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

fearsomepirate

Explorer
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.
Same. Some of it comes from people who have clearly never played more than a couple sessions of the game.

I've been running Temple of Elemental Evil for two years. The only major house rules I have are that the XP table is the AD&D thief's, you can exchange gold for XP, and getting knocked out imposes a level of exhaustion. The graveyard is pretty full of PC characters, around a dozen IIRC, and none of them rocks-fall-you-died to get there.
 

Monayuris

Explorer
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.
Fair enough.

I currently run both systems on a weekly basis (B/X and 5E) and I see first hand the differences. I can make a very educated compare and contrast between the two in terms of which game I consider more challenging.

Of course challenge is relative. You can definitely make 5E challenging.

I consider it much more difficult to create challenge in 5E, while at the same time, maintaining my expectations of what I want fantasy to be.

I can more easily provide a challenging experience with B/X, because the inherent nature of the rules are more closely aligned to the level of challenge I expect.
 
I think the biggest issue I have with this thread is the suggestion that DMs just attack downed characters.

This doesn't sit right with me. Sure it makes the game more lethal but there's an element of antagonism here.

I guess one way to address this would be to give monsters a 'ferocity rating' - (name not really important). This is basically like a save to see what the monster does if standing over a falling pc.

So basically a number between 1 and 20. A bullette might be say 3. Any roll over 3 and it will start trying to devour the downed pc.

A goblin might be 16. It's more worried about survival and therefore cares more about the other immediate threat right in front of it.

This introduces an element of objectivty, which feels more appropriate to me. (And it takes the GM deciding to kill the character out of the equation).
 
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Sadras

Hero
I will speak for my part in this.

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.
I do not agree with this premise. My reaction into this thread (admittedly late) was not that 5e lacks the capability to challenge players - more that it was one of the least challenging editions. My personal opinion is that arguably 4e and 5e are the least challenging. You include 3.x into the mix and that is fine that is your opinion.
For my part I'm glad you accepted 1e and 2e as more challenging hence I did not carry on with our conversation.

And, when putting forth the idea that you can just homebrew those rules in, I was told that you can't.
To be fair when one discusses an edition one looks at the base not a homebrewed version of it because the one can just easily change things up to save or suck (die)...etc and make the discussion null and void. And nothing stops the 4e dude doing the same thing...etc. It makes the conversation pointless.
That 5e is very tinker-friendly and 4e feels less so, is a positive for 5e.

That so many minor details and rules interactions would be needed that it is impossible to do.
That is polony.

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.
Admittedly I never read all the posts so yeah this is terrible. If you're having fun and your table feels adequetly challenged then just ignore the naysayers. You're doing great!

In a month of posting nearly daily, not a single post has convinced me that this edition of the game lacks challenge.
To be clear I'm not sure anyone is saying that the edition lacks being challenging but in comparison to some other editions it might be less challenging. Those are two totally different statements.

And yes I play 5e because it allows me to ramp up the difficulty to the level I as DM am happy with, and with a fair amount of ease.
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
IMO, 4e has the most challenging battle system. It is the only version of D&D I have played that becomes significantly more challenging at high levels, not significantly less challenging.
 
I think the biggest issue I have with this thread is the suggestion that DMs just attack downed characters.

This doesn't sit right with me. Sure it makes the game more lethal but there's an element of antagonism here.

I guess one way to address this would be to give monsters a 'ferocity rating' - (name not really important). This is basically like a save to see what the monster does if standing over a falling pc.

So basically a number between 1 and 20. A bullette might be say 3. Any roll over 3 and it will start trying to devour the downed pc.

A goblin might be 16. It's more worried about survival and therefore cares more about the other immediate threat right in front of it.

This introduces an element of objectivty, which feels more appropriate to me. (And it takes the GM deciding to kill the character out of the equation).
That's fair. I really almost never attack a downed player. I think I might have once, when it was a ravenous pack of starved "vampires" who had gone a few decades without blood.

I have grabbed a PC to carry them away a few different times, but the party always reacts with massive aggression and the individual rarely lasts more than a turn or two before being taken down and the party member recovered and healed.

Still remember the shock around the table when the mutant grabbed the gnome and started booking it, they couldn't believe it for a good 30 seconds IRL.

That is polony.
Polony that Tetrasodium believed very very strongly in.


I can more easily provide a challenging experience with B/X, because the inherent nature of the rules are more closely aligned to the level of challenge I expect.
If all you guys want is to claim that B/X or 2e is the most challenging edition of DnD. Take it.

I have simply been defending that 5e is challenging.
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
I typically use all multiattacks on the same character if the thing they're fighting isn't too bright. If a hill giant smacks you down with his club, he's not going to inspect the body to make sure sure you're unconscious before moving onto the next one. A pack of hungry monsters is going to be more of a zombie movie situation...getting isolated means you die. I had one character go down that way in ToEE.

Smart enemies (e.g. anything skilled with weapons) will typically give a downed player one strike before moving on. They know what healers are, and they know that letting you lie on the ground for a bit while the Cleric continues to unleash Guiding Bolt or whatever is a bad move. If they vastly outnumber you, they might go for the kill.
 

jayoungr

Hero
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?
You might be thinking of the rule that attacks made from an unseen position get advantage. Very often, both situations would apply. (ETA: I see someone mentioned that already.)
 
Update on my session last night in 5e. Playing a "difficult" adventure from Frog God Games. I did an experiment. I changed werewolves' resistance to full damage from silver/half damage from magic/quarter damage from nonmagic. I liked the feel that gave the fight, forcing the party of 6th level characters actually to spend some resources.
Then I ran a "by the book" CR 13 vampire against a party of 6 6th level characters. He summoned in 3d6 wolves, fought pretty tactically. The group was still able to drive him off, but it was a somewhat scary fight.
They completely stomped a CR 8 wizard with a few undead minions.
So I think the party can function at a 10th level.
All the encounters also happened at the end of a long adventuring day of 10+ encounters.
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
Wizards are extremely dependent on prep and distance. A CR 8 wizard should be what, 11th or 12th level? If he's sitting in a 25' by 25' room and is inactive until the party opens the door, he's toast, because anything he tries to do will get Counterspelled, and he'll go down in a round from melee attacks. If he uses spells like Alarm and Arcane Eye to keep abreast of things, so that he's got his Globe of Invulnerability up when the party opens the door, or sticks a Cloudkill inside a Glyph of Warding, things could get very nasty, very quickly.
 
Wizards are extremely dependent on prep and distance. A CR 8 wizard should be what, 11th or 12th level? If he's sitting in a 25' by 25' room and is inactive until the party opens the door, he's toast, because anything he tries to do will get Counterspelled, and he'll go down in a round from melee attacks. If he uses spells like Alarm and Arcane Eye to keep abreast of things, so that he's got his Globe of Invulnerability up when the party opens the door, or sticks a Cloudkill inside a Glyph of Warding, things could get very nasty, very quickly.
Yeah. Running a published adventure, he had no such prep done. Was actually supposed to be a "mad man" who would randomly decide if he was a friend or foe to the party. Hence, when I rolled randomly to attack, that pretty much ended it in a round.
 

Aebir-Toril

Creator of the Elfgrinder Mech
Saying that an individual edition is more or less difficult than another is ridiculous on its face. The majority of the difficulty in a game is determined by your DM, assuming that the DM has allowed themselves the leeway to design encounters as they see fit.

In the context of pre-published campaigns run under different systems, challenge will vary, but, especially because a core part of D&D comes from the designs created by the Dm and the strategies employed by the players, one could never ascribe difficulty to an edition.
 

Monayuris

Explorer
If all you guys want is to claim that B/X or 2e is the most challenging edition of DnD. Take it.

I have simply been defending that 5e is challenging.
Sure.

What I do want to add is that many of the assertions you have made in response to my posts pull from the normal misconceptions held by those who actively degrinate old school gaming.

I don't think that was at all your intent, but if I have responded aggressively to debunk those assertions it is because I have heard them time and time again and am kind of sick of it.

As I have said, challenge is relative. I think different editions provide different levels of challenge.

I was explaining the difficulty and challenge and general interactions involved in old school style D&D. I was responding to your claims that my style of gaming was invalid challenge and arbitrary. I have provided concrete examples to counter your assertions. That is all. I wasn't attacking your own position, I was defending mine.
 

TheSword

Explorer
There are a few ways of making 5e more difficult.

  • wild or savage creatures like ghouls, rats, demons etc attacking creatures when they are down.
  • area affect damage spells when someone is down.
  • targeting the guy who casts healing word
  • consequences to time delay (the watch are on their way)
  • NPC collateral damage
  • three way fights, where timing matters
  • someone trying to get away
  • effects with countdowns like dust of sneezing and choking. Much deadlier than I thought it was.

What’s more there are a number of effects that deal stat damage... the wraiths drain and the night hag’s nightmare being two I can think of.

In any edition, challenge is set by the DM to suit the party’s tastes.
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
What I do want to add is that many of the assertions you have made in response to my posts pull from the normal misconceptions held by those who actively degrinate old school gaming.
OSR changed the way I run 5e, and it had little to do with house rules. Biggest changes:

1. Wandering monsters. I always use them now.
2. Monsters are trying to survive, not provide "balanced encounters." They will run for help, flee, parlay, switch sides, fight to kill, gang up on the wizard, etc.
3. Players should primarily be using the gray matter between their ears, not skill bonuses, to overcome obstacles.
4. Think about the dungeon in a naturalistic way. What are the inhabitants doing? How would they react to a gang of five goobers periodically raiding them and killing their friends?
5. Don't worry about "balance," expect your players to be smart enough to learn when to fight and when to flee.
 
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Nebulous

Hero
We had the situation come up tonight where a PC is down and someone uses an Action DC 10 to stabilize them. I really hate this rule. It's already hard enough to kill characters in 5e and the rules support bullshit where in 6 seconds you do something miraculous to end death saves. I think a healer's kit should be required to do that AND proficiency in Medicine. If you want to use magic to stop death saves, sure, but in the middle of a desperate combat all the player wants to do is roll higher than a 10.
 

Nebulous

Hero
OSR changed the way I run 5e, and it had little to do with house rules. Biggest changes:

1. Wandering monsters. I always use them now.
2. Monsters are trying to survive, not provide "balanced encounters." They will run for help, flee, parlay, switch sides, fight to kill, gang up on the wizard, etc.
3. Players should primarily be using the gray matter between their ears, not skill bonuses, to overcome obstacles.
4. Think about the dungeon in a naturalistic way. What are the inhabitants doing? How would they react to a gang of five goobers periodically raiding them and killing their friends?
5. Don't worry about "balance," expect your players to be smart enough to learn when to fight and when to flee.
That all happened tonight in my game. They actually tried to short rest in a dicey spot after killing a bunch of orcs and knowing at least one escaped. They got POUNDED soon after and no short rest.
 

DaLich

Villager
As a DM of 35ish years and being fortunate enough to have mostly the same group of players for 25ish years, we've had many talks on this subject. We've all played together since 2E and not one player has ever mentioned one edition being more challenging than the other. I'm known as the TPK by Giants guy, I have been since 1st edition and I still am today (in my 5th consecutive 5E campaign).

The challenge of D&D has nothing to do with the system.
 

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