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Book Review: Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook
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Player’s Handbook
Dungeons & Dragons
Hardcover
Wizards of the Coast
Release date: August 19, 2014

Two weeks ago, I arrived home to find a package from Wizards Of The Coast on my doorstep. Having just reviewed the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set a few weeks earlier, I knew what this was. I immediately ripped the envelope open and found not one but two books inside! Today’s article is about the first one, the D&D D&D Player’s Handbook! The newest incarnation of a game book that I have been using for the better part of my life and it was all mine. If you are having trouble understanding how I felt, just imagine Gollum holding the One Ring and you aren’t far off. In fact, I probably cackled a bit without even thinking about it.

While the Starter Set was pretty kick ass in its own way, it was really just a taste of what was to come. This book, the Player’s Handbook, is a smorgasbord of role playing awesomeness. From character races to classes, you can still be almost anything your heart desires. We can still customize our player characters (PCs) by choosing particular skills, abilities, and backgrounds for them. Alignments also play an integral part for every PC; whether you choose to be lawful good, chaotic evil, or anything in between, it’s totally up to you. Of course, preparing for adventure is an important step, but this book has a lot of helpful advice and lists the proper tools of the trade. In addition to all of the set up information, there exists a huge amount of data and rules, both for combat and for basic adventuring. Adding to that, there are almost 90 pages of spells, a basic overview of the religious pantheons, and a short review of other planes of existence. Pretty much what any adventurer might need to know in almost any situation is available in this tome.

The thing to take away from this is that the rules and gameplay have been simplified. And I definitely don’t mean this in a bad way. A lot of folks have voiced their opinions quite vocally that they think this is a “dumbing down” of the rules that have been building up over the years. This is utterly incorrect. Think of this more as streamlining a game that was becoming quite convoluted with all of the additional “what if” scenarios that gamers asked and implemented over the years. The Dragon magazine, for instance, was constantly introducing new NPC (non-player character) classes and races that sometimes found their way into expanded rulebooks. After a while, you could literally spend an entire day creating and fleshing out a character without ever actually doing any role playing at all! Not to say all of the added rules were bad, but they seriously did lengthen a simple afternoon game, no doubt about it.

This incarnation of the game will allow newcomers to easily enter the game and experience what the rest of us know: tabletop roll playing is a blast! Of course, you’ll always have those players who live and die by the rulebooks (I was one of those for years, ask my friends Keith and Stephen). But now, with simplified rules and much more refined characteristics, the game becomes far more accessible than it has been in decades. The Player’s Handbook is 317 pages of excitement and entertainment. I know that many of us have purchased a plethora of books as the game editions have changed, but I truly believe this is a better, more polished, version that won’t need to be revamped anytime in the foreseeable future.

As I’ve said in a previous article, there are several other rulebooks coming out this year, specifically the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. As these new guides arrive and gamers begin playing within the newly established rules, I think we’ll see a wider audience and more diverse demographic sitting around the table rolling for initiative. The folks at Wizards Of The Coast have definitely made strides towards equalizing the game for everyone. They’ve even taken a stance on gender division and sexual orientation, something I’ve never seen from a gaming company before. There’s something for everyone here, if only you’ll take the time to look for it. Everything changes, my friends. And in this case, it was for the better.

The Player’s Handbook is available starting August 19, 2014 at better book and hobby stores throughout the Prime Material plane. Though it has a suggested retail price of $49.95, Amazon has it available for $29.97, that’s a 40% savings off the cover price!

3 Comments »

  1. I lost all faith in Wizards of the Coast when they showed every one that money was more important than the players. I am still a majority player of 3.5 and what upset many of us was they knew that they were bringing out version 4 but rather than give an early announcement they still tried to push out as many 3.5 editions before all of a sudden throwing out a poor edition of a great game, v4.
    The nice thing about 3.5 was you could use the basic books for the simple game and if your players were ready for a more detailed game there where many options. What most people fail to realize is that these were not rule books but rather guidelines for options.
    I’ll openly look at the 5th version but owning all of the 3.5 version books don’t think I’ll be buying any 5th versions but rather continue buying 3.5 versions through Pathfinder and their affiliate sources.

    Comment by Jim May — August 20, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

  2. I can completely understand your situation, there were many times I felt that there were some unnecessary pushes prior to releasing a new edition. However, i do hope you’ll take the time to check this one out. There are a lot of things that have been fixed to enable game play to progress far more smoothly than in editions past. I grew up playing AD&D (1E) and it was tough for me to ever want to invest in new books since I owned literally everything that was produced for that particular edition of the game.
    I am pretty impressed with this one, though. It seems to embody a lot of 1E and 2E with a smidgeon of the other editions to keep everything level. But definitely take a gander and see what you think about it.

    Comment by Waerloga69 — August 26, 2014 @ 9:16 pm

  3. I believe 4E was (is?) a complete waste of time. The abrupt way WotC went from 4E to 4E essentials smacked of panic.

    Comment by Robert Taylor — April 15, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

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