log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E New DM Question on Options

Tom Bagwell

Villager
I've run games for decades...but no D&D since it was AD&D. I see a lot of sources to draw on for Class Options, Backgrounds, etc. Some fit well with what I'm looking for...but I was wondering if there were any that I should steer clear of -- ones that might be overpowered, unbalanced, or can cause problems. Are there sources you always go with? Sources you avoid? Specific elements?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Saelorn

Hero
When you're starting out, you should definitely just stick with the core books, and the core rules. Don't let anyone try to talk you into multi-classing or feats. Those so-called "optional rules" are notoriously unbalanced and poorly tested.

And for the love of Vecna, don't even think about "Xanathar's Guide to Everything"; more like "Xanathar's Guide to Everything You Don't Need," amirite?

As for the options in the DMG, you might be tempted to use one of the healing variants that changes the duration of a rest, or the amount you recover during a rest. These are mostly fine, regardless of how you combine them. You might end up changing how the game plays out, or encourage certain playstyles over others, but it's mostly a matter of taste.
 
Last edited:


I've run games for decades...but no D&D since it was AD&D. I see a lot of sources to draw on for Class Options, Backgrounds, etc. Some fit well with what I'm looking for...but I was wondering if there were any that I should steer clear of -- ones that might be overpowered, unbalanced, or can cause problems. Are there sources you always go with? Sources you avoid? Specific elements?
It's all balanced just fine.

I'd suggest keeping it to the PHB to start with until PCs get to (say) 5th level, and then (once you're familiar with the rules) allow them to rebuild their PCs with all books open to them.

The most important class and encounter balancing tool in the game is how you run your 'adventuring days' - namely how many encounters the players get between short (and long) rests.

Long rest resources (spell slots, rages) are much more potent than short rest resources (superiority dice etc), and different classes get more from different types of rests, and different length adventuring days.

The game is (roughly) balanced around 6 or so encounters and 2 or so Short rests per Long rest (with a Long rest usually an overnight affair) as a median. Roughly 2 encounters per Short rest, and 6 encounters per Long rest.

Your first step as DM is to consider this and implement whatever rules or variants you need to ensure you hit this 6/2 per Long rest mark roughly 50 percent of the time (other 'adventuring days' can feature a single encounter, or a dozen encounters over multiple days with no chance to long rest, or more short rests per long rest or fewer).

You dont need rules for it; 'Doom clocks' are narrative tools that achieve the same thing. But there is also the 'Gritty realism' variant in the DMG that makes long resting much harder (and is appropriate for campaigns where the median is only 0-3 encounters in any one 24 hour period of game time - i.e. any campaigns away from dungeons).

Personally I use a rule that shortens Short rests to only 5 minutes long, but limits them to a max of 2 every Long rest, with at least 1 hour between rests. That way they're much easier to take, and less jarring for the narrative than 1 hour breaks in the action.

I do have a pretty 'dungeon heavy' campaign though so YMMV.

I honestly cant stress this enough though. How you manage the 'adventuring day' and rest/ resource management of your players will affect balance more than any other decision you make as a DM. If you sit by and let players 'nova' and then long rest, classes will be totally out of balance, and encounters will turn into rocket tag as you ramp up the difficulty to match those nova tactics.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
When you're starting out, you should definitely just stick with the core books, and the core rules.
This will work fine, but I've found PHB+1 works fine too.

Don't let anyone try to talk you into multi-classing or feats. Those so-called "optional rules" are notoriously unbalanced and poorly tested.
Heavily disagree on feats. Feats are a fun addition to the game and only a select few (easily found with a quick Google search) present any balance problems.

As for multiclassing - it can be problematic on certain combinations, but again, almost all are fine if even a bit under powered.

And for the love of Vecna, don't even think about "Xanathar's Guide to Everything"; more like "Xanathar's Guide to Everything You Don't Need," amirite?
I'm scratching my head on this one. Xanathar's presents some VERY good options. For example, the Ranger subclasses go a long way toward bringing the Ranger up to par. And the Zealot Barbarian is a better berserker than the frenzied berserker (though it may be a bit too "magicky" for some tastes.) In terms of power creep, it's not bad at all.

As for the options in the DMG, you might be tempted to use one of the healing variants that changes the duration of a rest, or the amount you recover during a rest. These are mostly fine, regardless of how you combine them. You might end up changing how the game plays out, or encourage certain playstyles over others, but it's mostly a matter of taste.
Change the base rest assumptions without first trying RAW? that's tricky, especially if you're running modules! I'd stick to RAW until you get a feel for it, then change according to your taste (but I've found the standard sufficient) .

As for advice - run things by RAW before houseruling or too many varients.

I'd advise against the Flanking rules (where flanking provides advantage), they make advantage way too easy to get.

I favor weapons and armor that have interesting properties over plussed items (+1, +2 etc.) with bounded accuracy item bonuses add up fast, much faster then prior editions. - be careful giving them out.
 

This will work fine, but I've found PHB+1 works fine too.
Doesnt really help a new DM though. If every player has a different +1 then he's still likely to be overwhelmed.

I've always preferred the 'stick to the PHB to begin with and then rebuild later when we all have the hang of the game' method for new DMs.
 

Tom Bagwell

Villager
Thanks, good advice so far. Especially regarding resource management...thanks Flamestrike!

I do intend to use RAW as much as possible. Over the years I've developed an aversion to house rules until I'm very familiar with the system.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
I honestly cant stress this enough though. How you manage the 'adventuring day' and rest/ resource management of your players will affect balance more than any other decision you make as a DM. If you sit by and let players 'nova' and then long rest, classes will be totally out of balance, and encounters will turn into rocket tag as you ramp up the difficulty to match those nova tactics.
^THIS

And it goes both ways, for example, if you have a monk (or warlock) in your group and you don't allow for enough short rests the class will seem underpowered. Allow for enough short rests and the class works well.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I concur with @Saelorn that if this is going to be you and your player's first time playing 5E... stick with just the Player's Handbook and not bother with feats or multiclassing, as it's the easiest and safest route to go. While some will claim that you lose a lot of options by not using feats or any other books... if you are just starting out you don't need additional options than what you'll get in the race, class, and background sections of the PHB. There are more than enough features to use and learn there without having your players go cross-eyed reading the pages upon pages upon pages of other stuff that have been made to give characters more options to choose from.
 

I'll probably go w/PH primarily, with exceptions on a case-by-case basis. There are some options in Xanathar's that I really like.
If you notice class imbalance, it'll likely be down to the number (and frequency and type) of rests you allow.

Warlocks, Fighters and Monks are Short rest dependent. All Casters, Paladins and Barbarians are Long rest dependent. Rogues are 'rest neutral' in that all their abilities are 'at will'.

Accordingly you have a few levers to pull there to move the spotlight around the table, or to mix up class balance without changing a single rule; simply increasing encounter and short rest frequency will favor those short rest classes. Decreasing either will favor the long rest classes.

5E is a heavy resource management game (mechanically). Spell slots, rages, action surges, Ki points, superiority dice, hit dice, hit points, wild shapes, sorcery points, smites, lay on hands, second winds etc are all resources.

Cant stress this enough mate. How you choose to manage this aspect of the game as DM will have profound consequences for how it plays at the table.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Since you are not new to D&D, but new to this edition, take a good look at the backgrounds. They aren't just "role-playing fluff", but in fact provide characters with bonus skills. Your background is about as important as your race.

You can use them to do a "soft" multiclass btw. So if your player really wanted to play a fighter-rogue.... they could play a fighter with the criminal background. Some of the subclasses also allow for that too (like the Eldritch Knight).

Also, I concur on the managing the number of encounters per day. You don't have to go with the recommended 6-8... but for the love of god there should be a few at least. The paladin in particular is extremely powerful if the player is confident that this is the only fight of the day.

Overall, class balance is pretty good. There are 3 sub-classes that are widely recognized to under-perform and you might want to steer your players away - the ranger beastmaster, the monk way of the 4 elements, and the barbarian berserker.
 

Overall, class balance is pretty good. There are 3 sub-classes that are widely recognized to under-perform and you might want to steer your players away - the ranger beastmaster, the monk way of the 4 elements, and the barbarian berserker.
All three are getting soft fixes in Tashas though from the looks of it.

Rangers in general are getting a decent power boost if the UA Class options makes it into Tashas in anything like the form it was printed (Hunters mark without concentration, Natural explorer alternate features etc) and Beastmasters who take the new Pets from that book will be just fine.

Monks look like they're also getting a general boost as well (Ki healing, free unarmed attack as a bonus action when you spend Ki with your action - good for 4EM) etc.

As for the Barbarian, Berserker isnt busted (it's actually insanely powerful; just with a hefty drawback). However the UA grants the ability to move 1/2 speed as a reaction is there, plus the ability to dip Ranger for the 'remove 1 level of exhaustion on a short rest' ACF which will significantly improve Berserkers in any game with MCing.
 

Tom Bagwell

Villager
So, what sources are actually available for options? Apart from the PH, I'm aware of Xanathar's and UA. Then, the setting specific options like the Sword Coast. I'm not familiar with Tashas...
 

So, what sources are actually available for options? Apart from the PH, I'm aware of Xanathar's and UA. Then, the setting specific options like the Sword Coast. I'm not familiar with Tashas...
Avoid UA. That's where the broken stuff lies.

Sword Coast guide and Xanathars are the main sources for classes and spells, but you'll find races in Volo's guide, and few (Aarocrocka, Snirfneblin, Goliath, Toitle etc) scattered elsewhere.

Tashas is the next Xanathars. It's not out for another month or two.
 

Azzy

Newtype
Honestly, I'd suggest sticking to the PHB/DMG, & MM until you feel that you're comfortable with everything. I'd also advise to run is straight with no house rules or variants at first. As far as multiclassing and feats, that's all up to you. While multiclassing has always been an available option in my gaming group, no one done it. So, I really can't offer any suggestions there. On feats, I like them and have never had any problems with the in any of the games I've run or played in.

After you feel comfortable with the new editions rules, look through the rules variants to see if you like them, and freely add in stuff from Volo's, Xanathar's, Mordenkainen's, and whatever else as you see fit. Wheth you go whole hog, or just trickle in some new options is up to you.

I've been DMing and playing 5e since it first dropped. It's definitely a change from earlier editions, but so far I'm happier with it than the others editions I've experienced (I started with basic D&D and then 1e AD&D) as both a DM and a player. I have not experienced anything in 5e that's been gamebreaking or disruptive (aside from a couple players, but isn't that always the case?). In my experience, the balance issues are practically non-existant and are easily adjusted for without bringing outh the banhammer—adjusting the challenges that you present to the players easily handle any issues that arise (in case they arise) as the balance is inherently pretty good. The only real problems I've encountered are that some monsters punch above their weight class while others underperform.
 

Azzy

Newtype
So, what sources are actually available for options? Apart from the PH, I'm aware of Xanathar's and UA. Then, the setting specific options like the Sword Coast. I'm not familiar with Tashas...
Tasha's hasn't been released yet. Volo's and Mordenkainen's also have some player options (races), but other than that, yeah, it's just the setting books.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya

I've run games for decades...but no D&D since it was AD&D. I see a lot of sources to draw on for Class Options, Backgrounds, etc. Some fit well with what I'm looking for...but I was wondering if there were any that I should steer clear of -- ones that might be overpowered, unbalanced, or can cause problems. Are there sources you always go with? Sources you avoid? Specific elements?
As an old grognard like you (I started DMing in '81/'82), I can give you my 2¢.

PHB
DMG
MM
DM Screen

I bought the first three, got the screen for x-mas from a player...and that's it. I've looked at the other books, but they all seem to do the same things that caused the ultimate downfall of 2e onward: "bloat". Every new book WotC puts out has an audience, to be sure, I'm just not it.

Also, important to note...

"Feats" = OPTIONAL!
"Multi-Classing" = OPTIONAL!

Oh, and come up with your own natural healing rules. Trust me. The ones in the game are...uh..."silly". Read them and come to your own conclusions.

Oh again, "CR"? Yeah...uh...don't bother. IMNSHO, they are pointless for the vast majority of campaigns I've run and heard about from others.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
"Feats" = OPTIONAL!
"Multi-Classing" = OPTIONAL!
For that matter, every race except Standard Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling are expressly called out as optional as well in the Player's Handbook.

I've run games for decades...but no D&D since it was AD&D. I see a lot of sources to draw on for Class Options, Backgrounds, etc. Some fit well with what I'm looking for...but I was wondering if there were any that I should steer clear of -- ones that might be overpowered, unbalanced, or can cause problems. Are there sources you always go with? Sources you avoid? Specific elements?
My vote: ignore all of the above and download the file found here:

Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons | Dungeons & Dragons

It's the complete 20 level game, stripped down to the races and classes you're used to. It's available as a free download from the Wizards of the Coast website.

The easiest approach IMO is to start there and worry about adding more later.
 
Last edited:

Li Shenron

Legend
I've run games for decades...but no D&D since it was AD&D. I see a lot of sources to draw on for Class Options, Backgrounds, etc. Some fit well with what I'm looking for...but I was wondering if there were any that I should steer clear of -- ones that might be overpowered, unbalanced, or can cause problems. Are there sources you always go with? Sources you avoid? Specific elements?
I am going to bust my own reputation and say that you should probably steer clear of... us. The game works fine until you ask other gamers what's wrong with it.
 

NOW LIVE! 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top