D&D Basic (Free) Rules: First Look And Thoughts

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D&D Basic (Free) rules may be downloaded here:
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D&D Character Sheets can be downloaded here:
2.34 Mb ZIP file with PDFs

Rest of post follows this video summary, make sure to keep scrolling!

As you may have heard by now, the Basic D&D Rules have dropped via the Dungeons & Dragons Team at Wizards of the Coast, and these bad boys are free to download and play. I was originally expecting them around mid-July, so when I found out they were available starting July 3rd, I wasted no time downloading them and giving them a look through.

What are my thoughts, you ask? Read on, I answer!

D&D Basic Rules Logo

Even the logo is free!

In August when the new hardcopy Player’s Handbook releases, Basic D&D will receive expansions including monsters, magic items, and DM rules (Dungeon Master, if you didn’t know… the player that is part storyteller, part referee and part enemy to the other players).

In the meantime, however, these rules are rather, well, “basic” and if you want more before August you’ll need to look into the D&D Starter Set box set available July 15.

As for what we have so far in the D&D Basic Rules, there’s a lot to like and imaginative DMs and players can likely jump in and start improvising and having fun, especially those with previous D&D or other RPG experience.

Let me make sure to point out again in case you didn’t already catch it from the previous paragraphs that there are no real rules available yet for DMs but they’re coming.

One thing that I want to note is the lack of artwork. There is no artwork in the Basic Rules other than the very last page.

Assuming (an assumption I agree with) that one of the fun parts of looking through RPG rules is the artwork, which also helps set the tone and feel of the game, I’m not quite sure why this decision was made. From what I understand the D&D Basic Rules are intended to be a fully playable version of the game, and if I print these out and take them to a friend’s house to try to get them excited to play… the lack of artwork certainly won’t help.

D&D Basic Rules artwork

Scarcity usually leads to value, so this artwork on the last page is valuable

That being said there’s a lot here to like and let’s not forget that this is a FREE (F.R.E.E.) and fully playable version of D&D 5th Edition. So that will be my last kvetch.

D&D Basic Rules snarky disclaimer

They forgot to mention attacking gazebos

It should also be noted that my history with D&D is a lot of 1st Edition, some 2nd Edition, quite a bit of 3rd Edition but basically completely skipped over 4th Edition other than listening to some podcasts of play from the Critical Hit Dungeons & Dragons podcast from Major Spoilers. From what I understand of 4th Edition, I think a lot of the elements from that version have been removed (I only saw one rule referencing a “surge”).

Some other things that jumped out at me as I browsed the Basic Rules:

The rules allow play up to level 20.

The Inspiration rule seems pretty cool and encourages and rewards role playing. I like it a lot.

The moral Alignment system has survived the cut and made it into yet another edition. I’m happy about this because I’ve always thought it was a good element that added to the depth of the characters and game (assuming that the DM and players respect and use it correctly, otherwise it’s just annoying to see someone consistently playing against their alignment with no repercussions from the DM). I always keep thinking it will be phased out, but here it is again.

Playing on a grid with miniatures is now a “variant” rule. This is interesting to me, because back in the day if you didn’t use a grid and / or map and miniatures, a lot of people felt you weren’t “fully” playing D&D. I should also say that when I was cutting my teeth on D&D we never used them but I always thought they were cool. Given the combat rules in 3rd Edition and 3.5, I couldn’t imagine not using a grid and minis (which I did use when that edition rolled around, even if the “minis” were sometimes dice).

Politically correct notions of sex and gender have been included. It’s not just a game, it’s a social revolution that gives you affirmation and WOTC wants to show it!

Playable races are Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human and some of their subraces.

Playable classes are Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard.

There are some helpful “Background” rules that help flesh out characters from the various classes. Those included in the Basic Rules are Acolyte, Criminal, Folk Hero, Sage and Soldier.

There’s a selection of divine and arcane spells up to 9th level. According to a tweet from Greg Bilsland (D&D Senior Producer) there are around 120 spells in Basic Rules.

Like any good D&D adventure, the story doesn’t end in one setting and there’s plenty more to come. I’m really looking forward to the forthcoming additions to D&D Basic Rules in August and will post more then.

In the meantime, here’s a photo gallery to help tide you over.

6 thoughts on “D&D Basic (Free) Rules: First Look And Thoughts

  1. DrDiabolical

    You made comments about WotC adding a comment about gender and orientation and use the comment More power to’ya, and yet when wizards acctually uses it’s power, in this case it’s large audience, to give more power to them you got upset. I understand how you may feel this was politically charged, but maybe they have lbgt staff who wanted to feel their work was more inclusive of their community. No matter your views or mine I don’t think we should disparage them for being progressive.
    Thanks for the review
    Oh and the background and motives and those things you weren’t sure if they were from 4e or not, they are from Indie RPGs like burning wheel and many other story games, but 4e had nothing like that.

    1. Shane Post author

      Hi 🙂

      The “more power to you” was to say if someone disagreed with me that is their right. It did bug me that I felt they went out of their way to be politically correct, but I’m not trying to boycott the game or anything… just offered an opinion during my review before moving on. Also, it wasn’t so much about the gender / sex topic, that’s just the topic they themselves chose over others to highlight.

      Thanks for watching and posting.

  2. DocTruthyness

    People who use “politically correct” as though that were a pejorative have forgotten that less than a generation ago, when Naval and Marine officers assaulted 83 women at a Vegas convention, their response to the investigation was to tell people to “lighten up”…and that less than a year ago, Senator Ted Cruz praised Jesse Helms, the man who once declared that registering black voters was the equivalent of giving the vote to “crooks.”
    The PC movement occurred – is occurring – because we are *not* living in a color-blind, gender-equal, other-friendly society. Pretending we are is sweeping the problem under the rug, in a way that only serves those for whom inclusiveness has never been an issue.
    Don’t be an ass.

    1. Shane Post author

      Politically Correct is a pejorative for me, because it starts with good intentions but then becomes a tyranny of its own.

      When you try to change language, to apply positive or negative consequences to thoughts and language that is scary in its own right and also quite arrogant and condescending because it assumes you know every nuance and outcome of what the other person is saying or thinking.

      And, again, as I have said in the video comments it is not so much about the gender / inclusiveness issue as it is the fact that I’m reading through the rules and then, boom, this obvious blatant politically correct social conditioning jumps.

      As I said, it bugs me. And I reserve the right to be bugged. If your opinion is I’m being an ass, so be it.

  3. Aaron P.

    It ‘bugged you’ that they decided to be specifically inclusive of people who have been traditionally excluded, not just from the gaming hobby, but from much of society? Pooooor you.
    Maybe I’ll feel more sympathetic towards you for being “bugged” when you are being decried from pulpits as less than human, or made the target of appalling racial violence, or earn less than your work merits because you happen to be the wrong gender.

    1. Shane Post author

      Hi, thanks for taking the time to reply.

      As I have clarified in the YouTube comments, it is not so much the gender issue that bugs me but the fact that political correctness / social conditioning is popping up in what I try to use for escapism.

      So poooor me, or whatever, but the funny thing about opinions is I am as entitled to have mine as you are yours. So poooor you if you can’t handle a world where people have a right to think differently than you.


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