D&D 5E Advanced D&D or "what to minimally fix in 5E?"

CapnZapp

Legend
For a while now I've been frustrated by the lack of a product that enhancens and deepens 5E without shooting off and making a new game. There's been quite a number of supposedly saviors of 5E that upon inspection (or right away) turns out to be something else than 5E. They change up the classes, or reduce them into class archetypes. They change up the abilities or reduce them into generic Physical, Mental and Spiritual stats. They add whole new subgames that "lets you play D&D in a new way".

Let's focus not on those other games and why or why not they fail to "fix 5E" (not necessarily by being bad but by becoming so much their own thing the product loses focus on fixing 5E and instead becomes a game of itself), and instead focus on what a product that actually stays 5E but-with-fixes could look like:

The main design criteria here is to not just add cool new stuff. The point of this product is for DMs to keep being able to say "I'm playing 5th Edition D&D!".

So the very first point is: this is not a new game. Don't dream about starting a new Paizo. Don't force the players to buy the stuff they already got. Assume EVERY customer already has the D&D books. This product is an add-on to D&D, not a replacement. If a rule stays unchanged, just assume everybody knows the rules of the PHB, DMG and MM, and don't reprint it.

Q. What things are weak in D&D 5E, and not just as a minor niggle, but sufficiently weak as to warrant a replacement subsystem?

Let's envision an "Advanced D&D" that supplements 5E. Everything not mentioned here remains working exactly as in vanilla 5E, and indeed isn't part of the product at all. It's quite okay to say "you need D&D to use this stuff".

---

* Charbuild depth and complexity. As a player I very much would welcome increased option depth. As a DM, however, I very much wouldn't.

Therefore, the aim should be to make the generation of player characters (but not NPCs or monsters) more intricate, without changing the end numbers (the things that the DM interact with). A player having to keep track of more things is okay. Having the DM have to keep track of more things, or change the way combat rounds are conducted, is not.

My simplest and most direct solution is to split the choice of subclass into two parts, so you choose one subclass at low level (that takes you into middle levels), and then choose a new subclass at middle levels (that takes you all the way to level 20).

Every class thus has two major (subclass-related) decision points: at level 3 and again at level 12.

The first "low" subclass contains nine levels - it starts at level 3 and ends at level 11.
The second "high" subclass (which I'm going to call "prestige class") also contains nine levels - it starts at level 12 and ends at level 20.

A major benefit is how this draws attention to the high levels. No longer can high level abilities be an afterthought. (WotC has far too long gotten away with exactly this!) Now every prestige class needs to justify its existence, not because you wanted something 7 levels earlier, but because the benefits are actually worth it.

Subclasses are still connected to a specific class for the most part (so they can build upon class-specific features), but it would be nice if at least one subclass per class is open to every character of the same category: arcane, divine and martial. That is, there is (at least) one fighter subclass a rogue or paladin could take, one rogue subclass a bard or fighter could take, and so on for "martial" characters. Then one wizard subclass a sorcerer or bard could take, and so on for "arcane" characters. You get the point. Note how bard is both martial and arcane, just like paladin is both divine and martial.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to divorce prestige classes from classes entirely: I can definitely see why a fighter-specific prestige class or warlock-specific prestige class could be a good thing. But again, there needs to be prestige classes that aren't class-specific, and also not even category-specific (arcane, divine, martial), meaning open to all characters.

The point here is: massively increased option space. Instead of making one (1) choice early in your career, you now get to make two, allowing you to reinvent your character halfway through the levels.

All classes choose subclass at the same level. None of this "you select subclass at level 1, I at level 2, and Bob at level 3" nonsense. The intermixing greatly increases the number of subclasses you can choose from. Instead of maybe four or five (and a few more years later thru splatbooks) you immediately have eight or ten or more to select from. Maybe three or four specific to your class, plus at least one more for every other class in the same category as yours.

Then there will be a wide selection of prestige classes at level 12. At least one per class, specific to your class. Maybe two or three more specific to your category. And perhaps four or five prestige classes open to everybody. So maybe eight choices (depending on your class).

Again, during charbuild it's okay to make involved choices. Just as long as the complexity isn't increased for the DM once game play starts. That is, asking the player to keep track of more things, and to give out bonuses in smaller steps, is okay.

Changing the way the game is played so it becomes more complicated is not. The game should remain 5E from the perspective of the DM.

---

* a complete restart on magic item pricing. Let's dump the rarity based pricing. The main advantage was always only how it meant WotC didn't have to put in the hard work. Magic items should be priced solely by how helpful the items are to the D&D adventurer. The aim should be to allow the DM to hand out a sack of gold to each player and be able to reasonably expect each player's choices to be roughly balanced.

---

Do an editing pass and remove each and every instance of an absolute ability, replacing them with something relative instead.

I'm taking about things where the rule tells the player something will or won't happen, without any provision for DM intervention.

For example, a feat that gives you "you can't be surprised" is utterly ruinous. A feat that grants +5 on relevant tests to avoid surprise, fine. A feat that basically tells the player "this feat shuts down the DM's ability to have certain things happen" is awful for the game.

So the rules need to be trawled for each and every instance of something absolutely happening (or not happening), with no uncertainty or die roll that allows the DM to tell a particular story, or set up a scene in a particular way. Powerful magic items can be guilty of this.

---
I understand the 5E developers wanted to simplify, deathly afraid of repeating the failure that was 4E. But with darkvision they went too far. It's far too easy for a 5E party to be all-darkvision already at level 1. And the "disadvantage on Perception" stuff is incredibly weak-sauce as a deterrent.

I firmly believe low-level adventurers should and need to fear the dark.

Much better to add back low-light vision to the game, and then make darkvision properly good (no Perception disadvantage). Only specific races/species should grant darkvision, so most parties will have at most one such party member.

---

Aaand that's it, really.

Sure I could mention things like redesigning spells and monsters, but it feels premature given how the 2024 edition is only months away.

Other bugbears of 5E is the selection of skills, where some skills are just plain useless and much less useful than others, but I'm less certain it's worth the bother coming up with a new set of skills, since it mainly makes the game incompatible with 5E materials. Skills and tool proficiencies are incredibly vague and confusing and should have been redesigned entirely.

Same with weapons and armors. There are a few weapons and armors that are just plain better than the others, which means that an already paltry selection is reduced even more. Basically, every character either has studded leather, breastplate or heavy plate.

Hand use is a carry over from previous editions and far too complicated for a game of 5E's user-friendliness.

But all of this is minor niggles in the grand scheme of things, not worth introducing differences compared to vanilla 5E for.

---

TL;DR: make a 5E supplement that rejigs classes, specifically adds cross-mixing of subclasses, and a medium-level second subclass (or prestige class) selection. Then adds proper magic item prices that are based on actual utility, nix absolute abilities, and replaces dark vision with low light vision for races that don't live underground.

Compared to many 5E fixing efforts I've seen (meaning "all of them") this is much more tightly focused on still being 5E. Not just as a marketing slogan, but actually being true. This doesn't spread out. This doesn't add things or replace what isn't broken. We're not publicizing an entirely new PHB. This doesn't lose the feeling of still playing D&D specifically and 5E even more specifically.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
Probably not going to happen is the real result.

Hypothetically I have been thinking about using 5E engine for an AD&D 3E (or basic) or 2.0 4E or 3.75.

Downside is you would have to write it.

Realistically it's using 5E engine, curated list of 3.5 spells and go from there depending on what you want to achieve.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Are you talking about a third party product to enhance 5e, or 5e 2024? If the later, that ship has sailed and these are not the kinds of fundamental changes that will be happening. If the former, OK I am listening.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
For a while now I've been frustrated by the lack of a product that enhancens and deepens 5E without shooting off and making a new game. There's been quite a number of supposedly saviors of 5E that upon inspection (or right away) turns out to be something else than 5E. They change up the classes, or reduce them into class archetypes. They change up the abilities or reduce them into generic Physical, Mental and Spiritual stats. They add whole new subgames that "lets you play D&D in a new way".

Let's focus not on those other games and why or why not they fail to "fix 5E" (not necessarily by being bad but by becoming so much their own thing the product loses focus on fixing 5E and instead becomes a game of itself), and instead focus on what a product that actually stays 5E but-with-fixes could look like:

The main design criteria here is to not just add cool new stuff. The point of this product is for DMs to keep being able to say "I'm playing 5th Edition D&D!".

So the very first point is: this is not a new game. Don't dream about starting a new Paizo. Don't force the players to buy the stuff they already got. Assume EVERY customer already has the D&D books. This product is an add-on to D&D, not a replacement. If a rule stays unchanged, just assume everybody knows the rules of the PHB, DMG and MM, and don't reprint it.

Q. What things are weak in D&D 5E, and not just as a minor niggle, but sufficiently weak as to warrant a replacement subsystem?

Let's envision an "Advanced D&D" that supplements 5E. Everything not mentioned here remains working exactly as in vanilla 5E, and indeed isn't part of the product at all. It's quite okay to say "you need D&D to use this stuff".

---

* Charbuild depth and complexity. As a player I very much would welcome increased option depth. As a DM, however, I very much wouldn't.

Therefore, the aim should be to make the generation of player characters (but not NPCs or monsters) more intricate, without changing the end numbers (the things that the DM interact with). A player having to keep track of more things is okay. Having the DM have to keep track of more things, or change the way combat rounds are conducted, is not.

My simplest and most direct solution is to split the choice of subclass into two parts, so you choose one subclass at low level (that takes you into middle levels), and then choose a new subclass at middle levels (that takes you all the way to level 20).

Every class thus has two major (subclass-related) decision points: at level 3 and again at level 12.

The first "low" subclass contains nine levels - it starts at level 3 and ends at level 11.
The second "high" subclass (which I'm going to call "prestige class") also contains nine levels - it starts at level 12 and ends at level 20.

A major benefit is how this draws attention to the high levels. No longer can high level abilities be an afterthought. (WotC has far too long gotten away with exactly this!) Now every prestige class needs to justify its existence, not because you wanted something 7 levels earlier, but because the benefits are actually worth it.

Subclasses are still connected to a specific class for the most part (so they can build upon class-specific features), but it would be nice if at least one subclass per class is open to every character of the same category: arcane, divine and martial. That is, there is (at least) one fighter subclass a rogue or paladin could take, one rogue subclass a bard or fighter could take, and so on for "martial" characters. Then one wizard subclass a sorcerer or bard could take, and so on for "arcane" characters. You get the point. Note how bard is both martial and arcane, just like paladin is both divine and martial.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to divorce prestige classes from classes entirely: I can definitely see why a fighter-specific prestige class or warlock-specific prestige class could be a good thing. But again, there needs to be prestige classes that aren't class-specific, and also not even category-specific (arcane, divine, martial), meaning open to all characters.

The point here is: massively increased option space. Instead of making one (1) choice early in your career, you now get to make two, allowing you to reinvent your character halfway through the levels.

All classes choose subclass at the same level. None of this "you select subclass at level 1, I at level 2, and Bob at level 3" nonsense. The intermixing greatly increases the number of subclasses you can choose from. Instead of maybe four or five (and a few more years later thru splatbooks) you immediately have eight or ten or more to select from. Maybe three or four specific to your class, plus at least one more for every other class in the same category as yours.

Then there will be a wide selection of prestige classes at level 12. At least one per class, specific to your class. Maybe two or three more specific to your category. And perhaps four or five prestige classes open to everybody. So maybe eight choices (depending on your class).

Again, during charbuild it's okay to make involved choices. Just as long as the complexity isn't increased for the DM once game play starts. That is, asking the player to keep track of more things, and to give out bonuses in smaller steps, is okay.

Changing the way the game is played so it becomes more complicated is not. The game should remain 5E from the perspective of the DM.

---

* a complete restart on magic item pricing. Let's dump the rarity based pricing. The main advantage was always only how it meant WotC didn't have to put in the hard work. Magic items should be priced solely by how helpful the items are to the D&D adventurer. The aim should be to allow the DM to hand out a sack of gold to each player and be able to reasonably expect each player's choices to be roughly balanced.

---

Do an editing pass and remove each and every instance of an absolute ability, replacing them with something relative instead.

I'm taking about things where the rule tells the player something will or won't happen, without any provision for DM intervention.

For example, a feat that gives you "you can't be surprised" is utterly ruinous. A feat that grants +5 on relevant tests to avoid surprise, fine. A feat that basically tells the player "this feat shuts down the DM's ability to have certain things happen" is awful for the game.

So the rules need to be trawled for each and every instance of something absolutely happening (or not happening), with no uncertainty or die roll that allows the DM to tell a particular story, or set up a scene in a particular way. Powerful magic items can be guilty of this.

---
I understand the 5E developers wanted to simplify, deathly afraid of repeating the failure that was 4E. But with darkvision they went too far. It's far too easy for a 5E party to be all-darkvision already at level 1. And the "disadvantage on Perception" stuff is incredibly weak-sauce as a deterrent.

I firmly believe low-level adventurers should and need to fear the dark.

Much better to add back low-light vision to the game, and then make darkvision properly good (no Perception disadvantage). Only specific races/species should grant darkvision, so most parties will have at most one such party member.

---

Aaand that's it, really.

Sure I could mention things like redesigning spells and monsters, but it feels premature given how the 2024 edition is only months away.

Other bugbears of 5E is the selection of skills, where some skills are just plain useless and much less useful than others, but I'm less certain it's worth the bother coming up with a new set of skills, since it mainly makes the game incompatible with 5E materials. Skills and tool proficiencies are incredibly vague and confusing and should have been redesigned entirely.

Same with weapons and armors. There are a few weapons and armors that are just plain better than the others, which means that an already paltry selection is reduced even more. Basically, every character either has studded leather, breastplate or heavy plate.

Hand use is a carry over from previous editions and far too complicated for a game of 5E's user-friendliness.

But all of this is minor niggles in the grand scheme of things, not worth introducing differences compared to vanilla 5E for.

---

TL;DR: make a 5E supplement that rejigs classes, specifically adds cross-mixing of subclasses, and a medium-level second subclass (or prestige class) selection. Then adds proper magic item prices that are based on actual utility, nix absolute abilities, and replaces dark vision with low light vision for races that don't live underground.

Compared to many 5E fixing efforts I've seen (meaning "all of them") this is much more tightly focused on still being 5E. Not just as a marketing slogan, but actually being true. This doesn't spread out. This doesn't add things or replace what isn't broken. We're not publicizing an entirely new PHB. This doesn't lose the feeling of still playing D&D specifically and 5E even more specifically.
I don't see how this is all that different, or more 5e, than what Level Up did. In fact, I'd love to see these ideas in a 3pp product for Level Up.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Are you talking about a third party product to enhance 5e, or 5e 2024? If the later, that ship has sailed and these are not the kinds of fundamental changes that will be happening. If the former, OK I am listening.
I don't see this as an appeal to WotC of any kind. Am I right about that @CapnZapp ?
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Not that familiar with level up advanced 5E, does it do the things you are looking for OP?
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
Like most things, the solution is a big book with hundreds of feats in it.

You can use the feats to rewrite the game like we're actually trying to do on a per-character level.

That way you can honestly say you haven't touched the core game while actually applying the deep, systematic fixes people basically want to apply to 5e but don't want to get accused of not playing 5e over.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Absolutely no magic item pricing. It was taken out on purpose so that magic items are never a commodity. Every single magic item price should be based on what that DM feels is an appropriate opportunity cost for not spending that wealth in other ways. Which is both completely dependent on gold given, and ways given to spend it at that table. People complain about the CR system, a magic item pricing guide cannot help but be less accurate.

For example, if there's no meaningful way to spend it, then it has no opportunity cost spending for magic items and shouldn't be able to buy anything because it has no actual value.
 
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