In “Five ways to create more usable game books,” I piled a heap of criticism on the usability of Wizards of the Coast game books. I singled out the index in the fourth-edition Player’s Handbook for particular scorn.
The fifth-edition Player’s Handbook’s index takes 4 pages, 1.6% of the book’s total page count, way more than the 0.3% the last edition devoted to an index. Plus, the index crams a lot of entries into 5-columns of microscopic type. The index qualifies as best to ever appear in a Player’s Handbook. By a real-world measure, it rates as decent.
I have used the new index and have found most of the information I sought, but not everything.
This brings me to two questions that I could have answered if I had known where to look in the rules.
- A character can make a DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) check to stabilize a dying ally. While the Medicine skill (p.178) lists this possible action, the actual DC appears in the combat action for stabilizing a creature (p.197). If you spend a measly 5 gp on a Healer’s Kit, you can stabilize 10 creatures without needing to make a Wisdom (Medicine) check, which makes the guy who chose proficiency in Medicine feel like a chump.
- Drinking or administering a potion requires an action. This appears in the equipment listing for the healing potion (p.153) rather than in any of the descriptions of actions in combat.
Thanks to Tom and Rodney for telling me (politely) to RTFM, because the answers really were in there. (Kids, RTFM stands for read the friendly manual.)
While a kit basically automatically makes you pass a stabilize check, medicine skill allows you to also diagnose (and possibly help treat an illness I at GM discretion I imagine)
No scorn for the small print if it is from Wizards?
Personally, I can understand the disdain for small type in the main portions of the book, but I don’t mind it at all in the index. I’m not reading the index for any extended period, just finding a single short entry, and I’d much rather have a more complete index than larger type.
What does bug me is the amount of self-referencing in the index. For example, if I look up “difficult terrain”, it says “see under Movement”. If you’re going to make a separate alphabetized entry under “d” for “difficult terrain” (and I love that they did), would it be so hard to go ahead and list the 2 page references in a second place instead of spending an extra line of text to reference me to another entry in the index? There’s a lot of this going on.
Also, for anyone who might by chance read this and be sick of the string of unhelpful references, what a spell focus actually *does* is on pg. 203 in the “Materal (M)” section.
I agree on all points. No one reads an index for more than a couple of seconds, so microscopic type suits it fine. I’ve never seen so many index entries that end with “See….” They’re so annoying.
I have had three 2-4 hour discussions with my DM about creating magic items. Scrolls in particular are not defined and between the PHB and DMG there are at least four contradictions. The index does not even to begin to point you in the right direction and that whole topic should be defined briefly but include and one line reference that says, “Whatever the DM wants in their campaign”. This way there is no fighting over it. What bothers me is that they split the information up between the books but did not clearly define it. What rules are you using on magic item creation and did you find all of them in the pages of the core manuals?