Friday, January 11, 2019

Nearly Four Years Ago...

...was the last time I wrote about Wizards of the Coast's free Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons. People may remember I had some rather harsh words at the time for a company that had promised (and was thrown a lot of public accolades for) a free game that would be "the equivalent of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia" (May, 2014) and had failed to deliver even a complete game (by January, 2015), when it appeared that "the process of launching fifth edition is over."

Well, Lo and Behold, I checked out WotC's D&D site yesterday and found that there was a recent update to the Basic Rules!

Released without almost zero fanfare on November 19, 2018,  it appears (from a cursory read-through) that the D&D Basic Rules could just about be called "a complete game." Finally.

Now, it's not a great "complete"'s certainly nowhere near the old RC, for example. But it at least it tells you how to advance characters and how a DM sets challenges and awards experience. No, it has exactly zero information on how to build adventures or run campaigns, but presumably one could puzzle it out through the process of building "fun combat encounters" appropriate for the players you have and stringing them together. Hey, it's not like Heroes Unlimited offers a whole lot more in its core rules!

So, while the 180 page "Basic" game may not provide a lot of great instruction for the new DM that wants to run D&D, I can still squint my eyes and see WotC meeting it's original promise of providing something that "could easily provide a lifetime of gaming" (well, "easily" might be a bit of a stretch). I will give credit where credit is took a few years, but they did get around to it. Who knows? More updates might be to come. Perhaps these Basic Rules will someday be as beloved as those of Holmes or Moldvay or Mentzer!

[interesting that the update doesn't register a blip on Mike Mearls twitter feed. There IS something from Jeremy Crawford (11/26), who is billed as "lead rules designer" and "managing editor" for Dungeons & Dragons...maybe Basic is no longer Mr. Mearls's baby? There was only a single line on WotC's news feed about the update, which makes me think they're not really all that interested in their Basic Rules anyway]

Anyway, I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention this after noticing it.


  1. My thoughts on this were similar. Shame it didn't come out two years ago, as I would have happily printed out a copy using my university's computers (in the rare event that I wanted to play in a 5e game).

  2. That is strange. The lack of immediate monetization? I would only use the basic version to keep PC super-heroes in check.

    1. Yes, it does have the merit of somewhat limiting PC superpowers. I think WotC's free Basic is what I would prefer to use if I were not already content with original and OSR versions of the game.

  3. My 5E Basic DM's Rules has a Feb 2017 download date on it. It's got quite a few monsters, about 2.5 pages of creating combat encounters/awarding XP rules, and a handful of magic items.

    Technically enough to run games (I've been running 5E with just the PHB and MM, but then I've got over 30 years experience as a DM behind me), but I don't think it would be the richest experience...except that now, pretty much everything (even non-SRD content) is available via a quick Google search.

    Roll20, D&D Beyond, Wikia, etc. have pretty much got you covered if you need any classes, spells, combat rules, monsters, magic items, etc. So the kids these days don't really need PDFs of the basic rules.

  4. It's not a poor business model, the whole "free rules online." It's that they haven't a clue how to handle it properly.