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  • Writer's pictureJeb Brack

Dungeons and Dragons Levels Up

Can It Recapture the Thrill of 1st Edition?

His name was Dino DeBasher, and he began life as a Dwarf Fighter/Thief on one of those official orange character sheets from TSR sometime in the early 1980s. Over the years he spiralled out of control, becoming a munchkin of the worst order--he slew Tiamat, found the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd, wielded a sentient +3 sword named Nemesis who could heal all Hit Points three times a day, and much, much more.

Ah, First Edition. (To the left are my remaining core rule books, my hand-crayoned dice, and the dice bag hand-made by my school bus driver, who had to listen to us play every afternoon on the ride home.)

As I grew older (notice that I don't say I matured), I experimented with other character builds, eventually playing every conceivable combination of race and class. Between that and the same-ness of the dungeon crawls and campaigns I played, I grew bored with swords and sorcery, and D&D in particular. I sold off most of my books and gear, found other systems and genres to play (I love you, GURPS), and only occasionally dipped into the new editions of my first favorite. Fourth Edition nearly made me write off D&D entirely.

This weekend, my group will make its first foray into Fifth Edition, and I must say that I feel some of the old excitement returning. I've read the free PDF downloads to get familiar with "Advantage and Disadvantage" and other new rules; I even experimented with creating a character, which took maybe ten minutes.

But I'm apprehensive nonetheless. Can this brand-spanking new edition ever rekindle the enthusiasm I've been missing for so long?

It's a heavy burden to place on a single game. So much depends on the DM, the adventure itself, our facility with the rules and a dozen other factors that it's unfair to hope that it can ever give me the pleasure I got from YEARS of First Edition play. We'll probably spend a good deal of time flipping through rulebooks or discussing rules interpretations, activities that used to bring a great deal of joy to this old grognard, but which now seem like a waste of time. (Just make something up, and let's get on with it!) We'll most likely try an action not well-defined by the system, chafing when we realize that we can't make that many moves in one round. I fully expect to face at least one giant rat.

Will all of this satisfy the craving I feel for some old-fashioned high-fantasy role playing? Maybe a little. And maybe that's enough. And maybe I'll name my new character Dino...

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