THE DUNGEON REPORT: PART 1
By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on August 19, 2015
Welcome, insignificant mortals, to the All Aboard for this month. This time around, I, the almighty Gaz the Dungeonmaster, will not so much be doing a review about a board game as I will be doing a comparison between two versions of the mind-bogglingly awesomesame game: Dungeons & Dragons. My love For D&D is widely known amongst all my minions and friends. Even my best friend Miss Sprinkles the fat undead sparkling unicorn (more on her in the second part of my story) has tried to kill me for it in the past. But now she doesn’t anymore, because, in the process of battling for my all-encompassing knowledge, we really got to know each other and are now best friends.
I previously did a review about D&D, but back then, I only talked about 4th edition (which shall henceforth be referred to as 4E) and not about 5h edition (and yes, this shall be referred to as 5E. Surprise, surprise!) So now I thought it was time for an in-depth comparison between the two, as well as give my opinion as a player and a Dungeon Master. DISCLAIMER: everything I write here is based on my personal views and opinions, so if you don’t like it… well, then I will feed you to my pet Chimera. During this comparison, I will be looking at the following categories: building a character, building the world/encounters, Monsters and overall gameplay, finally followed by my final verdict. So can I have a drum roll please, as we get down to business and go straight to:
PART 1: Building a character
There is a huge difference between the editions as far as building your character is concerned. The first and most notable difference is that it is quite a bit simpler in 5E. There aren’t as many numbers flying around. Also, 5E focuses more on role-playing and has incorporated this into the character creation mechanic. You can pick a character back-story that offers certain skills or benefits and it really helps building the PC (Player Character).
On the other hand, 4E provides you with WAY more choices, giving you more options to customize your character any way you like. Even when leveling your character, 4E let’s you acquire a new feat ever X level. You can choose between over 2000 feats and get a daily- or encounter power every so often, which is quite different from how 5E handles the character-leveling issue. 5E gives your class of character some active or passive skills, but these skills are all linear and offer but small choices. So every level 3 Paladin with an oath of life has the same abilities, no exception.
In 4E, the feats make you unique because one paladin might have a sword and shield mastery, while another one may be a polearm master, and yet another one may have spellcasting focus or whatever. Now, I am a rules fanatic so huge chunks of information don’t bother me. Besides, I read all the books for fun so this overwhelming amount of choices doesn’t impress this DM, but for new players it might be really scary… So, new players beware!
PART 2: Building the world/ encounters
Now, I haven’t actually played as a DM in 4E, but I did read all the Dungeon master guides for the edition so I do have a good idea about how things work. So believe me if I tell you that there’s a considerable difference between 4E and 5E. If you search the internet or scour the D&D forums you will find the same verdict wherever you look. 4E is grid-based and mainly focused on combat, while somewhat ignoring the rest. 5E on the other hand, goes way more into detail about how to build NPC's, villains, villages, towns, cities and just the world in general. It even goes into how the multiple planes of existence work. And yes, even downtime activities are described in the 5E guide, like: running a business, building your own fort and gambling. So 5E goes a lot more into detail about the world your adventures are set in, a big plus in my book!
Encounter building is an entirely different story, and in that particular field, 4E definitely takes the cake (and this cake is no lie… sorry, wrong game!) It describes battles into far more detail, provides you with a lot more options for combat as well as building encounters and describes the rules more thoroughly and clearly, by providing you with more examples and exceptions. As for rewarding treasure, I personally think that for a novice DM who wants to create a nicely balanced world, 4E is the best way to go. It gives the DM more options and just focuses more on back-story and world building. Keep in mind however, that 4E uses huge amounts of text (much like this story of mine) to do so. But then again, if that doesn’t bother you, you’re sure to get the best results by using 4E. If these huge amounts of information do somewhat put you off, than you should set your sights on 5E. In this version, world building is much more concise and to-the-point. The level of customization is far beneath that of 4E, but it will get you playing much, much faster. So in short: if you’re mostly focused on battle, 4E is the way to go for you. If you are, on the other hand, more focused on characters and story, 5E will fulfill your every role-playing need.
That just leaves ‘Monsters and Overall Gameplay’ and my final verdict, but that will have to wait until next time. I must say I’m very impressed with you making it this far, so therefore I will reward you with a new rank: you have been promoted from minion to elite (haha, I made a 4E reference). Sadly, for now, this where we part ways. Because frankly, I’ve typed enough and humanity will not subjugate itself to me, so I have a lot of evil plotting to do. Minions, fetch me my Awesome Helmet of Sinister Plans and Deadly Curses! (Complete with lights and beer can holder, batteries sold separately.)
So stay tuned for the next and final part of my Dungeon Report, in which monsters and overall gameplay is going to be discussed, you’ll hear more of the back-story of Miss Sprinkles the Fat Undead Sparkling Unicorn and my final verdict will be revealed. So, until we meet again, mortal. Cower before the unbelievable might of Gaz the Dungeonmaster!
THE DUNGEON REPORT: PART 1
Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. & Wizards of the Coast
Published: 1974 - present
Designer: Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson (D&D, first edition)
Players: 3 - 6 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 90 minutes