Time Flies Even When You’re Not Having Fun – Also, Dragons


It’s been over five weeks since I’ve been able to run my Dungeons and Dragons campaign, over three weeks since I’ve been able to play in the 5th Edition game being ran by my friend, and over two weeks since I’ve made a blog post. When we did play our Phandelver game, only four out of six people, including myself, made it to the game. I had intended to post notes from that first session, but we didn’t get very far into the adventure and with only three people playing five characters, it just didn’t feel like a “proper session.” As the game group failed to assemble each week, I kept failing to update my blog. Of course I can and have and do post without having a recent game to talk about, but each day of not posting made it easier to keep not posting, waiting for that next game to talk about. Well, we were suppose to play again yesterday, and that didn’t happen so I didn’t post anything then either. But, myself and another player are trying to re-rally the troops, so all hope is not lost. I’m really hoping that next weekend will finally break the slump, and even if it doesn’t I’m going to recommit to at least one or two posts here a week.

Alright, on to some Dungeons and Dragons talk.

A friend of mine shared a link on his Facebook page to these pictures from the Dungeons and Dragons Facebook page earlier today:


AncientRedAdultRedDragonLairThere is a lot of interesting stuff going on here, but here is what my friend had to say:

So they take away casting spells for a “magical” creature and give it “lair actions” and surrounding terrain events??…ahh WoTC.. You fail to impress yet again.

He saw that dragons don’t cast spells (at least not based on the information here) and he was done with it. Case closed.

Another person commented that “dungeons and dragons is dead” that wizards had “ran it into the ground,” and he closed his post with “long live Pathfinder.”

I just shook my head. I played games with these two people for many years, once upon a time, and I respect them as gamers. Why couldn’t they see the great things that I see here?

The “terrain events” and lair actions look awesome (and awesomely customizable) and, if used properly, can help set a mood and tone for what should be an epic encounter. I also like the section on minions, which immediately made me think of a campaign where an orc tribe toils as the slaves of their powerful dragon overlord, wreaking havoc on the countryside in his name, pouring from the caves of the mountain where the water is undrinkable and unnatural earthquakes threaten those foolish enough to tread. There’s also quite a lot to like about those stat blocks, illustrating the much flattened power curve that is a much-needed overhaul of the most recent Dungeons and Dragons rules as well as the rules that power Pathfinder. I proceeded to defend what I saw in some comments that should have been part of a blog post, and now will be, along with the additional commentary above. Here is what I said:

I think I’ll be fine with not having to do the bookkeeping and prep work involved with keeping a long list of dragon spells, and I don’t think taking away the spells will take away from the excitement or the challenge of a dragon encounter. I also think the lair events look cool. Plus, I like how they set the stage for a dragon encounter to potentially include a clash with the dragons minions, which could range from a tribe of orcs to a cadre of powerful evil wizards, if you still want spells to feature into the mix. I understand the resistance or outright anger that a lot of gamers from our generation have when it comes to overhauls to our beloved Dungeons and Dragons, but setting aside a lot of biases rooted in nostalgia and/or anachronism, and trying to look at the game with fresh eyes and a willingness to accept and try new ideas and new approaches, I have to say I’m quite impressed with a lot of things about this new edition. At first glance and after a couple of game sessions I really appreciate what has been done to streamline the rules without sacrificing too much complexity. I also really like the power curve in the new edition, based on what I’ve seen. A wider range of monsters will continue to be a challenge for a longer period of time, in large part because you don’t have to boost “to hit” modifiers and armor classes through the roof to make a monster challenging. This, of course, gives a game master a lot more versatility when it comes to adventure design. Looking just at the adult red dragon, in 2nd edition he would have a -5 AC, in Pathfinder he has the equivalent of -9 and in the stats above he has the equivalent of a 1 AC. In terms of hit points, the 2nd edition adult red dragon has 17 hit die at d8, giving him 136 hit points maximum. The Pathfinder adult dragon weighs in at 212 on average (not maximum) and the 5th edition one has 256 so he’s easier to hit (though not as much easier as you would think by just looking at Armor Class, see below.) but he can also take a lot more punishment. The 5th edition dragon doesn’t need the equivalent of a -9 armor class because he won’t be dealing with a fighter that has a +14 to hit bonus at 14th level before factoring in strength, specialization, enchantment bonuses, and half a dozen or more feats like the Pathfinder fighter will have. In fact, before factoring in any of those other things, the 14th level 5th edition fighter only has a +5 bonus to hit. Sure, writing down that your fighter has a +27 to hit at the end of the day or whatever sure looks impressive, but does all that math make the game any more fun? Of course it doesn’t. The core mechanics that Pathfinder are built on are unwieldy, and break down at high levels of play; they just do. And while I don’t know if anyone can make a “perfect system,” so far it looks like Wizards of the Coast have done an excellent job fixing what they broke in 3rd edition, rather than just charging ahead and ignoring the faults inherent in that system.

Then I posted a link to this forum post over at EN World that encapsulates what I was trying to say, in my rambling and disjointed way, about the power curve, and why it looks more elegant than anything in recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder.

I feel that there is a lot, a whole lot, about this edition of Dungeons and Dragons for people like my old friends to like, if they could just stop hating it on principle.



4 thoughts on “Time Flies Even When You’re Not Having Fun – Also, Dragons

  1. I think people need to give this edition a chance. I was highly skeptical but I’m reading more things that I like about this edition than I’ve seen in a very long time.

    I have not yet had a chance to play, but I’m looking forward to giving it a try. In my case the problem is simply a backlog of games I want to run or play in.

    But I see from WotC is overall very positive.

    1. I’m definitely seeing mostly positive things from WotC, and I have mostly positive feelings about the new edition so far. It’s clear to me that they were really listening during all of their play testing, with a genuine desire to put out a quality product. Still, there are some people out there who will refuse to give WotC a fair shake out of spite, and probably a lot more who would be willing to give them a fair shake, but who won’t, because they’ve already invested so much time and money into Pathfinder. As a gamer on a limited budget, I can sympathize with that latter group to an extent; I probably wouldn’t be rushing out to pick up a set of new books if I had hundreds of dollars worth of Pathfinder books on my shelf, but I also wouldn’t be rushing out to criticize WotC just because I had those other books, and I think I’m seeing a lot of that.

  2. I like this for a few reasons. Mostly thematic.

    1. I’ve always felt that megathreats from non-humanoid societies should use magic differently than humanoid casters. Part of the coolness of old-school mind flayers was that their psionics worked differently than Wizard or High Priest BBEGs.

    2. Just giving the dragons Sorcerer levels (or Wizard levels) meant that, as high-Int monsters, they’d use the most effective spells available, not the most “thematic.” So your dragons really should be using Mirror Image a lot, and reds should be spamming Protection from Cold, with the lair patrolled by magically-armed-and-armored skeletons and zombies of defeated heroes, and in extremis Polymorphing into a kobold and Dimension Door-ing away. But that’s not really draconic.

    3. You want draconic? Magma jets, volcanic gases and earth tremors shaking the lair? Yes, please.

    1. I also enjoy how lair effects work thematically to create a unique and memorable encounter when it comes to boss-type monsters. Also, for people like my old friend who feels like a dragon just isn’t a dragon without spells, there is a spellcasting option for dragons right there in the Monster Manual. I doubt my friend will ever see that though, because it looks like he wrote 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons off without ever really looking at it.

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