5E House ruling toward simplicity - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    I don't think reducing options such as races and classes really simplifies the game: it just reduces options. The complexity of the game (relatively speaking) comes from all the little things you have to remember during game play, and the granularity to what degree the rules mimic everything that happens in the narrative environment. The easiest way to simplify is probably just to become more comfortable with hand-waving, and thus giving trust to the DM to adjudicate.

    I've thought about this with regards to wanting to introduce my daughters (10 and a very young 14) to D&D. They love the Dungeon and Wrath of Ashardalon board games and I think would really love the more story-based approach of D&D, but neither are "nerdy" and the older one has some learning challenges and I think would get lost in all of the rules. So I'm thinking of how I can radically streamline the game so the focus is on the story itself and not the rules. Part of me thinks that a different game system would be better, yet on the other side I want to introduce them to the game I've loved for almost 40 years.

    Anyhow, I think in my case the hand-waving is not a problem. I can gradually introduce more complex elements as they come up, even over a period of months. But in a non-familial group, I think the key is in hand-waving those aspects of the game that effect everyone. Encumbrance, for instance. But you have to leave the basics of each class and race relatively intact. Or if you're teaching a group of younger players, try a "roll-out" approach. Start with the basics, get them into the story, and decide in the moment which rules to follow and which to gloss over. You can always add them in later, to bring more granularity to the game experience.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
    The near-healerless party I ran for absolutely disagrees. Healing surges enable additional play styles and unlocks forcing a player into a healing role if no one wants to play one.
    I played AD&D for years, and we never had a healer. You just don't end up getting in as many fights.

    The only time you might need healing surges is if you both 1) have no healer, and 2) are following a pre-written script with unavoidable encounters. Otherwise, you can make do with a combination of rest and healing potions.
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  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
    I played AD&D for years, and we never had a healer. You just don't end up getting in as many fights.
    I played AD&D 2nd without a healer - and it drastically changed game play. We would be holed up in caves for weeks trying to recover from a single encounter. 5e lets us play the same style of game regardless if we have a lot of healing or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
    The only time you might need healing surges is if you both 1) have no healer, and 2) are following a pre-written script with unavoidable encounters. Otherwise, you can make do with a combination of rest and healing potions.
    Since the point I was making is being able to play without a healer, then yes, that's the time it's most noticeable. Let's assume that among the hundreds of thousands of people playing, there are enough that that occurrence needs to be dealt with.

    I see you are basically replacing healing surges with healing potions. So you do see the need.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
    I played AD&D 2nd without a healer - and it drastically changed game play. We would be holed up in caves for weeks trying to recover from a single encounter. 5e lets us play the same style of game regardless if we have a lot of healing or not.
    Not quite. Fifth Edition (with all healing at default) lets you play a particular style of game, where you handle a particular amount of quantifiable opposition within a defined period of time. If you have more healing (twice as many healing surges, for example), then you can handle more than that. If you have less healing (no healing surges, for example), then you can handle less. Regardless of the setting, if you have more opposition than you have healing, you're going to be in trouble. If you have more healing than you need, then things are going to be slow and certain.

    There's nothing sacred about the default healing rules. In fact, many people consider them to be quite problematic, because it requires such a great amount of opposition within a small period of time before the game feels tense and exciting. Ideally, the DM should tailor the availability of free healing to suit the amount of opposition the party is likely to face (such that the game is fun and exciting); and if they're going so far as to do that, then zero healing surges is more streamlined than the default healing surges.
    Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
    Since the point I was making is being able to play without a healer, then yes, that's the time it's most noticeable. Let's assume that among the hundreds of thousands of people playing, there are enough that that occurrence needs to be dealt with.
    We're not talking about thousands of tables, though. We're talking about the few tables, where the DM is proactive enough to introduce significant house rules, and who think this is a good way of streamlining things. I'm confident that such a DM who meets these specific criteria is capable of handling the ramifications of that change.
    Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
    I see you are basically replacing healing surges with healing potions. So you do see the need.
    Healing basically does two things: 1) It lets you get back up to full after a fight, and 2) It helps to counteract bad luck that takes someone out of a fight regardless of your best precautions. Traditional healing (from a cleric) addresses both issues. Healing surges only address the first thing. (Cheap wands of Cure Light Wounds, from Pathfinder, also address the first thing; and thankfully are not an issue in 5E.) The occasional healing potion can address the second thing.

    Getting everyone back up to full, after every fight, is not necessarily a good thing from a game design standpoint. It works against the attrition model. It necessitates a bunch of filler combat in order to wear the PCs down before attrition can even begin to kick in. That's the benefit of removing healing surges (in addition to streamlining).

  5. #15
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    When the topic is "without a healer", you keep using "with a healer" as part of your arguments. We've gone back and forth a few times, I don't think it's worth it to continue.

    But you do have a good point - you're not looking for a way to simplify the game, you're looking for a way to simplify play for a table. At that point you can always customize for that table. Heck, you could simplify by eliminating all casting from the game and for the right table it will not make a change.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    Doesn't that rapidly overwhelm proficiency scaling/BA? (Or did I miss that being replaced with a similar level bonus?)
    Ah, yes. I neglected to mention that play is focused on levels 1-11, with a practical limit being more around level 7. Trained skill users in prime stats keep pace over this range, while others will slowly fall behind.

    I'm fine with this since I don't like to coddle higher-level characters (and their players). They have more class features, magic items, party synergies, player knowledge of the campaign and the world, and a host of other advantages over their lower-level brethren. A simple "I roll my skill at it!" may overcome challenges early in the campaign as everyone is learning the ropes, but gradually the training wheels come off and players need to put more effort in to succeed.

    On the other hand, with the way the campaign is structured, players are not obligated to choose quests and goals on par with their experience levels. They can opt for lower-level (easier, less dangerous) challenges that will bestow lesser rewards or risk higher-level quests for better loot and xp.

    At the same time, high-level content is rarer than lower-level content. There's always a goblin band to wipe out but there's only so many liches threatening the kingdom, to use an extreme example. This helps with verisimilitude in the campaign, which is nice, but it also has the benefit of motivating the players to seek out adventure worthy of their PCs' capabilities. That makes them active initiators of their own heroics, which is always to be encouraged, IMO.

  7. #17
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    Simplifying play at the table can be broken into two parts, players and DM. For the DM, I let the players role for more things. I have the casters role the saves for the monsters like in 4e days and the players role damage upon their character from the monsters. This frees me up and speeds up combat. For players, some may be fine with options and some may not. My group tends to play without feats and a lot of sub-classes, but one of the players tends to branch out a bit. It comes down to how much they want to spend time developing their PC.

    Some game stuff can be passed over and most of the time my group does not track things. Things like food and arrows can be skimmed over if not needed, along with encumbrance and components.

  8. #18
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    I think the most complex rules are the ones I see people screwing up constantly.

    1. When you cast a spell as a bonus action, you can't cast another spell on the same turn, unless it's a cantrip. I get the reason for this rule, but have yet to see a player who has access to bonus action spells NOT mess up and try to cast a regular spell on the same turn. Let's scrap this rule.

    2. Don't add ability modifier to damage with an off-hand weapon. Again, I get it, and that's kind of an elegant balancing mechanism. But holy @#$%! does this confuse people. Let's just not worry about it.

    3. Hit Dice: How do they work??? A lot of new players have trouble with this for some reason. Just when someone learns that "2d8+4" means "roll two 8-siders, add them, and add 4," along come Hit Dice. Now you have to roll 1d8+2, see if that heals you enough, and then decide whether to roll another 1d8+2. It's really not hard, but does it need to be that complicated?

    I'd much rather all characters have a "recovery pool" equal to their hit points. During a short rest, you can transfer points from the recovery pool to your hit points. (I think Iron Heroes had something like this?) It's mathematically similar to Hit Dice, but much easier. I think the only reason 5E has its wonky Hit Dice system is because the term "Hit Dice" is a sacred cow that needs to be in the game somewhere.

    4. Use Wisdom (Perception) in situation X but use Intelligence (Investigation) in situation Y. The only reason Intelligence (Investigation) exists is for low-Wis rogues to be able to find traps. Honestly, I really wish they had called it Intelligence (Searching) because then it'd be clearer when to use it.

    A lot of DMs solve this problem by developing a set of criteria and heuristics for when to roll one skill versus the other. I've found a simpler solution to be: Roll whichever skill you want, I don't care. Pick the one that makes your character look cooler, and let's get on with the game.

    Similar problems arise for Athletics vs. Acrobatics, Nature vs. Survival, Performance vs. musical instrument proficiency, etc., and I employ a similar solution.

    5. Readying: State your trigger, state your action, use your reaction, you can't take multiple attacks, you can't move plus attack... This doesn't match anyone's expectations. I introduced a pretty simple "pass" rule (that is similar to Savage Worlds' "on hold" mechanic): If it's your turn, and your not ready to go yet, we'll skip you and you can jump back in later. You can't interrupt another character's turn, though.

    With Readying, if you don't want to act, you still need to spend a lot of time thinking about what you want to do and what you are reacting to. We still use Ready for things like "If he attacks, I shoot him" or "If anyone comes into melee range, I hit them," because those reactions can happen during someone else's turn. But if a player just isn't sure what to do, instead of Readying or Dodging (which is often the same as losing a turn), people can just take their turn later.

    6. Disengage doesn't let you move. This is an odd one, but I've seen many players, both new and old, make this mistake. When you take the Disengage action, it doesn't give you any movement (that would be the Dash action). In fact, when you Disengage, literally nothing at all happens unless you also move using your movement. That's very counter-intuitive for people. They expect the act of disengaging to imply some movement as part of the action.

    I don't have any good solution to this one that doesn't trample all over Cunning Action. My preferred solution would be to roll the benefits of Disengage into the Dodge action; if you spend your turn defending, you don't suffer those Opportunity Attacks. This also reduces the number of different action types by 1. But it would be unbalanced to make Dodge an option for Cunning Action. Although, honestly, I've always felt that Cunning Action was really created just to paper over the fact that Hide is an action...

    7. Hide is an action; if you don't take it, everybody still knows where you are. This is another one that makes total sense to me from a game-balance perspective; hiding can be very powerful, and making it use up your action is a great way to balance it. (Plus, it lets rogues be extra cool because they can hide as a bonus action.)

    But, this is really not how players think about what's happening in the game. I've seen so many PCs shoot someone, then run around a corner and try to hide. I mean, they are totally out of sight, right? Even worse is when someone casts invisibility for the first time and then runs 30 feet and I have to explain to them that, no, they aren't hidden, and so even though they are invisible, everyone knows exactly where they are.

    I don't have a super great solution to this either, and considering how problematic Stealth has been over the years, I'm hesitant to propose one. I think the invisibility thing could be fixed with a change to the spell or to the condition (e.g. "While you are invisible, you can take the Hide action as a bonus action"). I'd also consider something like: you can hide as a bonus action, but at disadvantage. (Unless you're a rogue with Cunning Action.) None of this makes the game any simpler, though.

    Honestly, anyone who can come up with truly simple Stealth rules for D&D should win a Diana Jones Award for Lifetime Achievements in Gaming.

    8. Object interactions: what counts? how many? huh? During the playtest, instead of giving players one free "object interaction" each round, the DM could give players as many "incidental actions" each round as seemed appropriate. I wish this were still the rule, because it solves a lot of problems with weapon-switching. Can you stow a bow, draw a sword, ready a shield, and attack with your sword, all on the same round? Officially, no; you'd have to spend a turn switching weapons.

    That's boring to me, so I let players switch weapons for free. And I'm OK with a character picking up an object, opening a door, AND attacking someone on the same turn. This seems to me like one of those rare situations where "the DM just goes with whatever feels right" is actually the simpler rule.
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  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 77IM View Post
    I think the most complex rules are the ones I see people screwing up constantly.
    You know, while I could understand other having confusion on some of your points, we've never had an issue at our table with it. But I agree many of your points could be simplified or removed.

    1. It's right there in the PHB you can only cast a cantrip in the same turn when you cast a spell as a bonus spell. Now, I agree this is a bit stupid as a rule. Most cantrips have casting times of 1 action, same as most spells, so why limit it to cantrips only?

    2. Sure, it is for balance, but the balance is already worked into TWF because you have to spend your bonus action as well. You would be better off allowing the STR mod (or DEX) to damage, but have the second-hand attack made with disadvantage.

    3. We added stuff to make HD do more than just used in healing during a short rest, but then removed them as well. We also changed hp recovery so HD aren't even used anymore. They never had any bearing on the game other than what you rolled for hp, so why add an unnecessary mechanic for them.

    4. Our table sees Perception and Investigation as very different skills. If you are trying to find a particular merchant in a town, we would roll a Charisma (Investigation) check.

    5. We simplified Readying to Delaying, but it costs your reaction and you are limited to a single action (or one attack) or moving. We removed the need for a triggering event.

    6. Disengage is a bit strange since it does require some movement to be effective. However, as long as a player understands that there doesn't seem to be a problem.

    7. Hide is probably one of the most abused skills, along with Perception. I have to disagree with you on Invisibility, however. Why would everyone know where they are if they can't be seen? I understand they haven't taken the "Hide" action, but common sense has to step in at some point. If you want a simple rule, how about this: while you are invisible, you have a stealth DC of 10 + your stealth modifier. If anyone wants to try to "detect" you by sound, or footprints, etc., they can roll against that DC with disadvantage.

    8. Again, this is in the PHB that you are limited to interacting with one object on your turn. If you want to interact with a second object, you have to use the "Use an Object" action.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nevvur View Post
    Most 5e house rules I've seen add complexity to the system. However, I'm broadly interested to know what other DMs have done to simplify 5e. FWIW, I'm perfectly comfortable running it as is, just picking brains for material as I work on a side project. Some examples might be an even simpler initiative system, changes to the action economy (handling of action/bonus action/reaction), reduced character creation options, etc.
    Simplifying character creation and simplifying in-game rules are very different things.

    In 5e I have often simplified character creation because I have had beginners in every group, and didn't want to cause analysis-paralysis to delay the start of the game.

    I have used for example the following, tho not all in the same group:

    - pregenerated or partially pregen. PCs
    - ability scores array only
    - simplified races (i.e. less features)
    - human stats for all races
    - fixed prepared spells lists

    As for in-game rules instead I don't really house rule anything but I just avoid complicated situations in the first few sessions, or ignore some sets of rules. For example, I may have encounters in places where distances are close (to avoid worrying about ranges) and visibility is clear (no shadow or darkness) and I don't bring up the topic of cover until players do.
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