5E Observations and opinions after 8 levels and a dragon fight
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  1. #1

    Observations and opinions after 8 levels and a dragon fight

    Our group hit level 8. I'm playing a gnome wizard. We have a human fighter, human bard, elven cleric, and human paladin. We finished our first dragon fight in its lair.

    1. I no longer envy the fighter's damage dealing capability. The fighter is still a fighter. A very limited, specialized class that does damage. It's about all he does. In a low magic game like 5th edition, it's tough to be a fighter. No easy access to flight, protection from elements, movement enhancing powers, and the like. Totally reliant on casters that are highly limited. If they are not archery specialized, they suffer immensely against highly mobile creatures with reach and powerful attacks like breath weapons. They shine brightly when can hammer with action surge. But they are almost useless if they can't get into melee range. There are a lot of ways to stop them from doing so for enemy creatures.

    2. It's tough to be a caster. This concentration rule is highly limiting. It's very hard to buff people due to concentration. You are very limited in spell selection once you have a concentration spell up. No more casting protection from energy with fly and invisibility. You can cast fly. Then spend your time making sure you keep it up, so the martials have a chance to engage the flying dragon with reach. You really have to coordinate with other casters due to concentration. If the cleric wants to have an active bless, then he cannot cast a protection from energy. There is no mass protection from energy, so you have to worry about spreading out to avoid the breath weapon or AoE attacks. Fire Shield is almost a must have spell now as it is a protection from fire or cold damage without requiring concentration. You can't cast concentration attack spells like slow or hypnotic pattern without breaking concentration on bless or fly. It's extremely frustrating. That type of resource planning is going to take some getting used to before we execute it well.

    The short duration of spells also made us wary of casting them too soon. If the monster waited out the duration with the low number of spell slots and a lack of consumables, we end up screwed. But if we bunch together to prepare to cast, the monster hits us with its breath weapon or AoE attack on top of lair actions and legendary actions, we end up screwed. The lack of access to consumable items along with limited spell slots and the concentration mechanic leads to logistical nightmares if the DM has intelligent monsters wait until spells and spell slots expire.

    3. Dragons: It is nearly impossible to defeat an intelligently played dragon in 5E. As a DM you have to make them make stupid decisions so the party can kill them. If they fly around using lair actions waiting out spell durations and spell slot depletion as an intelligent dragon would do, you have no shot at beating them. They have an unlimited breath weapon that can keep recharging. You have no means of limiting the damage to an entire group and extremely limited means of mitigating the damage against even on member of your party. You are meat for their larders.

    Along with their lair and legendary actions, you can't compete with them unless they're dumb enough to go toe to toe with you or you lure them to a spot where you have the advantage. They can dish out a ton of aggregate damage that further drains resources you can't recover. They move faster than you even with a fly spell. They can't be stealthed up on. Their resources are unlimited versus your very limited resources.

    The only way to beat dragons is lucky crits, attacking one vastly weaker than your party, or the DM playing them poorly. The power gap between dragons and a party is vast now unless you have a powerful ranged attacker such as an archer or crossbow expert. A smart dragon would kill that person first and as fast as possible or leave until they can track that person and kill them.

    Dragons are vicious now.

    4. You need a healer. There's not getting around it. You need combat healing. Things hit hard. The damage adds up. An inability to heal in combat leads to major problems, especially when you get hit by hard AoE damage. Rough game that requires a good healer. You almost need a cleric or Lore Bard built for healing.

    5. Paladin is the best martial. A paladin's ability to defend himself and unleash burst damage comes in immensely handy when fighting things like dragons. Being able to unleash burst damage when the dragon gives you an opportunity to hit it is immensely helpful. Having better saves and the best self-heal ability is immensely helpful given all the different saves for main special attacks, legendary action attacks, and lair action attacks is extremely useful. Having immunity to the frightened condition is immensely helpful. The paladin is an amazing martial class with a high level of useful versatility.

    Rogues are nearly useless against creatures like dragons or with truesight or blindsight. Completely eliminates their powerful stealth abilities. A paladin doesn't need stealth to use their most powerful abilities.

    6. Bard is pretty amazing as well. Bardic inspiration and Cutting Words can be lifesavers. Their mix of offense and defense can be helpful. A lucky crit by the bard with a chromatic orb won the day. Our two martials and cleric were dead. My wizard had dropped from a lair action attack. The bard hucked that orb and rolled 20. It did the job. Though it wouldn't have been wounded enough if not for the paladin unleashing a bunch of smite damage on it. The fighter did a total of 12 points with an arrow. He was chewed up by the lair actions and breath weapon before could do much as was the cleric. Concentration made defensive casting impossible for the group. No way to buff everyone against the breath weapon damage.

    7. 5E legendary monsters are rough. If you play them intelligently, can really make life nightmarish for a group. They usually have a nice combination of offensive and defensive powers that create real problems for a party. If they go all offense, they can be easy to kill. If a DM uses their offensive and defensive capabilities to the fullest, the fights are rough. We haven't had a party decimated like this in ages. This was against a standard module designed encounter we're used to crushing. The dynamics of caster power have changed dramatically. Casters can't mitigate damage like they used to and they have to be very selective with their spells with the concentration mechanic. Healing is far less powerful than it used to be as well, though just as necessary as previous editions. All these factors making 5E very rough in combat.
    Last edited by Celtavian; Friday, 19th December, 2014 at 12:43 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Lama (Lvl 13)



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    I don't know if this was your intent, but you just totally sold me on 5E.
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  3. #3
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    "3. Dragons: It is nearly impossible to defeat an intelligently played dragon in 5E."

    That's a positive thing for me. That's what supposed to be.
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  4. #4
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    Great write up. Really love reading about 5E in play. Thanks :+1:

  5. #5
    The concentration mechanic is rough. The dragon's breath weapon hit us for 59 points. That is a concentration Con saving throw of 29. Even a caster with a good Con saving throw and 18 Con would have little chance of making that concentration check. At level 8 your Con save would be +7. You lost your concentration spell and are probably dead or nearly dead if you miss your save. Fly defeated. It's almost like to cast fly as a caster, then hide until the fighter engages. If the fighter engages, the legendary creature does such immense damage with his main attacks, legendary actions, and lair actions that you can't keep him alive.

    If a party wants to beat a dragon or similar creature against an DM that doesn't pull punches and plays the monster intelligently, expect a long, drawn out cat and mouse fight if you don't have a powerful ranged attacker like an archer. Archery is at an even greater premium now than any edition. Attacking from range with power for a martial is nearly a must at higher level. Melee martials are highly limited. It seems like the most ideal combination is be equally adept (or nearly so) at melee and ranged attacks. Focusing too strongly on one or the other can lead to an exploitable weakness that will cause you to die.

  6. #6
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    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)



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    We found Dragons fto be a walkover but we have 2 archers, a moon druid with the sentinel feat and the Rogue can switch to a bow and SA via the Druid.
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  7. #7
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    Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)

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    Funny that my level 3 group killed a CR 8 dragon in one round. We had a potion of fly and used it to draw his breath weapon and then charged it.

    The 50 HP crit smite from the paladin did change the outcome I guess. It wasn't legendary though
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mishihari Lord View Post
    I don't know if this was your intent, but you just totally sold me on 5E.
    Same here

  9. #9
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    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)



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    That encounter seems very well DMed. A creature with inherent flight and a no-ammo-limits ranged attack, using both to its advantage. Roman legions had a hard time fighting Parthian mounted archers, for similar reasons: mobility plus range.

    But the rogue, IMO, should not be trying to kill the dragon. The rogue should be stealing its treasure, while the others keep it busy. Every time the dragon uses delaying tactics, the rogue might remove one more load of loot from the lair. Then you withdraw. The dragon has to pursue you, or accept loss of its hoard, or think of some long-term or indirect strategy for revenge.

  10. #10
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    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)



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    I keep reading vastly different opinions on the system, some say the CR system is incredibly broken and a low level party can easily defeat powerful monsters, others say the opposite. Haven't run any combats at higher levels yet so not sure myself.

    Personally I am very glad that the layers upon layers of buffs are gone, that everybody isn't always flying, etc. D&D in 3e turned into Justice League rather than Lord of the Rings once you hit mid to high levels, which I just didn't care for at all. A dragon would almost never enter melee with a party until it had soaked them pretty heavy with breath attacks if it could help it, if it ever did enter melee. So I don't have a problem with that. Attacking a dragon where it gets to choose the battleground is a bad idea. Cool!

    It seems that 3e type tactics have to be thrown out the window in a lot of cases, which is great for me since I hated 3e. A fighter carrying a bow or crossbow is a great idea in any edition, more so in this one it seems.

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