Anybody have the new D&D starter set?

I hear the new edition is said to try to eschew grid-based combat (making it purely optional). Is this so? Does the adventure in the starter set come with grid maps, or do you do all combat purely by description?

Personally I like 4e style grid based combat but I’m always interested to hear where things are going…

ETA: Back when I had time to tinker with things I was playing around with an attempt at a simplified “zone” based combat–not map but schematic I guess? Where movement wasn’t by grids but by zones (front line, left flank, back, etc) with rules about who could make it difficult for whom to move where, and things like that. Anyone know of any actual game that does combat in any way that may somehow resemble that description?

You’ll want to head over to and check out the forums. You can also go to (scroll down a bit) and download the Basic Rules.

5th ed is a modular ruleset, even moreso than usual. For instance, feats are a purely optional rule now, the basic rules don’t even include them. The basic rules does still have character speeds and distances on spells, but it never explicitly mentions grid-based combat AFAIK, no.

Are the rules for things like Feats still in the core rulebooks, despite being optional rules?

I don’t have the starter set, but I’m almost certain the basic rules (which are free in PDF form) mention that feats are in the PHB, so yes.

Yes. Feats are much more powerful in 5E, because they take the place of stat increases.

How do you know, since they haven’t been released yet?

Because I read a lot, am modestly active on ENWorld, and have been following 5th edition for a long while.

But nobody outside the design team actually knows what feats look like yet?

What Quartz said seems reasonable for somebody who’s been following the forums. Before 4E came out, we had a pretty good idea (but not a lot of specifics) what the game system was going to be like.

4E also didn’t have 3 years or whatever of public tests, of which pretty much all of the contents have changed by now.

Just saying that without seeing any final products, all anyone is judging by is a lot of of stuff that has often changed since people saw it.

There have been significant previews on ENWorld, D&D’s Legends & Lore column, and elsewhere.

My friend picked it up and has been running a group of us through the included adventure. It’s alright. It has a bit of “neither fish nor fowl” about it - not nearly as much rules crunch as older D&D, but still way more than most story games, to the extent that it doesn’t really scratch my itch in either direction. So far, I’ve ended all our sessions with a feeling that I’d rather have been playing either Pathfinder or DungeonWorld, instead.

I don’t really see myself buying the new edition - I don’t think my friend with the starter box is, either.

Overall, I’m sufficiently interested. I mean, it doesn’t overthrow Pathfinder exactly, but the basic rules are generally tidier. You’re going to want to download the online Basic Rules even if you actually bought the boxed set:

I myself wouldn’t have minded if they’d just published a paper copy as well.

Now, a bunch of comments on the Starter Set, and note that I’m mostly comparing it to 3rd edition, and assuming the reader is familiar with that:

No Percentile - The dice that come with the set lacks a ‘tens’ die for percentile rolls, which is understandable I suppose. I mean, 3rd edition mostly used percentile for treasure generation, unless I’m mistaken. There were other things expressed in percentage chances, like the chance to miss when blind, but these were percentages that could easily be rolled with other types of dice, such as 50%. Am I forgetting something? In any case, trying to hit someone while blind is now just a ‘disadvantage’.

The advantage/disadvantage mechanic - If you have advantage in a d20 roll, you roll twice and take the highest. If you have a disadvantage you roll twice and take the worst result. Since my math fu was too weak to simply visualize this, I got out my spreadsheet and generated line graphs. Basically, what you get is that toward the middle of the range of target numbers from 1 to 20 you get a gap of 50% between advantage and disadvantage (each 25% shifted from the odds of a straight d20 roll of 10). But as you move from the middle in either direction the difference in odds collapses. Not sure how I feel about this, but there has been a standing complaint about the linearity of the standard d20 roll. I wonder what those who were bothered by this would feel about the new probability curves that actually curve. It certainly has the advantage of being easy to use.

Character Sheet - The character sheet provided has a simplicity in its look that is invocative of Old Basic D&D. About which:

  1. Looking at the pre-gens you see that they mean for you to write the mods big square space and the actual stat in the small oval space beneath it. I’ve seen light versions of the d20 rules that dispensed with scores altogether, because nothing was done with them except to convert them to mods.
  2. Each stat has a saving throw associated with it. Based on the pre-gens, it looks like you pick two of these to add 2 to, otherwise they’re identical to the actual stat mod.
  3. Looks like you get four skills at your stat mod +2, unless you’re a rogue and get 6. The list of skills is short, like in 4e.
  4. Armor class is inside a little picture of a shield, of course. You also have boxes for initiative and speed.
  5. Hit points are given scratch space. There is an equally large space for temporary hit points.
  6. You get space for Hit Dice. Hit Dice, as it turns out, is a healing mechanic now.
  7. You get bubbles to track your death saves.
  8. The designated shaded lines for weapons does not include space for all the info on the weapons charts. The pregens have footnotes given for range.
  9. Spaces for various roleplaying notes in four specified categories - Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, Flaws.
  10. Boxes for other, usual specifications that we all know from experience will soon prove inadequate space even if we do write as small as they expect us to.

Skills - No craft or professional skills. The full basic rules say you can craft if you have proficiency with the tools required, but no rules for how one becomes proficient in any tools that aren’t thieves’ tools. Yet, the pregens have other tool proficiencies listed. Otherwise, skills are treated as they are really just categories of stat checks, which is really just a change of perspective rather than a change in mechanic. There may still be potential for some rules to overlap or seem redundant, but overall I think they’re sufficiently streamlined.

Actions - You don’t have move actions, you just have a move speed, and your action. You can now interrupt your movement with an action and then keep going with no need for a feat and no modifiers. You also get something called a Bonus Action in some circumstances, mostly if a class feature allows it. For example, the sample rogue can take the actions Disengage, Dash or Hide as bonus actions in addition to their Action. Some spells are bonus actions. Also, Two-weapon Fighting uses a bonus action.

Movement - Only one degree of difficult terrain, and it’s double movement cost as usual. But crawling through difficult terrain is triple cost.

Help - Apparently, helping people no longer requires you to make a DC 10 or DC 15 check to give a +2 to someone’s roll. Instead, you just spend the action and the other person has Advantage.

Crits- Rolling 20 is always a hit, and always a crit. A crit is just twice the number of damage dice. Rolling a 1 is always a miss, but never a critical fumble.

Ranged Attacks - Two ranges - one within which you have no mods, and one for the absolute range of the weapon. Outside the first range, you have disadvantage to your roll. Ranged attacks do not provoke attacks of opportunity, but they are made at a Disadvantage in close quarters. Ranged attacks get your ability modifier to damage as well as attack.

Two-weapon Fighting - Apparently anybody with a light weapon in each hand can now make a second attack with the off hand. You just don’t get your stat mod to damage unless its negative. Also, no special feat or class ability is needed to do this with thrown weapons, though it doesn’t say whether this similarly applies to the hand crossbows listed among the weapons, presumably only because the need to load them with the other hand complicates this. But I would assume if you have them loaded already, it works just like with thrown weapons.

Death - No negative hit points. If damage exceeds your current hit points, you have zero hit points. If the number of points left after you hit zero equal or exceed your maximum hit points, you’re dead. If you don’t die, but have 0 hp, you need make a Death Saving Throw DC 10 each round you are at 0 hp. After three successes, you’re stable and on your own recover a hp in 1d4 hours. After three failures you are dead. A 1 on the roll is two failures. A 20 restores you to 1 hp, and I guess that means you’re stable. If you’re the attacker, when you make the blow that knocks a creature down to zero you can decide then or there whether the creature is actually going to be making death saves (or, as the GM will probably determine it, simply dead) or just unconscious and stable.

Healing - The name Hit Dice now refers to a healing mechanic. If you have 3d6 HD, you can roll one of them to heal for every hour you spend resting. If you rest 8 hours, you are completely healed. You can only do this once per 24 hours, and you only recover a number of spent Hit Dice up to half your maximum.

Weapon Proficiency - Looks like you can use any weapon. If you’re proficient you get a bonus to use the weapon based on your class and level. Spellcasters get this same bonus for spell checks.

Encumbrance - There are two levels of encumbrance - Unencumbered and Can’t-Fucking-Move. Can’t-Fucking-Move begins at your Strength score x15 pounds + a flea lands on you. Dumbed-down or streamlined? Well, how strictly did you ever enforce the old rules? Maybe people will actually not ignore this one.

Armor - The max dex mod to AC is by the broad armor type (light, medium, heavy), not by the specific armor type. No plate mail listed in the Starter Set.

Equipment - Generally, a very familiar equipment list. Things like Tindertwigs and Tanglefoot bags that I always thought were kind of goofy are not listed. Potion of Healing is on the normal gear list – 50 gp and it heals 2d4+2 damage.

Spells - Back to the Vancian system. Spell schools are merely descriptive. Cantrips enjoy what used to be called Spontaneous Casting. Proficiency with armor allows you to cast in it just fine. Areas of effect are defined in ways that will require further specification to use on a grid map. You can cast more than 1 spell per round if one takes a bonus action and the other is a 1-action cantrip.

Adventure - The big advantage of 4th edition, that encounters could be run with no prep time on the GM’s part, is gone. The adventure is written so as to teach you to GM, instead of being a GM guide with an adventure included. Nice readable monster listings. XP for each encounter is a straight number to be divided among characters, not figured by comparing party and encounter level. Tactical maps in 5-foot grids. 13 magic items that appear in the adventure listed in the appendix, and generally function how you’d expect them to from previous editions.

If people want more wordy synopses, Rob Donoghue, one of the minds behind Fate, has written allll kinds of impressions and nonsense over on his blog.

I’ve heard rumors that they’ve removed BAB or any equivalent mechanic, and instead decreased the AC of high-level monsters by an amount corresponding to the level of characters who are expected to be fighting them. Even Asmodeus, for instance, has an AC of only 17. Is this accurate?

Bonuses in general are much reduced in 5E, so that sounds plausible.

Huh. I was reading what he said about the Bard. I can understand why they eased up on weapon restrictions. It’s not really that powerful to have more options on what you can swing once per round. But the same reason apparently doesn’t apply to musical instruments. You’re apparently stuck with three your whole life as a Bard, presumably because somebody might try to break the game by using as many as four types of musical instruments, the munchkins. The fighter can pack Mjolnir, a dragonlance, a vorpal sword, Sting, Axe of the Dwarvish Lords, Mace of Cuthbert, the bow of Philoctetes, plus a two-hundred dollar cobalt blue 12-gage double-barrelled Remington with a walnut stock and hair trigger, and use all of these with equal proficiency. But if he runs into a guy strapped with a Chime of Opening, Pipes of Haunting, a Lyre of Building AND, AND a Harp of Charming? One of these guys needs to get the shit nerfed out of him toot sweet! According to WotC, it’s that second guy.

I got nothin’. The whole idea of “proficiencies” seems so legacy to me that I’m a little surprised it didn’t get dropped.

I’ve had some time to look over the PHB now. I see that the deal with the bard being given only three musical instrument proficiencies is that each instrument is treated as a toolset, in their tools system. I like the system overall. If you want to be able to smith, instead of buying a skill Profession (blacksmith) you can attempt it based on your stat, or if you have proficiency with the toolset you can also add your proficiency bonus. It’s a little odd to me that there’s no skill for Open Locks or Remove Traps, there’s just your Dex mod, and whether or not you are proficient with Thieves’ Tools. If you’re a Rogue, you can use your Expertise ability to double your proficiency bonus with Thieves’ Tools.

This sort of thing also applies to vehicles, though I’m not yet sure whether each kind of animal counts as a vehicle, particularly each type of horse, but also do you have to pick up proficiency with each kind of boat separately?

It needs the DMG before I can be sure how specific you have to be with your musical instrument proficiencies to be able to use the classical musical instruments. The list given in the PHB doesn’t really seem designed around the known magical instruments:

Pan flute

Harp is not even mentioned, so if there is a Harp of Charming among the magic items, does Lyre proficiency count for using it? And is a Shawm really that different from a flute, which frankly comes in a lot of varieties as it is? I mean, if they’re giving up the idea that categories of weapons are sufficiently equivalent that they can let them all be used without penalty, are musical instruments really that much more disparate than all the historical weapons that could be described as ‘short swords’?