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A Bit More on the Basic Rules for D&D
Mike Mearls

I t’s hard to believe that we’re on the eve of the release of the first D&D fifth edition product. The Starter Set will be available at Wizards Play Network stores this week, starting on July 3. That day will also see the release of the basic rules for D&D on the Dungeons & Dragons web site.

For the D&D basic rules, our initial release will include character creation. It features the human, elf, dwarf, and halfling for races, along with the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard classes, all from 1st level to 20th level. As the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide near completion, we’ll add to the basic rules with more material to grow it into a complete game. Our goal is to continue to make updates to the basic rules for D&D until the end of the year, at which point it will be feature complete.

As for the contents of the basic rules, let’s take a peek under the hood to see what you can expect. It’s important to remember that all of this material is drawn from the Player’s Handbook. The basic rules for D&D are not a separate game, but rather are a subset of Dungeons & Dragons.

Races: The dwarf, elf, and halfling each feature two subraces: hill dwarves and mountain dwarves, high elves and wood elves, and lightfoot halflings and stout halflings.

Classes: Each class features one option for specialization. The fighter has the champion martial archetype, the cleric features the life domain, the rogue has the thief roguish archetype, and the wizard has the School of Evocation arcane tradition.

Backgrounds: The backgrounds featured in the Starter Set pregenerated characters are included in the D&D basic rules.

Equipment: The basic rules include the Player’s Handbook equipment chapter in its entirety.

Rules of Play: The D&D basic rules cover combat, using ability scores, adventuring, and the rules for magic, all taken straight from the Player’s Handbook.

Spells: The game provides a wide selection of cleric and wizard spells, from 0-level cantrips all the way up to the most powerful 9th-level spells.

Cleric Spells Wizard Spells
Cantrips (0 Level) Cantrips (0 Level)
Guidance Dancing Lights
Light Fire Bolt
Resistance Light
Sacred Flame Mage Hand
Spare the Dying Minor Illusion
Thaumaturgy Prestidigitation
1st Level Ray of Frost
Bless Shocking Grasp
Command 1st Level
Cure Wounds Burning Hands
Detect Magic Charm Person
Guiding Bolt Comprehend Languages
Healing Word Detect Magic
Inflict Wounds Identify
Sanctuary Mage Armor
Shield of Faith Magic Missile
2nd Level Shield
Aid Silent Image
Augury Sleep
Hold Person Thunderwave
Lesser Restoration 2nd Level
Prayer of Healing Arcane Lock
Silence Blur
Spiritual Weapon Darkness
Warding Bond Flaming Sphere
3rd Level Hold Person
Beacon of Hope Invisibility
Dispel Magic Knock
Mass Healing Word Levitate
Protection from Energy Magic Weapon
Remove Curse Misty Step
Revivify Spider Climb
Speak with Dead Suggestion
Spirit Guardians Web
4th Level 3rd Level
Death Ward Dispel Magic
Divination Fireball
Freedom of Movement Fly
Guardian of Faith Haste
Locate Creature Lightning Bolt
5th Level Major Image
Commune Protection from Energy
Flame Strike 4th Level
Greater Restoration Arcane Eye
Mass Cure Wounds Dimension Door
Raise Dead Greater Invisibility
6th Level Ice Storm
Blade Barrier Stoneskin
Find the Path 5th Level
Harm Cone of Cold
Heal Dominate Person
Heroes’ Feast Dream
True Seeing Passwall
7th Level Wall of Stone
Etherealness 6th Level
Fire Storm Chain Lightning
Regenerate Disintegrate
Resurrection Globe of Invulnerability
8th Level Mass Suggestion
Antimagic Field Otto’s Irresistible Dance
Earthquake True Seeing
Holy Aura 7th Level
9th Level Delayed Blast Fireball
Astral Projection Finger of Death
Gate Mordenkainen’s Sword
Mass Heal Teleport
True Resurrection 8th Level
Dominate Monster
Power Word Stun
9th Level
Meteor Swarm
Power Word Kill
Time Stop
Mike Mearls
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.
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I have liked what was presented in the DnD Basic Rules. But I'm not sure about the amount of spell slots for spellcasters above the 10th level character. I know the rules of magic have changed, but it seemed very few spell slots for high level characters.
Posted By: R.A.S (7/21/2014 11:54:52 AM)


Are we going to get Bards in Basic ever?
Posted By: JCBoysha (7/6/2014 11:01:24 AM)


So when is the free PDF available? I'm hearing conflicting things between when the Starter Box comes out and earlier.
Posted By: SSGT (7/2/2014 11:59:31 PM)



Do you have a copy of the PHB? No? Then we can either believe WOTC when they said that the starter and basic use elements lifted from the PHB and not vice versa, or we. Can just assume they are lairs. I don't think they are lying, so I think we can assume that everything in the starter and basic will show up in the PHB, since it's all taken from there any way.
Posted By: moes1980 (7/2/2014 1:10:41 PM)


@ moes1980

How did you get a copy of the PHB this early?! - John
Posted By: Seanchai (7/2/2014 11:01:38 AM)



The basic rules are available for download same day as starter set comes out, so no need for a turf war, those extra cleric spells are available to the player tht bothers to download the free basic rules. The fact that some spells are in the starter but not the basic just means you get more options if you have both documents. However, all of these spells will be in the PHB (shocking grasp is another example). You can play with starter or basic, or both, or just use the PHB, which will have everything from both documents plus more. Remember, the spell lists in both the starter and basic are lifted from the PHB.

I don't know what you are getting at with 3.5 and psionics other than you don't like how 3.5 did psionics. I don't like how they did psionics either but I'm nut sure what relevancy that has it 5th Ed...

Posted By: moes1980 (7/2/2014 10:46:18 AM)


Hi Mike, how do we contact you directly? Your profile link is broken

Posted By: patweb (7/1/2014 3:03:57 PM)


I am freaked out that the Basic PDF has more spells than the Starter Set.  It supports my contention that the Starter Set is soon to be obsolete, much more than I ever wanted to see.  For this to be happening, there have got to be people who are still fiddling around with the Basic PDF, as the Starter Set was finalized months ago.  That means they aren't working on the Monster Manual, indicating a fundamental divide in the development team.  I was watching the followup to the livestream in this article yesterday when Greg Bilsland said they had just added a block for Inspiration (an incentive for roleplaying your character's "Personality," not to be confused with the Bardic Performance ability Inspire Competence) to the character sheet, so Basic is one-upping the Players Handbook, which has already gone to press!  I don't like being the beneficiary of a turf war in which agitators are advocating for more content to be made free, as it indicates the ex... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (7/1/2014 12:46:20 PM)


Calm down, don't freak out lol. The inspiration mechanic has been in the works for over a year, so it's not a big deal if they make a last minute change to the character sheet for a little box to record your inspiration in. Inspiration will be in the players handbook, so the basic is not one upping the PHB.

Also, of course the basic rules has more spells as it covers levels 1-20 and the starter set covers 1-5. Heck, the basic has more everything pretty much! The basic rules are just that, basic rules for basic play. The starter set is just that, a set to get new players that are unfamiliar with dnd started. If you are already a veteran player with your own dice, the starter set box's only appeal is the adventure it comes with, more dice, and a pretty box. For me, I'm willing to pay for it for the adventure and early chance to play the game, not for something that I expect to serve as an enduring rules reference (core rules and PDF of basic will do that).

Also, ... (see all)
Posted By: moes1980 (7/1/2014 4:03:52 PM)


I could interpret the addition of Silent Image to the Wizard's spell list to mean that the decision of whether to include that or Minor Illusion in the Players Handbook had not been made yet when the Starter Set's contents were finalized.  I don't because my trust was shattered when I saw a new Psionics Handbook and suddenly discovered that my entire investment in Third Edition books had been a waste.  Before I turn to the Cleric spells, think about why Fire Bolt might have been added to the Basic Rules after the Players Handbook was finished.

Never mind the rest of the Wizard spells, the ones listed here but not on can generally be rationalized as not appearing in Lost Mine of Phandelver.  This excerpt contains three more third level Cleric spells, though, and it is difficult to understand why not one of them is available to the pregenerated cleric in the Starter Set, and even more why s/he is denied ... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (7/2/2014 9:09:09 AM)


I don't know why no one seems to be freaking out that the free PDF isn't on the Daily page.  Probably just illustrates my lack of expertise at browsing the Internet, I'll look around some more & then brave the forums if I have to.

Moe had a response to my comment just above, but this is the only related link which is working.  It's relevant to Fourth Edition, in that both were money grabs.  I didn't actually figure out what was going on right when I picked up the Expanded Psionics Handbook & flipped through it, I had to lug my old books to games a couple of times and wonder what these "new versions" were people were talking about before I caught on.  I wasn't on the Internet at all then (& my competence is still pretty limited) and the new books looked just like the old ones, except for having a "3.5" along the binding, so I didn't have a clue.

I don't know why you brought up Shocking Grasp, it's in both the Star... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (7/3/2014 9:16:53 AM)


@ Neptune0923

Neptune0923 wrote: "I can see how you reach that conclusion, but none of the posters here have the actual ability to censor."

I certainly agree with you there. However, I did say "attempt at censorship" and "being shouted down." Clearly, these folks don't work at WotC, aren't able to delete or modify comments, etc..

It's ironic because, as far as I am aware, those they're attempting to defend have actually asked for criticism. And I haven't seen any requirements that it be particularly long - as far as I can see, "I don't like it!" is perfectly fine.

[Note: There's a difference between between criticism and an attack. I'm not trying to defend the latter. "What a pile of [bleep]!" is the type of commentary WotC has asked for (or deserves).] - John
Posted By: Seanchai (7/1/2014 11:49:55 AM)


How do you find a "Wizards Play Network store"?
Posted By: mtmorse (6/30/2014 11:17:24 PM)


Go to www://
Posted By: lawrencehoy (7/1/2014 12:38:09 AM)


So glad 'wish' isn't on that spell list.

I am upset that 'dominate person' is, however. I'll table rule that it's only for psions (when and if psionics comes out for 5e).
Posted By: seti (6/30/2014 10:59:09 PM)


Hey people! Lost Mine of Phandelver Part II is streaming NOW at!
Posted By: RadperT (6/30/2014 8:22:02 PM)


I guess it's nothing new to be geeky on this site, I'm not usually at my computer at 5:30 PT.  That's when they finished but there was some interesting stuff in the Q & A.  All this stuff is on YouTube under "dndwizards" anyway.  Greg, I guess Bilsland, was DMing & he said they would be playing again at 4:00 next Monday (6 Central), same bat-buggy page, same bat-missing from the archive.
Posted By: RadperT (6/30/2014 9:19:06 PM)


OK, it was in the archive. The livestream is showing up on my Daily D & D page now that I refreshed it, too.
Posted By: RadperT (6/30/2014 9:34:43 PM)


I am so excited about this. It's EXACTLY what I to get started!

And for all of you complainers, you have the right to moan, but it feels like you have some sort of axe to grind. (+3 Battle Axe, I hope).
Posted By: Neptune0923 (6/30/2014 4:30:20 PM)


All that I can say is: Please for the love of all that is holy, make this document easily browse-able, links or bookmarks or whatever, just make it quick to get to what we need.

The way the play-test .pdfs were layed out was painful to look-up specific rules/spells/etc. I understand as they were a beta test, but with this release I have a higher expectation of ease of use.
Posted By: KarLorian (6/30/2014 3:51:16 PM)


While I agree, the official documents should have a ToC and bookmarks (and I'm confidant that they will), I found it very easy to use the Search feature to quickly find the rules I needed to look up (in the playtest documents).
Posted By: lawrencehoy (7/1/2014 12:33:21 AM)


I would reply to Lawrencehoy but that much indenting doesn't serve much point.  While I was annoyed by all the people posting "that's what you get for free" right after this article was posted, your comments give me a greater appreciation of how they feel.  I don't think there are going to be any frills to the PDF.  You have to consider that a lean elegance is going to appeal to less tech-savvy grognards like myself, who get confused by sidebars popping up in their content.  And we're not paying for bells & whistles, this is the pared-down successor to the Standard Reference Document, which has nearly (and legally) expired after being smothered by Hasbro over the lifetime of Fourth Edition.  It's meant to be useable, but at the same time encourage the purchase of more versatile roleplaying products in a way which the SRD didn't.
Posted By: RadperT (7/1/2014 10:56:11 AM)


Nice, literally 2/3 of the article is Spell Lists, just like the PHB. At least Mearles knows how to please the vocal minority.

At least you don't have to buy the PHB to find out it's 'Wizard and Cleric's Bogus Edition.'
Posted By: FatherWendigo (6/30/2014 3:42:22 PM)


The article is 648 words. The Spells List is 274 words including the spell level descriptions, that's 42.28% of the article. The rest of the article is 374 words, equaling 57.71% of the article.

Now I realize that you were being hyperbolic with your statement, but c'mon the spell list isn't even the biggest half.
Posted By: KarLorian (6/30/2014 4:00:09 PM)


That's because the vocal majority just wants to complain about every little thing. If you've tried the playtests for 5e, or even looked at them, you know pretty much what is in them.
Posted By: Tulloch (6/30/2014 10:02:17 PM)


Now that's funny!
Posted By: RadperT (7/1/2014 10:32:29 AM)


July 3rd? I thought it said July 15th. Not that I'm complaining...
Posted By: Lord_Markelhay (6/30/2014 2:09:06 PM)


July 3rd for Core Level Stores, basically those who have run enough Magic and Encounters events to "level up". July 15th is the general, everybody else, release date.
Posted By: Tulloch (6/30/2014 10:03:09 PM)


Clever counterpoint, but it's a game created by passionate designers, not a disease-ridden couch. But to be fair, free disease-ridden couches DO exist, and most people don't post vitriolic messages saying how much they hate the couches. They just walk away.

Also, for real people absolutely do not have "...the right to say so without being shouted down by those who are...less discerning." That is not how rights work.
Posted By: DoDColumbus (6/30/2014 1:47:05 PM)


It's impressive for the introductory product.
Posted By: SirAntoine (6/30/2014 1:20:20 PM)


I am so excited!! I wanna play some DandD!!!
Posted By: earthwizard (6/30/2014 10:41:10 AM)


Character Generation really seems limited to swapping classes and races. That's a little weak.
More backgrounds would at least help allow people to customize a little without greatly increasing the complexity.
Posted By: The_Jester (6/30/2014 10:26:31 AM)


I read these comment about what is not in this free download. They are giving away a basic playable game. I'm really excited to download this file on Thursday and see what I can do with it. I realize that to make a unique character I'm going to have to purchase the Players Handbook the following month. This will be enough to feed my addiction to this game for another month.
Posted By: DDMTGGeek (6/30/2014 10:23:20 AM)


I agree 100%!!!!
Posted By: Neptune0923 (6/30/2014 4:31:17 PM)


Huh, no shocking grasp, but I thought that was listed on the wizard pregen. Maybe the starter set has a few extra bits in it?
Posted By: moes1980 (6/30/2014 9:51:49 AM)


Its there.
Posted By: argokirby (6/30/2014 6:41:59 PM)


I do not care to be spoon fed... I was hoping it would be campaign neutral as well...
Posted By: Mimdalf (6/30/2014 9:33:02 AM)


Sorry, I didn't mean to sound so negative, it's Monday. I am excited about the new direction. I was just worried that the core rule books will only reference Forgotten Realms flavored information and nothing bearing on their other, also fabulous campaign worlds.
Posted By: Mimdalf (6/30/2014 9:42:12 AM)


The PHB will be campaign neutral with examples from multiple published campaigns, so good news!

What about this article's info doesn't sound campaign neutral to you?
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (6/30/2014 5:58:54 PM)


That's all good! Looking forward to it!!!
Posted By: Plaguescarred (6/30/2014 5:38:02 AM)


Two subraces each and the full equipment chapter is a nice little surprise.

I wonder about the planar travel though...looks like clerics get Astral Projection and Gate, while wizards get...nothing?
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (6/30/2014 3:41:29 AM)


The "champion" is definitely the simpler fighter build.
I have no problem with that, as players can still greatly enjoy it and get the good DnD experience they deserve (like the fun we had playing fighters in ADnD back in the day).
Keep in mind that this is free to download, and helps get people interested in the hobby. It is the essence of DnD in its simplest form. If you can't make a group enjoy a game with this, you have much to improve as a DM (of course some groups might enjoy further tinkering and more options, but first know you have a solid ground on building a story your players will enjoy before giving them more options that might serve as distractors from roleplaying).
Posted By: Ashtoret (6/30/2014 3:08:45 AM)


"The dwarf, elf, and halfling each feature two subraces"

Why, oh why, would you exclude humans from that? This would have been a wonderful opportunity to show that humans don't have to be special snowflakes in a setting and provide an example to new players on how to represent different cultures mechanically in the game.
Posted By: ForgottenLore (6/30/2014 12:47:36 AM)


I agree; however, the reason is undoubtedly due to human racism problems, and how they would be negatively interpreted within the context of the rules.

They should just change the term "sub-race" to a "culture" reference; then they could use real world cultures to differentiate humans with different "typical" traits.
Posted By: lawrencehoy (6/30/2014 2:31:38 AM)


I disagree, because humans are designed to be the best, easiest choice. The other races have specialized strengths; humans, a simple bonus to everything which is forgiving to the novice, and can be engineered by the experienced player to complement h/h choice of background, class options and feats. Not that a Lightfoot Halfling doesn't have the best potential as a Thief or Assassin, but there will come a time that other, more sociable Rogue subclasses are available, Charisma & Wisdom become more important to the class, not to mention Bards, and the human's extra language doesn't hurt.
Posted By: RadperT (6/30/2014 8:09:52 PM)


I still maintain the best way to deal with this is to treat at least the half-elf (and possibly the half-orc or the tiefling) as a subrace of human.

Posted By: CarlT (6/30/2014 2:58:52 AM)


Hmm. Why is Hold Person on the Cleric's list and not the Wizard's list? I mean, I understand that the basic rules are supposed to have fewer options, but if you're going to have the spell in the game, you might as well let both classes have access to it.

(Also antimagic field, astral projection, etc.)
Posted By: G_X (6/30/2014 12:46:48 AM)


Interestingly, there are only 4 spells shared between the two classes in the entire spell list. Looks like they are making a greater differentiation between the classes spell list then in prior editions.
Posted By: Alextroy (6/30/2014 12:55:32 AM)


Perhaps the list isn't exhaustive; there is no Hold Monster either.
Posted By: lawrencehoy (6/30/2014 2:33:44 AM)


Hi all. this most definitely only scratches the surface of the spell lists. Don't read into the cleric has this but not the wizard too much as I think they are trying to put unique spells up there for people to try out and experiment with.
Posted By: NinjaPlease (6/30/2014 9:18:54 AM)


The weird thing to me is that wizards have no planar travel.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (6/30/2014 6:00:06 PM)


My theory hinges on the management technique of delegation. One person decided what clerics get, another person the same for wizards. Keep in mind their roundtables probably had more to do with the Starter Set, and the've been trying to get the Player's Handbook, MM & DMG together as well.
Posted By: RadperT (6/30/2014 7:37:42 PM)


Good thought.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (7/1/2014 12:00:45 PM)


Now, will there be feats in the Basic?
Posted By: RealGlowface (6/30/2014 12:37:14 AM)


No. They are optional, even in the Player's Handbook.
Posted By: eberg (6/30/2014 12:20:33 PM)


Background is optional & it's in the Basic Rules. Since you don't get feats until 4th level, those included with the Starter Set will be common knowledge by the time anyone needs one.
Posted By: RadperT (6/30/2014 7:22:12 PM)


So excited for this. 20 levels of play for free, the core 4. Just fantastic.
Posted By: jpprichard (6/30/2014 12:30:04 AM)


No wish spell? Any way, sounds pretty awesome
Posted By: moes1980 (6/30/2014 12:05:27 AM)


Time Stop is an I Win button, Wish is FuKFC the DM or the DM FuKFCs you.
Posted By: RadperT (6/30/2014 7:12:32 PM)


Wow, I am quite unhappy to hear that there will only be one available build for each class.
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (6/30/2014 12:05:00 AM)


Meh, hard to complain when its free!
Posted By: moes1980 (6/30/2014 12:06:16 AM)


@Seanchai* Bad analogy. I'll present a better one.

How I about I send you a perfectly fine couch. Pristine condition. *ABSOLUTELY FREE* It will cost you *NOTHING*. Oh, but it doesn't fold out into a bed. No? Okay then, we'll have our sofa beds for sale in a month.

*damn reply buttons
Posted By: The_White_Sorcerer (6/30/2014 1:09:36 PM)


I live in the country. I'll send you an *ABSOLUTELY FREE* box of mixed animal manure. Just send me your address. Again, it's *ABSOLUTELY FREE*. It will cost you *NOTHING*.

No? How about an *ABSOLUTELY FREE* couch. It's broken and stained. It's been outside, so it's a bit damp in places. I don't think there are any bed bugs, but other vermin might be living inside it now. But it's *ABSOLUTELY FREE*. It'll cost you *NOTHING*.

You're interested, right? You're not first going to argue that we shouldn't complain when things are free and then try to point out that being free isn't everything, are you?

I'm not saying that it's the case here, but something just being free is meaningless. It also has to be worthwhile. It has to be worth having. Personally, it sounds to me that Basic will be just great for a free PDF - however, others might not share that conviction. They might want more. They have that right. And the right to say so without being shouted down... (see all)
Posted By: Seanchai (6/30/2014 11:58:17 AM)


I think there will be two builds for each class; one generic and one specialist. For example, the Fighter will have the "simple" Warrior build and the "complex" (maneuver?) Champion build.
Posted By: lawrencehoy (6/30/2014 12:13:06 AM)


Beggars can't be choosers. You want more, drop the $40 or so and pick up the Player's Handbook.
Posted By: pauldanielj2 (6/30/2014 12:23:03 AM)


There will be 1 free subclass for each of the 4 classes.
But you can buy more with the PHB.
Posted By: mellored (6/30/2014 9:05:59 AM)


I'm not complaining about a free product, folks, just a little disappointed. It's not like I'm planning on boycotting 5E or anything.
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (6/30/2014 9:14:06 AM)


Sure, everyone has the right to complain but they DO NOT have "the right to say so without being shouted down by those who are...less discerning." The right to complain is an equal right. If you comment, you give others the right to complain about your complaint.
Posted By: Neptune0923 (6/30/2014 4:36:40 PM)


Except the latter is an attempt at censorship. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (7/1/2014 1:06:09 AM)


I can see how you reach that conclusion, but none of the posters here have the actual ability to censor. Censorship is performed by a person with official ranking, who can stifle free speech. You can tell me to stop saying something and I can say it back but neither is censorship. Also, censorship has it's place. If one of us was to use foul language or otherwise violate posting standards, the official monitor of this board could and should censor us by deleting our posts.
Posted By: Neptune0923 (7/1/2014 10:13:53 AM)



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