Level Up (A5E) Relative balance of A5E vs. O5E

Legendweaver

Explorer
I like lots of the stuff added to A5E -- including some of the new character class design -- but after reading through the character classes, I'm quite convinced the A5E classes are a good deal more powerful than their O5E counterparts. The Wizard is a good benchmark for this; the O5E wizard was a solid, popular class, but as far as I can tell, the A5E counterpart doesn't sacrifice any of the O5E wizard's abilities while simultaneously adding nearly a dozen significant class features (some of which represent a significiant combat boost).

This makes me question how viable it really is to have a mixed party of O5E and A5E characters, and whether existing content really can be played without modification. In a mixed party, I worry anyone playing an O5E character (such as a newbie playing an O5E fighter for simplicity's sake) will feel outclassed, and existing content will be markedly easier.

Based on my early read (and without playtesting) I'd guess you need to give O5E characters an extra feat every three or four levels to put them on par with A5E characters, and likewise increase enemy HP by about 10% to make published content appropriately challenging for these buffed classes. Does that sound about right? Or can anyone offer a more precise breakdown?

To end on a positive note, I absolutely love the additions for Monstrous Menagerie and T&T -- especially when it comes to improvisation. The MM sections on lore, encounters, signs, behaviors, and names are super-useful tools that address some of the biggest regressions between the 4th and 5th edition MMs, while the exploration/travel rules fill out a gaping hole in O5E (and honestly, 3E and 4E, too). These two books will definitely replace the Monster Manual & DMG as key table-side references once I get them in hardback!
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I’d recommend trying it. In our playtest the a5e classes were more fun and more flexible (in our opinions) but no more powerful The main noticeable thing is that a5e classes get to play in the other pillars, where their O5E equivalents get to watch.
 



There’s a thread on here where Paul Hughes delves into our class math in detail, with graphs and everything.
Where is it? I’m extremely curious to see it. I was just DPRing the Warlock’s various EB options for optimization purposes, but I’d be quite happy if the work was all done for me for both warlock and all other classes.
 

VanguardHero

Adventurer
Compared to A5E solo? Balance is probably terrible. Compared to O5E? I mean you'd have to actively try to make something balanced worse than like a Chronurgist or Bladesinger Wizard and a Four Elements Monk in the same party. Converted to A5E, many of the most egregious spells are nerfed, and the Adept gets plenty of customization and Maneuvers, which at least closes the gap. For actual Class choices, I see no reason to run the O5E versions over A5E other than cheese or wanting to interact with the game less, and in both those scenarios you know what you're doing already.
 

Legendweaver

Explorer
@Morrus -- Fair point - I will run some play tests of my own to see how these classes perform in practice, not just in theory!

@VanguardHero -- My reason is simplicity. It sounds like you're playing games with experienced players who play optimized builds and intentionally look for exploits, but my situation is quite different. I frequently run mixed groups that combine experienced players and first-time players, and I've also got a long-running game made up of young kids and their dads.

For newbies and kids alike, the most important aspect of a class is how easily players can figure out their character's abilities and contribute in meaningful ways without reading a huge tome of text or choosing from a zillion options. While the O5E fighter and rogue are be overly simple for experienced players, they're pretty great for new players. Conversely, the very elements of A5E that appeal to more experienced or tactical players (such as maneuvers) threaten to make them overly complicated for newbies. I had hoped to open A5E classes to my experienced players to let them stretch their tactical wings a bit while encouraging new & young players playing alongside them to stick with simpler O5E options...but I worry the O5E players will feel less powerful, or (just as bad) unable to fully participate in all three pillars.

Maybe that's the real request here - Did the design team give any thought to designing some simple classes that can still participate in all aspects of the game? Or maybe some recommended builds that select options which work well for first time players? Did your playtests involve groups of first-time players, and if so, what did you learn from them?
 

VanguardHero

Adventurer
experienced players who play optimized builds and intentionally look for exploits
One of my many issues with o5e is that it isn't even necessary to try to power game. So much of the stuff that is Optimal in o5e is stuff that either just looks cool or lets you do stuff. "Oh man Fireball does so much damage!" yeah, they made it intentionally overpowered because they wanted to 'reward' choosing an iconic spell, thus punishing anyone who doesn't, by giving it damage on par with a 5th level spell by the DMG's own metrics. "Whoa Pass Without Trace is so good!" And it eclipses any character specialized in Stealth, one of the few Skills accessible to Martial Characters' key stats. Great Weapon Master/Crossbow Expert - just straight up more damage extra attacks, Polearm Master - something to do other than "I hit it with my weapon".

People who are clearly optimizing or power gaming beyond the rest of the table are easy enough to deal with "Dude, chill". Casters and Martials are on two entirely different scales of having agency to meaningfully interact with the world. Level Up fixes that by giving them more they can do, in and out of combat. You can choose not to use them, and you're just back where you started with certain characters being less functional just no longer along a Caster/Martial divide. Highlighting a problem that was already there. It's a problem inherent to o5e, and LU changing it is a good thing, if Martials were the same power level it wouldn't have fixed anything. Same with the o5e Classes not being able to participate in all 3 pillars - fixing that problem was one of the key points of Level Up.

TL;DR: All it does is highlight problems that were already there before by virtue of fixing them, an o5e Fighter is no more behind an a5e Fighter than they are an o5e Wizard.
 



VanguardHero

Adventurer
I, too, do have some worry about the relative balance, but that's because I would like to use third-party options that have probably been balanced (and definitely designed) with O5E in mind.
This. This is what stings the most for me. There's cool stuff like the Blood Hunter, Warden, and Avenger (Hey, Warlord wasn't everyone's favorite 4e Class xD) that now I'm sad aren't built with the versatility of LU as the benchmark. Thankfully balance wise, using an existing Classes Maneuver progression is probably enough to make them viable, same for Knacks, maybe Social moves, it just won't be as dynamic build-wise.
 

kerleth

Explorer
This. This is what stings the most for me. There's cool stuff like the Blood Hunter, Warden, and Avenger (Hey, Warlord wasn't everyone's favorite 4e Class xD) that now I'm sad aren't built with the versatility of LU as the benchmark. Thankfully balance wise, using an existing Classes Maneuver progression is probably enough to make them viable, same for Knacks, maybe Social moves, it just won't be as dynamic build-wise.
I was thinking about this same thing. There's an awesome homebrew class named the ozodrin that I had planned on playing in a one shot for halloween before illness struck. Now I wonder how it would stack up against A5E classes.

I suppose that when my complaint about Level Up is that I wish more things were like Level Up, we're in a pretty good place.
 

Whaleman

Villager
I am not trying to derail this thread but I agree with people mentioning problems adapting third party classes to A5e. I really like what I am seeing from A5e and from my cursory glance all the subclasses should work fine and even lead to more interesting combinations. Third party classes though seem like they hit a bit of a wall. While backing A5e I also backed the recent Iron Kingdoms Requiem book as I love the setting. Looking over the classes there in comparison now makes them feel anemic. As others have mentioned I have already been looking over adapting Combat Maneuvers to them but even then it feels like they need a bit more.
 

VanguardHero

Adventurer
Best solution I can think of would be for Spell-less classes, give them Maneuvers based on what Class makes the most thematic and mechanical sense. Then let them pilfer the Social/Exploration choices of other classes that haven't been taken yet. If they're a Martial built in line with o5e just stacking stuff on them should be fine. If they're well designed and it ends up too strong, just dial it back a bit, but make it clear to the players that might happen.
 

Whaleman

Villager
Best solution I can think of would be for Spell-less classes, give them Maneuvers based on what Class makes the most thematic and mechanical sense. Then let them pilfer the Social/Exploration choices of other classes that haven't been taken yet. If they're a Martial built in line with o5e just stacking stuff on them should be fine. If they're well designed and it ends up too strong, just dial it back a bit, but make it clear to the players that might happen.
Yeah so far I have been giving them combat maneuvers equivalent to other classes (just saying use their progression). Full martials follow Ranger/Rogue/Adept etc. (I am purposefully not saying fighter since they get more and I think they should have the most). For now half-casters I have just said should follow Herald but I modify the traditions they have access to as appropriate. That has all been relatively easy. The Social/Exploration stuff is going to require more reading so I can better understand which is appropriate for each one much less which one could end up broken.
 


tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
It's interesting to me, honestly, I'm usually a bit of a min max guy.... but, I could build a much better damage dealer in o5e than a5e, but somehow, a5e leaves me more excited about building the best combat focused character I can, but still being good at other stuff.
I'm feeling the same way & seeing the same from my players. My session zero is in a few days & the biggest munchkin I've ever met* is talking about going from a long string of those max DPR o5e cheese builds to a marshal with excitement.

* I GM'd 3.x & PF for years going back well into the 90s & most of 4e so it says a lot.
 

VanguardHero

Adventurer
I'm feeling the same way & seeing the same from my players. My session zero is in a few days & the biggest munchkin I've ever met* is talking about going from a long string of those max DPR o5e cheese builds to a marshal with excitement.

* I GM'd 3.x & PF for years going back well into the 90s & most of 4e so it says a lot.
I think part of it is that in o5e, those power builds kinda just let you actually DO interesting stuff. Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, Crossbow Expert, etc etc all let you feel like you're actually doing something and actually playing into the power fantasy in a way that usually only Casters get in o5e. Wanting to Powergame and Wanting to Have Fun should rarely* overlap because it makes it infinitely harder to deal with powergaming as a result of "Oh this looks cool :D" compared to "Oh this will make me win D&D". If any given character can feel fun, effective, and like the result of your choices powergaming is a lot less appealing I think.

*Main exception I can think of is 4e, where a lot of powergaming was based around team cohesion and coordination more than MAKE NUMBERS BIG.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I think part of it is that in o5e, those power builds kinda just let you actually DO interesting stuff. Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, Crossbow Expert, etc etc all let you feel like you're actually doing something and actually playing into the power fantasy in a way that usually only Casters get in o5e. Wanting to Powergame and Wanting to Have Fun should rarely* overlap because it makes it infinitely harder to deal with powergaming as a result of "Oh this looks cool :D" compared to "Oh this will make me win D&D". If any given character can feel fun, effective, and like the result of your choices powergaming is a lot less appealing I think.

*Main exception I can think of is 4e, where a lot of powergaming was based around team cohesion and coordination more than MAKE NUMBERS BIG.
So... people who want "Big Numbers" shouldn't have fun? Because it's harder for someone (who?) to deal with? Am I reading this right?
 

WaltyCole

Explorer
So... people who want "Big Numbers" shouldn't have fun? Because it's harder for someone (who?) to deal with? Am I reading this right?
I think the main thought behind what folks were saying (myself included) is that a5e is harder to create a truly just damaged focused build but that where you used to have to sacrifice all abilities outside of combat, you can still build to be effective in combat but your still going to be useful elsewhere.

And to be fair last campaign I was a player was a 3.5 campaign and built a character so effective in combat other players felt they didn't need to do anything.
 

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