D&D 5E Is D&D combat fun?

(generally speaking) Is D&D combat in 5E "fun" ?



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Imaro

Legend
I just think concentration is so inconsistently applied that it either shouldn't be a thing or should perhaps be revised in its use.

Honestly I haven't really thought about it much, but unless we know what the criteria is for it... well it's hard to claim whether it's inconsistent or not throughout the game.
 

lingual

Adventurer
Let's be fair. It is certainly possible to level reasonable objections to a system, no matter how popular, without first having to provide your game design credentials.
Oh totally! I always like to read about ppl's home brew ideas and use some myself! Some of the concentration ideas later down this thread seem pretty cool. I didn't mean it that way at all. Ideas are great and that flexibility is one of the basic features of the game.

The thing about the popularity of the game was in response to someone who said that there is no objective "best" edition. I'm just saying the popularity of this edition means that they did do something right.
 

mrswing

Explorer
I would also have voted for 50/50 if that were possible on the poll.

The fact is, I love the idea of D&D combat. And I have always been disappointed by it. In 1e AD&D we quit playing halfway through the module The Gauntlet because there was this fort full of medium-level humanoids (5 to 7 HD) barring the way of the party, and the fight lasted FOREVER to the point where the players just gave up.

Now, in 5e, I am still not happy with combat, not when I run it, not when another DM runs it while I am a PC. There are moments where it's fun - the well-placed crit, the final blow that takes down a scary threat, etc. But mostly, it's a slog. Players almost always fall back on the same approaches (ranger: sharpshooter + dread ambusher, fighter: I hit it with my sword, Barbarian: I get mad and hit it REALLY hard with my axe, Cleric: here come the spirit guardians!, artificer: here's my turret blasting everybody to smithereens etc.). So every fight is approached in exactly the same way - and not doing so would be stupid.

I also have come to the conclusion that the generic actions (shove etc.) are almost never used even though it's good that they are explicitly present in the ruleset. Also, the AoO rule now basically ensures that no one runs away from their opponent because that either means a free attack on you or a Disengage which means you do nothing 'cool' (which really means 'violent') this turn.

Then there's the strange phenomenon that many fights start out with a feeling that the PCs are going to get stomped really bad, and then hafway through it changes: victory becomes inevitable. But because of the hit point bloat and not enough options to take opponents out of the fight in a non-lethal way, the fight drags on and on and loses most of its excitement. In real life, pointing your sword at the chest or head of a disarmed opponent would be enough to make them reconsider their options; in D&D, they 'know' they can take 'just a flesh wound if even that' and have no reason not to continue the fight.

Personally, I think the rules need to stimulate the visual aspects of the fight (hit locations, called shots, detailed crits, specific moves) - that's what I would call cinematic combat. Many of these options are present as optional rules in the DMG but rarely if ever used.
 

mrswing

Explorer
I would also have voted for 50/50 if that were possible on the poll.

The fact is, I love the idea of D&D combat. And I have always been disappointed by it. In 1e AD&D we quit playing halfway through the module The Gauntlet because there was this fort full of medium-level humanoids (5 to 7 HD) barring the way of the party, and the fight lasted FOREVER to the point where the players just gave up.

Now, in 5e, I am still not happy with combat, not when I run it, not when another DM runs it while I am a PC. There are moments where it's fun - the well-placed crit, the final blow that takes down a scary threat, etc. But mostly, it's a slog. Players almost always fall back on the same approaches (ranger: sharpshooter + dread ambusher, fighter: I hit it with my sword, Barbarian: I get mad and hit it REALLY hard with my axe, Cleric: here come the spirit guardians!, artificer: here's my turret blasting everybody to smithereens etc.). So every fight is approached in exactly the same way - and not doing so would be stupid.

I also have come to the conclusion that the generic actions (shove etc.) are almost never used even though it's good that they are explicitly present in the ruleset. Also, the AoO rule now basically ensures that no one runs away from their opponent because that either means a free attack on you or a Disengage which means you do nothing 'cool' (which really means 'violent') this turn.

Then there's the strange phenomenon that many fights start out with a feeling that the PCs are going to get stomped really bad, and then hafway through it changes: victory becomes inevitable. But because of the hit point bloat and not enough options to take opponents out of the fight in a non-lethal way, the fight drags on and on and loses most of its excitement. In real life, pointing your sword at the chest or head of a disarmed opponent would be enough to make them reconsider their options; in D&D, they 'know' they can take 'just a flesh wound if even that' and have no reason not to continue the fight.

Personally, I think the rules need to stimulate the visual aspects of the fight (hit locations, called shots, detailed crits, specific moves) - that's what I would call cinematic combat. Many of these options are present as optional rules in the DMG but rarely if ever used.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

(Quick note to @mrswing ; I think your DM ran "UK3 - The Gauntlet" incorrectly; it's basically a "siege" where the PC's are sort of caught in the middle; the 'arriving forces' want something from the 'defending forces' in the Keep and ask the PC's to do it for them...if they do it, the 'arriving forces' leave; so, basically, the PC's aren't really supposed to try and massacre everyone in the Keep...or outside the Keep; anyway, this is just my interpretation, as I never DM'ed it...got close, but the PC's chose other paths)

Now... 5e Combat is "Generally OK". The biggest problem we had/have is once PC's even get close to 'mid level' (for us, that's 5th), the "solo" bad guys HP pool is just way to much with very little 'actual' threat from them....and it can easily turn into a slog. I have toyed with simply lowering HP's, but think simply adding some more "deadliness" to combat would be better. Which is... you get a Critical if you hit your opponent by MORE than 5 points. If you do that, double damage. If you do that AND the roll is a Natural 20, you maximum double damage. This may cut down on the HP's faster...and make the creature a bit more deadly! But...never tried it yet. Maybe next time I DM. ;)

I prefer Hackmaster 4th Edition combat the best out of all the "D&D systems"...with BECMI coming in a very close second. I have 'simplified' HM4 combat in some minor respects (Armor HP's only go down by the amount of dice damage minimum; e.g., 2d6 weapon takes of 2hp and only on a Critical, for example). But the "Penetration Damage", "Follow-through Damage", "Threshold of Pain", "Fatigue", "Spell Mishap", "Fumbles" and those lovely "Critical Hit Tables" make combat so fun and often unpredictable! :)

Compared to HM4 combat, 5e combat is watered-down gruel. But then again, it isn't called HACKmaster for nothing! ;) With 5e, the combat is supposed to be 'exciting, but not any more important than anything else'; meaning the PC's are generally "supposed to win in a few rounds" except for the 'major' fights. Different design goal. Not bad, but, well, "Generally OK". :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The fact is, I love the idea of D&D combat. And I have always been disappointed by it. In 1e AD&D we quit playing halfway through the module The Gauntlet because there was this fort full of medium-level humanoids (5 to 7 HD) barring the way of the party, and the fight lasted FOREVER to the point where the players just gave up.
Heh - I'm running that one right now and, as written, if the PCs are taking on the whole lot of monsters at once (rather than taking them on piecemeal in a controlled fashion) they've really messed up somehow; yes it would be a long combat, and unless the PCs are quite powerful would probably wipe them out.
Then there's the strange phenomenon that many fights start out with a feeling that the PCs are going to get stomped really bad, and then hafway through it changes: victory becomes inevitable.
Agreed. I noticed this more with 3e than 1e, and have anecdotally heard it to be even more prevalent in 4e and perhaps 5e.
But because of the hit point bloat and not enough options to take opponents out of the fight in a non-lethal way, the fight drags on and on and loses most of its excitement. In real life, pointing your sword at the chest or head of a disarmed opponent would be enough to make them reconsider their options; in D&D, they 'know' they can take 'just a flesh wound if even that' and have no reason not to continue the fight.

Personally, I think the rules need to stimulate the visual aspects of the fight (hit locations, called shots, detailed crits, specific moves) - that's what I would call cinematic combat. Many of these options are present as optional rules in the DMG but rarely if ever used.
The designers likely heard complaints during 3e that combat was too swingy, hence the removal of most save-or-die/suck effects in 4e and 5e in favour of having everything go to hit points.

Hit locations and called shots etc. are nice ideas in theory but the practice is that they can really bog things down in play. If you're looking to speed up combat they might not be the answer. :)
 

Hit locations and called shots etc. are nice ideas in theory but the practice is that they can really bog things down in play. If you're looking to speed up combat they might not be the answer. :)
Very much this.

That said, an optional rule with hit locations/called shots available on a limited-per-long-rest basis might scratch the itch for some. IMO, though, it would end up like the 5e optional flanking rule in that many would abandon it after dabbling.
 

Related question: what makes a monster fun or not fun in combat?

Thinking about newly announced statblock format and looking at various 3rd party ideas (tome of beasts, "action-oriented" monsters), it seems that people like monsters to have several special abilities that have a discrete tactical effect--imposing a condition, area of effect vs single target, teleportation/movement, enabling allies (giving extra turns, using reactions), particular damage types, legendary/lair actions.

What sort of abilities make a monster inherently more interesting when it comes to combat? Conversely, what's the minimum viable monster? AD&D statblocks were very simple, and generally a monster had one special thing that they did at most. Same with osr games obviously. So what kind of monster design makes combat fun, for you?
 

Related question: what makes a monster fun or not fun in combat?

Thinking about newly announced statblock format and looking at various 3rd party ideas (tome of beasts, "action-oriented" monsters), it seems that people like monsters to have several special abilities that have a discrete tactical effect--imposing a condition, area of effect vs single target, teleportation/movement, enabling allies (giving extra turns, using reactions), particular damage types, legendary/lair actions.

What sort of abilities make a monster inherently more interesting when it comes to combat? Conversely, what's the minimum viable monster? AD&D statblocks were very simple, and generally a monster had one special thing that they did at most. Same with osr games obviously. So what kind of monster design makes combat fun, for you?
Fun abilities is tough: I think novelty is probably the best you can do, but that's very relative. What's new to me may be old hat to you. This is why monsters with one signature ability tend to be more fun than ones with no special ability, or ones who use standard features. The stick out.

Unfun is a little easier to nail down: enemies that either remove pc's from the fight, or take too much of the same action to defeat.

Bags of hit points are only bad if they have too many hit points. If the best option is to just attack, it should take about three rounds of that to take the monster down. If it's round six and the players are still just attacking because nothing else is worth doing, it's a boring fight and you should probably wrap it up. (4e was really bad at this, but 5e largely avoids this issue.)

Features that cause players to lose turns (as in multiple turns, though even losing one turn can be annoying) are almost always un-fun, and monsters that are immune to a class's core feature are almost always bad design. That's why so few things are generally immune to Sneak Attack these days. Features/spells can be situational, but pc's should almost always be able to contribute. Once in a while is fine, but keep it to a minimum.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Related question: what makes a monster fun or not fun in combat?

Thinking about newly announced statblock format and looking at various 3rd party ideas (tome of beasts, "action-oriented" monsters), it seems that people like monsters to have several special abilities that have a discrete tactical effect--imposing a condition, area of effect vs single target, teleportation/movement, enabling allies (giving extra turns, using reactions), particular damage types, legendary/lair actions.

What sort of abilities make a monster inherently more interesting when it comes to combat? Conversely, what's the minimum viable monster? AD&D statblocks were very simple, and generally a monster had one special thing that they did at most. Same with osr games obviously. So what kind of monster design makes combat fun, for you?
Good questions.

For me, to be fun/interesting a monster or foe* has to at least appear to be capable of laying a world o' hurt on one or more PCs if not dealt with quickly and-or wisely. That can come from sheer brute-force damage, from a known or rumoured save-or-die ability, from being sneaky enough that the PCs never know where the next attack is coming from, or similar.

A monster or foe having lots of different abilities, while interesting on paper, isn't often much use in play in that there's usually not enough time for those abilities to come into play before the PCs swarm it or immobilize it or otherwise deal with it.

Flip side: the minimum viable monster is anything that makes the PCs sit up and pay attention even if it's a false threat. Build up the tension properly and the sudden appearance of even a single Kobold with a crossbow can scatter a powerful party and get them burning all kinds of resources. :)

* - or a group of them
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Fun abilities is tough: I think novelty is probably the best you can do, but that's very relative. What's new to me may be old hat to you. This is why monsters with one signature ability tend to be more fun than ones with no special ability, or ones who use standard features. The stick out.

Unfun is a little easier to nail down: enemies that either remove pc's from the fight, or take too much of the same action to defeat.

Bags of hit points are only bad if they have too many hit points. If the best option is to just attack, it should take about three rounds of that to take the monster down. If it's round six and the players are still just attacking because nothing else is worth doing, it's a boring fight and you should probably wrap it up. (4e was really bad at this, but 5e largely avoids this issue.)

Features that cause players to lose turns (as in multiple turns, though even losing one turn can be annoying) are almost always un-fun, and monsters that are immune to a class's core feature are almost always bad design. That's why so few things are generally immune to Sneak Attack these days. Features/spells can be situational, but pc's should almost always be able to contribute. Once in a while is fine, but keep it to a minimum.
Problem there is if a monster or foe can't either a) take PCs out of the fight one by one so as to improve its odds, or b) have enough hit points to allow it to survive a while, how can you make it tough/scary enough to be worth the effort? Sure, some monsters e.g. Giants can be made scary simply by their brute-force damage-dealing potential, but that doesn't work for everything.

The players (via their PCs) have to feel like they're losing sometimes (even if they aren't), or there's no excitement. Losing is by definition unfun, which means yes: combat won't always be fun all the time.
 

Problem there is if a monster or foe can't either a) take PCs out of the fight one by one so as to improve its odds, or b) have enough hit points to allow it to survive a while, how can you make it tough/scary enough to be worth the effort? Sure, some monsters e.g. Giants can be made scary simply by their brute-force damage-dealing potential, but that doesn't work for everything.

The players (via their PCs) have to feel like they're losing sometimes (even if they aren't), or there's no excitement. Losing is by definition unfun, which means yes: combat won't always be fun all the time.
A point. I think there's a difference in the fun of being beaten by losing all your hit points and the fun of being removed from the fight by one bad (less than a 16) roll on the dice, though. Basically, save-of-wait makes for bored players.

As for the hit point thing: the monster isn't scary because you need 6 turns to kill it. It's scary (or not) because it migth kill you first. If it can't kill you, more hp makes it less scary.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
1. I can't believe this thread is still going!

2. The quote below makes me want to start a new poll asking "Is one turn really all that valuable that losing one to have to do anything but you'd most want to do is a bummer/unfun?"

Features that cause players to lose turns (as in multiple turns, though even losing one turn can be annoying) are almost always un-fun,

This is building on the frequently expressed idea that "no one ever disengages because it wastes a turn."
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A point. I think there's a difference in the fun of being beaten by losing all your hit points and the fun of being removed from the fight by one bad (less than a 16) roll on the dice, though. Basically, save-of-wait makes for bored players.
And I set that expectation right up front: that there's inevitably going to be times when, as player, you're going to be out of action for a while; for any of a host of different reasons. To cover this off I also often allow players to run two PCs at once, so if one's down or away there's still the other.
As for the hit point thing: the monster isn't scary because you need 6 turns to kill it. It's scary (or not) because it migth kill you first. If it can't kill you, more hp makes it less scary.
Yet this runs hard aground on the combat-is-a-slog issue, doesn't it? If it needs 6 rounds to kill the foe and each round is taking half an hour to play through, isn't any mechanism* that sorts it out in three rounds an improvement, even if it means a higher risk level for the PCs?

* - one such that I've seen presented here numerous times for both 4e and 5e is to simply halve the hit points of everything in the game - PCs, monsters, the lot of 'em. Though this makes combats shorter it also makes them swingier and therefore riskier, and players often aren't willing to accept that added risk.
 

Features that cause players to lose turns (as in multiple turns, though even losing one turn can be annoying) are almost always un-fun, and monsters that are immune to a class's core feature are almost always bad design. That's why so few things are generally immune to Sneak Attack these days. Features/spells can be situational, but pc's should almost always be able to contribute. Once in a while is fine, but keep it to a minimum.

This is where I stumble with monsters. It would seem that conditions and damage type (and associated resistances, immunities, vulnerabilities) are key design aspects of wotc editions (brought over from magic the gathering, as this article describes). Yet, bringing them into play, at least on the monster side, appears as unfun. That is, imposing a condition, or a monster that has immunity to certain damage types, renders characters "useless" at least for a round, and that is to be avoided. Yet, if you don't give monsters those types of abilities, they seem boring.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is where I stumble with monsters. It would seem that conditions and damage type (and associated resistances, immunities, vulnerabilities) are key design aspects of wotc editions (brought over from magic the gathering, as this article describes). Yet, bringing them into play, at least on the monster side, appears as unfun. That is, imposing a condition, or a monster that has immunity to certain damage types, renders characters "useless" at least for a round, and that is to be avoided. Yet, if you don't give monsters those types of abilities, they seem boring.
My take is that if a player can't handle their PC being useless for a round or two then that's someone I don't want at the table whether I'm DM or fellow player; and I'd wonder how well said player would deal with other games - and there's a lot of 'em - that incorporate skip-a-turn mechanics.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
This is where I stumble with monsters. It would seem that conditions and damage type (and associated resistances, immunities, vulnerabilities) are key design aspects of wotc editions (brought over from magic the gathering, as this article describes). Yet, bringing them into play, at least on the monster side, appears as unfun. That is, imposing a condition, or a monster that has immunity to certain damage types, renders characters "useless" at least for a round, and that is to be avoided. Yet, if you don't give monsters those types of abilities, they seem boring.

I am imagining this scenario:

Player A (using his magical flaming sword): I hit AC 17 for 24 points of damage.
DM: While your sword clearly strikes the stony creature, for a moment your blade flame seems to waver. It seems like you may have done no damage at all.

If the player is like "Holy crap! this is serious! We need to think about how to hurt this thing!" they are my kind of player. If they are like "THAT SUCKS! You nerfed what my character is best at and/or what I like the most! <sulk>" Well, I might suggest they need to find another game that more fits their style (with the good faith assumption in this scenario that the DM is not making all the PCs best abilities always not work or singles our this player unduly for such results - let's assume that's not the case, b/c that is a different discussion).
 

2. The quote below makes me want to start a new poll asking "Is one turn really all that valuable that losing one to have to do anything but you'd most want to do is a bummer/unfun?"

This is building on the frequently expressed idea that "no one ever disengages because it wastes a turn."
Do it! :)
I'll hold my answer until then.
 

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