D&D Next (5E) Red Moon Rises: our Playtest of 5th Edition




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    Red Moon Rises: our Playtest of 5th Edition

    Below is the assessment of the first Playtest my family and I did on the 5th Edition of D&D. Before I get to the game itself let me briefly describe was I was shooting for.

    My family and I have played D&D before and the only ones who cared for it were me and my oldest daughter. My wife and youngest daughter didn’t care for it at all. This time, before even beginning to play (I have been playing since the Chainmail days) I went back and reviewed my favorite edition of D&D, that being AD&D. I then reviewed the playtest pack I got from 5th D&D and set out specifically to devise an adventure, and campaign set (on my own) that used the simplest form of 5th and was geared towards operating like AD&D but without all the cumbersome charts of those days (we played the D20 system instead). And we did not play the playtest the adventure included in the playtest pack.

    In short we had a ball. All of us. Character creation was extremely easy using a universal character sheet I developed myself. Set up was easy, even easier than AD&D and it was much easier for me to write up the adventure and the ongoing campaign than it was with any other edition I’ve ever used, including AD&D. (I’ve used all editions of D&D in the past except 2nd Edition.)

    We concentrated heavily on Role Play, but combat also went smoothly and very fluidly, it was easy to keep track of things, characters were easy to play from both the racial and class points of view (we didn’t use the alignment system, then again we never do), and extremely easy and open to individualized development. We statured out with very light characters and as we are proceeding adding on things like Specialties.

    (A real and persistent weakness of other editions to me has been the tendency on the part of the game designers to steer character development and creation along certain predetermined paths – I call this character railroading – and I didn’t see much of that at all in 5th. Instead the way the character develops is pretty much up to the player and wide open – the player is free to navigate at will in how he develops his character. So I give the game designers very high marks in this regard. 3rd and 4th editions were to me far, far too nerdy and programmer obsessed. This is far more player-friendly and less obsessed with tracks and paths and pre-programmed destinations. And less super-power obsessed. The characters we developed were far more realistic and yet also far more like believable fantasy characters – to coin a phrase - than superheroes or 20’ feat flipping Ninja masters. The character types, races, and classes pleased me immensely. They were mortal, believable, realistic – to a fantasy degree – and human. The way the designers handled character types was superb. But now to return to my general review.)

    It is extremely easy to equip and set up a character. Spells practically execute themselves.

    Nothing to me about the game seems complicated yet and I’m hoping it stays that way. Because the rules were so easy and fluid they were entirely burdenless and unencumbering to me and to my wife and kids. Actually this game was much easier to both learn and play than AD&D and certainly much, much easier to learn, execute, and keep track of than later iterations. And yet it was also every bit as much fun (if not more so) to play as AD&D was to me as a kid.

    I also easily adapted the game to my own setting and world to create a Campaign in Western Europe that my kids and even my wife said was thoroughly enjoyable, fun, and easy to experience. I had a ball in this respect too, it was no chore to me to create or run, and my family had a great deal of fun, including for the first time ever, my wife. This to me strikes me as both a serious version of the game and an extremely fun one. Yet it has also proven itself to m as a family friendly (not just Geek and Nerd oriented, overly complicated, specialist) version of the game. My wife and kids all told me they looked forward to playing again next time. And to me that’s the best selling point of all. The next best selling point was this, I’ve been a DM since the 1970s. Only rarely, comparatively speaking, have I played. But watching this and running this made me want to play. I realized by watching them just how much fun it would be to role play a character in this version of the game, and not be distracted by all of the mechanics and other time consuming minutiae and garbage. We (my family and I) will definitely be purchasing this version of D&D whenever it is completed.

    My one complaint is that it is a little bare bones at the moment (that is to be expected) and so some things we had to make up as we went along. However it wasn’t hard to do that at all and still remain within the spirit of the game presented to us in the playtest package.

    So far, if it remains as it is, then generally speaking, I suspect it may very well be the very best version of D&D I’ve yet to play. Certainly the easiest to play and one of the most fun because of that.

    __________________________________________________ ________________________________________

    Now for a little info on our game and setting:

    It takes place in Wales, Eire, and the Isle of Wight circa 830 AD. So it is centered in Western Europe. It is primarily historical but also semi-mythological and semi-religious. (Like AD&D it was easy to be mythological with this version of the game.) We use real languages like Latin, Anglo-Saxon, etc. There are Elves and other creatures from another world that is a mirror image of our world. Occasionally they infiltrate our world and either live here or produce offspring and return to their own world. That is extremely rare but it does happen and it happens more often in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe or in other parts of the world. This was our game today.


    Had a great first D&D (5th, or whatever they will call it) Adventure for the Red Moon of Samhain Campaign. The characters met and established their backgrounds. All had excellent background stories.

    1. Aelfwynne (my wife’s character) the Half-Elven Paladin travels around disguised as both a human and a man. Within the Team she assumes a leadership role but in public she takes a follower role so as not to betray her true nature. I thought this a very interesting tact for Dorett to take in play and she’s played it well. She’s also made friends with the bard Taliesin.

    2. Hilda (youngest daughter's character) is an Irish Thief who when travelling with her family from Ireland in a coracle was shipwrecked by a storm and both her parents were killed at sea. Barely surviving she washed up on the shores of Wales and to survive she became a Thief. Her father was a blacksmith travelling to Wales to become a Lord’s Blacksmith.

    3. Alexander (played by my oldest daughter) is a Cleric from Rome (with distant Greek ancestors), who is also a Fighter in the tradition of the Warrior Monks of Constantinople, who travelled to Wales to help convert the population there and has since become a mendicant Priest and adventuring Cleric.

    4. Analina (played by my oldest daughter) is a female Wizard from Spain who who was cast out by her parents when they discovered her interest in magic. They thought of her as being a Witch or Sorceress, but she actually wants to be a Wizard.

    They all came up with those backgrounds and backstories on their own and separately, but they all fit together extremely well for their team. All characters are first level. Because three of the party are females (one pretending to be a man) few people actually expect much of them and the people around them often underestimate them. This works out well to the party’s advantage and my wife and kids have defiantly taken great pains to underplay themselves in public so as to lure others into underestimating them,.

    Today they met the King of the Local town, the Lord Wargesthyn, and his Lady who sent them on a mission to Bay to see if the Druid Slynirn has discovered the Grael (a Pagan artifact that is supposed to be able to reanimate the Warrior dead), and if his partner, the Jute Sorcerer Achilln, has raised an raiding force of Vikings and Norsemen to attack the coast.

    Wargesthyn considers the (adventuring) party expendable, especially since they are all foreigners and strangers and two of them are women (actually three are), but the Lady Larshona has befriended, patronized, and equipped them. And given them a party of 4 men at arms to accompany them.

    So far they know that the Druid Slynirn is attempting to extract the Grael from the Sea Tower ruins at Bay (if he hasn’t already done so to attempt to create an army of undead Warriors to force out or kill all invaders to Britain and Wales and revise Druidism), and that someone or something is creating the Kragmar (Moorwights – the walking corpses of dead warriors), and that for some unknown reason the Jute Sorcerer Achilln is assisting Slynirn and is seeking to raise a raiding party of Norsemen to attack the Welsh coast.

    So the player party has been sent to investigate the Sea Tower ruins, spy upon Slynirn, discover what Achilln and the Vikings are attempting, and if possible recover the Grael before Slynirn does.

    So far it has unfolded like this: the four met in a tavern, the Sea Brine, where they heard rumors of what is happening and heard the bard Taliesin sing and recite verse about local events and famous legends. Then they heard the King’s Herald make a request to help the King form a mission against Slynirn and Achilln. They agreed to become scouts against the Druid and Sorcerer. Then Dorett’s Paladin instead the king feats them, which eh did reluctantly, but in this way they met Larshona, the king’s lady who befriended and equipped them in secret. Larshonda’s cat also took up with Analina and the queen gifted the cat to her, and since then the cat seems to act as a familiar to Analina warning her of danger and Analina can see through the cat’s eyes in dreams and visions.

    On the road down the coast the party was attacked by a pack of 5 wolves, which mutilated Hilda’s arm and shoulder, but the party killed them all with the help of their men at arms and their war-hound who joined them just after the wolf attack began. The Cleric and Paladin then healed Hilda and the war dog who took up with the Paladin after the Paladin saved him and now considers Aelfwynne his new master. So Dorett's Paladin now has a war-dog.

    That night Hilda was on first watch when two Moorwights came out of the moor and ambushed her before help could arrive. She helped rescue a red fox during this attack and the red fox then became her companion, but the Moorwights stabbed her in the kidney nearly killing her. The Cleric and Paladin had to pray over her for a long time and tend her wounds and finally managed in saving her life until they could lay on hands and heal her later on a day later. The Cleric was able to turn aside and drive off (turn undead) one Moorwight and the Paladin crushed the skull of the other with her flail.

    It was a lot of set up tonight, finalizing character creation and so forth, and we only played 2 and a half hours, but everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves and had a lot of fun role playing. My wife really got into the role play part and I think she likes playing a Paladin a lot. She likes turning undead and healing people and being a Holy Warrior. She also likes being in disguise and fighting. But she really seems to like the role play.

    Hilda (my youngest daughter) got hurt a lot and went out on her own a lot. I can see a lot of myself in her, back when I was a kid, the way I’d go off and do things on my own and nearly get killed a lot.

    My oldest daughter had a lot of fun playing both the Wizard and the Cleric.

    I’m really glad I went back to the simplified AD&D/5th Edition type of game, as it is much, much simpler and you can spend a lot of time role playing and having fun and far less time concerned with mechanics and rules and that kind of junk. Instead we just had a lot of fun and I allowed them to develop the characters as they saw fit. Simpler is much, much better when it comes to role play because hone people can actually role play.

    Next time though there are gonna be a lot more surprises.

    I think this is gonna be a great series of adventures and a lot of fun for the wife and kids. Plus it’s a good and fun family activity.


 

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    ø Ignore Neechen
    Your experience with the playtest package is very touching. To share creative and exciting moments with your family is priceless. It is a terrific testiment that you were able to hook your wife and younger daughter even after they had shown less interest in past editions.

    Keep playtesting and enjoying. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

    Cheers.

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    Neechen, the thing that made it so easy to me with this edition was this: after reviewing the materials in the packet I realized that this was much closer to AD&D to me, but also how simple it was and how simple the character classes and races were.

    So before we started, (and we were really playing because my oldest daughter wanted to, she’s about 16) I told my wife and kids, “look, this is an extremely simple version of the game. It’s gonna be really easy to make these characters up so instead of worrying about this or that detail or this or that power or function just role play and have fun and make up any backgrounds you like. We’ll develop them more in detail as we go along.”

    Once I said that they really cut loose.

    My wife said, “Well then I want to be a Paladin and disguise myself as a man and hang back in public but I’ll lead in the group. “

    My youngest daughter, 13, said, “I want my parents to have died in a shipwreck and I get washed up in Wales and am taken a slave and have to live hard until I escape and start living as a thief. That’s a good way to become a thief, because you have to.”

    My oldest daughter told us, “My Wizard has problems with her family, they don’t like her using magic and think she’s a witch but she really wants to be a Wizard. So she runs away and hears about Wizards in Britain and goes there as a stowaway to study.” And she told us her Fighter/Cleric was “a Roman but wanted to go to Wales as a Missionary where he met other missionaries and priests and decided he wanted to roam the countryside helping people.”

    They let their imaginations run wild and they all came up with very good character background stories (that also worked as a team) which they then played in game as part of their character development. So they all became interested in their “characters” not in their character powers.

    If you ask me that was the draw especially for my wife and girls. They could have interesting stories and develop themselves instead of concentrate on power or skill or feat or attribute development or mechanical side-issues.

    I think this is why the game really appealed to them. And to me for many of the same reasons.

    When my wife likes and enjoys role playing you know you’re doing something right. A couple of times she even jumped up and said stuff, “Let me turn that Moorwight, I don’t fear any undead, I’m secretly a Paladin,” or, “I’m gonna lay hands on that wardog because he saved Hilda from the wolf! He deserves to live!” (The dog then bonded with her and became her loyal Paladin’s warhound.)



    Ordinarily she’d consider that dorky and ridiculous, but she identified with her character and forgot it was just a character.


    To me that’s exactly what a role play game is supposed to be like.

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    Wow! Great setting and characters! I love how they got to rub shoulders with Taliesin.

    I'm curious...Did you homebrew a paladin class or did you rename the cleric's channel divinity to lay on hands?

    And did you say your eldest daughter's second character is a multi-class fighter/cleric? How'd you rule that since there are no multi-class rules released yet?

    I know the spirit of your post wasn't about mechanics, but I had to ask since I'm thinking of running a 5e game for a large group.
    Last edited by Quickleaf; Tuesday, 2nd October, 2012 at 07:01 AM.

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    What a good read. I LOVE Dark Age Europe (and set a 4E campaign in NW England at the time the Celtic kingdoms were falling to the Saxon invaders). Very interesting stuff.

    I too was going to ask how you went about those classes/multiclass not yet in the playtest packet.

    Also - you say it was very easy to create the PCs, but also mention that you left some parts until later. Care to elaborate on that?

    Did you use Backgrounds? Did you adjust them to suit the different nationalities and, er, backgrounds of the PCs, or did choosing a Background help inspire the players. (I have found the different combos available when choosing the 4 main things have led to some fantastic characters...and we often do so randomly).

    Have you had to create any NPCs/creatures of your own yet? (If so, how did that go)?

    Cheers and thanks for the PT Report. (I am liking the postings of playtests much more than the constant threads speculating and going over old ground).
    Homepage for all my roleplaying:http://connorscampaigns.wikidot.com/. Includes many GM Tools, Character Sheets, etc for DnD & Savage Worlds.

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    I'm curious...Did you homebrew a paladin class or did you rename the cleric's channel divinity to lay on hands?

    And did you say your eldest daughter's second character is a multi-class fighter/cleric? How'd you rule that since there are no multi-class rules released yet?

    I know the spirit of your post wasn't about mechanics, but I had to ask since I'm thinking of running a 5e game for a large group.

    QL, I basically used the AD&D Paladin and modified it to fit the basic construct of the way the other 5E characters played. In the case of laying on hands she could do so half as effectively as the Cleric at 1st level. (But later I'm gonna allow flexibility on things like this due to factors in my setting like Faith, Willpower, etc.)

    But I also handled it this way. When Hilda was stabbed through the kidney by the Moorwight it brought her to zero hit points and she was ready to die. The Paladin had already saved the warhound that day and the Cleric had both laid on hands and used his Cure Light Wounds spell and all his spells (we call them miracles or wonders in the case of Clerics and Paladins). So they couldn't save her traditonally.

    So what they decided to do was treat the wounds at camp, staunch the bleeding, use a healing kit, and the Cleric and Paladin sat all night and the next day in a "prayer Vigil." This didn't heal Hilda but it prevented her from dying. She fell into sort of a coma. Her body went cold but they kept their hands on her. Finally the Cleric's arms began to warm and it spread down from his arms to her body and she was stabilized. After that he was able to "officially" lay hands on her and cure her completely though the wound left a nasty scar and she still hurts internally some.

    I thought it was a great way to play it and so I let them. They had to stay with her to see if it worked with no assurance it would but the prayer vigil worked long enough to apply laying on hands again.

    (These charcaters are all Christian by the way in an area and time period that is mixed Christian and Pagan but still heavily pagan influenced. So the Vigil not only helped further cement the bonds between the charcaters but also impressed the men at arms sent by Wargesthyn to assist the party.) Anyway if they want to attempt it I let them try it and then see what happens.

    As to multi-classed characters I encouraged this in the party because there are only four of them and they are against heavy hitters, like the Druid and Sorcerer. And the Dursill Wurm, whom they've yet to meet. (That's also the reason for the four men at arms.) But only my daugther decided to be multiclass the others wanted to be pure this or that. As for how we played multiclass, basically like AD&D, but how I imagine 5E will do it. I'm keeping it as simple as possible, like the rest of the game. It wasn't hard to do.


    Also - you say it was very easy to create the PCs, but also mention that you left some parts until later. Care to elaborate on that?

    Did you use Backgrounds? Did you adjust them to suit the different nationalities and, er, backgrounds of the PCs, or did choosing a Background help inspire the players. (I have found the different combos available when choosing the 4 main things have led to some fantastic characters...and we often do so randomly).

    Have you had to create any NPCs/creatures of your own yet? (If so, how did that go)?
    Conn, this is how we did that. I told my wife and kids make it as simple or complex as you like, but let's concentrate on Role Playing the characters. (I'm doing the same with NPCs and monsters.)

    So they started out with basic AD&D type traits; race, class - race and class and level abilties, etc. As they advance in level, experience (play experience), etc. they choose when and how to add things like Background, Specialities, etc. That way the characters grow the way the players want it to be, and organically. (I'm basically doing the same with NPCs and monsters. I don't want anything in this version of the game to be static, but to grow and evolve, or devolve. So I'm letting the players decide what and when to develop things about their character, and as much as possible, how to do so.)

    Backgrounds and other add on features will be modified to the setting. But then again we've always done that. But they'll also be added on when the player chooses to do so.

    To your other question I've created both NPCs using the way 5E seems to work, and monsters by following the same pattern. The NPCs are turning out very well, but the party is yet to encoutner monsters, other than simple ones like the Moorwights. But the more complex monsters evolve like the characters and NPCs do. Because they tend to be simple in design it's easy to do that, and modify and grow them as you like.

    For instance the Dursill Wurm is a Wurm (dragon) from the Other World. She is my first big monster design. It began violet colored, soft scaled, fast, wingless, with poisnous fangs and small. Like a really fast and crafty viper. As it develops and undergoes different metamorphoses it changes colors, gains different breath weapons (when it becomes green it's breath is poisonous and cloudlike, when it turns red it's breath is a chemical naptha), and increases in other attirbutes, like intelligence, size, and by growing wings. My plan is for them to encounter the Dursill Wurm over and over again at different stages as an ongoing Nemesis. (She has no intention of fighting to the death in a stupid stand-up heroic fight, she's a survivor. And cunning, and a planner.) But because the 5E monsters are so simple and basically undirected (they remind me again of AD&D monsters) it is easy to do this and to make them more mythological in nature again. And scarier and far more flexible.


    Our original setting, by the way, was in Coinstantinople in the same time period (circa 800 AD). It was the one I made and played for my old D&D buddies and more advanced players. I have recently come to realize that it was a far too complicated world and setting to run younger and less experienced players through. It's a superb setting, but the version of D&D I had personally developed to play in it was too complicated for the inexperienced, too much politics, too many character capabilties and specialized charcaters, too many things going on.

    When I saw 5E I realized how easy it was (and I was already working to de-complicate my Byzantine setting and characters) and how easy it would be to get my family playing again, as a family. But I decided not to try and have my family game set in the complicated world of the Byzantine Empire, North Africa, and the Middle East.

    Instead 5E reminded me of AD&D in this sense too, it is perfectly suited for Western Europe.

    The character classes, races, the way magic works, the monsters, the things the game involves, all remind me of Western Europe. It's the first kind of setting one can easily imagine as being linked to the game. 5E is to me, like AD&D, Western Medieval Europe (modified by magic and monsters of course). 5E is much better suited to the more simplistic (and I'm not using that term insultingly, but happily) and uncomplicated and unsophisticated and uncluttered world (again not using any of these terms negatively) of Medieval Western Europe. And that was an extremely ncie change of pace and construction to me, especially after how complicated other versions of D&D had become (including my own). So complicated they virtually excluded newcomers and the inexperienced. Like my wife and younger daughter.

    So I went to the other side of the continent, in the same time period and created a Western European setting starting out in the British Isles. And that is working out superbly.

    I think that a lot of people, once they try this version, will be happily reminded of the less complicated and very fun version they played as a kid, but even far more importantly, I think it will be easy to get new and inexperienced players to play and enjoy this game. Because of the way it works, and just as importantly, because of how it doesn't overwork itself.

    After all it is always easy to complicate the thing you first created simple, but much, much harder to uncomplicate the thing you first made too complex.

    If they keep that tack, then in my opinion, they sail straight on a true course. Especially for those midshipmen new at sea.
    Last edited by Jack7; Tuesday, 2nd October, 2012 at 04:40 PM.

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    ø Ignore Neechen
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack7 View Post
    Neechen, the thing that made it so easy to me with this edition was this: after reviewing the materials in the packet I realized that this was much closer to AD&D to me, but also how simple it was and how simple the character classes and races were.

    So before we started, (and we were really playing because my oldest daughter wanted to, she’s about 16) I told my wife and kids, “look, this is an extremely simple version of the game. It’s gonna be really easy to make these characters up so instead of worrying about this or that detail or this or that power or function just role play and have fun and make up any backgrounds you like. We’ll develop them more in detail as we go along.”

    Once I said that they really cut loose.

    My wife said, “Well then I want to be a Paladin and disguise myself as a man and hang back in public but I’ll lead in the group. “

    My youngest daughter, 13, said, “I want my parents to have died in a shipwreck and I get washed up in Wales and am taken a slave and have to live hard until I escape and start living as a thief. That’s a good way to become a thief, because you have to.”

    My oldest daughter told us, “My Wizard has problems with her family, they don’t like her using magic and think she’s a witch but she really wants to be a Wizard. So she runs away and hears about Wizards in Britain and goes there as a stowaway to study.” And she told us her Fighter/Cleric was “a Roman but wanted to go to Wales as a Missionary where he met other missionaries and priests and decided he wanted to roam the countryside helping people.”

    They let their imaginations run wild and they all came up with very good character background stories (that also worked as a team) which they then played in game as part of their character development. So they all became interested in their “characters” not in their character powers.

    If you ask me that was the draw especially for my wife and girls. They could have interesting stories and develop themselves instead of concentrate on power or skill or feat or attribute development or mechanical side-issues.

    I think this is why the game really appealed to them. And to me for many of the same reasons.

    When my wife likes and enjoys role playing you know you’re doing something right. A couple of times she even jumped up and said stuff, “Let me turn that Moorwight, I don’t fear any undead, I’m secretly a Paladin,” or, “I’m gonna lay hands on that wardog because he saved Hilda from the wolf! He deserves to live!” (The dog then bonded with her and became her loyal Paladin’s warhound.)



    Ordinarily she’d consider that dorky and ridiculous, but she identified with her character and forgot it was just a character.


    To me that’s exactly what a role play game is supposed to be like.
    My wife has always run from D&D mostly because she thinks it is all numbers and figuring things out with numbers, etc. You really have it right when you hook them with story/character rather than stats.

    I don't know if I could ever coax her and my kids to play, but who knows. Maybe D&DNext will help me draw them in.

    Cheers.

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    Thanks for the elaboration Jack7, though still interested in exactly what mechanics you used for those new PCs.

    Oh, and have any players chosen Backgrounds or Specialties yet (or did any of them stat with one)?

    If interested, here is a link to our Dark Age England Campaign: The Summer Isle - Summer Isle Campaign.

    NB: It was heavily fantasized? ( Does that sound right)? I used my Realms Charts to randomly determine a lot of things, namely races. I love doing this. (The docs I have to do this are very detailed, etc). Oh, and it is set a couple of hundred years before your campaign, but from memory there are some links to cool maps that may help
    Last edited by Connorsrpg; Wednesday, 3rd October, 2012 at 01:49 PM.
    Homepage for all my roleplaying:http://connorscampaigns.wikidot.com/. Includes many GM Tools, Character Sheets, etc for DnD & Savage Worlds.

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    Connor, I used basically modified AD&D mechanics for developing the Paladin and multiclassed characters (based around how the playtest Classes were constructed).

    As for the add ons my oldest daughter has expressed an interest in these attributes when she advances in level. She's reading on them now. I think she intends to write them into her backstory development.

    My wife and younger daughter haven't expressed an opinion yet. They seem to like running light and clean, but we'll see as they gain more experience and they develop their characters.

    I'll follow your link and see what ideas it might give me. Thanks.

  • #10
    Beyond the nonsense that we all focus on within these boards, this is why 5e is on the right track.... No doubt

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