it’s a long post. If TLDR, whatevs. If interested read on.
The problem with 5e….is me.
I played a little redbox as a kid with the older kids on the street and later my lifelong pal. And by Jr High, we started playing some AD&D.
In High School we were joined by a few other guys that we went to grade school with. It was game on! Lots and lots of AD&D 1e. We did not like 2e for various reasons and skipped it. Fast forward to grad school and when I was home on break we kept playing….all summer long. All-nighters. It was glorious. None of us had serious relationships at that time so it was possible.
3e hit while I was working on a doctorate. I was far from home but my mind was blown when I saw half-orc paladins. Fresh from 1e, this was a revelation. Skipped 3.5 and 4e and fell into a black hole with little D&D. Our kids, marriages etc. took precedence but being back home and my lifelong buddies is a blessing. Now grizzled family dudes, the call of 5e was strong…our lives permitted at least monthly play. A new fantastic era!
So where is the problem?
I have loved 5e. I think much of it is brilliant. Not in the sense that it has revolutionary mechanics or some trendy elegance but in that it is easier to DM (I refused to DM 3e) and because it has inspired so much character development. We did what we could in 1e, but I have found the choices in 5e (backgrounds and subclasses) has been a goldmine of inspiration. I don’t mean to say that they have it all covered, but with some of my own ideas, they have it all covered. I have developed some novel stories and personalities.
My problem comes in with occasional
dissatisfaction about the level of danger in the game. It seems like people are healed quickly and unless it’s a TPK, it’s not as dangerous and getting beat down lasts a round or two max.
I also have some nostalgia for the logistics of old….worrying about running out of things like torches and food. Some things just seem easier now.
But that is when reality hits me. When we were younger, the way we really got far was by DM fiat. Sure, you could get level drained and miss a death save but more broadly, the DM moderated some consequences so we could have a longer term meaningful story vs. a meatgrinder of anonymous jerks. In short, 5e has merely codified this fiat into the rules. It may not be that different, really.
In terms of moving forward I need to alter my expectations and be clear about what changes might give us a little more sense of danger. For one, it would not take much to make healing a little less automatic. Maybe long rests don’t take care of everything. Perhaps, long rests allow us to expend hit dice…or something. I have to think that through.
The other thing that can at times be frustrating is the power of missile weapons. We don’t tend to favor them as a group but I know the issue exists. In this context, we need to make sure we are not the problem. I think it makes sense to count arrows and make sure what is carried is reasonable and not just “OK” handwaving generous encumbrance rules.
Additionally, I think very careful application of cover rules need to be applied. Firing past a rank of friendlies actively fighting should lead to some penalty if the enemy is in their face. I would want to see partial cover etc. applied routinely here.
In a like vein, the ubiquity of dex builds, if they bother you, are mitigated by actually looking at encumbrance and ammunition accounting (IMHO, to an extent).
In short, for me to get the most enjoyment out of 5e I believe a little stricter approach to the rules that exist, the application of common sense (e.g. encumbrance) and so forth. But ultimately, I need to change my expectations.
I look back fondly at AD&D 1e since it seems to have been grittier and more dangerous. Maybe it was. But the truth is that we house ruled and DMed way into a game with consequences but only occasional death. We made some bad decisions and died more than a few times. Saving or trying to save a friend from tunnels full of ghouls is admirable but perhaps not always doable (found out the hard way). And playing with an evil party and experimenting with a deck of many things after the players (the real people!) have been drinking beers to early morning hours will do that as well!
Ultimately the problem with my enjoyment at times (not too frequent) I think is due to nostalgia and fairy tales I tell myself about older editions. Having said this “out loud” I am very ready to get back to playing with less negative self-talk to get in the way. Our characters are probably going to survive. And its OK.