Friday, June 6, 2014

How to be a Storyteller (or a Game Master or a Dungeon Master or…)

How many people think of this guy when I say "Dungeon Master"?

            When you write a gaming blog, you spend a lot of time reading other people’s blogs or listening to their podcasts.  It’s a great way to get a few new ideas or just to see what’s going on out there.  Regardless of which RPG the authors play, one common thread runs through nearly every RPG podcast and blog – a focus on being the Game Master or Dungeon Master or Storyteller.  (Although Game Master is more generic, this is a blog primarily about Classic World of Darkness games; so I’ll be using the term Storyteller.) People ask for advice on how to run a better game or how to deal with a problem player or how to handle a problem with the rules.  The questions asked and the advice offered revolves around the Storyteller.  Even I am guilty of focusing on the Storyteller as I capitalize “Storyteller” but never “player.” 
The Storyteller is the central figure in any role playing group.  He or she is responsible for many aspects of the session not just limited to running an individual adventure.  The card board Storyteller Screen is the fortress that not only defends the Storyteller’s campaign notes from the prying eyes of players and allows hidden dice rolls that the Storyteller may fudge to the PCs detriment or benefit, but that same castle-like screen is also a metaphor for the daunting task of transitioning from player to Storyteller. 

Amongst my former gaming group, the shift from player to Storyteller was a common topic of discussion.  Many of the players wanted to run their own games but were intimidated by the work involved and the thought of being responsible for every once else having a good time.  And I tried to encourage all of my players to at least attempt running one session.    Eventually, some did try their hands at running a game. 
Taking up the mantle of Storyteller is a frightening prospect.  Players are only responsible for creating and role playing their own character and showing up prepared with their character sheet, dice, and pencils.  The Storyteller must create a variety of NPCs, role play each of them, create the setting, determine the plots of the game and how players’ actions affect those plots, adjudicate rules fairly, and most importantly ensure that everyone at the table is having fun.  Being a Storyteller is time consuming as well.  Storytellers have to invest time to design NPCs, dream up action set pieces, draw dungeons or any of the other various activities required to make a session work. 
The difference in responsibilities is tremendous, and I know many players who have played RPGs for years and never stepped behind the screen.  Storytellers are a rare breed because it’s not easy to run a game.  Others, like myself, who have been Storytellers more often than they have been players feel trapped behind the screen. They get burnt out because of the time and effort required. 
Players spend many hours asking for advice from Storytellers on how to run a game or looking for information on blogs like this one.  It seems like these nascent Storytellers don’t want to run their game until they are prepared for every eventuality.  Personally, I’ve spent hours in conversation with my own players offering advice on what to expect when running a game. 

The simple truth is that until you run a game, you don’t need any advice.  Stop thinking about running a game.  Stop asking for advice on how to run a game.  Just run the game. 
For the rest of this article, I’m going to write under some assumptions: the person making the transition from player to Storyteller has played a table top RPG at least once prior, has a play group, has access to the appropriate dice for the system, has read the necessary rule books and is familiar with the rules.  Those assumptions are also the only things that anyone needs to become a Storyteller.  Being the Storyteller for a game, regardless of the complexity of the rules, is simply a matter of doing it, “Storytelling” or “DMing.” 
The only way to become a Storyteller is to run a game.  Let me say that again.  The only way to become a Storyteller is to run a game.  Plan the adventure, invite the players over, and run the adventure.   Whether it’s a good session or a bad session is immaterial to simple performance of the duties of a Storyteller.  Most likely, the first session will be bad, but that’s a good thing. 
I’m not fond of extended analogies, but Storytelling is like swimmig. You can read all the books that you want, watch all of the how to videos posted on Youtube, and practice on dry land all you want, but until you are in the water, you aren’t going to swim.  And like your first time swimming, it’s a struggle to just stay afloat.  Unlike swimming, there really isn’t a shallow, safe end of the pool in which to practice.  Thankfully, no one is going to die if a first time Storyteller runs a bad game.  Well, maybe a few PCs, but the players will be fine. 
Taking the swimming analogy all the way!
And like swimming (yes, I’m going to continue this analogy), with practice you become more proficient.  With help, you could learn how to do the backstroke or sidestroke.  You might even get so good that you try swimming in open water, like a lake or the ocean.  With special lessons you could even learn to SCUBA dive.  But none of these enhancements are possible without actually swimming for the first time, flailing about in the water, and being very bad at it. 
Simply put, the only way to be a Storyteller is to dive in and run your first session.  If it’s anything like my first time running a game, then you will fail miserably.  Not just the first session either, you’ll have lots of bad sessions.  I made a lot of mistakes and screwed up a lot of games.  I ran some games that I just should not have run.  I allowed players power game and run roughshod over plots and NPCs.  Honestly, I might have encouraged power gaming at one point.   I did pretty much everything that a Storyteller shouldn’t do.  I am infamous for some spectacularly bad Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 games and Legends of the Five Rings games.
I'm pretty sure this guy's ran a few bad sessions too. 
Players in my last group once told me that they didn’t want to run their own game because they thought their games wouldn’t be as good as mine.  They didn’t see the point in running their own games when they had me and my games were so good.  What they forgot was that I had been running RPGs since 1997.   From all those bad games and mistakes, I learned what worked and what didn’t.  I also made use of the resources around me.  I asked for advice from players and other Storytellers.  I studied and ran other systems.  I played in other people’s games and I learned from their successes and mistakes.  Now, I listen to gaming podcasts and read blogs about gaming to further hone my skills as a Storyteller, but these activities are peripheral to actually running a game. 
At the beginning of this article I talked about how intimidating it was to take on all those responsibilities of being a Storyteller, and those responsibilities remain.  Many of you are worried about failing in front of your friends.  No one wants to fail, and no one wants to be laughed at.  And this is going to sound weird coming from a pessimist, but those of you considering stepping behind the screen and running a game can’t think about the possibility for failure.  You have to think about the future successes and all the great sessions you’ll run.  Until you actually start running games, those successes won’t come.   Take a chance and see what happens. 
The only way to become a Storyteller is to run a game. Only after you’ve become a Storyteller can you start the long process of becoming a good Storyteller which is the goal of any Storyteller.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Late Review: Ranking the Clanbooks

            Over the course of nearly two years, I have been reviewing the first/second edition clanbooks as part of my Late Reviews series.  Many of these clanbooks I had never read before, but others were some of my favorite RPG supplements.  One of the reasons that I always played Toreador was because of my affinity for their clanbook, and that’s one of the things that I’ve looked for when I read each of the clanbooks – whether or not I was interested in playing the clan after I finished reading it. 
            When writing a review, I have tried to stay as objective as possible which wasn’t always possible.  I have a lot of bad experiences with Assamite characters and that will always bias me against the clan, but the clanbook was one of my favorites.  On the other hand, I tried to balance my love for my favorite clans, the Toreador, the Tzimisce, and the Ventrue, by remaining as critical as possible of those books.  Regardless of how objective I try to be, my biases are going to slip through.  I disliked Clanbook Giovanni because of its misogynistic, racist narrator, and I hated Clanbook Tzimisce because it over-emphasized body horror and comic book villainy. 
            More important that my biases, however, is an understanding of the process of how these books came into being.  The problems associated with the art for Clanbook Malkavian and the use of stick figure drawings are well-known in the Classic World of Darkness fan community.  The order in which the books were issued is also important.  The earliest clanbooks suffered because the authors and editors were struggling to define what a Clanbook should have.  Clanbook Brujah was the first of the series and introduced under the First Edition ruleset, and sadly, it is also the worst of the series.  The last of the series was Clanbook Giovanni which was much better written but had its own problems.  Rather than offering a series of qualifications for each book, I have taken each book as it is, and while that may be unfair, I have no other way of assessing each book now. 
            When writing my reviews I have avoided any type of numerical rating system as I think those kinds of reviews distill the entire review and the book itself into a single number.  My goal has never been to grade the books in this series, but rather, my purpose has been to explore the quality of these books, their usefulness to current players, and for my own entertainment.  None of these clanbooks are perfect and none of them are awful.  Although I offer recommendations in the following condensed reviews, I am not the final arbiter of the quality of these books and I recommend that everyone re-read these books with fresh eyes.  There are some surprising things to be found in each of the books. 
            Reviewing this series has been a time consuming but rewarding process.  Reviewing the clanbooks was my primary reason for starting this blog.  On the horizon are the Revised editions of the clanbooks, but it will be sometime before I begin those reviews.  I will review them but probably not until 2015.  The Onyx Path development team is currently working on updated versions of the Clanbooks for Vampire:  The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition, and  like many of you I can’t wait to read those books. 
            I have listed the clanbooks from best to worst and included a single paragraph summary of my review.  If you are interested in reading the full review, click on the book’s name. 

            Where other clanbooks only tell the history of the clan and offer some new game mechanics, Clanbook Lasombra acts as a textbook that provides both the clan’s history and uses that history to teach players how to role-play as a Lasombra.  Eschewing the typical portrayal of the Lasombra as tyrants who need to dominate all around them, the authors re-imagine the Lasombra as violent colonizers and the Sabbat as their conquistadors pushing into the domains of the Camarilla much as Cortez conquered the Aztecs.  More importantly, the introduction of Les Amies Noir and the Court of Blood reigns in the potential for intra-clan diablierie run amuck by offering a hierarchy and specific rules for feuds amongst clan members.  New mechanics are also included but the authors have integrated them into the narrative rather than setting them apart meaning that the information isn’t as well developed as it could have been.  Despite some small problems with the clichéd templates, Clanbook Lasombra is everything that a clanbook should be.  This is a must own for every Vampire:  The Masquerade player. 

From the most cliché of stereotypes, evil Muslim assassins, comes a surprisingly intriguing look at a misunderstood clan.  Rather than glorifying the violence of the clan, Clanbook Assamite explores concepts of colonialism and post colonialism by re-imagining Caine as the first colonizer in the city of Enoch.  After he arrives, Caine establishes a ruling minority over a populace overwhelmed by his superior and alien powers.  The clan itself is expanded with the introduction of an entire hierarchy and roles in the clan beyond just assassin.  With a complete history, new Disciplines, new Abilities, a variety of artifacts, and even new mechanics, Clanbook Assamite redefines and expands this clan to a complete sect within its scant 66 pages.  It isn’t perfect, but it’s the most comprehensive of the original Clanbook series.    

            Narrated by a non-ethnic Rom (or Gypsy), Clanbook Ravnos offers an entirely new perspective on the Ravnos Clan that addresses both the persecution of the Rom and the Ravnos.  By setting the Introductory Story around the events of World War II, Clanbook Ravnos begins building the reader’s sympathy for the Ravnos and establishes the Ravnos as culturally distinct from either the European or American cultures through which they travel.  The stereotypes of the traveling con artist or thief are forgotten, and these itinerant Kindred are re-imagined as guerillas defending their people from mortal persecutions and vampire predations.  The thievery and tricks of this clan have become the tools that the Ravnos use to protect themselves.  The only negative aspect of this book is that it relies heavily upon references to World of Darkness:  Gypsies, a book known for its racist portrayal of Gypsies.   Regardless of a player’s previous bias towards the clan, this clanbook will inspire anyone to play a Ravnos. 

With a mix of role playing advice, new mechanics, new Merits and Flaws, and new Disciplines, the Toreador have the most complete clanbook of the Camarilla Clans.  The author has given new depth to a clan usually considered superficial by creating two distinct groups:  the Artistes and the Poseurs.  Artistes are self explanatory, but the Poseurs are those Toreador who cannot create art or criticize other artists or spend their unlives partying or just look pretty.  These distinctions allow the Storyteller to create intra-clan conflicts and rivalries that explore the nature of the clan and the way it interacts with art.  This book has everything that a player needs to create and role-play a variety of Toreador characters from a horror writer to a martial artist to a televangelist.  Every Toreador player should own this book. 

            Unlike the other clans that nurture recently Embraced vampires before setting them loose on the world, the Gangrel prefer to leave their fledglings to fend for themselves before returning to explain what has happened.  Written as a guide for naïve neonates, Clanbook Gangrel explores what it means to be a member of a clan that eschews the safety of the city and travels through the wilderness.  The Gangrel claim that their Antediluvian was the daughter of Lilith who was raised by wolves making their progenitor also the first werewolf.  Although Clanbook Gangrel does reference some elements of Werewolf:  The Apocalypse, such as explaining how a Gangrel could associate with a pack of werewolves, readers don’t need to be familiar with that system to make use of this book.  The only serious complaint that I have about this clanbook is that it is narrated in parts by a Hunter S. Thompson proxy, known as Raoul King, but the writer chose not to imitate Thompson’s distinct style.  A Hunter S. Thompson proxy’s views on vampirism and the Jyhad would have been enlightening and entertaining.  Players who like playing Gangrel will want to own this book. 

Although other clans consider the Tremere’s mastery of Thaumaturgy to be the clan’s greatest strength, in truth it’s the clan’s authoritarian hierarchy which is their greatest asset.  Clanbook Tremere explains this hierarchy in depth because it is fundamental to understanding this clan, and an example of how the higher echelons of the North American hierarchy are structured is included.  The Tremere, however, are not a monolithic structure and many of the secret orders that infest the Pyramid ostensibly working to improve the clan are described.  At the very bottom of the hierarchy are the Tremere’s servants, such as Gargoyles to protect a chantry and corpse minions to consult on research, but the book offers no mechanics for explaining how these beings are represented in the system.  A system for creating new Paths of Thaumaturgy is presented, but the explanation lacks a concrete example that would clarify these rules.  Nevertheless, Clanbook Tremere offers so many options that players and Storytellers can create entire Chronicles just focused on this clan. 

            Because of their hideous appearance and deformities the Nosferatu are the pariahs of the Kindred; making their havens in the sewers of the great metropolises, they work as information brokers to the other clans.  Instead of shining a flashlight into the sewers and exposing some of the Nosferatu’s own secrets, Clanbook Nosferatu offers only enough information to frustrate readers.  The highlight of this clanbook is the Nosferatu’s retelling of the origin of vampires reinterpreting Caine and the Antediluvians as cave dwellers rather than the rulers of the first city. 
Despite this excellent start, Clanbook Nosferatu quickly devolves into a disappointing exploration of the archetypal Nosferatu warren that describes only three rooms. Discussions of subterranean horrors and giant fungi that don’t fit the tone of Vampire:  The Masquerade, and references to the Bat Boy from the Weekly World News further diminish the usefulness of this book.  Players and Storytellers who want to add more depth to their characterizations of Nosferatu should look elsewhere. 

The Ventrue consider themselves the masters of their domain, and in the paranoid world of the Jyhad they are the puppet masters.  But like the Nosferatu who fear the Niktuku, the Ventrue have their own bogey men, the Secret Masters, who could be pulling their own strings.  This may sound familiar as the Brujah also fear the true childer of their progenitor, the True Brujah.  While still maintaining the gothic sensibilities of the setting, Clanbook Ventrue’s interior art is a dramatic change from the art of other clanbooks and emphasizes the ancient warrior-king ideal of the Ventrue.  This clanbook, unfortunately, offers players no new Merits, Flaws, Disciplines or systems for players to use, this book relies on new and expanded information on the clan which is not only good but also useful for both Storytellers and players.  If you want a deeper understanding of the Ventrue, this is a great book, but without new mechanics it falls short in being a complete clanbook.

            The Giovanni are a clan of inbred, Italian necromancers and their clanbook is exactly as repulsive as their clan’s concept.  Although the book is well-written, it suffers from two problems:  a repulsive narrator and too many references to other supplements.  The narrator’s homophobic, racist, and misogynistic remarks are more distasteful than the Giovanni’s history of inbreeding.  The history of the Giovanni is bound to the Cappodocians and Lamia clans, and readers unfamiliar with Dark Ages:  Vampire will be confused by references to these groups.   Clanbook Giovanni introduces three new ghoul families to create some diversity amongst the clan but even with these new families, the clanbook presents this clan as more monolithic than the Tremere.  Although Clanbook Giovanni is not the worst of the series, it is the most disappointing, and other than the introductory story I do not recommend this book. 

The Tzimisce are mishmash of old world vampire lore such as Dracula and the body horror of Brian Lumley’s Necromancer series, but their clanbook is a carnival freakshow of one-note cartoonish villainy.   With strikingly ugly art, the book attempts to shock the reader with images of body horror rather than explore the Tzimisce’s loss of Humanity and their transcendental need to be more than human, more than vampire.  This book represents a missed opportunity to explore a complex clan that holds tightly to traditions but is desperate to reinvent themselves.  Instead of exploring this dichotomy, the reader is given Nazi NPCs because Nazis are evil and the Tzimisce have to be evil.  So, a Nazi Tzimisce is the most evil thing possible right?  The Sabbat needs more depth and motivation than just being the black hats to the Camarilla’s white hats. 

Steeped in Egyptian mythology, the Setites claim that they are descendents of Set, the brother of Osiris, who was wronged by Ra, their grandfather.  Following in their progenitor’s footsteps, the Followers of Set rebel against the veneer of goodness that other Kindred claim reveling in corruption and corrupting others.  The Followers of Set proudly wear the mantle of the villain.  Their clanbook, however, adds no depth to their reasoning.  They are evil to be evil.  This clanbook offers very little for players or Storytellers except a section on Setite havens and temples which describes everything from a luxurious temple in the jungle to a poor Setite’s personal shrine in his studio apartment.  Aside from this, Clanbook Setite offers only the obvious information about the clan with no depth or breadth.  The only usefulness that a Storyteller will find from this book is the section on havens and some information on the conflicts between Mummies and Setites.  This book is only recommended for the most fanatical Setite player or a collector who needs every book. 

The clan of lunatics has the most frustrating Clanbook.  Clanbook Malkavian hides useful information, such as two pages on how to role play characters with derangements, between its covers with annoying layouts like the backwards page and stick figure art.  Even this helpful information is overshadowed by the forced connections to Changeling the Dreaming and Mage the Ascension.  The author chose to portray the Malkavians as enlightened lunatics with the goal of overturning static reality (maybe), but this portrayal depends more on the themes of Mage than Vampire the Masquerade.  Because of the history associated with Clanbook Malkavian, it’s almost a must have for any Classic World of Darkness gamer for their collection, but other than an historical artifact, this book doesn’t add much helpful information for playing a Malkavian. 

Of all the original clanbooks, the Brujah have the most disappointing.  This book does nothing to expand the original concept of the Brujah as anarchists and street thugs.  Although some information is given on “academic Elder Brujah,” this separation is nothing more than a continuation of the Anarch/Elder themes from First and Second Edition, and adds no new depth to the clan.  The author’s attempt to contextualize the Brujah by connecting the clan to various historical revolutions, such as the War for American Independence, is too heavy handed and comes off as more comical than intriguing.  The only thing that stands out in this book is the introduction of Combo Disciplines, but these are poorly implemented and lack experience point costs making them perfect for abuse by power gamers.  Clanbook Brujah is recommended only for players who need to finish their collection. 

            Agree?  Disagree?  Please post your comments below. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons 5th: Money & Time

            Although Read the Damn Book is specifically focused on Vampire:  The Masquerade and the other Classic World of Darkness games, I would like to take some time to discuss other games.  And for those of you who have been keeping up with general RPG news, you know that means that I will be discussing Dungeons & Dragons because Wizards of theCoast has announced the release dates and prices for Dungeons & Dragons 5thEdition. 
            To be honest, I have probably played more Dungeons & Dragons, 3.0 specifically, than any other single system.  I may have started with Vampire:  The Dark Ages, but I got caught up in the excitement with the release of 3.0.  I own nearly every book for D&D 3.0, and I ran my longest campaign under D&D 3.0 rules.  I have so many great memories of that system, and D&D 3.0 and the various d20 systems defined my gaming experience from 2000-2007. 
            Despite my love for Vampire:  The Masquerade, Dungeons & Dragons is the iconic role-playing game.  When I have had to describe VtM to people unfamiliar with RPGs, I start by saying that it’s “like D&D but…”  The industry and the culture of RPGs are changing though.  Smaller game companies are now able to compete with the big brands thanks to Kickstarter, DriveThruRPG, and other companies.  Pathfinder is now the dominant RPG according to some sources, and D&D may have fallen to third in some rankings behind Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars:  Edge of Empire.  Yet, the announcement of a new edition of D&D has everyone excited. I've already talked a little about Fifth Edition and my thoughts on it
            Along with the excitement of the release of a new version of D&D, I have heard quite a bit of negative comments too.  There are two big complaints that I have heard.  The first is the cost of each book, and the second is the time between releases.  I understand the negative criticism towards these new releases.  New editions are frightening, especially for those cynics amongst us who have been let down by new editions too many times.  I had some negative experiences with both D&D 3.5 and 4th edition. 
I didn’t like 3.5 because I was heavily invested into 3.0, and I didn’t like having to re-buy all the books once again.  This is a personal problem that I have with 3.5, but on a more general note, I felt that 3.5 (more so than even 3.0) focused too much on the rules crunch and not creating new campaign settings and better adventures.  I felt like the supplements were more focused on adding more and more prestige classes rather than creating a deeper and better world.  The addition of all those prestige classes led not to a power creep but to a power explosion. 
Fourth Edition…well, Fourth Edition had its problems, too.  I liked the simplified rules, the addition of special powers for every class, and the attempt by the designers to balance all of the classes.  However, with that balance came a blandness that I hated.  I disliked the emphasis on miniatures combat.  More so than 3.0 and 3.5, Fourth Edition required players to have a grid map and minis.  I really hated the skill challenge system which was an even more complicated way of resolving noncombat encounters.  Any of these systems could be removed or modified, but as written, I found these systems to be a burden rather than helpful.  But my biggest problem with Fourth Edition was the way it felt more like an MMORPG than a tabletop RPG because of how the system presented powers and abilities as akin to the hot-keyed powers like those found in MMORPGs.   
 I did like how the rules were simplified and how the rules attempted to address the biggest problem in D&D, namely the power difference between fighters and wizards over the course of 20 levels.  Better known as the linear fighters and quadratic wizards problem, essentially, wizards quickly outclassed fighters because of their access to spells.  This problem was at its worst in 3.5 where a wizard could replace nearly every other party member thanks to the variety of spells available.  However, the 4th Edition rules changes removed much of the flavor of D&D.  The Vancian magic system is what makes D&D distinct.  I always felt like AD&D (2nd Edition) handled that problem better with the higher experience point costs for spell casters. 
And while I add more kindling to the flame wars that the Edition Wars has become, I am excited about Fifth Edition.  Yet, the negative comments, the pricing and the release schedule remain.   
I cannot complain about the pricing of a new RPG without being a hypocrite.  I just spent $150 on the Mage:  The Ascension 20th AnniversaryKickstarter.  But, how does that book compare to the cost of the new Dungeons & Dragons books?  For the $150 that I spent for Mage:  The Ascension, I will receive a complete rule system with everything that I need to run Mage, a PDF of that book, a Storytellers Screen, and thanks to the other backers, I will receive a PDF of several other books.  That’s a lot of material for that investment of $150.  For the same $150, I will receive everything that I need to run or play D&D 5th:  a Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual.  Those costs will be spread out over several months, and I don’t feel like I am being ripped off by that pricing, so long as the game is good. 
Fifty dollars per book is not an outrageous price.  Pathfinder’s Core Rulebook’s price was $49.99 in 2009.  While the Pathfinder Core Rulebook has everything that a player would need, a DM will still need to purchase at least one of the Bestiaries and perhaps some adventures or another supplement.  Role-playing games are not cheap, and they never will be cheap again.  Players who complain that AD&D wasn’t as expensive haven’t taken into account the rising inflation.  While the core rulebooks for AD&D may have cost $20 in 1989 when it was released, adjusted for inflation, those books would now cost over $38.  That figure only takes into account inflation and not the improvements in the quality of printing and paper. I used the CPI Inflation Calculator for this math. 
A much better comparison, quality wise, might be a comparison with D&D 3.5 because 3.5 included many full color pages, mostly color artwork, and was printed on high quality paper with excellent binding.  Sold at 29.95 per book in 2003, the cost of a 3.5 Player’s Handbook would be $38.95 if adjusted for inflation.  That’s still an $11 increase in price, but that’s only taking into account simple inflation.  Other factors affect the cost of printing a book.  Not to sound like a grumpy old man, but in 2000 gas was around $1.00 per gallon.  Currently, I pay nearly $3.50 per gallon.  Inflation only accounts for 38 cents of that price increase.  If the cost of RPG books had a similar increase a PHB could cost over $100. 
            None of this math is really relevant to this argument.  It’s not a question of cost, but a question of value.  Are the new core rulebooks for 5th Edition worth $150?  That’s a question that each gamer has to answer for himself or herself.  The initial investment in any new RPG is going to be relatively high.  Fifty dollars is a lot of money, regardless of one’s job, but the value of that investment is what I consider.  Will I use the book?  Will I play D&D?  Those are the questions that I’m asking myself.
However, the most important question for many others is “Would I be happier if I’d bought another RPG rather than D&D 5th?”  The RPG market is glut with games, and many of us have our favorites.  Personally, I am still struggling to catch up with The Onyx Path releases that I missed.  Nevertheless, I am going to give D&D 5th a chance.  I’m excited at the possibilities of a new edition.  I don’t know if I will like it, and I certainly don’t have any insider information about the new edition.  Fifty dollars isn’t too that expensive, and if I don’t like the Player’s Handbook, then I just won’t buy the DMG or Monsters Manual.
Now, as to the negative comments regarding the release dates, I am also in disagreement with the naysayers.  If you haven’t heard, the Player’s Handbook will be released on August 19, the Monster Manual will follow on September 17, and finally the Dungeon Master’s Guide will finish the set on November 18.  My problem isn’t that the books’ releases are separated by several months.  I actually like that, and they’ve been doing that since at least the release of Third Edition when the core rulebooks were released in August (PHB), September (DMG), and October (MM).  The early printings of the PHB included an appendix with a few low level monsters for DMs to use. 
The staggered releases schedule helps everyone.  I really can’t afford to spend $150 all at once.  When I backed the Mage:  The Ascension Kickstarter, I had to save two paychecks to afford it.  Currently, I buy one new gaming book with every paycheck and I usually spend around $20 to $50 depending on the book that I am buying.  The new Edition of D&D and its release schedule fits into my budget for games.  However, I am not happy about the order of the releases, nor am I happy about the two month wait between the Monsters Manual and the Dungeon Master’s Handbook. 
Perhaps I’m too set in my ways, but the DMG has always been and will always be the second book when I think of Dungeons & Dragons.  I understand that the Monster Manual is more useful, but in my mind, it’s PHB, DMG, and then MM.  It’s written in stone or at least on paper.  I’m willing to forgive the order of the release, a little, but I don’t understand why there is a two month wait between the release of the Monster Manual and the DMG.  That seems a little excessive. 
Overall these are small problems, and honestly, I can’t wait to get my hands on the books.  I’ve heard very good things from playtesters bout this new Edition.  And yes, I will be reviewing D&D 5th as soon as they are released.