The Absolute, Absolute Basics of D&D

(If you are just here for the basic character sheet template, here you go! )

Reading through some of the developer comments on what they want for 5e, it looks like they are trying to get at the “soul” of D&D. “Cut the bullshit, lets play some D&D!”, paraphrasing Mike Mearls in the Ghost of the Future article on Escapist. The Tome Show just put up a podcast wondering, among other things, what are the basic, basic mechanics that make a game feel like D&D.

This is a cheat sheet I’ve been tooling with for 4e games that I run for stone cold beginners. Like I said in a previous blog, for beginner games, I handwave a lot of the technical rules like opportunity attacks, interrupts, etc., and just try to focus on a pure introduction to dice rolling, roleplaying, exploring, and all of the stuff that has been constant throughout the editions. I’ll give my beginning players the premade sheet if they want, but then I’ll give them an index card that looks like this:

(EDIT – Thanks to some of the guys on the official forums, who told me I forgot to write in the dagger and also gave me some very good pointers about what the “core” of D&D mechanics should be).

Seriously, is there more to know about the numbers in D&D than this? These are the numbers that matter for every single combat, as well as for every single role playing situation that might require skill checks (I’m not going to use that dirty phrase that starts with an S and ends with Challenges). There is also a space for the player to note something special about their character, or for where the DM could jot a little note. Even on the absolute, absolute basic sheet, there needs to be room for the DM and player to interact a bit.

I know, I know, most races get +2 bonuses to certain skills. And I know, some classes have a different attack bonus with basic attacks. But for a beginner, who cares?!?!? Upon this basic structure, the DM paints a situation, and the imagination of the player fills in the rest. You would be shocked how much life little Finnan has in the hands of a very imaginative person.

Will 5e look something like this? Please, please, please understand that I do NOT want all of D&D to be this basic. I’m a veteran player, I can handle more complexity. But for my 13 year old nephew who wants to get into the game? I think this is a perfect start. I’d love to hear what other people think.

Here’s the template if you want to use this or something like this in your own game for new peeps: Absolutely Basic Character Sheet – Template


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