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D&D 5E How is 5E like 2E?

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I keep seeing generally positive comparisons made between 2E and 5E. So I wanted to get more info on that comparison. To avoid further derailing another thread, I'm moving things here.

I started with B/X and AD&D, collected 2E settings but never played 2E proper, skipped 3E entirely, and jumped on 4E and now 5E. So I have no frame of reference for this comment. So, honest question: what aspects of 5E are reminiscent of 2E? It seems to be a generally positive comparison.
It is generally positive - certainly for me.

The classes are very 3e, but with twists to lessen the caster disparity.
The magic items etc. are back to 2e (not easy to craft, set stat score items as opposed to just bonuses etc - not exact but certainly more like)
The roles are less defined than 4e, at least officially - they're still there but again not explicitly called out.
Those are the things that jump out immediately.
Yeah, we're definitely closer to 2e feel than 3e or 4e for a lot of things with 5e. The magic items are, of course, a major component of that. For all of its good intentions in getting crafting into the hands of the players, it really screwed the pooch on how D&D played and in turning full casters into amok monsters. Returning to a structure in which magic items are benefits, not expected components of developing power, and wands are specialty combat/weird utility items rather than capable of holding any spell for cheap really resets the expectations.
One other aspect that probably doesn't get enough consideration is multiple attacks. While the 2e rules imply that you can only get one attack if you have to close, it's not very explicit. I'd wager most players assumed that fighter-types with multiple attacks got them all no matter how far they moved in their turn. Allowing that in 5e gets D&D back to that style of playing martial characters.
Removing most of the niggling little abilities given by feats (like avoiding AoO while shoving someone, or allowing someone to split their move by making an attack) also pushes us more toward a free-form combat turn where the main unit of concern - the action and maybe bonus action - is the only thing we need to really focus on, not moving around the board - something also more in keeping with 2e as it was played.
All of this contributes to why 5e is, hands down, my favorite edition. While I liked 3e and PF's upgrade to it, 2e always stayed up near the top of my list. And an edition of D&D that has a mix of modern design takes on spells and classes with expectations more like 2nd is right up my alley.
So, what aspects of 5E are reminiscent of 2E?
 

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In general the return of a lot of control back to the DM. The last two editions were very tight in terms of rules, with a lot of things already accounted for. AD&D, despite having a billion and one charts, was pretty free form when it came to most things. Instead of rolling 1d20+mod against a DC, you rolled 1d20+DM mod against your ability score.

In 3E and 4E, the game was assumed to use a grid and the mechanics were built around that assumption. Most of 2E was "theater of the mind" like 5E, with rules to work with a grid. 1E and late 2E (with the player's option books) were more grid based, but still largely theater of the mind. You could use theater of the mind with 3E and 4E, but the translation was much more difficult.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
In general the return of a lot of control back to the DM. The last two editions were very tight in terms of rules, with a lot of things already accounted for. AD&D, despite having a billion and one charts, was pretty free form when it came to most things. Instead of rolling 1d20+mod against a DC, you rolled 1d20+DM mod against your ability score.

In 3E and 4E, the game was assumed to use a grid and the mechanics were built around that assumption. Most of 2E was "theater of the mind" like 5E, with rules to work with a grid. 1E and late 2E (with the player's option books) were more grid based, but still largely theater of the mind. You could use theater of the mind with 3E and 4E, but the translation was much more difficult.
WHen I started in College, we did 3E in TotM...but I think all my friends had learned how to play with 2E.
 



jdrakeh

Adventurer
For me, the most notable similarity as a DM was a shift back toward rulings vs rules. 3x had an explicit design goal of trying to provide a rule for everything (I'm not sure if 4e did the same because I never played it). 5e dialed that waaaaaay back. The rules are looser and more power resides in the DM's hands when handling corner case situations or even doing something that should be simple, such as statting up NPCs or monsters (which I did not find simple in 3x, especially once the PCs reached mid-range levels). For example, dead simple mechanics like advantage/disadvantage do the heavy lifting that intimidatingly long lists of situational modifiers did in 3x. I hated running 3x. Got to where I eventually refused to do so. 5e brought me back to the table for these reasons.
 







Mort

Legend
Proficiency is similar too. With smaller numbers of skills.

Plus of course the move away from large numbers of stacking plusses for action resolution was a move back towards 2e from 3e.

In 3e, by the time you got past mid levels, you had to keep (at least) 2 sets of numbers: the "regular" version of your character and the "buffed" version(s). Plus Dispel magic was a goto spell for that very reason, and at higher levels it could grind play to a halt.

Pathfinder clamped down on the bonuses by "only" allowing 3 buffs at any given time.
 

TheSword

Legend
In 3e, by the time you got past mid levels, you had to keep (at least) 2 sets of numbers: the "regular" version of your character and the "buffed" version(s). Plus Dispel magic was a goto spell for that very reason, and at higher levels it could grind play to a halt.

Pathfinder clamped down on the bonuses by "only" allowing 3 buffs at any given time.
Is that a rule for Pathfinder 2e? Three buff max? I played Pathfinder 1st Ed for several years but could never justify moving to 2e when 5e was working for us.
 

Mort

Legend
Is that a rule for Pathfinder 2e? Three buff max? I played Pathfinder 1st Ed for several years but could never justify moving to 2e when 5e was working for us.

Pretty sure it was Pathfinder 1e. But I'm going from memory, haven't played since 5e came out (and really before that).

Edit: so I'm looking online and can't find the limit anywhere now. Maybe it was a campaign house rule and I just internalized it?

Regardless, the point was that 3e buffing got pretty ridiculous and I'm very glad it was clamped down (4e and 5e)
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Others have said it already, but the two biggest similarities are:

- DMs are empowered as they last were in 2E. I never ran 4E, but 2E and 5E both feel much easier to me to DM than 3E did.

- The default style is assumed to be theater of the mind, as was 2E. Although I would argue that this has shifted somewhat; since 2017 or 2018 it seems like WotC feels more and more people are using grid-based play.
 
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Reynard

Legend
I think the primary thing for me is that like BECMI and 2E, 5E puts trust back in the DM to be able to "handle it." After over a decade of 3.x I actually balked a little. "Where are the task DC charts?!?" But I have realized over time that the broad proficiencies and guideline DCs are a real boon to DMs. It is easy to run on the fly.

I will say that one place it also lines up with 2E that I don't like is how imbalanced it is on the player side. As a player I don't care, but as a DM I cringe when I watch one player make all the optimized choices and another make (relatively speaking) suboptimal choices. I have to challenge them both without being unfair! Ugh.
 

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