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D&D 5E How Old-School is 5th Edition? Can it even do Old-School?

Yora

Legend
Though I think when running a campaign with an oldschool mindset, that's a great time to actually have the players roll for stats. With 4d6k3, arrange freely, a +1 for every two scores, and all positive race modifiers, there's really no risk of ending up with bad stats.
 

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Voadam

Legend
When I ran 5e White Plume in Tales of the Yawning Portal for my son and my brother and his two kids I had them roll 3d6 in order for the one shot. I also disallowed multiclassing.

TPK from a vampire.

When I ran 5e White Plume for my son and my brother-in-law and his two kids they made it through to escape with an artifact despite blowing up part of the dungeon.

Such divergent results in White Plume mountain running 5e straight felt very old school.
 

darjr

I crit!
Apologies, I have not read the whole thread but I wanted to post something I just discovered myself.

Old Swords Reign. A man attempt to use 5e to rebuild OD&D.

I just bought it and haven’t read it yet.



Erg… though race class restrictions I will change.
 
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darjr

I crit!
How would an attempt to rebuild OD&D not just be OD&D? Why would 5th edition be involved with that?
Mainly so they can play in that style and not have to have the players learn a completely different game.

For me the bonus is the deep, almost invisible on first look, subtle changes to class and spells while still being compatible enough I could run that new Esper Genesis adventure.
 

GreyLord

Legend
How would an attempt to rebuild OD&D not just be OD&D? Why would 5th edition be involved with that?

I did a similar thing as well, several years ago. It's not just OD&D though, it also had things with BECMI and AD&D as optional items. It was more options to make your game run like OD&D with 5e rules.

(Look up 5e Old School on DMs Guild).

Mine (or my reason for doing so) was more to have various options that one could include. This also meant that one could play OD&D but with the new things from 5e if they wanted (proficiency bonus, new races such as Dragonborn, Tieflings, etc). They could play with it as much or as little as they wanted to make it more like OD&D, or less like OD&D (and the same with BECMI or AD&D).
 

teitan

Legend
How I would old school it up

1. No feats

2. No drow, dragonborn, tieflings

3. Variant humans to make them more attractive to increase the human to demihuman ratio, yes it brings in feats but it's one. One feat. Whoopdie doooo.

4. PHB only classes, when you get outside of that, case by case. De-emphasize the magical fighter phenom in post 2e era D&D when you get outside the core rules.

5. Limit multiclassing... or don't use it at all.

6. Use the gritty healing rules

7. Milestone leveling, but every 4-5 sessions or more. SLow that roll. If they are level 10 in a year, you are not old schooling it. If you are doing XP, then reward it for smart play and not slaughter. D&D was a resource management game, not a hack & slash game. Reward XP for getting out of scraps. 2-3 xp per encounter times the CR, minimum 1. Level 1-3 might go quicker than old school but it's a different way of doing it.

8. Scale down the hit points, cap them at level 10 and half the monster HP suggestions when they start hitting about 20-40. Ain't no one got time for 300-500 hit point whittling fights. Cap at about 125.

That's just a few things off the top of my head that I would do to bring it to a more old school level of play. 5E is pretty old school in a lot of ways. It's a logical progression of 2e in the same way 3e was but if different designers handled it. If more people read the DMG instead of watching the less than wonderful youtube reviewers saying "you don't need to read this book" like it's the 2e DMG or something inconsequential, we would see a lot more interesting house rules and stuff I think that could make for some awesome kit bashes.
 

Nefermandias

Adventurer
Since this thread seems to be still running, let me give my two cents on ho why I think 5e has quite a few old school elements in it.

Firstly: Character generation is quick and straightforward. If you are not using any of the optional add-ons like feats and multiclassing, you are basically down to choosing class, race and background. It's nothing like the huge skill trees from the previous two editions.

Secondly: It's the first time in the WotC era that you can run actual dungeon crawls. 3e had the problem of easy access to magic items creation and parties had nearly infinite resources, which eliminated the main aspect of dungeon creaking: resource management and strategic thinking (talking strategy, not tactics). 4e on the other hand had really good pacing tools and ways to make the party exhaust their resources, but the system was better geared to just a few set piece fights instead of long dungeons. Ironically, that's the way most people (at least on Reddit) play 5e today. They would probably have a stroke if I told them that 4e could handle that style better.

And finally, the way 5e handles Abilities and Skill checks is very old school. Unlike the previous two editions, 5e puts the adjucation powers squarely back into the DMs hand. Heck, you could even give up the dice completely while out of combat and run the game solely based on "skilled play", using a Free Kriegspiel approach. You don't believe me? Page 236 of the DMG says it's a perfectly valid (and within RAW) way to run the game. It even makes me think that skills are actually something they only included in the game because they feared the backlash if they had completely removed them. Just like the optional feats and flanking rules.
 

Yora

Legend
Never beeing much of a char-ops person myself, I never understood why people say the skills in 5th edition work different than in 3rd. Of course you don't have skill points to improve skill bonuses, but the only difference that I see in using skills is that 5th edition offers fewer guidelines on what the DC for the checks should be.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Since this thread seems to be still running, let me give my two cents on ho why I think 5e has quite a few old school elements in it.
I agree it definitely has some elements, but the issue is more the plethora of elements at detract from old school feel. :(

  • High hit rate (60% or better)
  • HP bloat
  • High damage (I'm looking at you, Smites!)
  • Spamming Cantrips
  • And so on...

Firstly: Character generation is quick and straightforward. If you are not using any of the optional add-ons like feats and multiclassing, you are basically down to choosing class, race and background. It's nothing like the huge skill trees from the previous two editions.
True, the only caveat would be for class choosing your skill proficiencies. However, if you used non-weapon proficiencies in AD&D, this is not really any difference on that point.

Secondly: It's the first time in the WotC era that you can run actual dungeon crawls. 3e had the problem of easy access to magic items creation and parties had nearly infinite resources, which eliminated the main aspect of dungeon creaking: resource management and strategic thinking (talking strategy, not tactics). 4e on the other hand had really good pacing tools and ways to make the party exhaust their resources, but the system was better geared to just a few set piece fights instead of long dungeons. Ironically, that's the way most people (at least on Reddit) play 5e today. They would probably have a stroke if I told them that 4e could handle that style better.
I never played 3E much, but from what I hear and my limited experience I agree.

However, with the increased exposure to magic, 5E loses some ground in feeling old school. There is way too much overlap in spellcasting and with infinite cantrips and having nearly half the races with darkvision, things like worrying about light get thrown out the window.

Of course, infravision was much too common even in AD&D; of dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, halfling, and human, only the last two didn't have infravision.

And finally, the way 5e handles Abilities and Skill checks is very old school. Unlike the previous two editions, 5e puts the adjucation powers squarely back into the DMs hand. Heck, you could even give up the dice completely while out of combat and run the game solely based on "skilled play", using a Free Kriegspiel approach. You don't believe me? Page 236 of the DMG says it's a perfectly valid (and within RAW) way to run the game. It even makes me think that skills are actually something they only included in the game because they feared the backlash if they had completely removed them. Just like the optional feats and flanking rules.
Yep. IME too many DM's call for ability checks when they really aren't needed, as in there is no real consequence for failure, and players like to roll so ask for checks for everything. :)
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Never beeing much of a char-ops person myself, I never understood why people say the skills in 5th edition work different than in 3rd. Of course you don't have skill points to improve skill bonuses, but the only difference that I see in using skills is that 5th edition offers fewer guidelines on what the DC for the checks should be.
The greatest difference is for character creation/advancement. 5E is a "fire and forget" as in you choose the skill and never have to worry about improving it as proficiency bonus rises with level.

In 3E, you had to allocate skill points or whatever and could have several skills with just 1 rank each. Sure, you could just put the max in each skill and automatically add 1 rank to each when you leveled, it would be the closest thing to 5E you can do I think.
 

The greatest difference is for character creation/advancement. 5E is a "fire and forget" as in you choose the skill and never have to worry about improving it as proficiency bonus rises with level.

In 3E, you had to allocate skill points or whatever and could have several skills with just 1 rank each. Sure, you could just put the max in each skill and automatically add 1 rank to each when you leveled, it would be the closest thing to 5E you can do I think.
The issue was that in 3e having a skill without the maximum number of points generally made the bonus too low to pass checks by mid levels - which means having a few points is no better than no points, except your focused skills also fell behind.

There were a few exceptions (there's no need for a better than +10 in medicine IIRC) but the conventional wisdom was "figure out how many skills you can max out, and max out that many."

So while you could spend your points a lot of different ways, there was one clear best way, with everything else being a trap.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
The issue was that in 3e having a skill without the maximum number of points generally made the bonus too low to pass checks by mid levels - which means having a few points is no better than no points, except your focused skills also fell behind.

There were a few exceptions (there's no need for a better than +10 in medicine IIRC) but the conventional wisdom was "figure out how many skills you can max out, and max out that many."

So while you could spend your points a lot of different ways, there was one clear best way, with everything else being a trap.
To a point I agree, but IME it was useful to have a handful of skills maybe at half max ranks instead of max ranks if you did not want to be hyper-focused in your skills.

Of course, very much dependent on your character and goals.
 

Voadam

Legend
The issue was that in 3e having a skill without the maximum number of points generally made the bonus too low to pass checks by mid levels - which means having a few points is no better than no points, except your focused skills also fell behind.

There were a few exceptions (there's no need for a better than +10 in medicine IIRC) but the conventional wisdom was "figure out how many skills you can max out, and max out that many."

So while you could spend your points a lot of different ways, there was one clear best way, with everything else being a trap.
This varied a lot skill to skill.

Some things were arms races of opposed checks such as spot or listen versus hide and move silent. Many things could be competitive for the party level so that ambush monsters often needed focused PC perception skills to be not beaten and maxxed out stealth type PC skill could be pitted against a maxed out perception type skill on a monster. But even here if you have a not maxxed out skill you might come across monsters not designed for ambushing or guarding and less than maxxed skills could still be useful.

Other things one rank was enough depending on what you wanted to do. Picking up a new language was one language per skill rank, perform was one rank per instrument/art form.

Still other things had defined DCs to hit so that once you could hit those easily maxxing out past that provided little additional benefit.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
So, the "old school" era lasted 10-30 years, depending on who you talk to, and throughout that time, there was huge variation in play across tables.

I have run several converted 1E and B/X adventures in 5e. You can certainly have a weird vibe and challenge the players (vs their character sheet) in games like these. In fact 5e, with its loose skill system and magic nerfing (its funny how no one has brought this up) is an especially good edition for this. You can certainly kill lower level characters, and TPK and torment higher level ones. Its also full of nods back to older editions, especially in some of its most prominent adventures.

In terms of play style, you can run just like any past edition of D&D in terms of making players say what they are doing and just just using their abilities as win buttons. Resting and recovery can be issues. I have a "restiness" test for long rests that I have used for a long time and that could be considered a house rule. I also have some small chance of not coming back from the dead with magic, that could be another.

And sure, in terms of character options, its more like later 2E, or 1E with the Arduin Grimoire. I can see how that can be annoying. If you are not using feats, then you probably do need a boost to the standard human, though not a large one. You can ban drow, tieflings, and anything from the non-core books.

And if you really want B/X D&D. Play it. Its a good game, albeit one with a high body count if played RAW.
 

Reynard

Legend
7. Milestone leveling, but every 4-5 sessions or more. SLow that roll. If they are level 10 in a year, you are not old schooling it. If you are doing XP, then reward it for smart play and not slaughter. D&D was a resource management game, not a hack & slash game. Reward XP for getting out of scraps. 2-3 xp per encounter times the CR, minimum 1. Level 1-3 might go quicker than old school but it's a different way of doing it.
I can't think of anything more antithetical to old school play than milestone leveling. Even the alternative you suggest misses the point. XP for recovered gold does the thing it is supposed to: focus play on results (recovering that treasure) not process (killing monsters). The XP is hidden behind a secret door, or trapped, or in the monster's lair. How are you bunch of crazy fools going to not only get it, but get it out and back to town safely?
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
In fact 5e, with its loose skill system and magic nerfing (its funny how no one has brought this up) is an especially good edition for this.
In what sense?

Compared to 3E and 4E, maybe, but to create the old school feel any nerfing done in 5E is a bad thing when it comes to spells. Spells were much more powerful in old school editions.

And on the other side of magic, 5E has cantrip spamming and way too much prevalence in magic via classes/ features compared to anything old school.

So, just to understand you, in what sense??
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
In what sense?

Compared to 3E and 4E, maybe, but to create the old school feel any nerfing done in 5E is a bad thing when it comes to spells. Spells were much more powerful in old school editions.

It depended on the spell. But in terms of challenging the player this nerfing can help.

And on the other side of magic, 5E has cantrip spamming and way too much prevalence in magic via classes/ features compared to anything old school.

So, just to understand you, in what sense??

Sure, hence the rest of my post. And there was Arduin Grimoire, maybe Spell Law. Some late 2e options. Or just good old Monty Hall. You could certainly have a high magic old school game, perhaps inadvertently. In play the difference is not necessarily that big. But I get that these options and their prevalence are annoying for some.
 

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