D&D Fans Rejoice! WotC Releases the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook! (Part 1: Characters)

D&D Fans Rejoice: WotC Releases the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook Tomorrow! (EN World's Review; Part 1)

The long wait is finally over, and the diehard fans will finally have their first tangible experience this week with the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons: buying their own shiny Player’s Handbook!

Today, Friday August 8th, select retailers across the country will be receiving advanced copies of the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook as a reward for their participation in the Wizards of the Coast Play Network. And while the book is scheduled to be released on August 19th to the remaining hobby stores and online booksellers, Wizards of the Coast was kind enough to rush an advance copies to EN World! This is Part 1 of a 2-part review dealing wiht the first half of the Player's Handbook; you can find the second part here. A review of the hardcover adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen will also come separately.

There has been plenty of speculation on the web regarding this new D&D Player's Handbook, all intermixed with tantalizing glimpses of pages released for the D&D fans to examine. But the real question on everyone's mind has to be...

...just what wonders lurk between the covers of this quintessential rule book of the new Dungeons & Dragons?


D&D Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)
  • Lead Designers: Mike Mearls & Jeremy Crawford
  • Designers: Rodney Thompson & Peter Lee (Rules Development); James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell (writers)
  • Cover Art: Tyler Jacobson
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: Hardbound (320 pages)
  • Price: $49.99 (Available for pre-order on Amazon.com for $29.97)


The D&D Player’s Handbook is the first hardbound book released of the new 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. The D&D Player’s Handbook contains all the essential rules and content needed for players to be able to create their characters and participating in the game. The book contains nine races and twelve classes for players to select from when making a character, and include rules for leveling, multi-classing, and building a character’s personality and background. Additionally, the Player’s Handbook contains a wide range of equipment and gear to outfit adventurers, including armor, weapons, tools, and more – even mounts and other vehicles. The book covers all the rules for game mechanics, combat, and adventuring, as well as providing a library of spells which can be used by several of the character classes. Finally, the Player’s Handbook has Appendices covering the Pantheons of the gods, the planes of existence, a selection of common monsters, and more.


Production Quality

The production quality of the Player’s Handbook is downright jaw-dropping. It's a stunningly gorgeous book – everything a bibliophile gamer wants in a new sourcebook. Given the previous body of works published by Wizards of the Coast, this new Player’s Handbook might well be one of the most impressive releases to date. The writing is exceptional, which one would expect given the caliber of game designers participating in the creation of this rulebook, and the layout is not merely easy to use but artful in the way it presents the contents. The book possesses both a table of contents and an index for ease of reference, and there is a nifty blank character sheet on the last pages for reproduction and use during play.

Physically, the new Player’s Handbook is a hefty tome at around two and a half pounds. Its binding is quite sturdy and the cover panels are heavy enough to let the book lay open on the table on almost every page. The covers are glossy and quite slick, with full color art on front and back, and possess heavy duty black endpapers. The inner pages themselves have a slick feel to them and are of decent weight, easily riffled through and tactilely pleasing overall. All the pages have a faint parchment shade hue, which allows the charts to stand out by contrast in stark white and faint mint green.

But it is the illustrations and artwork that truly elevates the Player’s Handbook from a mere rulebook to the pride of any gamers’ library. Clearly, WotC’s art directors devoted some very serious time and effort in their gathering the dozens of skilled artists who produced artwork for this book. The cover art depicting characters battling a horrendous fire giant is just a tantalizing taste of the eye-candy waiting inside the book. While leafing through the Player’s Handbook, the Reader might well feel as though nearly every page has some kind of illustration on it – and that’s very nearly true! It’s definitely a lot of artwork, and each chapter is divided off by a full page art piece as a demarcation.

The overall effect of the production quality is pure enticement and attractiveness. After all, when you’re offering a PDF version of your game for free online, the hardbound book in the retail store had better be amazing if you want to move it off the shelves!


Everything a player needs…

The front cover of the new D&D Player’s Handbook touts these words:
Everything a player needs to create heroic characters for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.
But there’s definitely more to this book than just the character creation section – that’s just the first half of the book. The other half contains all the rules for the game, participating in combats, casting spells, and all the other working parts of playing the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Due to time constraints imposed by the hour of the receipt of the review copy and the deadline for the review post itself, this review will cover the first half of the Player’s Handbook – which is conveniently divided into sections and Part 1 covers the first half almost to the page. The first half covers character creation while the second half deals with rule mechanics, combat, adventuring, and the spell lists and descriptions.

Part 1 of the Player’s Handbook is divided into six chapters following an introduction section. The Introduction has been reprinted elsewhere, and covers the generalities of playing a roleplaying game - the sort of the ubiquitous “boiler plate” necessary to start almost any roleplaying game book.

Chapter 1 is a short section outlining six steps to create a D&D character – general concepts about choosing a race and class, rolling up ability scores, and outfitting the character. The designers even include an example, "Building Breunor", at each step of the way. This overview is covered very nicely in a few pages, and even includes basic information on leveling.

Races are covered in Chapter 2 and there are nine presented in the Player’s Handbook – seventeen if you include the demi-human sub-races and the nine human ethnicities. The designers include just about every popular racial type here - Dwarf (Hill, Mountain), Elf (High, Dark), Halfling (Lightfoot, Stout), Humans (Calishite, Chondathan, Damaran, Ulluskan, Mulan, Rashemi, Shou, Tethyrian, Turami), Dragonborn, Gnome (Forest, Rock), Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Tiefling. Of course, it’s interesting to note that the Humans ethnicities are Forgotten Realms based, the setting which has been stated as going to be the “official” core campaign world. Each of the racial entries is accompanied by a considerable amount of descriptive text about the particular race, with illustrations, potential names, racial traits, and sub-races. The content strikes presents each races’ game mechanic information, but surrounds it with plenty of character creation and roleplay material – a good very balance of “crunch” and “fluff”.

Chapter 3 delves into the Classes in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the Player’s Handbook presents an even dozen of them to choose from. The classes include the Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. Each class section has a full write-up with both game mechanics and roleplaying inspiration mixed together, and include an advancement table up to Level 20 with the class features gained along the way. Each class also has a couple class options which further differentiate the character. For instance, the Bard class can choose between either the College of Lore or the College of Valor; Monks get to choose from three Monastic Traditions – the Ways of the Open Hand, Shadow, or Four Elements. Clerics are back to having Domains again and Wizards can specialize in Schools of magic. There is definitely a considerable number of ways to differentiate a character in this new edition of D&D, so that even two Fighters in the group need not be cast from the same mold.

Chapter 4 presents content to help players add Personality and Background to their heroes. There is both practical information like height/weight charts, alignment (back to nine), and language lists, as well as advice on crafting a personality for a character based upon traits and characteristics. There are also character Backgrounds listed here in the Player’s Handbook, and these cover some 13 common medieval fantasy tropes, such as a Criminal, Guild Artisan, Noble, and Sage.

Lists of Equipment and adventuring gear is offered in Chapter 5armor, weapons, clothing, delving gear, foodstuffs, mounts – everything a hero might ever need. Other considerations like money, donning armor, and container capacity are described here as well, plus there is a very cool list of 100 trinkets which might be used as a family heirloom or as an odd item found in a dungeon.

Finally, the last section of Part 1 covers Character Customization. In Chapter 6, the designers explore rules for multi-classing (ala 3.5 style) and feats, although the list is far from the massive pile presented in 3rd Edition. There are a little more than 40 feats presented in this Player’s Handbook – although in past editions that number has continued to expand constantly throughout the edition’s lifespan until it becomes unwieldy. It will be interesting to see if 5th Edition D&D follow the same track.


Initial Conclusions

Based upon the first half of the new D&D Player’s Handbook, this is quite an impressive game release. There are about 170 pages of character creation content - and that does not yet include the spell lists! On face value, without dissecting each class or race for mechanics balance, the characters that can be created with the D&D Player’s Handbook would seem to be quite diverse and with great potential for a unique feel play experience for every type.

Part 2
of this review of the D&D Player’s Handbook will cover the last half of the book and examine the combat mechanics and spells in this new edition. Check back for more information and a final rating for this Wizard of the Coast new release!

Editorial Note
: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in hardbound format from which the review was written.
 
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Comments

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
"The long wait is finally over" In the words of Tui beer adverts over here YEAH RIGHT!

If (a big if) you are within easy distance of a US WPN Store! Try "The month long wait has just begun"

Yes I am bitter, twisted and very jealous. :D
 

nerfherder

Explorer
"The long wait is finally over" In the words of Tui beer adverts over here YEAH RIGHT!

If (a big if) you are within easy distance of a US WPN Store! Try "The month long wait has just begun"

Yes I am bitter, twisted and very jealous. :D
Or a UK WPN store - just received a call from mine to say that they have the PHB in stock, and have put 3 aside for me :)
 

mips42

Explorer
Sadly, I spent all my 'fun' money on the starter set. So, now begins 'The long, dark, tea-time of the soul...' and the journey to be able to afford a PHB.
For those who can, get one and play on.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
Or a UK WPN store - just received a call from mine to say that they have the PHB in stock, and have put 3 aside for me :)
And despite Forbidden Planet having several WPN shops in the Central Belt, their one here in Aberdeen is not one of them.
 
Disappointed

I'm disappointed.

Disappointed I didn't preorder and save 30% at my FLGS, that is!

Oh my gosh, this thing is beautiful. And the content looks great. I've played through the starter set a couple times now and really like the game so far. I like what the PHB adds. I was/am a huge fan of 4E, but can't wait to get a new campaign going with this system.

Most importantly, I love what they've done with the gnome.

P.S. Hoard of the Dragon Queen looks great too. I haven't been so excited to run a published adventure in years. I actually bought the adventure for full cover price and left the PHB for another day, since I will be running the games for my group.
 

Poet22

Visitor
Thank you Games Plus in Mt. Prospect! My FLGS had my copy waiting and I too have had enough time to flip through the first part of the book and pronounce it both gorgeous but also well-written! In short, no need to worry! Mike Mearls and the rest of the gang have given us a shiny new version of our favorite RPG that reminds us of why we fell in love with D&D in the first place! Huzzah!
 

Gundark

Explorer
"The long wait is finally over" In the words of Tui beer adverts over here YEAH RIGHT!

If (a big if) you are within easy distance of a US WPN Store! Try "The month long wait has just begun"

Yes I am bitter, twisted and very jealous. :D
Or a Canadian WPN store :)
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
PK maybe it is just poor old Pacific Island nations that can't get it early from their WPN store...

...still my greeness increases with every OMG IT'S BEAUTIFUL post :angel:
 

kelius

Visitor
Well, it looks well done. But so was 3.5. They made a radical departure with 4th ed, burned many of their old fans, and now they come out with something that is just OK.

My question is, Why? Why should I spend all the money to buy this new game when I already get the same thing with Pathfinder?

WOTC was bought by Hasbro, and the Corporate suits and greedy executives concocted 4th edition to fleece fans of their money. It back fired. Now, they are desperately trying to win back the people they drove away.

To them, I say no. Simply out of principle, NO!

There are other games to play. I still have all my old DnD books, and there is Pathfinder. I don't need to put more money into Hasbro's bank account.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
My question is, Why? Why should I spend all the money to buy this new game when I already get the same thing with Pathfinder?
You shouldn't. You should play the game you want to play. Sounds like it's Pathfinder.

To them, I say no. Simply out of principle, NO!

There are other games to play. I still have all my old DnD books, and there is Pathfinder.
Pathfinder's a good game. Enjoy!
 

sgtscott658

Visitor
Even though I have railed at time about some aspects of 5E, I still think it is probably the best edition of D&D (and I'm a huge 3.5 fanboy). It is straight forward no nonsense playing of D&D and it is very very customizable to suit your taste. Give this edition a try, I think you will not regret it.

Well, it looks well done. But so was 3.5. They made a radical departure with 4th ed, burned many of their old fans, and now they come out with something that is just OK.

My question is, Why? Why should I spend all the money to buy this new game when I already get the same thing with Pathfinder?

WOTC was bought by Hasbro, and the Corporate suits and greedy executives concocted 4th edition to fleece fans of their money. It back fired. Now, they are desperately trying to win back the people they drove away.

To them, I say no. Simply out of principle, NO!

There are other games to play. I still have all my old DnD books, and there is Pathfinder. I don't need to put more money into Hasbro's bank account.
 

kelius

Visitor
My point is this, I am a long time fan of D&D, but the corporate machine of HASBRO has ruined it.

I see no reason to reward them by purchasing their products. I state this here because I want other long time fans to join me in punishing them.

The people at Hasbro who make the high level decisions probably don't even play. They don't care about our hobby. They don't deserve our business.

The era of DnD is over. It was grand while it lasted, but now we should support the smaller game developers. There are many fine games to play that are made by gamers for gamers. They are the ones who deserve our business.
 

sgtscott658

Visitor
No problem, its your choice but be careful what you post, the mods here are very heavy handed and hand out infarctions like popcorn if they even get a sniff of thread crapping. Aint like it used to be back in the early days of EN World.

My point is this, I am a long time fan of D&D, but the corporate machine of HASBRO has ruined it.

I see no reason to reward them by purchasing their products. I state this here because I want other long time fans to join me in punishing them.

The people at Hasbro who make the high level decisions probably don't even play. They don't care about our hobby. They don't deserve our business.

The era of DnD is over. It was grand while it lasted, but now we should support the smaller game developers. There are many fine games to play that are made by gamers for gamers. They are the ones who deserve our business.
 

Iosue

Community Supporter
If one wants to support games made by a small band of plucky gamers, 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons by Wizards of the Coast is a good choice!
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
Well, it looks well done. But so was 3.5. They made a radical departure with 4th ed, burned many of their old fans, and now they come out with something that is just OK.

My question is, Why? Why should I spend all the money to buy this new game when I already get the same thing with Pathfinder?

WOTC was bought by Hasbro, and the Corporate suits and greedy executives concocted 4th edition to fleece fans of their money. It back fired. Now, they are desperately trying to win back the people they drove away.

To them, I say no. Simply out of principle, NO!

There are other games to play. I still have all my old DnD books, and there is Pathfinder. I don't need to put more money into Hasbro's bank account.
1) you don't get the same thing with Pathfinder. You get something that's similar in many ways, but not the same
1a) Pathfinder and D&D 3e/3.5e are much "heavier" rulesets, in terms of complexity of mechanics.
1b) Pathfinder will never have legit authoritative native rules material for the Realms, Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Mystara, etc
1c) Despite 4 years of being top of the market, almost no one outside gaming knows what Pathfinder is. Most still think D&D. Pathfinder has failed to have the name recognition.

2) If you're avoiding it out of protest, pretty much, you've already lost. You're background noise. HasBro really doesn't give a whit.
2a) WotC, a still autonomous operational company owned by HasBro has already sold a lot of units. The D&D name still sells. And the guys at WotC sure give the impression of caring if the game's good.
2b) and the D&D 5e game is good on its own merits.

I've always preferred other games over D&D. Always. But I've also always realized that D&D is the big bad boy on the block, due to name recognition, and hoped it would return to a light to medium-light rules weight, instead of the late 2e to 4E rules medium-heavy to heavy, because it spreads gaming. But I also know that playing D&D expands my potential player base 10-fold.

And as long as D&D is out there, it's the most likely venue for newbs. The name IS the key thing. Star Wars (now from FFG) has always been a big second stringer for newbs, and has a REALLY good, ground up, total "never heard of RPG's before seeing the box" beginner's box line. D&D is still likely to draw more newbs.
 

kelius

Visitor
Aramis, you make a good point. D&D is the most recognizable avenue into our hobby for newbs. It is really for that reason I am tempted to support 5e.

I also know that Hasbro does not give a whit about me, but that is my whole point. They don't give a whit about any of us.

However, if enough people think like me then they will give a whit. Look what happened with 4th ed. It blew, they ignored their core fans, and the game did not do well. They started to 'give a whit' when they got hit in the bank account! That is the only thing corporations respond to.

I am not quick to forgive their transgressions. They have much to do in order to prove themselves to me. I still have about $150 of lousy 4ed D&D books I purchased when that first came out. I loved D&D so much I rushed out to buy them when the new edition appeared. I am not doing that again!

I have friends who have bought 5e, and I know they will run it eventually. Maybe my opinion toward it will soften in the next year. We will see.
 

Ahrimon

Bourbon and Dice
I also know that Hasbro does not give a whit about me, but that is my whole point. They don't give a whit about any of us.
The WotC staff care about their fans just as much as the Paizo staff. WotC may be owned by Hasbro but it's not Hasbro.

However, if enough people think like me then they will give a whit. Look what happened with 4th ed. It blew, they ignored their core fans, and the game did not do well. They started to 'give a whit' when they got hit in the bank account! That is the only thing corporations respond to.
That's your opinion. Myself and many many others loved 4th edition. To your claims of it did not do well, Mearls has stated that 4e was profitable for it's entire run. That's just as legitimate of a source as those claiming Pathfinder is #1 of select retailers.

I am not quick to forgive their transgressions. They have much to do in order to prove themselves to me. I still have about $150 of lousy 4ed D&D books I purchased when that first came out. I loved D&D so much I rushed out to buy them when the new edition appeared. I am not doing that again!
People often get burned by rushing out to buy the latest and greatest without stopping to consider what they were tossing their money at. Look at all of the apple fans have to get the latest iPhone 2.3 seconds after it was released. There were problems with some of the models and those fans were affected. Things don't always work perfectly at release. You fix them and move on. It's a risk you take to be on the bleeding edge and it's hardly their fault for your sense of disappointment. There was no "transgression" there and personally I don't think they have anything to prove to you, me, or anyone. I think they'll make the best game they can and let it stand on it's own two feet.

I have friends who have bought 5e, and I know they will run it eventually. Maybe my opinion toward it will soften in the next year. We will see.
The good news is that the basic rules are free. Give it a try if you feel like it. You may like it, you may not.

Ahrimon
 

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