5E 5 year AAR/Lessons learned

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I work in project management as my day job, so we are constantly doing after action reviews (AAR) and lessons learned meetings. Well, it's been 5 years now since the core rulebooks were released. We've had 5 years to really evaluate and soak in how it all went. And we've had years of discussion good things and bad things. Based on the other thread about 6e coming out, I was thinking what lessons learned we'd pull from 5e to apply to 6e.

So....after having all this time to process and look at things more objectively, what would be your big items? Things that had a significant impact, good and bad?

Me:

What went well, and are "must repeats":
public playtest
marketing strategy
diversity in artwork
design philosophy (each game table can adjust rules to fit their table, no numbers bloat, not rewarding system mastery, playable in TotM)
Support via DM's Guild

What were hurdles and are "must avoids":
Quality of books (the PHB quality was bad. Almost on the level of 1e UA)
Reduce ambiguity (including not making promises you know are out of scope. I.e. modularity)
Have digital package almost immediately (like what D&D Beyond is)
Ability score balancing. I.e., avoid having INT as a dump stat for all non casters because there are hardly any INT skill checks or saving throws in the game by making INT have a greater impact in the game (like more saving throws that rely on INT)


What are "wish list" items (nice to have, but might not be in scope)
backwards compatible
rethink sacred cows:
  • classes. take an extensive poll of what players want to see, which may mean a sacred cow gets left out (if you only have 12 slots for classes in the PHB, maybe warlord replaces ranger)
  • races. same as classes
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I'd like to unpack "marketing strategy". There are a number of things I think went well that I would put under that but also under other categories.

1. Friendly to new players
a. Free basic play rules.
b. Starter boxes with everything you need for a group to play.
c. Organized play to get a chance to play without needing to "find a group".
d. Mandatory Rules (d20+mod >= target, HPs, etc,) kept low volume and low complexity. Can start simple then grow over time.

2. Slow release schedule - members of the hobby anxiously awaiting any new crunch so all sells well and keeps up sales numbers (unlike the "book of the the month" from 3.x and 4e.)

3. OGL to have other companies make products that sell D&D core books.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Alot of optional rules are not that good. Certain feats, flanking.

Encounter rules and CR are wonky.

Some classes are flawed (Rangers).
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Diversity of Saving Throws, not having 3 primary and 3 secondary. By having a fairly even spread of saving throws, every character will have a weakness of some kind.

Either remove +Con HP per level or alter the modifier to be more spread out (BECMI). You will never see a character with a 11 Con or lower, unless the player plans on getting the character killed. Most will have a 14, and it makes too many characters the same.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
14 cons kind if default, 12 if it's a weaker PC, 11 or lower beats me why. Side effect of the concentration rules or inflated damage from 5E monsters.

Cons so important.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Just a reminder, AARs aren’t just things you didn’t like. It’s those key points you want to correct or keep doing, and things that drove the process. And not so much personal opinions on preference, but how did the project measure up to the goals, and how did the audience react as a whole
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
I would add that keep up the diversity and quality of the artwork. And especially that they keep using a consistent style.

Make sure digital alternatives like D&D Beyond is availible from the start.

Things to change: Make the rules for spell-slots much clearer. I would of course prefer if they skipped the pseudo-Vancian system altogether. What I did like though was that you could keep casting cantrips even when you had used your spell-slots. That way someone who relied on magic was still useful..
 
We don't really have enough information to do an AAR, do we? At least one that isn't just reiteration of our preferences and peeves. We don't have detailed sales data or player data. We dont have inside information regarding design methodologies versus cost analysis. All we can really say is if we prefer recent offerings compared to earlier ones and whether our player networks seem strong or better than 5 years ago.

One thing I am curious about is how the partnerships are turning out for WotC on a profitability basis. From Roll20 to Fantasy Ground, DnD Beyond and Beatle and Grimm, there are a LOT of contractors either producing thing for 5e or selling it in different formats. I wonder if WotC or Hasbro is looking at purchasing some of these partners, especially DnD Beyond or Roll20, given that they do much of the work that WotC hoped to do itself during 4E.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I wonder if WotC or Hasbro is looking at purchasing some of these partners, especially DnD Beyond or Roll20, given that they do much of the work that WotC hoped to do itself during 4E.
If they did an AAR for 4E, one of their lessons learned should have been "We're not good at making electronic tools." Their strategy for 5E suggests they did learn this lesson - or they just didn't have the budget for it, but it turned out the same. Keeping a certain distance from the companies making e-tools allowed WotC to cut Trapdoor Technologies loose (remember them?) when they failed to deliver, which in turn gave Curse a chance to build out their own offering.

As a matter of fact, I don't think "Have digital package ready almost immediately" is a good lesson to take out of 5E. It took D&D Beyond a long time to ramp up to its present level of quality. In fact, they are still ramping up - there are a whole lot of features that remain under development. And they rely heavily on user feedback to guide that development. I can't imagine anything like DDB being ready on day one, and I think they benefited a lot from not racing to meet such a deadline. The lesson I would take out of 5E is "Don't count on having the digital package ready immediately."
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Good things learned

Online presence in vital. Streams, twitch, YouTube play and discussion and teasers are play a critical role in exposing to new players.
Agree with accessibility points above - simple intuitive core mechanic seen often in play, organized play at FLGS etc.

Need to fo better - mixed bag

Full pillar sub-systems
Three pillars - action (combat), Social, and Mystery (exploration, discovery, knowledge)

You have combat sub-syetrm in PHB now.
You have social sub-system in DMG now.
Both of these are versatile and malleable to many different cases, require a number of choices, invoke a variety or traits and features with different paths to success. It's not "one roll to succeed" but rather accumulations of gains towards end.
Provide a sub-system for mystery - research, exploration etc - modelled after the social one
Present all three in the PHB - expanded in DMG.






Vision and light need to be called in with stealth and perception and investigation etc into a broader but simplified "gm assigns" category. Like stealth, dont go for precise case-by-case specificity (outdoors most moonless nights - blinded) but for some basic decision of scene by the GM- this is obvious, this is in obvious, this is hidden and then the use of actions, interactions and features to change things.
Obvious - will be noticed without roll
Inobvious - may be noticed but not certain.
Hidden- actively concealed- effort etc required to expose.

Ability scores - to address the "scores balanced" issue maybe divide the abilities into three active and three passive ones. The three active ones are used to run the more active skills and abilities. The three passives are the most common for saves and for some passive checks. Having one stat like dex that is a key save, lots of common skills, initiative and AC passives, and combat attack, damage, ranged all in one is a bit impossible to match when placed alongside INT. Let each class favor one active and one passive. (Warning this may lean into renaming the classic six.)



Bad - needs rework - subjective design preference
Ditch or wrap the short vs long rest class variance in favor of an expanded resource "recovery". Personally, I would use HD as the slow-to-recover "adventure clock" and have features that are currently "short rest" be spending those. This moves that major balance issue back to player choice and not in " gm says when" rests. I would design a "spend HD feature" into every class, sub-class and race as well as several "any character csn" soends. Recovery slow, maybe like your con modifier per day (min 1)
 
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jayoungr

Explorer
rethink sacred cows:
  • classes. take an extensive poll of what players want to see, which may mean a sacred cow gets left out (if you only have 12 slots for classes in the PHB, maybe warlord replaces ranger)
  • races. same as classes
Was this not done? I have a hard time believing they collected no feedback on classes or races during the playtest.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Was this not done? I have a hard time believing they collected no feedback on classes or races during the playtest.
This is an after action review. I'd be willing to bet survey results from during the playtest will have changed after players got experience playing the official classes firsthand. Particularly the ranger and sorcerer classes, based on reactions I've seen since the PHB was released.
 

aco175

Explorer
I think they could have done feats better. They were so neat and cool in 3e when they were first introduced. It made each PC different that the others in the same class. 5e seems to have only a few that are worth taking and suddenly a a PC is dealing 50 points of damage at 3rd level. I still do not have the cool feel from them.

I agree with the starter set and how good is was to introduce the new edition. I like that another box is out that ties in with this one. Same thing with DMsGuild. Allowing the use of all that IP to use for other adventures and supplements gives the players a bit of investment in the game as a whole.

I would normally say that I want to see more smaller modules and at a cheaper pricepoint, but it appears that the money they are making makes this the wrong idea for what they are doing.
 
Was this not done? I have a hard time believing they collected no feedback on classes or races during the playtest.
There were /extensive/ surveys throughout the Next playtest.
The first one, in a question about "which spells do you feel are iconic" included a handful of spells from 4e, like Healing Word. Those spells are in 5e. Other things that made it in were on those polls. Things notably absent you still here folks nagging about - Warlord, Psionics, Artificer - were also notably absent from the Playtest poll questions, in the first place. I suspect they only wanted to tackle so much for the PH.
 

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