In this installment of Critical Hit – A Major Spoilers Dungeons and Dragons Podcast: We crack open the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Starter Set to see what happens.

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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. Awesome episode, really looking forward to running this myself soon as well as continuing my ongoing campaign in 4e. One question: What happened to the Rogue character Dr. Brad was creating for this? Will he appear as the story goes on?

  2. Episode really shows that it is the role playing and player interaction, not the system, that makes the game great.

    I did wonder why Rodrigo didn’t get inspiration for his story.

    I think Stephen is a glass half empty kind of guy. He hates the new critical hit rules, when on average they are as good as 4e and can be much better. Granted they can be worse, too.

    Thanks for the podcast.

  3. Love this episode. Great skeleton king story (inspiration!)

    5e ABSOLUTLY DOES NOT require a grid. We have not used a mini or grid since 4e (last year?) . We adverage +3 combats per night (session) and no marks on a mat.

    Please use a grid if you like, but don’t sell 5e as a grid game. It is not. You can choose to make it one. But it is NOT. If 5e was grid required, we wouldn’t have run many dozens (all) of combats without.

    • TheUnendingVoid on

      Of course it does not require a grid, but whether it is preferable to use a grid based on the rules provided in 5e is more debatable. It depends on how comfortable the group is with not focusing on the specifics of a situation, and 5e itself does get pretty specific with distances and such.

      • I wonder if they would have thought of taking cover behind the dead horses if the map was not there.

        The visual representation can remind you of things.

      • “Of course it does not require a grid” ??? Tell that to Rodrigo and rob. They are the ones saying (in the episode) that 5e requires one.

        • Rumtuggle the Fabulous on

          No edition of D&D “requires” anything. It’s up to the group of players and DM which pieces they want to use. To some – theater of the mind is really fun in a system like D&D. But with as many combat mechanics as there are, other people like me (and as you said, Rodrigo and Rob) who would say that if you want to play with all the rules as written a grid is required.

          Like Rob has said before: if you play theater of the mind you have to either keep track of everything or make decisions with much less information than you would have if you were playing with a grid.

          I think the main point the Critical Hit folks have when they heavily suggest using a grid for D&D is that if you want to go without, there are systems that fit that idea much better.

        • They were talking about how, for them, they prefer having a grid and feel like it works better…for them. At no point did I hear either of them say “this system requires a grid, no exceptions”.

  4. Like that some of the normal crew tried something different for characters and I really like when Rodrigo is a PC, he adds a lot of depth and has a knack to get things moving past those normal moments of silence “what do we do” moments every game has. Was the intention to just play the Crit Hit characters wrapped for 5e? If not then I kind of hope in the future people go past their comfort levels a bit more.

    I wonder if the need for a map just really depends on how you are used to playing D&D. Basic, expert and AD&D were largely theater of the mind and while we had exploring maps and the like, we rarely used combat maps (usually for army level battles).

    Love how fast battles are, love that all the magic powers are gone, love that all hits are back to AC. Thaco and saving throws ftw.

  5. What a great episode, and I love the characters you have created. Well done, guys!

    The Bard’s story was well done, and I’m looking forward to more little fables. The ranger was hilarious with her snarky comments. I’d love it if my players did likewise – DM Rob may need to be a bit more generous with the Inspiration dice..!

    Regarding critical hits, I’ve heard of plenty of groups house-ruling for max damage instead of double dice. I’d also have allowed the Monk to take his short rest while riding on the cart. In game terms, I see short rest healing as mostly fatigue recovery.

    I love how everyone thought they were going to die after the first round of the goblin combat. Yes, 1st level characters are now squishy again, and a surprise round can be lethal. Your monk kicked butt.

    Ditto the above comments about loosening up on the grid counting. If the DM’s thinks the monk can probably close to melee range, just run with your gut.

    Three more suggestions. I’d go with monsters doing average damage rather than rolling for damage, as it stops outlier rolls from causing big problems. Since you don’t have a cleric with “spare the dying” cantrip, I’d house-rule that someone with “Medicine” can automatically stabilise a dying creature. And I would level up mid-dungeon if the XP is there.

    Once more, great episode, and I’m really looking forward to the next one.

  6. You guys do theatre of the mind all the time. You call it skill challanges.
    Personally, grids and tactical combats where you bother to keep track of everything give me more hedaches. Loose and open theratre of the mind ftw. I hope 5e will do that for me and get me back to D&D. I ended up running all fights as skill challanges in 4e.

    Btw. theatre of the mind is so much more listener friendly and fits this format a lot better than grids.
    Still, I love your stories, but skip past the hours long tactical combats.

  7. No pictures for this episode (or maybe I can’t see them on the mobile version of the site)? I wanted to see cat-dice :(

  8. RAM_evilspaceknight on

    I started playing after listening to critical hit and had only played on grids before.
    With the new edition I was wary about no grids but thought I’d give it a go.
    It was a blast! Yes mistakes were probably made along the way but it was a lot easier to keep flowing without analysing 4 different routes the character could take. One thing I would say is that there has to be a high level of trust between players and the gm. If you want to cast a fireball and the gm says you can get 3 out of the 5 goblins then that needs to be ok.
    It also allows the rule of cool to be applied easier so that if a player attempts something cinematic it’s easier to allow if there is some leeway in distances etc.

    • Yes, no grids are great! It becomes much more loose and story focused when you get into combat. If you like that, you should check out other systems as well!

  9. I really did love the story. I hope Rodrigo’s character has more of them. Did you write it during character creation or is it based on something you’ve read. Or, I suppose, are you superhumanly creative and came up with it on the spot?

  10. Critical hits ( nat 20s) are the first thing we house ruled. I preferred ( like you Stephen) the “max damage”. This is the adverage of (2) weapon dice, which ( in theory), should not mess with the math. One strength of 5th ed is the ” plug in, leave out” rules.

    The core books are filled with ” optional ” rules. Like using grids . We don’t. You can.

  11. Frederick, aka Darth Macho on

    Great episode! I always enjoy when the group introduces new characters and hearing how they are described, how they are played, and how they work mechanically.

    Some other thoughts about the episode and 5e:
    — I also wondered why Rodrigo didn’t get Inspiration for his story?
    — Rodrigo is a great GM, but he’s also fun as a player.
    — Surprise rounds against vulnerable 1st level characters just seems scary.
    — I’m also pro-grid for any edition.
    — I was expecting the combat to be a little quicker in 5e, but perhaps it didn’t feel that way because it was new to everyone involved.

    Thanks for the episode.

  12. The whole Critical hit grew are great players – but expect Rodrigo to be a role playing god!!!
    When have you ever seen or heard about a DnD character with glasses?

  13. Here is something that hasn’t happened before. I not only listened through combat but I LISTENED AGAIN.

    Great role playing team! I really enjoyed this episode… AGAIN!!!

  14. Roger Dupuy (last name pronounced: "doo-pwee") on

    “Pain is a lie…”

    Just brilliant Rodrigo!

    His bard sets it all up with a story about the ‘lyin’ king, then he blends that with the most innovative description of healing I have ever heard.

    Can’t wait to see what the others of the party will do…

  15. Oops. You guys just did what my party did and ignored the goblin cave quest. Can’t wait to see you die to the redbrands next episode because you haven’t made it to level 2 in time.

  16. Great visuals such as when the monk (Aldus?) used a whirling kick to dislodge his axe. When I heard that I fell on one knee and did a hockey style fist pump (which was really hard to do because I was not on the ice)
    One question; why didn’t Rob let the monk take short rest in the cart? No critique here. I would never ever, ever second guess a DM. Just wondering.

  17. Great podcast! I’ve been trying o finish this episode all week and I finally got to the end. Really good ep!
    I have to say, by now I’m used to everybodies commitment to their characters, but Rodrigo surprised me as a player! Bard was a great choice for him. Props to Rob for going for DMing using new rules on the air, I imagine it wasn’t easy.
    Aso I support the use of any visual aid to help paint the situation for the players, so sure why not a hex grid. But honestly, it’s your game, people, run it the way you want and see how succesful it is. RPGs are not an exact science, they are a strange for of alchemy where the rules are supposed to be a catalyst for fun, so do a hex grid! or not! Draw some sketches or maybe just scratch something on a chalkboard. The theater of the mind works fine too, we’ve all been doing it while listening to Critical Hit.

  18. 13th age has amazing theater of the mind rules. Instead of measuring on a hex and trying to maximize your hits on enemies with a 30′ cube, you just hit something like 1d4 nearby enemies which represents who is clumped up at a particular moment.

    Plus it’s Rodrigo-friendly with distances like “engaged”, “nearby,” and “far.”

  19. Is Vesca as a character brash and loose-lipped – or as people are saying “snarky”, or was Adriana enjoying a few adult beverages? Just curious. Either way love the show no matter what edition!

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