I have been playing many versions of D&D these last couple of years taking a tour around both old and new OSR-interpretations of D&D as well as playing the present version, its predecessors and so on and so forth, and in many ways I quite enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition for the many good things it does. We played a long-running Curse of Strahd campaign and now we have a long-running Tomb of Annihilation – Mystara Edition campaign going.
The strengths of D&D 5th edition is its simplicity. Gone are the many situational modifiers, that created long tables on my AD&D 2nd edition DM Screen. Gone are the skill point fiddling and synergies from D&D 3rd edition. Gone is the heavy focus on miniatures from the 4th edition. Gone are the many empty levels, where nothing happened from the D&D becmi edition. Instead it is fairly simple and fast and I really like the advantage/disadvantage system.
Yet as I play D&D 5th also grow weary of it. I tire that though the players gain new and exciting powers on a regular basis – which is good – it is mostly abilities that are used in combat, and though D&D 5th claims to have three pillars of play – something, something, combat – it is mostly about supporting combat. There is exploration in the pre-2000’s D&D. But not here.
I tire, that this version is a ‘heroic’ style, which transforms the game into a superhero-game in an undefined modern-yet-medieval setting, and the only thing that really separates the D&D characters from superheroes is the absence of secret identities.
I tire, that this version of D&D shies away from any challenges, that are not tied to combat. Making sure you don’t run out of food, while travelling, braving the dangers of heat and thirst in a desert, being stranded in darkness in caves, handling the dangers of the wilderness and trying not to get lost. All these challenges are wiped away through ‘background’ abilities, simple spells and cantrips. Any challenge that may com between the players and the next combat is removed, and instead the whole game becomes about managing the combats.
Once I finish my present D&D campaign, I will be heading for other D&D-variants like Beyond the Wall and Dungeon Crawl Classics and other fantasy-genre games like The One Ring or Forbidden Lands, as D&D 5th has revealed itself to be a D&D-game with too much of a focus on superheroics and combats, and the campaigns written for D&D 5th are simply just not that good.