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D&D 5E How is 5E like 4E?


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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I pointed out earlier the action hero mid battle turn around trope where your bad guys start out doing well then the hero has to dig deep to alter the flow of battle and how action points (and the paragon and warlord enhancements) and second wind mechanics and even powers triggered by bloodied states, were explicitly designed with a particular story in mind

They didnt just pop out of oh this makes a better game, sheesh
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
A fiction which fit perfectly with action heros progressing towards epic potency.
LOL. Yes, action-adventure as a genre predates 4E. I'm talking about the in-game fiction of 4E. The game system was designed first. The in-game fiction (adamantine doors, etc) was fitted to the game system after the fact to justify the numbers.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
The in-game fiction (adamantine doors, etc)
They had those in 1e what are you talking about? Just as Gygax described heavily how fighters were supposed to defend their squishier allies.... ie the defender existed in story.... just often failed in practice. 4e to me followed through on ideas that existed before and made the game support them better.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Having challenges which were not just the monsters was part of the story from the beginning in the early days however they didnt have much skill advancement (the powerful door you couldn't crush existed to challenge the thief who had real amounts of advancement) and they had spells which might address them. Having non casters able to address tier appropriate non combat challenges I guess that allowing others to use skills against some of those awesome obstacles was a terrible addition to the story /sarcasm.

They expanded the versatility of martial types (other than that thief) and made skill use more applicable in the process.

In 4e your higher level warlord or fighter might bash through the adamantine door...and then the advantage of the thief is now not attracting attention (and being able to close the door readily).
 
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Which was designed first: the game system or the in-game fiction? The game system. The designers first came up with the game system. The designers then came up with justifications for the math working the way it does. They wanted the numbers to work the way they do. Then they made it make sense in the game world. If you're arguing that they designed how the game world worked first and fit the math to that...well.
Modules like the Keep on the Borderlands and Queen of the Demonweb Pits massively predate 4e. The decision to have level scaling was made the second the decision was made to have a D&D-like system and especially to make it a successor to 3.X. The fiction and the style of fiction predates 4e and the game was made to suit the fluff.
 

MwaO

Adventurer
Also, I'll just point out that even if Epic is available within the system, doesn't mean people actually play it. Literally, have never played Epic 4e despite thousands of hours of actual playtime. Some of the assumptions of wildly increasing DCs assume you play it, but in actuality, they just really increase twice as fast as 5e does. Which 5e reflects by making more DC20-DC25 skill checks due to +6/expertise and 4e reflects by increasing the DC by a total of 12.
 

Which was designed first: the game system or the in-game fiction? The game system. The designers first came up with the game system. The designers then came up with justifications for the math working the way it does. They wanted the numbers to work the way they do. Then they made it make sense in the game world. If you're arguing that they designed how the game world worked first and fit the math to that...well.
I'm speaking more to the way things work for the people playing 4e. They don't, or at least I don't, generally say "I need a level 24 encounter." Instead I say "The PCs are hunting Torog in the Deeps, they are getting close, but their Koa-Toa allies have called for help. Can they find the coordinates of a rumored teleportation circle nearby so they can go quickly to the Koa-Toa City and not lose too much time?" These are the thematics of an Epic adventure. Clearly we won't bother to include important elements that are inappropriate in level since they wouldn't form part of the narrative of a challenge, at most they would be footnotes. So, yes, at the time when specific elements may be introduced, the level of those elements, or creating appropriately leveled and described versions, will be important. I, personally, wouldn't start with "well, lets see, level 24 obstacles include drow, bloodstone, chained ones..." and simply brew something and then try to make up some logic for it.

In terms of how the game was designed, yes, I'm sure that a lot of the core mechanical architecture of the game wasn't built ON TOP OF any specific fiction. PoL wasn't fully imagined first, nor did they likely decide the fictional range of each type of monster, "Lets see, Storm Giants should be around low-Epic, and then you'd get Cloud Giants at mid-Epic..." I mean, AT SOME POINT that process happened, but probably after the mechanics were put together. OTOH I would not be surprised if something "gosh, capstone dragons aren't working quite right, can we tweak the rules a bit?" happened either, right? Its a game with mature flavor, so they MUST have had some idea what they wanted, fictionally.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, the problem is that 90% of your 5e GMs are 2e/3e/PF GMs that 'know how it is done' and treat this as a set of checks associated to each action the PC takes. That's just the reality. Even in the cases where the GM kind of knows better, it is hard to get players to match expectations with that, because it isn't a PROCESS, there's not the sorts of negotiations and mechanical decision points that, say, story games, or 4e SCs, give.
Nah, at best it's (ie^4.5)%. I mean, if we're to be using imaginary numbers, I find this formulation much more interesting in general.

I don't disagree, though, that there's quite a lot of this going on. The system isn't written that way. I'll be absolutely glad to accept that we should engage with it this way -- according to those that are not attempting to follow the recommendations of the system but playing it according to what they know -- if we do the same thing for 4e. Arguing that 5e needs to be defined by those that aren't following it's guidance while advocating 4e run correctly is bad pool.
Yes, I don't find this to be a viable strategy for a game to take. I guarantee you near 100% of 5e games work as if you were playing 3e in this respect, and as you have noted, pretty much all the modules assume this too.
Works just fine at my table. I suppose I'm not doing it right? Let's stick with only considering how people not following the system play as definitional of the system.

The modules have an interesting problem -- they need to present a complete enough adventure with good enough guidance to sell. This is hard to do with the guidance that puts everything in the moment. That said, I do find this frustrating, even if I understand why they have done so -- it's to make money. I can't really argue with that. Purity for system is great, but not if you need food.
I'm not totally sure where this came from. In 4e the high level PC wouldn't be rolling at all when they encounter the scree slope (under conditions similar to what challenged the low level PC). It MIGHT factor as a hazard if there was a combat in that area or something. I guess perhaps you MIGHT find an SC check to see if you went up the slope fast enough to beat some time clock or something, maybe. The FICTION is going to inform the choices. If the slope is icy scree halfway up a mountain in Tartarus, then sure, the high level guy will find the DC worth considering. But that's exactly it, high level guys aren't adventuring a mile from their home town, they are adventuring in Tartarus! I mean, sure, you can say "I devised the fictional trajectory of my campaign such that at 20th level the PCs would be in Tartarus, because I need a place crazy enough to evoke DCs that they might not pass!" and I won't argue with that, but IMHO that is just telling me what the design goal of 4e is. This is the beauty of design transparency, the game actually just tells you what will work. You can still tweak it of course. Maybe some people put those DCs on "adventuring at the top of Mount Everest", OK, I'll buy it.

Anyway, I think we're not exactly in disagreement there, lol.

Again, this is not going to fly because we need MORE STRUCTURE to explain the valence of each check. 5e's supposed way is non-viable ON THE FACE OF IT, for that reason. It leaves the player in a limbo of having no idea what the significance of their actions are, even for their own survival.
I have no idea what you mean by valance of a check. The DC spread, according to guidance, will almost always be 10-20. Going outside of this is like selecting a much higher level monster in 4e, like +8 -- something you do for good reasons. The result is that a player succeeds or fails, with failure having a consequence. Yes, 5e is vague on this, but I take success to mean just that -- not a lamed success or one immediately reversed. It is success. Does 4e have better guidance on this? Yep. Does that mean 5e is non-viable? Goodness, no. If you read it straight and don't try to twist it, it works just fine as presented and does a pretty good job.
Nor do you set DCs based on the specific skill bonus of a given PC in 4e. That's what levels are for, and if the players have managed to arrange things such that every challenge they face is exactly tuned to the capabilities they have built into their characters, more power to them!

But see, again, that's where I don't really agree with you. 4e DCs are purely based on fiction. What is or is not a challenge is based on what fiction actually evokes challenging DCs. I mean, if the GM (and players) want to depict their characters frolicking in grassy fields all day, well there won't be any checks made! There's no such thing as a level 20 grassy field, it doesn't exist. In both 4e and 5e the fiction will be set up such that challenge will exist. In that sense, I would not expect the two systems to differ. This is why in the end the 5e system isn't really sufficient, because it seems to want to pretend otherwise. This is confusing and obtuse.
Bolded -- they are not. If they are, why is there a chart in the rules giving DC?! DCs are based on the chart. Good practice is to make sure your fiction aligns with those DCs, but the setting of a DC is not based on the fiction, because the DC range is set before your game even starts. Instead, your fiction is set up to give those DCs support in play.

What requires a check is going to be based on the fiction, which is what I think you're going for, here. The goal of a skill challenge, the action that triggers a check, yes, but the DC? You pick it from a chart. This is the same for 5e. The difference is in how DCs are set. And it's really not all that different here -- the GM picks easy, medium, or hard. The 4e GM also select a level, which is necessary because you need to know where you are on the treadmill. The 5e treadmill is broken -- it stays in the same place, so this step isn't necessary.
Well... OK, someone COULD play 4e under a terrible misconception that DCs are 'magically' set to the level of the PC, I guess. They would have to really avoid a major amount of basic reading. For example all the example terrains in every book are pretty clear, low level challenging terrain is (relatively) mundane. High level challenging terrain is magical, exists in fantastical locations, etc. It seems like a message that is pretty hard to miss.
I don't think it's a terrible misconception at all. It's what the rules suggest -- there's a chart! That you've adopted a good approach that makes sure that you understand the need to up the fiction to match the DC range is cool, but you're still getting the DCs from that range, and have made your choices for the available range prior to crafting the fiction. You said so yourself, above, that you need to send the PCs to Tartarus when they're of a level that challenge DC need that fiction. Cool! I agree.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This applies to doors too. Which means that the "objective" lists in the DMG are no more than advisory, just like the monster stats in the MM. This is why I say that, ultimately, 4e is "subjective" DCs: if a player thinks that the DC doesn't match the fiction, the issue isn't that the GM has wrongly estimated the DC (as it would be in 5e, or Burning Wheel, or another "objective" difficulty game) - it's that the GM has failed to persuasively convey the aesthetics of the situation.

I think this is a big part of what makes 4e so robust in play.
This isn't anything different for me when I run 5e, either. If I pick a DC that doesn't make sense, it's almost always because of a mismatch between my description/understanding and the players'. This usually gets resolved with a 'huh, why's that?' I'm not sure that the distinction your drawing is actually there -- I don't think this rests on subjective versus objective, at least as I understand how you're using the terms. You're picking the DC for 4e based on the level range you've selected and if it's an easy, medium, or hard challenge. For this, you've described the fiction to support your selection -- a failure at this description means that there's confusion about where the DC came from. For this to work, the DC you pick has to align to the fiction of the situation -- if you pick a +4 level hard DC, then you need to have described that for it to make sense.

All of that appears to be true for 5e and Burning Wheel, though. If a player in my 5e game tries something I think is hard, it should be not surprising when I say, "that sounds hard." If it is, then I need to revisit my fictional description of the situation.

The difference, as far as I can glean, is that 4e has a much wider range of DCs selectable than 5e does, because the GM can choose challenge levels and then easy/medium/hard. This range of DCs means that the initial argument I joined the thread on -- that 4e PC's increase in ability is largely moot because of the increase in DCs -- still largely holds. If the GM is softballing with lower levels, then neglected skills get better, but if they hardball with higher levels, then neglected skills get worse. Same for focused skills. 5e pulled out the level selection and broke the treadmill. So, if we consider that, then 5e is like always selecting on level skills, and, here, the impact of baseline improvement shows zero impact on on level skills. You HAVE to consider lower level challenges for it to have an impact, and then, on average, it doesn't really exist. It's like playing 5e with an arbitrary (because challenge level in 4e is arbitrary) +/-2 on DCs.

I think that you categorize 4e as having subjective DCs because they're selected without consideration for the fiction -- instead, the fiction is built around the DCs. So, you can elect to use DCs for their pacing effects (as one example) rather than because that what the fiction/action suggest.

I don't think I'd call this "subjective" vs "objective," though. I'd call objective DCs ones that are set for a given task prior to play - like the athletics DCs in 4e, or most of the DCs in 3e.
 

What requires a check is going to be based on the fiction, which is what I think you're going for, here. The goal of a skill challenge, the action that triggers a check, yes, but the DC? You pick it from a chart. This is the same for 5e. The difference is in how DCs are set. And it's really not all that different here -- the GM picks easy, medium, or hard. The 4e GM also select a level, which is necessary because you need to know where you are on the treadmill. The 5e treadmill is broken -- it stays in the same place, so this step isn't necessary.
The 5e treadmill is indeed broken. It stays in the same place while the characters move. Their proficiency bonuses go up and the amount of magic they can pour on to skills goes up (Pass Without Trace and it's group-wide +10 being particularly ridiculous) - but the treadmill stays firmly in the off position and needs a maintenance engineer because it simply doesn't go anywhere even while the PCs leave the skill chart in the dust in some ways and are stuck at the starting line in others.
I don't think it's a terrible misconception at all. It's what the rules suggest -- there's a chart!
And if you only look at the chart and ignore literally every single thing that is published anywhere else including the skill descriptions then you could come to that understanding.

But if you need to ignore the entire skill system to come to a misconception and that misconception makes the game worse then yes it's a misconception and it's a terrible one. If the misconception makes the game better then it's a non-terrible one.

So I'm going to ask you straight up: Is 4e a better game for behaving the way you've described in which case it's a fruitful misconception or is it worse in which case it's a terrible one?
That you've adopted a good approach that makes sure that you understand the need to up the fiction to match the DC range is cool, but you're still getting the DCs from that range, and have made your choices for the available range prior to crafting the fiction.
Once more you are literally ignoring the skill rules to come to this conclusion. The skill rules suggest fixed DCs for certain things.
You said so yourself, above, that you need to send the PCs to Tartarus when they're of a level that challenge DC need that fiction. Cool! I agree.
Sending the PCs to places like the Demonweb Pits or Against the Giants when they are of a level when mundane challenges aren't much of a challenge is what D&D has done since the start. The difference is that 4e expects the challenges to match the environment while 5e pretends that bounded accuracy means they don't have to do this.
 

The difference, as far as I can glean, is that 4e has a much wider range of DCs selectable than 5e does, because the GM can choose challenge levels and then easy/medium/hard. This range of DCs means that the initial argument I joined the thread on -- that 4e PC's increase in ability is largely moot because of the increase in DCs -- still largely holds. If the GM is softballing with lower levels, then neglected skills get better, but if they hardball with higher levels, then neglected skills get worse.
Nope. In 4e neglected skills that you'd be expected to do something with get better with the level. Everyone gets better as they level up. The Wis 8 wizard may never be good at perception but they will at least learn what to look out for over time, unlike his Mr. Magoo counterpart in 5e. The fighter at least learns something about arcana from all the droning the wizard does and all the spellcasters they face. The thief gets tougher over time.

Now in 5e it's possible to fake this sort of progression by lowering the DCs - but to do this you need to ignore such things as the trap rules and the monster rules. Indeed I'd go so far as to say that the only way to do this in 5e is active houseruling.
Same for focused skills. 5e pulled out the level selection and broke the treadmill.
4e's only "treadmill" is that the reward for a job well done is a harder job.

5e's "breaking of the treadmill" means that you are robbed of characters actually learning from each other.
So, if we consider that, then 5e is like always selecting on level skills, and, here, the impact of baseline improvement shows zero impact on on level skills. You HAVE to consider lower level challenges for it to have an impact, and then, on average, it doesn't really exist.
In short if you are playing in a white room with characters with no history at all then 4e doesn't show baseline improvement. If the characters are involved in literally any sort of multi-level adventure then they clearly and obviously show improvement and in reality it exists.

Meanwhile 5e characters are inert, incurious, and only show any improvement in anything they aren't focusing on if the DM decides to ignore the actual rules and throw them a bone. And because 5e is so non-granular it's obvious when the DM is throwing you a +5.
It's like playing 5e with an arbitrary (because challenge level in 4e is arbitrary) +/-2 on DCs. I think that you categorize 4e as having subjective DCs because they're selected without consideration for the fiction -- instead, the fiction is built around the DCs.
Have you even read 4e? Because you appear to have not read the skill rules.
So, you can elect to use DCs for their pacing effects (as one example) rather than because that what the fiction/action suggest.
And you can make things up in 5e as well. You aren't breaking nearly as many guidelines when you do.
I don't think I'd call this "subjective" vs "objective," though. I'd call objective DCs ones that are set for a given task prior to play - like the athletics DCs in 4e, or most of the DCs in 3e.
It's hardly just athletics.

I'm trying to work out whether you've literally never read or played 4e or whether you simply have a lot of misconceptions about it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The 5e treadmill is indeed broken. It stays in the same place while the characters move. Their proficiency bonuses go up and the amount of magic they can pour on to skills goes up (Pass Without Trace and it's group-wide +10 being particularly ridiculous) - but the treadmill stays firmly in the off position and needs a maintenance engineer because it simply doesn't go anywhere even while the PCs leave the skill chart in the dust in some ways and are stuck at the starting line in others.
You don't think this is what happens in 4e? The very chart in 4e is built, from the start, that Easy checks are not able to be failed by focused characters. Easy checks NEVER get easier for neglected skills. In 5e, the focused character CAN fail at the start of their career, but can't really fail easy, even medium checks (depending on expertise) at the end. The neglected skills stay the same. Meanwhile, in 4e, neglected skills get priced out of hard checks relatively quickly.

You're making an argument but half of it is based in not actually looking at how 4e does things with it's math! If you neglect a skill in 4e, you're in the same pile of suck as you are if you do it in 5e. If you focus on a skill, you get to the point that most DCs don't matter to you in both. What you're describing is getting bonuses outside of the class structure in 5e, which are all either teamwork assists (bardic inspiration, guidance) or are granted by the GM (boons, magic items, etc). For 4e, these are priced in -- another difference.
And if you only look at the chart and ignore literally every single thing that is published anywhere else including the skill descriptions then you could come to that understanding.

But if you need to ignore the entire skill system to come to a misconception and that misconception makes the game worse then yes it's a misconception and it's a terrible one. If the misconception makes the game better then it's a non-terrible one.

So I'm going to ask you straight up: Is 4e a better game for behaving the way you've described in which case it's a fruitful misconception or is it worse in which case it's a terrible one?
I disagree with your odd false dichotomy, here. I think 4e's a fine game. I'm not trying to say it's bad or anything, I'm saying that the idea that 4e's +1/2 level bonus actually represents character improvement and 5e doesn't have this. The reality is that the way 4e progresses DCs, this bonus is moot -- it's the baseline movement of DCs as well. With this, if you look at how 5e does it, it's pretty much the same -- they skip the treadmill of +1/2 level to both skills and DCs, but the spread is the same.

As for ignoring everything about skills, I'm not sure what you mean. Almost all the skill descriptions say the GM will set the DC. The advice to the GM is to use the chart to help set DCs. The only real differences are the athletics skills, which, for some reason, stick to the 3e era fixed DCs.
Once more you are literally ignoring the skill rules to come to this conclusion. The skill rules suggest fixed DCs for certain things.
Yes, they do. If I want to forage with skills that allow it (Nature, Dungeoneering), I need a 15 for myself or a 25 for 2-5 people. The GM can modify this +/- 5 based on the environment. Of course, this suggests that I can forage for my entire party, finding food and water for the day, in the most desolate parts of the Elemental Plane of Parched Dryness on a 30. Which I can hit as soon as level 1.

Do go on about how the skill system in 4e that uses fixed DCs is somehow making a point? Is it that a level 30 character with that has utterly neglected this skill can always succeed at finding a day's worth of food and water with an hour's effort in one of the most desolate and dry places in the multiverse? Without magic, just mundane coolness.

The parts of 4e that use fixed DCs are largely broken messes that are legacies of 3e in a system that should have shed that. I don't care that you're a demigod -- you should be able to die of thirst (or be rendered catatonic) on the Elemental Plane of Parched Dryness.
Sending the PCs to places like the Demonweb Pits or Against the Giants when they are of a level when mundane challenges aren't much of a challenge is what D&D has done since the start. The difference is that 4e expects the challenges to match the environment while 5e pretends that bounded accuracy means they don't have to do this.
I disagree, but it's a matter of interpretation of how both games do things. I don't have a problem in 5e presenting fantastic locations and setting DCs that work out pretty well. When you're 20th level and you go to do something, genre conventions suggest that range should be pretty epic. It's the idea that everything must be grounded only in the bonus math -- that a 0 bonus means only mundane things are allowed. That's not how 5e ability checks work -- you make an ability check when the outcome is uncertain, and it represents how you do at that task. If you have a 0 bonus and roll a 20 to pass a hard check, you don't just do it by the skin of your teeth, you do it. Just like if you had a +17 bonus and rolled a 20. The error in your argument is that bonus suggests range of options -- that you must have a high bonus to do something. But this isn't anywhere in 5e -- it's a legacy concept that you've apparently drug into 4e as well. The bonus doesn't matter -- it doesn't control what's possible. It's only a feed into things that are uncertain.

If Bob the Great, renowned Paladin, savior of the Kingdom, Hero of the Planes, approaches a guard who challenges him, his +0 on intimidate doesn't matter -- it's not an uncertain task that Bob identifies himself and the guard is cowed. If Bob is leaning on the King, he might need to roll, depending on how and why. This is because everyone knows the things Bob can do, so only things that can reasonably deal with those are likely to resist Bob. When that happens, Bob has a poor track record of successfully talking things down, but a good track record of deal with it afterwards (he's alive). There's quite a number of fantasy heroes that fit this mold.
 

You don't think this is what happens in 4e?
As I have said repeatedly no this is not what happens in a game of 4e that is either being run by the book or being run well.

What actually happens in 4e is that enemies remain relevant for about half a dozen levels and you steadily surpass them. So for that matter do the DCs within an adventure because you go off the adventure level.

What happens in reality is that you feel a ratchet; as you are on an adventure or a quest things steadily get comparatively easier or you fave more things - and when you start a new quest things get harder as the enemies are all new and higher level and in a more dangerous environment. This doesn't mysteriously take away progression. And yes going into a new area does and should feel harder.

Now will you please stop with this Point Refuted A Thousand Times?
The very chart in 4e is built, from the start, that Easy checks are not able to be failed by focused characters. Easy checks NEVER get easier for neglected skills.
Please stop ignoring the skill rules that are in the PHB. This is entirely irrelevant to whether characters actually get better at things. Which they do.
In 5e, the focused character CAN fail at the start of their career, but can't really fail easy, even medium checks (depending on expertise) at the end. The neglected skills stay the same. Meanwhile, in 4e, neglected skills get priced out of hard checks relatively quickly.
In 5e a hard difficulty is DC 20. Which means that characters who don't focus on those skills were never priced in to hard checks in the first place. For that matter a medium difficulty is DC 15. Unless you're a specialist you're priced out of that.
You're making an argument but half of it is based in not actually looking at how 4e does things with it's math!
On the contrary, I'm making an argument looking at the whole of 4e and the whole of 5e. You are pretending that:
  • 4e skill rules do not exist
  • 4e monster rules do not exist
  • 5e monster rules do not exist
  • 5e trap rules do not exist
And possibly more.

You are pretending that the entire skill system can be boiled down to a single table in each game. Which they can't.
If you neglect a skill in 4e, you're in the same pile of suck as you are if you do it in 5e.
Nope.

If you neglect a skill in 4e you will still get better at it. Which has a meaningful in game effect. If you've entirely neglected both skill and stat and are trying to attempt something hard you have screwed up badly.

Meanwhile the 5e skill system was slapped together to the point they couldn't be bothered to work out how the DCs related to what the PCs were trying to do. That said it's not the worst part of the 5e DM tools; the DMG monster design tools not only don't work but they couldn't even be bothered to make them match the Monster Manual. 5e does a lot right from the players' side of the screen but for DMs "broken treadmills" is a good metaphor.

So let's look at the actual math of 5e.

An easy task is DC 10. Which means someone with no skill and no training has about a 50% chance of completing it (yes, I'm rounding down and it's actually 55%). This leads to the following effects in play:
  • If you have only a 50% chance of doing something and failure has consequences it's a bad roll and you should only do it in an emergency.
  • If you have a 50% chance of doing something and failure has no consequences it's bad to roll and you should just take 10 or 20.
The results of this are that in 5e if you have entirely neglected a skill you should never be doing it unless you have somehow got advantage. In 4e you use easy skill checks to pitch in and help even if you're no good at the thing being done; you've spotted a great opportunity because (at least the version I use and I fully accept there were several iterations) it needs a 7 not a 10 as the default and you've a 2/3 chance of making things better.

An average task is DC 15. If you're the smartest person ever or the strongest person ever you're still capped at 20 or +5. You can't rely on talent for this - you need proficiency. And if you're both pretty adept in your secondary stat (14) and proficient you'll only surpass that +5 at level 9. If you roll a moderate check in 5e without advantage and you're not pretty focused you've messed up or things have gone pear shaped.

This broken treadmill encourages people not to roll easy checks outside their area and not to roll moderate checks unless they've got advantage, guidance, inspiration, or other stuff.
If you focus on a skill, you get to the point that most DCs don't matter to you in both. What you're describing is getting bonuses outside of the class structure in 5e, which are all either teamwork assists (bardic inspiration, guidance) or are granted by the GM (boons, magic items, etc). For 4e, these are priced in -- another difference.
Indeed. 4e paid attention to what it was doing rather than slapped down some round numbers and called it a day on the DM side. The 5e classes and player side are pretty good - but the DM side is half-assed.
I disagree with your odd false dichotomy, here. I think 4e's a fine game. I'm not trying to say it's bad or anything, I'm saying that the idea that 4e's +1/2 level bonus actually represents character improvement and 5e doesn't have this. The reality is that the way 4e progresses DCs, this bonus is moot -- it's the baseline movement of DCs as well. With this, if you look at how 5e does it, it's pretty much the same -- they skip the treadmill of +1/2 level to both skills and DCs, but the spread is the same
Which would be fine and dandy if it was the case. But 5e has both fixed and escalating difficulties.

And the spread being the same does not mean there is no improvement. You can e.g. look at jump distances. Or look at how easy you find it to deal with the enemies and what you're currently facing.

4e's "treadmill" is that your foes get tougher and as you're higher level people want you for the challenges only you can do. Either 5e has this treadmill or it's just same stuff, different day.

By stripping rather than reducing the level scaling 5e turned well rounded characters who learn a lot into incurious dolts. And it wouldn't be hard to have fixed that. Make proficiency a +3 and then give the rest of the proficiency bonus to just about everything including the skills and saves you aren't proficient in.

As for ignoring everything about skills, I'm not sure what you mean. Almost all the skill descriptions say the GM will set the DC. The advice to the GM is to use the chart to help set DCs. The only real differences are the athletics skills, which, for some reason, stick to the 3e era fixed DCs.
Do you own a 4e PHB? Because skill descriptions in 4e that have at least some static DCs include:
  • Acrobatics (balance)
  • Arcana (Identify conjuration or zone, identify ritual, identify magical effect, sense the presence of magic)
  • Athletics
  • Dungeoneering (Foraging)
  • Endurance
  • Heal
  • Insight (recognise effect as illusionary)
  • Nature (Forage)
  • Perception (Listen difficulties, Spot or search, Find tracks)
  • Streetwise
  • Thievery (Disable trap, open lock)
Oh, and knowledge checks for quite a few things. Admittedly Essentials has slightly less (I can't find my Rules Cyclopaedia to check)

4e was not 3.5 and it was not 5e. It was in many ways a transitional form. And in many ways this gave it strengths that neither individually has; it's a much looser skill system than 3.5 without being the entire loosy-goosey "we couldn't be bothered with any sort of benchmark; ask your DM" of 5e.

And I think it was right to have fewer fixed checks - but that it has some should kill any idea that there's no progression and you're just on a treadmill stone cold dead. The only treadmill you are on in 4e is that as you level up you take on harder challenges - the way it has always been. You're physically and mentally more capable because you've learned things, unlike in 5e.
I disagree, but it's a matter of interpretation of how both games do things. I don't have a problem in 5e presenting fantastic locations and setting DCs that work out pretty well.
What failed was giving progression to the characters outside their areas of expertise.
If you have a 0 bonus and roll a 20 to pass a hard check, you don't just do it by the skin of your teeth, you do it. Just like if you had a +17 bonus and rolled a 20. The error in your argument is that bonus suggests range of options -- that you must have a high bonus to do something.
Nope. It's simply that a high bonus is meaningful.
But this isn't anywhere in 5e -- it's a legacy concept that you've apparently drug into 4e as well. The bonus doesn't matter -- it doesn't control what's possible. It's only a feed into things that are uncertain.
It would be nice if there was some sort of idea presented in 5e about how characters actually grow this way. But there isn't.
If Bob the Great, renowned Paladin, savior of the Kingdom, Hero of the Planes, approaches a guard who challenges him, his +0 on intimidate doesn't matter -- it's not an uncertain task that Bob identifies himself and the guard is cowed.
If Bob the Great, renowned Paladin has a +0 on intimidate he's a weird build. If on the other hand Frank the Mongoose approaches a guard who challenges him and he tries to identify himself he may well get "Piss off you bloody chancer until you can come up with a believable story". The guard isn't telepathic; why is he going to believe Frank is who he says he is when he looks like any other ranger?
 

pemerton

Legend
Well... If you look at the doors, they are described as being composed of different, and progressively more rare and magical/tough, materials as the DCs increase. This is just like the terrain. Thus, IMHO, fiction is entirely driving these things. Were an adamantium door to appear in a location where level 1 PCs happened to go, it wouldn't magically be a DC15 door to break down. It would be DC40 (or whatever it is) and the level 1 party would just be SOL if they tried to break it. The fiction wouldn't present that as a necessary option, obviously. No more than it has to present traveling through meters of solid rock as an option to a level 1 PC. Some things ARE impossible.

Likewise a level 12 bugbear is the Bugbear Gung Fu Master of all bugbears, or somesuch. Clearly if you decide to mess with that bugbear, such will be telegraphed in some fashion such that a low-level PC won't ever mess with it, assuming for some reason they even appeared together in the same scene (possible).
The only way I telegraphed the level 12 bugbear was by including it in an encounter that was framed for paragon tier (level 14 or 15) PCs. That's what I'm getting at when I refer to "subjective" DCs.

Likewise with doors. I would treat the DMG list as serving the same purpose as the MM lists. But if for some reason I need an iron door in a higher-level situation I'm not going to worry too much about stepping up its DC a bit to make it more interesting, without any telegraphing beyond the fact that I've included it in the encounter.

Just as I can say something about the toughness of the bugbear if I need to (but I don't think it came up), so likewise I can say something about the superior make or thickness of the door.

The DCs have to go up to be a challenge to higher level characters because of the math of the game. The designers then justified those higher DCs with in-game explanations. They didn't start with the story and set the math. They started with the math and set the story. The math / game system is driving these story considerations.
I don't think I agree with your last sentence. The core idea in 4e - which builds on D&D heritage but spells it out with a degree of specificity that is new - is that PCs advance through tiers, and these tiers involve changes of fiction. As @Garthanos posted, the fiction - at least in general terms, like kobolds being low-level and Orcus being high-level; or like adamantine being a particularly strong metal to make doors and walls out of - was already there, in the D&D legacy.

What 4e does is (i) design PC build around the tiers (eg with paragon paths and epic destinies; and more generally with certain sorts of abilities generally reserved for higher tiers), and (ii) publish default lists of challenges (monsters, traps, NPCs, doors), which if followed will produce a certain sort of correlation of fiction with tiers.

My own view is that what is fundamental to make 4e game play work is to get the maths right - hence the rewrites of damage numbers beginning with MM3, and the various tweaks to the DCs-by-level table which ended up with the Essentials numbers that I've referred to in this thread. So if you introduce fiction and just read its maths of the default lists (eg iron doors for epic tier PCs; non-minion bugbears for paragon tier PCs) you will generally get sub-optimal play. Which then suggests two choices:

(1) Treat the lists as sacrosanct, and only use numbers and hence fiction that is tier-appropriate as per those lists (eg no iron doors for epic tier PCs; no non-minion bugbears for paragon tier PCs);

(2) Treat the lists as defaults/suggestions, and depart from them by levelling up or down (ie changing the maths) as seems necessary to ensure good gameplay.​

As a 4e GM I always went for (2) over (1) - hence my characterisation of the system as involving "subjective" rather than "objective" DCs. It never caused any issues in play, or placed any burdens on verisimilitude. The sense of verisimilitude in 4e play, at least in my experience, is not the product of careful tracking of the correlation of particular fiction to particular maths but rather the consistency of the fiction on its own terms, and the vibrancy of the situations and outcomes that occur in play.

@Ovinomancer, the above is all relevant to your post about subjective vs objective DCs. But rather than make this post any longer I'll reply separately to that, but building on this.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The only way I telegraphed the level 12 bugbear was by including it in an encounter that was framed for paragon tier (level 14 or 15) PCs. That's what I'm getting at when I refer to "subjective" DCs.

Likewise with doors. I would treat the DMG list as serving the same purpose as the MM lists. But if for some reason I need an iron door in a higher-level situation I'm not going to worry too much about stepping up its DC a bit to make it more interesting, without any telegraphing beyond the fact that I've included it in the encounter.

Just as I can say something about the toughness of the bugbear if I need to (but I don't think it came up), so likewise I can say something about the superior make or thickness of the door.


I don't think I agree with your last sentence. The core idea in 4e - which builds on D&D heritage but spells it out with a degree of specificity that is new - is that PCs advance through tiers, and these tiers involve changes of fiction. As @Garthanos posted, the fiction - at least in general terms, like kobolds being low-level and Orcus being high-level; or like adamantine being a particularly strong metal to make doors and walls out of - was already there, in the D&D legacy.

What 4e does is (i) design PC build around the tiers (eg with paragon paths and epic destinies; and more generally with certain sorts of abilities generally reserved for higher tiers), and (ii) publish default lists of challenges (monsters, traps, NPCs, doors), which if followed will produce a certain sort of correlation of fiction with tiers.

My own view is that what is fundamental to make 4e game play work is to get the maths right - hence the rewrites of damage numbers beginning with MM3, and the various tweaks to the DCs-by-level table which ended up with the Essentials numbers that I've referred to in this thread. So if you introduce fiction and just read its maths of the default lists (eg iron doors for epic tier PCs; non-minion bugbears for paragon tier PCs) you will generally get sub-optimal play. Which then suggests two choices:

(1) Treat the lists as sacrosanct, and only use numbers and hence fiction that is tier-appropriate as per those lists (eg no iron doors for epic tier PCs; no non-minion bugbears for paragon tier PCs);​
(2) Treat the lists as defaults/suggestions, and depart from them by levelling up or down (ie changing the maths) as seems necessary to ensure good gameplay.​

As a 4e GM I always went for (2) over (1) - hence my characterisation of the system as involving "subjective" rather than "objective" DCs. It never caused any issues in play, or placed any burdens on verisimilitude. The sense of verisimilitude in 4e play, at least in my experience, is not the product of careful tracking of the correlation of particular fiction to particular maths but rather the consistency of the fiction on its own terms, and the vibrancy of the situations and outcomes that occur in play.

@Ovinomancer, the above is all relevant to your post about subjective vs objective DCs. But rather than make this post any longer I'll reply separately to that, but building on this.
I don't see much need, as this pretty much sums up my thinking on where you were going. DC wasn't about the fiction as is but rather the fiction as desired, and so if pacing was desired, DCs were selected for this goal, not for anything in the fiction. I'm still not sure subjective vs objective is a good term for this -- perhaps grounded and ungrounded? You approach is not well grounded in the fiction or the action, it's whatever it needs to be and the fiction catches up (not a dig, this is 100% valid and I clearly see the use). The other tries to ground things to the fiction as established and the current situation without regard to those other things, at least not after the fact -- it could be a factor in prep. Honestly, I don't have a problem with either way, it just depend on what your goal for play is.
 


Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
How to play 5e skills like you were playing 4e. The trick is not asking for a roll on anything out of a lower tier (this is flavor defined) their character at level 5 has a default/assumed approach of I am a fricken heroic (enter theme name here) "of course the fire lights when I need it unless there isn't something of this story tier interfering". Similarly you get an appropriate approach instead of fricken heroic X you have I am an awesome (insert paragon path here) and I am an incredible (insert epic destiny name here). Adjectives may be reversed.

After you decide to have the player roll go ahead and use the same technique 5e uses for deciding the DC. However one suspects the DCs for important rolls will end up magically higher each tier possibly in direct proportion to the increase in proficiency but who knows.

/sarcasm I think.
An admonishment you have to basically ignore any static numbers given by the system for skill dcs unless the obstacle associated is in the within tier or better. This is not a change to the above merely an emphasis...
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
So people want detailed descriptions for every DC?
no idea where that is to be gleaned from.
Again, I disagree. The logic is the other way around. PCs of high levels go to places where there are things with high DCs because what they would find in other areas isn't going to be interesting to them, or challenging to them. 15th level PCs don't go to Kobold Hall to loot a couple of GP from some level 1 monsters. I mean, maybe narratively they do, it would be a 5 minute narrative interlude "you track down those stupid kobolds who dared to mess with your cousin and clean them out. There was a baby dragon, you ganked it. You can sell the Dragon hide to the local wizard for 100GP." Whatever. This is not what players fill up their table time with.

And again, maybe a kobold or a wooden door is present in some high level delve or extra-planar location. Killing the kobold would not be the point, its wallpaper, or it has some information, or whatever. The wooden door isn't an OBSTACLE, though it might conceal something from view until you brush it aside.
In 5e the static DCs with non skilled characters being static ability mean they are an OBSTACLE because bounded accuracy makes it so. The squashed math of 5e makes it so unless the DM manages by fiat to override them into non-obstacles. To me the core difference between 5e and 4e seems to be its aload more DM work. More work to make monsters interesting. More work to make encounters
In 4e your higher level warlord or fighter might bash through the adamantine door...and then the advantage of the thief is now not attracting attention (and being able to close the door readily).
In 5e the wizard gets to do that getting through the door loudly but your mundanely strong fighter is probably just going to just I mean the system has you setting difficulties based on what the guy at the gym can do.... he isn't knocking down anything of legendary or mythic difficulty. In 4e I actively expect him to.

The fighters of 5e are very mundane out of the box outside of combat without regular dm fiat.

And I think it was right to have fewer fixed checks - but that it has some should kill any idea that there's no progression and you're just on a treadmill stone cold dead. The only treadmill you are on in 4e is that as you level up you take on harder challenges - the way it has always been. You're physically and mentally more capable because you've learned things, unlike in 5e.
Exactly 4e didnt change the story at all. It followed through on it.
 
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