Although the Player’s Handbook doesn’t come out until August 19th for most people, we here at Diehard GameFAN have out hands on one, and we thought it would be fun to show you a preview of what to expect. Now, we know that other sites, and even Wizards of the Coast, have previewed various classes and races, but there’s a lot of stuff in the PHB that we didn’t expect to see that surprised us… in a good way, of course. So, here now are ten snippets of things you probably weren’t expecting from the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook, along with some pictures (We’ll save scans for when it’s officially out) to whet your appetite for the 19th! Remember, the pictures are tiny here, but click on them and you’ll be taken to full sized (and easier to read) versions so you can really see what I am talking about in this piece.
1. There is a tenth alignment!
These days, thanks to memes and social media, even people who have never played D&D know about the nine tiered alignment system. Chaotic/Netural/Lawful and Evil/Neutral/Good. Now back in the days of my youth, True Neutral wasn’t just an alignment, but a catch all for non-sentient life forms or creatures with low level intelligence. Go look in those old Monstrous Compendium booklets we used to get, and Neutral is perhaps the most common alignment of all. Well, True Neutral has never really made sense for creatures that lack the concept of ethics and morales. So if you take a look on the single page in the PHB (!) devoted to alignment, you’ll see the core nine alignments, as well as an entire paragraph devoted to the concept of UNALIGNED. Sharks are used as an example for this. They are not evil, they are not good – they simply are, and as such, the alignment process cannot be used with them. Now, weresharks are another story altogether… This is one of those small but logical changes that are going to make Fifth Edition all the more interesting to play.
2. Demihuman alphabets!
If you look at the same picture I took of the alignment page, you’ll notice the bottom of the page includes a twenty-six letter translation from Romanized letters to dwarfish script. That’s pretty cool. The PHB also provides Elvish and Draconic script (sorry Halfling fans!), which is equally awesome to see. If you’re an enterprising DM, you can come up with all sorts of translation puzzles for your players to figure out. If you have two PCs that speak/read the same language, they can trade notes across the board in their preferred tongue. Perhaps they are two elitist elves who don’t want to sully their tongues with Common unless they have to? Again, this is something small, but relatively cool with a lot of potential for D&D fans.
3. Greyhawk and Dragonlance are back!
Now we’ve seen hints of a proper multiverse returning to Dungeons & Dragons with Fifth Edition. Murder in Baldur’s Gate gave hints of Spelljammer. The free Basic edition of Dungeons & Dragons mentions Ravenloft directly. If you read Keith Baker’s blog regularly, you know that Eberron will be back in full force. In the 5e Player’s Handbook, we’re treated to a section entitled “Gods of the Multiverse,” and a full page sidebar is devoted to showcasing the gods of Krynn and Oerth, along with a separate write-up of each. This is great to see, especially after Fourth Edition ended up being 95% Forgotten Realms with an occasional bone thrown to Dark Sun and Eberron. With all D&D Next adventures like Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle and the upcoming Horde of the Dragon Queen focusing only on Toril, I was starting to fear D&D would continue to only give us Forgotten Realms pieces rather than embrace the full history of D&D and the many campaign settings available to us. It’s wonderful to see Vecna, Wee Jas, Takhsis and the rest get mentioned in an official D&D publication again, but to have them right out in the PHB – so much the better. Does that mean we will actually get supplements or campaign settings for these classic fantasy worlds? Perhaps a return to settings like Birthright, Mystara, Planescape and more? Only time will tell, but since Tika Waylan is a major example character (often used in conjunction with Artemis Entreri in comparison/contrast style), I have a good feeling about what is to come. For now, just enjoy knowing that the PHB gives fans of these oft ignored campaign settings a nice bit of nostalgia!
4. Mini Monster Manual!
Yes, that’s right. There are actual creature stat blocks published in the Player’s Handbook! Now this is a nice nod to Third Edtion, which also had a staggered release of the core three rulebooks and so put some monsters in the back to bide you over. Sure, you’ll still need the upcoming Monster Manual for a large selection of fiendish thingies to disembowel, but there are thirty-one creatures in the Player’s Handbook for low level characters to do battle with. Now, most of these are animals like cats, wolves, sharks and hawks, but you’ll also find monsters! Zombies, skeletons, giant spiders, sprites and imps are just some of the creatures you’ll find in the PHB. This was very unexpected, but also a great decision, as between this and the D&D Starter Set, you’ll have enough monsters to keep you busy for another month until the Monster Manual comes out.
5. Appendix N is now Appendix E.
In the original version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide there was something a lot of old school gamers hold in a bit of reverence. That was Appendix N, AKA “Inspirational and Educational Reading.” This half page of books listed works by Lovecraft, Moorcock, Leiber, Burroughs and Tolkien (amongst others), which helped inspire D&D in some way. With Fifth Edition, a new version of this list appears. This list is a full page and has a slightly different name, but all of the original choices from 1e are there, along with some new authors. Unsurprisingly, Salvatore, Weis & Hickman are all here, but not other known D&D authors like Ed Greenwood, Richard Lee Byers or even P.N. Elrod. Other, more modern authors (modern in comparison to 1e AD&D) make the list, like Piers Anthony, Fred Saberhagen, George R.R. Martin and Terry Pratchett. I’m sure this list will be controversial to some, but regardless of what you think about who was (or was not) included, the return of “Inspirational Reading” was a cute decision and a subtle homage to the early days of D&D.
6. Multiclassing still exists.
While neither the D&D Starter Set nor the Basic Rules covered (or even defined) multiclassing, the Player’s Handbook shows that the option still exists in Fifth Edition. A little over two pages are devoted to the concept. Although it is very similar in design to the version of multiclassing from third edition, 5e’s variant has new twists. There are stat prerequisites, ala AD&D 2e to multiclass. So if your Wizard wants a level of Paladin, he or she will have to have at least a 13 in both Strength and Charisma. You will also only get a fraction of proficiencies when you take the first level of a new class, and some Class Features like “Channel Divinity” or “Extra Attack” are affected by multiclassing. Finally, if you multiclass in two different forms of spell casting, say Warlock/Bard or Cleric/Illusionist, you’ll find a half page of rules devoted to the nuances of such a combination. Neat!
Although briefly mentioned in the D&D Starter Set and the Basic Rules, feats were left out of those versions of the Fifth Edition rules for whatever reason. In the full Player’s Handbook, there are over forty feats to choose from. They are all combat or roll-playing rather than role-playing oriented, though, so keep that in mind. As well, some of you might recall 3e/3.5 having a lot more feats than this (nearly twice as many in fact). Well, Feats in 5e are pared down to just combat, as I mentioned earlier, and they are an optional component of the game now rather than a mandatory part of character creation and level raising. In fact, 5e feats may share the same name as the 3e concept, but they are a slightly different thing. Certainly future releases will contain more feats. Perhaps there will even be a book of Feats, but for now, you’ll have to be happy with the forty-some in the PHB, like Crossbow Expert, Grappler and Tavern Brawler.
8. Third Level = Prestige Class?
Okay, well that is a bit of a misleading header, but it is somewhat true. Third level is the sweet spot for your particular class of choice, and determines the path your character will be going down for the long term. For a Fighter, third level is when you pick your fighting style (Champion, Battle Master or Eldritch Knight.) Each of these will give you a very different set of powers or abilities at 3rd, 7th, 10th, 15th and 18th Level. A Champion specializes in critical hits, a Battle Master gains special maneuver and the ability to gain a rough idea of an opponent’s stats, and an Eldritch Knight mixes some low level magic in with their physical attacks. The same is true about nearly all the classes, although the number of options and the level abilities occur at will vary. A Monk would choose what tradition they belong to at Third Level. A Paladin chooses his or her Oath at Third Level. A Druid picks their circle at Third Level. A Rogue gets their Archetype at Third Level. So on and so forth (although some get their path choice at second level, so it’s not universal). This has all been hinted at in the previous releases, but only with the Player’s Handbook will you get to see all the options that await your character. Of course, there will probably be more to come with future releases…
9. The Shadowfell and Feywild are still there
One of the most picked apart aspects of Fourth Edition was the changing of the planes via the addition of the Feywild and the alternation of the shadow plane into what would become the Shadowfell. Whether you liked these changes or were extremely vocal about your disdain for them, we all thought that the events of The Sundering meant these concepts, like many 4e changes, were going away forever. Well apparently not, as Appendix C shows that they still exist. What does this mean for concepts like Planescape or campaign setting that didn’t use these planes? Well, nothing actually. The text even says that parallel realities (or campaign settings) might diverge wildly from what is published in the PHB. It’ll be interesting to see how these two 4e planes are still in effect in 5e, especially in the Forgotten Realms, where they were forcibly separated from the Prime Material Plane.
10. Tinker Gnomes!!!
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Tinker Gnomes, as my first ever PC in Dragonlance was one of these guys… much to the rest of the party’s chagrin. Poor Grix was the butt of many jokes, but his inventions saved the party’s lives more than once… even if they didn’t work as originally intended. I haven’t seen these guys since the days of the old TSR Dragonlance handbook or 1e – at least not properly statted. Now with 5e, the entire Rock Gnome subgroup are Tinker Gnomes! Even better; instead of tinker as a class, it’s merely part of the racial traits, so you can have an inventor wizard, or scientific Bard. The sky’s the limit. It’s a small thing, but it was a fun bit of Nostalgia for me to see Tinker Gnomes given a push, and in the PHB of all places! That just made my day. If there is one thing I love about 5e, it’s the attempt to reach out to fans of previous editions and long neglected campaign settings. The PHB really does try to pay tribute to all versions of Dungeons & Dragons that have come before it and this is just one particular personal favorite of the examples.
So there you go! Ten things you probably didn’t know about the D&D Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook. All of these are small changes that could easily be missed as you scour the 320+ page PHB when you first get your hands on it. None of these are major, but they are all things that long time D&D fans will either be interested in, amused by or happy to see. Hopefully these ten bits will have you as excited for 5e as I have been for the past few years. I’ll be back with a full in-depth review of the Player’s Handbook later this week. Hopefully this will sate your interest until then!
Tags: D&D 5e, Dungeons & Dragons