D&D 5E Common mistakes I keep making

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
You can imagine it however you like, naturally, but a fireball spell isn't an explosion. It wouldn't do anything to a wall (other than set it on fire). It has no force. It's just a spontaneously generating burst of flame, not a compressed explosion.
That's the way I see it too - a burst of scalding flame, not a proper "bomb".
 

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Absolutely. It should be something basic like a coin flip...11+/d20 and they survive. Or any dice you have. Evens, odds. High, low. Whatever. Don’t even need hit points. 4E minions with one hit kills. If you think you have too many zombies, double ’em. Then double ’em again.
Yup.
Just make it a death save!
 


You can imagine it however you like, naturally, but a fireball spell isn't an explosion. It wouldn't do anything to a wall (other than set it on fire). It has no force. It's just a spontaneously generating burst of flame, not a compressed explosion.
Well OK then. My example is "Shot Down In Flames" pun intended. Think I'll listen to that song.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Unless a spell specifically says it doesn’t require line of sight then it does. It’s detailed in the magic chapter. A Clear Path to the Target, PHB p204.
Right - but how do you know whether a spell specifically states it without looking it up? And do we want to look it up every time? That was the problem I was facing ... I didn't want to disrupt the gameplay by looking up whether the spell required sight, but I was misremembering ... so I started to make a list of spells that didn't require it, then realized I also needed to track the ones that did if I wanted to avoid looking them up.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
Right - but how do you know whether a spell specifically states it without looking it up? And do we want to look it up every time? That was the problem I was facing ... I didn't want to disrupt the gameplay by looking up whether the spell required sight, but I was misremembering ... so I started to make a list of spells that didn't require it, then realized I also needed to track the ones that did if I wanted to avoid looking them up.
The players should be responsible for knowing how their spells work. If they're not in your game, they should be. If they don't know, skip them until they can find it and move on to the next player. When it comes to NPC and monsters...the NPCs and monsters don't have to follow the same rules as the player characters. You're the DM. Make it up. Simply decide and keep the game moving. For ease of use, default to one or the other. They're NPCs and monsters. Either they're generally cooler than PCs (default to no need for line of sight) or they're generally less cool than the PCs (default to always need line of sight). Done. As these are not powers and spells available to the PCs, you don't have to worry about balancing them against the PCs' powers and spells.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Remembering my battleplan! With every encounter I have a generalized plan creatures will take. Most creatures only need a vague plan, usually involving when to flee, but some need more. Leadership creatures usually need a 2-3 round layout. Casters potentially require up to 5 rounds, depending on how powerful they are. The problem is that occasionally I'll forget something in the heat of battle that skews it for the players, sometimes drastically so (forgetting about Counterspell can end an encounter).
I do this all the time. Once I forgot that a boss was legendary because I was using a laptop to look at their stats and hadn't scrolled down far enough. Really changed the battle.
 

Kannik

Adventurer
After DMing 1E through 5E I honestly forget which edition we're playing sometimes.
So glad I'm not the only one. :p

I'm usually pretty good with class abilities and the core rule concepts, but when it comes to magic items, monsters, and sometimes spells the multitude of editions bouncing around in my head can make it quite confusing and amusing. "... but check that, I might be quoting an earlier edition," is disclaimer I've learned to constantly use.

(Though one thing I seem to never learn is the current name for particular skills! :) )
 


So glad I'm not the only one. :p

I'm usually pretty good with class abilities and the core rule concepts, but when it comes to magic items, monsters, and sometimes spells the multitude of editions bouncing around in my head can make it quite confusing and amusing. "... but check that, I might be quoting an earlier edition," is disclaimer I've learned to constantly use.

(Though one thing I seem to never learn is the current name for particular skills! :) )
The majority of my current players started with 5E so its funny when I ask them for a Reflex saving throw then rthey spend 3 minutes trying to find it on their PC sheet, then I realize I a Dex save.
 

jgsugden

Legend
The players should be responsible for knowing how their spells work. If they're not in your game, they should be. If they don't know, skip them until they can find it and move on to the next player.
In my very broad experience both as a DM and as a player amongst other players, there are a lot of players that are not this prepared, and the approach you advocate is disruptive to the story and targets that player in a way that is not fun for them.
When it comes to NPC and monsters...the NPCs and monsters don't have to follow the same rules as the player characters. You're the DM. Make it up. Simply decide and keep the game moving. For ease of use, default to one or the other. They're NPCs and monsters. Either they're generally cooler than PCs (default to no need for line of sight) or they're generally less cool than the PCs (default to always need line of sight). Done. As these are not powers and spells available to the PCs, you don't have to worry about balancing them against the PCs' powers and spells.
...Except when the monsters use spells from the PHB. This approach can be acceptable, but players can feel adverse when they know you fudged.

This is not the biggest deal, but it is something that has had impacts for my groups and it is a common mistake I've made. It is kind of weird for you to be telling me I'm doing my mistakes wrong.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
In my very broad experience both as a DM and as a player amongst other players, there are a lot of players that are not this prepared, and the approach you advocate is disruptive to the story and targets that player in a way that is not fun for them.
It’s a group activity. If one player being unprepared slows things down for the rest of the group, that’s not fun for the whole group. Pointing out that one player is causing the group to have less fun is meant to motivate them to be more prepared. If they refuse to be sufficiently prepared they should play a non-caster. The fun of one player is not more important than the fun of the whole group.
....Except when the monsters use spells from the PHB. This approach can be acceptable, but players can feel adverse when they know you fudged.
Explain it’s done in the hope of speeding things up rather than screwing them over. And when it results in you nerfing some spells they will realize you’re telling the truth.
This is not the biggest deal, but it is something that has had impacts for my groups and it is a common mistake I've made. It is kind of weird for you to be telling me I'm doing my mistakes wrong.
You do you. It’s your game. I’m just saying you don’t need to sweat the minor details. Having to make a spreadsheet to track line-of-sight on hundreds of spells seems like sweating the details.

From as far back as OD&D in 1974, “These rules are as complete as possible within the limitations imposed by the space of three booklets. That is, they cover the major aspects of fantasy campaigns but still remain flexible. As with any other set of miniatures rules they are guidelines to follow in designing your own fantastic-medieval campaign.”

To fanzines in 1978, John T. Sapienza: “Gamer’s First Law: if a rule is silly, change it or ignore it—just so long as everyone knows that’s what your preference is ahead of time.”

Up to the most recent edition of D&D, “as a referee, the DM interprets the rules and decides when to abide by them and when to change them.”

No referee is beholden to pure RAW no matter what. If that’s your choice, knock yourself out. But it’s a self-inflicted wound.
 
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Larnievc

Adventurer
I've been playing and DMing since the 80s. I've been DMing and playing 5e for a number of years now. I have read the 5e core books cover to cover. I have authored published D&D (OGL) material. I am more than a year into my latest 5e weekly campaign as a DM.

There are 5e mistakes I find myself making again and again.

I realized after my last game session that I keep taking zombies off the combat tracker in fantasy grounds immediately after they go down. I do this with most monsters when they die to keep things less cluttered and distracting and to make things more manageable, but with zombies this means one of their 5e signature features, saving to pop back up the round after dying, does not come into play. I kept forgetting this zombie power in the moment in face to face games as well. Zombies showed up a bunch when running the gothic horror Carrion Crown adventure path converted to 5e, including an add on zombie apocalypse scenario adventure. I have yet to remember to check whether a 5e zombie pops up.

Multiattack. I keep forgetting to look and see if there is a separate entry in actions for multiattack. Thugs having half their normal attacks are about half the mechanical threat they normally would be.

What the warforged PC is and is not immune/resistant to. Ghoul paralysis works on robots? They are half damage resistant not immune to poison?

Most of this works fine in the moment and is mostly invisible to the PC side, but I see it and missed opportunities on cool things like evocative monster mechanics is a bit disappointing.

As a player, my last wizard PC I kept forgetting I had shield. A great reaction spell to block a hit, if you remember to use it.

Any small things that seem to keep tripping you up?
I'm lucky. Any mistake I make was totally planned in advance.
 

Lidgar

Legend
One thing I forget oh, 50% of the time, is concentration checks. I don't know what it is about this mechanism, and I know I'm not the only one.
Yes, concentration is a pain to track, for players and DM. I hope 5.5e (or whatever its called) does something mechanically different to do away with it, but I doubt it.

I also do not like tracking attunement to magical items. I get the intention, but again its too easy to forget, let alone having to look up which items require it.
 

South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
I'm lucky. Any mistake I make was totally planned in advance.
gimli-the-lord-of-the-rings.gif
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I only do the first part. I am conceptually aware of inspiration, have no problem with it intellectually, and haven't consciously removed it from my games. But I also 100% forget that it exists when I'm actually DMing.
This, and the fact that I can’t remember every character’s Background Characteristics is why I rule that players claim inspiration for themselves. Once per characteristic per session, you can just say how what you’re doing or just did ties in with the characteristic and give yourself Inspiration.

The problem of course is that my players forget Inspiration exists too 🤣
 

Yes, concentration is a pain to track, for players and DM. I hope 5.5e (or whatever its called) does something mechanically different to do away with it, but I doubt it.
I find this is most often the issue with incidental damage and area effects. I do think that having concentration only broken by specific effects would be good if those specific effects weren't hard to come by. IE a special attack that anyone with a weapon can try a la Disarm, or a common spell.
 

Voadam

Legend
After Friday's game I was kicking myself for forgetting one of my favorite optional 5e DM rules - succeed at a failed skill check in return for "complication later."
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
The thing I mess up on regularly are monster effects that happen on the players' turns. . . I keep wanting them to all happen on the monster's turn, but that gets just as confusing. So recently, a troll variant I was running had a gibbering confusion effect on anyone entering into or starting their turn within 20' of it. I kept wanting to force people to make saves on the troll's turn when he got within 20' of them and that led to actual confusion within a round.

While I understand 5E's attempt to make this kind of thing consistent, my brain keeps wanting for a monster's effect to be checked on in the monster's turn - because as DM it is easier for me remember that way. Except half the time I ask PCs to also make the saves on their own turn when they move into the radius.
 
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