Postmortem: 10 Ideas in 5e that didn't quite work...

For as often as people online complain about the ranger, I have NEVER had someone in a real game complain and I almost always have at least one in the party. It's a meme, not a real problem.
It actually is a real problem, and I have seen people complain in a real game. Claiming it's a meme is just incorrect.

The difference between online and offline complaining though is that most people offline aren't sitting around analyzing the class and that most people offline don't want to whinge/draw attention.

This isn't just true in 5E, or just in D&D, it's true in all TTRPGs, all editions of D&D.

Most players whose characters aren't very fun or effective just suffer in silence. What you see when their class is improved or whatever, though, is suddenly they're having a lot more fun and are more engaged with whatever area of the game their class was improved in. A smaller number do say things like "I wish my character was as good as X character" or express similar frustrations, but usually very briefly. Only a tiny number of relatively "serious" players actually work out exactly why their character sucks. Also a lot of those more serious players? They know which classes are weaker, and they just don't play them! How they gonna complain about a class they don't play? You don't complain about other people's characters!

Only when something is a truly amazingly awful situation like LFQW do complaints come to the fore from more "normal" players. And remember how loads of people used to say "LFQW isn't real!" or "I play at a table with martials and casters and no-one has a problem with LFQW!"? Even though it was obviously nonsense (and a lot of the time if you questioned people about it, it turned out they didn't actually have any martials, but they used to (funny that!), or they were playing only levels 1-5 or the like).
 

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Staffan

Legend
8.) Short Rests

The short rests were designed to resemble the encounter recharge mechanic in 4e: a way to recharge certain abilities more often than a long rest as well as to heal between encounters. But the long duration needed to use one made it hard to do in most situations (if you were safe enough to take a lunch break, you probably weren't in the kind of place you needed to recharge those abilities in) and the fact certain classes and races (warlock, monk, fighter, dragonborn) needed them far more than others lead to a lot of tension in using them. They still exist in some fashion, but I wager the change from short-rest recharge to prof/day will make their usefulness dimmish further.

9.) Hit Dice

Speaking of, they were great for short rests to heal hp without magic, but as short rests were skipped either due to the inability to safely rest for an hour or skipped instead for a long-rest, HD rarely had a chance to shine. It seems a few more options to use them to heal 4e style (spending them in combat or via a spell) might bring them more use beyond low level.
Completely agree on these ones. I want 4e-style short rests and healing. Healers should be useful for in-combat healing, but not necessary for adventuring. And I've ranted numerous times about how hit dice might seem like healing surges, but can't be used in the same way because instead of having a fixed number of heals that scale with level, you have a level-based number of heals with a fixed power. That means that an ability like "spend a hit die to X" doesn't work the same way as "spend a healing surge to X".

13. Wizard specialties. Apart from the Diviner's Portent, very few of the ways to specialize as a wizard given in the PHB were fun: getting a reduction on spell transcription costs is like a coupon you never use.
D&D's schools are bad, have always been bad, and should feel bad.
14. Gish. This is not an archetype I play, and so I admit I don't fully understand it. The PHB had Abjurer Wizards and Eldritch Knights, neither of which satisfied. Xanathar gave us War Magic, which didn't fly. Tasha adds Bladesinging, and doesn't limit it to Elves. Hexblade Warlock, Valor Bards, Sword Bard, Hexadin, Sorcadin. The list goes on. There are so many ways to be a melee wizard, and people are always unhappy. I think Bladesinging is the closest to the archetype as I understand it, but this more than anything seems to point to a type of play they have struggled to meet.
At least for me, the thing I want is not a "melee wizard". I want a frickin' swordmage, who uses magic as part of their fighting style. Spells like lightning lure is a good start, but should have a much longer range (if you look at the range and wonder "but why can't I just walk up to them and hit them instead?", it's too short). I want something that looks and feels like a World of Warcraft Death Knight or Enhancement Shaman.

I don't need fireball, I need a spell that teleports me into the middle of a horde of foes with a mighty explosion that deals some damage and knocks people over, and then lets me make an attack on everyone nearby. I want to charge my weapon with frost so that when I strike my foe, I will freeze their feet to the ground so they can't escape.
 


Branduil

Adventurer
Surprised no one has mentioned Saving Throws. Going from 3 saving throws to 6, 1 per ability, felt like an answer in search of a question. It immediately and pointlessly introduced the problem of 3 of the saves barely ever appearing. And then we get to the even bigger problem, which is that the proficiency system and "bounded accuracy" are broken by the ability to target spells towards non-proficient saves. If they want to keep the save system as is, there's a pretty basic solution: all PCs are proficient in EVERY save. Class Proficiencies in those saving throws are now Expertise. This preserves the spirit of the concept, which is that high-level characters should be REALLY good at what they're good at. High-level Rogues should make basically every Dexterity save. Granting proficiency in every save also gives much more freedom to designers to target spells at a variety of abilities without making too many guaranteed-fail saves because the Fighter didn't spend all his feats on saving throws.
 

I dunno. When even the game itself struggles to find use for Str saves (Web? no, that's Ref save, then a Str check, not a save), Int saves (Maze? no that's not a save, it's an Int check you make as an action) and Cha saves (this is the most random one as 'sense of self' overlaps with Wis save so much, it's usually just Wis save)... surely it's much easier to just cut those out.
 

I dunno. When even the game itself struggles to find use for Str saves (Web? no, that's Ref save, then a Str check, not a save), Int saves (Maze? no that's not a save, it's an Int check you make as an action) and Cha saves (this is the most random one as 'sense of self' overlaps with Wis save so much, it's usually just Wis save)... surely it's much easier to just cut those out.
Yeah exactly just go back to 4E's Fort/Ref/Will, which were respectively best of STR or CON, DEX or INT, and WIS or CHA. That would genuinely be a straight-up improvement to D&D. The whole "simplification" aspect of not having "derived" saves was destroyed by also making those saves have proficiency or not and there being twice as many of them!
 

payn

Legend
Yeah exactly just go back to 4E's Fort/Ref/Will, which were respectively best of STR or CON, DEX or INT, and WIS or CHA. That would genuinely be a straight-up improvement to D&D. The whole "simplification" aspect of not having "derived" saves was destroyed by also making those saves have proficiency or not and there being twice as many of them!
The only reason I dont like this is basically everybody has the same strengths and weaknesses. It just changes based on class you pick. Might as well divorce it from stats and just make it entirely class based.
 

Branduil

Adventurer
The only reason I dont like this is basically everybody has the same strengths and weaknesses. It just changes based on class you pick. Might as well divorce it from stats and just make it entirely class based.
I guess I don't see how that's different from the current system? There's a little variation, but if you're playing a specific class, you have 2 save proficiencies, and your stats are going to be fairly similar to everyone else who plays that class.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Completely agree on these ones. I want 4e-style short rests and healing. Healers should be useful for in-combat healing, but not necessary for adventuring. And I've ranted numerous times about how hit dice might seem like healing surges, but can't be used in the same way because instead of having a fixed number of heals that scale with level, you have a level-based number of heals with a fixed power. That means that an ability like "spend a hit die to X" doesn't work the same way as "spend a healing surge to X".


D&D's schools are bad, have always been bad, and should feel bad.

At least for me, the thing I want is not a "melee wizard". I want a frickin' swordmage, who uses magic as part of their fighting style. Spells like lightning lure is a good start, but should have a much longer range (if you look at the range and wonder "but why can't I just walk up to them and hit them instead?", it's too short). I want something that looks and feels like a World of Warcraft Death Knight or Enhancement Shaman.

I don't need fireball, I need a spell that teleports me into the middle of a horde of foes with a mighty explosion that deals some damage and knocks people over, and then lets me make an attack on everyone nearby. I want to charge my weapon with frost so that when I strike my foe, I will freeze their feet to the ground so they can't escape.
It’s really odd, to me, that none of the weapon based spells like Wrathful Smite or Ensaring Strike are just an action that an attack is part of, that also does a big magic thing. Like…why are no leveled spells built like the cantrips?
 


Stalker0

Legend
I dunno. When even the game itself struggles to find use for Str saves (Web? no, that's Ref save, then a Str check, not a save), Int saves (Maze? no that's not a save, it's an Int check you make as an action) and Cha saves (this is the most random one as 'sense of self' overlaps with Wis save so much, it's usually just Wis save)... surely it's much easier to just cut those out.
This is the crux of the issue. If they had balanced out the 6 saving throws, then alright I'm on board. But it felt like they had this idea, then in implementation it fell short, and instead of reevaluating and going "ok that was a failure, lets roll it back", they just left it in there.
 

payn

Legend
I guess I don't see how that's different from the current system? There's a little variation, but if you're playing a specific class, you have 2 save proficiencies, and your stats are going to be fairly similar to everyone else who plays that class.
Thats true, though having saves for all ability scores is more interesting. I do wish class/feat/ability combos where more open than they have been in modern design (4E/5E/PF2). I really enjoyed being able to make a wide variety of stat arrays within each and every class back in 3E/PF1 (though im well aware of the execution issues).
 




Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah exactly just go back to 4E's Fort/Ref/Will, which were respectively best of STR or CON, DEX or INT, and WIS or CHA. That would genuinely be a straight-up improvement to D&D. The whole "simplification" aspect of not having "derived" saves was destroyed by also making those saves have proficiency or not and there being twice as many of them!
Go back a step further and have the save defined by the source or type of effect - poison, spell, breath weapon, death, etc. - and leave the related-ability question for case-by-case adjudication based on the in-game situation.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I dunno. When even the game itself struggles to find use for Str saves (Web? no, that's Ref save, then a Str check, not a save), Int saves (Maze? no that's not a save, it's an Int check you make as an action) and Cha saves (this is the most random one as 'sense of self' overlaps with Wis save so much, it's usually just Wis save)... surely it's much easier to just cut those out.
Yeah exactly just go back to 4E's Fort/Ref/Will, which were respectively best of STR or CON, DEX or INT, and WIS or CHA. That would genuinely be a straight-up improvement to D&D. The whole "simplification" aspect of not having "derived" saves was destroyed by also making those saves have proficiency or not and there being twice as many of them!
I think it's baffling that a) WotC designed the game with 6 different Saving Throws and b) they knew that half of them were useless when designing the game, because when they gave the Classes their Saving Throw proficiencies, they made it sure that all 12 of them got proficiency with one useful one (Dex, Con, or Wis) and one useless one (Str, Int, and Cha).

How . . . how do you do that? And why? If you're designing a system with 6 different types of Saving Throws, make them all useful! If you know that half of them are useless, get rid of that half!

Overall, I like 5e. But there are some really baffling design decisions that always make me wonder what was going through the minds of the game designers when they were writing them. (Making the Versatile weapon trait when there's absolutely no reason to ever use it, creating True Strike, which is worse than just attacking twice, and not giving Divination Wizards access to the spell divination, just to name a few.)
 

If you're designing a system with 6 different types of Saving Throws, make them all useful!
For what it's worth (and though I wish we had just Fort/Ref/Wil), monsters do use Str saves quite often (making it a better class save than Int/Cha)... It's just that the effects aren't that meaningful, as it's mostly about avoiding being knocked down or forced movement. Which does make perfect sense to oppose with Str, and is something you'd expect the warriors to be good against, while everyone else dumps the obvious dump stat.

Because Con saves are already the most common save called for, if you rolled those Str save effects to use Fortitude save instead, together they'd make up the majority of saves. I can see how that kind of a thing might make WotC pause for a bit and split off the weak effects into the secondary save, makes sense... But then they didn't do it in similar numbers to Int/Cha, because how would you even. Which is when you'd hope they'd take another pause and decide to just make those regular Str checks and call it a day ( 'hey, make a Str check or the tentacles pull you this way')...

Lesson: you really shouldn't let your love for symmetry make the overall game design worse.
 
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Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
For what it's worth (and though I wish we had just Fort/Ref/Wil), monsters do use Str saves quite often, it's just that the effects aren't that meaningful - it's mostly about avoiding being knocked down or forced movement. Which does make perfect sense to oppose with Str, and is something you'd expect the warriors to be good against, while everyone else dumps the obvious dump stat.

Because Con saves are already the most common save called for, if you rolled those Str save effects to use Fortitude save instead, together they'd make up the majority of saves called for. I can see how that kind of a thing might make WotC pause for a bit and split off the weak effects into the secondary save, makes sense... But then they didn't do it in similar numbers to Int/Cha, because how would you even. Which is when you'd hope they'd take another pause and decide to just make those regular Str checks and call it a day ( 'hey, make a Str check or the tentacles pull you this way')...

At least Str saves do something, which makes them stronger as class saves than Int/Cha saves. Small mercies for poor martials.

Lesson: you really shouldn't let your love for symmetry make the overall game design worse.
Seeing from the new grapple rules, I think most spells that required a STR check to break free of a restained condition will be changed to a save (Bigby's Hand, Whirlwind, Web, Entangle etc) that would add about 15 new spells to the STR save list. Same with most illusions requiring Investigation checks which could be saves instead, adding 10 or so new Int saves to the game.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I think it's baffling that a) WotC designed the game with 6 different Saving Throws and b) they knew that half of them were useless when designing the game, because when they gave the Classes their Saving Throw proficiencies, they made it sure that all 12 of them got proficiency with one useful one (Dex, Con, or Wis) and one useless one (Str, Int, and Cha).

How . . . how do you do that? And why? If you're designing a system with 6 different types of Saving Throws, make them all useful! If you know that half of them are useless, get rid of that half!

Overall, I like 5e. But there are some really baffling design decisions that always make me wonder what was going through the minds of the game designers when they were writing them. (Making the Versatile weapon trait when there's absolutely no reason to ever use it, creating True Strike, which is worse than just attacking twice, and not giving Divination Wizards access to the spell divination, just to name a few.)
Versatile is for small sized characters, basically. Not defending it, but that's basically what it's for. A halfling can use a longsword in both hands to get a d10 without disadvantage.

And I completely agree, there are many design choices in 5e that I can't get my head around, since they don't seem to make a lot of sense. The entire design around saving throws seems backwards to me. I would have preferred 4e's approach, or something similar, which would let you use one of two ability scores to determine a save/defense (so Reflex is based on either Dex or Int) and have three of them, which is super elegant.

Plus, the game isn't clear exactly what makes a spell need a Charisma save, either. I mean, you look at Banishment. Why is it a Charisma save? Because nothing else makes sense?
 

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