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D&D 5E Is D&D combat fun?

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


  • Total voters
    177

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
That's what I meant. Can you agree with any of this? Because, IMO, these are all problems that make combat less fun for my table, but could be fixed if WotC in 5.5e/or a backwards-compatible 6e did something like Pathfinder 2e's Three-Action System or something else to fix these issues.
Not familiar with PF's Three-Action System (i only dabbled with PF and it seemed no different from 3E to me).

I guess I can't agree that its a problem to worry abut too much? 🤷‍♀️ I don't know. Some of those things might be mitigated by house rules that we implemented that had more to do with what made sense to us rather than thinking about an "economy." For example, I allow bonus actions to be completed as actions as long as you don't break the "no two non-cantrip spells in a round rule" because I see no reason why if something can be done as a bonus action it can't be done as an action.

Or like the solo monster issue, if it is just any ole monster sometimes the party stomping them before they get to act twice is fine and fun and feels very accomplished! Or, it is an important monster I give it some legendary actions (I am a very strong believer in every edition - that each monster is potentially unique - and if they seem identical that is because of my shorthand not because they "actually" are in an in-story way. But generally, in my experience, even solo monsters potentially benefit from the environment and the goals/stakes of the fight.
 

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billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I haven't played previous editions, so I won't comment on them and how they're different from/similar to D&D 5e's action economy. However, I will say that D&D 5e's action economy problems are fairly major, like how villains can get swamped out by the shear amount of actions the party gets to do before they get to go again, how clunky it is to try to choose certain bonus action options over others and how it can take a long time to get your stuff working together, and how counterintuitive much of it is (like you can't Ready a Bonus Action, but can an Action, how you can cast a spell that has the casting time of a bonus action and an Action cantrip, but you can't cast a bonus action cantrip and a non-cantrip spell that has the casting time of an action, etc).

That's what I meant. Can you agree with any of this? Because, IMO, these are all problems that make combat less fun for my table, but could be fixed if WotC in 5.5e/or a backwards-compatible 6e did something like Pathfinder 2e's Three-Action System or something else to fix these issues.
It think you'll find there's an enormous amount of disagreement over most of those things you list as problematic or clunky. They may not be perfect but they are the product of years of experience, development, and evolution of the rules. And, in my experience, they work surprisingly well compared to other editions and even games. As much as I like aspects of PF2's 3 action economy and its simplicity, there are definite issues with it that I do not like such as restrictions on actions that can't be performed first in a turn, raising shields every round being necessary, and the tendency of anybody to make multiple attacks even if the chances are low just because they have the actions left and don't want to waste them.
 

niklinna

Looking for group
It think you'll find there's an enormous amount of disagreement over most of those things you list as problematic or clunky. They may not be perfect but they are the product of years of experience, development, and evolution of the rules. And, in my experience, they work surprisingly well compared to other editions and even games. As much as I like aspects of PF2's 3 action economy and its simplicity, there are definite issues with it that I do not like such as restrictions on actions that can't be performed first in a turn, raising shields every round being necessary, and the tendency of anybody to make multiple attacks even if the chances are low just because they have the actions left and don't want to waste them.
I briefly tried PF2 and saw all the things you describe here. The 3-action economy is great in principle, but actually felt like a straight jacket to me because of all the provisos, and especially because, with that supposedly general economy, you still had to be able to complete anything you do* on a single turn. If I had the option of casting a 3-action spell, for example, using my last action on my turn, and then finishing it with 2 actions on my next turn, combat would be much more interesting, firstly because that would be an option at all, but also because I'd be risking interruption of the spell, enemies would be motivated to interrupt it (possibly distracting them from doing something worse), and my teammates would have to cover my butt in those moments (or choose not to, of course, depending on what was tactically most important).

* I'd originally written "any action", but then the word "action" is unfortunately reserved for the currency of, erm, actions.

But, this thread is about 5e, so I'll say that an action economy based on distinct categories of actions is definitely annoying, what with some abilities using your action, and others using your bonus action. So, if you have two abilities that use your bonus action, nope, you can't use them both on your turn. Even a minor change like saying you can sub a bonus action for your action (that is, you can do an action and a bonus action, or two bonus actions, but not two actions) would be an improvement—albeit a band-aid on an underlying kludgy action economy. Another band-aid might be class features (or feats, or magic items, or what have you) that grant an extra bonus action or reaction on a turn, the way some classes get an extra attack (maybe with limited uses per short/long rest, maybe not). That's getting out of describing the problems and into the messy area of changing a large, complex system, though (as billd91 alluded to), so I won't take that any further.
 
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I haven't played previous editions, so I won't comment on them and how they're different from/similar to D&D 5e's action economy. However, I will say that D&D 5e's action economy problems are fairly major, like how villains can get swamped out by the shear amount of actions the party gets to do before they get to go again, how clunky it is to try to choose certain bonus action options over others and how it can take a long time to get your stuff working together, and how counterintuitive much of it is (like you can't Ready a Bonus Action, but can an Action, how you can cast a spell that has the casting time of a bonus action and an Action cantrip, but you can't cast a bonus action cantrip and a non-cantrip spell that has the casting time of an action, etc).

That's what I meant. Can you agree with any of this? Because, IMO, these are all problems that make combat less fun for my table, but could be fixed if WotC in 5.5e/or a backwards-compatible 6e did something like Pathfinder 2e's Three-Action System or something else to fix these issues.
it's a pf2 thing. This link has a quick summary nutshell explanation. Basically it's like the old 3.5/pf1 action free action swift action move action etc just become an action & some abilities take more than one action to perform while (I think?)some other abilities can reduce the action cost. he pf2 3 action action economy has it's up sides & down sides like 5e's action economy... but 5e's action economy & tactical components are so simplified that the rough edges are all that you have left
 



ad_hoc

(he/they)
Yes, I think combat in 5e is great.

For the people who dislike it, I encourage you to find a reason other than 'it is poorly designed'. It isn't. It works very well for over 50 million people.

It is valid to not like it and if you want to either improve it for yourself or find another game that you like more it is more useful to figure out why you don't like it. The easy way out is to say that 'it is poorly designed' but that actually won't improve anything, and it's also wrong. It's either not well designed for your tastes, or you don't know what you want well enough to make it work for you.


Combat too slow?

Maybe the cause is analysis paralysis which happens in board games too. The solution to that is to just take your darn turn already and stop holding up the game for everyone.

Finding combats to be filler? Maybe the issue isn't the combats but it is the pacing or how they're introduced into the adventure. Lots of people on this board say they only have 1-3 encounters per adventuring day and that sounds like it would lead to some bad combats.

Either those combats are going to be too big and go on too long or they're going to not have any tension because there won't be any stakes.

A 5e combat is designed to last 2-4 rounds. If everyone is ready for their turn and knows the dice they need to roll then most combats can be over in 20 minutes or less.

I find it strange too when people say that they don't have many encounters per adventuring day because they prefer exploration and social interaction. But, having more encounters doesn't limit that. It sounds to me that people are limiting themselves by forcing a long rest every session. In my games we typically have a long rest once per 2 sessions.

There is plenty of tension and excitement in even the smallest combats and they don't take very long. When there are many encounters in an adventuring day the 'big epic' combats can be much smaller too as the party is much weaker by the time they have them.

I'm not saying that if you don't like the combat you're bad at playing the game. Maybe the game isn't for you. And maybe there are ways to approach and play it that you would like more if you looked at things differently.

Sometimes the problem isn't apparent. In the case of 5e it is definitely not that it is poorly designed.
 

S'mon

Legend
Random encounters are a double edged sword. In a game without xp, they serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever, merely slowing the game down.

The possibility of random encounters goes a long way to create the feeling of a dynamic living world. The risk of running into something in the way to or from the dungeon, or while travelling in the dungeon, strongly affects resource calculations. The GM can run easier combats and the players still feel threatened, because they aren't sure what the final battle pre-long rest will be. And making it random takes a lot of pressure off the GM.
 


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TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I think combat is fun. Or at least it became fun for me and my group.

Some of these things were already mentioned by others:
  • I'm of the opinion that random encounters suck. They have no personality, they come out of nowhere, the players want to finish the encounter to finish it. I've used them for a few weeks years ago and never did again.
  • There's a thread about the amount of encounters we have per session; I offer my group way less encounters than is expected in 5E and in most games I see around me. But the vast majority are linked to the narrative.
  • I also tend to keep the difficulty way up. There should be a risk of death in every single encounter if the players make terrible decisions and if they're unlucky. I want to keep them focused. I also want them to feel like they should use whatever cool powers they have because now's the time. They know this is not the first of six encounters with kobolds before you get to the good stuff.
  • Finally, cool interactive elements, verticality, difficult terrain and other things like that really do make a difference. They make certain abilities or spell shine, they change the power dynamics between classes, they allow for creativity.
But if combat is by the rules, with up to six or seven encounter a day to burn resources, with random encounters and a flat terrain; then no, it's not very fun.

I like to say that if the encounter isn't a cool story that I could tell a coworker in the elevator, it's probably not worth having. If my players won't remember it in a few years, it's probably not worth having. Now, do note that I absolutely have some encounters that are more basic or not as exciting, but they much more rare.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
"If you don't like it, go do something else" is an incredibly naïve and oversimplified view of what people are saying. People who want to change 5E want to do so because there's a lot in D&D they like, either be it the mechanics, brand, ideas, or so on that the game provides. The desire to modify and change the game, and to see the game evolve, should never be responded to with the equivalent of you telling us to sod off and play something else.
It all depends how it's formulated. If it's along the lines of "I don't like it, but I'm still playing it for reasons (my friends play it, or combat is not that important, etc.) and here is what I do to make it better", it's fine, but if it's along the lines of "it sucks, the designers are #####, and everyone who likes it are even greater ##### for liking it and not seeing how bad it is", then the "#### off, why don't you try [another game]" response is, I feel reasonably appropriate. I honestly cannot fathom/abide the people for whom combat is obviously the major part of the game, who still can't find one redeeming feature in the design of 5e, and who take every single opportunity to criticise it.
 
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Lyxen

Great Old One
it's a pf2 thing. This link has a quick summary nutshell explanation. Basically it's like the old 3.5/pf1 action free action swift action move action etc just become an action & some abilities take more than one action to perform while (I think?)some other abilities can reduce the action cost. he pf2 3 action action economy has it's up sides & down sides like 5e's action economy... but 5e's action economy & tactical components are so simplified that the rough edges are all that you have left

And again, the huge popularity of 5e has proven that either people look for something else than combat in 5e (I honestly think that there are not that many for whom combat is really not important to some degree), or they are satisfied with the simplicity (because, yes, it's a quality, not everything has to he extremely complex and involved to be fun) of 5e combat. Or both, very probably, seeing again the huge popularity of the edition.

It actually takes quite a bit more talent to make something streamlined and still working well rather than making a huge complex mess of things that only technical readers can slog through (and honestly, I get enough technical papers at work to be totally deterred by PF2's way of presenting things in a totally artificial and gamist manner). After that, I know that Apple is controversial, but I suspect that the simplicity and ease of use is a great factor of enjoyment for those who are looking for it in whatever they are using.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
For the people who dislike it, I encourage you to find a reason other than 'it is poorly designed'. It isn't. It works very well for over 50 million people.

Indeed.

Combat too slow? Maybe the cause is analysis paralysis which happens in board games too. The solution to that is to just take your darn turn already and stop holding up the game for everyone.

Exactly. Also stop the discussion and interruptions from other players during someone's turn. In your case, this effectively divided by at least two the duration of the fight. Some people already have trouble deciding what to do, in our groups, it's mostly from optimisers who want to make sure to take the optimal action, and who not only take forever to decide, but also want to make sure that they have all the correct information to make sure that they are basing their decision on, and who will also therefore take forever fishing for more information, and summarising the information that they have to then justify their decision to everyone (again, often afraid that they might be criticised or lose face if they don't take THE optimal decision).

This is already a pain, but not that hard to shut down as a DM in like "you have 10 seconds to tell what your character is doing, otherwise you lose your turn". It also goes with "don't explain to us WHY you are doing something, just tell us what your character is doing, your motivations and reasons are your own, all the other players are more interested in having their turn to play than listening to your personal justifications". Do this for a few sessions, and these people will stop being a problem.

But the problem gets worse if you let anyone, in particular other optimisers, start "suggesting" (often in their own self interest) other courses of action and therefore generate even more discussions and hesitations, starting another cycle of fishing for information, argumentation, justifications and hesitations. Fortunately, another round of "it's not your turn, please be silent until it is" works miraculously.

And this is, once more, easy to do in 5e, much easier than in other systems because turns are simple, in order, there is no delaying, and there are very few interruptions that can be made during someone else's turn. Moreover, a character can speak only briefly during his turn, which also prevents long discussions interrupting the flow of combat.

5e is designed to be fast and streamlined, and these are huge qualities.

Finding combats to be filler? Maybe the issue isn't the combats but it is the pacing or how they're introduced into the adventure. Lots of people on this board say they only have 1-3 encounters per adventuring day and that sounds like it would lead to some bad combats.

Either those combats are going to be too big and go on too long or they're going to not have any tension because there won't be any stakes.

A 5e combat is designed to last 2-4 rounds. If everyone is ready for their turn and knows the dice they need to roll then most combats can be over in 20 minutes or less.

I find it strange too when people say that they don't have many encounters per adventuring day because they prefer exploration and social interaction. But, having more encounters doesn't limit that. It sounds to me that people are limiting themselves by forcing a long rest every session. In my games we typically have a long rest once per 2 sessions.

It might also be that some players like to go nova and show off, and get scared with the possibilities of combat when not "full", and therefore insist on rests extremely often.

There is plenty of tension and excitement in even the smallest combats and they don't take very long. When there are many encounters in an adventuring day the 'big epic' combats can be much smaller too as the party is much weaker by the time they have them.

Exactly, and it makes them more tense because resources are low.

Yesterday evening, we have decided to press on inside the Amazon fortress despite having two barbarians fairly low on HP, we are far from being full, but we feel that we can't even take a short rest, so for sure the next fight(s) are going to be more tense even if they are not technically that dangerous.

I'm not saying that if you don't like the combat you're bad at playing the game.

On the other hand, there are many people here saying that you are bad at playing the game if you don't realise all the technical flaws of 5e combat, not even realising that they are even playing the same game anyway, and that therefore they are the ones bad at playing the game as designed.

Maybe the game isn't for you. And maybe there are ways to approach and play it that you would like more if you looked at things differently.

Sometimes the problem isn't apparent. In the case of 5e it is definitely not that it is poorly designed.

Exactly. Please differentiate your personal preferences from actual and factual elements of design. I ff I want to mirror that attitude, PF2 is extremely poorly designed, It is a fatras of technical rules that don't even make sense in giving me the feel of being a powerful hero in a fantasy world, I just feel like a poor engineer trying to design a solution in a nightmare of rules and regulations that don't even make sense in any world apart from their own.
 

John R Davis

Adventurer
If you are not finding D&D combat to be fun, then clearly something is wrong?/disconnect/ needs a re-think in your group.

Are you having too many?
Are people not understanding the rules?
Are people not paying attention?
Are you playing the wrong game?
 

And again, the huge popularity of 5e has proven that either people look for something else than combat in 5e (I honestly think that there are not that many for whom combat is really not important to some degree), or they are satisfied with the simplicity (because, yes, it's a quality, not everything has to he extremely complex and involved to be fun) of 5e combat. Or both, very probably, seeing again the huge popularity of the edition.

It actually takes quite a bit more talent to make something streamlined and still working well rather than making a huge complex mess of things that only technical readers can slog through (and honestly, I get enough technical papers at work to be totally deterred by PF2's way of presenting things in a totally artificial and gamist manner). After that, I know that Apple is controversial, but I suspect that the simplicity and ease of use is a great factor of enjoyment for those who are looking for it in whatever they are using.
People being satisfied with something doesn't make it immune to having negatives. I can be satisfied with my car and be able to recognize that the dend on the back and scratches in the paint are negatives that may not be easy to fix and maybe should be given more consideration when making certain types of distinctions about cars. 5e's simplifications have good points yes, but they also come with bad ones that do not simply go away because of the good. Unlike the hypothetical not so gently used car those bad ones often negatively impact areas important to the ttrpg experience.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
There is plenty of tension and excitement in even the smallest combats and they don't take very long. When there are many encounters in an adventuring day the 'big epic' combats can be much smaller too as the party is much weaker by the time they have them.

I'm not saying that if you don't like the combat you're bad at playing the game. Maybe the game isn't for you. And maybe there are ways to approach and play it that you would like more if you looked at things differently.

Sometimes the problem isn't apparent. In the case of 5e it is definitely not that it is poorly designed.

I dont think it is always the case that all 5e combats or even small combats necessarily have a lot of excitement or interest. It depends heavily upon the composition of the party in terms of long rest/short rest ability and the number of encounters etc. If we have a one combat day my Paladin can go nova and take the tension out of even tough encounters.

I think everyone who likes 5e is willing to loose a bit of crunch for speed of play but I think the issue of long/rest powers has a huge impact on the danger and tension of combat. I definitely dont think the game is poorly designed and I love playing it but parameters whereby it can be great seem to be quite uncertain for me.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
People being satisfied with something doesn't make it immune to having negatives.

And again, I'm not against people having negatives, I have some too as, despite its brilliance, the system is not perfect, not without flaws. But it all depends how you present negatives. If it's a few negatives, it's fine, but if it's just slagging the whole system and showing that, in your opinion, people who like it are idiots for liking it despite its "obvious, glaring flaws", no, it's not OK, sorry.

5e's simplifications have good points yes, but they also come with bad ones that do not simply go away because of the good. Unlike the hypothetical not so gently used car those bad ones often negatively impact areas important to the ttrpg experience.

Again, it depends on what you want your "ttrpg" experience to be. It's all about preferences, not about the overall suitability of the design to every game on the planet. Because, from this direction, 5e has shown that it is infinitely more suitable than its competition, there are probably 100 5e players for every PF2 player, for example.

So don't speak about "ttrpg experience" in general, don't speak about "design flaws", say that it's not (perfectly/entirely) suited to what you like in terms of ttrpg experience, and that the design does not suit your preferences.

But honestly (I'm not speaking about you, but of some other contributors) I'm tired of these "expert RPG designers" who have never produced anything worthwhile in this domain in their life, but who just like slagging off the result of years of collaborative design, including a huge amount of playtesting by the community, and of a game that is more successful than any RPG ever before, finally bringing D&D into the mainstream and recognition that it deserves as a hobby, just because they like a different games and would like D&D ot be something else than what it is.

Different games might be brilliant too for some players, it's fine, but just because my preferences lie elsewhere does not give me freedom to slag off people who, at least, have produced something and been brave enough to submit it to the community. Respect work and dedication at the very least. Constructive criticism and stating personal preferences is fine.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think everyone who likes 5e is willing to loose a bit of crunch for speed of play but I think the issue of long/rest powers has a huge impact on the danger and tension of combat. I definitely dont think the game is poorly designed and I love playing it but parameters whereby it can be great seem to be quite uncertain for me.

The game is very open-ended, which is why it gives guidelines but does not tell you straight up "do this / don't do this" because it certainly can be fun to ignore the guidelines now and then. It's true that between the types of characters, their possibility to go nova or not, their specificities for resting, the amount of fights between rests, the difficulty, etc.

But still, there are guidelines, and with a little bit of experience, any DM can find the right recipe for each group. After that, once more, it's a question of preferences, some people prefer 4e where it's all setup clearly, others prefer a fuzzier more open way of doing things, neither is best overall, just better for specific groups and tables, that's all.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
The possibility of random encounters goes a long way to create the feeling of a dynamic living world. The risk of running into something in the way to or from the dungeon, or while travelling in the dungeon, strongly affects resource calculations. The GM can run easier combats and the players still feel threatened, because they aren't sure what the final battle pre-long rest will be. And making it random takes a lot of pressure off the GM.

Yes and random adventures also make the story unknown. One of the main things I look for in a published adventure is a good random encounter table.

Random encounters don't need to just be a few monsters from the MM jumping out at the characters and then a fight happens. Good ones are entire scenes that the players can interact with in different ways. Sure, many end up with a fight somewhere but how that happens is up to the players.

Random encounters at least in my games are also a chance for more treasure. I use treasure hoard tables and sometimes there is treasure in rolled encounters. And it's up to the players, do they risk engaging with the encounter and draining their resources (and thus risking the adventure) to get some treasure (or perform a good deed like rescuing people in peril) or do they just continue on and ignore the hook. It's up to them.
 

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