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D&D 5E How is 5E like 4E?

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Spinning off from the How is 5E like 2E thread.

I'd have said 5e had a lot of 2e styling and finish and an only slightly modified 4e engine under the hood. The two things you mention from 3.X that 4e didn't change were feats (and even 4e fans thought there were far far too many) and the level scaling. Even the magic item issue you mention had largely changed by late 4e when, by making the bonuses transparent, the 4e designers realised that you could just give those bonuses out and then not have to give the items.

Huh. The 5E engine seems drastically different than the 4E engine. Could you explain what you mean a bit more?

There's quite a bit of 4e under the 5e hood. Not too much of it is explicit, but it's definitely there.

Okay. Like what?

Stuff that I can see. The at-will powers = cantrips, encounter powers = short rest abilities, daily powers = long rest / daily abilities is obvious. Cantrips (at-will powers) leveling up was kept. The monster math progression was figured out by Blog of Holding. It's different than 4E's, but it's still there. The party vs monsters assumptions are different, a party of five vs an equal number of on-level standard monsters or their equivalents (4E) was changed to a party of four vs one undertuned solo monster (5E). 4E builds became the 5E subclasses. Methodic and balanced encounter building was scrapped for whatever the CR system is. Skill challenges were replaced with group checks.

That's already a bit, no?

But, off the top of my head (AFB) :

Hit dice healing is a reduced version of healing surges;

Much flatter attack bonus progression and the same across classes (though the math changed) vs. Prior editions;

Full HP after a long (4e extended) rest;

Likely more if I could track down if I wasn't on a cell phone.
That's like three things. 1) At-will powers = cantrips, etc. 2) At-will powers (cantrips) automatically leveling. 3) Builds in 4E become subclasses in 5E. The rest that I listed are either changes or things that were present before 4E.

But yeah, hit dice healing vs healing surges.

3E to-hit bonus math for full combatants, half combatants, and non-combatants. The just dropped that math into various classes. That was eliminated in 4E for standardized math. But it makes a bit of a return in 5E with not everyone guaranteed to get ability mods added to their attacks. It's not as wild a difference as 3E, but it's not the same as 4E where the baseline was the same progression and the same access to ability mod, the math actually counted on it.

I know 1E and 2E has weird daily healing, like 3 hp/day of full rest or whatever. Did 3E keep that or switch it out?
Skills, races, armed combat, hit points, subclasses, monster design, a significant share in the classes. And the magic belongs to no one. 5e's just a lighter and less tactical system.
Some of these are spot on, others are ignoring prior editions and what they did or stretching definitions to the breaking point.
The 5e skill system is an only lightly modified version of the 4e one that gives up the half level scaling. First there are seventeen skills, plus languages- although 5e did add tool proficiencies. By contrast the 2e PHB has what? Over fifty "Non Weapon Proficiencies" in the PHB alone and more in extra books, most with their own subsystems?
The skills as presented in 5E (and 4E) all have their own "subsystems" to define what they can do. They're all based on a d20 roll and you need to check the description of the NWP/skill to know what it does. That's not a 4E innovation.
Then there's that there are basically three tiers of training in 5e. "Untrained", "Trained", and "Expertise". Which is basically the 4e approach of untrained, trained, and a little beyond that (e.g. Skill Focus);
Which is basically 2E's approach to weapon proficiencies, i.e. not proficient, proficient, and specialized. Again, that's not new or unique to 4E. NWPs could be specialized in even further, dropping more slots to gain more bonuses to the roll. More akin to 3E's skill points.
5e is an only slightly lighter version of the 4e skill system.
Which is a rework of 3E's skill system, which is a rework of 2E's skill system (wp & nwp).
The races come next - and are very 4e in nature, starting with the obvious inclusion of Tieflings and Dragonborn in core. Two stats with bonuses and no stats with penalties for almost all races is again very 4e. As is the simplicity and cleanness of the racial abilities; dwarves for example do not get saving throw bonuses based on every 3.5 points of their constitution, bonuses to detect sliding/shifting walls, bonuses vs certain races, or racial class and level restrictions.
Sure.
The armed combat rolls are the same as in 4e - Stat bonus (consistent) plus proficiency and level modifier vs AC.
Wasn't that present in 3E as well?
There's no issue round THAC0/Descending AC
THAC0 was an intermediary step between your modifiers and AC. It wasn't anywhere nearly as complicated as people make it out to be.
classes having different attack bonus scaling
But they still do. Casters generally don't get ability mod to their attacks or damage but, as you say, armed combatants do...but again, casters mostly suck at that as their STR and/or DEX aren't going to be good, as a rule.
weapons getting bonus damage vs large creatures, or different weapons getting an inherently different ROF (other than the loading property).
That wasn't a thing in 3E either, right? So it's not new to 4E.
This really is the basic 4e engine - just without flanking or forced movement.
Rolling a d20, adding modifiers, and trying to roll high enough to hit a certain number is the basic d20 engine. It's not unique to 4E. It was there from the beginning, just slightly hidden under a few layers of cruft.
Hit points are barely rolled for in 5e; you instead get half your hit dice rounding up.
Maybe you've house rules that, but it's not the default. You get max at 1st level and you roll after that. 4E there were no rolls, you always just got your hp.
And the healing model is closely related, with people recovering hit point thanks to long term endurance on a short rest and a lot of combat healing happening as a bonus.
There's three healing spells that are bonus actions in 5E...out of 26 listed with the healing tag in D&DBeyond.
Subclasses are pretty much a 4e implementation; the game is built with them in mind (and they are in the PHB) and layer seamlessly over the basic classes with simple and clean bonuses and no stat minimums or special hinderances.
That's adding in a lot of caveats to exclude all previous examples of a similar mechanic in the game. 2E has class groups (warrior) that contain three classes (fighter, paladin, ranger). These roughly correspond to classes and subclasses in 5E. Sure, 4E has a similar concept in its classes and builds. But it wasn't a 4E innovation.
5e being a lighter version of 4e of course the powers get rolled into either base classes or subclasses.
You assert that's the case. You're twisting your examples to show it's true.
The classes, for that matter, are all using 4e fluff. Paladins, for example, aren't going to fall and only one subclass is the morally pure (Oath of Devotion) - and no Pokemounts or normal mounts. Sorcerers have their random power sources (they were new to 3.0 and through 3.X were just "descended from dragons, I guess").
I'm not familiar with 3E fluff. At a guess WotC introduced that fluff there.
Warlocks, clearly are 4e (and were Monks even in 2e?).
Yes, monks were in 2E. They were also in 1E and Basic.
Rogues are sneak attack based rather than one off backstabs - and more importantly (and very 4e) are just better at some skills rather than having specific thief skills.
Again, that's not unique to 4E and you're defining things to fit your assumed conclusion rather than looking at the whole. In every edition of D&D non-thieves could climb walls. Thieves were just better at it. Non-thieves could try to hide, thieves were just better at it.
Monster statblocks are closest to a cut down version of 4e than anything else.
In visual presentation, yes. But not in actual mechanics. They are very reminiscent of earlier editions in the mechanics, hit points, AC, and special abilities...but nothing really interesting or tactical. No much synergized.
The monsters have full stat blocks - but they aren't designed using PC rules the way 3.X is. Instead they have powers like Nimble Escape that let them do things. It's more a 4e lite approach than anything else, taking away the monster roles and using Legendary Actions and resistances for solos.
Except all the monsters with special abilities in every other edition of the game.
Unfortunately there are 4e hit point levels without 4e tactics making them far more bullet sponges.
Except they're not. Not even close. A typical standard monster from 4E took about 4 hits from an on-level party before going down. A balanced encounter was an equal number of monsters to PCs (but you could swap out for elites, solos, minions, skill challenges, terrain, traps, etc). So a typical fight would take about n x 4 hits, where n equals the party size. Assumed party size of five. In 5E, the standard is one undertuned solo monster against a party of four. It generally takes about four hits to take out a monster in 5E. So a typical fight takes about...four hits. You're talking about the difference between about 20 hits to end a fight vs 4. That's a huge difference.
Even the magic system, which is its own thing but probably closer to 2e than any other edition (although completely dropped Vancian casting and is very different for different classes), has strong 4e influences from cantrips to rituals to spell focuses to sustain spells becoming concentration spells.
The word ritual is used, but they're drastically different between the editions. In 4E, rituals were all non-combat magic. In 5E, rituals are...anything the design team things should be a ritual, with no real rhyme or reason. Some things that are non-combat spells aren't rituals, some things that are combat spells are rituals.
 

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Some of these are spot on, others are ignoring prior editions and what they did or stretching definitions to the breaking point.
And many of those objections are nitpicking and trying to break a single sentence out of a whole.
The skills as presented in 5E (and 4E) all have their own "subsystems" to define what they can do. They're all based on a d20 roll and you need to check the description of the NWP/skill to know what it does. That's not a 4E innovation.
First, there are more than 50 NWPs in the 2e PHB and the number expands a lot as you go deeper into the various supplements. Second I'm thinking of things like
Direction Sense: A character with this proficiency has an innate sense of direction. By concentrating for 1d6 rounds, the character can try to determine the direction the party is headed. If the check fails but is less than 20, the character errs by 90 degrees. If a 20 is rolled, the direction chosen is exactly opposite the true heading. (The DM rolls the check.)
Furthermore, when traveling in the wilderness, a character with direction sense has the chance of becoming lost reduced by 5%

It's that sort of finicky subsystem that you're trying to claim is even vaguely like the 5e skill system.
Which is basically 2E's approach to weapon proficiencies, i.e. not proficient, proficient, and specialized.
Weapon proficiencies are not NWPs. Apples to oranges.
Again, that's not new or unique to 4E. NWPs could be specialized in even further, dropping more slots to gain more bonuses to the roll. More akin to 3E's skill points.
And you got very very few of them and they were intended for entire skills.

Wasn't that present in 3E as well?
The way 4e was different here was that 4e dropped any approximation of BAB. Or the different class based attack matrices or THAC0. 5e follows in 4e's footsteps here, completely breaking from the past.
But they still do. Casters generally don't get ability mod to their attacks or damage but, as you say, armed combatants do...but again, casters mostly suck at that as their STR and/or DEX aren't going to be good, as a rule.
Casters get ability mod to attacks and damage when using weapons. It might be lower (it might not). As I say the spell system isn't the same.
That wasn't a thing in 3E either, right? So it's not new to 4E.
Indeed. It's common to 3.X and 4e - and the way attacks are rolled is 4e but not 3.X. 2e doesn't get either. The system as a whole is far closer to 4e than anything else but it shares that part with 5e.
Maybe you've house rules that, but it's not the default. You get max at 1st level and you roll after that. 4E there were no rolls, you always just got your hp.
Maybe you've house ruled that out, but the actual rules as presented in the PHB p15 says "Alternatively, you can use the fixed value shown in your class entry, which is the average result of the hit die roll (rounded up)". Core rules. And it more or less in my experience drives out the rolling because the average is higher so neither min-maxers nor the risk averse do it; you can't screw over your character by the roll of a 1. And DMs also prefer it because there's no roll that needs watching more carefully. So you only roll if you either make a house rule that you must roll, you make it a house rule that you can roll then choose, or if you want to risk nerfing yourself.
There's three healing spells that are bonus actions in 5E...out of 26 listed with the healing tag in D&DBeyond.
And healing word is the one normally used. 4e had standard action healing abilities as well.
That's adding in a lot of caveats to exclude all previous examples of a similar mechanic in the game. 2E has class groups (warrior) that contain three classes (fighter, paladin, ranger). These roughly correspond to classes and subclasses in 5E. Sure, 4E has a similar concept in its classes and builds. But it wasn't a 4E innovation.
First, 4e had class groups in two directions. 5e doesn't.

Second it's far closer to 4e than any other version.
You assert that's the case. You're twisting your examples to show it's true.
Nope. You're the one spinning and nitpicking.
I'm not familiar with 3E fluff. At a guess WotC introduced that fluff there.
WotC introduced, with almost no backing in 3.X that sorcerers were descended from dragons. The idea there's any other type of sorcerer such as wild or storm is pure 4e
Again, that's not unique to 4E and you're defining things to fit your assumed conclusion rather than looking at the whole. In every edition of D&D non-thieves could climb walls. Thieves were just better at it. Non-thieves could try to hide, thieves were just better at it.
Again you're twisting and spinning in an attempt to deny the simple truth that the way 5e does things is basically 4e lite and has very little to do with 2e.

Yes, anyone could climb walls. Thieves got thief skills that they allocated points to and were given percentages for. Using pocket picking as another example I'm not sure anyone could pick pockets in 2e. In 3.X picking a pocket as a swift action took -20 to the check. In 4e it was a utility power for the rogue. The way classes get to go above and beyond the skill system is turning the 4e utility powers into natural language - and has little to do with 2e.
In visual presentation, yes. But not in actual mechanics. They are very reminiscent of earlier editions in the mechanics, hit points, AC, and special abilities...but nothing really interesting or tactical. No much synergized.
Indeed. It's 4e lite.
Except all the monsters with special abilities in every other edition of the game.
Like goblins? Or orcs?

Oh, and 3.X had it's supernatural and spell like abilities - a very different approach.
Except they're not. Not even close. A typical standard monster from 4E took about 4 hits from an on-level party before going down. A balanced encounter was an equal number of monsters to PCs (but you could swap out for elites, solos, minions, skill challenges, terrain, traps, etc). So a typical fight would take about n x 4 hits, where n equals the party size. Assumed party size of five. In 5E, the standard is one undertuned solo monster against a party of four. It generally takes about four hits to take out a monster in 5E. So a typical fight takes about...four hits. You're talking about the difference between about 20 hits to end a fight vs 4. That's a huge difference.
OK. Let's reality check this assertion of yours. A 5e ogre is CR2 and has 59 hit points. That should be a balanced encounter for a party of four second level characters. Which four characters do you think at second level (and remember this isn't a hard fight) are doing an average of 15hp per hit? For that matter we can use four CR 1/2 orcs instead - each of which has 15hp. And this time we're going to have to do not so much an average of 15hp - but hits above 15hp waste their damage.

5e has a significant amount of hit point bloat. It is IMO a serious flaw with the edition, especially as it has nowhere near the tactical level of 4e.
The word ritual is used, but they're drastically different between the editions. In 4E, rituals were all non-combat magic. In 5E, rituals are...anything the design team things should be a ritual, with no real rhyme or reason. Some things that are non-combat spells aren't rituals, some things that are combat spells are rituals.
Which combat spells are rituals? Rituals were, as far as I know, introduced in 4e and 5e rituals are at least closer to 4e rituals than they are anything in any other edition.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
Yeah, they're drastically different. They have entirely different goals.

5e is narrative first. The game design is centered around coming up with narrative ideas and then translating them into mechanics.

4e is strategy first. The game design starts with how do we make this an engaging and challenging tactical game and then let's find narrative explanations for the mechanics after we've made them.

They're opposites and the play experience bears that out.
 


The problem is, almost every single way in which 5e is "like" 4e has some critical change that...rather weakens the direct effects of the thing in question. That is, it's reasonable to say that there are several 5e mechanics that hold a vague resemblance to 4e mechanics...but it's (IMO, anyway) nearly false to say that 5e uses a lot of 4e mechanics. Allow me to explain, with some illustrative examples of where 5e did, and did not, keep the spirit of a 4e mechanic, or merely the most distantly abstracted mechanical concept of 4e.

Actually similar: 4e Backgrounds+Themes vs 5e Backgrounds
While IMO 4e Backgrounds+Themes are overall better even when compared to 5e in-context, as there's more of the former to provide more variety and yet they're simultaneously more AND less mechanically weighty,* 5e Backgrounds pretty well cover the conceptual space 4e did with these two mechanics combined. It isn't a purely high-level seeming; the two editions share basically the same spirit here, 5e just simplifies them because it made simplification/"streamlining" a central goal, and that's perfectly fine. Some of the later, setting-specific 5e Backgrounds, such as the Ravnica options, are even more similar to 4e Themes, providing additional benefits as you gain levels (extra spells) and otherwise doing more than just "1st-level feature and some skills."
(*4e BGs are very simple mechanically, even by 5e standards. 4e Themes are not so simple, but you never need to take anything from them other than the 1st-level feature, making them theoretically no more weighty than any 5e option. Hence, in a weird way, 4e BG+Theme is both more and less weighty. It's an odd situation.)

Vaguely similar, but shorn of critical parts: Healing Surges vs Hit Dice
People often get confused about why some 4e fans, including myself, really really dislike Hit Dice despite really liking Healing Surges. "Aren't they the same thing?" is a (paraphrased) question I've heard several times. And the answer is they are, and are not, "the same"--but the "are not" is more weighty here.
At the highest-level abstraction, "a personal resource that lets a character heal," Hit Dice and Healing Surges perform the same function, just with different amounts. Since "different amounts" is true of nearly every comparison between editions, even 1e to 2e just to a smaller degree than most edition changes, if this were the only way we could compare HD and HS, I would gladly call them functionally equivalent. But that's not the only way to compare them, and the part that got cut is where the vital difference lies.
See, Healing Surges aren't just "this resource is for healing." They served an additional, vital function: Capping daily healing. Yes, there were a few ways to skirt around this limit a little bit, but those were always in short supply as well. Either they were daily powers (and thus effectively "this power grants an extra surge or two once a day"), or they were addressed by the Bag of Rats rule (no beating up a bag of rats to get infinite HP). Further, almost all healing other than the aforementioned daily healing abilities (like Clerics with the "Cure X Wounds" series) required healing surges to function--even healing potions did! This meant everyone, even a Slayer or some other (sub)class that didn't give two figs about daily powers, had a metaphorical "clock" running down until they had to rest. That 5e removed this is a really, really big difference; HD are a nicety added on top of the critical necessity for magical healing, while HS are the core of the healing system and magic can do little to stretch things any further than surges allow.
I will, however, note at least one way in which surges and HD can be used similarly: Justifying Warlord healing. Since the vast majority of healing in 4e depended on the recipient spending a surge, it was perfectly reasonable for a non-magical class to have the ability to coax, command, or compel an ally to draw on that inner strength. HD can be used for exactly the same purpose (and, for a handful of mechanics, already have been used for that purpose). So I don't mean to say that there's ABSOLUTELY NOTHING of the "spirit" of the 4e Healing Surge rules in Hit Dice. But the key conceptual component, that actually provided incentives for player behavior and discouraged 3e-style "just use a wand of CLW, 4head" play, has been clipped out entirely, and that severely dampens the enthusiasm a 4e player might have for HD.

Actually similar: Feats
You already covered this, it sounds like, so I'll keep it brief. Feats are, by and large, the same mechanic working in the same way. Some of them work very differently, but the spirit of the rule is the same, and arguably more similar to 4e than 3e. All those "pick up a feature from class x" feats, for example, are much more similar to 4e's multiclass feats than they are to anything from 3e. I know this is going to look small by comparison to the other two, 'cause I'm not doing any analysis here, but it really bears repeating: feats are arguably the MOST well-translated part of 4e that appears in 5e. They don't work the same--they shouldn't, the two games work differently--but the spirit of the rule is as close to identical as two differently-structured games can be, IMO.

Vaguely similar, but shorn of critical parts: Half-Level Bonus vs Proficiency
This one's pretty simple, or so you'd think. On the similarity front, it's very direct: Proficiency scales at "quarter-level rounded up, plus one," so it's (very nearly exactly) half the half-level bonus of 4e. That's a cut and dried similarity, right? Surely this must mean that 5e kept the spirit of the 4e rule if it is mathematically identical apart from cutting the value in half?
Well....no. Because the critical conceptual bit of 4e's half-level bonus is that it applies to everything. Now, obviously, this was (and remains) somewhat controversial; some players find it utterly baffling that a character could just "get better" at any skill whatsoever, while others felt they were "on a treadmill." (I have major issues with that way of describing how 4e works, but that's a separate topic.) But we've already seen some of the ways that 5e's method can come up short: many fans, at least for the first few years, grumbled quite a lot about how having only two saves that scale means a character, pretty much axiomatically, falls behind on every other saving throw--potentially including at least one "important" saving throw (Con, Dex, or Wis).
Further, with the limited number of skills available to a character (unless they drop feats on getting more, which is its own controversy), if a skill is neither one related to a primary attribute nor one you're proficient with, you're never going to get any better with it, but the world will throw progressively harder challenges at you--aka "treadmill," even if a shallower one. Monster Perception scores, for example, scale up with CR. If you have Dex 8 and no Stealth proficiency (and doubly so if you wear armor that imposes Disadvantage on Stealth), not only will you be bad at Stealth to start with, you will slowly lose ground as the game progresses. You don't just have a weakness; you have a permanent fault that, unless you blow resources on getting better at it, you will fall further behind with.
Now, this is not to say that 4e was some paradise where everyone got everything they wanted always. You did still see higher perception scores in higher-level monsters, and if you find a lock in the dungeons of a mad demigod, it's probably going to have a higher DC than a lock you'll find in a crooked merchant's basement. The critical thing, though, is that a level 20 Paladin, even one who dumped Dex and never took Stealth proficiency, is more capable of sneaking past an ordinary guard, should such a situation arise. They've learned a thing or two by adventuring. Will they be able to avoid detection from the living shades that guard the Transcendent Soulmaster's lair in the Negative Energy Plane? Probably not! But if they go back and check out lower-level threats, the Paladin does relatively improve. That sort of thing is impossible in 5e; an equivalent Paladin never gets any better at sneaking past goblin mooks, no matter how many levels she gains.

Vaguely similar, but shorn of critical parts: At-Wills vs Cantrips
This one is a very, very common assertion of how 4e lives on in 5e, and it's very frustrating as a result. Because, on the one hand, yes: at the highest-level abstraction, considering no other context than "what does X thing do?", at-wills and cantrips are literally identical--some cantrips even originated in 4e (such as vicious mockery). But if you consider even a tiny bit more detail than that, the break becomes readily apparent.
See...cantrips only benefit casters. That's huge. 4e tried to get away from benefits that applied only to casters. That's part of why it had non-AC Defenses instead of Saves (more on this later), and Healing Surges, and Implements, and the Warlord, and several other things besides. At-wills meant that characters who weren't overtly "magical" in nature still had some neat trick they could pull out on the regular, often something that supported a particular class fantasy or behavior. For example, the Brawler Fighter wanted Grappling Strike, which fed into the class fantasy of being an unarmed (or weapon-and-fist) character. The Warlord could take a lazy at-will, or something more proactive, depending on the style of leadership they wanted to support. Etc.
Having characters that just make more attack rolls doesn't fit that. Having Battle Masters who only get 4-6 special attacks every 2 fights (on average, as intended by the design team) doesn't fit that. Yes, some of the stuff that was once provided by at-wills is now doable generically (e.g. targeting more than one opponent or shoving or whatever) by expending individual attacks within Extra Attack to do it. But cantrips are the only part of 5e that retains the full diversity and utility of at-wills, and it gives those features only to casters. That's directly contrary to the spirit of 4e, and a major reason why this is a sore spot for big fans thereof (such as myself).

Mostly similar...depending on DM: Skills
It's pretty much inarguable that 5e used a skill system more similar to 4e than 3e. There are fewer skills overall than 3e, you only pick specific skills to be good with at character creation and only get more by expending resources (primarily multiclassing and feats), training is a "you have it or you don't" situation, super-training is a similar "you have it or you don't" situation (4e just includes more granularity within it), etc. I don't think anyone can argue that 5e's skill system doesn't obviously crib from 4e's.
The big problem, I find, is in the ways DMs use it. My experience of 5e skills in play resembles my experience of 3e skills more than 4e ones. 4e skills were explicitly meant to be very, very broad. Arcana was "is it magic, and not god-magic or nature-magic? Then you have a chance to know/learn something about it." Nature, likewise, applied to basically anything in the natural world, and most things in the Primal power source, too. Streetwise covered basically anything social that wasn't "tell a lie," "ask nicely," or "ask nastily"--casing the joint, scrounging for rumors, finding a fence, local events, sizing up a crowd, etc.
My experience with 5e, and I do want to emphasize that this is a personal thing, is that skills are viewed more as narrow things (the way 3e approached them) rather than broad ones (the way 4e did). I've no good explanation for why this is the case, but it is what I've seen. Perhaps the fine splitting between "Investigation" and "Perception," or pulling "Animal Handling" out of "Nature," I don't know. But it's what I've seen.

Vaguely similar, but shorn of critical parts: Magic Items
Magic items have been a hot-button topic since at least the days of 3.5e. 3rd edition had secret expectations of magic items, that only got called out officially in semi-fluff stuff (like the "X With Class" series)--you needed AC boosters, saving throw items, magic weapons if you made attacks, that sort of thing. 4e was honest enough to make these expectations explicit, and structured the rules so that the benefit of magic items was clearly defined and generally expected. Players, in general, want cool magic toys, so it seemed reasonable to make a system where you get magic toys as part of play, rather than trying to obfuscate their presence behind the curtain. These items ran from +1 to +6 in power over the course of 30 levels, effectively +1 per five character levels. (This even got codified in the fan-named "automatic bonus progression" rules, which were a big hit and quite popular in settings like Dark Sun where magic weapons are rare.)
Some people absolutely hated this idea, and derided 4e as having "magic Wal-mart" or being a "Christmas tree" of loot. It was basically the Monty Haul edition-war concept, just rephrased for the modern, discerning edition-warrior. So, when 5e came along, this obviously had to be dealt with! So they told people magic items were totally, completely optional. Exceeeeept...that's not really true. I mean, it's theoretically true in that, if you're selective enough about what monsters you field, there is in principle no absolute requirement that PCs have magic items. But we have, absolutely, gone back to the "hidden behind the curtain" way of doing things. There's a significant number of monsters--I don't know the statistics, but it's definitely at least a large minority--that are much more difficult to harm if you don't have magic weapons. When coupled with the "HP is the main metric of scaling, not defenses" philosophy of 5e, this means magic items are soft-required. Sure, you don't HAVE to have them....but if you DON'T have them, many enemies are going to become extremely un-fun slogs, unless the party spellcasters take care of it for you. (Yet another "the casters have benefits and the non-casters don't" thing.)
Some will note, relating to the above half-level vs. PB thing above, that 5e weapons and armor have exactly half the scaling 4e ones did, +1 to +3 rather than +1 to +6. This is fair, but...well, because magic weapons and armor were so stridently called optional (regardless of the practicalities of that statement), my experience is that many 5e DMs see them as blatant power creep, and thus hand out few if any to the players. It is an irony of the "Bounded Accuracy" system (which, as I've said elsewhere, is neither all that much concerned with accuracy, nor with boundedness!) that in trying to make magic items feel like something you can use freely because they aren't expected, it has instead made them seem to a great many people like they're inappropriate to hand out without extra-special justification.

Intentionally not similar: Defenses vs. Saves
This one's gonna be controversial, in part because it's very clearly a "going back to 3e's way of doing things" area. D&D, prior to 4e, mostly used saving throws for magic and attack rolls for physical hits. There were exceptions, so anyone claiming that the two mechanics cleanly distinguished spells from non-spells (or even magic from non-magic) is simply wrong, but in general if it wasn't a magical offensive effect, it resolved with an attack roll, and if it was a magical offensive effect, it resolved with a saving throw. 5e, obviously, has played with the formula a little bit, but by and large they kept things basically the same, just making all six stats (theoretically) relevant, rather than only three.
Thing is, there was an extremely good reason why 4e went to "NADs" (as fans semi-affectionately called them) rather than saving throws: very simply, was making support-focused characters more useful. Consider a very simple situation: Bard that favors supportive magic is playing alongside both a Sorcerer and a Rogue. In 5e, the Bard has to choose which person to help, because (most of) the Sorcerer's kit depends on enemies failing saving throws for its best damage, while (most of) the Rogue's kit depends on being accurate with attacks. The Bard basically cannot support both characters equally; they can either do stuff to boost the Rogue's attacks, or stuff to weaken a target's saving throws, but can't really ever support both of their friends at the same time. In 4e, however, any support power (whether it comes from a leader or not) that increases hit can help anyone in the group. Further, if an effect improves all nearby allies, everyone gets equal benefit--doesn't matter if you're a Wizard or a Fighter, +1 attack is +1 attack. And since NADs scale a little differently from AC, debuffing an enemy's Reflex defense is not strictly beneficial to the magic-users in the party--plenty of Rogue, Ranger, and other Martial classes' attacks target Reflex (or Fortitude; few target Will, but IIRC some do exist, mostly in the realm of "being an intimidating combatant" aka similar to an early-edition Morale check).

So...yeah. There are probably more areas I could mention, but this post is already super long and I'm drawing a blank as to more things I could mention. It is absolutely the case that you can find parallels between 4e and 5e, but whether those parallels are merely skin-deep or actually serious varies wildly from one mechanic to another.

mathematically 5e == 4e / 2.
Yeah....see above about that. This glosses over an extremely important difference between 4e's half-level bonus and 5e's Proficiency.
 
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cbwjm

Hero
Things that I believe to be from 4e, or to have at least taken inspiration from it are:
  • at-will cantrips
  • short rest/long rest recharge
  • short rest healing is a combination of previous editions and healing surges. Not quite as versatile since you start with so few and generally can't use them outside of a short rest, but I feel like it is a nod to 4e
  • effects happening when bloodied (though they say half hit points in 5e, think of the life cleric's channel divinity or the champions regeneration only being able to bring you back up to half health)
  • proficiency bonus is a slower increasing +half level to your skills and attacks and is also less prevalent since you only get it if you're proficient in the weapon or skill rather than getting it to everything
  • The truncated skill list looks like it took inspiration from 4e
That's the stuff off the top of my head that makes me think of 4e when reading them.
 

Undrave

Hero
One aspect of 5e that's very 4e is the Barbarian. I don't think the Barbarian would have kept on being a class of its own and not a Fighter Subclass if 4e hadn't introduced the Primal Power Source to its lore! Without 4e we wouldn't have the Totem Barbarian or the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian, the Storm Barbarian or the Path of the Beast one, etc.

They would have just made a Berserker subclass for the fighter and call it a day! You can bet on it.
 

Undrave

Hero
Further, if an effect improves all nearby allies, everyone gets equal benefit--doesn't matter if you're a Wizard or a Fighter, +1 attack is +1 attack.
This simple fact has proven to be SUCH A BLOODY PAIN IN THE BUTT while trying to make my Warlord class... I really have to go out of my way and write long awkward effect just so they can support casters too. I miss NADs. It makes way more sense that the person trying to DO something should be the one rolling!
 

short rest/long rest recharge
Yeah, I probably should've mentioned this. This is another one that is....complicated. I, personally, think the 5e designers made a serious error by making short rests be an hour long. I think they thought it was much more thematic to make them be long, and vastly underestimated player reluctance to spend an hour on a short rest (which does little to nothing for several classes, mostly spellcasters). Like, I completely grant that the structure came from 4e, but that one "small" change (twelve times the duration!!) has enormous knock-on effects. That Crawford has openly admitted that people aren't using short rests as much as intended is, IMO, proof positive that they were merely copying the superficial structure, not the spirit of the rule.

I feel like it is a nod to 4e
That's more or less what I tried to articulate with my post: that a bunch of stuff in 5e is merely a nod to 4e and no more. Then people, usually ones who weren't 4e fans to begin with (and often specifically 4e anti-fans), take those nods as though they were faithful translations, and thus get deeply confused when someone else (e.g. myself, a 4e fan) challenges the idea that 5e draws all that heavily on 4e.

I've seen tweets where people straight-up say things like "there's so much more 4e under the hood," and the problem is...there isn't. There's so much 4e only on the hood, but if you crack it open, it's either extremely different, or some change or changes that were made to adapt it have pulled it completely out of the spirit of the rules 5e "nodded" to.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Yeah, I probably should've mentioned this. This is another one that is....complicated. I, personally, think the 5e designers made a serious error by making short rests be an hour long. I think they thought it was much more thematic to make them be long, and vastly underestimated player reluctance to spend an hour on a short rest (which does little to nothing for several classes, mostly spellcasters). Like, I completely grant that the structure came from 4e, but that one "small" change (twelve times the duration!!) has enormous knock-on effects. That Crawford has openly admitted that people aren't using short rests as much as intended is, IMO, proof positive that they were merely copying the superficial structure, not the spirit of the rule.
It may be true that WotC's info suggests people use short rests less than expected, but I don't think making them an hour long was a mistake. Rather, it makes resting in a dangerous environment more of a complication. As far as I'm concerned, this is a good thing. But the fact remains that the actual length of the short rest/long rest mechanics can be very easily adjusted to suit the table. I like the 1 hour short rest - the 5ish minutes of 4e was far too short.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
One aspect of 5e that's very 4e is the Barbarian. I don't think the Barbarian would have kept on being a class of its own and not a Fighter Subclass if 4e hadn't introduced the Primal Power Source to its lore! Without 4e we wouldn't have the Totem Barbarian or the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian, the Storm Barbarian or the Path of the Beast one, etc.

They would have just made a Berserker subclass for the fighter and call it a day! You can bet on it.
Considering the barbarian seemed fairly popular in 3e, that's a really weird position to hold. What evidence do you have that WotC would have folded the barbarian into the fighter considering they're the ones who reversed 2e doing that when they wrote 3e?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
There's three healing spells that are bonus actions in 5E...out of 26 listed with the healing tag in D&DBeyond.
This is a seemingly disingenuous nitpick. The bonus action healing spells are incredibly popular, and make up the greatest part of combat healing in 5e. That comes directly from 4e.

This comes across as you setting out to conclude that 5e isn’t like 4e.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
And many of those objections are nitpicking and trying to break a single sentence out of a whole.

First, there are more than 50 NWPs in the 2e PHB and the number expands a lot as you go deeper into the various supplements. Second I'm thinking of things like
Direction Sense: A character with this proficiency has an innate sense of direction. By concentrating for 1d6 rounds, the character can try to determine the direction the party is headed. If the check fails but is less than 20, the character errs by 90 degrees. If a 20 is rolled, the direction chosen is exactly opposite the true heading. (The DM rolls the check.)
Furthermore, when traveling in the wilderness, a character with direction sense has the chance of becoming lost reduced by 5%

It's that sort of finicky subsystem that you're trying to claim is even vaguely like the 5e skill system.
Finicky is in the eyes of the beholder. Like the Becoming Lost section of the DMG. Like how hiding works in 5E. Like how foraging works. The difference is 2E put many of those subsystems in the proficiencies section in the PHB and expanded on them in the DMG. 5E mentions them in the PHB but mostly hides the finicky subsystems in the DMG. They're still there.
Weapon proficiencies are not NWPs. Apples to oranges.
Different levels of ability doing a thing based on investment of resources. Same, same.
The way 4e was different here was that 4e dropped any approximation of BAB. Or the different class based attack matrices or THAC0. 5e follows in 4e's footsteps here, completely breaking from the past.
Uh...except they just standardized the BAB. Everyone has the same basic attack bonus, 1/2 level.
Casters get ability mod to attacks and damage when using weapons. It might be lower (it might not). As I say the spell system isn't the same.
Right. In 4E everyone got to use their relevant stat as a mod to attack and damage for their assumed attacks. They don't in 5E.
Maybe you've house ruled that out, but the actual rules as presented in the PHB p15 says "Alternatively, you can use the fixed value shown in your class entry, which is the average result of the hit die roll (rounded up)". Core rules.
Interesting selective quotation. Note the first word in your quoted sentence. "Alternately"...as in optionally. As in that's not the default assumption. The bit you didn't quote is where is says you roll your hit dice every time you gain a level. And alternately, optionally, you can take the average. It's core in the same way that flanking, feats, and multiclassing are. They're presented in the core books, but they're optional rules.
And healing word is the one normally used. 4e had standard action healing abilities as well.
What a waste of a spell slot.
Nope. You're the one spinning and nitpicking.
LOL. Pot meet kettle.
OK. Let's reality check this assertion of yours. A 5e ogre is CR2 and has 59 hit points. That should be a balanced encounter for a party of four second level characters. Which four characters do you think at second level (and remember this isn't a hard fight) are doing an average of 15hp per hit? For that matter we can use four CR 1/2 orcs instead - each of which has 15hp. And this time we're going to have to do not so much an average of 15hp - but hits above 15hp waste their damage.
1st-level party. Assuming 18 +4 in relevant stats. Fighter: greatsword or maul for 2d6+4, averages 11 hp per. Cleric: sacred flame or toll the dead for 1d8/1d12, averages 4.5/6.5 hp per. Wizard: fire bolt for 1d10, averages 5.5 hp per. Rogue: sneak attack on any 1d6 finesse or ranged weapon for 2d6+4, averages 11 hp per. Adding that up...11+4.5/6.5+5.5+11=32 lower average or 34 higher average. And the rogue could use a 1d8 or 1d10 ranged weapon to bump that up to 1-2 points, but then reloading for the crossbow, etc. So in four average hits the classic D&D party deals between 32-36 damage. The actual range is 14-56 damage from four hits.

Now, let's compare that to CR1 creatures. Let's see. Half-ogre 30 hp. So four average hits. Duergar 26 hp. Dryad 22 hp. Copper dragon wyrmling 22 hp. Bronze dragon wyrmling (CR2) 32 hp. Brass dragon wyrmling 16 hp. White dragon wyrmling (CR2) 32 hp. Green dragon wyrmling (CR2) 38 hp...so five average hits. Black dragon wyrmling (CR2) 33 hp. Spined devil (CR2) 22 hp. Imp 10 hp. Quasit 7 hp. Bugbear 27 hp. Orc (CR1/2) 15 hp. Two average hits. Hmm. Ghast (CR2) 36 hp. Ghoul 22 hp. Gith monk (CR2) 38 hp. Gnoll (CR1/2) 22 hp. 2-3 average hits. Hmm. Goblin (CR1/4) 7 hp. One average hit. Hmm. Goblin boss 21 hp. Grick (CR2) 27 hp. Harpy 38 hp.

So a 1st-level party of four vs one CR1 creature (the assumed default of 5E), the fight ends once the group lands four average hits. If you use two CR1/2 creatures instead...the fight ends once the group lands...four average hits. If you use four CR1/4 creatures instead...the fight ends...wait for it...once the group lands...four average hits. Spooky. It's almost like there's math involved.

And note none of this involves expending resources. This is all at-wills/cantrips and basically infinite use weapon attacks.
5e has a significant amount of hit point bloat. It is IMO a serious flaw with the edition, especially as it has nowhere near the tactical level of 4e.
Now let's compare the above to the same from 4E.

1st-level party. Assuming 18 +4 in relevant stats. Fighter: heavy flail or maul for 2d6+4, averages 11 hp per. Cleric: lance of faith for 1d8+4, averages 8.5 per. Wizard: magic missile for 2d4+4, averages 9. Rogue: sneak attack on any 1d6 weapon for 3d6+4, averages 14.5. Adding that up...11+8.5+9+14.5=43. And that ignores all the riders along with the rogue using a more damaging weapon. So in four average hits the classic D&D party deals 43 damage. The actual range is 24-62 damage from four hits.

I don't need to list various creatures from 4E because the devs were nice enough to give us the math. The average is 8+Con+(levelx8). So assuming a 16 Con, a 1st-level standard monster averages 32 hp. (Weird. That's almost exactly what a CR1 5E monster has. Hmm.) So the average party of four can down one standard monster in 3-4 hits. But...in 4E the encounter design was balanced around 1 standard monster per 1 PC. So our four heroes would face off against four standard monsters (or their equivalents, i.e. 1 elite for 2 standard, 1 solo for 4 standard, 4 minions for 1 standard, and/or traps, skill challenges, etc). So if it will take four average hits to down one standard monster and the party is facing four standard monsters...it will take about 16 hits to end the fight. Roughly four times as long as a 5E fight. Give or take.

And note none of that involves even using encounter powers, the assumed resources you're meant to spend. On average they simply do double damage vs at-wills...2[W] instead of 1[W] or 2d10 instead of 1d10. So using encounter powers would halve the number of hits. So the four encounter hits would be 2 each, and the at-wills would be 1 each. So you're talking about 12 average hits including encounter powers.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Things that I believe to be from 4e, or to have at least taken inspiration from it are:
It's not really a question of inspiration - 4e was the generation directly before 5e. Things evolved from 4e, rather than were inspired by 4e. So it's not that surprising that there are elements of design that come directly from previous editions of D&D whether ascending ACs, d20+stat+skill rank/proficiency bonus, or unlimited cantrips. It just took a lot from too far into the fringe territory and pushed it into D&D market sweet spot territory.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
proficiency bonus is a slower increasing +half level to your skills and attacks and is also less prevalent since you only get it if you're proficient in the weapon or skill rather than getting it to everything
I think that's where the idea of 4E/2=5E comes from. Because that's almost literally the math. In 4E it's +1/2 level; in 5E it's 1 + 1/4 level. In combat, most 5E character are doing about 1/2 the damage they were in 4E, but monster hp (or rather encounter hp) is about 1/4 what it was in 4E.
 

It may be true that WotC's info suggests people use short rests less than expected, but I don't think making them an hour long was a mistake. Rather, it makes resting in a dangerous environment more of a complication. As far as I'm concerned, this is a good thing. But the fact remains that the actual length of the short rest/long rest mechanics can be very easily adjusted to suit the table. I like the 1 hour short rest - the 5ish minutes of 4e was far too short.
When one of the lead designers explicitly says that a core design assumption--that you'd be getting two to three short rests per day, which is what makes classes like Warlock and subclasses like Champion work in 5e--fails to be true specifically because players take too few short rests per long rest, I don't think it's that weird to say that the length of the short rests vs. long rests might be part of the problem.

And yes, I've crunched the numbers. Champions can keep up with BMs if they get enough rounds of attacking each day. You only see the numbers converge at about 7-8 encounters per day, with 6 the gap is debatable, anything less it's obvious (when looking at aggregate numbers for the day, of course). Warlock is in a more-or-less similar boat; I haven't crunched the numbers as thoroughly as I have with Champ vs BM, but my looser estimates corroborate the "6 (mostly-combat) encounters is good enough, 8 is pretty clearly balanced."

Most groups have fewer than 5 combats per day, and most groups have 1-2 short rests per day. This is negatively affecting the play-experience of 5e, enough that one of the designers explicitly spoke about the problem of short rest vs. long rest frequency. The amount of time taken by short resting three times per day is a full third of the time you'd spend on taking a long rest. It definitely doesn't help matters.

I get that some people like having short-rests come with some kind of "cost." The problem is that they already had the uphill battle of convincing casters and other non-short-rest-based characters to take them. That extra "cost" in time-investment has made the 5MWD problem worse, not better, which isn't a mark in 5e's favor.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
When one of the lead designers explicitly says that a core design assumption--that you'd be getting two to three short rests per day, which is what makes classes like Warlock and subclasses like Champion work in 5e--fails to be true specifically because players take too few short rests per long rest, I don't think it's that weird to say that the length of the short rests vs. long rests might be part of the problem.

And yes, I've crunched the numbers. Champions can keep up with BMs if they get enough rounds of attacking each day. You only see the numbers converge at about 7-8 encounters per day, with 6 the gap is debatable, anything less it's obvious (when looking at aggregate numbers for the day, of course). Warlock is in a more-or-less similar boat; I haven't crunched the numbers as thoroughly as I have with Champ vs BM, but my looser estimates corroborate the "6 (mostly-combat) encounters is good enough, 8 is pretty clearly balanced."

Most groups have fewer than 5 combats per day, and most groups have 1-2 short rests per day. This is negatively affecting the play-experience of 5e, enough that one of the designers explicitly spoke about the problem of short rest vs. long rest frequency. The amount of time taken by short resting three times per day is a full third of the time you'd spend on taking a long rest. It definitely doesn't help matters.

I get that some people like having short-rests come with some kind of "cost." The problem is that they already had the uphill battle of convincing casters and other non-short-rest-based characters to take them. That extra "cost" in time-investment has made the 5MWD problem worse, not better, which isn't a mark in 5e's favor.
The only solution I see is to make all resources recharge on short rests. If you have a split, like now, then you will have groups take fewer short rests and the short-rest classes are screwed. If you make all resources long-rest recharge then you're going back to purely 5 minute work days. Only by pushing everything to short-rest recharge will they be able to balance things. Or return to 4E's silos of everyone getting short-rest and long-rest resources...but that only extends the 5 minute work day to an hour or so, maybe 2-3 fights before a long rest. They really did make a lot of bizarre assumptions about how the game should be played and designed it around that. Four-person parties, two short rests per day, mostly fighting one monster at a time, and 6-8 combats per day. So strange.

I think James Wyatt said it best, "The fact is that a fight against a group of monsters is often just more fun than a fight against a single monster. And by “more fun” I mean a lot of things—more dangerous, more tense, more dramatic, more exciting, more dynamic."
 

RATUTHOM

Villager
Yeah, they're drastically different. They have entirely different goals.

5e is narrative first. The game design is centered around coming up with narrative ideas and then translating them into mechanics.

4e is strategy first. The game design starts with how do we make this an engaging and challenging tactical game and then let's find narrative explanations for the mechanics after we've made them.

They're opposites and the play experience bears that out.
To me, both are the latter.

In 5e, there are many features which are not tightly narrative based. How is it possible for a rogue to sneak attack an ooze or a fire elemental? And how is it possible that by standing near your paladin you become literally better at dodging fireballs?

However, from a mechanical standpoint, they are acceptable.
 

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