The fifth edition of the Dungeons and Dragons rules (sometimes known as D&D Next) have been in development for couple of years now, with a wide-spread “playtest” taking place beginning in May of 2012.
Today saw the official release of those rules, and better still they have been released as free PDF files for everyone to download and enjoy.
The free PDFs, labeled as the D&D Basic Rules, represent the essentials for playing the 5th Edition game. Included are four classes (Cleric, Fighter, Wizard, and Rogue) and four races (Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling). Each of the classes details a single archetype, or subclass, though the introductory text for these sections indicates that there will be a number of these types of archetypes to choose from for each class.
I have so far only had the opportunity to glance over the new rules, but to me it looks to be a major return to a mix of 2E and 3E styles of gameplay than the rules-laden 4th edition.
The PDF, which is 110 pages long, contains about 20 paged devoted to spells, and a character sheet reminiscent of the type of sheets we used to use with the really old Basic Edition D&D game (prior to AD&D 1E!) – lots of large blocks and area to write lists of the things you have collected.
The overall focus of the ruleset seems to have shifted from the wargame-style of the 4th Edition rules to a more relaxed, storytelling environment.
The Starter Set, similar to the boxed-sets of old, is due out on July 15th for $19.99 (Available on Amazon for pre-order for $12.65 right now, see below). This will be followed by the release of the Player’s Handbook in August, The Monster Manual in September, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide in November, with two adventure – Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat – due in August and October, respectively.