5E Is 5e the Least-Challenging Edition of D&D?

I was having a discussion with a player recently about how he was concerned that the party was going to get destroyed in the adventure I'm running - when the only real challenge happened when they split the party in four directions (no kidding - literally, the six characters went in four different rooms). I told him that among their six characters, four of them had access to magical healing (including Healing Spirits - which is like a 2nd level "maximize the party's HP" after every encounter). Monsters do a paltry amount of damage, death save failures don't carry over, healing is abundant, tactics aren't really essential, etc.

Which brings me to the topic of the thread: Is 5e the easiest edition of D&D? Are you less likely to lose a character?

I feel like in the editions I've played, it's easily the less threatening edition. 4e was pretty hard to die in, but it required some sharp tactical play. 5e, conversely, seems to be the very forgiving, training wheels edition. Especially after 3rd level.
 

Undrave

Hero
I was having a discussion with a player recently about how he was concerned that the party was going to get destroyed in the adventure I'm running - when the only real challenge happened when they split the party in four directions (no kidding - literally, the six characters went in four different rooms). I told him that among their six characters, four of them had access to magical healing (including Healing Spirits - which is like a 2nd level "maximize the party's HP" after every encounter). Monsters do a paltry amount of damage, death save failures don't carry over, healing is abundant, tactics aren't really essential, etc.

Which brings me to the topic of the thread: Is 5e the easiest edition of D&D? Are you less likely to lose a character?

I feel like in the editions I've played, it's easily the less threatening edition. 4e was pretty hard to die in, but it required some sharp tactical play. 5e, conversely, seems to be the very forgiving, training wheels edition. Especially after 3rd level.
Maybe? Depends on how you tweak your encounters. I'd say it's hard to ACCIDENTALLY kill a character by overshooting the difficulty... You could still be punished if you're too foolish.

However, is that actually a problem? There's clear value-judgement in your post and I gotta wonder what your ideal difficulty would be like.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I was having a discussion with a player recently about how he was concerned that the party was going to get destroyed in the adventure I'm running - when the only real challenge happened when they split the party in four directions (no kidding - literally, the six characters went in four different rooms). I told him that among their six characters, four of them had access to magical healing (including Healing Spirits - which is like a 2nd level "maximize the party's HP" after every encounter). Monsters do a paltry amount of damage, death save failures don't carry over, healing is abundant, tactics aren't really essential, etc.

Which brings me to the topic of the thread: Is 5e the easiest edition of D&D? Are you less likely to lose a character?

I feel like in the editions I've played, it's easily the less threatening edition. 4e was pretty hard to die in, but it required some sharp tactical play. 5e, conversely, seems to be the very forgiving, training wheels edition. Especially after 3rd level.
If the DM is running plot-based games that fall short of the expected attrition and difficult choices the PCs have to face as their resources dwindle, yeah, it's probably going to seem easier by comparison. Also, if the DM is running modules, those seem to be tuned down. But if you're running location-based adventures with the expected number of encounters per day and including hindering terrain and other logistical or tactical concerns, it's much more difficult for players to succeed in my experience and they find it all the more rewarding when they do succeed.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Yeah, I think it might be. If I were wanting to play a gritty, hardcore game where combat is dangerous and monsters were terrifying, I wouldn't choose 5th Edition rules for that.

But if I want to play a more immersive, story-rich game where combat is largely harmless, and monsters are expected to be beatable in 6 rounds or fewer? 5th Edition would be (and is) my top choice.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
Using the core rules as written, 5E is most definitely the easiest in many ways! As myself (and others) have commented int the past, it is like playing a video game. Once you reach a certain stage, you just have to plod on and you will win. With super easy healing, the party has to be hard pressed to really risk losing the game via the TPK IME.

Now, this assumes you are using the guidelines provided by WotC in the books. You can certainly make the game impossible if you want, but that holds true with every edition.
 
My vote would go to 4e. I could overclock all my encounter CRs, make the floor lava, and then throw them off a mountainside while fighting a dragon, and no one would hit zero HP. I was so used to it that when I started running 5e, my encounters were all really tough because I was used to having to be a jerk to even remotely challenge the party. Almost every encounter, someone was making death saves.

I've since dialed it way back from that.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I think any edition is as tough as the DM makes it. But out of the box RAW? It's pretty easy. I've heard that 4e was almost impossible to die in though from people who have played it. It looks like at low levels anyway, 4e characters are far more robust than any other edition (low levels being typically the most lethal)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think that if you stick to the 6-8 encounter adventuring day guidelines, that 5e is more challenging than 4e was, sticking to its adventuring day guidelines. However, 5e really relies on that attrition model to deliver a fair challenge. Bounded accuracy makes it easier than ever for PCs to punch above their weight class, so it becomes far more difficult to challenge a party with a smaller number of higher-CR encounters. You can kind of do it if you go well outside the encounter building guidelines, but that can lead to very swingy difficulty, where every fight you’re either bug or windshield depending on how the rolls go. On the other hand, I kinda think you’re “voiding the warranty” so to speak if you ignore the 6-8 encounter adventuring day guidelines. I think when run as designed, 5e is more challenging than 4e when it’s run as designed.
 

Sabathius42

Adventurer
I feel that 4e and 5e we both Extremely Low Chance of Death systems. If I had to pick one from my gut as being less lethal I think I would go with 4e, if only because every character could get some HP back in the middle of a combat without items or spells by using a second wind.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Neither of the recent systems require that they be less lethal, I heard many DMs saying during 4e that they felt no need to pull their punches because the system felt fair and that they had killed more in that edition than they had in many others.

Additionally there is no cap on how lethal you can make most editions aside from your own tastes really.

I am more about making interesting choices and interesting implications player character death is meh as an implication ... its just as meh in movies unless it came with heavy obvious choices.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
middle of a combat without items or spells by using a second wind.
once and only once in a combat and it takes a whole action to use for most characters probably the least likely healing method in my experience unless you utterly lack a leader in the party.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
4ed was more predictable, and thus and Dm can achieve a satisfying challenge more often, the design assume players will play as a coordinated team.
5ed is more chaotic and the design assume more space to inefficient move during battle.
Yup this... many a DM set that challenge very high.
 

Sabathius42

Adventurer
once and only once in a combat and it takes a whole action to use for most characters probably the least likely healing method in my experience unless you utterly lack a leader in the party.
My 4e paladin used his Second Wind in almost every battle that wasn't a cakewalk because he was designed to stand there and absorb damage. Missing out on one at-will attack wasn't that big of a deal.

Plus, my statement stands, it was an option every character had, especially at 1st level when 1HD was a LOT of healing.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Every edition is as deadly as you want it to be, 5E is no exception. In my last game I almost turned 1 PC into a wight, another was at single digits HP and about to be swallowed by a zombie T-Rex, another was unconscious and about to have a ton of concrete fall on their head. All in different encounters. It was a blast. :)

The default encounter calculator is on the easy side for most groups because they assume novice players, 6-8 encounters between long rests and point buy or roll 4d6 drop lowest no re-rolls you get what you get.

So if the encounters aren't difficult enough, crank it up to 11. If that doesn't work crank it up to 15. But D&D has never really been that deadly if you allow raise dead and don't TPK ... in most campaigns dying is a speed bump after a certain point and always has been.

Which is why I use the alternate rest rules, get between 5-10 encounters in between long rests and make raise dead more difficult than just casting a spell.
 

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