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D&D 5E Relative Difficulties of Advancing in 5e

Unfortunately I don’t remember the source, and a lot of that stuff is hard to find anymore. But I know I heard either Mike Mearls or Jeremy Crawford say something to that effect, and I’m pretty sure it was in an interview shortly after the open playtest wrapped. Might have been a live Q&A at a convention? But I’m really not sure.
I came across some of the old playtest documents not long ago, browsed through them but don't remember much myself other than there were things that were proposed that I liked then removed.
 

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This is probably exacerbated how a larger & larger chunk of monsters drop from insta-tpk to "loldeadly" as 5e players advance through the levels causing system design problems with the 6-8 encounter expectation a gm is trying to avoid by using more powerful monsters to become even more pronounced.
 

causing system design problems with the 6-8 encounter expectation a gm is trying to avoid by using more powerful monsters to become even more pronounced.
Is it just me or has the expected adventuring day made it harder to design encounters and adventures? I think so, seems like there is alot more numbers to crunch for an encounter that may or may not work.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Why is this a problem? Leveling up too fast means you're done with a tier of monsters before the DM has really gotten going. One of my biggest beefs with 5e is how fast you level up. One day, you leave home and wet your blade on a kobold for the first time. A year later, you are the mightiest warrior in all of history.
That's less leveling up pacing and more adventure pacing. Which is indicative that the DM isn't considering downtime to its fullest since that is the main purpose of downtime anyways.

You can go from fighting kobolds when you leave home to fighting kobolds a decade later if the DM decides the second Kobold adventure takes place 10 years after the first one. That's not an issue.

But the problem with slow leveling up in real time is that players will feel like their character has stagnated. This is exaggerated with noncasters since they can't usually switch tactics anytime soon before a level up and must concede to their standard tactics the entire time. They may also be longingly looking at their future features.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Is it just me or has the expected adventuring day made it harder to design encounters and adventures? I think so, seems like there is alot more numbers to crunch for an encounter that may or may not work.
If you're using the DMG and expecting any sort of precision from the guide, you're probably doing it wrong.

It seems most DMs try balancing on a budget but the default assumption is that the DM merely creates a fun encounter and finds out how deadly they made it on accident.

I don't think 5e really wanted the game to be played like a linear RPG where every battle is a structured setpiece rather than an organic exploration of a world of wonders and magic.
 

Is it just me or has the expected adventuring day made it harder to design encounters and adventures? I think so, seems like there is alot more numbers to crunch for an encounter that may or may not work.

It's not just you, in prior editions when attrition over any of the 2-4 expected encounters was a real risk there was a wider range of creatures that could pose a threat worthy of being scary without needing to be capable of invoking a tpk. 5e going with inflated hp & ACs players are going to hit nearly every time also reduces the ability of classes to pull everyone out of the fire too, In the past a party could recover from bad luck by those classes collectively drawing that ace held in their back pocket knowing that ace could end most any fight gone bad now but since the ace is no longer all that impressive or limited it's no longer able to pull everyone from a fire.

I disagree. I think the XP chart is pretty well done because the designers understand the reality of the game.

The designers know level 1 and level 2 suck. They're there so that multiclass dipping is pretty unappealing, so you're supposed to get through them both in about three sessions.
prior to covid killing the game around level 12 or so a game where players were a bit over a year in & spent roughly the first 3 months going from level zero to level one. Everyone had fun the whole time so both tried to convince me to keep running it after I recovered from it in feb & convince me to run a new one now that things are as they are.
Levels 3 through 10 or so are the sweet spot, where 90% of the game is actually played. The table expands these levels.
Depends on playstyle & gm style. I find 0-5 & low to mid teens more suitable to in depth adventuring in a vibrant well built world.
Levels 11, 12 & 13 are where the game starts to break down. The game still functions, but it's pushing into the endgame. Encounters can be difficult or time consuming here... or else over really quickly. It's increasingly like rocket tag.
Yes but that's largely because of certain design decisions baked into 5e in a fruitless pursuit of bounded accuracy along with "feats are optional" & "magic items are optional"
Levels 14 and higher are trash levels. It's tolerable at first, but it eventually gets pretty unpleasant to DM and play. Level 20 has capstones to distract you from how godawful most of the non-spellcaster levels are at these levels, usually even compared to level 1-5 for those classes. Magic is way too good at these levels, but the desire to have those spells still in the game means they still exist. Encounters are difficult to run at this level, and and adventures are often difficult to plan. These levels are short to rush the PCs to the end of the campaign and save the DM's sanity.
Most of my 5e campaigns went to 16 or so & spend about half the game in 11-16 if not more.
With the exception 4e -- which plays tricks to plateau progression at about level 7-8 across all 30 levels of play -- essentially every edition of the game fits this mold. 5e is just the first one that doesn't make the XP table do silly things and pad out the levels that people don't actually want to play.
Some of us did
 

If you're using the DMG and expecting any sort of precision from the guide, you're probably doing it wrong.

It seems most DMs try balancing on a budget but the default assumption is that the DM merely creates a fun encounter and finds out how deadly they made it on accident.

I don't think 5e really wanted the game to be played like a linear RPG where every battle is a structured setpiece rather than an organic exploration of a world of wonders and magic.
On the few occasions I used the encounter/adventure design recommendations in the DMG I wasn't expecting exacting precision but I was expecting an accurate encounter(s) based on those guideline's. You are correct what I ended up with was an encounter that was either underwhelming or close to a TPK. Now I just try and make them fun and memorable, like last game the PCs surrounded a rogue only to let him go take a leak behind a shed where he quickly hopped a fence and ran away. I laughed pretty hard that they fell for that and let him escape.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If you're using the DMG and expecting any sort of precision from the guide, you're probably doing it wrong.

It seems most DMs try balancing on a budget but the default assumption is that the DM merely creates a fun encounter and finds out how deadly they made it on accident.

I don't think 5e really wanted the game to be played like a linear RPG where every battle is a structured setpiece rather than an organic exploration of a world of wonders and magic.
Or, if they did want that, they did a poor job of designing it to that end. So from a pragmatic standpoint, preparing one's game according to how the game actually runs in the context of the table is the better option.
 

It's not just you, in prior editions when attrition over any of the 2-4 expected encounters was a real risk there was a wider range of creatures that could pose a threat worthy of being scary without needing to be capable of invoking a tpk. 5e going with inflated hp & ACs players are going to hit nearly every time also reduces the ability of classes to pull everyone out of the fire too, In the past a party could recover from bad luck by those classes collectively drawing that ace held in their back pocket knowing that ace could end most any fight gone bad now but since the ace is no longer all that impressive or limited it's no longer able to pull everyone from a fire.
I usually give the players an out if things look to be really stacked against them. I dont like it but its not really fair if Im just guessing at encounter building.
 



prior to covid killing the game around level 12 or so a game where players were a bit over a year in & spent roughly the first 3 months going from level zero to level one. Everyone had fun the whole time so both tried to convince me to keep running it after I recovered from it in feb & convince me to run a new one now that things are as they are.

Depends on playstyle & gm style. I find 0-5 & low to mid teens more suitable to in depth adventuring in a vibrant well built world.

Yes but that's largely because of certain design decisions baked into 5e in a fruitless pursuit of bounded accuracy along with "feats are optional" & "magic items are optional"

Most of my 5e campaigns went to 16 or so & spend about half the game in 11-16 if not more.

Some of us did

Look, I'm sorry, I can't really respond to quote shredding like that. It's too difficult to follow your train of thought so I can't really understand you. I find that this style of response too easily leads to disingenuous arguments, bickering, or needless point-scoring instead of genuine discussion. My post was intended to be a cohesive argument. Yes, it's more difficult to consolidate your response into something cohesive and concrete, but if you don't care enough to do that then why would I bother?

All I can honestly get out of what you've said is that your table has fun at levels well over level 13. Great! That puts you in the minority. However, since my point was to discuss why the designers made the XP table the way they did -- which is to say they want high level to go by quickly because they know the game is badly designed at those levels and proportionally few people play them anyways -- that doesn't really seem to challenge that assertion.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I came across some of the old playtest documents not long ago, browsed through them but don't remember much myself other than there were things that were proposed that I liked then removed.
Yeah, I don’t think they specifically playtested a version that only went to 10th. I mean, some early versions of classes only went up to certain levels, but I don’t remember level cap ever being a thing they polled us about or said they were trying. I think it was probably something they discussed behind the scenes early on and internally decided to kill without even presenting for feedback. But like I said, I distinctly remember one of them saying after the fact that they had considered it, but ended up deciding that they should provide the option to go as high as 20th for those who wanted it (it being too big of a risk was speculation on my part.)
 
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Yeah, I don’t think they specifically playtested a version that only went to 10th. I mean, some early versions of classes only went up to certain levels, but I don’t remember level cap ever being a thing they polled us about or said they were trying. I think it was probably something they discussed behind the scenes early on and internally decided to kill without even presenting for feedback. But like I said, I distinctly remember one of them saying after the fact that they had considered it, it ended up deciding that they should provide the option to go as high as 20th for those who wanted it (it being too big of a risk was speculation on my part.)
From what I remember of the playtest which isnt a whole lot, besides a few odds and ends the end result was close to the overall playtest.
 


Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Or, if they did want that, they did a poor job of designing it to that end. So from a pragmatic standpoint, preparing one's game according to how the game actually runs in the context of the table is the better option.
How so?

Do the liches not lich enough or the dragons not breathe hard enough?

When it comes to encounters, there's a spectrum between having hard rules and having a dynamic set of encounters.

If every enemy had to have this much HP and damage output by this level and can only be faced in this order, the players could easily predict that these goblins are stronger than those goblins because those goblins were encountered at level 1.

In contrast, too dynamic and the encounter designs can be pure chaos with a DM not having any real sense of what is right and wrong. How do you compare a 1hp, 1AC creature with PWK against a creature that has over a million HP but does 1 damage every 100 turns?

WoTC is more on the dynamic spectrum than static spectrum. They don't want the game to feel mechanical in that everything the party faces is catered to them and the DM isn't allowed to put ancient dragons in their world until the players themselves reach tier 4. Of course, the dynamics might not be to everyone's liking but calling it bad design is different from calling it a design you in particular don't like.

I enjoy that a lich, a vampire, and a mummy lord have distinct ways to fight. They didn't have to make them like so, but they did and it allows me as a DM to continuously switch up the combats against being meatstick matches or counterspell contests.
 

Look, I'm sorry, I can't really respond to quote shredding like that. It's too difficult to follow your train of thought so I can't really understand you. I find that this style of response too easily leads to disingenuous arguments, bickering, or needless point-scoring instead of genuine discussion. My post was intended to be a cohesive argument. Yes, it's more difficult to consolidate your response into something cohesive and concrete, but if you don't care enough to do that then why would I bother?

All I can honestly get out of what you've said is that your table has fun at levels well over level 13. Great! That puts you in the minority. However, since my point was to discuss why the designers made the XP table the way they did -- which is to say they want high level to go by quickly because they know the game is badly designed at those levels and proportionally few people play them anyways -- that doesn't really seem to challenge that assertion.
Your previous post that I was responding to can pretty much be summed up with "all of the problems people are voicing about 5e's design cater to my particular playstyle and the only reason some folks feel there is poor design or elements that make no sense is because they are playing it wrong expecting to enjoy something nobody likes." That bolded section is you doubling down on that sentiment. The designers knowing that choices made elsewhere cause some elements of 5e to be "badly designed" as you yourself put it and choosing to double down on bad design by designing yet another element so it tries to cover up the design rather than doing anything to address the badly designed areas being papered over isn't "good design" as you put forth.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
How so?

Do the liches not lich enough or the dragons not breathe hard enough?

When it comes to encounters, there's a spectrum between having hard rules and having a dynamic set of encounters.

If every enemy had to have this much HP and damage output by this level and can only be faced in this order, the players could easily predict that these goblins are stronger than those goblins because those goblins were encountered at level 1.

In contrast, too dynamic and the encounter designs can be pure chaos with a DM not having any real sense of what is right and wrong. How do you compare a 1hp, 1AC creature with PWK against a creature that has over a million HP but does 1 damage every 100 turns?

WoTC is more on the dynamic spectrum than static spectrum. They don't want the game to feel mechanical in that everything the party faces is catered to them and the DM isn't allowed to put ancient dragons in their world until the players themselves reach tier 4. Of course, the dynamics might not be to everyone's liking but calling it bad design is different from calling it a design you in particular don't like.

I enjoy that a lich, a vampire, and a mummy lord have distinct ways to fight. They didn't have to make them like so, but they did and it allows me as a DM to continuously switch up the combats against being meatstick matches or counterspell contests.
Perhaps it wasn't clear that I was agreeing with you that the DM is better served by presenting an "organic" fantasy setting and not worrying too much about over-engineered encounters.
 

Ace

Adventurer
Nobody plays past level 10, so we didn't bother to design it well.

That's what we call a self-fulfilling prophesy.
More accurately "Reality Bites"

Ignoring COVID 19 here between real life and computer games/Internet distractions , attention spans and a hundred other things its increasingly hard to get a steady group together to play for long periods of time. Up until maybe the 90's it wasn't uncommon to have games that went on for years with the same group or sometimes the same characters. This type of gaming is far from default.

Truth is B/X's Level 14 or maybe Level 12 like first editions Castles and Crusades is about all the game needs for actual use . Problem is those limits are for games with constrained options.

Game options are important as they are something the player base will spend money even if they don't use them. For that you need more levels . Adapting to a world where actual play is often shorter and those long games no longer occur to enable the games options to be used is very good design.
 


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