5E My biggest gripe with 5e design

Sacrosanct

Legend
Disclosure: I really like 5e. When 3e came out, I mostly stuck with AD&D. When 4e came out, I didn't even want to touch it and stayed with AD&D. 5e? It brought me back. Overall, I think the design team deserves a ton of credit for designing a great game. I really want to stress how even though I have a gripe with it, doesn't mean I think it's trash or a bad game. I'm not "hating" on it.

But I think I can finally place my finger on what I like about it the least, rather than a general feeling. The saving throw thread helped clarify my thoughts a bit now that I've actually given more thought to it (I've always just tried to focus on the good parts rather than spend time thinking about what I didn't like. I mean, no game is perfect, right?)

My general feeling that I didn't like? The overall less-than-lethal changes made to monsters. That's a pretty well known gripe from folks. How in most cases, you get multiple save opportunities before something really bad happens, how green slimes are completely neutered, how poison is now just a little bit of damage and not a real threat like it was before, how there is no level drain, or instant petrification, rust monsters are neutered, etc. A green slime scared the hell out of you in AD&D. 5e? Meh.

Note: I am not saying save or die was a good thing, or it was better, or that anyone who hates save or die is a bad person who beats puppies.

Upon deeper thought: It wasn't save or die or really suck that I miss, but the secondary effect of it. I.e., players were extremely cautious and genuinely careful when going out on an adventure or discovering an enemy. You approached a gaze monster totally different than you did a rust monster, and approached the undead completely different from that, and same with a venomous creature or trap, etc. You got your supplies, did your research, prepped your spells, all for things to help mitigate poison, or disease, or extra weapons (because the slime or rust monster destroyed your old ones). Scrolls because one of your most sought after magic items.

After all this, how does this translate into my gripe for 5e? My biggest gripe isn't that they don't have save or die, but that the design seems to have placed all of its eggs into the HP basket. It all seems to be about HP mitigation and attrition, rather than trying to prevent individual effects (like disease, poison, petrification, paralyzation, item destruction, etc). And that seems to lead to players approaching battles with little variation tactics. Just try to inflict as much HP as damage as possible and don't worry about getting poisoned, petrified, etc. As long as you had HP left, you will never fail.

For example, an attack by a cockatrice in 5e gave you two saving throws at an easy DC, and if you failed both of those, you were only petrified for 24 hours. So you could afford to be much more aggressive and approach combat more traditionally. Your melee types weren't nearly as scared to engage in melee as they were in AD&D, where if you failed once, you were screwed forever. So in 1e, tactics were different.

Note 2: I"m not saying tactics aren't used in 5e, just that they aren't as much of a focus because the risk of failing a save is less.

Note 3: I also understand that DMs can always change things, but I'm talking about out of the box


Essentially, really bad lingering effects are much more rare in 5e than AD&D, and lack of lingering effects changes how people approach encounters. And to me, and in my experience, it makes the battles feel a bit too similar. I found myself missing the party planning phase, and the tactics phase. The importance of prepping spells other than combat spells. The importance of getting antidotes, and protection scrolls. The importance of realizing that many battle are best not fought at all, but avoided. With 5e, it seems like all you really have to worry about is managing HP. Even most bad conditions were ended after a round or two (since you get to keep rerolling new saves every round).

So how do I think this could be addressed in the 5e framework? I think 5e already has a mechanic that most players dread: exhaustion. I don't think bringing back level draining is the answer (most people loathe it). But I think there is room to diversify the hazards a PC can face long term other than HP loss (and even that is short term). Everything in 5e seems to reset on a long rest. Boo! lol. I think exhaustion should be utilized more often, and can be used to reflect things like disease, or the effects of potent poison, or even gaining a level of exhaustion if you've been raised/revivafied/healed from 0 hp. Change the life force draining ability of undead that brought the fear of God(s) into the PCs to inflict levels of exhaustion as a way to reflect the life draining aspect. Metagaming is always going to be part of the game (everyone knows to use fire against the troll), so bring back the fear of the undead. And slimes. And other monsters. Make trap disarming a suspenseful event again.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and what I find is the weakest part of an otherwise great game. I am totally open to hear others' ideas of how to diversify dangers and hazards to PCs in 5e. Help get out of the "HP are everything" mindset.
 
My general feeling that I didn't like? The overall less-than-lethal changes made to monsters. That's a pretty well known gripe from folks....Upon deeper thought: It wasn't save or die or really suck that I miss, but the secondary effect of it. I.e., players were extremely cautious and genuinely careful when going out on an adventure or discovering an enemy.
Yep. 5e is less paranoia, more heroism, relative to the classic, TSR era game - at least by default.

Mind you, there are still echoes. Innocuous combats can easily kill a 1st level PC with just a bit of bad luck, for instance, so a new players, starting at 1st level, can get a "this game is deadly" first impression that adds a bit of excitement for as long as it last... and y'know, first impressions. ;)

My biggest gripe isn't that they don't have save or die, but that the design seems to have placed all of its eggs into the HP basket. It all seems to be about HP mitigation and attrition
It's certainly all centered around that, not just from a play but from a design perspective. The class balance aimed at by the 6-8 encounter, day, for instance, mainly balance as denominated in hps - damage & healing, mostly, single target, AFAICT.

Note 2: I"m not saying tactics aren't used in 5e, just that they aren't as much of a focus because the risk of failing a save is less.
Also, keeping tactics to a minimum helps keep inside the BA lines and doesn't strain TotM too much.

I am totally open to hear others' ideas of how to diversify dangers and hazards to PCs in 5e. Help get out of the "HP are everything" mindset.
One mechanic that worked well for 'lingering' effects was the Disease Track, this was a fairly simple mechanic, but it progressed by the long rest instead of going away with it. So, right there, you'd have shift in pacing pressures. When first exposed, there may not be an immediate effect, but, after a long rest, you make a check (save, Endurance, Medicine, whatever) and on a failure you take the first round of symptoms/effects. Each long rest you have a chance to improve, stay the same, or get worse. Unlike hps, that could have a death-spiral effect. Could work for diseases, of course, curses, or more serious wounds (inflicted by failed death saves, for instance, as in another recent thread).

Getting worse is what you'd want to emphasize.
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
First thought, why? As in "why are we fighting? If the reason for the PCs to do things is driven primarily by survival - then yeah - not dying is key. But then, why fight vs run? So the first thing yo do to change the outlook and prep style is changing the context of the scenario. Conditions, effects, 24 hour delays etc etc can have extremely dramatic impact and meaning if they hit the bigger goals.

Second, if you want the fights to be (even within the context of "the fight") less about the HP, use scenes, monsters and events more often where the HP is not the main thing. Use more intelligent monsters /adversaries where terrain choices, traps, planning on the adversary part then makes prrp and research and do on vital for PCs too.

"Releasevthe basilisk" might be underwhelming as a straight up corridor encounter in your dungeon. But if the boss put that basilisk in a pen and setup a way to drop an isolated pc into that pen, especially not a high con bruiser - that basilisk is now much more dsngerous.

In my experience, in my gameplay, I kind of view encounters that are meant to be risks and key differently than those where, frankly, its might gonna be a fight but it's not the fight that matters - but just dressing for whatever comes from it.

Perhaps that to me is a difference - in GM styles. I am more interested in presenting serious risk in "encounters that matter" where its combos of things and cunning all together that add up to risk. I am much more interested in leaving simpler beasts and sacks of HP as more akin to terrain or trap than "lethal risks" if engaged. Is the real risk for the sack of HP that the fight will expose your position to others? Are they out in the hills by sn intelligent adversary to specifically harass and reveal approaching threats?
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
My gripe is I really hate the concentration mechanic. I wish they would have found a way to stack and configure spells into cool configurations. That said the concentration check is very for what it does.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
My gripe is I really hate the concentration mechanic. I wish they would have found a way to stack and configure spells into cool configurations. That said the concentration check is very for what it does.
My biggest gripe is broad and hard for me to pick. It's more like a list of "I wish they woulda... "

I wish they woulda worked in an "adventure mechanic" clock kinda thing which was a little more versatile than types of rests. For example, of the optional DMG healing surge was in play with a slower HD recovery and if each class/sub-class had a way to use Healing surges for more than HP, I think it would be an easier more fluid pacing setup.

I wish they woulda gone with 12 classes that gave each ability score two classes that were directly tied to them and spread secondary abilities scores to sub-classes. As a matter of design, that would help even out the ability scores appeal a bit more, possibly.

I wish they woulda went with warlock and sorcerers had been a different mix - warlocks with meta-magic, sorcerers with origin themed invocations.

I wish they woulda rethought spell components to allow character specific choices beyond focus, pouch or listed gizmo. JEC ssidcrecrnyly that the choice yo use focus orbpouch or listed item should have signalled "you can customize your own msterials." To me a better signal of that would be a rule that said it.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list and somexarexeasy house rules while others are bigger reworks.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I focus on a lot of terrain, chiefly because I think it makes the challenges more evocative, but as a side effect it can often create interesting tactical situations that give even skilled players pause.

If the PCs aren't scared of rust monsters, for example, why not have the floor of the dungeon chamber be made of metal? A pressure plate sends a gang of rust monsters down a chute into the room and they begin eating the floor which is suspended 100 feet above a pool of acid. Maybe you can take them out before the floor disintegrates beneath your feet. Or maybe you can't.

I play in and watch a lot of games. Terrain is almost always underutilized as a means to challenge players in my opinion.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
If you treat the CR system more like a fuzzy guide and trend high in the case of veteran players with feats in play, it's a little more caution inducing. The CR system used as-is without regard for feats and player skill makes for pretty tame combats in a lot of cases.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
I've spent a lot of time trying to design 5E encounters and critters around the MM's "HP" based challenge system. People give 4E a lot of gruff, but it was much more "interactive" and presented lots of opportunities for tactical position and party "combos" while 5E's MM design just... doesn't.

A lot of 3rd party designers are getting around this and more recent WotC monsters are getting better.

My entry in Creature Codex has a number of features designed around this (though Kobold's Editors tamped down on that a bit for complexity/space reasons) and Matt Colville's action oriented design are big leaps too.

My biggest issue with exhaustion is it isn't fun (takes away options) and tends to lead the party down a death-spiral. Save-or-die mechanics were immediate and gave a clear reading on the state of the party when the wizard evaporated. Harsh, but quick and clear.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
My gripe is I really hate the concentration mechanic. I wish they would have found a way to stack and configure spells into cool configurations. That said the concentration check is very for what it does.
I'm of the opposite mind: I'm so happy they cleared away the cruft of "necessary" magic items in every slot and the "regular buff up" of 3E. I love how DCC did spells too, though obviously have a chance of turning into a frog monster instead of casting Heal is a little harsh for D&D =)
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Things I do beyond ''damage'' to challenge my friends characters:
  • Damage that reduces the character max hp for X time.
  • Effect that gives my players ''disadvantage'' on all healing roll for X time.
  • Curses/diseases that block healing damage for a time.
  • Poison that deals damage over time instead of of just another ''have disadvantage on X'' condition.
  • Effect that amplify next attacks for X times (Ex: Burning Wounds: 3d6 fire damage on a hit. Everytime the target is hit for the next minute, it takes extra damage equal to half the damage of the initial roll). Stolen from Pillars of Eternity.
  • Curses that makes the character unable to roll higher than its stat score for a specific ability.

etc
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
I don’t know if they will give it to the vampire. But whatever critter gets it will be feared.
What about most of them?

Zombies can inflict 1 level of exhaustion on a critical hit. If you are at 0 HP, instead of giving you 2 death saves, they give you 2 levels of exhaustion.

Ghouls attacks also give 1 level of exhaustion on a critical hit, but also if you fail the initial paralyzed save. Ghast the same, but the Stench also drains you, and each failed Paralyze save (not just the initial) gives you 1 more level.

Just have your life ... drained ... out ... of ... you.

If you die from undead exhaustion, and proper burial rites do not occur, you can rise as an undead (roll 1d6: minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, then roll 1d100 for how many)
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
5e is dangerous over the course of an adventuring day.

I like that long rests reset everything. It's cleaner. It's a release of tension and then the next day can start fresh.

You say that the 24 hr petrification from the Cockatrice isn't a big deal, but if you wait that long you're most likely going to be failing your mission. At the very least you're probably in a dangerous area a character down.

And if time isn't a factor, what are you really doing? There is no tension there to begin with. If the party has all the time in the world to rest then it doesn't matter if they reset after a long rest or after 50 long rests.

5e is about running lower and lower on resources. That 50 dmg and 3 spell slots the party used up that battle doesn't feel like a lot now, but it will after 4 or 5 such encounters. At the players should know this. They know that things are going to get tough so they're going to feel it even early on in the day.

Players at my table do everything they can to avoid fights and to be prepared because they know that they can fail. Sometimes catastrophically with a TPK.

If failure is not allowed to happen at a table then yes, 5e is not dangerous or tension filled.
 

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