Saturday, December 5, 2015

Which adventure to play?

With Wizards of the Coasts’ recent policy of releasing just a few big adventures each year, Dungeon Masters who want to run a published adventure for D&D Fifth Edition have a choice to make. I've written this article to help DMs make informed choices about the adventures they'd like to run. Since we're approaching the holidays, this is also an excellent opportunity to pick out the perfect adventure for the DM in your life. Take note, players!

Why listen to me? While I haven’t played through each of these adventures to completion, I’ve read through them all along with reviews and actual play reports of each campaign. In addition, I’ve played through most of Lost Mine of Phandelver, all of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, and about a third of Princes of the Apocalypse.

One last note: all of these descriptions are, by their nature, likely to spoil the content of the adventures discussed. I’ll try not to be too specific about plot points, but if you want to play through any of these adventures blind, don’t read ahead!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Breaking Down 5E Class Design, Part 1: Defining Class and Class Archetypes

Hello, and welcome to Pact of the Tome!
The fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons has been critically acclaimed, winning numerous awards and bringing many new gamers into the hobby. In particular, it's been lauded for having exciting, engaging character classes. What makes them so great? In this multi-part article series, I'll break down the elements and design choices of a fifth edition character class.

The first post in this series will take some time understanding what a class represents in fifth edition and defining the broad archetypes each class draws from. Follow-up posts will break down the mechanics of class features (including spells) and subclasses, showing how these elements fit into the overall picture of a 5E class.

Analytical Methods
Our first step to understanding class design will be to examine the definition of a class. We'll then take a look at the elements of character building that are independent from class in order to understand the traits that class can't define. Next, we'll take a quick look at the three "pillars" of D&D play. Finally, we'll construct a model for four broad class archetypes - Warrior, Skilled, Mage, and Support - and discuss how each of the twelve Player's Handbook classes fit in.

Throughout this article series, expect references to the D&D Player's Handbook, the primary resource for D&D 5E classes. I've also drawn from Wizards' Unearthed Arcana series, a monthly column that releases playtest rules - including new classes and class options! In particular, Rodney Thompson's article "Modifying Classes" contains some very valuable insight on class design.

What defines a class?
Every adventurer is a member of a class. Class broadly describes a character's vocation, what special talents he or she possesses, and the tactics he or she is most likely to employ when exploring a dungeon, fighting monsters, or engaging in a tense negotiation.
 - D&D Player's Handbook, page 11
Since the very first incarnation of D&D, character class has been arguably the most important defining trait for a character. Referring to your character as a "Wizard" or "Bard" immediately sums up your character's skills, abilities, and role in relation to other characters. More specifically, class in 5E has a large influence on combat style, problem-solving abilities, distinctive talents, and resource management. Class also plays a role in a character's story, background, and place in the world.