D&D 5E Attack of the Clones: What would you want in your not-quite-5e?

So I had already more-or-less decided, for reasons of a deteriorating opinion of Wizards of the Coast, combined with a general disappointment with the direction (or in some ways lack of a clear direction) of OneD&D, that I was basically in the market for a 5e clone more to my liking than WotC's upcoming official 5e clone (ie: OneD&D), and might even create my own personal cloned heartbreaker. The silver lining I saw in all this OGL related self-immolation of a brand was that with all the people turning away from official products and all the 3rd party publishers reevaluating their relationship with D&D, there was going to be a great blossoming of similar-to-5e games in the near future. The AMAZING PLATINUM LINING of the whole thing, from my perspective, is that today, presumably in hopes of mollifying the angry mob, WotC made the core rules (basically everything you find in the SRD excluding the specific races, classes, spells, monsters, backgrounds, and feats) available on a creative commons license. Anyone can use it, however they want, with the sole requirement being appropriate attribution.

Now while the value of that to most people who would want to use the OGL to make products for WotC's D&D is questionable, the value for people who just want to make their own damned version of sort-of-5e is incalculable. Sure they've mostly made available "rules content" that a would-be cloner could have arguably used anyway, but that cloner would have been working in fear of some unknowable threshold of similarity at which WotC might come calling and a court might come ruling in their favor (if our cloner somehow had the funds and gumption to fight it all the way to a ruling, likely with their product under injunction). Now that same, would-be cloner can just freely adopt the core mechanics of the system wholesale with no doubt.

This also means that other cloners can do the same (give or take whatever tweaks they actually want to make) and their products would thus (depending on how many such tweaks they make) be broadly compatible with each others products, as well as official D&D content of the 5e/OneD&D/Probably6e era. Heck the day is not far off that someone could reasonably be playing "5e" with classes, races, monsters, and spells each made by different publishers for separate or semi-separate 5e-derivative games (probably already possible, but a much easier thing to achieve in 6 months or a year I'm betting).

What's so great about the 5e core rules and why not just make up your own? Well, aside from the potential product intercompatibility mentioned above, some of us do actually kind of like them, practically everybody in the hobby already knows them, most seem to tolerate them, so many people came into the hobby in the 5e era that even if its not their favorite it'll always be a nostalgic touchstone for a lot of players, and they are a decent compromise between different playstyles.

So, preamble ambled through, the question I put to those of you who, like me, are excited by the inevitable coming waves and waves of clones, what would you actually want in a 5e clone? What would draw you to one over another? What original sins of 5e would you want solved? If you have your own possible clone project in mind, what's your pitch for it?

Personally I think my first priority, as the most easily achievable as well as something that fills an under-served niche, is a low magic, possibly humans only clone. Certainly such a project saves a lot of time on designing spells and races (and possibly monsters). Of course I'd have to come up with actual class mechanics ideas, rather then just giving everyone spells.
 

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Encounter based resource management and recovery. Across the board. Similar to ToB in 3.5 and SWSE's force powers and Starship maneuvers (and some talents).

Makes 'adventuring days' encounter neutral (it doesnt matter if it's 1 encounter, or 10).

That includes baking a mechanic into the game that makes HP auto recover to (half max) at the end of every encounter (and if you're reduced to 0 HP in that encounter but not killed, you get a minor death spiral effect that stacks).
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
And I already disagree....Thats the problem with the big tent game.

What I would want is just to fix obviously underpowered or overpowered options: Certain infamous feats, those spells no on ever takes, etc. Some help to the champion and monk. Get the monster math right for the core monsters. Maybe some optional options, like more interesting weapon properties. And thats it. Mostly want 5e for the 5e clone.
 

And I already disagree....Thats the problem with the big tent game.

What I would want is just to fix obviously underpowered or overpowered options: Certain infamous feats, those spells no on ever takes, etc. Some help to the champion and monk. Get the monster math right for the core monsters. Maybe some optional options, like more interesting weapon properties. And thats it. Mostly want 5e for the 5e clone.

For mine the biggest factor into class imbalance (and the biggest gripe about 5E) is the fact that classes are balanced around 6-8 encounters per long rest, with 2-3 short rests given over that time.

Many campaigns dont hit that mark, which then leads to GMs and players logging online to whinge about 'imbalance'. Other DMs dont want the hassle of constantly coming up with a contrivance to hit that 6-8 encounter mark.

This encounter and rest frequency was selected as the balance point (for better or for worse). If you deviate from that baseline, classes go out of whack. On adventuring days with 1-2 encounters, the Long Rest based classes can nova Long Rest based powers, spells and abilities (which are always stronger than abilities that come back on a short rest) with impunity, and they dominate to a level that Short rest-based classes (Fighters, Warlocks and Monks) cannot. Casters also have access to their entire suite of spells to pick from.

Encounters get destroyed, so the DM makes the textbook mistake of increasing encounter difficulty (instead of what he should be doing, which is adding more encounters per Long Rest). This then entrenches the problem further, turning encounters in rocket tag, and makes Nova strikes (and abusing the 5MWD) effectively mandatory. Meanwhile short rest based classes are left behind in the dust even more than they were to begin with.

The advantage of the system is it avoids the 'same-ness' that permeated 4E, and gives the DM control (he can increase or decrease the number of encounters per Long Rest to move the spotlight around).

The disadvantage is that it's a pain in the ass to manage as a DM, and many DMs either have difficulty enforcing it or avoid enforcing it becuase they dont understand it (leading to the several million threads on 'caster v martial' disparity, and people whining about 'sub-par' classes and 'encounters being smashed too easy')
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
For mine the biggest factor into class imbalance (and the biggest gripe about 5E) is the fact that classes are balanced around 6-8 encounters per long rest, with 2-3 short rests given over that time.

Many campaigns dont hit that mark, which then leads to GMs and players logging online to whinge about 'imbalance'. Other DMs dont want the hassle of constantly coming up with a contrivance to hit that 6-8 encounter mark.

This encounter and rest frequency was selected as the balance point (for better or for worse). If you deviate from that baseline, classes go out of whack. On adventuring days with 1-2 encounters, the Long Rest based classes can nova Long Rest based powers, spells and abilities (which are always stronger than abilities that come back on a short rest) with impunity, and they dominate to a level that Short rest-based classes (Fighters, Warlocks and Monks) cannot. Casters also have access to their entire suite of spells to pick from.

Encounters get destroyed, so the DM makes the textbook mistake of increasing encounter difficulty (instead of what he should be doing, which is adding more encounters per Long Rest). This then entrenches the problem further, turning encounters in rocket tag, and makes Nova strikes (and abusing the 5MWD) effectively mandatory. Meanwhile short rest based classes are left behind in the dust even more than they were to begin with.

The advantage of the system is it avoids the 'same-ness' that permeated 4E, and gives the DM control (he can increase or decrease the number of encounters per Long Rest to move the spotlight around).

The disadvantage is that it's a pain in the ass to manage as a DM, and many DMs either have difficulty enforcing it or avoid enforcing it becuase they dont understand it (leading to the several million threads on 'caster v martial' disparity, and people whining about 'sub-par' classes and 'encounters being smashed too easy')
Your not wrong.

There may be other solutions than encounter only balancing...making short rests easier, long rests harder, giving other boosts to short rest classes, and so on.

4E did have dailies and encounter powers for everyone, and this was less of a problem, but yes it could feel samey.

In any case these are core concerns, any cloner should keep them in mind.
 

There may be other solutions than encounter only balancing...making short rests easier, long rests harder, giving other boosts to short rest classes, and so on.

Those solutions already exist, (Gritty realism, Doom clocks, DM saying 'nope') but the problem not only exists, it's (far and away) the biggest gripe I see mentioned about 5E. Literally every post or thread about (class imbalance, martial caster disparity and encounters being curb stomped) comes down to this as the reason.

All PCs having a suite of abilities that come back 'at the end of the encounter' (casters get spells, martials get maneuvers etc) would be the way to fix it.

Then all you're left with is HP as the only Long rest based resource, so (acknowledging HP are at least partly resolve, will to live and luck) the game also has a rule that 'at the end of the encounter, all HP resets to half max if lower than this value' and you can balance the rest of the system accordingly.

The assumption being that, going into any encounter the PCs will have access to all abilities appropriate to their level, and will be on at least 50 percent of their max HP.

The only motivation left to abuse the 5MWD for the players is to reset HP to max (if lower) and lose any penalties they may have gotten for being dropped to 0 during an encounter (which is far less of an issue than it is at present, because the game math already assumes this as the default position).

You could counter that with a 'heroic perseverance' rule, that rewards the Players for 'how many encounters they overcome before long resting' (a special dice they get to use, or bonus XP or some kind of tangible reward that grows as they push on). It then becomes a risk v reward for them, and gives further motivation to be heroes, and not [rest, nova, fall back, rest] like schmucks.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
There are a lot of sacred cows and vestigial organs that are part of D&D 5e that could be excised while still feeling like D&D in play. A pretty clear example, IMHO, are attributes with derived modifiers. Instead of having a 16 stat, for example, just having +3 would reduce some of the fat on the spread er... character sheet.
 

Get the monster math right for the core monsters.
Something I'm looking forward to. As I heard people complaining yesterday about monsters not being in the portion of the SRD given to creative commons, my main thought was "well sure, but this means we can rebuild the non-WotC versions of the game with the core monsters actually well designed". I mean, no shade on the authors of the 5e Monster Manual, they produced an extra large book of content quickly for an edition nobody had much experience playing yet and that's a tough mission, but 5e has spent it's life with the bagage of some core monsters that are much less inspired than anyone with years of experience would design.
There are a lot of sacred cows and vestigial organs that are part of D&D 5e that could be excised while still feeling like D&D in play. A pretty clear example, IMHO, are attributes with derived modifiers. Instead of having a 16 stat, for example, just having +3 would reduce some of the fat on the spread er... character sheet.
I absolutely agree in principle. But the perhaps ironic downside of the SRD materials being made creative commons is that whereas otherwise, in making a D&D like game, anyone with anywhere near as much sense as nostalgia would banish the cumbersome 2 step stat derivation first thing as both a way to simplify and a way to distance their new game from WotC's copyright, being allowed to adopt the ability scores system whole cloth, and having a panoply of other would-be cloners have the same opportunity, puts the incentive much more towards keeping that hoary old existing 2-step system (based around sets of d6s half the people don't even roll anymore) as it seems key to compatibility. Ability scores are just so key to how the core rules interact with classes and monsters and how the game as a whole interacts with modules that if you want inter-compatible products its about the last thing to touch.

But I suppose even still there's little reason not to just go straight to the bonuses if you are using a different ASI system (or no ASI system) and if you are not rolling the stats. Even if you are using WotC monsters in your game, or something, only the ability bonuses actually matter.

If you are rolling stats, I'm sure there are simpler ways to roll a range of -4 to +4 (or whatever) than with 3 d6s, a 4th d6 that gets dropped, subtraction, rounding, and division, but I'm not sure any are so much simpler to be worth the trouble of breaking tradition.
 

I basically want 5e, but with more classes (similar to pathfinder 2e or dnd 4e), and some balancing/tweaks. More impactful backgrounds too.

And more options for martials.
Oh and more DM support rather than every book saying 'oh just make something up'
 

Greggy C

Adventurer
Damnit it man, we don't need another 5e.
I was so excited, I thought you were doing a star wars game set in the clone wars....
 


Corinnguard

Adventurer
See "Level Up" - that's pretty close to what I'd want from a not-5e.

However, I would be interested in a game that is definitively not D&D but is derived from the same base. And the wilder the better, probably.
I agree. Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition IMO is the next best thing to 5e. Like Pathfinder 1st edition, A5e tries to fix what wasn't working for the fans in 5e, keeps what was working for the fans, and introduces new material for us to happily try out.

I am glad that En Publishing has joined the ORC horde. ;)
 

See "Level Up" - that's pretty close to what I'd want from a not-5e.

However, I would be interested in a game that is definitively not D&D but is derived from the same base. And the wilder the better, probably.
I suppose it is time for me to give Level Up some more serious thought. I dismissed it as "something I'd never get my gaming groups to try without way too much work on my part" up until a couple weeks ago. But then WotC burned their brand down, and the calculus has changed.
 

aco175

Legend
Start with some things like spells and magic items. Is there a way to keep things easy and go with spell points instead of slots. Maybe break down a 4th level slot and be able to cast (4) 1st level spells again. Magic items feel a bit meh and have a system to be able to create items or add powers to something. Some of the 3e properties on weapons should be easy to install into 5e. I mean why cannot a thrown dagger automatically return to you?

Races and classes seem to be two camps of thought. Some like all the options and some want a more limited set of base things. I would want a base set of races and classes and each class has its own 'champion' option for those who socially play and do not want to spend that much time on creation. 4e was nice with the options at each level to make your fighter a bit different than "Bob 2" the fighter.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
See "Level Up" - that's pretty close to what I'd want from a not-5e.

However, I would be interested in a game that is definitively not D&D but is derived from the same base. And the wilder the better, probably.
Yeah I might do my space Fantasy concept as a CC powered clone rather than an OGL supplement. Why not?

Gonna have to sit with the CC mechanics as a kernel for a bit. I have a vague sense that 5e classes could be…smaller? Idk. Have 12 levels replicating the “sweet spot”?

What if HP and damage also fit within a “bounded” range?

Maybe PCs never become gods.

OTOH, maybe PCs eventually actually become gods.

I’d probably design any clone to do magic differently, with fairly robust improvised, ritual, and invented, spellcraft.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Personally I think my first priority, as the most easily achievable as well as something that fills an under-served niche, is a low magic, possibly humans only clone. Certainly such a project saves a lot of time on designing spells and races (and possibly monsters). Of course I'd have to come up with actual class mechanics ideas, rather then just giving everyone spells.
Absolutely agreed. Something like a 5E-based Iron Heroes would have my interest in a heartbeat.

The other thing I'd be really interested in would be eliminating the "cascading" of ability score mods, where you add (for instance) your Strength modifier to a bunch of other stuff like weapon damage rolls, Athletics checks, etc. This adds unnecessary complexity, limits character concepts, and sets up traps for novice players. I've experimented a bit with house-ruling the cascade out of 5E, but it affects too many things to do it cleanly. A 5E quasi-clone would be the perfect place to try this.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
what would you actually want in a 5e clone?
Two versions. The light and the heavy.

The light. Keep some of the 5E chassis but strip it down to 5-pages or less of actual rules. It would be fairly easy to do and you wouldn’t lose anything important.

The heavy. If they follow through with releasing SRDs of earlier editions I’d want a 4.5E, basically. Keep the core chassis of 5E but bring back the good stuff from 4E…which is literally everything except how combats actually ran. Balance, monster design, encounter design, monster design, rituals, roles, power sources, all of it.
 


Ayeffkay

Villager
I want systems that interact with each other. Everything is disconnected in 5e and while that makes it very approachable, it makes it so the rules don't really support much more than the basics.

  • "OK, your opponent is grappled. His movement speed is 0. But he wouldn't have moved anyway because then you would have gotten a free attack. So he attacks you. Which he would have done anyway. Next time maybe don't waste your turn grappling."
  • "The touch of the ghost ages you 10 years. You are now 10 years older." "What does that mean?" "Nothing."
  • "The octopus pulls you under the water and you can't breathe!" "How long do I have?" "3 minutes. And then 12 more seconds after that." "OK I kill the octopus in 18 seconds."
  • "There's a 15' pit ahead of you." "My strength is 16 so I jump over it."
  • "I stab the skeleton with my dagger." "He has no flesh or blood, that's not going to accomplish--" "I deal 8 damage." "--the skeleton dies."
  • "You're in a narrow hallway, you have to squeeze so you have disadvantage thrusting with your dagger." "You're in a narrow hallway, you have to squeeze so you have disadvantage swinging your massive halberd."
  • "Your airship crash lands in the middle of a huge, unexplored jungle. The canopy blocks any chance of navigating by the stars, and you didn't have much opportunity to orient yourself while you spun out of control. The journey is the adventure." "I'm a ranger. I navigate us out of the forest without ever touching a die, and I scavenge all the food for the party at the same time, and if somehow I can't find food for three days in a row I'll cast goodberry. Can you just quick summarize the journey and we get where we're going?" (OK, they tried to fix this one a little, eventually).
 

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