Wherein I debrief 5e



  • It's incredible how much Pathfinder style thinking still dominates the D&D space. There are people doing "60 feats!" supplements for 5e. If you've read what feats are in 5e you know why this is extremely bonkers.
    Yeah, that's certainly true. I'm sure some of them completely break the things that make 5E so relatively easy to keep balanced. Like I'm sure there's a 3rd-party feat to allow casters to maintain two concentration spells or some bullshit.
  • It's incredible how much Pathfinder style thinking still dominates the D&D space. There are people doing "60 feats!" supplements for 5e. If you've read what feats are in 5e you know why this is extremely bonkers.
    A proper cynic might suggest that the direction of the arrow of effect was actually D&D-style thinking dominating the Pathfinder space.

    Unless somehow the entire history of D&D prior to 5th (and 4th!) edition disappeared because someone stepped on a butterfly somewhere in ancient Minnesota or something.
  • I mean, Pathfinder is D&D3.75 so I thought that was a given.
  • If a menagerie of race and class options can be casually justified as an endemic part of the D&D experience, I don't see why a laundry list of Feats would be that controversial.
  • Its because feats are not the same:

    * power level
    * frequency
    * role with respect to class features

    Between the two editions
  • Yeah, in 5E by default you actually get no Feats; they're technically an optional rule*. You can always take a stat boost instead, a major way that people not interested in looking through a list of Feats in order to min-max are accommodated. (There's a solid argument that taking the stat boost is always, mathematically, the better option, in most cases.) But even if you take nothing but Feats, and choose Variant Human to get an extra Feat at 1st level, you'll still only have 3 Feats when you reach 8th level.

    And with them being so rare, the design goal was to make them more powerful and special. Which they (mostly) did a nice job with. However, because of that, if you do get 2-3 Feats which synergize, you can become incredibly powerful, at least at doing one specific thing. So long lists of Feats are a bad idea because they make it more likely to create monstrous, one-trick-pony type characters.

    *Multiclassing is also optional in 5E, and for good reason, though of course it's not explained as well as it should be: it's very easy to nerf yourself into oblivion if you multiclass unwisely.
  • If a menagerie of race and class options can be casually justified as an endemic part of the D&D experience, I don't see why a laundry list of Feats would be that controversial.
    You gotta love how a list of 360+ spells is good but a list of 60 feats is bad.

    D&D Logic.
  • edited December 2018
    I don't agree too much. It's like people attitude regarding PbtA playbooks : there is a risk that they just don't care about the "details". Some moves, like some feats, are so close to the engine you can't just customize them for colour. Whereas a grimoire of "20 points powers" from the Hero system can have billions of entry and still be cool. The former breaks the frame of rules, the latter stick neatly inside the frame. The quantity in the set doesn't matter.

    I have read in this thread that Feats in one edition are of one sort, and they are of a different sort in another edition. That is : the name is the same, but the thing changed. That's not even a lame marketing inflationist strategy (I understood feats were devaluated), I believe, just bad naming.
  • edited December 2018
    The list of 360+ spells is also bad, because the last thing spellcasters in ANY edition of D&D need is "more versatility". But it's bad for a different reason. At least people understand what spells are in relationship to the core game.
  • Exactly, @JDCorley .

    The only d20 derivative I've come across that has clearly spelled out what feats actually are --- and is mostly consistent in this application --- is 13th Age. In that game, they are clearly minor enhancements or improvements to your class features, spells, or powers. In other d20 games they run the gamut from giving you more powers to modifying your powers to boosting stats or skills to mostly giving some extra Colour (I'm looking at you, Linguist) for fictional positioning.

    Still, one can't help but ponder that the primary means 5E gives to customize non-casters is seen as a negative because it "breaks the game" alongside virtually no loss in customization for casters because spells, spells, and more spells (which definitely totally and are completely less potent than feats and don't break the game at all, /sarcasm).
  • Ah, you meant that kind of 360 spells. Sorry to have misinterpreted your message, I am clueless about D&D.
  • No worries, @DeReel . :)
  • re: the sideline chatter about spells -

    At least 5e gives nearly every class access to spells if they want to have it! The caster/noncaster dichotomy isn't so big in 5e compared to 3rd or older editions.
  • Yeah, and since we're talking about it now anyway: color me skeptical about high-level casters being over-powered or having too much ability to impact the setting or whatever. I actually find the way high-level casters work to be one of the major breakthroughs of 5E within the design space of D&D as a whole. The spell progression's brilliance is the sort of thing that really wasn't obvious on first examination: it looked, on paper, quite a bit like 3.X / PF. But under the hood, the differences are profound.

    Basically, beyond 5th level of spells, spellslots are extremely limited. Unless you are truly not making resting an issue at all and are always sending your PCs into every fight fully-rested, this limitation works well strategically and for a matter of game balance. Once the wizard has cast the three "big" spells, suddenly, being a Fighter with four attacks, every round forever, doesn't seem so bad.

    Start mixing in abilities that refresh on a short rest, which high-level spells never do, and actually give your players some short rests, and the results are even more dramatic. It's not that high-level casters are "nerfed": far from it. They can do some amazing things with those 6th-9th level spells. But they can't do it all day long, and that matters in 5E.
  • edited December 2018
    That's how it looks on the surface, but casting "the rogue/fighter/other PC should have stayed home and not got in my way" utility spells from your own spell slots is a mug's game, and 5e makes it so that any spellcaster can make scrolls for just a component cost (it used to be that only wizards got the scribe scroll feat for free). 5e is at least as bad as 3e in full-caster-supremacy, but at least hides it a little bit better.
  • edited December 2018
    Yes, the game is reasonably well-balanced if your only metric is "hit point ablation" and you always have 6 to 8 encounters a day.

    Change either of those assumptions*, of course, and the game isn't well-balanced. Like, at all. It isn't even remotely balanced outside of combat, for example. Spellcasters overwhelmingly dominate there, even at low levels.

    Of course, as @Hans_c-o alluded to, this is somewhat less of an issue in 5E than 3E/PF because 80% of all playable characters in the game are spellcasters, anyway. The Champion and Thief are mostly there for legacy reasons. It truly is The Spellcaster Edition.

    (*These assumptions, combined with the fact that the only pre-Unearthed Arcana way of gaining XP in the game is by killing things, leads me strongly to believe the default mode of play is rather combat-intensive dungeoncrawls. This is perhaps why 5E doesn't strike me as particularly well-balanced: I am not a fan of dungeoncrawls and rarely use them in my home games, so these assumptions won't bear out in our games.)
  • edited December 2018
    I agree, Trent, that 5e is best used as a combat intensive game with 6-8 encounters per day. That should be obvious! One Third of the core rules is just monsters to fight. It's how I plan to run 5e when I run it again.

    Although now I'll have to pay close attention to the spell scroll rules that Jason brought up. May have to houserule their excision, which fits pretty well with my setting-in-development anyway. (edit: looked them up, both in DMG and Xanathar's. Not seeing the same problem that Jason is. It still takes a lot of time to make a scroll of any value, so unless you give the players loads of downtime, it shouldn't be an issue. And per the DMG rules, the PC has to use up the relevant spell slot *every day* while they are working on the spell scroll. So you lose a slot every day and at the end of a month you have a one-time extra spell? That doesn't seem overly powered to me).

    I quite like that 5e is the Spellcaster edition. It solves a lot of problems pretty neatly. And I'm not even a big fan of spellcasting classes. I always want to play a Barbarian or Battlemaster Fighter.
  • I've discussed extensively the fact that the game doesn't function well when you remove the assumption of 6-8 encounters before a long rest. When that doesn't make sense fictionally, for instance during overland travel, you have to change the definition of long rest, or you will get a type of caster supremacy that is annoying at low to mid-levels, and absolutely bonkers at high levels.
  • It’s true that me and 5e love one another♥ It’s the game that keeps on giving♥♥♥

    Keeping track of food, water, ropes, light sources, etc., is all pointless, because running out of those things is actively hard to do, and the tracking is actively un-fun. (This is where I differ from Sandra, and possibly Adam [?].)

    To be clear I’ve done two things to make this a great part of the game.

    1. I nerfed the spells that give endless supplies of these things, such as goodberry and the “light” cantrip. I added mandatory material components to them.

    2. I made the tracking into a fun puzzle sub game that the players have come to enjoy as a constant source of prioritizing and making interesting choices. They really mourned their horse, mostly because they lost so many item slots. Same when a hench dies, they mourn the loss of her item slots much more than the additional firepower she brought. Item slots are one of their most precious resources. It’s also a pretty straight-forward subgame. If you pick up something and you don’t have slots, you erase something else. Just as in real life, if you want put something in your backpack and it’s full, you toss something out. The visual representation of putting things in this or that compartment or strapping it on etc makes it fun and maps well to their model of “realism” or w/e. We were talking about this sub-game just the other day, after using the same version (after a lot of false starts with crappy iterations of the inventory sheets with chains and shapes and such, now it’s all circles and all easy) since July 2018 and how, even though it’s something they spend a lot of time on, is something they really enjoy.

    They have definitely died from lack of rope, lack of bedroll, lack of food, lack of water etc at various points in time during our four-and-a-half years as a group. When Razira (an NPC hench) died they were like “OH SHIT WHO IS GONNA CARRY THE ROPE?!?!”

    I’m happy because that’s part of the sort of logistics game of OSR that I kinda envied when I was on the outside looking in, and it took a while to get there but wow did we get there.♥

    All the hacking and changing we do, or I do rather, usually fall into one of these categories:

    • adding things that put the DM-part of the game under more strict algorithms. Who do the monsters attack? When do monsters appear? Adding in the missing “half” of most 90s-style RPGs (where the players had plenty of rules but the DM half of it was just like “eh fudge around a bit so it looks real”). This includes “how many potions of healing are for sale in this town” rules from ACKS and similar.
    • making tools for things that were cumbersome in the orig (tracking inventory pound-by-pound including backpack capability). The “pounds, minutes and seconds” nature of 5e, as much as I’ve reverted it back to item slots and exploration “turns”, I’ll defend thusly: it makes it way more universal and easier to convert material from other games and editions. I can drop in a GURPS dungeon or a B/X dungeon or w/e, it’s great!!
    • clarifying things that were unclear
    • nerfing things that provided infinite resources at lower levels. at higher levels, or with fantastical items, they can have it. that’s what makes magic so magical, you’ve struggled to keep your head above water and now you can just use The Bread That Satisfies All Hunger™
    • making theatre-of-the-mind (which always worked, it just… um…) into a challenging and concrete game. With the strict design philosophy of staying away from representation and map-becoming-territory (‘a dungeon for ants’) in favor of keeping it “big”, a first person style game, taking cues from text games rather than top-down games.

    “How do these rooms connect?” I leave my chair and go up and point. Keeping it BIG.

    My love for 5e as we play it has remained constant since summer of 2014 when the Starter Set came out. It’s dynamite, we’ve stumbled on the perfect. However, our play has gradually diverged from the RAW and the more changes we make the less I can honestly defend the RAW.

    5e is like Emacs (a computer app from the seventies that I started using in, uh, I think 1999?). I love Emacs, always have. And my Emacs has slowly mutated and evolved as I keep scripting it and changing it. And my love for it is constant. But when I sit down to a fresh install without having my conf file at the ready I’m like “WTF?? Emacs sucks!!!!!”

    Same with 5e. Us playing the Starter Set when it came out was such an amazing experience and I loved it as it was in every way. So much better than anything I had played before (including D&D 4e, Labyrinth Lord, Fate and Apocalypse World). If I were to sit down with vanilla 5e now I’d be like… “wtf?”

    I do really enjoy it on the player side. I can make a character pretty much instantly w/o looking in books (as long as that character is a level one champion). It’s just that I’d have a hard time trusting the DM. Knowing that even Mearls and Crawford do things that in my game, with the rules I’ve set up for my own DMing in place, would be considered game-breaking cheating. (If you scale the encounters on the fly to match the party, you are taking their lives in your own hands. And then it becomes your fault if they die. I don’t want that. No offense to groups that groove on that style.)

    Listen, my review of 5e can be summarized in three sentences:

    1. It’s an ultra-flexible ball of mud, created to be all-things-to-all-people.
    2. That sucks because it’s really difficult to find a group that you can trust to play it how you want the game to be.
    3. That’s great because it’s really easy to find material, both 1st party and 3rd party and from other games, that you can put to awesome use.

    5e is open source. It’s very compatible with 0e, B/X/RC, 1e, 2e, 3e/PF1, OSR, and 5e material. I summarized WotC’s own conversion formulas in a few sentences and glued them to the inside of the screen. It has an awesome array of character classes and options compared to OSR games. (In LotFP: “I guess I’ll roll up a specialist. Again.”) Yes, it’s flawed, thehere is some bathwater to throw out but there are plenty of babies swimming around in that tub.

    (Uh, why do I only go on S-G when I’m completly manic & incomprehensible…)

  • I start thinking of Tolkien, or Game of Thrones, or other bits of media which I find enjoyable and exciting.
    I grew up on Chris Claremont's post-modern totally mindblowing take on fantasy. The Uncanny X-Men and its fantastic spin-offs.
    Can you imagine the characters in the photo, above, infiltrating the Red Wedding?
    No, but I can imagine them infiltrating the Hellfire Club or fighting their evil clones in another timeline or spending four years in hell to learn magic or losing their weather controlling powers and becoming a mohawk-wearing punk leather ninja girl or, or...

    Grognardia discussed this in some of his posts. How early D&D was the anything goes mashup of pulps. Clerics were added to the game to fight vampires. Because the dungeons had vampires. (As did Star Wars btw, they fight space dracula [even played by Christopher Lee] except his name isn't Count Dracula, it's Count Dooku] in the prequels. And in the new sequels they even go to a James Bond style space casino for a heist. I love it♥)

    How mid-D&D was D&D eating its own tail. Shannara, Krynn, Belgarion... coloring well within the lines of what D&D had already established.

    And how, by contrast, current D&D culture is FANTASY ON ACID. Rainbow unicorns, lumpy space princesses, vampire queens, bubblegum rock on plastic transistors…

    here is an excerpt from our latest session. (Ran and Drooma are PCs.)
    The tomb dwarves unleashed a FULL METAL FRANKENSTEIN and Drooma got another scar

    We found a ghost lantern possessing the soul of THE STARFALLEN


    In the tomb of MOA we found a PSYCHIC SKULL of a ten-year-old SUPER PRINCESS HEIR TO ALL OF OMU

    She had lost her memory and was panicked and afraid and so naturally RAN LET LOOSE THE FIRES OF HELL upon the poor child

    After Drooma fragmented the girl skull we found MOA'S STAFF!
    This is truly a golden age of story♥
  • That said, 5e being all things to all people you can easily scale it back to just the traditional 4×4 (fighter cleric wizard rogue × hobbit elf dwarve human) options.

    WotC even gives you a PDF version of the game that only has those things in it making it super easy for traditionalists to run a simple game or say "Basic only".

    I like the 3rd party "Dungeonesque" book that sticks to those things (it also adds half-elf), and explained more easily and succinctly.
  • I’m not gonna try to defend the Tyranny of Dragons duology or other railroaded bad adventure books. I advocate location-based DMing. Porte-Monstre-Trésor. Places, interactive dangers, rewards.

    Am I the only one missing the voice of @2097 defending D&D5 as the best RPG, providing some contrast and variety to this conversation?


    Judging from previous threads, she seems to have had quite a different experience with 5E than most posters here.

    Not sure that is a selling point for 5e. “We have this car model and 90% of people report deadly crashes with it.” “Pish-posh! 2097 made a new speed record in that very same model!”

    @Rafu: I enjoy @2097’s input on 5e, but her success with it seems an outlier involving brutal modifications to the rules, something I know all too well.

    Addressed in my posts above, where I wrote things to the extent of: Our modifications are indeed extreme but they have been gradual over 4 years of fantasy heartbreaker style houseruling. We loved it from day one and our game now is pretty different from then.

    @2097’s experiences lead me to believe she has players who are more willing to set aside mechanics to engage with the fiction.

    I have designed the game to foster that mentality. With a lot of care & effort & thought put into things such as IIEE, dice&clouds etc. The players didn’t start out that way. And, we’ve taken in new players and put them through the same journey.

    To put it bluntly, without fun toys for the players, the players will make their own fun. (That itself is an interesting concept: does creating mechanics that produce discrete effects by engaging the fiction reduce fictional engagement or enhance it?)

    Toys need to be designed with care and fictional engagement is the primary factor to keep in mind. I certainly have been frustrated playing OSR games where typically the DM loves that the classes are so stripped down while the players – or at least me – have been frustrated by that.

    This is why I kicked out the “Insight” skill rolls and stuff like that. That was a really early change.
    The “Split the tree” story here is also relevant.

    An abstraction is simplifying or…abstracting something to make it easier to work with. This actually has nothing to do with dissociation as it is used in D&D circles. A “dissociated” mechanic is one that doesn’t map to anything in the game world. Hit points map to “How hard is this person to kill?” Armor Class maps to “Having more defenses makes you harder to hit.” and experience points and levels map to increased “experience” doing things and the increasing ability that comes with it. Dissociated things are: Action points. Powers that can EACH be used only once before you need a five minute breather. Losing XP for resting might fall in here, I’m not sure because the whole category sortof annoys me.

    Great point.

    5e certainly does have plenty of AEDU things in it and yes those are weird. They’re a strike against the game in this sence. They have pros to them, in terms of mechanical interest, but “mechanical interest” is exactly what’s under fire in this convo so, yeah…

    I like the idea of having a thing that you can spend once in order to add extra effort to the roll. Inspiration serves as that thing. I really push myself to increase my chance to hit but I don’t have the energy to do that all the time.

    I guess some of the AEDU stuff could be described similarly. The fighters “Action Surge”, I can only give my all once. The second time I’m like “whaddaya mean give my all again, I already gave it? Let me rest.”

    Yeah, I guess that’s my lackluster defense of 5e’s AUDU elements. It’s all things that you do, in contrast to the “event”-style AEDU powers of PHB1-era 4e, such as the “Come And Get It” fighter power, where the Fighter player can make it so that the monsters all of a sudden decide to walk over to the fighter to get smacked. (That said, Clint Krause is right when he says that Damn Good D&D can be ran with any edition.)

    She also plays it in a pretty different way from most posters here.
    But it’s true that she sincerely likes the game
    and anyone who’s been around here for a while will know that I still don’t really understand why. =/
    1. After being really really frustrated & displeased with my old style of no-rule, no-myth, GM-fiat games I was slowly, over a decade (starting with Trail of Cthulhu in 2008), gradually discovering the joy of mechanics-with-consequences, and of pre-committed-world-details.

    2. At the time of 5e’s release I was running Fate in our home group and I was playing in several OSR campaigns. (The famous mirror story happened here, with LL-AEC rules, increasing my love for D&D.)

    3. I had a laundry list of complaints with Fate and with Labyrinth Lord. 5e coincidentally happened to adress every single one of them in a genius way. Such was the accident of history that caused me to latch on so tightly to 5e.

    4. A tightly designed story game – or for that matter, D&D 4e, or its polar opposite Apocalypse World – is like a diamond. It has a beautiful crystal structure; all of its parts are related in a uniform and elegant way. But if you try to extend this structure in any way - even by adding another diamond - you get an ugly kludge. D&D 5e, on the other hand, is like a ball of mud. You can add any amount of mud to it and it still looks like a ball of mud. That makes it a magical game and my very favorite game.

    I am in tears of joy for seeing my viewpoint so well remembered, represented & understood. I feel seen and validated. I appreciate it so much. #manic2097 #emo2097

  • I am in tears of joy for seeing my viewpoint so well remembered, represented & understood. I feel seen and validated. I appreciate it so much. #manic2097 #emo2097
    Welcome back, girl! As they say around my current haunts (Mastodon), "U R VALID"! <3
  • edited March 2019
    Only dropped by to make sure my house rules were up to date but ended up spending hours & hours :bawling:
    I was supposed to eat breakfast and it's… uh it's been seven hours?! Geez! Forums are dangerous for me!
  • PS I plagiarized a bit of that post from here. I know that the attributed guy Joel Moses has denied saying that so I didn't want to reattribute him but then I ended up just snarfing the phrasing straight up #noregrets
  • A tightly designed story game – or for that matter, D&D 4e, or its polar opposite Apocalypse World – is like a diamond.
    I've played both games extensively and don't agree with this assessment. Like, at all. Especially if we're including the DMG2. Double especially if we're including AW2E.
  • edited March 2019
    I meant specifically PHB1-era 4e.
    I know no-one likes Essentials — 4e fans find the classes anemic, 5e fans rather play 5e obv — but to me it was a brilliant design in decoupling & dissolving the diamond that had up until then been 4e.

    In 4e it's not easy to add classes or add stuff in general. It's so static that the practice of reskinning everything became embraced by the community by necessity.
    The Essentials classes with their radical new foci such as the stance+BAB-based slayer are inspired in that regard.

    (I know a lot of people don't find them fun to play but… as a designer I think they are brilliant. Maybe the failure is on the development end idk. Or I just have weird tastes.)
  • Hi @2097 , I think you misunderstood me. I wasn't disagreeing with your diamond analogy necessarily but with the notion that D&D 4E and AW are "polar opposites". I have found that to not be the case, especially when I'm running those games.

    As to the Slayer's stances vs the Weaponmaster's at-will powers, to me its not inspired its just sleight of hand. There's no fundamental difference between them either mechanically (with the notable exception of opportunity attack and charge shenanigans) nor in what actually happens in the fiction. Its just a way of rearranging the game's presentation to be more palatable to grognards (a lot of 5E's design is this way too, trying to deliberately "hide" its basis in 4E mechanics to be more appealing to the frothing masses).

    - Trent
  • Thank you for clarifying!
    Yeah, I totally misunderstood you in that case, I did think you meant the diamond analogy.
    OK, I'm not gonna argue strongly that 4e and AW are opposites. There is overlap between them beyond their crystalline structure.
    Its just a way of rearranging the game's presentation
    That is what's brilliant about it♥
    That's the sorta hacking & decoupling & refactoring that made the whole front rank / back rank system work for me even though I initially bounced off of The One Ring RPG.

    I mean, I thought it was absolutely awe-inspiring how the Adventure System games (Castle Ravenloft etc) only changed the name of a mechanic and managed to create a completely different feel.
  • Sandra,

    "A dungeon for ants" is one of my favourite things of all time. Thanks for that little gem! :)
  • It's from a documentary about the fashion industry called Zoolander
  • Oh I know! That's part of what makes it funny. :)
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