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5.5E Blast from the past


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Dausuul

Legend
A DM has to put work into learning how to present anything. So, this is hardly an argument against them.
All I know is that I've rarely seen a DM who couldn't present combat in a way that was at least moderately engaging. But I've rarely seen a DM who could present skill challenges as anything other than a mindless die-rolling exercise.

So I would prefer not to see skill challenges make a comeback unless the designers figure out how to provide "out of the box" functionality as good as that of the combat rules*.

*How they would do that, I have no idea. I suspect it would require a whole other rulebook and would not be practical for D&D. So, in practice, my position may be equivalent to "I don't want skill challenges to come back at all." Which works for me.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
All I know is that I've rarely seen a DM who couldn't present combat in a way that was at least moderately engaging. But I've rarely seen a DM who could present skill challenges as anything other than a mindless die-rolling exercise.

Because, personal experience is the limit to what happens?

The wonderful thing is, there' sis already an entire game that shows you how to do skill challenges well - it is Fate. The entire game (including combat) is basically skill challenges (with different die rolls).

You don't need a whole other rulebook to do decent skill challenges. They aren't that deep. The problem is that, in D&D, players are generally trained to think mechanics first, rather than fiction first. So, when we are told we are in a skill challenge, we think in terms of the mechanic, instead of what reasonable actions in the fiction might be helpful.

Try this - behind your GM screen, run a skill challenge, but DO NOT TELL THE PLAYERS that is what you are doing. Just ask what they are doing, and call for skill rolls when appropriate - when they either succeed or fail, narrate the results. Whammo, you have a decent skill challenge.
 
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AtomicPope

Adventurer
Skill challenges are best used to represent a series of skill checks where the narrative serves as the map. It removes the tedium of checking for traps every ten feet with your 10ft Pole™. The players are told their objective and then they decide what skills will best be served in achieving that. The DM sets the DC, monitors progress, and provides the story behind their success and failures along the way.

The D20 skill challenge comes from Star Wars Saga edition, and was later implemented in 4e. The skill challenges were broken down by tier and level, with the Average Tier sitting a few points lower for DC requirements. When you look at the highest tiers they seemed impossible. However, in Saga each of the heroic characters (aka PC classes) had access to Force Points which allowed them to add additional dice to rolls. These Force Points were limited by level and only replenished when you gained a level, or if you had a class feature that replenished them. They allowed PCs to strive for the impossible. It's best to keep this in mind when designing them, and letting the players know what they're doing and just how difficult it will be.

Sometimes I'll start a skill challenge with a montage scene where the PCs are scouting, planning, and gearing up for their mission. In my epic campaign the PCs had to sneak into an undead city to kill the Death Tyrant and then escape. Part of the planning montage was a trusted informant who gave them a secret way in. The skill challenge was broken up into several sections, each representing movement in and under the city. When they reached their location then it would default back to standard D&D. They could stealth, disguise, bribe, intimidate, climb, or do whatever best fit their character. The way I spice it up is I limit one skill use per challenge, and I have a Challenge Skill (or two) that must be used during every PC's turn. These Challenge Skills represent the theme of the challenge. For the undead city it was History and Religion. The DC is average (about 10-12), and represents the PCs awareness of their surroundings. Success means no penalties. Exceptional success means a +2 bonus on their next skill roll.

5e really needs a skill challenge system that's similar to Saga, not to mention an improved Inspiration that integrates with character classes, races, and even spells. It would be nice to add a little bit of spice to the game with Inspiration.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Blasts from the past worth resurrecting:

--- The 1e idea that with things like skill checks etc. one roll does for all and represents the best attempt you can muster over the time* you're taking to do it; you don't get to keep re-rolling until you succeed unless each time you're trying something materially different in the fiction. No take-10, no take-20. You roll what you roll - once - and if you blow it, you blow it: try something different.

* - which means when you've got lots of in-fiction time you-as-player need to declare how long you're willing to spend on the attempt before giving up.

--- Faster, shorter, more lethal combats a la 0e-1e; with the added lethality there as an encouragement to look at other options besides combat. This means generally fewer (much fewer!) hit points for monsters, more save-or-die effects, and so forth.

--- a return to death (without death saves) at -10 and possible unconsciousness between 0 and -9, a la 2e.

--- non-additive multiclassing where each class advances at its own rate, a la 2e.

--- the "bloodied" condition from 4e. (and while they're at it expand this to PCs as well; where becoming bloodied triggers some abilities while shutting down others)
 


Horwath

Hero
4E short rest of 5 mins. Might limit them to 2 or 3 per long rest

4E healing surges instead of HD healing. much simpler and reliable
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
--- Faster, shorter, more lethal combats a la 0e-1e; with the added lethality there as an encouragement to look at other options besides combat. This means generally fewer (much fewer!) hit points for monsters, more save-or-die effects, and so forth.

--- a return to death (without death saves) at -10 and possible unconsciousness between 0 and -9, a la 2e.
D&D is a game about monster combat. That's why an entire book is dedicated to presenting foes for characters to fight and 90% of a character sheet is statistics about how well the characters can fight. Thus options besides combat will always be much, much further down the list of things the PCs will choose to do than fighting stuff is. Combat will always be option #1, because that's how the game has been built.

And thus... any rules that kill or destroy characters really easily (and thus really often) are ultimately pointless. Because then D&D ultimately becomes the board game that it already has in its background-- you have your "playing piece" for a session, you lose the game, the "playing piece" goes away, and then next game you start with a new "playing piece". If this is actually what most players of D&D wanted, the game wouldn't have evolved away from that paradigm so quickly and easily and so continuously over the last 40 years, with new rules constantly being added so that your "playing piece" character doesn't die and reset each session and you can see it stick around a long, long time (perhaps even the entirety of a campaign.)

If people want to play D&D combat as a board game with no character memory and a reset of a new playing piece each game session... that's why WotC's tried to make the 'miniatures combat game' a thing in both 3E and 4E's eras. And in both cases they gained no traction in the marketplace. Because that is not actually what 99.99% of D&D players want.
 


thundershot

Explorer
Wow. A lot of you are brutal. I love 5E’s clean system. It’s not realistic, no, but it’s not like the old days when you were beat down and had to go home for a week to heal up while the DM restocked the dungeon. I don’t miss that, I don’t miss wizards being useless early on. The only things I WOULD bring back.,

2E Spells (spells since 2E, to me, have been boring)
2E Monsters (over the top abilities even on low level ones), ecologies
3E Progression (different classes get different proficiency bonuses)
4E Minions (I guess there’s no reason not to make them in 5E)
 

Dausuul

Legend
4E Minions (I guess there’s no reason not to make them in 5E)
Thanks, I forgot that one in my response! Yes, minions definitely should make a comeback in some form. They were awesome, especially when you cranked up their damage output.

The challenge of doing minions in 5E is that 5E has gone back to the old paradigm of D&D, which is that a monster's stats reflect actual discernible traits of the monster. That is, if an ogre has 1 hit point, it tells you something about that ogre--she's badly injured, or physically very frail, or something like that. This was not true in 4E, where a monster could have 1 hit point simply because its job in the adventure was to be an easily-slain mook. The same ogre could be a solo monster or a minion depending on when and where it was encountered. Trying to apply that model to 5E would provoke a lot of backlash.

But that doesn't mean 5E can't have minions; there just needs to be a different implementation. Back in the days of yore, 1E fighters had a special ability where they got a whole lot of extra attacks any time they were fighting very low-level foes. That would be the approach I would take--an optional rule where any damage dealt by a character of level X or more, to a monster of CR Y or less, reduces that monster to zero hit points automatically. Instead of modeling the monster's frailty, you are modeling the badassery of the PC.

It's a mechanical sleight of hand--the end result is the same--but I think it would be a lot more palatable to a lot more people. In fact, now I think about it, I may have to try this as a house rule next time I run a game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
D&D is a game about monster combat. That's why an entire book is dedicated to presenting foes for characters to fight and 90% of a character sheet is statistics about how well the characters can fight. [them]
Change the word "fight" to "interact with" above and you'd be correct.

The interaction doesn't have to be violent; yet more and more that has become the default at cost of the exploration (sneaking past) and social (bargain with) pillars. And at one time the game incented this by giving xp for bypassing foes without combat just as if you'd fought and killed them.
Thus options besides combat will always be much, much further down the list of things the PCs will choose to do than fighting stuff is. Combat will always be option #1, because that's how the game has been built.

And thus... any rules that kill or destroy characters really easily (and thus really often) are ultimately pointless. Because then D&D ultimately becomes the board game that it already has in its background-- you have your "playing piece" for a session, you lose the game, the "playing piece" goes away, and then next game you start with a new "playing piece". If this is actually what most players of D&D wanted, the game wouldn't have evolved away from that paradigm so quickly and easily and so continuously over the last 40 years, with new rules constantly being added so that your "playing piece" character doesn't die and reset each session and you can see it stick around a long, long time (perhaps even the entirety of a campaign.)
Define a long long time. My guess is your definition and mine will be out by a multiplier of about five. :)

And though you talk of playing pieces and board games as if to say lethality engenders such, I see it as just as unrealistically gamist when characters can put themselves in crazy-dangerous situations time and time again without any real worry about major or long-term consequences.

The way I see it, characters will quite realistically come and go - some last a long time, some don't last at all - but the party carries on; and that continuation of the party is more important.
If people want to play D&D combat as a board game with no character memory and a reset of a new playing piece each game session... that's why WotC's tried to make the 'miniatures combat game' a thing in both 3E and 4E's eras. And in both cases they gained no traction in the marketplace. Because that is not actually what 99.99% of D&D players want.
The minis game isn't really a comparable, in that there's no role-playing involved at all.
 

What I would like to see
Save or suck situations. Presently, a save at the end of a turn is really too forgiving. Maybe two saves in a row would be better.

A reduction on attunable items. Too many items require attunement.

A return to higher ability score requirement for multiclassing. It too easy to multiclass at the moment.

A return to non "useful" stat as requirement for some classes. This way, some multiclassung would be hard to achieve.

Too many charisma based casters to my taste. I would like to see the warlock cast spells with constitution but with a high charisma requirement. Same with the paladin. Cast with wisdom, but requires a high charisma. Make the bard require a high intelligence but still cast with charisma. And so on...

Some rule to prevent three or four dips in classes. Limit it to two classes for most races and give elves and half-elves the possibility to go with three is wizard is one of the classes.

There would be a lot more but the post would be a mile long...
 


delericho

Legend
Encumbrance.

Though, actually, I'm of the view that they should either beef it up or just eliminate it - I'm fairly relaxed about either. It's just the current halfway house that I find unsatisfactory.

(Much the same is true of alignment, except that with that one I think it is time to just get rid.)
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
The way I see it, characters will quite realistically come and go - some last a long time, some don't last at all - but the party carries on; and that continuation of the party is more important.
And while you are more than welcome to enjoy that type of play... history of how the game has evolved is quite telling in just how many other people share in that desire.

So while you may welcome / desire a return to 0E lethality... I suspect your expectations are not going to be met. :)
 

Faolyn

Hero
Scarier undead. Not necessarily level drain (because that's a pain in the behind bookkeeping wise), but something that makes them scary again. Same with medusa and other other creatures.
Perhaps they would impose a temporary (or even permanent, until healed with a restoration) -dX to certain die rolls. Which could stack; if you ever get to a -d20, you die. I don't think it should be to all die rolls, though, but anything based on one stat (including saves), which depends on the type of undead.

In Level Up, wraiths cause the victim to take a level of strife in addition to damage. For those who don't know, Exhaustion has been split into Fatigue (physical) and Strife (mental) and can only be removed when you rest at a haven. So that's automatically a bit scarier right there.

I don't think medusaa are that bad, though. Petrifaction is basically death, unless you have a 9th-level or higher party; I don't mind there being two saves to avoid it. Cockatrices could use some bolstering, though.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Some rule to prevent three or four dips in classes. Limit it to two classes for most races and give elves and half-elves the possibility to go with three is wizard is one of the classes.
Having all classes get their archetypes at 2nd level would help to prevent that. After all, the most common dips seem to be sorcerer and warlock, both of whom get archetypes at 1st level.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
And while you are more than welcome to enjoy that type of play... history of how the game has evolved is quite telling in just how many other people share in that desire.

So while you may welcome / desire a return to 0E lethality... I suspect your expectations are not going to be met. :)
Of course not. Most people want superhero power fantasy, which is what WotC D&D provides. Lowest common denominator and all that. When easily winning all the time loses its luster, people start using tons of house rules or move on. Either to other games or, if they're even aware of them, older editions of D&D or retroclones.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Of course not. Most people want superhero power fantasy, which is what WotC D&D provides. Lowest common denominator and all that. When easily winning all the time loses its luster, people start using tons of house rules or move on. Either to other games or, if they're even aware of them, older editions of D&D or retroclones.
Yep! And there's nothing wrong with that. :)
 

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