore it with. The articles are not intended to describe actual events or people, or to suggest any sponsorship or association with any person or entity. No animals were harmed in the experience or writing of these articles, only feelings. Viewer discretion is advised.
For the purposes at starting at the beginning, I will say that I all but entirely bypassed 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.
We played maybe… three sessions in total? I rolled up a Dwarf Avenger serving a deity of knowledge or some such and I recall being pretty excited initially. I loved trying new systems out and I would be playing with a few friends I had not gamed with since one of my earliest instances of doing so. This enthusiasm was quickly robbed from me as I felt a combat-centric cooldown management style of play thrust upon me and I searched in vain for some built-in roleplaying prompts to help define my character outside of his role in combat.
Now, I will admit to have a bit of a fuzzy recollection of the particulars, and there very well may have been some I just did not find entirely compelling. However, I’m not writing today about what could have been, I’m here to discuss what did happen.
As a separate entity, objectively observed in its own right, I may have enjoyed it. Perhaps even adopted myself it in the campaign I was running at the time, but it just didn’t feel like D&D to me. It was foreign and unwelcoming to me, which came as a shock when 3.5 had almost immediately cradled me in its embrace. I felt alienated by something that had once welcomed me with both arms, like visiting your childhood home and realizing the insides had been gutted and rearranged to an extent that you no longer had the preternatural ability to navigate them with confidence and familiarity.
The sensation was not pleasant, and it even led me to avoid the D&D RPG systems entirely for a period of time. I never even found myself retreating into the bosoms of Pathfinder, as many did, for which I’d regret if I hadn’t had such a great experience with other systems I met along the way.
Still, these are sentiments you can find anywhere and are not entirely interesting. “Ugh! 4E was sooo trash!” has become a pretty common and well earned gripe among the “veteran” roleplaying community but I was surprised when everyone I know who started their RPG experience with 4E recall having had a great time. They quickly picked up the games finer intricacies, and it was accommodating to their loose preconceptions of what a tabletop roleplaying game was all about. I just felt like the magic was gone.
Then I came home to find the 5th Edition Starter Set (a steal at less than $25) sitting on my dinning room table. My new roommates had been inquiring about me running a campaign for them since I’d moved in half a year earlier but, though I’d always answered enthusiastically, we had never nailed down the logistics and committed to a time. This seemed like the simplest and most non-committal of ways for us to poke our collective foot back into the door. They’d play pregenerated characters, and I would read from the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure provided rather than have to do any real work. So, we picked a night, cleared the table, spent way too much money at the nearest Corner Store, uncleared the table, and dove back into Dungeons and Dragons with only the barest hint of the 4E’s sour taste in my memory.
What resulted was like Christmas.
It probably helped a tad that it actually was pretty close to Christmas, but I felt like I was finally home again. The walls were where they should have been, the stairway intact, and even the furniture was where it should have been. The simplicity of the changes left me embarrassed that I’d never thought to implement them myself, and I devoured the nuances in one sitting, leaving me feeling like I’d never left.
Now at this point, it had been almost two years at this point since I’d been a part of a gaming group that met with any regularity and planning. We spent the night laughing at our own ineptitude and the gusto with which we attempted to inhabit the randomly assigned characters from the box, and have a blast in general. After the very first session was over, the verdict was completely unanimous,
We were getting the “boys” back together.
And like that, the magic was back.