In this installment of Critical Hit – A Major Spoilers Dungeons and Dragons Podcast: Rob, DnDBrian, Stephen, and Dr. Brad Will sit down to discuss some of the changes in the 5th Edition Players Handbook, and give you a hit of what is to come.

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About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. I find this episode particularly interesting for a lot of reasons:

    1. Rob and Brian’s understanding and explanation of the rules and 5th Edition’s design. I started playing 5e (running a pbp game) this summer and I’m still absorbing the game’s overall design and structure. I one of the many reasons I like listening to Critical Hit is for Rob, Brian, and Rodrigo’s occasional delve into the reasoning for why the game works as it does. I know the rules, sure, but hearing the group’s explanation of how all the parts work together is an education.

    2. I can relate to Dr. Brad’s view of 5e as a ‘return’ to the AD&D flavor. I could practically hear him swooning, and I feel much the same way about this edition. 4e is a great D&D game, but man- for those of us who grew up on AD&D, 5e really hit the right notes. Wizards found the mechanics to support a game in the modern era that returns to the old school sensibilities of early editions. Speaking of such things…

    3. Listening to Stephen go through the same stages of comprehension each time he learns a new game element:
    Stage 1: perceived limitations of 5e (“what, no At-Will Powers?”)
    Stage 2: work through understanding the rules (ie spellcasting)
    Stage 3: realize the advantages of these mechanics on gameplay (“oh, so my monk can move between attacking enemies? I like that!”)
    Stage 4: appreciate the appeal of 5th edition (well, I’m only halfway through this episode, so I don’t have a quote quite yet, but I can hear it in Stephen’s voice.)

    To understand the appeal of early-edition games (anything before 3rd ed) and how it applies to 5e, read Matthew Finch’s ‘A Quick Primer For Old-School Gaming’ (it’s a free pdf). One of his main points is: it’s human-scaled, not a super-human scaled. Your character is a normal person but with a greater sense of cunning and courage. A bit faster or stronger than the average Joe. You train and study, you accumulate cash and gadgets, a stronghold and followers. You’re more like Batman than Superman. I feel like 4th ed characters are super-hero scaled. Hence, no Fey-Stepping Eladrin in the human-scaled 5e.

    So I find it entertaining and intriguing to listen to Stephen, who was introduced to D&D with 4th ed and now learning the very different 5th edition.

  2. I’ve got to say I’m very disappointed in this review. It seems to be awash in emotionality more than objectivity and hype more than analysis. I expect better from this crew, and I’m sad to see the marketing wool being pulled over gamer eyes in such a public way. Did any of you watch the sham development? Or know the history of Mearls et. al. as writers and designers? The callous resurrection of sacred cows proven in the 2000s not to work [like the whole Wizard Problem being said as a bonus (!!!) by more than one member of the cast] and proven in 4th’s time to not be necessary [like the incompetent and ugly spaghetti code organization of game rules freshly returned to undeath in 5th edition (and glazed over by everyone but Stephen!!)] was immediately troubling to me, and to see seasoned users of the D&D systems as far back as AD&D proper to fall for such a regression just due to the same fans-making-their-fandom nonsense that plagues the Inmates Running The Asylum atmosphere of American comics … it’s hard to put into words. But it definitely makes me sad. And it makes me question the level of rigor that went into this.

    Not enthusiasm.
    But rigor.

    As soon as I heard Dr. Brad say outright that bad design was a good idea because it FELT right, I knew that anything he was going to say for the next hour was going to be inexcusably tainted with nostalgia and frankly worthless to the audience.

  3. Hurray the site is up again!

    D&D is like Doctor Who. Your doctor is usually the doctor you first met, who first hooked you. I personally don’t care for 4E, I find it really tedious but I get where the people who love it come from.

  4. I’m ecstatic you were able to get the site back online. I’m a lot less excited WotC decided to take away some of the things I enjoyed the most about 4e (skill challenges, critical hits, and balance) bring back what I hated most in 3.5 (Druids Clerics and Wizards being insanely overpowered while melee classes fall deeper into obscurity with every level past 3)

  5. Two things mentioned in the podcast that are house-rules of mine: Skill Challenges and Critical Hits.

    Skill Challenge- I use Rodrigo’s rules in both my 4e and 5e games. I think Skill Challenges were left out of 5e to keep the game free-flowing and to emphasize role-playing, but Rodrigo’s rules allows for that. In particular, in a play-by-post game, the structure of a Skills Challenge is very helpful (otherwise you might be waiting for several DAYS for the group to decide what to do and then how everyone will act). A SC helps move things along.

    Critical Hits- I’m using automatic maximum damage. It takes a die-roll from a player (which, again, in pbp matters less than at the table), but it also avoids the possibility of rolling for minimum damage on a crit.

  6. I’ve been playing 5e for a few months now – my players have just finished Phandelver and they are all at level 5 now. I think it’s a cracking good game – I’ve played every version except 4e, and I think this is my favourite. Everything has been beautifully executed.

    I did want to make a comment on the old fighter/wizard power curve question. Mike Mearls has said explicitly that the one thing he wanted to bring forward out of 4e was class balance.

    A few comments –

    1. 5e flattens the overall power curve substantially (search for ‘Is the old “Linear Fighters Quadratic Wizards” problem still around in 5e Basic?’ in RPG Stack Exchange. Both Wizards and Fighters follow a quite linear power progression, though Wizards start to curve up towards level 20. But there is no linear/quadratic contrast.

    2. I don’t know that people are giving credit for how much damage a Fighter can do. As an example, our level 5 Fighter has just become pretty lethal – with an action surge he can get 4 attacks in one round, +9 to hit with his longbow, +4 to damage. That makes him more lethal than a fireball for that round (against a single target, admittedly) – and he can do this after every short rest.

    3. It also depends, of course, on how many long rests the party is permitted to have. If the DM is permitting too many rests, then the Wizard never suffers spell attrition and can feel overpowered. But that’s all within the DMs control.

    4. Finally, I think people need to take the right attitude into the game. The damage dealers need the tanks, and the tanks need the damage dealers – neither can stand alone. It would be a less interesting game to me if every class played essentially the same.

    Thanks for the great podcast guys, and I’m looking forward to hearing you in Phandelver.

  7. Say it isn’t true.

    You’re sticking with 4th edition in 2015?

    I know I’m just one voice, but listening to 4th Ed combat is interminable. Do you guys listen back to combats?

    I’ll hold out hope that, like my gaming group after running through LMoP, you too will forgo 4E to embrace 5E. Streamlined combat – more time for story & RP’ing while combats have real jeopardy, are not over powered and are resolved relatively (to 4E) quickly. With a group of 4 or 5 characters a turn takes, I guesstimate, 20% of a 4E turn, but are still fun.

    Characters in our game are 5th level and no one character class is dominating; your experience may vary.

  8. I really liked these episodes, as I usually like all the episodes.
    These were extra special though, and it had the feel like the start of Critical Hit when Stephen was learning 4th edition. I am always amazed at the great audio and how professional everyone sounds.

    Great job guys!

  9. I really liked this discussion, so don’t take this as a slight against you, but I really don’t like 5e from the looks of things. I’m sure it will be a fine game, but for me it doesn’t seem to fufill the role of anything I like anymore. If I want to play a Rules Lite, RP focused game, I’ll go play FATE/Fudge, a Varient on Savage worlds, or if I want specicially fantasy, RuneQuest. If I want epic, long and tatical combat, I’ll play Pathfinder, or 4e. 5e simply dosen’t look like it will fufill any of the things I want. And to me personally I feel like they used the bad parts of 3e and the bad parts of 4e, and threw in some mechanics that were popular in other games and called it a day.

    Also, I’m getting sick and tired of them Nuking Forgotten Realms to make room for new stuff in each edition. It’s a big part of the reason I don’t care for any of the 4e fluff text, as it keeps screwing with things and makes it hard for me to care about anything that happens these days in the Wizards Of the Coast Construced play. Of Course if they nuked Drizzt…

    I still thought your look into the system was interesting, and Critical Hit actually did soften me up to 4th edition a bit more, so maybe the same will happen here, but overall I just don’t see why I should spend hundreds of dollars on the new books, considering I already have games that fufill all the roles 5e is trying to fill, but in my opinion are just better.

  10. So two points about advantage and disadvantage: If a character does a lot of work to get advantage on things, that is awesome, but all it takes is a situation that creates disadvantage to negate all of that advantage (and it only takes one advantage to negate a pile of disadvantages.)
    The effective bonus for advantage and penalty for disadvantage is just over 3 points. It is also the same as the Avenger’s special attack ability in 4th edition. It is a solid bonus, but it does a couple of cool things: A bonus shifts the range of numbers you can get on a die. A 3 point bonus changes your range of results from 1 to 20 to 4 to 23. Advantage means that your average result is 3 points higher than a standard roll but the range stays the same 1 to 20. That means that giving a bonus or a penalty never makes something that would have been possible impossible or something that would have been impossible possible.

  11. Just a quick comment about Wizards at time 00:58:40. Without going into details of specific spells, I would think if a PC wizard attempts to cast a spell in a bar to affect an NPC in some way, everyone’s going to notice the wizard waving his arms and speaking the arcane incantations. Suddenly the target turns into a toad, well there’s bound to be someone who saw the wizard cast a spell, “The wizard did it!”.

    The DM has to control these things, and this way Bards and Rogues can shine and do what they do best.

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