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I thought that this was a fairly good and very well organized review of the new 5th Edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game. It focused primarily upon specific aspects of the Player’s Handbook (in relation to the overall game), and in doing so I thought it gave a very good, and a mostly fair, analysis of the specific points it actually addressed. It is a Geek analysis of the game, and that should be kept in mind when reading it.

I plan to write my own review of the game soon but it will not be similar to this review because I have other aspects of the game (and the Player’s Handbook) that I wish to address in a non-Geek and perhaps a more Nerdish way.

In any case I think you will enjoy this Geekish review of the game, and that coupled with my own more Nerdish look at the game, might give you a more rounded view of what to expect.

First Impressions Review: “Player’s Handbook” for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

August 11, 2014 by Dave

I’m going to assume that if you’re here on Critical Hits, you know D&D. As such, I’m not going to go into the history of D&D editions, the open playtesting process, anything about nostalgia, etc. I’m just going to dive into my impressions of reading the book, and try to delve into some of the guts as far as I understand them (and I’ll probably get some stuff wrong.) Here we go.


The Player’s Handbook – and the D&D 5th edition ruleset as a whole- feels very polished. In fact, I’d go as far to say they focused on taking everything they had from previous editions and worlds, ran with it, refined it again, and so on. The downside to this is that there are areas where they aren’t quite as ground-breaking as they could be and leads to a few missed opportunities. At the same time, though, there’s so much that suffuses the book that seems familiar, with a lot of “oh, I see what you did there.” Previous descriptions of this edition pre-launch as attempting to be something of a “Greatest Hits” of D&D seem pretty on the mark, though each table is expected to supply some of what you feel ARE those greatest hits.

The Look

I say it flat out: I love the art in this book. Since it’s a Player’s Handbook, most of the art focuses on characters. This ranges from character representatives for different races and classes, to a small sampling of famous characters (a certain iconic drow ranger appears, for instance), to some characters that I swear are new renderings of existing D&D minis.

Part of what I love is that the book does a much better job of representation than in previous editions. More women characters in a variety of roles, more heroes of color, etc. It’s not perfect by any means, but I appreciate that there’s a much wider range of inspirational art for showing truly what the range of characters should be.

It also relies on a number of art styles, while still mostly fitting together. You’ve got more traditional character portraits, full page battle scenes, and sketches depicting conditions. There’s a few images that have that “computer generated” look to them (my chief complaint about a lot of the early 4e art) but I think the art works here. I was actually expecting to see a wider diversity of different edition-influences throughout the art (and more reused pieces), however, I think the choices they made here in the look was a much stronger choice…

review continued via title page link



TALISFAR THE BARDfor background on how Talisfar was developed see this post


Talisfar – Talisfar is a Half-Elven Bard. He grew up as an orphan in a monastery but upon reaching the age of 16 he chafed at the strictly regimented life among the monks and decided to strike out on his own. So one night, not long after his 16th birthday, he ran away from the monastery and travelled for a while doing odd jobs. As a result of this aimless meandering he got the nickname of Wendle (the Wandering One).

Eventually he met up with an old Skald named Verestön who travelled from place to place performing for minor nobility. Talisfar became Verestön’s assistant until the age of almost twenty at which time he had been trained as an apprentice Bard. Talisfar then went off on his own and for a short period of time also earned his living as a Skald performing for minor nobility but he eventually began composing his own poems and lays and writing them down as he had learned to read and write at the monastery.

At the age of 21 Talisfar become nostalgic and went back to the monastery where he was raised but by that time the old monk who had previously been Abbot was dead. Nonetheless several of the other monks recognized him and he stayed two more years with the monks learning religious and choir songs, chant, composing poetry, and learning the healing arts from the monks.

One night the monks rescued a wounded, lordless knight who had been nearly killed in a nearby skirmish. Talisfar helped doctor him back to health and as result they became good friends. So at the age of almost 24 Talisfar left the monastery again to squire for this lordless knight, named Oscaré, and became a wandering adventurer in the knight’s employ. They travelled and adventured together for approximately two years until Oscaré was killed while on guard one night by a poisoned arrow in the neck, possibly murdered by an old enemy named Sebelien.

Talisfar has now become a solo adventurer (though he is not averse to joining a group of like-minded companions) who wanders the land seeking wealth and fame as both an explorer of dangerous ruins and a well-respected poet and songmaster. He is older for a beginning solo adventurer (though he often wandered alone as a boy), being by now 27 years of age, but he is well versed in many forms of music, song, and verse (from romantic and personal works to religious and choral works), he is a very adept healer and physician, and he is very good at single combat having squired for and fought alongside Oscaré for nearly two years. He is also fluent in several different languages, having learned them to master the songs, poetry, and music of various peoples.

Talisfar does not dress as a typical Bard but wears very plain, non-descript workman’s clothing that is all very dark green in color. While wandering on his own as a Bard Talisfar often introduced himself to the nobles he performed for as the Greene Wendler (the Green Wanderer) and this has become shortened to another nickname, Greenwend. So, depending upon who Talisfar is speaking with and how much he trusts them he will often introduce himself as Talisfar, Wendle, or Greenwend. In addition, when needed, Talisfar has adopted several other names as aliases, usually ones taken from his dead companions, such as Verestön, Oscaré, Folles (his former Abbot), or Yarmuse (his dead father’s name).

In personality Talisfar is very loyal to those he befriends. He is also of keen mind and very observant. He has a superb memory, being able to mesmerize and then recite new songs and poems and musical scores almost overnight or by a single hearing. He can speak, read, and write in several different languages. He gets along very well with most people, being by nature relaxed and easy-going. When angered, however, he can hold long grudges and can be quite dangerous.

He lives simply, almost aesthetically. He will feast and dine and drink in company or while performing, if this is expected of him, but otherwise he is very spartan in both dress and behavior. He is athletic and charming and women often admire him and seek his favors but he has of yet formed no permanent attachments and never been in love or sought to be in love, though he is an excellent troubadour and minstrel on the subject of love. Though he forms deep attachments with the few friends he has ever had he is at heart a wandering and restless loner.

He is very generous and although he seeks to be famous as a Bard and wants to be a wealthy and powerful person he is neither attached to nor in love with money. He sees money merely as a tool and a path towards his aims.

Being an orphan from a young age (he lost both his parents to plague at the age of 6) he has always felt alone and unattached even when well cared for by others, such as the monks who raised and educated him. Nevertheless Talisfar still feels (maybe because he was an orphan he especially feels) great loyalty towards and gratitude for those who helped raise, educate, and train him, such as the monks, the skald Verestön, and the knight Oscaré.

Talisfar is very idealistic and takes it very personally if someone he knows or has befriended is harmed or killed. He feels it is his personal responsibility to defend and save those he has befriended and those who have befriended him. He is of an independent and self-reliant nature but he would never abandon a friend in need.

His most obvious flaws are that he will often overlook or excuse bad behavior in his friends and companions because they are his friends and companions, and his long obsessive quest to seek vengeance against the murderer of Oscaré. Even though there is little actual proof that Oscaré was murdered by his old enemy Sebelien, Talisfar is certainly convinced this is the case and has spent much time and treasure in an attempt to track down and enact vengeance against Sebelien as the suspected killer of his friend.

As a result of this obsessive vendetta Talisfar will often place both himself and innocent others in great danger in an attempt to achieve such vengeance, and eliminate the killer of his friend Oscaré.


This week I will be introducing the first three Characters I have decided to create for the new Dungeons and Dragons game. (And hopefully the last characters for a good long while as I intend to build these three individuals up carefully and fully.) If these characters are successful I may also conscript them as minor or secondary characters that will appear in some of my novels.

I developed these characters using the new Character Development Rules, and the Personality and Background suggestions in chapter four of the new Basic Game (Rules). Once I receive my new books I will further modify their development based on the new information available, but these are my initial attempts at character development for the game.

I will also be adding to these characters using rules I have developed such as those regarding Legacies and Heirlooms, but I will discuss those in future posts.

By the way I should add a note at this point that I am very, very pleased with the new Personality and Background guidelines and think that these guidelines have broad applications and implications well beyond D&D. They are simple but very well developed, logical, efficient, and functional guidelines and with just a modicum of effort could easily be adapted towards character development in fiction and literature or any number of other fields (screenwriting, for instance). I will later write an article of my review of how the new D&D approaches character development which is to me the most significant advance this edition makes to the overall game.

The very first two characters are very similar to me (in many ways) in both nature and in background. I haven’t rolled up any statistics for them as of yet but shall after I receive my first copy of the new Player’s Handbook.

As I said using these rules I have developed three new D&D characters – Talisfar the Bard, Okæn the Ranger/Rogue, and Endrêdge the Fighter/Warlock/Cleric.


Indeed and very well said.


“So with all that love, I’m left wondering what the problem is. I suspect it’s that for the last 15 years or so, the most important part of the game has not been playing but rather creating for it. Character creation used to be something you had to do before you could have the fun. The mechanics were the necessary evil, the gauntlet you had to run. In recent years, the fun has moved from the time you spent at the table to the time you spend thinking about the table. Sure, back in the old days, I made plenty of characters for games I played and games I wanted to play but never really did. It was just like doing math problems. They had solutions. You just had to roll the dice, make the choices, and plug the information into the sheet. But hasn’t been that way for a while…”
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