Thursday, July 3, 2014

New 5e Basic D&D PDF Available for Download @WotC

I pre-ordered the Starter Set from Amazon, and got an email earlier this week with an estimated delivery date of the third week of July.

I followed the 5e playtest (I've got all the playtest packets somewhere on my hard drives), and so I have been curious what 5e will "officially" bring.

Today, we get our first glimpse.

Wizards of the Coast released the FREE Basic Dungeons & Dragons 5e rules this morning. You can grab them here. It's over 100 pages (110 to be exact).

Quick overview:
  • It is a complete game, as promised, with rules from character creation to spell lists. No monsters, as this is meant for players rather than DMs. The expectation is to use the monsters from the Starter Set and then shell out cash for a new Monster Manual sometime this year or next.
  • No cover or cover art. In fact, no art at all except for the back cover, which is an explanation of what comes next.
  • Interestingly, it marks itself as "Version 0.1", so I expect to see updates as promised by Mike Mearls. However, since it's already a hefty 100 pages, I'll be interested to see what they add.
  • The layout is incredibly easy on the eyes. No page embellishments, margin decorations, etc. The background IS parchment-colored, so it will eat up ink if printed. It would have been nice if they either used layers (to allow turning off colors for printing) or produced a black-and-white only version. (UPDATE: They posted a printer-friendly version a few hours after I made this post. )Still, this is extremely easy to read (Adobe Reader tells me the main fonts are Bookmania, Interstate-Light, ModestoText, MrsEaves, and ScalaSans) and I don't feel it necessary to increase the zoom to read it on-screen.
  • Races include Humans, Dwarves, Elves, & Halflings (take that Tieflings & Dragonborn!)
  • Classes include Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, & Wizard. Advancement tables extrapolate proficiency bonuses and spells out to 20th level, but curiously do not list the XP needed to advance. This lack needs to be rectified. Ah! There is a unified advancement table on page 10 that I missed. And the amount of XP needed to get from 1st to 2nd is only 300, from 2nd to 3rd is 900 and from 3rd to 4th 2,700, and from 4th to 5th 6,500. These seem incredibly low.
  • There's a whole chapter on fleshing out a character's background and personality with plenty of random tables.
  • The Equipment chapter lists 7 different equipment packs to quickly equip new characters. Nice addition.
  • An abacus is on the equipment list. I guess my rogue can take a specialization in math?
  • Potions of healing are listed on the equipment list. Uh. So they are a commodity now, eh?
  • There are rules for lifestyle expenses and a handy random trinket table.
  • Mechanics of play are covered in Chapters 7–10, which cover an in-depth explanation of how to do stuff in-game (ability score checks, saving throws, adventuring rules, combat, spellcasting).
  • Chapter 11 covers spells. Longest chapter in book (pages 82 to 104). A complete spell list from 1st to 9th level for both Cleric & Wizard, with descriptions of the spells. Spells are described in alphabetical order.
  • A nice appendix at the end describes various conditions that affect characters/creatures.

It IS a complete game from the player perspective. So much so that I wonder if Mearls's bosses will think he is crazy for giving this away. The other game material the WotC produces in support of this version of D&D needs to be damn compelling to induce a purchase. Between the Starter Set and the Basic D&D PDF, you might have all you ever need to play.

Even the lack of monsters isn't that big of a deal. I mean, really--do you think that adopting something like the Terratic Tome to the new edition will be that difficult if you need a monster manual?

I'll be really interested to see what the new Starter Set brings. Sitting on my shelf are the original 3e starter set ("The Dungeon & Dragons Adventure Game") and the 4e Red Box, so I will be able to do a fair comparison between the three.


tom said...

They did give you a "Printer Friendly" option w/ a white background. try the 2nd download button at

mwschmeer said...

@tom: That wasn't there when I downloaded it during the early hours of release. Thanks for the update!