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.

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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.