D&D 5E The problem with 5e

I don't have many house rules and most of them are there to help the PCs.

Yet I regularly have to hold back to not have multiple PC deaths. If the game is too easy it's the DM not the system.
Well, if I'm doing it right then all of my house rules are there to help the PC's/ make the game better for the players. Sometimes it's hard to remember that or be able to recognize it. I've abandoned or changed far more rules than I've retained.

It's interesting that you say if the game is too easy that it's the DM, because that's not an uncommon complaint about 5E, and certainly not something I can recall being said about ANY previous edition.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Well, if I'm doing it right then all of my house rules are there to help the PC's/ make the game better for the players. Sometimes it's hard to remember that or be able to recognize it. I've abandoned or changed far more rules than I've retained.

It's interesting that you say if the game is too easy that it's the DM, because that's not an uncommon complaint about 5E, and certainly not something I can recall being said about ANY previous edition.

The problem IMHO seems to be that they weren't clear on how the CR system works. The CR system seems to be designed for a group of 4 newbies with no magic, feats or a well balanced class. Add in the fact that attrition makes such a huge difference. I also think too often people play on an open field with no obstacles, hazards, limitations. In other words, if that dragon lands right next to you and tries to take you on like a solo brute, it's not going to be as tough a fight as you would expect. On the other hand if the dragon waits until you're in a canyon and then flies by, toasts the group and flies out of sight; next round it causes an avalanche or magma eruption (or any of a hundred variations) then you have a fight on your hands.

I agree that if you allow a 5 minute work day and never adjust the encounter level then it may well be too easy. I think my current group, while fun, is probably the most difficult to not KO every session. But as others have said, you always have more dragons. Or tarrasques. Or half dragon half tarrasques. Personally I found it harder to challenge the group in 4E. Like when the level 21 party took out Lolth in a couple of rounds (who was, in theory a CR 30).
 

It always bugs me when people say that 5E isn't dangerous enough. I stated it often on this forum: "I have seen more TPK in 5E than in any other edition" And I don't have 4 or 5 groups playing every week as I had 35 years ago...

Do I have house rules? Yep, almost the entirety of them on the players' side. Only my BBEG houserule is strictly on the monsters' side (and I've had one for 2nd, 3.XE and 4E) and even then, it only applies to a party that is bigger than 4 characters...

What I do apply though, are the followings (all can be found in the DMG, XGtE or other source books.)
1) No healing on rest. You need to spend magic or HD to heal.

2) A short rest is 10 minutes or an hour (players will know in advance and will have my reasoning behind it) a long rest is 8 hours. Only two short rests are allowed between long rests.

3) I strictly adhere to the 6-8 encounters per day. If any attempt to make a long rest or more than two short rests are made, the festival of random encounters starts.

4) Random encounters never gives any treasure or experience. I have done this since 2nd edition. I want the characters to do adventures, not farm experience on random encounters and load out on random treasure.

5) The whack a mole is severely punished. If a character falls, use spare the dying. IF you are up against intelligent foes, this will work out once. After that, every foes will attack the downed PC so that he dies then and there. This encourages players to actually retreat from hand to hand to get healed up. Use the dodge action and other shenanigans to avoid going down. Even a monster of low intelligence might decide to get the downed PC and run off with the body to get a nice snack away from harm.

6) Monsters react to the PCs actions. Intelligent foes will pursue and form seek and destroy squads. Build more traps, reinforce rooms and seal off what can be sealed if fleeing is not possible. Beast like foes will flee if given the chance.

7) As the players are getting stronger and get some reknown, key evil NPC will start to hear from them (and the reverse is true, the players will learn about stronger vilains from reputations). Players that slay everything in sight will not have a break if captured. If they can be reasoned with, they might/will get ransomed for their lives.

8) Downtime activity is about one week to 10 years depending on the circumstances. So creating scrolls and potions is quite feasible. There are no magic shop, but it is always possible to get your hand on a magical item you want by petitioning the mages' guild to make one for you. Expect a stiff price and a few quests for them, depending on the item. Common items are no big deal (or ammunition) but permanent items and weapons are usually at a premium price. There are a lot of gold sinkers in my campaigns.

These are not in any books. These are personal preferences that I have developed over the years.
1) Religion matters a lot. And I mean really a lot. You will not be raised from the dead by a priest if you are not a follower of the god. The god will simply not allow it. An ally might get raised, but the cost will be high. You're party cleric will not be allow to raise you back from the dead if you are not a follower of his/her deity. A bard or any non religious caster attempting to raise a character will enter in communication with the deity of the player. It is entirely possible that the deity might not want the character to be resurrected if he was never giving tithe to the church. Non religious characters, atheists, agnostics, will be judge by the god of death (Kelemvor in FR, Wee Jaas or Nerull or the Raven Queen in Greyhawk) and depending on the circumstances, sacrifices might be in order in addition to the cost of the spell itself. For these reasons, most players will try to avoid death.

2) Social standing matters a lot. Most countries in D&D are not democracy and do not work like a democracy. Adventurers, though useful, are not nobles. They can not just enter anywhere and do as they please. A noble will always take precedence and ignoring rank and being disrespectful will ensure yourself to be severely punished. If the adventurer is too powerful to be arrested by normal means, assassins will be hired to remedy to the perceived slight the noble suffered if evil, or they could become personae non gratae if good. Being ostracised might even be worse than death as no one will want to slight the noble. Shops will close or will not sell to the players.

3) Thieves guilds matters too. Yes, protection is a racket. But better pay up a few gold pieces than being targeted for theft. Even Nobles know that a Thieve's Guild is a necessary evil. As the guild will pursue and arrest rogues thieves when the start operating on their territory. If the character is too high level, offers will be made. Compromised will be offered. And if refused, assassins will be hired...

4) Ransom is a good thing (well sort of...). If a villain is captured, ransoming him/her is always a good thing. It makes money to the players and it makes for a good recurring villain. And it might give clues as to the villains' lord... The players can expect the same treatment if they too, act this way. Even low level shmooks can be ransomed. So having a place to hoard you gold in case you are ransomed is a good thing. Thus the protection racket from the Thieve's Guild... Thus the tithes given to church, Thus the good relations with nobles and yaddi yadda...
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
This was mostly necessary though, although I agree they did go overboard on concentration. Still the flying, invisible wizard needed to go (I would have less of an issue if the wizard picked up the abiltiy to concentrate on two spells at once as a late game feature, but it was definitely never something you should have been able to do at low levels).

The big issue is that they left a few spells so clearly superior to others as to make the game somewhat dull (Bless, Shield etc).
It was needed to a degree yes but they went overboard time again. take how bulls strength & such went from great buff spells that made the party want something cool the caster could do to something pretty awful and saddled it with concentration. To add insult to injury they bumped the duration on the resulting awful concentration spell. You can see them nerf the payload, add concentration, & bump the generally less important value to put a "we didn't even consider how this gets used" cherry on top tie & again with spells (ie web & others)
Saying Healing Surges made the game less deadly (at least compared to 3e) is disingenuous.

Sure, they allowed people to recover HP during short rests without magical aid, but on the other hand, they also limited the amount of total healing someone could get in the course of a day, regardless of the origin of the hearing effect.

Cleric healed you? Spend a Healing Surge. Chugged a potion? Spend a Healing Surge.

Back in 4e, parties had to be really careful to not take unnecessary damage since they could only get healed as long as they had surges.
1607281453532.png

If only the DMG healing surges were complete with this limitation rather than simply being an Avenue to keep the healing a trivial thing to not consider before a fight.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
It always bugs me when people say that 5E isn't dangerous enough. I stated it often on this forum: "I have seen more TPK in 5E than in any other edition" And I don't have 4 or 5 groups playing every week as I had 35 years ago...

Do I have house rules? Yep, almost the entirety of them on the players' side. Only my BBEG houserule is strictly on the monsters' side (and I've had one for 2nd, 3.XE and 4E) and even then, it only applies to a party that is bigger than 4 characters...

What I do apply though, are the followings (all can be found in the DMG, XGtE or other source books.)
1) No healing on rest. You need to spend magic or HD to heal.

2) A short rest is 10 minutes or an hour (players will know in advance and will have my reasoning behind it) a long rest is 8 hours. Only two short rests are allowed between long rests.

3) I strictly adhere to the 6-8 encounters per day. If any attempt to make a long rest or more than two short rests are made, the festival of random encounters starts.

4) Random encounters never gives any treasure or experience. I have done this since 2nd edition. I want the characters to do adventures, not farm experience on random encounters and load out on random treasure.

5) The whack a mole is severely punished. If a character falls, use spare the dying. IF you are up against intelligent foes, this will work out once. After that, every foes will attack the downed PC so that he dies then and there. This encourages players to actually retreat from hand to hand to get healed up. Use the dodge action and other shenanigans to avoid going down. Even a monster of low intelligence might decide to get the downed PC and run off with the body to get a nice snack away from harm.

6) Monsters react to the PCs actions. Intelligent foes will pursue and form seek and destroy squads. Build more traps, reinforce rooms and seal off what can be sealed if fleeing is not possible. Beast like foes will flee if given the chance.

7) As the players are getting stronger and get some reknown, key evil NPC will start to hear from them (and the reverse is true, the players will learn about stronger vilains from reputations). Players that slay everything in sight will not have a break if captured. If they can be reasoned with, they might/will get ransomed for their lives.

8) Downtime activity is about one week to 10 years depending on the circumstances. So creating scrolls and potions is quite feasible. There are no magic shop, but it is always possible to get your hand on a magical item you want by petitioning the mages' guild to make one for you. Expect a stiff price and a few quests for them, depending on the item. Common items are no big deal (or ammunition) but permanent items and weapons are usually at a premium price. There are a lot of gold sinkers in my campaigns.

These are not in any books. These are personal preferences that I have developed over the years.
1) Religion matters a lot. And I mean really a lot. You will not be raised from the dead by a priest if you are not a follower of the god. The god will simply not allow it. An ally might get raised, but the cost will be high. You're party cleric will not be allow to raise you back from the dead if you are not a follower of his/her deity. A bard or any non religious caster attempting to raise a character will enter in communication with the deity of the player. It is entirely possible that the deity might not want the character to be resurrected if he was never giving tithe to the church. Non religious characters, atheists, agnostics, will be judge by the god of death (Kelemvor in FR, Wee Jaas or Nerull or the Raven Queen in Greyhawk) and depending on the circumstances, sacrifices might be in order in addition to the cost of the spell itself. For these reasons, most players will try to avoid death.

2) Social standing matters a lot. Most countries in D&D are not democracy and do not work like a democracy. Adventurers, though useful, are not nobles. They can not just enter anywhere and do as they please. A noble will always take precedence and ignoring rank and being disrespectful will ensure yourself to be severely punished. If the adventurer is too powerful to be arrested by normal means, assassins will be hired to remedy to the perceived slight the noble suffered if evil, or they could become personae non gratae if good. Being ostracised might even be worse than death as no one will want to slight the noble. Shops will close or will not sell to the players.

3) Thieves guilds matters too. Yes, protection is a racket. But better pay up a few gold pieces than being targeted for theft. Even Nobles know that a Thieve's Guild is a necessary evil. As the guild will pursue and arrest rogues thieves when the start operating on their territory. If the character is too high level, offers will be made. Compromised will be offered. And if refused, assassins will be hired...

4) Ransom is a good thing (well sort of...). If a villain is captured, ransoming him/her is always a good thing. It makes money to the players and it makes for a good recurring villain. And it might give clues as to the villains' lord... The players can expect the same treatment if they too, act this way. Even low level shmooks can be ransomed. So having a place to hoard you gold in case you are ransomed is a good thing. Thus the protection racket from the Thieve's Guild... Thus the tithes given to church, Thus the good relations with nobles and yaddi yadda...
That's almost a misrepresentation of the points people are making & types of dangerous they are talking about. Having enough fear of reckless hp attrition to justify more than shouting leeeeerrrroooooyyyy is different from lethal The fact that there is practically no middle ground between pro NFL team vrs mrs sweetypie's preschool football team and the other way around is the problem.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I've always ignored that # of encounters per day stuff. Sometimes there are a lot of encounters in a day (and 8 seems like a whole lot, but it is situational) and sometimes there is only one. The key is not the actual number of encounters, but the number of encounters the PCs might expect given their setting and conditions. As such, as a player I am not going to spend my most powerful thing on a moderate encounter, if I am holed up in a dungeon somewhere because chances are they may be another encounter, but may do it on a relatively well-traveled road between cities, if I have reason to believe in-game that multiple combat encounters on the road are unlikely.

Then again, my maxim is "There is no such thing as a random encounter." I may have "random encounters" pre-planned to slot in when needed, but that is a call I make as DM based on fun and likelihood of the area (or even how much time we have left in today's session). I don't roll.
 

Oofta

Legend
That's almost a misrepresentation of the points people are making & types of dangerous they are talking about. Having enough fear of reckless hp attrition to justify more than shouting leeeeerrrroooooyyyy is different from lethal The fact that there is practically no middle ground between pro NFL team vrs mrs sweetypie's preschool football team and the other way around is the problem.

That's ... simply not true. I always ask my group what level of lethality they want. While it's never off the table completely, I have a great deal of control over how lethal my campaign is. About the only house rule I have that helps team monster is that legendary creatures get actions/saves equal to number of PCs - 1. I also customize or reskin monsters now and then along with intelligent monsters fighting intelligently, but I've always done that.

How could there possibly be a toggle switch between "everybody has nerf bats" to "every encounter is deadly" with no in between? That's nonsensical.
 

Oofta

Legend
I think the differences between @Helldritch, @el-remmen and myself indicate just how flexible 5E is, which is awesome. Personally I almost always have at least 4 encounters between a long rest (I shoot for 5-10) and like el-remmen I never have truly random encounters. I do have extra encounters that I can throw in if it makes sense, but they're appropriate to the situation. Helldritch feels more like an old school hard-ass, but in a good way. ;)
 

I think the differences between @Helldritch, @el-remmen and myself indicate just how flexible 5E is, which is awesome. Personally I almost always have at least 4 encounters between a long rest (I shoot for 5-10) and like el-remmen I never have truly random encounters. I do have extra encounters that I can throw in if it makes sense, but they're appropriate to the situation. Helldritch feels more like an old school hard-ass, but in a good way. ;)
Thanks. But I should add that random encounters will be suited to the adventure currently played. A demon will not appear out of nowhere nor would a dragon appear in a dungeon. The encounter table will be made out of the foes my groups will encounter in the current adventure. I try to keep a minimum amount of logic.
 

How could there possibly be a toggle switch between "everybody has nerf bats" to "every encounter is deadly" with no in between? That's nonsensical.
Very much this.

I sometimes wonder if most of the people who have these purported problems with 5e simply haven't played it more than a few times and/or haven't played it with more than one group.

EDIT TO ADD: Of course, I get what the OP is saying, too, and have no doubt that is a real thing for some.
 
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