By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on August 19, 2015

OK, first of all... I have had a hell of a time; the Heroes of Might and Magic 7 Beta, Abunai 2015, playing Lost Dimensions, which I won (Yay, free games), and I can still find the time to write this review/comparison of D&D 4E and 5E.

First things first: as promised in Part One of this Dungeon Report, the story of my best friend: Miss Sprinkles the Fat Undead Sparkling Unicorn who, incidentally, wasn't called that when I met her. Coincidence... I think not! The very first time I met here, we were at a fair. It was one of my minions' birthday and she happened to invite a unicorn. The unicorn in question was absolutely lovely; all glitter and sparkling, the most fabulous creature at the fair. From the first time I laid eyes on her, I wanted her for my collection of minions. However, all this pinkness, rainbows and sparkling didn't quite fit the interior design of my dungeon. The second problem was her name: Marie-Louise Anna-Rose von Seckendorff the third. Damn, that was a long name. I actually got tired of pronouncing it, so a master plan hatched in my brain... (to be continued in my next review)

So, enough about her. Time to talk D&D. Last time, we left off after my thoughts on the world/encounter building section and were ready to jump right into the monster section. And that's exactly what we are going to do... right now!

PART 3: Monsters
Ok, let me get this off my chest right away; I dont like the monsters in the 5E monster manual , mainly for one reason: Monsters do way too much damage but don't have nearly enough health. This poses a problem when I try to send the players towards a challenge or an exciting BIG monster. If my monsters go first, I have a really big chance of instantly killing all players (which I don't want to do... YET). On the other hand, if the players go first there's a good chance they'll break my bad guy before he does anything, and that's no fun...

4E handles monsters in a totally different way; it has tiers of monsters: Minions, Standard, Elite and Solo monsters. Every monster can be classified as one of the tiers (however, story-wise you shouldn't be able to have an adult dragon minion, but what the hell!).

Minions are the shock troopers, the disposable troops, the cannon fodder. They always have 1 HP no matter what kind of monster the minion in question is. Standard monsters are... well, standard. The Elite monsters do a bit more damage and have a bit more health than standard monsters, making them ideal to use as mini-bosses. The Solo monsters are the BIG BAD GUYS; the end boss, the party killers. They do a lot of damage, and have a lot of health and seem to be designed for a single purpose: put an end to the adventurers quest... and lives.

As a new DM, I like the 4E monster manual more because it gives me more options to choose from. HOWEVER, I like to point out that I would still recommend playing 5E first and using its monsters, because it forces you to really “build” your own monster and learn how to properly balance its stats. I think I rambled on quite long enough about the monsters. It's time for the last part of our review, followed by my final verdict.

PART 4: Overall gameplay
Having been a player in 4E and a DM in 5E I got to see a bit of both worlds and have an excellent idea of what both systems are all about. As stated in part 1 of this Dungeon Report and earlier in this one, 4E is more combat focused and this shows: 4E is REALLY good at combat. This is, however, also its major downside, mainly because it focuses on combat so much that this takes up a lot of your in-game time and other things like roleplaying and story get pushed to the background. The “powers” that you get in 4E are really useful and clear to understand, but limit your options game-wise, as they are all created and written with combat in mind.

When playing 5E, the focus is more on story and characters, which enhances the game's overall flow and makes it less crunchy (less numbers floating around), so for a storyteller it's a really nice system. However, because it's new, it doesn't have as much options as 4E has. This is also a plus point, which could actually turn out to be just what this version of D&D needs.

As for the players I know and some of my other friends: they enjoy both systems. For some, 4E is to crunchy and revolves way too much around numbers. For them 5E is the favorite of the two systems because it is allows a more free-flowing style of playing.

And now, my friends, it is time for my Final Verdict
D&D is AWSOOOOOOOOOOOOOME!!! If I had to choose, I would definitely pick 5E, be it as a DM and as a player, because of the simplicity of the system. It is easy to learn, easy to teach, and equally (if not more) fun to play. 4E offers a lot more options, but for a player and a DM it can be really overwhelming. 4E has the power cards which translate everything to combat mechanics, ruling out any other approach than bloody battle. 5E also has its problems, with fewer books and materials, and (in my opinion) a balance problem as far as monsters are concerned, but that's actually it! So 5E is absolutely my preferred system.

Now, as an addendum: some shameless plugging!
Critical Role - First up, this is D&D with voice actors which is super awesome!
Bubbernaut - Secondly, a personal plug for a streamer I really like. His name is Bubbernaut and he plays D&D as well as other tabletop RPG games. If you visit him and he is streaming, just say that Gaz sent you :)

So that's it: my visions, opinions and thoughts on D&D. Basically, my advice to everyone out there would be: go out, buy a truckload of various dice and D&D books and start having fun!

Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. & Wizards of the Coast
Published: 1974 - present
Designer: Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson (D&D, first edition)
Players: 3 - 6 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 90 minutes