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

tetrasodium

Adventurer
In other words, the challenges are more like illusions that they've successfully disbelieved.
"oh man, Alice burned up 4 of the 6 charges on my wand of $whatever, Bob's staff of resist energy is dust, & this is going to murder that cure light wounds wand we found for cindy a couple weeks back" hurt far more than "meh my wand of whatever is at 1/7 charges, bob's resist energy staff is at
4/7 charges, and we need to rest for an hour or get a good night's sleep now"
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
At my table, if you are moving slowly through the dungeon, whoever is in front is looking for traps and ambushes, and whoever is in back is keeping an eye out for rear-facing attacks. I will tell you to roll Perception when and if you come across a trap, and if you fail, the trap is sprung. This speeds things up quite a bit.

A full investigation of a door, chest, or other object takes a full 10 minutes, so the party may elect not to do so if wandering monsters are a concern.
 

Weiley31

Adventurer
I had a dwarf once that had animal handling and trained a dog to fetch. He then got a stick with continual flame cast on it.

Quite handy in dungeons for detecting traps and random monsters. ;)
Insert scene where dog lights flammable monster on fire and then proceeds to light the black powder keg next to the group of unsuspecting Zhentarim soldiers.
 
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The Tomb is extremely challenging, only in a different way than usual: the challenges are tricks, traps and puzzles (i.e. challenging brains) rather than monsters and combat (i.e. challenging brawn).

What also makes the Tomb differen (and gives it its well-earned reputation) is that in many cases the result of failing a challenge is death: you don't get a second chance or a do-over. :)
And yet, someone else thought that my referencing that dungeon was a poor choice because it was designed as a grudge dungeon.

Opinions obviously differ on the dungeon, but I think the point still stands.

Or find another way of dealing with them that doesn't involve front-line fighters or melee combat.

Sometimes you really do need magic to get the job done, and while some see this as a problem, I don't. Have a Cleric handy to turn them, then blast away with ranged spells or even ranged missiles. But yes - in fact the very thing to learn from them is don't fight them hand-to-hand.
Okay... but ideally you would never fight any foe hand-to-hand, especially one that lacks ranged weapons. Ideally any undead creature should be fought by a cleric, any incorporeal creature with magic.

So actually, they probably didn't learn anything because calling a cleric to deal with undead is 101 adventuring. You don't even need to fight a wraith to know that.

Heck, "don't get hit" is pretty much as basic as it gets for fighting, do you have to get hit by a wraith to know you don't want to get hit?

Nothing wrong at all with developing SOPs for common situations.

Of course she will.

But giving clear specifics as to what you're doing, be it case-by-case or as a SOP, informs the DM exactly what you're touching or not, where you're checking and what for, and so forth; all of which may modify your roll for better or worse.

It also removes the burden of assumption from both sides and thus proactively ends the following needless argument before it begins:

Player: "I check the door for traps."
DM: "Good. Saving throw as you find the contact poison the hard way."
Player: But I wouldn't have touched it!"
<argument ensues>

The second a player says "I wouldn't have...", you have a problem. A big problem. And a completely avoidable problem had the player taken the time to be much more specific, in this case as to her search sequence.
But this has absolutely nothing to do with challenge whatsoever. In fact, the very nature of an SOP is to remove challenges. So relying on them would make the game easier.


Agreed. It's not unfair at all.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought 5e didn't have 'surprised' in its lexicon. So how is your 5e situation possible, where the Goblins get two complete rounds of firing before the party can react?

B/X and 1e certainly do, and yes: in those systems with unlucky rolling it's entirely possible that a party could be wiped out by ranged ambushers using poison without ever knowing what hit them. Further, surprised characters don't get shield or Dex bonuses to AC, making them easier to hit.
I have surprise rounds, I don't remember if it is official or not. Probably not, I think officially you just don't get to act on your turn if you are surprised, so it is still possible for the enemy to get two rounds if they beat your initiative and surprise you.

No, you're describing the ideal outcome you're attempting to achieve. The DM then rolls to see if you achieved it or not.
So, rolls still happen. Which, in the post I was responding to, seemed to be abnormal for them. They seemed to be suggesting that a player rolling the dice is asking to fail, so they should interact with the environment in a clear way to prevent rolling and therefore not fail.

You seem to have a different take on what actually happens than they do.

Turning around and bailing on the mission is always a valid choice; be it to come back later with more and-or better resources, or to pass the mission on to someone more qualified, or to just head south for the winter.

Nowhere is it written that the party have to always succeed on what they're doing.
Sure, you never have to succeed.

But sunk-cost fallacy and all that means that after adventuring and grinding for a few game sessions, players are going to be mighty peeved if half the party decides to no longer risk it and decide to leave.

So, when you are in the final treasure room, and you open the tomb, how likely was it that instead of doing that you decided to turn around and leave, failing the mission right then and there?

That is why, again, it is important to make clear what we mean by important decisions. Deciding to open tomb you were sent to open isn't a major decision when the only other option is to call the entire mission a waste of time. Most groups will open that sucker one way or the other, because they lost too much getting it to simply say "that was fun, guess we fail."


Prior to 2e, for sure.

In 1e hit point gain sharply slowed down after 'name level' (around 9th-11th depending on class), and while the game in theory was open-ended as to levels it got wobbly enough in the very low teens that very few played beyond that.

This is one specific instance where another edition (4e) is specifically less challenging than 5e, as 4e characters tend to have more h.p. on average particularly at low levels; and similar specific examples abound when comparing small bits in isolation between 5e and another edition, whatever edition that might be.

Those isolated examples still don't change the overall trend, which says 5e is the least challenging of the editions thus far.

It's like looking at a bad sports team at the end of the season. The fact that you won 12 games this season, some of them convincingly, doesn't do much to mask the fact that you also lost 45 and managed to eke out ties in 6.
I'm not convinced yet that 3.5 and 4e are clearly more challenging than 5e. Especially since we seem to have debated it down to "but instant death could happen"

But, again, you can't say "DnD 5e is the least challenging version of DnD because you gain hp after level 9" when that is true for the majority of DnD games. It is similar to saying DnD 5e offers superior options to every version of DnD because Elf and Dwarf are no longer classes. They weren't classes in most of the other versions of the game either, so that isn't a point in 5e's favor.

I think you've kind of answered that question in the previous paragraph: you've done a good job of instilling fear and caution into your players/PCs. (or, they're just a naturally cautious bunch).

Perhaps again it's the players: those who aren't cautious and just wade in maybe aren't paying the same price they would have in older editions. They're not dying, they're not losing levels, etc.; meaning in 5e fortune really does favour the brave.

In other words, the challenges are more like illusions that they've successfully disbelieved.
That is a compelling theory except for one problem.

It seems to be the groups calling out for more threats to instill cautious play that are having the hard time. Are 2e players who are used to dying from opening a door wrong really charging headfirst into the fray without a care in the world?

I doubt it, and I doubt that the challenges in 5e are just illusions that have no real substance.

So do this once or twice in detail and then establish it as SOP for that character.

After that, when you check a door all you need to say is "I Thief over it"* and the DM knows what you mean, and what you're doing.

* - that's our standard term here for door-check SOP: Thief over it.
Then what's the point?

"oh man, Alice burned up 4 of the 6 charges on my wand of $whatever, Bob's staff of resist energy is dust, & this is going to murder that cure light wounds wand we found for cindy a couple weeks back" hurt far more than "meh my wand of whatever is at 1/7 charges, bob's resist energy staff is at
4/7 charges, and we need to rest for an hour or get a good night's sleep now"
Considering that the wand, staff and cure light wounds wand were probably bought in bulk from a magic shop while the items with charges are a fairly unique set of items that the players fought and bled for.... no, I don't think those hurt more than the other.
 

Weiley31

Adventurer
And here on the other side, my old group still tells the story of that time our paladin paid to have his horse mount resurrected...using up the last funds we had, meaning we couldn't afford to raise the halfling rogue who died in the same fight. :D

I mean, OOC the player who played the halfling was ready to roll up something new, and told everyone he'd rather just do that than get rezzed. In character though it was a hilarious move for a character who already had a reputation for being a bit lawful stupid.
Technically, if I'm playing a character with an animal companion, then the character will be, roleplay wise, more concerned for the animal companion than a bunch of people said character barely knows. And PVP will happen if the party tries to force the animal companion to be a trap tester. And if an almost TPK happens and the character with the animal companion is the only said survivor of the PVP, well screw that party then.

Now if the party know each other well, then the outcome will be better.


What I'm trying to say is... DON'T DUCK WITH MY ANIMAL COMPANION!
 

Monayuris

Explorer
Very true, traps can do that.

Less likely where the trap leads to instant death like was being described earlier, such as poisons where a single failed save kills your character. In that case, you can provide your clues and hints, but players will still take extreme caution, because a single missed clue ends their character.
I do agree about gotcha traps. I don't use them. If I have a trap in my dungeon, it will be something that players will need to actually deal with.

I want the caution and consideration, the problem solving, the discussion. I want the challenge of figuring out a trap and getting past it. The stakes being getting killed adds to the tension and challenge.


Which is exactly why I brought it up as an example of "Deadly =/= Challenging"

The Tomb is incredibly deadly, possibly the most deadly dungeon ever designed, but it isn't challenging in the way that people want things to be challenging. And once you know all the tricks, it may still be deadly, but it is no longer challenging.

Deadly does not equal Challenging.
Again, when talking about deadly equaling challenging, Tomb of Horrors is an extreme case.

What people? You are making a broad assumption.

Different people have different ideas of what is challenging. Personally, I think Tomb of Horrors is challenging because I really have to think and figure out the traps and puzzles it presents. It requires me to carefully approach and experiment and engage with environment instead of just using a prepackaged solution (skill check, spell, class ability, etc).

It is fair that you don't consider deadly to be challenging. But there are others who do and, in my case, I have explained why.

But, that is the point. Many of the things being touted as bringing the challenge back to the game are lethal, but you can't learn from them. You can't learn anything from a wraith sapping your Con or a Shadow sapping your Strength until your fighter is useless. What is there to learn? Don't fight wraiths? Great, but fighting monsters is deadly anyway. Have the low con people fight it? That just kills them. There isn't anything to learn, you just have to suffer through and try not to die while you're character is spending weeks or months recovering their abilities.
Of course players can learn from them. Each player's experience with every monster gives new insight in how to approach them in the future. Imagine the first time a player ever fights a troll. When they figure out that they need fire, they learn to use fire against trolls the next time they encounter them.

With concern to the wraith. Of course you learn something, here are some examples:
  • They can drain Con or even levels.
  • Yes, sometimes it is best to avoid them.
  • They can hire a high level cleric.
  • They can bring a form of radiant damage, or bring lots of holy water.
  • They can scout the dungeon and find another way around them.
  • They can distract the wraith while another player goes and grabs its loot.

There myriad things that can be learned in that situation and myriad approaches that can be taken to overcome such a challenge.

The wraith is an example of a monster that presents an obstacle that cannot be easily or effectively dealt with by using normal, rules-based, approaches (combat) and where the consequence in doing so is deadly or debilitating (not easily overcome or shrugged off).

The challenge is in figuring out an alternative approach.

In 5E, by contrast, the wraith can still be dealt with through normal means. Between still taking half damage to the ubiquity of spells removing the danger of its resistance it can be approached the same as any other threat. It doesn't present a challenge in overcoming it.

I'll have to take your word for it, but I find it odd that one of the most famous ambush predators in the world, who lays traps for its prey, was always out in the open where the players could easily see it and decide if they wanted to fight it or not.

But, if no monster was ever hidden, snuck up on the characters, or set traps for them to fall into, then I can see why the increased deadliness of the monsters was necessary.
If a DM wanted to take an extremely deadly creature and have them attack with surprise against their players, they are free to do so. My point is that they would have to accept that by doing so, they are probably going to kill their characters. But this is a DM decision. I can do the same thing in 5E or any other edition. I can decide to have Banshee's or Archmages with Fireball surprise and kill my player's characters as well.



No one said they did, "Deadly does not equal Challenging" and "Character death doesn't mean you have something to learn" Those are points I've been making and while this is an extreme example, it also highlights the point. Death itself doesn't challenge or tell the players anything
My comment was in response to your ridiculous scenario of having a party of player characters all die by DM fiat because they failed a roll while camped. This doesn't happen in even the most deadliest of games.

But there still things to learn:
  • Next time you camp in that dangerous location, you can set up tripwires tied to metal objects to make an alarm
  • They can use a spell like alarm to warn you of these dangers
  • Bring extra mercenaries and double up on watches so you are less likely to be ambushed.
  • Find a better camp site with more defensible terrain.
  • Sleep up in the trees or make a hammock
  • Travel at night and camp at day.

So, pixeling. Just have a large piece of paper and read off every part of the door and how you check it for the trap. And, the DM will never call for a roll while you do so?
Not pixeling, interacting with the environment. How do characters interact with traps and puzzles in your game? How do you run a poison needle trap on a door lock?

Pixeling is a term from those old King's Quest style games where one had to do a random thing to a random location. Checking the door knob for a poison needle or looking for pressure plates in front of the door is not pixeling. These are things that are logical and intuitive to the environment.



Three things.

1) I find it fascinating that in a game where you expect the players to try every trick in the book and follow a "combat is war" mentality, that something as simple as poisoning your weapons when you are cowardly and weak monsters, is going to come across as completely unfair.
You seem to be mischaracterizing "combat as war" as an antagonist relationship between the DM and the Players. The responsibility of the DM in a "combat as war" style game is not to devise ways to auto kill the PCs, its to present an environment that allows players to use "combat as war" tactics in a meaningful way. Some of the ways to do this is to provide usable information, run monsters in a way that provides players meaningful choices, provide consequences that are understandable and expected.

The best description and explanation I can refer to is this video:
Running Combat as War

2) One thing that may be skewing my understanding of the game is this lack of surprise. In 5e it is completely possible that the Goblins will all get an entire round, maybe two, of firing before the players get their first action, but you keep mentioning the "Statisitcal improbability" of that happening in B/X. If surprise was never really a thing, that might explain why 5e abilities are weaker, because you can actually surprise the party in combat instead of then instantly reacting to the appearance of ambushes.
I never said there is lack of surprise in B/X. I just said that there is a chance of surprise (your example assumes that surprise is automatic).

In B/X, surprise is rolled on a d6. On a 1 or 2 (some monsters or player classes have different odds), the side surprise their opponent. Surprise is rolled for both sides (although in dungeons, torch light usually removes the possibility of the party getting surprise).

Of course, a DM can, by fiat, give surprise to the monsters (or players for that matter) if the situation warrants it. But in a typical encounter where parameters haven't been described, that is base the rule.

In 5E, the DM would roll the monster's stealth vs. the player's perception to determine surprise. This is the mechanic in B/X that performs that same function.




3) Of course I am fabricating situations. We aren't actually playing a game here, I can't point to the chat log of what happened to your character. And I'm trying to prove the point that character death by itself is not challenging nor does it teach the player any lessons at all. So, an example where I say "The goblins ambush, but the fighter succeeds his reaction roll and slaughters all of them" doesn't exactly say anything about character death. So, I need to give examples where the character dies and doesn't learn anything or is challenged for me to even have a point, and I have done so, and all you have been able to say in response is "well, because of the dice, this isn't likely to happen" which doesn't disprove my point at all.
When the rules for surprise are used, in B/X, poisonous spiders surprising and killing everyone becomes less likely.

Your example assumed that surprise was achieved, the spider hit with its attack, and the player failed it's save. You are making the claim that death is arbitrary and doesn't provide any lessons to learn and you are supporting that claim by stating the possibility that a very unlikely event can happen.

An analog of your claim, in 5E, would be a surprise from a multiattack creature that crits on all its attacks and kills a PC automatically. It is unlikely but possible.


My question to you: what do you want/expect a player to learn as a result of an ambush?

My thoughts are that there are tons of things to learn and ways to approach such a situation. Some of my examples:
  • Travel more spread out so PCs can flank or spot ambushes on the flank.
  • Bring war dogs or such that have a good sense of smell and can alert the party to danger
  • Have a character scout ahead so the party doesn't all get ambushed.
  • Approach the ambush site from a different direction and attempt to ambush them instead
  • Use spells to hide party number or obscure their location
  • Use a decoy to draw out ambushes and counter with their own ambush
All of these things can be done to mitigate getting killed by goblin ambushes. The challenge is in that one can't just wander carelessly and expect to survive an ambush. One has to consider options and tactics that will improve one's chances to survive.


Maybe in older editions, but that isn't the end all and be all of 5e.

For example on scouting ahead, I sneak up the dim hallway, sticking to the walls and peer around the corner.

Was I stealthy? Did the enemy around the corner see me?

I can describe them not seeing me, I can describe the perfect sneak, but if I'm just describing why I should succeed, then scouting isn't dangerous because nothing can go wrong. No monster can be hidden on the ceiling, because I will always add "I check the ceiling for monsters" to the end of every statement.

I can describe success to you, but does that mean I automatically succeed?
Scouting isn't something you just state you succeed at. But the act of scouting is going to provide a more favorable possible outcome. This is contextual. What are you doing to scout? What is the environment like? What aspects of the environment can you use to shield your location or obscure your approach. How you role-play will determine whether you succeed or feel. These are considerations that directly affect your outcome to scouting.

No, the example you quoted was yet again me making the point that "Deadly does not equal challenging"

A coin flip dungeon is deadly. It is not challenging.

And, you are making the assumption that my players, despite not being old skool, do not interact with the environment, do not think about their actions, do not make meaningdul choices that have a direct impact on their success and failure.

They can do all of that. While Wraith's only drain max hp for the day, poison isn't an instant kill, ect.

Because, if after twenty minutes of deciding to check the tomb they were sent to raid in every possible manner, and they open it and still die to something or other, their choice wasn't meaningful. They check it, just not in the correct way, and they all died. But they had to open the tomb either way, because the only other choice was to turn around and count the entire dive as a lost cause.

Meaningful choices don't automatically appear just because the result might be death.
My response was an argument on how to eliminate the coin flip dungeon.

A coin flip dungeon occurs when die rolls and mechanics, only, determine success or failure. Exploration relying solely on Perception checks, Investigation checks and other skill checks or skill challenges, results in a coin flip dungeon experience. The hope is to just roll high.



The poster said that the light cantrip makes torches unnecessary.

A cleric gets three cantrips, five ever, and so using one of those slots for light is a significant choice. And, since torches only cost 1 copper a piece, and plenty of casters have a free hand, it is equally valid to say that Torches make the Light Cantrip unnecessary. A single gold buys a hundred torches after all.

They said Goodberry makes rations unnecessary. However, Goodberry is a 1st level spell, and a spell not many classes have access to. It is equally valid to say that five silver a ration makes Goodberry unnecessary, because a few gold buys you plenty of rations and you do not need to use your spell slot.

Or, take the Outlander background, and that gives you plenty of food without needing rations or goodberry

Or just make a survival check to forage for food (or describe yourself hunting and setting snares if you want) and you can usually easily find enough food to last you without needing rations or goodberries.

The ubiquity of magic hasn't removed these items, and the cheapness of those items (or ease of countering the same problem) could be easily seen as making those spells sub-par choices anyways.
Torches have weight. Only so many can be carried.. They also can be extinguished by wind or disarmed or lost. Rations, same with Goodberry. There are choices on how many torches and how many rations to carry. This may prevent from equipping certain other useful equipment, it may also prevent from being able to carry the treasure you discover.

Outlander basically eliminates a lot of challenge from wilderness travel. I house rule that out.

Foraging is a good choice for adventuring in the wilderness. The consequence to foraging is that it prevents Passive Perception from being used to keep watch for encounters.

The use of rations, torches, foraging, are all choices that have consequences in the game. Managing them is a part of the challenge.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And yet, someone else thought that my referencing that dungeon was a poor choice because it was designed as a grudge dungeon.
Sure it's a grudge dungeon, but so what? For the purposes of this discussion the reasons behind its design are largely irrelevant; what matters here is the challenges it presents - and more interestingly, the different type and style of those challenges as compared to a typical combat-heavy adventure.

Heck, "don't get hit" is pretty much as basic as it gets for fighting, do you have to get hit by a wraith to know you don't want to get hit?
One of the things they teach in boxing is that sometimes you've got to take a punch in order to give back a better one. In various other forms of combat including typical melee this advice might also apply.

But not when fighting wraiths! :) With wraiths, a Fighter can't view her stack of hit points as a manageable resource like she can against more mundane foes, because ANY hit could be very bad news. Add to this, all that armour isn't going to be of as much use as normal thus making the odds of getting hit that much higher, and yeah - you've got a situation where the Fighter is best off using ranged weapons or even just standing down.

But this has absolutely nothing to do with challenge whatsoever. In fact, the very nature of an SOP is to remove challenges. So relying on them would make the game easier.
You're confusing efficiency with ease here. SOPs make things at the table more efficient, but it's no easier for the PC who is still going through that process every time.

Also, it's always possible that now and then a door might have something to it that the SOP doesn't cover (yet).

I have surprise rounds, I don't remember if it is official or not. Probably not, I think officially you just don't get to act on your turn if you are surprised, so it is still possible for the enemy to get two rounds if they beat your initiative and surprise you.
In 5e I think you still get your full AC during that time, don't you? I forget the specifics right now and am too lazy to go look them up; but if this is true then already you've a big advantage over earlier editions where being surprised meant your AC took a beatdown in most cases.

So, rolls still happen. Which, in the post I was responding to, seemed to be abnormal for them. They seemed to be suggesting that a player rolling the dice is asking to fail, so they should interact with the environment in a clear way to prevent rolling and therefore not fail.

You seem to have a different take on what actually happens than they do.
Possibly. I'm not looking to avoid the rolls, I'm just looking to tweak the odds in my favour.

Sure, you never have to succeed.

But sunk-cost fallacy and all that means that after adventuring and grinding for a few game sessions, players are going to be mighty peeved if half the party decides to no longer risk it and decide to leave.
Why would they be peeved at a choice they themselves just made?

Now if the choice wasn't unanimous, I could very much see an in-character argument erupting; and that's fine.

So, when you are in the final treasure room, and you open the tomb, how likely was it that instead of doing that you decided to turn around and leave, failing the mission right then and there?

That is why, again, it is important to make clear what we mean by important decisions. Deciding to open tomb you were sent to open isn't a major decision when the only other option is to call the entire mission a waste of time. Most groups will open that sucker one way or the other, because they lost too much getting it to simply say "that was fun, guess we fail."
So they open it and get creamed. That'll probably peeve 'em far more than if they'd chosen to turn around. :)

I've seen this, where the party makeup just didn't match the adventure hook they'd followed (e.g. going in to what turns out as an undead-heavy adventure with an Illusionist as your mage, a healing Druid as your cleric, and a bunch of front-liners). And yes, sooner or later they're going to get routed.

I'm not convinced yet that 3.5 and 4e are clearly more challenging than 5e. Especially since we seem to have debated it down to "but instant death could happen"
Question: why specifically 3.5 rather than 3e in general? I don't recall there being that much difference between the two.

It seems to be the groups calling out for more threats to instill cautious play that are having the hard time. Are 2e players who are used to dying from opening a door wrong really charging headfirst into the fray without a care in the world?
Often, yes, IME. :)

I doubt it, and I doubt that the challenges in 5e are just illusions that have no real substance.
Anything can be made challenging should the DM so desire, but going straight by the book 5e characters have so much going for them that their odds of outright losing a battle or even losing a PC in a battle, say, are lower than in any previous edition.

4e's not that far adrift in this regard, but from all I could tell there the difference was the party rose or fell as a group: either none would die, or they'd all die. 4e also still has some risks that bypass hit points, thus providing more variety of hazards (i.e. challenges); 5e has very few of these left. The caveat here is that at very low levels 4e is probably the least challenging of all if only because the PCs have so many h.p. compared to their counterparts in all the other editions.

In 5e if the players on top of this have their PCs act halfway smart and rest at every opportunity (i.e. refuse to let the DM goad them into repeated 6-8 encounter days) they're getting on for untouchable at any level.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
In 5e I think you still get your full AC during that time, don't you? I forget the specifics right now and am too lazy to go look them up; but if this is true then already you've a big advantage over earlier editions where being surprised meant your AC took a beatdown in most cases.
surprise in 5e basically does nothing that doesn't happen to bob's PC if combat starts while he's in the bathroom.
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That's all
 

slobster

Hero
surprise in 5e basically does nothing that doesn't happen to bob's PC if combat starts while he's in the bathroom.

That's all
Wait, does 5E not have it that an attack made on a character during a surprise round has advantage, so long as that character isn't acting in the surprise round?

I guess that's a houserule then. :LOL: I've been playing it that way since literally the first encounter I ever played in 5E, back when it was first released!
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
surprise in 5e basically does nothing that doesn't happen to bob's PC if combat starts while he's in the bathroom.
Difference is making Bob's PC lose his turn completely, including his ability to so much as Dodge, because he was in the bathroom when you rolled initiative, and making him take the full brunt of attacks without the ability to use any Reaction defenses (Uncanny Dodge, Shield, etc) isn't RAW...or particularly sporting, either.

Wait, does 5E not have it that an attack made on a character during a surprise round has advantage, so long as that character isn't acting in the surprise round?

I guess that's a houserule then. :LOL: I've been playing it that way since literally the first encounter I ever played in 5E, back when it was first released!
Surprise usually happens when the monsters are hidden, so they will usually have Advantage on the first round in addition to everything else.
 
Again, when talking about deadly equaling challenging, Tomb of Horrors is an extreme case.

What people? You are making a broad assumption.

Different people have different ideas of what is challenging. Personally, I think Tomb of Horrors is challenging because I really have to think and figure out the traps and puzzles it presents. It requires me to carefully approach and experiment and engage with environment instead of just using a prepackaged solution (skill check, spell, class ability, etc).

It is fair that you don't consider deadly to be challenging. But there are others who do and, in my case, I have explained why.
I have pretty much never heard the original tomb (or even really most of its iterations) being described as well designed in terms of player enjoyment. It is more often described as a meat grinder where you brag for surviving it, or taken as an example of grudge dungeons.

From what I have heard, if you walk in the front door of the Tomb, you trigger a trap and die. In fact, most of the traps I've been told you don't even bother to have the players roll. If they trigger it, they die.

And frankly, I don't get what you seem to mean by "approach and experiment" instead of using "prepackaged solutions". I'm going to pull this quote up:
Not pixeling, interacting with the environment. How do characters interact with traps and puzzles in your game? How do you run a poison needle trap on a door lock?

Pixeling is a term from those old King's Quest style games where one had to do a random thing to a random location. Checking the door knob for a poison needle or looking for pressure plates in front of the door is not pixeling. These are things that are logical and intuitive to the environment.
See, I've heard pixeling referred to pretty much exclusively as clicking on every single space in an area. In DnD, that is walking 5 ft, tapping every space you can reach with a 10 ft pole, stepping 5ft and repeating. Knocking on every wall for secret passages.

And, you can't just assume any of this, the players must specifically say it. First the player has to declare how they check the area in front of the door, then the door itself, then the frame, then under the door, then the door jam, then the handle, then the hinges.

And, what I find amusing is that Lanefan points out that they established a SOP so thoroughly that they only need to say "I thief the door" and they can skip saying everything else. At my table we would say "I investigate the door". Now, at my table, I don't assume that the player will succeed, so the dice are rolled, and checking an object or location is investigation. I'm guessing that at Lanefan's table, they just assume success?

And so, are these "pre-packaged" skills? Is the fact that I don't make players lay out, step by step, perhaps in a written document so we don't forget and can reference it, every single thing they do to carefully check a door for traps, does that make it less somehow?

Look, I know this is a style thing, but don't go around saying 5e is less challenging because we don't spend time and paper writing out SOPs for everything. Trust me, I could take the time to do that, but I feel it would add nothing except time.

And, even while using skills, you can interact with the environment. You can ask things, you can grab a handful of flour and drop it by a wall to see if there is a passage, you can pick up the vase and see if there is something under it. I'm not going to stop anyone from doing any of that. And sure, drop flour by the secret door in the south corner, and you find the draft.

But I don't require it. And I don't think that decision has anything to do with the game itself. In 5e you can run it either way, and that is a DM choice. So, it doesn't change how challenging the system itself is.



Of course players can learn from them. Each player's experience with every monster gives new insight in how to approach them in the future. Imagine the first time a player ever fights a troll. When they figure out that they need fire, they learn to use fire against trolls the next time they encounter them.

With concern to the wraith. Of course you learn something, here are some examples:
  • They can drain Con or even levels.
  • Yes, sometimes it is best to avoid them.
  • They can hire a high level cleric.
  • They can bring a form of radiant damage, or bring lots of holy water.
  • They can scout the dungeon and find another way around them.
  • They can distract the wraith while another player goes and grabs its loot.

There myriad things that can be learned in that situation and myriad approaches that can be taken to overcome such a challenge.

The wraith is an example of a monster that presents an obstacle that cannot be easily or effectively dealt with by using normal, rules-based, approaches (combat) and where the consequence in doing so is deadly or debilitating (not easily overcome or shrugged off).

The challenge is in figuring out an alternative approach.

In 5E, by contrast, the wraith can still be dealt with through normal means. Between still taking half damage to the ubiquity of spells removing the danger of its resistance it can be approached the same as any other threat. It doesn't present a challenge in overcoming it.
So.. they learned that you should bring a cleric to fight an undead... That they can distract a monster instead of fighting it...That using damage types or items that work against undead against an undead is a good idea....

I'm sorry, why do you need permanent ability drain to teach these things? They seem like pretty basic things to figure out. Sort of like bringing fire to fight a monster made out of dry wood. Or a class called "Giant Slayer" to kill giants.

And, the Wraith can completely be taken out by combat. Turn Undead is a combat ability, in fact it is the only class feature I see for clerics in 3.5. Since Holy Water hurts undead, you can throw vials at it. Which is combat.

What you mean is that you can't just hit it with a sword until it dies. But, you can also do that if the sword is an anti-undead or anti-etheral sword.

And, your contrast is completely wrong. Wraith's do present a challenge in 5e.

  • Their resistance makes attacks by normal weapons less effective, which makes them a more difficult target
  • Their resistance to elemental damage actually makes spellcasters less effective in fighting them, in fact with immunity to necrotic and poison, and resistance to acid, cold, fire, lighting and thunder most spellcasters are going to have trouble hurting them fully.
  • They are also immune to many status effects, making them difficult to debuff or lockdown
  • The fact that they deal necrotic damage makes them pierce resistances from classes like the barbarian easier
  • Flight makes it easy for them to escape
  • Incorpreal movement acts defensively and offensively, in fact the Wraith could choose to take 1d10 damage and be completely immune to the party's damage for that round
  • By reducing their max hp, the Wraith makes healing the damage they inflict difficult if not impossible, making dealing with further threats a difficult proposition
  • They can instant kill by reducing the max hp to 0
  • They can create their own minions as an action, so a wraith flying above a battlefield can bring a new enemy to fight the players every single round until it has been longer than a minute.

And you can say "but they were deadlier in B/X" but that does not mean they are no challenge at all in 5e. Especially since it is resistant to many many spells.



If a DM wanted to take an extremely deadly creature and have them attack with surprise against their players, they are free to do so. My point is that they would have to accept that by doing so, they are probably going to kill their characters. But this is a DM decision. I can do the same thing in 5E or any other edition. I can decide to have Banshee's or Archmages with Fireball surprise and kill my player's characters as well.

I never said there is lack of surprise in B/X. I just said that there is a chance of surprise (your example assumes that surprise is automatic).

In B/X, surprise is rolled on a d6. On a 1 or 2 (some monsters or player classes have different odds), the side surprise their opponent. Surprise is rolled for both sides (although in dungeons, torch light usually removes the possibility of the party getting surprise).

Of course, a DM can, by fiat, give surprise to the monsters (or players for that matter) if the situation warrants it. But in a typical encounter where parameters haven't been described, that is base the rule.

In 5E, the DM would roll the monster's stealth vs. the player's perception to determine surprise. This is the mechanic in B/X that performs that same function.

When the rules for surprise are used, in B/X, poisonous spiders surprising and killing everyone becomes less likely.

Your example assumed that surprise was achieved, the spider hit with its attack, and the player failed it's save. You are making the claim that death is arbitrary and doesn't provide any lessons to learn and you are supporting that claim by stating the possibility that a very unlikely event can happen.

An analog of your claim, in 5E, would be a surprise from a multiattack creature that crits on all its attacks and kills a PC automatically. It is unlikely but possible.

My question to you: what do you want/expect a player to learn as a result of an ambush?

My thoughts are that there are tons of things to learn and ways to approach such a situation. Some of my examples:
  • Travel more spread out so PCs can flank or spot ambushes on the flank.
  • Bring war dogs or such that have a good sense of smell and can alert the party to danger
  • Have a character scout ahead so the party doesn't all get ambushed.
  • Approach the ambush site from a different direction and attempt to ambush them instead
  • Use spells to hide party number or obscure their location
  • Use a decoy to draw out ambushes and counter with their own ambush
All of these things can be done to mitigate getting killed by goblin ambushes. The challenge is in that one can't just wander carelessly and expect to survive an ambush. One has to consider options and tactics that will improve one's chances to survive.
Lumping all this together.

So, surprise is the essentially the same across editions. Good to know.

And, again, you seem to be putting forth the idea that without instant death or long term maiming, players won't learn things like "players should scout ahead to avoid ambushes" or "you should use a decoy to draw out the enemy" or "use a pre-packaged solution to solve the problem ie spells"

But, I think that if I asked my players "how would you prevent an ambush?" they are going to give some pretty good answers, despite the fact that they can recover after a long rest. Because getting ambushed is dangerous and they don't like it. I don't need to kill characters for them to realize this. They know already, and they will act to prevent ambushes already.

But, if they are ambushed, it isn't a death sentence.

And, I'm still confused how a spider, which is an ambush predator, successfully ambushing a party member would be so unusual that you start calling it GM fiat. The fact is, I don't even need to ambush. A spider can charge headlong into the party, and if they successfully bite and the character fails the save, they die. I'm sure there were other monsters who used poison as well, who could do the same thing. Just charge the party, and the party risks immediate death.

The ambushes were mostly because they are already a bad thing that the party is trying to prevent, and failing to prevent that is something they don't want. And poison that kills you instantly just makes it that much worse. And like you said, there are many ways to do this, even in 5e. It has nothing to do with challenge though.


You seem to be mischaracterizing "combat as war" as an antagonist relationship between the DM and the Players. The responsibility of the DM in a "combat as war" style game is not to devise ways to auto kill the PCs, its to present an environment that allows players to use "combat as war" tactics in a meaningful way. Some of the ways to do this is to provide usable information, run monsters in a way that provides players meaningful choices, provide consequences that are understandable and expected.

The best description and explanation I can refer to is this video:
Running Combat as War

You seem to be thinking that I'm talking about killing players, but that isn't why I'm talking about archers using poison.

Combat as War means both sides are trying to win, and will use all resources at their disposal to try and ensure victory. You are no longer "playing nice".

So, if you are a goblin, living in nature where plenty of deadly toxins can be found, and you know you are going to be fighting people bigger and stronger than you, people you want to give no chance to respond and attack you, why are you not using those toxins?

Watch Rambo, even the newest one, where he sets all those traps. He isn't fighting fair, he isn't trying to give them a chance to retaliate, the point is to take out the enemy effectively. Boltholes, hit and run tactics, catching fire to the room and closing the door. The point isn't to be fair, it is war.

And that is because the consequences are understandable and reasonable. People do not play fair when fighting for their lives. They use every tool at their disposal to survive. So, Combat as War is running combat realistically, rather than in a "fair" way that is entertaining.


Scouting isn't something you just state you succeed at. But the act of scouting is going to provide a more favorable possible outcome. This is contextual. What are you doing to scout? What is the environment like? What aspects of the environment can you use to shield your location or obscure your approach. How you role-play will determine whether you succeed or feel. These are considerations that directly affect your outcome to scouting.
Why does role-play come into it?

Legitimately, the only thing I can think of is that you want to assume the character is an idiot. Do I really need to specify that when creeping through the castle I duck under the windows to not be silhouetted? How does the player decide anything about the environment? If you describe a room full of wooden boxes and clear glass boxes, do I need to specify that I am hiding behind the wooden boxes? Or if I say I try and sneak through the room do you assume I will not use any cover what so ever?

And once I describe that I am moving silently, using my toes to feel ahead of me and clear the ground of breakables before stepping heel first to reduce the sound, while sticking to the shadows and using the boxes to break line of sight with the guards, while making sure to only move through clear sight lines when they have turned away... do I immediately succeed?

I've used the environment, described every step, accounted for complications, so do I just succeed or will you have me roll?

If you have me roll, what is different between that and saying "I sneak through the room" and then you having me roll?


My response was an argument on how to eliminate the coin flip dungeon.

A coin flip dungeon occurs when die rolls and mechanics, only, determine success or failure. Exploration relying solely on Perception checks, Investigation checks and other skill checks or skill challenges, results in a coin flip dungeon experience. The hope is to just roll high.
But you are relying on the same things. Unless describing means you automatically succeed, and then I just write a book, reference it for the correct environment, and go through a monologue of every action I take.

Torches have weight. Only so many can be carried.. They also can be extinguished by wind or disarmed or lost. Rations, same with Goodberry. There are choices on how many torches and how many rations to carry. This may prevent from equipping certain other useful equipment, it may also prevent from being able to carry the treasure you discover.

Outlander basically eliminates a lot of challenge from wilderness travel. I house rule that out.

Foraging is a good choice for adventuring in the wilderness. The consequence to foraging is that it prevents Passive Perception from being used to keep watch for encounters.

The use of rations, torches, foraging, are all choices that have consequences in the game. Managing them is a part of the challenge.
Okay, everything has weight, torches are just one thing. They are also easy to make as well.

If you are worried about the wind, you just use a lantern. Hooded Lanterns burn for six times as long, can't be extinguished, can have the hatch closed to prevent the light from going out, and wiegh only slightly more than a torch.

Even a party with only 10 strength each, assuming 6 members, can move 1,800 lbs before any other considerations. At that point, 10 lbs in light and 10 pounds in food is really not much of anything.

Your houserules non-withstanding, you only need one person to forage for food. Which leave 5 people using passive perception. Also, there is no reason to assume that if you can forage while traveling, you can't set up camp two hours early and forage around the camp for those two hours, which negates the issue. And in fact, in literature, that is the most common way it is done.

So, sure, you can make these things a challenge. But really, it isn't as worth it as people seem to think.

For example, that 2 lbs lantern that gives 6 hours of light? The Light Cantrip you are saying replaces and removes the challenge is less bright for only an hour. So again, saying "this cantrip removes the challenge" seems to be misunderstanding the myriad of ways that the problem can be solved mundanely.
 
You're confusing efficiency with ease here. SOPs make things at the table more efficient, but it's no easier for the PC who is still going through that process every time.

Also, it's always possible that now and then a door might have something to it that the SOP doesn't cover (yet).
And the character of the player says "I investigate the door for traps" does the exact same thing. So what is the difference?



Question: why specifically 3.5 rather than 3e in general? I don't recall there being that much difference between the two.
Either way? I have the books for 3.5, and that seems to be the one people talk about.


Anything can be made challenging should the DM so desire, but going straight by the book 5e characters have so much going for them that their odds of outright losing a battle or even losing a PC in a battle, say, are lower than in any previous edition.

4e's not that far adrift in this regard, but from all I could tell there the difference was the party rose or fell as a group: either none would die, or they'd all die. 4e also still has some risks that bypass hit points, thus providing more variety of hazards (i.e. challenges); 5e has very few of these left. The caveat here is that at very low levels 4e is probably the least challenging of all if only because the PCs have so many h.p. compared to their counterparts in all the other editions.

In 5e if the players on top of this have their PCs act halfway smart and rest at every opportunity (i.e. refuse to let the DM goad them into repeated 6-8 encounter days) they're getting on for untouchable at any level.
I think there are more challenges than you think there are.

And, I've actually experienced 5e players who are "Resting at every opportunity" right now.

They could have pressed on and fought the enemies in the stronghold, there were about 7 left.

They retreated, and the building was turned into a mental trap that could end up leading to them losing immediately if they go in again, and the enemy left guards around the empty building, which they fought and then retreated from again.

And now the enemy is in a more entrenched positon, and has converted the parties former allies into monstrous versions of themselves, bolstering their forces with multiple individuals with class abilities. Plus, the enemy as seen them in combat multiple times now.

So now, instead of a mindflayer and some Sea Spawn, they will fight a mindflayer, a paladin, a rogue, around a dozen sea spawn, a psionically empowered warforged, and whatever is in the new location the enemy ends up at.

And since they had trouble just taking the spawn on who were standing in a parking lot guarding the building, I don't think they are going to be "untouchable" in this fight.
 

slobster

Hero
Surprise usually happens when the monsters are hidden, so they will usually have Advantage on the first round in addition to everything else.
Or vice versa, with the PCs being the ambushers, which was actually the first combat encounter I ever ran in 5E. But yeah, that makes sense! I think I will just make it an official houserule from now on that surprisers get adv in the surprise round, even though it doesn't come up TOO often.
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
Re: traps etc

Challenge is about having to use your brain to get through something. If you're not thinking about what you're doing, you're not being challenged. If you have somebody roll a die, either one of two things must be true for the game to be challenging:

1. They had to think to make sure the die was the right one to roll, or to get to the point of being able to roll it.
2. The result is going to give them something to think about.

"I thief the door" isn't challenging, and neither is "I Investigate the door at +8."

This is kind of an issue with how D&D began. When it started out, the idea of a dungeon full of traps was novel, so there was no SOP. Tapping every square of the floor evolved in response to EGG's approach to dungeon design, and it eventually became so standard as to become boring.

A good trap either is something that makes the party think about it, not just roll/SOP through it, or is something that forces them to change their plans if it goes off.
 
I think this is what is getting to me about this thread.

It was started with the premise that 5e lacks the capability to challenge players. That it lacks all of these rules and features that make the game truly challenging.

And, when putting forth the idea that you can just homebrew those rules in, I was told that you can't. That so many minor details and rules interactions would be needed that it is impossible to do. The game is simply broken and too easy.

And when I put forth the idea that, actually, I do challenge my players. Consistently. I get push back telling me that I can't actually be challenging them, that it is an illusion, that I have tricked my players into thinking they are being challenged when in actuality they aren't. Because if they were truly being challenged, we would be playing this way, and the game wouldn't allow this rule, and things would work like this.


And, at the end of the day, it starts feeling like a bunch of people who have never sat at my table telling me that I'm doing it all wrong. That I'm playing a broken game that is far too easy to even be worth attempting to play. And after a month of discussion, a month of trying to show that, really, the game is just fine, it is challenging and has many interesting mechanics, and if it lacks a mechanic you feel it should have, even if I think that mechanic does not actually make the game more challenging, just racks up a higher body count... I'm just getting fed up with it.

I don't need more than I have to challenge my players. They are challenged by the game as is. I do homebrew, I add things that I think are interesting and sometimes more challenging. I create unique monsters and unique effects. I don't do it because I feel like I need them to challenge the players. I do it because those are the monsters and effects that fit the story.

Is 5e easier than (insert edition)? Maybe. I haven't played Chainmail, maybe it is incredibly challenging, harder than anything I've ever played in my life and DnD 5e would pale before it. I don't care. Maybe if monsters had X ability with Y recovery then my players would be even more challenged. I don't care, they are challenged enough.

In a month of posting nearly daily, not a single post has convinced me that this edition of the game lacks challenge. A few of the posts seemed to not even remember what the actual effects or rules were to begin with. But if it takes this long, and we still haven't proven the point of the OP... that alone might be pretty good evidence that they were wrong.
 

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