D&D General Has anyone run a PHB only table?

Long story short: I'm running a nine session campaign. Each session is two hours. PCs level after each session. And combat after level three has a tendency to take quite a while. I know all the tricks to making combat go faster. But, it is not me I am concerned with. We need time for story and region building. I believe this will help some of our players be more streamlined (both for levelling and during combat), and offer a little less disparity between PCs, which in turn, will help me, as it is a "sand-boxy" campaign where opponents will need to be adjusted rather quickly.

So, does anyone have any recent experience with a PHB only table? IF so, how did it go? Pros and cons?

Thanks.
 

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Larrin

Entropic Good
I suspect the biggest loss will be subclasses. Some classes just don't have many options there, and players might feel that. The number one place I use nonPHB material is subclasses. Second would be races, but typically people can find one they want in the PHB. Anything else (feats or spells) probably won't be missed much unless someone has a VERY specific vision in mind.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I ran PHB-only games back when the PHB was the only option. I've allowed most other options ever since.

I was going to say this: Sure I did, back when it was the only book!

I mean, it's totally fine to do so. I can't see that there would be any issues at all, other than less options for your players (which is sometimes a good thing, both due to option-paralysis, and the occasional OP combo).
 


Richards

Legend
My first 3.5 D&D campaign for my current batch of players was PHB only, but that was because the whole purpose of the campaign was to teach D&D to the 8-year-old son of one of my coworkers (and later the coworker's wife). It was easier to just stick to the PHB and the standard pantheon, Greyhawk location, etc. so everything they needed was in one book.

Johnathan
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Long story short: I'm running a nine session campaign. Each session is two hours. PCs level after each session. And combat after level three has a tendency to take quite a while. I know all the tricks to making combat go faster. But, it is not me I am concerned with. We need time for story and region building. I believe this will help some of our players be more streamlined (both for levelling and during combat), and offer a little less disparity between PCs, which in turn, will help me, as it is a "sand-boxy" campaign where opponents will need to be adjusted rather quickly.

So, does anyone have any recent experience with a PHB only table? IF so, how did it go? Pros and cons?

Thanks.
PHB only won’t reduce combat time. Not leveling up after every session will help keep thing in check. Adding new features, spells, and feats every session is likely the biggest cause of combat time bloat. Before the players can get used to one level they’re on to the next. If you only have two hours to play and want non-combat stuff to happen, don’t run combats after 5-6th level.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Long story short: I'm running a nine session campaign. Each session is two hours. PCs level after each session. And combat after level three has a tendency to take quite a while. I know all the tricks to making combat go faster. But, it is not me I am concerned with. We need time for story and region building. I believe this will help some of our players be more streamlined (both for levelling and during combat), and offer a little less disparity between PCs, which in turn, will help me, as it is a "sand-boxy" campaign where opponents will need to be adjusted rather quickly.

So, does anyone have any recent experience with a PHB only table? IF so, how did it go? Pros and cons?

Thanks.
At the start of 5E and in my wife's latest game. As an "advanced" player, I don't much like it. There are both concept and ability holes in just a PHB only game. I find the characters to be a bit generic and inflexible. Good for beginning players who are just learning the ropes, though.

On the other hand, every book added to the game increases the brain load on the DM far more than the players. The players have a limited palette to build an individual character, but the DM has to be able to track/remember that for all the players at the table. Likewise, the chance for unexpected interactions or combos increases for every option added. Even moreso if uncurated multiclassing is allowed. As a DM, you'll end up with a dozen or so if-then-else build and houserules to keep things somewhat in check. Tip: players having index cards with the text of their abilities/spells are a godsend for speeding things up - just as much for the DM as the players. The less time flipping through a book to find something at the table, the better.

Kitchen-sink, almost anything goes book use is best for those games that aren't likely to go past 9th level - there's still plenty of tougher high-level opponents to thwart "I win" buttons and the builds don't tend to get too crazy overall.

In the end, I think my overall favorite is PHB + 1 book (such as Xanathar's) to cover most of the options and keep the rules referencing/load down to an acceptable load for both sides of the table.
 

One of my current game started as "PHB only" at level 1. The DM then allowed more books as we got to higher levels and wanted more options to flesh out the characters more. We definitely had more than 9 sessions before we added non-PHB stuff.

If the game ends up going on longer than planned, it might be a good idea to open up more books if the players seem interested. But for the limited-run campaign you describe I don't think there would be any issues at all.

As a side note, I also did this once in 3.5e. That was a conscious statement about "there are too many splat books, lets get back to basics" towards the end of 3.5e's lifespan. I don't think 5e has reached anywhere near the point of bloat/evolution that 3.5e had.
 


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