D&D 5E Question: How robust is 5th edition vs absent character?

Lord Zardoz

Explorer
I have a D&D group that has 5 players. One of my table rules for running a game is what I call my 'Rule of 3'. This rule is as follows:

I will run the game if I can get 3 of you to show up. Any less and there is not going to be a game.

This rule serves the following effects.
- The game can run more regularly. People play when they can
- The game does not die if one PC is unable to show up for 3 months.
- My game is not narrative that is tied to one player
- The minimum number of players present means I can run a combat without turning it into a total TPK.
- I need to be able to re scale combat based on number of players present.
- I might start one adventuring day with a Paladin, Ranger, Cleric, and Monk, and end the day with a Wizard, Ranger, and Paladin. This would happen if I finished one encounter, and ended for the day and made notes about how much HP / surges / daily powers were used, and pick up next time right where I left off.

4th Edition worked very well for this. There were clear rules for making an encounter harder or easier based on more or fewer players. There was enough secondary healing that the game did not become impossible to run if the cleric was not present. In terms of overall combat effectiveness, it did not matter which combination of players I had for any given game, I could run basically the same fight.

I have not played the playtest materials, but much of the game feels like a regression to something closer to 3rd edition, but there is currently debate about balancing per adventuring day. With encounter based powers, dropping out one PC and replacing it with a different one at possibly full HP / Surges / Dailes was not too be a problem since you could expect to start most encounters at full HP with all encounter powers.

So how robust would 5th edition rules be with my groups play habits?

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Harlock

First Post
The Monster design article talked about a system for balancing encounters, didn't it? I thought I read it somewhere. Anyway, I didn't have a problem with my 3rd ed. game or 2nd ed. games with absent players. Once you DM a while, you get a feel for balance.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
I will run the game if I can get 3 of you to show up. Any less and there is not going to be a game....
4th Edition worked very well for this. There were clear rules for making an encounter harder or easier based on more or fewer players. There was enough secondary healing that the game did not become impossible to run if the cleric was not present.
...
I have not played the playtest materials, but much of the game feels like a regression to something closer to 3rd edition, but there is currently debate about balancing per adventuring day.
I'd say it's closer to 1e than 3e, but sure, it's definitely backing away from anything and everything 4e did, including the above.

So how robust would 5th edition rules be with my groups play habits?
The playtest really doesn't give us enough to go on. I'd speculate, based on recent L&Ls, that you'll be able to adjust your 'adventuring day' (the basic unit of 5e) to take into account varying numbers of players, but that compensating for missing classes will be more difficult, as classes will be much more varied and situational in their contributions. Thus, you may have to change the nature of challenges rather than just the power thereof, based upon who's missing. No thief, drop the traps; no Cleric drop the undead, provide additional opportunities to rest or gain healing potions; no fighter, reduce the individual hps of monsters; no Wizard reduce the number of enemies, and cut challenges that would require spells and arcana to overcome.

Both class and encounter balance are going to require a lot of enforcement by the DM, whether you're adjusting for a missing player, or not, though, so it's not like it'll be a huge extra burden just on groups that have variable attendance.
 

john112364

First Post
The short answer is: We don't know yet.

The play test was very limited in scope, so you really couldn't get a good feel for modifying this al la 4e. As Harlock said, they are talking about an xp budget which should help if it's done right. And you'll get a better feel as you play (hopefully before any accidental TPKs :p ).
 

El Mahdi

Muad'Dib of the Anauroch
I'd say it's closer to 1e than 3e, but sure, it's (5E) definitely backing away from anything and everything 4e did, including the above...

Completely, entirely, and absolutely Not True.

They don't even have the base math of the game done yet, which is most certainly a prerequisite when it comes to system balance and being able to modify it. And there are definitely design concepts in 5E that come straight from experiences and successes with 4E's design.

You keep stating this stuff from thread to thread to thread with absolutely no evidence.

Once and for all, I'm asking that you either show us the evidence supporting your declarations; or please, Please, PLEASE...stop exclaiming personal supposition and opinion as fact.


So how robust would 5th edition rules be with my groups play habits?

It's way too early to know. They have been talking about this, but until the base game and base math are nailed down, it's all still just conceptual for the designers. Also, things like Healing are still very much in development and currently being revamped (unfortunately though, they're saying this won't be available for the next playtest packet, so it will still include the original Healing mechanics, unchanged, as a place holder).

Class design is still being nailed down also. They're still very much just working on the base game, and trying to get that balanced. And the amount of resources characters have are still in flux (maneuvers, powers, spells, etc. - whatever they end up calling them).

My opinion though, is that they likely will not ignore the advances of 4E in this regard. And from the beginning of 5E's design process, the development team has been stating that 4E concepts, and this idea specifically (scaling encounters), are one's they want to carry forward into 5E. Also, with the Bounded Accuracy concept, rather than scaling attack bonuses, they're focusing on scaling Hit Points and Damage. With set expectations of Hit Points and Expected Damage based on level, and encounter building based on these numbers (using an XP budget); I expect that 5E will include how to do this, and how to scale it based on party size and level. Is this 3E'ish: Yes. But it's also 4E'ish in the goal and expectation of quick and easy encounter building. One point of optimism in this is the Beastiary in the playtest packet; although very simple, it had a 4E type layout and 4E type monster stat blocks (though I won't copy/past a sample here as that is against the agreement we all signed for the playtest, and against ENWorld's rules).:)

But don't just take it from me. Even though I haven't extolled my opinions as fact (as some here are wont to do), I am including evidence of what I'm posting...evidence straight from the mouth of WotC:

Rodney Thompson, Rule of Three 02/21/12 here

If there's something that 4E got really right, I think it's the organization and simplicity of the monster stat blocks. Is that something you'd like to continue in the next iteration of D&D?

This is a great question because it allows me to touch on a bigger picture concept as well. Certainly the 4th Edition presentation for monsters has a lot of advantages, and makes the game pretty straightforward to run. Whatever twists and turns the game's development takes, one of our goals is going to continue to be making the game easy for the DM to prep for and run, and the 4E monster stat block goes a long way to making that possible. That's not to say that I think it can't be improved upon; one of the things we will continue to do going forward is make sure that everything, from mechanics to formats, are serving our goals.
Of course, if we're going to create a game that helps unite the players of many editions, we're going to need to broaden our view of monster creation and modification. While many DMs want to build monsters using the target numbers-based system that 4th edition uses, some DMs may want to build their monsters like PCs, adding levels of cleric onto orcs to create enemies that also have many class features. Some DMs may want to use templates to create everything from a fiendish hobgoblin to a vampiric half-celestial animated chair. So we'll need to find ways to support those needs, without mandating them. That way, DMs who want to spend a great deal of time painstakingly crafting their monsters can do so, and DMs who just want to put the monster together quickly can do so as well, with both DMs finding support for their efforts in the same system.


Rodney Thompson, Rule of Three 03/20/12 here

Another awesome 4E innovation—minions. How are these one hit wonders influencing monster design for the next iteration of D&D?

One of the things we're exploring in the game is what we refer to as a bounded accuracy system. Effectively, we're looking into whether or not we can strip out the assumption of accuracy and defense scaling by level, and let progression rest largely within the scaling damage, hit points, and capabilities of both characters and monsters.
When you have this, any monster whose hit points are less than the damage you deal is, effectively, a minion. Thus, we might not need a specific minion rule, because we would simply design monsters with hit points that rest below average damage for certain levels and let that take care of it (in other words, we do want monsters in the game that do what minions do for us). At the same time, since as the player characters gain levels their damage numbers are going up, monsters that previously were not "minions" become "minions" by virtue of player damage outstripping their hit points. Since AC and attack bonuses aren't automatically scaling up, the orc that you fight at 1st level that took three hits to kill may only take 1 hit to kill at 6th level, making it a "minion" for heroes of that level.

Although the following quote came from an article more concerned with how to build a 5E Monster from the ground up, the part I excerpted does talk about how this applies to encounter design:

Mike Mearls Legends & Lore 7/23/2012 here

When it comes to combat, the math that our system uses assumes an adventuring day that lasts a number of rounds and involves a total experience point value for monsters based on the party’s level. Higher-level parties fight more and face tougher creatures.
The adventure design guidelines give an XP budget for an entire day, a range of XP values for easy, average, and tough fights, and a suggested maximum XP value for a single monster. In other words, you have a daily budget you can spend, guidelines for how much of that budget to spend on a given fight (i.e. an encounter - added by me [El Mahdi]), and a limit of how much XP you can spend on a single monster. As with everything that focuses on the DM, this is all advice to use as you see fit.
In this system, a monster’s experience point value is the basic measure of its power. Tougher monsters are worth more XP. That’s the only number you have to worry about when building encounters and adventures.
The monster design process boils down to creating a monster’s stats and abilities, and then using the system math to determine its XP value.


All of this tells me that they're too far away from a finished product for any of us to know for certain how your concerns might be addressed in the system. However, they are definitely addressing those issues, and incorporating elements and concepts of both 3E and 4E in the design. I'm expecting really cool things from 5E based on what I've seen so far.

My advice: read the articles at WotC (archives here, and especially the design blogs, Legends & Lore, and the Rule of Three articles); be a part of the playtest by downloading the next packet and trying it out; then add your voice to the discussions both here and at WotC (and definitely on the WotC's surveys that go out to those who've signed up for the playtest) and be a part of shaping the final form of the game. It's going to be an exciting ride over the next year or so. And who knows, 5E might end up being exactly what you want. But if it doesn't, 4E isn't going anywhere as long as there are people who want to DM and play it.:)
 
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Lord Zardoz

Explorer
...Assorted Informative quotes...:)

Ok, that answers a few questions with respect to their intent. This does make me optimistic that I will be satisfied with the way monsters are handled.

The one thing that is easy to overlook about minions is that resolving them requires very few dice rolls. The DM and the players generally only need to make attack rolls for them. Damage is flat and if they are hit they die.

Based on what they said, it seems that there wont be a formal 'minion' concept in quite the same way as they will have non trivial HP and in turn they will be inflicting damage with dice rolls. Handling a monster as a minion at the low end of the power scale is easy (just average the damage and clear them if they take any damage), but handling them with a strict 'raw' interpretation means that a crap damage roll can result in some book keeping anyway.

The less trivial thing is that making them worth having at mid to high levels in 4th edition did require a little bit more thought. A minion generally has only one attack option, a reasonable AC / Def score, and maybe a special power if they have flanking or are adjacent to multiple allies. A monster with 3 different attack options cannot easily be made into a balanced minion.

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Herschel

Adventurer
4th Edition worked very well for this. There were clear rules for making an encounter harder or easier based on more or fewer players. There was enough secondary healing that the game did not become impossible to run if the cleric was not present. In terms of overall combat effectiveness, it did not matter which combination of players I had for any given game, I could run basically the same fight.

I have not played the playtest materials, but much of the game feels like a regression to something closer to 3rd edition, but there is currently debate about balancing per adventuring day. With encounter based powers, dropping out one PC and replacing it with a different one at possibly full HP / Surges / Dailes was not too be a problem since you could expect to start most encounters at full HP with all encounter powers.

So how robust would 5th edition rules be with my groups play habits?

END COMMUNICATION

The playtest is closer to 1E than 3E, and by design. It's trying to hook the basics. That said, I agree it's (so far) a regression but not quite completely out of the loop. I found in earlier editions that someone had to play the Cleric whether the player was there or not (Not counting the bags of CLW wands in 3E I tried very hard to avoid) but otherwise anyone could miss. In 4E I find anyone can miss a little easier so long as someone has a little secondary healing.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
They don't even have the base math of the game done yet, which is most certainly a prerequisite when it comes to system balance and being able to modify it. And there are definitely design concepts in 5E that come straight from experiences and successes with 4E's design.
We were discussing feel: the playtest had a much more classic-D&D feel than it did a 3e feel. It clearly rolled back just about everything 4e did. Even where there are clear successors or references to 4e, they're pulled back from what they were to 4e to be more like something in classic D&D.

Hit Dice are the closest thing to a 4e-like mechanic, for instance, by they've been made random (very old-school) and given an old-school name, and divorced from their most important function, making most healing a resource of the character being healed, thus bringing back the classic cleric-as-healbot function. Another example relating to healing is "Healing Word." The name is 4e, the ability to make a basic attack in addition to casting it is vaguely 4e, but apart from that, it's an old-school healing spell that restores a random number of hps irrespective of how many hps the target has or how much healing he's already undergone.

You keep stating this stuff from thread to thread to thread with absolutely no evidence.
So far all we have to go in is the playtest. You might be hopeful that 5e will have a lot more and be a lot better than the playtest, but that doesn't make any of the playtest's shortcomings or decisions the product of my imagination. We can also get a hint at direction from L&L, which has so far very clearly been focusing on capturing what D&D was 20 or 30 years ago, rather than retaining anything from 4e. Even when they try to say they're using something from 4e, they're rolling it back rather than building upon and improving it.

The impetus for 5e is the market 'failure' of 4e (the violent rejection thereof by a segment of the fan base aptly characterized as "the edition wars.") and the growing success of retro-clones. WotC is only doing what makes sense from a business perspective in making 5e evocative of classic D&D as it can, while pulling back from anything 4e did.
 


trancejeremy

Adventurer
We were discussing feel: the playtest had a much more classic-D&D feel than it did a 3e feel. It clearly rolled back just about everything 4e did. Even where there are clear successors or references to 4e, they're pulled back from what they were to 4e to be more like something in classic D&D.

This is pretty much just confirmation bias, I think. Classic D&D fans feel the same way, only in the opposite direction: that 5e is nothing more than 4e with a few patronizing nods to classic D&D.

This is why I think 5e is going to be in trouble - it doesn't seem to appeal to much of anyone. I'm sure many will play it just because it's D&D, but fans of past systems won't be united
 

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